Blessing We Are Blessed

I’ve just had friends, Doug and Jane, come to visit me from Poland on their way to Spain.  I was hoping that during their visit they could help me with information for the next Feast of Tabernacles.  Worship groups from all over Europe come and bring praise in their own languages—and this continues 24 hours a day for the 7 days of the Feast.  Ever since attending Tabernacles two years ago, it has been my desire to bring an Italian worship team.  In my small way, I did bring Italian worship, singing in Italian when I heard a song I know in Italian.  But it’s not the same.

Doug and Jane did more for me than just provide the necessary information.  They are people who understand my calling and desire to encourage missionaries.  They brought gifts, designed to encourage: books, magazine, and newspaper in English, a pretty coaster with the words, “The Lord is faithful,” a pretty shopping bag in a traditional brightly colored Polish design, and tasty wafers for which Kalisz is famous.  Their visit was so encouraging.  I felt very pampered and loved.

They wanted to see the city, but not the traditional tourist spots.  It was such fun to take them to the places that I consider special, and let them see my Milan.  They also wanted to meet my friends.  They met Paula, who worked for me by buying the furnishings to make the apartment livable—not just livable, but very comfortable.  And they met Sally, the mastermind behind GoMissions (http://gomissions.eu/).  Doug and Jane also encouraged Paula and Sally.  It was a wonderful few days of friendship, prayer, networking, and strategizing.  But it was also a fun time, eating delicious food, talking, laughing, and relaxing.

Through Doug and Jane’s visit, I was able to see how my visits to missionaries encourage them.  Even encouragers need encouragement from time to time!  God is good!

Lessons in Floating

Last Year – When I was here at the beautiful Adriatic Sea last year, the Holy Spirit told me to go for a swim.  I loved the beach when I was a kid—what kid doesn’t?  But as an adult, I had come to associate the sea with many discomforts: the itchy feeling of salt water dried on the skin, oily sunscreen crusted with sand, fair skin that burns despite the use of sunscreen SPF 45, the sand that gets into places it shouldn’t, and a body that’s white and lumpy and looks better clothed than in a swimsuit—intense body shame.  So it was with all that beach-hating baggage that the Holy Spirit told me to take a swim.

Despite my bags and baggage, I did take a swim.  Leaving my glasses on top of my towel, I walked toward the water.  I saw something washed up on the beach that looked like a dead jellyfish.  I’ve been stung by jellyfish.  It’s like being stung by an electric wasp—definitely an experience I don’t want to ever have again.  But instead of turning back, I just laughed.  If God wants me to swim, then He has a purpose.  “Besides,” I told myself, “it was probably just a plastic bag from somebody’s beach lunch.”

I had decided that my act of obedience meant that I should get completely wet.  So I got about waist-deep, then dove into the waves.  After paddling around for a few minutes, I thought that I was finished.  But the Holy Spirit told me: “Lay back.”  I did, and discovered something wonderful: I float like a cork!  I am so buoyant that I can even float with my head above the water, toes above the water, and bottom down.  But laying back with my ears under the water was incredibly peaceful, and little by little I felt my limbs release their muscular tension.

I took that first swim fully clothed because I didn’t have my swimsuit with me.  I understood that swimming would be something I should do every day while I was here, so I knew I needed to buy a swimsuit.  The only thing I’ve hated more than the beach is buying a swimsuit.  The last one I bought online, and it covered so much of me that it was almost a throwback to the old swimsuits they used in the early 1900’s.  I knew that if I thought too much about it, I would talk myself out of buying one, so I just plunged into a swim shop and bought one.  It’s not bad looking.

A few days after that first swim the wind kicked up, bringing bigger waves.  Thanks to a breakwater, the big waves are tamed into choppy little wavelets before they reach the swimming area by the beach.  During my floating session that day, God (who had never repeated Himself to me before) told me: “Relax!  Relax!  Relax!”  And the little wavelets shook each limb with a different rhythm and out of synch with one another.  It reminded me of a Lamaze exercise in which your coach takes an arm and your teacher takes the opposite leg and they shake them in differing rhythms.  You are supposed to practice releasing the tension in those muscles and all the others in between.  And that memory tickled me so much that I laughed out loud—and a more profound relaxation followed.  God has the greatest sense of humor!

