Faith is the Substance!

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.

Hebrews 11:1-2, NIV
Poem read by the author, Rebecca Whitman

Faith is the substance

Of things hoped for, it is the

EVIDENCE

It is the root of the tree, the bird of the wing, it is the

WING

It takes flight with our dreams…

It is the fruit of the seed, it is the

SEED

It’s that tiny ember of spark, the burning coal of flame…the essence of life… it is that seed

Growing in the unseen; the truth propelling the future into reality… it is the breath

of life still waiting to be defined

DEFINED

By faith that understood how the heavens were formed by God’s command not the spontaneous decision of a single cell or a cosmic burst.

By faith that led men and women to worship an unseen King, walk with him when he was seen, live through joy and pain, fight and defend and die for…and with…this King.

KING

This King who walked among us not as a prince but as a man. The man who had every right to wear a crown and snub society but chose to hangout with outcasts and live with propriety.

This King who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, raised the dead to life, healed the sick, and escaped the sword…

This King whose perceived weakness became the power that launched a thousand ships, routed enemies, conquered kingdoms, ruled justly, and obtained the promise for all Heaven and Earth…

EARTH

The place where Heaven bends down with supernatural provision and we are two house finches at a glass feeder: stuffing our beaks with seed we didn’t earn, lifting our little red heads with pride and joy, and stretching our woodgrain wings to fly.

Charles Martin’s “What If It’s True?”

After reading Educated, I found myself really wrestling with some issues. Not only had the book wrecked me to see a child so mistreated, but it also upset me to see her worldview so warped against God.

After reading her book, I craved something happy, but not just anything good…I needed something true about Jesus. Enter Charles Martin’s book, What If It’s True?

‘What If It’s True’ — An Explanation from Author Charles Martin on Vimeo.

What we often lose in translation when we read the Bible is the why of what was done. We don’t understand why David cut off a corner piece of Saul’s robe or why a sick woman would be an outcast in society. We miss the implied meaning in the actions of the Bible because we no longer live in a culture saturated with meaning the way our ancestors did.

In the past, cultures lived with constant reminders of where they came from. These reminders were in monuments and walls you passed by every day. They were talked about in stories in school and reinforced in lessons at home. They were mentioned in required prayers prayed throughout the day. They were even echoed in the choices made concerning clothing. You might forget the details, but you couldn’t escaping the lessons of the past.

Today, we live our lives in perpetual motion. We protest reminders of the past and treat each day like it isn’t moving forward fast enough. We don’t care to look backwards at the tracks we are leaving. If something happened twenty years ago, we think it is old school or vintage. We don’t dare to dig back any further than that, so we lose the power of knowing where we came from and what, exactly, is influencing our world.

In this book, Martin writes like a millennial who has taken his face out of a phone long enough to speak plainly about the Bible. Yes, I realize as I am saying this that Martin is older than me and probably more of the Gen-X generation, but he doesn’t write like one. His words are fresh and modern; they reveal the humanity of the moment in translation to a language that can be relevantly read today.

Martin says this book is, in short, for broken people to find freedom. After reading Educated, I desperately wanted Tara to have this book. I wanted her to have this book because no matter how much we may free ourselves from the tyranny of others, we cannot free ourselves of the scars it leaves on our hearts. Only the gospel of Jesus Christ can heal those kinds of wounds.

I hope that someone tells Tara about the true Jesus Christ–not the lies she was told. If you found yourself identifying with Tara’s story, I hope you will read this book too and start the journey of getting to know Jesus. This book is not a substitute for the raw material of God’s Word, the Bible, but it does do a fair job of bridging the gap of understanding between us and it. I hope you will read it.

 

Christmas Time Blues, Doubts, And A Hard Lesson In Valuing Your Health

This Christmas is not setting itself up to be one of my best ones, and it’s not because of what I’m about to tell you. It’s because so far this Christmas season, I have bought all my presents but not wrapped a one. I never found an ugly Christmas sweater to wear to the party, so I was completely left out of the photos. I’ve missed almost every Christmas song on the radio, been too busy-or sick-to decorate, and lost out on all my Christmas parties (even the ones I planned myself). It’s warmer than Autumn, most days this December, it’s not feeling like Christmas at all.

Christmas starts to feel like Christmas to me when the first cup of cider is poured in November, and the craft bazaars start popping up everywhere for early shoppers. This is my favorite time of year, and it excites me almost as much as Christmas morning, because this is the time I get to support local artists and buy gifts for the ones that I love. When we gather and give thanks at Thanksgiving, it just preps my heart more for the appreciation and love to come. The bright lights, the displays, and the holiday specials all feel magical to me. Christmas music and movies on constant play while I’m swimming in hot chocolate and gift wrap is…well…divine. Without all this cheer, all I hear is, “I’ll have a blue…Christmas.”

A Serious Wake Up Call

In the middle of my bustling, busy life, I got a serious wake-up call. I walked out the door, ten days before Christmas, excited to finally be going to a Christmas party, and my leg gave way beneath me. I fall on the steps and cried out for help. Help comes running, and I got back up only to feel my legs crumble again inside the house. I rested a moment, and looked at the clock; I was missing the party.

