Sunday, December 2, 2007

Excellence, Artistic Expression and the Church

Nancy Beach of Willowcreek church in Chicago has a great article on the arts and Christianity called The Masterful Designer of Intricate Detail. Here is the link: Nancy Beach wrote a book that makes my heart beat wildly when I read it. It's called One Hour on Sunday and is about the tremendous opportunity and responsiblity the church has to communicate the love and message of Jesus Christ during that very "prime time" on Sunday mornings. One expression of Willowcreeks philosophy is "excellence honors God and inspires people." When performed to the glory of God with a humble heart, it absolutely does. Great work, Nancy.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

I painted this many years ago. I wanted to share it with you. Happy Thanksgiving.

Honest Faith

"In the morning I will order my prayer to Thee and eagerly watch." Psalm 5:3

Something I love about the Christian life is that it is an honest life. While, as believers, we are the recipients of beautiful promises from God, there are still mysteries about His nature with which I wrestle. I don't get the sense that God is annoyed with my honest questions. In fact, I think He delights in answering my questions in unexpected ways. Honesty is always o.k. as long as it is accompanied by respect. I'm glad God doesn't distance Himself from me when I have questions and He always knows where exactly the 'end of my emotional rope lies.' Sometimes there is a string of seemingly unanswered prayers. It feels like in some ways I have steeled myself against the hurt of having things go the opposite way than what I had hoped. It worries me a bit. I worry that I will get myself into a self-protective mode and I will totally miss God's blessings when they come because I'm not looking for them. Do you ever feel the same way?

God has shown Himself to be trustworthy because I have seen Him create incredible beauty from the soil of disappointment. Lord, help me not to go into a protective cocoon when life hurts me. Instead help me to 'eagerly watch' for your answers. In expectant faith, I know that the heart that grieves will also be the same heart that exuberantly rejoices over the answers to prayer that my human eyes can't see now, but the eyes of faith know are just on the horizon. Lord. life up my eyes to eagerly watch.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Called Upon

As Christians, at some point, we are all called upon to give some wise Biblical counsel to others. Does that scare you? That's o.k. That means you take your spiritual responsibility seriously, as well we all should. Here at Hydesville Church we are offering an introduction to the area of counseling on November 4th & 11th at 8:30 AM in the Living Room of the Hut (the house next door to the church). This is a two-session seminar to train ministry workers as they help others in time of difficulty, uncertainty and trouble. Develop your gift to be "a blessing to others in a raw and hurting world."

Friday, October 19, 2007

Responsible Leadership

“…So the LORD changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people.”…Now when Moses saw that the people were out of control – for Aaron had let them get out of control to be a derision among their enemies – then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, “Whoever is for the LORD, come to me!” And all the sons of Levi gathered together to him… Then Moses returned to the LORD and said, “Alas, this people has committed a great sin, and they have made a god of gold for themselves. But now, if You will, forgive their sin – and if not, please blot me out from Your book which You has written!”…Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend” Exodus 32:14;25,26,31,32; 33:11a

Moses, human though he was – showed great responsibility in leadership. He pleaded the case of his people to the LORD, being so persuasive that the LORD changed His mind. Minister Matthew Henry (1662-1714) penned in his commentary, “The power of prayer; God suffers himself to be prevailed with by the humble believing importunity of intercessors. The compassion of God toward sinners, and how he is ready to forgive.”

Moses begged God not to act out of His anger that He felt . Yet, when God gave Moses the request of his heart, Moses turned around and got angry himself with the people, moving swiftly to see that justice was carried out. He did on his own, in part, what he begged God not to do.

Then acknowledging the people’s sin before the LORD, Moses adds that if the LORD is going to blot people out of His book – to blot out himself as well. Moses, in a sense took on the responsibility for the sin of the people even through he was not a participant in the blatantly rebellious acts they performed. Moses identified with the people he led, being willing to take punishment along with them. Perhaps Moses understood, given different circumstances, he could have succumbed as well. If we understand the nature of temptation and the truth of our humanness, we know that none of us are immune to falling. “There but by the grace of God, go I.” Maybe Moses could identify with the people because of the humbleness of his spirit. Even though what they did was awful, and justice needed to be carried out, Moses was able to appeal to the mercy of God’s character because he understood he also needed God’s mercy for himself.

Moses was a peacemaker and reconciler between God and the Israelites. Moses was a friend of God and a leader of the people.

In leadership, sometimes people will disappoint us. We may grieve when they sin, and part of our grief is in realizing that we could be in that other person’s shoes. As a leader our job is to pray to the LORD on behalf of the people we lead, and then be responsible to do the right thing in the eyes of the LORD. We may have to lovingly discipline people. We may have to turn away (Romans 16:17) those who cause division. But for those whom we are called to lead – we identify with them and bring their needs before the LORD. We shepherd, we nurture, we admonish, we love. We exhort people to stay true to the LORD. We lead responsibly.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Too Much Fun

Can you have too much fun? The R.I.S.E. Annual Autumn Women's Retreat was a time for great Bible teaching, heartfelt worship, yummy food, and good friends. But we had "over the top" fun. I think my stomach hurt from laughing while "Buela" and "Minnie May" fussed at the Famous French Fashion Diva of Hydesville Church. Too much fun...

