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.