The lesson in physically relaxing taught me to relax when I’m worried about things going wrong.  Without going into detail (which you can read about in my book “Look, Listen, Love,” available from http://www.lulu.com/), I learned that I can relax and let God work out the things that I have no control over.  And when I do really relax and release those worries, God not only works things out, but blesses me in unexpected ways.  And one of those things, you can read about in my blog post: https://europeanfaithmissions.wordpress.com/2012/06/17/god-meets-radical-faith-with-radical-provision/.

This Year – I have returned to the beach, bringing two very dear friends with me.  The three of us have gone to the beach each day, floating and swimming, talking and laughing, praying and praising our Heavenly Father.

A lesson that God has been teaching me recently is to let go of the past—particularly past offenses and betrayals, but also past mistakes or bad choices that I need to forgive myself.  I have been working on it, releasing those people and things to God, forgiving and letting them go.  But every once in a while, the memory of these things comes to mind, robbing me of my focus and trying to rob my peace.  Whenever this happens, I try to release the memory as quickly as possible.

While floating yesterday, the Holy Spirit told me that, just as I had learned to relax my worries into God’s hands, I also need to relax my memories into His hands.  And lying there on the bosom of the sea, I did exactly that.

This morning during my prayer time, once again I found my attention wandering to a painful event.  Immediately, I said, “Let it go!  Let it go!  Let it go!” and I released the memory and returned my focus to God, my Peace.

When it comes to relaxing my grip on those memories, would it be wrong to say that I’m working on it?  I’m grateful that God is a patient Teacher.  God is good!

Jazzed by That Creative Energy

Thanks to Laurie for the inspiration!

Have you ever noticed that it’s energizing and at the same time relaxing, fun, and fulfilling to create?  Time seems to fly by, and you may have even missed a meal when you’re fully engaged in creating something.  This applies to all creative pursuits:  visual (drawing, painting, sculpture, photographic, textile arts, ceramics, woodworking, etc.), musical, performing arts (acting, dancing, choreography, set design, etc.) graphic (computer-based artwork, design, PowerPoint, Photoshop, etc.), writing (mine), and any combination of the above, the list is truly endless.  I believe this is because when we’re creating we are doing the thing we were made to do.

Consider this:  we were made in the image of God—The Creator!  When we create, we are imitating our Father.  When we create, I believe that we make our Father proud of us.  That’s why it’s so rewarding to create.  What was the first job given to Adam?  Gardening.  Adam was the first landscaping designer.  Next God brought all the animals to Adam so that he could name them.  God could have named the animals, but he gave that task to Adam.

When we got a poodle puppy in 1965, Daddy named him Poodle-a-Go-Go.  Daddy’s pet names were all like that:  funny and clever.  When I was six years old, my parents let me name our cat.  I looked carefully at him and named him Fuzzy.  OK, not a spectacularly imaginative name, but I think I captured the essence of this long-haired tabby cat.  And my parents honored my lame name, calling the cat Fuzzy all the days of his life.

You may say that you’re not very creative or that you have no talent.  I say that you just haven’t found your creative niche yet.  Like me with naming pets when I was six.  Since we’re not God, it takes most of us some time to develop the skills and to perfect our creative talents.  Experiment!  Try different materials, methods, styles.  You’ll find yourself creatively, but you’ve got to be patient with yourself, too.  Above all, you’ve got to honor your creativity by spending time at it.  You can’t expect to improve if you never spend time at it.

Guess who is incapable of creating:  the devil.  That’s why he twists God’s perfect creation into something perverted, because he cannot create.  He (along with the rest of the angels) was not made in God’s image, only we were.  And because he’s jealous of our ability to create, the devil tries to fool us into thinking that creative pursuits are a waste of time, that we should spend our time working at a “real job.”  The devil wants you to believe that you must work hard to get anywhere in this world.  But you want to know the truth?  They say do what you love and the money will come.  I believe that’s true because what humans love to do is create.  God honors that—especially when we use our creative abilities to honor Him.

The truth is that there is plenty of room in God’s Kingdom for creative pursuits.

So you go to town with that creative thing!  Joyfully play (not work) at your creative art.  Make our Father proud!