Friday, September 14, 2007

Time to Worship

What a great time of worship at the TLC family camp. Times of worship with God alone are great, but one of the privileges of the Christian faith is the amazing experience of corporate worship. I hope you will join us this Sunday at Hydesville Community Church. Worship service times are 8:30 AM, 10:30 AM & Solid Grounds at 6:30 PM. Worship is one of our God-given purposes. Although our worship is a gift to God, the worship experience is one of the most powerful and soul liberating things one can experience on this earth. And, just wait until we all get to heaven...

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

God Believes in Me?

“Now no shrub of the field as yet in the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted, for the LORD God had not sent rain upon the earth; and there was no man to cultivate the ground.”…The Lord God planted a garden toward the east toward Eden...” Genesis 2:5,8

God designed and planted a garden in Eden. I can’t imagine how incredibly breath taking that garden must have been. When I think of gardens of beauty, I think of the gardens that artist Claude Monet cultivated with it’s many monochromatic plantings of flowers (photo). Many of Monet’s masterpieces emanated from that garden. The gardens at Giverny, France would pale in comparison to a garden that God designed, planted, and then, walked. (Genesis 3:8)

In one sense it seems unbelievable that the plants hadn’t sprouted in part because there were no human hands present to do their part which was cultivating the ground so the plants might flourish. Could God have cultivated the ground with a spoken word? Of course. He spoke the entire world into being – digging up some dirt wouldn’t be much of a feat for the Almighty one. But it was God’s desire that we have a significant role in carrying out His plans. He doesn’t need us, but He most certainly wants us in a big way. God shows us incredible value by not just loving us in the sense of adoring us and having great affection for us. He includes us in His work and in doing so communicates: you are significant…you are important, and I have a job I need you to do. Amazingly, God chose and designed ways that we would work in partnership with Him to accomplish His will. God believes in me…what a wonder. Now, that makes me feel loved!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Porch Light

I'll Leave the Light on for you...
For parents who are going through a difficult season with their teenager or young adult - this is a support group for you.
If you feel alone is your struggles and would value from the support and prayer of other parents, then we welcome you to Porch Light. We'll leave the light on for you. Porch Light meets the fourth Sunday evening of the month at 6:30 PM at Hydesville Community Church (in the Living Room of the Hut). For more information call Penny Fregeau, the Director of R.I.S.E. Ministry & Counseling at Hydesville Community Church - (707) 768-3767.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Hyphenated"S" Word

By design, in Women’s Ministries, we take a seasonal rest in the summer from the weekly Bible studies and regularly scheduled programs and events. Healthy rest is a gift from a gracious and compassionate God. The Psalmist reminds us, “Return to your rest, O my soul, for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you (Psalm 116:7). And although rest is an important component of a balanced life, we are never told to be without the hyphenated “s” word… “self-discipline”.

Two summers ago I came face to face with my lack of self-discipline. Up until that time I had considered myself a fairly disciplined individual. There was a sweetness in my daily devotional times. I enjoyed good times of prayer and worship at church. I had a sincere thirst for God’s Word. But it hadn’t occurred to me that my lack of control in the area of eating was a spiritual problem for me. I glossed over verses like Romans 12:1, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”

The truth is that I have struggled with my weight for my entire life. I can remember my second grade Sunday school teacher asking me what my “New Year’s resolution” was and I replied sheepishly that I would like to lose some weight.

Being overweight caused a lack of self-confidence for me. Clothes shopping was always a reminder of how defeated I felt, as very little fit ‘quite right.’ My clothes became darker in color in attempt to hide the pounds. Then one day my husband pointed to the closet and expressed how somber my wardrobe had become. He was right. There was no joy there. I shunned photographs and stayed away from the scales and full length mirrors. But I still didn’t see the spiritual connection.

Then the Holy Spirit started gently pointing out to me that I sometimes missed ministry opportunities because of my lack of self control in eating. How could I dream to address a group on the subject of self-control when I was visibly out of control? The gentle prodding of the Holy Spirit didn’t go away even though I was very good at excuses. Like, genetics, a low metabolism, a sedentary life style and besides all that, I was a good baker, and my family really appreciated all the good desserts I made. The truth is that I really appreciated the desserts I made…and ate. The good intentions of “starting a diet” kept being pushed off to the next week…next month.

And then came that appointed week in late May 2005 when I was preparing a power point presentation for Pastor Mike’s sermon on I Corinthians 9:24-27. I felt a definite UGH! as I read the words, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. And everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things…”

Ahhhhh! Self control in all things? The Scriptures pierced my bubble of selective discipline. The truth was that I was disciplined at what I wanted to be disciplined in...

For someone else God’s Spirit may point out another area of life that needs attention – but for me, it was eating. I had to face the truth that eating for me wasn’t just because of hunger. Crunching snack foods at night was comforting when I was nervous or entertainment when I was bored! Ouch! That was hard to admit.

