The Painting: A Parable about Results vs. Enjoyment

I had a major ah-ha moment around “getting it right.” And the more I sit in it, the more the Spirit is bringing revelation.

Before we closed on our house, I was stuck in a moment of  “God, I am not so sure about the new house idea.”  I knew that I had heard the Lord say this was to be our new home. But I was just not seeing it.  A friend came over and she and I both stood in silence looking at the property. “It’s really different from where you are right now,” she offered kindly. “It’s a lot of work,”  I grumbled.

I turned to her and nearly begged, “Please pray for me today. If God is telling me this is it, I must be missing something because this does not look like abundance. And He promised me abundance.”  We hugged and went our separate ways.

But we both did pray.  I asked for God to give me glimpse of what He was seeing, a sign, a token of His Yes. She prayed for a glimpse of what God was up to in my life.

The answers to those prayers were, well, God sized.

After my friend left, my family and I ran errands. As we were driving down old familiar roads,  “something” caught my eye. I knew a Holy Nudge well enough to go back and look.  It was the back of a huge canvas being discarded. My first thought was for  Salem. She could repaint this big piece.

Why throw it away when there is so much potential? (Selah)

Then Chuck turned the canvas around I heard this whisper from the Lord. “These are the colors in your new house.”

“But I don’t do blues,” I said.

You do now. This is a whole new season. So all new colors.

Whaaat? Here was a literal sign from God, with a touch of interior Designing too. I was overwhelmed by His kindness to answer my prayer but also the attention to detail of my house.  Who is this God who cares about paint colors? I couldn’t wait to tell my friend my answered prayers but she had her own story.

She retold her God conversation as:

Lord, it’s not my place to wonder if she is hearing you right. But I don’t want her being miserable. She loves her home. She has worked hard to make it beautiful.

“Yeah. She is pretty great at making beautiful things, isn’t she?” He said.

So we just started bragging on you and how faithful you are with the gifts you have been given. You look at this house and see everything you want to change, but He is looking at it going, ‘Jana would would excel in here. It looks like work, but an artist enjoys painting…’

Also, I kept asking Him why this looked like a decrease when we know He has “more”.  I kept getting words like, inheritance, legacy, generational blessings, and honor of the father and mother.  I think the “more” is not in the size of the kitchen…  Does any of this fit?

I was crying as I read her email. Yes, Yes it fits. Perfectly.

I turned a corner that day. Yes I was moving.  There were months and mountains to cross before we would move into our promised house, but God had activated my creativity.  I was dreaming again, brainstorming options. I would go in my garage and look at this huge canvas and just smile. “Blues, huh? This is going to be fun.” I said to the Lord.

I know, He said. That’s the point.

So fast forward six months. God so changed our hearts that we were all but running to the new house  because we were so eager to be there.  We lugged that huge canvas to the new house and leaned it against the wall, and taunted me. Chuck and I had agreed once we moved, that he wanted something more than an abstract so it needed repainting. So it waited for me.

I tried to recruit my daughter, the artist. Salem refused to touch it.

I kept telling her I didn’t know how to paint well enough to get what was in my head onto the canvas.  But every time I said that to Salem, the Spirit would press on me and say, “That’s not the point. You do it.”

Have you ever had something being offered to you that you had no idea how to start, or worse, you wouldn’t start because you were afraid you would screw it up?

When the day of no more stalling came, paints and brushes ready, I stood there— panicked.

What if I mess it up? I said out loud. What if you do? He answered.

What if I don’t like it? I asked.  What if you don’t? He prodded.

I don’t know what to do.

Whatever you want.

Really?  The first swaths of mixed paint were bolder than I thought but it was too late. A huge stripe of turquoise interrupted the tranquil greys and misty blues.  Might as well keep going, I thought. I splashed and smeared and stroked. Then came the tree.

I don’t know how to make a tree.

I do.

I know you do, but how do I paint one.

There was only Silence. So I took the brush and tried to carefully create a tree branch. It looked awful.

You are trying too hard.  What you would paint if you were just having fun?

Suddenly I started slapping the brush on the canvas. And before long a tree of sorts did emerge. And so the process continued. With the dripping affects, and squiggle lines, and the cream colored tree roots.  The more I relaxed, the more lost I became in the moment,  the more I realized I was smiling. I was playing more than painting. I was enjoying more than working.

I stood back and observed my work. “Well it looks really different than the painting in my head.”

Yes it does.

“I am not sure I like it.”

Is that okay?

“Yes. No. Maybe? I like it but it doesn’t really fit my house now. But I sure loved doing it. That was so — fun.”

Ah yes. That’s the point. (Ever have the feeling that Jesus is laughing at you rather than with you sometimes?)janatree

Once the whole family voted, we agreed that we liked the painting but didn’t want it in our new house. And I felt…wonderful.

It really had nothing to do with the result. The whole exercise was about hearing the Lord, responding to Him, being wiling to walk into the unknown, or even unskilled, and enjoy the process.

How have I missed this so many times? I re-read my friends email:

An artist enjoys painting…

I have missed much enjoyment in my life because I have been so results-oriented. The questions God laid on my heart might help you too.

