Sunday, May 8, 2011

Puzzle Pieces Fit Together

Why am I amazed when prayers are answered?
Sunday Evening Service, May 1, 2011 6:00 pm - Over the past year or so, we've been attending a church that is about 30 minutes away from our town, where the pastor is a close friend of my husband and there is an authentic atmosphere of simple worship and sincere service/mission outreach to the world. (This is the church where several members & I went to Honduras in 2009 and the awesome miracle occurred. The story is entitled "Travels" on my page at CCS. ) On Sunday night, my husband began a six-week study entitled, "When God's People Pray" by showing a video of Jim Cymbala, pastor of Brooklyn Tabernacle, speaking at a conference about the fact that “My House shall be called a House of Prayer.” In the video, the conference attendees where Jim was speaking experienced such a powerful moment that just viewing the video touched all present. After viewing, everyone there in our little church was at the front altar praying for guidance & a refreshing of spirit for the church and town. Several of us stayed afterward, talking about what God would do in the coming weeks if we used prayer as an initial foundation for everything undertaken by the church. As if the sincere response to the video wasn't enough, as the pastor talked informally about future efforts to reach out to the little town, an ongoing prayer of mine was answered.
2008? 2009? - Several years ago, I had been asking God what I was supposed to do with my paintings. Was I supposed to seek gallery representation? An exhibit? Sell them online? It all seemed so self-serving and commercial. Since my main mission has been reaching children with art, putting my name out there as an artist who sought money for her work seemed so...Greedy? Arrogant? And then, would I have to grovel to the gallery owners? Try to get them to "like me" or "like my work, please?" Would I have to change my work to please demands? Worry about percentages of who got what? And a big question: Would it all take away the JOY of slapping paint on a canvas that I'd worked so hard to reclaim after closing down my commissioned portrait artist shop and turning my back on my easel years ago?
Puzzle Piece #1: I found, online and on youtube, an artist who gave her work away to her community. I was smitten! She got a grant to do it on a large scale, and just did it. The people attending her unconventional outdoor exhibit got to take home original photographs of their community, even if they couldn't afford outrageous prices of "fine art". For over twenty years, I'd been dealing with children whose parents couldn't afford fine art prices. But doesn't EVERYONE deserve to have original art in their homes? Why should it be that only the wealthy get to have real art?
I would love to give away my paintings. How would I do it? No idea.
Puzzle Piece #2: In the meantime, my husband & I began to attend the wonderful little church in a nearby town where his friend was pastoring, after I went on a mission trip to Honduras with them. The pastor is a missionary who’s been around the world, and had come back to pastor the church a few years ago. He has wanted the church to reach out to the little financially-depressed town where there are hurting people who need hope. He would speak of it in the pulpit on Sunday mornings, and I would feel God tapping me on the shoulder, as if to say, “Uh huh. You hear him, don’t you?” I would respond with, “Are you kidding, Lord? I’m already working in my classroom as a mission field for you in my own town. And I don’t even know anything about this little town?”
Time passed, and I kept painting.
Puzzle Piece #3: In October of 2010, I painted a picture of Christ. This was unusual for me, since it’s difficult to really know what he looked like. But there it was, a picture of Him looking upon a believer. Between December and March, I hit a dry spell in my painting, and chalked it up to being busy with Life. When I thought about painting, I only played a bit on canvas. Was I blocked? I don’t normally have artist blocks, since I teach students how to overcome them… so, what was this?
Puzzle Piece #4: March 2011 a couple of my friends went to Cuba on a mission trip. (Two of my beloved companions on the Honduras trip) Upon their return, they gave a report on the trip one Sunday night, telling how God had provided supplies for their makeshift medical clinic, since one is an eye doctor and the other, a nurse. Afterward, I felt compelled to tell one of them about my convictions of outreach to the community whenever the pastor mentioned it, asking her for prayer, since she’s a powerful prayer warrior herself. While driving home from that Sunday night of sharing, I was given clear instructions: God told me that I was to go to that little nearby town where I didn’t know anyone but a few church members and set up a table this coming summer to give away small pieces of art that would point people to Him.
What was that, Lord? Yes, I know you even gave me visuals of where I was supposed to set up, but you’re kidding, right? You want me to do WHAT?
I jokingly told Him this had to be wrong. :-) This was just my imagination. Of course, later on, I went to Wal-Mart and purchased small wood plaques to paint on, just in case!
April 2011 - I ended up painting another rendition of Christ the Saturday before Easter 2011. Hmmmm…
I got busy with school and it all got pushed to the back burner.
Puzzle Piece #5: Sunday, May 1, 2011. The church pastor had been working to inspire in the membership a need for prayer as a foundation, so when my husband offered to do a six-week study on prayer, he was pleased. My husband opened the study by showing the powerful video of Jim Cymbala speaking about prayer and afterwards, after a responsive altar call, we were all praising God and discussing what God was going to do through the church for that little town.
That’s when the pastor said it. “For one thing, this summer, we’re going to go to a needy section of town, set up a grill, and just give away hamburgers and hot dogs to folks.”
I was stunned. There was my answer. The puzzle pieces all fell into place.
After I picked up my chin from the floor, I falteringly said, “Um, I have to tell you something.” I told him and my husband about everything: the artist giving work away, and about my instructions driving home one Sunday night, and how I wasn’t even supposed to sign the work, but let God be the focus in it all. The pastor broke into a gentle grin and said, “Amen.”
My friend, the eye doctor/prayer warrior was informed that I’d found my answer and I recounted everything to her as we laughed, cried, and rejoiced about God’s ways being more powerful than we could ever imagine.
Many of you already know that home turf can be more difficult to minister to than abroad. The first set up is in early June. Please pray for me & the others who’ll be going out.
I’ll keep you posted.
Love & Laughter,