Each day that week when I went back to illustrating that power point presentation I read God’s Word and it kept piercing my heart. Finally, by Friday I said, “that’s it!” I’m going to be disciplined in my eating starting right now because I can’t bear to sit in that pew and hear this message this Sunday without having taken action. By then, I must be committed to this.

That was it. For me, it wasn’t about “dieting” – it was about becoming self-disciplined. And having committed myself before the service allowed me to really accept the words into my heart. When Pastor Mike said, “if your stomach growls, you can tell it “no.” I was floored. That concept had never occurred to me – to tell my stomach , “NO!” A growling stomach to me had always meant permission to eat something! So I did indeed tell my stomach, “no” and one growl at a time and day by day I became more disciplined in what I ate. Several months later I was 40 pounds lighter – but that was only a side benefit. The real lesson was in obedience and taking one step up in self-discipline.

Even though I’ve lost my taste for hamburgers the journey of self-discipline continues and I have to decide every single day how I am going to respond. Have I arrived? Oh, gracious, no. I’m just hoping the next sermon doesn’t have any illustrations about exercise….

Thursday, August 2, 2007

The Hydesville Institute of the Bible

Are You Thirsty?

Do you thirst for a deeper understanding of God’s Word? Do you desire to strengthen your training for ministry?

The Hydesville Institute of the Bible is designed to provide Bible instruction, practical ministry training and spiritual mentoring for the purpose of reaching the Eel River Valley and beyond with the Love and Message of Jesus Christ.

Upper level 300 courses begin September 10th with *A Woman’s Heart: God’s Dwelling Place (a Beth Moore DVD study) led by Director of Women’s Ministry & Counseling Penny Fregeau and the Master Plan of Evangelism taught by Pastor Jeff Beltz. There may be another class offering as well at this level.

100 and 200 level courses begin September 16th on Sunday mornings at 8:30 AM. These classes will include: Discovering Church Membership (September 16th & 23rd), Discovering Spiritual Maturity (December 2nd & 9th), Network Spiritual Gifts Class (October 14th, 21st & 28th), a two-part Evangelism Class (February 24th & March 2nd) and a two-part Lay Counseling Seminar (November 4th & 11th).

Hydesville Institute of the Bible: Who Are We?
Hydesville Institute of the Bible was established in response to the growing need to disciple and train ministry workers in the North Coast region of California. Hydesville Community Church, was founded in 1898 and has had an affiliation with the Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA) since 1963. The Senior Pastor of Hydesville Community Church, Michael Delamarian III, has served the church since 1983. At that time the congregation numbered about 50. Today, over 500 people attend, participate and serve in Hydesville Community Church. An active and growing band of believers, Hydesville Community Church is united in the desire to reach the Eel River Valley and disciple believers to change their world for the cause of Christ.

*Beth Moore study also presented Wednesday mornings at 10 AM beginning September 12th .

Monday, July 23, 2007

For My Dear Friends with Cancer

In the past year we have had a group of people in our church family who have found that they have cancer or a recurrence of cancer. These people have been so amazing. Time after time they have shared stories of God's faithfulness through this terribly difficult time. When I think of heroes, I think of these dear friends - Mary Lou, Judy, Scott, , Becky, Thelma, Sandie, Joan and Barbara. Jesus shines brightly through each of you! In facing physical, mental and emotional suffering, you have ministered to me in a powerful way.

These believers have taught me what it means to walk by faith. Christianity Today had a good article on "Cancer's Unexpected Blessings". Here is the link:

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Summer Reading and Dreaming

These warm Humboldt County days have been outstanding. Some of my most peaceful moments have been in our garden. The blueberries and raspberries were wonderful this year. Saturday evenings have been a great time to sit among the roses and read some good books. Typically at these times I read books by great Christian authors that help me understand people, for we all undergo difficulties, uncertainties and troubles. Then when I'm feeling the need for something "light" I pour through gardening or home decorating books. I envision the perfect English garden (it's not ever going to happen for me, but it's still o.k. to dream)...I think of repainting the house in creative and striking ways.

Have you read any good books this summer? What do you dream about?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Pure Ministry

Some of the purest times of ministry to others is when we are broken. Here is a great article from Gifted for Leadership:

Small Town Big Church - Hydesville Community Church

Did you see the article by Heidi Walters for the North Coast Journal about Hydesville Community Church? The article has also been picked up by other blogs, like Monday Morning Insight. Here is the link if you would like to see it. Those of us who have ministered under Pastor Mike's (Pastor Michael Delamarian III) leadership for many years know what a blessing he is to the North Coast of California. He has taught our church the true Biblical meaning of grace by his words and by his life, and has been a great leader and shepherd of this church. Here is the article:

God is the Master Artist

Every time I paint my awareness of the Great Creator is heightened. Since realist painting is all about observation and learning from nature I am in awe when I study something I am seeking to represent in painting. The detail, the design, the amazing intricacy and orchestration and harmony in nature is beyond comprehension. I know from experience that there is no phenomenal design without a phenomenal designer. There truly are no "happy accidents." Yes, once in a while some colors can run together and they look pleasing, or we stumble across something by accident and it looks far better than we know our skill level to be...but there is no mastery in a subject without intense study. Everything in nature points to a marvelous creator. It's not hard to believe in God - just by observing nature. It shouts of His existence, and His order, design, care, character and beauty. And He didn't just make Himself a mystery to figure out. He revealed Himself clearly through the person of Christ. It is incredibly fulfilling to me to create paintings that prefect the character and personality of the One who reached down and saved my heart and my life. He is the Master Artist.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Wow, this car goes really fast, doesn't it Rover?