The shades of blue deepened in my heart. Again I tried to get up and leave. This time I made it to my car and fell completely on the cold, hard ground. I could feel the cold but nothing more, and I got scared. This falling business could be serious. I pulled myself up with a cane and my car wheel, but couldn’t hold it. My right leg was complete jello. All the strength of my left side was not enough to pick up Humpty Dumpty again. This time my cry for help would require a team of EMS workers to lift me.

With the arms of EMS gripped around me, I thought of my students. So many of them have expressed a desire to be EMS someday. I held on to the man closest to me–a volunteer first responder, a neighbor whose name I still don’t know. I let him be my legs that would get me to the stretcher and the ambulance and the hospital while I text work and my students what to do while their teacher missed class.

All Too Familiar

Six months before this moment, I was doing the same thing only much more damaged and covered in blood. I was hit by a van and spun down the highway three times. My brand new car was totalled. My face was cut and permanently scarred. My back was severely shaken out of alignment. Yet, I survived.

I remember thinking, in those few seconds of white as I spun down the road, “God, is this going to be it? This can’t be it. I’ve got so much left to do in the world.”

Then I thought about the tractor-trailer. Where was it? It had been right behind me before I was hit. I closed my eyes and braced for a second impact. “Oh God, Oh Jesus, please help me!”

I knew I would most likely not survive that blow. As my car spun out, I thought about my loved ones and how it would hurt them. I thought of all the things I left unsaid. I thought about my job, my goals, and my dreams. I wasn’t ready for the end.

Then suddenly, the car stopped. I opened my car door and tried to get out as quickly as possible. If I was still in the road, I didn’t want to be hit again. But I was not in the road. Somehow, I had been spun around enough to put me facing oncoming traffic but resting safely on the side grass a few feet beside the road sign.

This was God’s answer: Not yet.

Temptation To Doubt God

Landing back in the hospital, my thoughts spiraled.

“Are you sure, God? If I have a purpose not yet done in this world, why bring me more pain and suffering? How can that further your cause?”

I questioned God, but I didn’t get angry. I didn’t understand the purpose in the pain, but I remembered that we were never promised a struggle-free life.

In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world. –John 16:33 NIV

Four hours later lying immobile in the hospital bed, a CT scan revealed that I had a herniated disc in my lumbar spine. I left with heavy drugs, possible surgery, and weeks of required time off work. When it was all said and done, my body reset itself, and I learned a hard lesson in paying attention to my health.

But in the moment…all I had was the hope that God really was in control.

I wrote this poem:

Now my Christmas may be less active and bright.

I may be seeing your lights from a distance tonight.

I will be sending you gifts of hope and cheer,

while you celebrate with all who are near.

As you open your gifts, there’s one gift I hope we can share:

It’s the gift of the Christ child on Calvary’s snare.

What meant to kill and steal him from the Earth,

Gave to us our second birth.

Merry Christmas!

Why Art Matters

Over five years–and five lifetimes–ago, I was on the streets making art with the homeless. I can’t remember how I learned this, but I learned that there were homeless artists on the streets no longer able to make art because they couldn’t afford their supplies. What I did after that was a series of intentional choices that made me feel fully alive.
Let me explain.
I became very intentional about finding a way to empower the artists to create again. I found ways to use throw away things like coffee grounds and flowers to create paints and dyes. I found cheap colored pencils and wood (less than a dollar each) from a local craft store to create with. Then I talked to some church leaders about what I was doing and I was asked to teach a class. I took what I’d discovered–and my own craft supplies–and taught them about ways to be creative with stuff they see on the street. I told them God had a plan and purpose for their lives and for their gifts to be used to bring Him glory.
The class was such a hit, I was asked to teach again at an outreach event. This time, I took a bag of wooden apples I got at a yard sale and told every artist in my class, “you are the apple of God’s eye. He loves you and has a plan for your life. Now paint or decorate this apple any way you choose. This is your apple, your reminder of how God feels about you.”
At the event, the class was so popular that I ran out of supplies in the first day. I was given a small budget to buy more supplies and continue classes.

There were other events and holidays and days when my church intentionally stepped out into the community with art as an outreach tool. I look back on it now, and think it was so effective because it was doing Christianity in a way people weren’t used to but could grasp.

That’s why Art is so important.

That’s why Art matters.

Art is an expression of the soul. It is a pulse on the thoughts, ideas, and passions of our culture. Other fields like medicine and business may be necessary, but art is the only field that captures what all of us are working for. As we are trying to discover our place in the world, art gives us a voice and a guiding light along that journey.

That’s why Art is so important.

That’s why Art matters.

Art is also a gift from God to intimately connect with Him. Creativity has a source, and the best artists have been the ones with a God-given knack to do what they do.
Sometimes, however, they get distracted by other influences and lose the ability to really project God’s heart. Sometimes they are shunned by the church and feel equally shunned by God.

It’s time art was reclaimed for God.

It’s time artists felt they had a place and purpose in the church.