Have I let the “pressures of this world” (the ones Jesus warned us about) choke out the seeds of creativity, joy, enjoyment in my life?

Could I do the same things I do every day, but do them differently? With enjoyment, with pleasure, with God? And let the results—just be the results and not my goal, my worth, or my god?

Seek first the Kingdom of God, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33



Appetites in the Hands of God

jesus+good+shepherd+3As we think about appetites this month it is good to know that you are not bad for having them. It is more a question of what do you do with them? How do you sort whether they are good or bad for you? Be sure to check out our first two WGR classes as we mull over some tough questions.

But for today let me relay a God story. He has such a sense of humor…

This weekend I  turned over two different calendars since we just began  February.  And to my surprise the verse was the same.  I have never had that happen before.

An even greater surprise was the selected verse — Psalm 23. “The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.”

Isn’t He funny? We have talked about that verse for the last two weeks in WGR class. One translation is: I lack no good thing.  Here we are talking about appetites and God is already giving us a clue to the answer. Because God is my shepherd, I don’t HAVE to want. Re-read the first three verses of Psalm 23.  Then work on believing them. Don’t just blow past this. Soak in His truth so your truth system will line up…

Stay tuned. More to come.

Get Your Boots On…

I can’t tell you too much yet. The revelation is too new. Too raw. But in a season of intense prayer with Jeremy, one of our pastors, he said, “This is so random but I see you in a pair of sandals.”

“Yes I wear them all the time.” I said.

“But  you can’t go very far in sandals. You know how the Bible says our feet are shod with the good news of the gospel?” I nodded yes. “Well you can’t go very far or very long in sandals. It’s like you are casually walking.”

“Do you mean it’s too casual? Am I being too casual with what I am doing?”

“Yes in a way but it’s more than that.  Sandals are too open. You are too likely to have…” he paused here and searched for the right word.

“Backlash,” he said firmly.

“Do you mean like my feet will get hurt?”

“Yes but more than that. You get caught in the thorns in sandals. Sandals open you to backlash, not being protected or prepared for the journey.”

Then the Lord spoke the bomb and the balm all at once. “I see you getting new pair of shoes. They are combat boots.”

I know my face must have looked bewildered.  Combat boots? Not silhettos? Not bright, sparkly, flashy shoes? I think to myself. He continued.

“God is giving you a pair of combat boots. People in combat boots walk anywhere with no thought of thorns, or terrain. People in combat boots walk with a purpose. They are in a war and they are ready.”

Wow.  Obviously by this point I am in a puddle of my own tears. And many more prayerful words followed. I am still dissecting and digesting it all. But as I was going to my car the Lord continued the conversation about the thorns.

“What do thorns represent?” the Lord pressed in my heart.

“The curse, the devil’s attempts to slow you down?”

“In your boots, you will walk over those.”

What do you say to this? And if my head had not already been blown off my shoulders, look at the photo I get today…. A  bride in combat boots. Ezer Warrior.

You better get your boots on. We’re going somewhere.

Oh the power and majesty of this God we love. Oh the strength He gives to us all.
Lord, thank you for speaking to us, and please continue to equip us all for the journey with you.  May you give us an increase of faith to hear and believe and act on what You say. Amen.

Looking For God In Zimbabwe

Audacious title isn’t it?  But there is a reason for it. For some of us on the team, the notion of hearing from God was about as foreign as the soil we were on. It was a great joy to share and coach these folks on the closeness of God that is available to us all.  But for others of us, especially those of us on the WGR team, we had to tune our ears to hear God in such radically different surroundings. On home turf, we three, Beth, Laura and myself had grown accustomed to particular ways that God conversed with us. With all that stripped away, we each had to strip away notions and familiarities, even comfort levels to regain our intimacy with Him.

The nature was different. Instead of seeing God in gentle deer in mountainous display, we were beholding elephants in dry, desolate lands. Instead of the usual prayers for God to surprise and supply our needs we faced the complete and utter devastation of poverty and governmental corruption. Were these people praying for God’s provision? Was this His answer? Would He answer us in the middle of such great need? This whole trip, in lots of ways I will explain in coming blogs, caused me to question my compass.

If I prayed it once, I prayed it a thousand times. “Lord I feel like I’m flying blind.”  That is how it felt much of the time I was teaching, counseling, interceding.  They had so much heartbreaking need, I had so little understanding of what to offer. But God kept whispering, “I’ve got you. Just keep going.”

Then the kisses began to fall. He began to speak to us in our language, 6000 miles away from home. For me it was hearts and butterflies. Lots of butteflies, even white ones. For Laura it was rainbows. And Beth, well she has a whole new story to tell about rain and spiritual downpours. All these little love notes were out of season and unusual occurrences for the region. But not at all unusual for Our God who knew how very much we each needed to hear from Him,  to be reassured of His presence.  You know it sounds funny, but God lives in Africa too.

What you may not know is, He’s also quite the show-off for out of town guests. Seriously, it is one thing to hear from God when life is going pretty well. It is a whole other matter when you are way out of your comfort zone in every way. I am so glad we have the “God who speaks and He lives.” I am so glad He came looking for us.