Funny picture. Makes me laugh - my dogs make me laugh. They say dogs resemble their owners. That is an uncomfortable thought. For years we have had this lovable, overstuffed loyal (except when he gets out of the gate) bassett hound, and he is just the best pet for us. He's kind of like a cartoon. Then we decided he needed a friend so he would run around and lose a little weight. So we picked up this great 8 year old rescue dog that loves to sit on your feet. They are a silly pair of animals, but they make me smile. Sometimes we just need to laugh. Laughter is a gift from God. Oh, the photo is by someone named FreeXone76.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Called Upon

As Christians, at some point, we are all called upon to give some wise Biblical counsel to others. Does that scare you? That's o.k. That means you take your spiritual responsibility seriously, as well we all should. Here at Hydesville Church we are offering an introduction to the area of counseling on November 4th & 11th at 8:30 AM in the Living Room of the Hut (the house next door to the church). This is a two-session seminar to train ministry workers as they help others in time of difficulty, uncertainty and trouble. Develop your gift to be "a blessing to others in a raw and hurting world."

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Where Else Would I Go?

“Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble?” …As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. So Jesus said to the twelve, “you do not want to go away also, do you?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” John 6:60-61;66-68

Music is an amazing expression of the soul that often communicates our feelings in a way that nothing else quite can. A song from the early 70’s Jesus movement has been on my heart lately. It was written by a Christian folk rock group called Children of the Day and the lyrics, based on the above Scripture passage, went something like this:

Sometimes I forget just how much
He changed me with a single touch
And when I start remembering, I see His eyes.
And then I see the differences in my two lives -
Remembering makes me cry,
Oh, Lord, where else would I go
If I sought to leave your path behind?
If I look around, see the pain abound,
No one else would take the time to find me,
No there’s no where else to go.

Intense emotional pain, whether it is because of a fractured family relationship, the loss of someone close to us, a physical or mental illness, financial hardship, job loss, or many other factors, can cause us to get to the point of just wanting to quit. Stop the merry-go-round, I want to get off right now. With many of Jesus disciples, it was something He said that caused them to give up following Him. But even though that thought of quitting, to stop the emotional trauma, may be understandable on one level, it isn’t a rational decision. Because the truth is that pain is a part of this world whether we are believers or not – “it rains on the just and the unjust.” In matters of faith the question really is, “do I want to walk through this pain with Jesus, or without Jesus?”

Some of the disciples in the Scripture passage made the tragic choice to give up. Now, God’s plans always go forward. We can see vividly all through the Old Testament that when people made themselves unusable because of a bad attitude, poor choices, or a “hardness of heart,” God’s plan still went forward. God can use anyone He wills to further what He has determined will happen. If we get sidelined spiritually, tragically for us, we miss being a part of the blessing of being used by God. The disciples who quit missed out.

One of my professors said, “I would never want to relive my childhood. But neither would I want to give up the lessons I learned from having lived through it.” And so it is with most emotional pain. We would certainly not want to relive that which was so agonizingly difficult to go through - yet again. But if you walked through that experience with Jesus, no doubt you can say with confidence that you would not want to give up the incredible life lessons and answers that you now own because of having lived through the pain.

It’s not on a sunshine filled day at the beach when cares are far away that we question the goodness of God. It’s in hard places. God is always good, but sometimes He is good like a surgeon. There has to be some cutting away and some pain going on before we are healed. But the Great Physician is a good doctor with hope and a future plan for us. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

Thursday, June 14, 2007

A Tribute to My Dad (Happy Father's Day)

It took me over 30 years and hearing that my father needed a heart bypass operation before a tremendous truth thundered down on me: my father has always been there for me. Until that moment I didn’t realize the incredible gift that he had given me for my entire life. I could always pick up the phone and he was glad to hear from me. If I had any questions about how anything worked or information of any kind – he was the first to pour through the books and encyclopedias looking for an answer. He was never too busy for me. After work he was always just a few steps away in his workshop, and I spend many “magical” hours there as a child. Planks of wood became my coloring books (my dad would save the drawings by varnishing over them and then using the wood on the bottom of furniture, etc. His actions carried a very strong message: whatever my child creates is something to be treasured). In my father’s workshop, the drill press became the submarine control room. His large assortment of screwdrivers became my dolls. The tape measure was a fine thing with which “to go fishing.” My dad would involve me in ideas and plans and some of my finest hours were spent at his desk as we talked over how to build projects, designing them to be strong and look great. He taught me to paint a house, use a band saw, mow a lawn, and how to find answers. My father made all the cribs in the church nursery at the church I grew up in, and he made the beautiful cross at the front of the church. When I was a young adult, dad made all the windows and my husband and I put stained glass in them. My dad was a church trustee for over 50 years. He modeled consistency. My dad was always there for me.

Dad is 87 now. He is still working on projects. He lost the sight in one of his eyes several years ago making me bookshelves. Those bookshelves are some of the most beautiful things in the world to me. The heritage my dad gave me grows sweeter everyday, because with each passing day I realize what a great gift he gave me in always being there for me.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007


It was his last message as our Visitation Pastor. Now my husband “retires” to a new season of life. Why the happy faces? There is simply a deep sweet joy in seeing the goodness of God colored all over a human life. Even though it was an emotional Sunday for us, I couldn’t help but be very thankful for the experience of seeing Don serve in this capacity in his “vintage” years.

Yes, this is actually his fourth retirement, and over his life he has worked hard at many things. Don was a navy chief, an aviation inspector, a high school and junior college history teacher for 22
years, a real estate agent, a Vice Mayor of a city of 25,000, a stained glass craftsman and business owner, a maker of Victorian redwood screen doors, and for the past seven years, a Visitation Pastor. And after all that, he has no intention of getting out the rocking chair.

The first thing he did in “retirement” is make up a list of 25 items he felt needed to be done at the house immediately. Don set about his tasks with enthusiasm and he adds to that list daily.

The joy continues...

Safe Places

The ancient towering redwoods silhouetted against a sky that appeared like a watercolor painting seized my attention. The multiple luminescent shades of blues, grays, and violets, framed by clouds and streaked by sunrays, formed a “ceiling” to this natural cathedral in the forest. I sat mesmerized from the campground underneath. This amazing chunk of nature was only twenty minutes from our house! What an incredible place we have found to live.

Children in the camp ran back and forth. What is better than the sounds of happy kids? A naturally beautiful place, a community that cares about children, small schools, fascinating Victorian architecture, a place with a sense of history, a good solid Bible believing church…what a great place to raise kids, I thought. Having been raised in a large Southern California city, with smog, crowds, traffic and the fear of strangers, I felt like I had found a piece of heaven. What I wouldn’t have given to have grown up in a place like this, I mused.

Twenty-four years have come and gone since those idyllic and somewhat naive thoughts. While my appreciation for the many benefits of this community continues, I have come to realize that this place is no safer than any other in many regards. As Philip Yancey points out in his excellent article Where Is God When It Hurts? On the Christianity website, incredible tragedies sometime come to out of the way places. There is no place that we can run to become a stranger to hurt, suffering and pain. They will be a part of our lives, and unwelcome companion, no matter where we go. We do not have a choice in that, our choice lies only in our response.

No one needs cliché answers when bad news hits. Whether that bad news affects the entire community or only one person, it seems the greatest comfort comes in the form of someone who has “been there.” We need to know we are not alone when we are hurting. We can have the assurance that Jesus is there for us, that He understands our suffering, because He has, above all, “been there.” And as God often works, He uses ordinary people who have also “been there” to minister to us and help us through the darkness of the situation until we can see a flicker of light. The “safe place” when we hurt is not a geographical spot on the map, but is found in the relationship of the One who weeps with us, feels our pain, and, as no one else can, cause goodness to come from a seemingly horrible situation.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.” II Corinthians 1:3-5

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

I Don't Want to be a Sea Anemone

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” Matthew 16:24-25

The Sea Anemone, natural creature that it is, reacts in the natural way to pain and discomfort. When something touches it not only closes in on itself, it “injects a dose of flesh of the aggressor or prey.” (Wikipedia encyclopedia). Turning in - becoming self-absorbed in a crisis, is our natural reaction to emotional pain. The difficulty that we are going through takes center stage and demands our attention. Problems can drain us physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Not only do we tend to “turn in”, the natural inclination is to lash out at anything that comes close. We really aren’t as compartmentalized as we think. Hurt has a way of oozing into other areas of our life and affecting seemingly unrelated areas and relationships. The natural way of the Sea Anemone, even though it may be our default mechanism, is clearly not the best way to conduct our lives.

Jesus, our great High priest (Hebrews 4:15) was no stranger to pain and suffering. Yet, He taught us, to deny ourselves and to not be fixated on our own life. It’s a contradiction to our natural reaction but Jesus words are life giving in their application. As we face what James calls “various trials” we are, at the same time, encouraged to “give our lives away.” To put it another way, when bad things are happening in our life and we make a conscious decision to put that aside for a time and focus on others pain and doing tangible things to help, we ourselves experience a degree of emotional healing. In “losing our life” we truly “find our life.” Only God could make an equation like that work..

And so, if I had to choose to be another creature, it would not be a sea anemone. They are too emotionally unhealthy. But a silly sea ottter, perhaps – now that’s an idea. Anyone want to go swimming?

Monday, May 21, 2007

Prayer is Mysterious

Prayer is as central to the life of faith as oxygen is to our physical life. Yet, prayer in many ways is a mystery. We sometimes pray fervently for things, believing these things to be in the will of God. Sometimes Gods answers surprise us. Sometimes we do not see results of our prayers for a long time and it seems confusing. When I was 12 years old, I was in an accident caused by a blown-out tire on our station wagon. Our car was in the far left lane going 70 miles per hour (the speed limit) on a crowded racing Southern California freeway. The blow out caused our car to start to veer right heading fast toward a car right next to us that could not get out of the way. I was in the back seat on the right side. I still remember the terrified look on the man's face as our car windows got closer and closer. My sister, who was 28 at the time, was driving and she had the steering wheel jammed all the way toward the left, but the car continued to go, in the slow motion of my mind, in the opposite direction of the way it was turned. That moment is frozen in my mind, and that is sometimes where we find ourselves in prayer. We are praying fervently in one direction, but our lives are careening off in another - and time is suspended as we look and wonder - what is happening? After that terrifiying moment in the car, the station wagon all of a sudden obeyed the directon of the steering wheel and went slamming along the center divider and we tore out 400 feet of it - it was quite an ordeal. But we all left the car without a scratch, protected in some mysterious way by the mighty hand of God. Likewise God answers prayer in His way in His time and He can be trusted. It doesn't mean the journey won't be action packed...but we have to move beyond that moment when everything seems out of control and remember we live by faith.

I found a great quote on prayer by Gene Bourland from the book Hit By a Ton of Bricks by Dr. John Vawter. Bourland writes:

"I am discovering that prayer is not a magical lamp that I rub and get three wishes from God, but it is an intimate conversation - yelling out my dependence on Him. God is good and purposes good in our lives in and through pain. Jesus' Good News is for broken lives, for those who have no one else to put them back together again."

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

It was a great Mother's Day, especially because of this man. It's not just that he took me to dinner and bought me a gift - which was wonderful. It's also because when I had no children to call my own, and when we miscarried many years ago, he still bought me a Mother's Day gift. He just gets it. He gets me. This year he also helped package 300 gift bags for other moms and women to help them feel special. Then he helped me hand them out. Anything else good that happened on Mother's Day was simply a bonus. And even though I was very happy to hear from the other important people in my life, the encouragement from my husband filled me to overflowing. Oh, and the most important thing he did for me that day...he prayed for me.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Artistic Excellence and Ministry

Listening to the Heart...Responding with Colors from the Master's Palette

Our friends, the Krings, introduced us to Josh Groban via a DVD of one of his concerts. What an amazing voice! Intrigued with Groban’s originality and megatalent I purchased another of his concerts on DVD for Don for Father’s Day. It was worth the purchase price for the rendition of Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring alone. In addition to Josh’s phenomenal singing, a young woman named Lili Haydn played violin exquisitely and sang at the same time (unusual!), plus the visuals were out of this world. Lili stood above the orchestra in this angelic flowing white dress, with striking lighting effects that looked like both fire and heaven. The living scene appeared to be so ephemeral. It was a breath taking performance that went beyond the realms of music into visual, drama and all the lines in between.

Jesu, joy of man's desiring Holy wisdom, love most bright Drawn by Thee, our souls aspiring Soar to uncreated light Word of God, our flesh that fashioned With the fire of life impassioned Striving still to truth unknown Soaring, dying round Thy throne
-Johann Sebastian Bach, words by Martin Janus, 1661

I don’t know whether or not Josh Groban or Lili Haydn are believers, but they sang powerful words of praise to Jesus. It all got me to thinking about quality and excellence in the realm of arts and ministry. Not only has God has given human beings a tremendous gift in terms of talent, imagination and ingenuity, God has given something to believers alone: the reason to express this unmitigated joy. “Art for art’s sake” has a ceiling to it. “Art for God’s sake” can go on forever. There is no limit to what He can do with hearts, minds and souls thoroughly devoted to Him that are also willing to take on the discipline of developing gifts from their raw form to something of stunning beauty.

Christians should set the standard for excellence in culture, not the other way around. It’s good to understand culture so that may communicate in the most insightful way possible, but how much more effective to communicate from the lead rather than from the back of the pack.

In Exodus 31 we read “Now the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “See I have called by name Bezalel, the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship, to make artistic designs for work in gold, in silver, and in bronze, and in the cutting of stones for settings, and in the carving of wood that he may work in all kinds of craftsmanship.”

Certainly Bezalel had a call into ministry – God called him by name. God was also very specific about the ministry He gave Bezalel, just as God was specific about Paul’s ministry (Acts 9:15).

God didn’t give Bezalel artistic talent just to make visually pleasing things for their house of worship. The Lord also gave Bezalel wisdom, understanding and knowledge. The ministry wasn’t merely the making of objects of beauty. Bezalel needed God’s wisdom, understanding and knowledge to develop things that would truly bring Glory to God. Bezalel needed to understand God’s heartbeat so that he might use his talent to create things that would help people draw into God’s presence. It also appears that part of Bezalel’s ministry was to shepherd other artists – another real need for wisdom, understanding and knowledge! We all need shepherding (that’s why God gives us great pastors and directors), but the artistically inclined seem to need an additional nudge from the shepherd’s rod and staff from time to time.

Paul exhorts us to “approve the things that are excellent” (Philippians 1:10). People are drawn to excellence. Excellence provides a platform. “Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before obscure men” (Proverbs 22:29).

Franky Schaeffer, in his 1981 classic on 20th Century Christians and the Arts, Addicted to Mediocrity, pokes fun at how sometimes as Christians we settle for the message of Christ to be communicated mainly through “Christian” doodads, like trinkets, tee-shirts and bumper stickers. The purpose is not to slam those types of communications (sometimes these things are exactly what is needed for a particular purpose), but to motivate the church of the living God to pursue excellence in the area of the arts – all kinds of art. Christians should be the forerunners of artistic excellence, not mediocre imitators of yesterday’s cultural fad.

I sometimes have discussions with people about visual media…how to use it most effectively in the church, how to improve each piece of visual communication and sometimes how to raise the bar in artistic standards... even if our work isn’t entirely understood. Composer and conductor, John Williams says our culture is “addicted to visual stimulation.” However many artists will be the first to attest that we live in a “visually illiterate culture”. How can both be true? As a culture we see a lot of images – thousands everyday – but we’re simply not educated about what we’re looking at. But whether or not people, in a general sense, understand the components of what they see, people do respond to visual images in a big way. And if people respond to the visual, and in a larger sense the artistic (music, drama, etc.) then it is well worth our passion, energy and devotion to pursue excellence in arts with the goal of serving God not only with developed talent, but with wisdom, understanding, knowledge to help draw and win people to Christ and then shepherd them with all the strength and energy that God gives.

Through the way where hope is guiding,Hark, what peaceful music rings;Where the flock, in Thee confiding,Drink of joy from deathless springs.Theirs is beauty’s fairest pleasure;Theirs is wisdom’s holiest treasure.Thou dost ever lead Thine ownIn the love of joys unknown.
-Johann Sebastian Bach, words by Martin Janus, 1661

Sunday, March 25, 2007

I Miss You

Listening to the Heart...Responding with Colors from the Master's Palette


I miss you.
And other people may find that
Hard to understand.
To them you were something they never saw.
They only knew you existed because I told them so;
And because I was a little cranky in the evenings,
Woosy in the mornings, and craving very weird food.
How thrilled I was when I found out you were there,
Within me! Inside of me!
Such an incredible thought.
I dreamed many dreams of what you would be like.
Would you have Don’s eyes?
My funny knock knees?
What would your personality be?
And then in such a short time
You were gone.
The doctor couldn’t find your heartbeat.
On the modern ultra sound screen I could see
Your tiny form
Inside me.
And even though you didn’t move
I was amazed at the miracle of you.
How precious you were to me!
That would probably sound strange to people
Because, like I said
They couldn’t see you, or evidence of you.
I take great comfort
That you are with our heavenly Father.
You must have been pretty special
For Him to take you to heaven so fast.
I look forward to seeing you one day.
I hope to have many years here on earth.
But someday, when He calls me home
I will have the privilege of holding you
In my arms.
I will always hold you in my heart.
I do not know what the future will bring,
If I’ll have a child someday.
But that child will never replace you.
I’m sure with time
The pain I feel at your loss
Will diminish
And life goes on…
But I will never forget you.
You were and are unique in all the universe
And the time I have you within me
Will remain a special time in my memory.
Thinking about you makes me truly realize
How precious life is,
And how we need to appreciate those lives
We come in contact with
On our journey through this world.
I’m so thankful
That you were created
And but for a moment
Our lives were intertwined.

By Penny Fregeau
July 1987

Friday, March 23, 2007

Carried Up the Mountain

Listening to the Heart…Responding with Colors from the Master’s Palette

Carried Up the Mountain
I enjoyed seeing the third part of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ out on video. The movie screen, of course, is ‘larger than life’ and so dramatic, but video affords me the opportunity to turn on the closed captioning and see the words of everything being spoken. Some people are irritated by extra words on the screen, but I have grown accustomed to it, and even like the added nuances it brings out. It was funny seeing the words “fat hobbit!” uttered under the breath of the schizophrenic Gollum.

If you are familiar with this classic tale (and saw the movie) you will recall near the end when Frodo, weak and weary from the journey, collapses near the top of the mountain of Mordor, where he must return the ring. His faithful and also weary friend, Samwise Gamgee, reaches deep within himself and proclaims, “I may not be able to carry it (the ring), but I can carry you!” And with a final push of adrenaline Sam scoops up the mud-stained weak body of Frodo and charges up the stony mountainside. It was a great visual illustration of the admonition of Scripture to “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2).

Like Sam, sometimes we can’t exactly “carry the ring.” That is, our hearts may go out to someone who is suffering, but we may not relate to their pain. Maybe we just haven’t “been there” before, or we just don’t quite understand. But also, like Sam, no matter what ‘the ring’ represents, we can scoop up our brother or sister and help carry them through a difficult time. The bearing doesn’t relate so much in the specific nature of the burden, but more in the willingness to care and be a support.

Like Job’s friends, who were a strong silent support for seven days (until they started speaking); intentional presence can often speak more eloquently than words.

Bearing one another’s burdens sometimes simply means, “ I care that you hurt. I don’t really need to know why, unless you feel like telling me. But either way, I notice, I care, and I’m here.”

Ultimately, we are upheld by our Great High Priest, Jesus, who does intimately understand every type of human suffering, because He experienced it. With Christ, we are “carried up the mountain” and never alone.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

I Murdered My Grandmother This Morning


Listening to the Heart...Responding with Colors from the Master's Palette.

“I Murdered My Grandmother This Morning.”
The Art of Listening

Part of being president of the United States is having happy confident facial expressions at social gatherings and enduring tedious things such as long reception lines. At one of these gatherings, it is said that Franklin Roosevelt decided to try a listening experiment. To each person in line he murmured “I murdered my grandmother this morning.” What was the response from guests? They said things like: “Marvelous!” “Keep up the good work!” “We are proud of you!” “God bless you sir!” Finally at the end of the line was a good listener – the ambassador from Bolivia. Not skipping a beat the ambassador leaned over and said, “I’m sure she had it coming.”

Good listeners are in short supply. Our busy schedules diminish our ability to take time to listen. Sometimes, like the guests in the reception line, our minds are on other matters - we are not “in listening mode.” Our basic human inclination to focus on ourselves rather than others causes a limited capacity to be a good listener. If we are brutally honest we have to admit that most of us would rather talk and be listened to, rather than discipline ourselves to listen patiently to someone else. Being a good listener is not passive, it is active. It is a concentrated unselfish effort to focus on the other person. So, why is it important to be an active listener?

We are to become imitators of Christ, and He makes listening a priority. God makes Himself available to us at any time, always ready to listen. Jesus listened attentively to those who sought Him. When people came to Him for healing or on behalf of another Jesus listened to their pleas. Did Jesus know the information already? Yes, of course. But in listening to those who came to Him, He showed visible care and compassion. He could have identified the person and said, “yes, I know what the problem is,” snap His fingers and perform the miracle. But He didn’t…he chose to listen to each person’s story before responding.
If we really want to help other people, we’d better be alert when they speak. James 1:19b says, “ But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” If we want to show care and compassion for those around us, we need to comprehend their feelings and their mind set. This is accomplished best through intently listening to what the person is saying. Sometimes it involves a couple of thoughtful questions, but the majority of information gathering and understanding is done through really hearing the other person’s words and observing their body language.
Active Listening communicates to the other person that they are important. Romans 15:2 says, “Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to his edification.” Animated conversation is fun, and there are plenty of times for give and take. But if we want to grow in our listening skills, we need to make a conscious decision to refrain from our quick comebacks or saying things that draw attention right back to ourselves. If we have a desire to communicate that the other person is important, we focus exclusively on the other person. We make a decision to not to top the other person’s story, not to have the last word, and not share everything we think we know about that particular subject. We give up our notion that we are authoritative on that topic and we acknowledge the other person’s feelings for what they are without elaborate commentary. Our eye contact, our posture, our facial expressions all contribute to expressing to that other person that what they are saying is important. With our countenance we communicate whether we are interested in what the other person has to say. We also communicate importance by respecting the other person’s time frame. If it’s evident they are finished sharing, we don’t pry. We take our cues from the other person and reflect their mood. Obvious respect in the area of listening communicates that we value that other person.

Our motivation for developing our listening skills comes from a desire to honor others as Christ commanded. Philippians 2:3-4 in the Message gives us a great perspective. “Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.” (or an ear!)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Why the Title Soul Artist?

Soul Artist
Listening to the Heart...Responding with Colors from the Master's Palette.

Why the title "Soul Artist"?
Some of my earliest memories are about Art and Christianity. My father, a great craftsman, made many things for the little church we attended. Among them, the baby cribs. I remember being in one of those cribs. I also remember, at about three years of age, sitting cross legged with other children in our church nursery as we anxiously awaited pages of a coloring book to decorate with our crayons. Now, to this three year old, every coloring book page looked like a delightful blank canvas just waiting for my enhancements. The Sunday School teacher held up torn out page after torn out page of interesting looking animals and Bible-Time scenery. I wanted to color every page. A compliant child, I sheepishly held up my hand for each page, but each time other children were handed the papers. The teacher would tell me - "Penny, put down your hand!" A little confused, I would sit silently and watch other pages being handed out. At one point the teacher showed us a donkey. It was too much for me to understand why I couldn't color along with the other children. I put my hand up in the air, to which the teacher replied, "Put your hand down, Penny! You color good! You get to color Jesus." "Oh." I never realized my love for drawing and color was different than anyone else's. It was an affirming moment that I've never forgotten.

Throughout my life the themes of Christianity and Art have intertwined in various ways. And so the name...Soul Artist.

Like that first affirmation of a gift God had given me, it is my hope that this blog will be an encourgement to others. It is my prayer that in hearing from you in response to these writings that I might have the privilege of listening to your heart, and respond with "colors from the Master's Palette" - that is with the beauty of Jesus' teachings as found in the Bible.