Creative & Crazy

“One of the difficulties with the creative life is that when we have creative breakthroughs, they may look and even be experienced as breakdowns.” – Julia Cameron


As a kid I had to chase them; those moments too good not to capture through word or paint or camera. I lived for those moments. Those glimpses when the rest of the world seemed so small and the creative breakthrough so big. To me those moments made complete sense and I just knew I was created to run after them. But to those around me I was confusing and hard to understand. I was different and maybe a hint of crazy  because I’d leave a party to sit in a quiet corner looking up at the stars. It was who I was.

I didn’t always embrace the creative being in me, though. In fact, many of my – childhood corner staring up at the sky moments – were hidden in a stash under my bed deemed as creative nonsense that makes no sense. And for the longest time, I thought (or rather, believed) that’s all my being would ever be. Creative nonsense.

But so often the things we deem as unusable, God breaks right through and uses them. Learning that has been the biggest breakthrough of my life. Because I am a creative being and I’m not afraid to own that now.

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I’m a Creative Arts Pastor with which comes great responsibility in sharing those moments. Those ones too good not to capture through word or paint or camera. I chase those moments more than I ever have because it’s become a necessity. It’s why I was created. And the reality that I get to do that now as a living, completely blows the mind of a little girl with crushed dreams who threw her box of creative nonsense in the trash. Back then I was so far detached f rom understanding that God goes before; now I’m so detached to that truth I cling to it. And my creative box has multiplied and it sits on my desk and overflows on my kitchen table and on the walls and onto a church platform.

Not everyone gets it, the creative soul that is. I don’t either but I’m learning. Julia Cameron is one of my favorite authors and she captures the artistic soul in such a brilliant and breathable way. Taken from her book The Artist’s Way Every Day she wrote:  “One of the difficulties with the creative life is that when we have creative breakthroughs, they may look and even be experienced as breakdowns.” SO. MUCH. TRUTH. Because when you create, you breakdown what was there before. It’s like you’re tilting the world, turning it upside down and shaking it until some sort of spiritual truth falls out. Most of the time something does fall and the creative being in me has to pick it up and show it too you. That’s why I do what I do.

I believe the Spirit pours out stuff all the time for us to pick up and share with those who missed the pouring. I mean, I’m so grateful for men like Matthew, Mark, Luke and John who took the time to write histories most terrifyingly beautiful moments. I’m thankful for those who craft songs or paint pictures or tell stories all across the globe that lead me to worship Jesus. Moments like that have brought me to where I am today. Still creative and crazy, but that’s a good thing.

Friend, if you find yourself in one of the moments (which may be different for you than they are for me) chase them. Seriously. And don’t stop until you have a breakdown. Because we need breakdowns for breakthroughs. 

And another thing. Stop throwing yourself away.  I know that can be hard when this world though wonderful, is confusing and sometimes painful. One day you’re well, the next you’re in a hospital bed. One day you’re a family, the next you’re a divorce statistic. One day you’re a kid in a happy home, the next you’re in foster care. One day you have a job, the next you’re at the unemployment office. One day you’re planning a wedding, the next you’re not. One day you’re lonely and the next you’re lonely again. But even when you find yourself in the harder days, press on. Don’t be too quick to throw yourself away. Take the world and shake it upside down. Seek to find the moments when the Spirit pours out and God scoops you right up and says, “Kid, I’m breaking through.”

Because He is.


Also, I think we should look up at the stars more often.

Cheers To Kindnees

Loving people is hard. We know this. We know this when unkind words come across our screens or when neighbors blare loud music at two in the morning. We ache in this when family seems impossible or friendships unreliable.

To love isn’t easy, but it’s a necessity. It’s what we were created and called to do…even when our beings fight the want to do so.

Over the course of this month I’ve received harsh criticism and called names I would never write here. I share that not for pity but to be real in saying, loving hasn’t been easy for me this summer. Words are my bread and butter and when they show up moldy, my soul deflates and when I deflate, I don’t love well.

With that understanding the Lord has been teaching me to love in a different way. Even in the midst of unloving moments, I am still to love. And believe me when I say this, the last thing I want to do is love a leper. But Jesus says to love the leperAnd with that I’ve come to learn, the moments when loving is the hardest are the moments I need to love the most. That in itself is hard. But that’s hesed love.

In Hebrew hesed is

  • a deliberate choice of affection and kindness

And that is raham love. In Hebrew raham is

  • to have compassion, brotherly love

It’s a choice to see beyond the hate and fear. Beyond criticism, differences and insecurities. It’s a choice to simply love when it’s not so simple because (at the risk of sounded stereotypically corny) that’s what Jesus would do.

We are so good at tearing apart and cutting each other down. We are good at making our opinions known and making sure they are the only ones that count. We are good at judging those in charge (so much so that we forget to pray for them). Speak truth, yes. But make sure it’s drowned in love. 

I know I’m not always the most lovable person (which makes me incredibly thankful for grace and friends who choose love me in hesed and raham ways). Knowing that has turned my prayer time this month into a consistent asking of the Lord to teach me to love better and speak kinder. I pray that for our nation too.

This isn’t a done process, so there is no pretty bow to tie around this blog. But friends, cheers to kindness. May we love beneath the surface and be vulnerable enough to admit the moments when we don’t and seek God to teach us to do so.

Jesus, meet us.

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When We Depend More On Coffee Than We Do Jesus

Let’s be honest, most of us at one time or another have struggled with image and value. We measure our image by what magazines portray and we find our value in what we do and how much we’ve accomplished. When I was in college, I strugged with image. Since graduation, I’ve struggled more with value.

Being in the field that I’m in, there is tremendous pressure in knowing solutions and having answers (all the while executing in grace). But the truth of the matter is, I still need solutions and answers and a whole lot of grace. And when I feel I miss the mark all accounts, my worth goes right out the window (because I give it permission too)!

My value graph lately has been anything but consistent, which drives me completely crazy (insert sigh). These days I’ve felt like a messy being. Like a being who doesn’t know her right foot from her left. A woman with nothing to say and nothing to offer. Some of those factors have to do with age, job, relationship status, and family scenarios. Some of those factors simply have to do with my soul being focused on all the wrong things (you know what the factors are for you). And with that being said, I feel the need to share this: the scale we so often place our value on is complete comparison nonsense. There is no realness to it. No foundation. No depth. No truth. Because value isn’t defined by looks, objects or status, it’s defined by the God who breathed us into existence.

While seeking the Lord in this wrestling through value, I stumbled across Acts 17 and it hits home for me (maybe it will for you too). Paul is in the city of Athens and while he’s there he was deeply distressed over the amount of idols he found. He says to the people,

“22 …’People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you. 24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring’.”

Maybe you should read that again because I’ve needed too. In Him we live and move and have our being. In God. Yahweh. Jehovah. Our Father. In Him. Not in things. Not in graphs. Not in comparisons. Not in other relationships. Not in ourselves. In Him.

That’s vital to living and I know that. But sometimes I struggle to really KNOW that. I fight it because it’s easier to place value in the quick fixes. It’s something entirely different to be still and seek the Lord in ALL things. In seeking His timing and boundaries for our lives. In seeking His wisdom and His words of who we are and who we are to be in Him. And that…that takes intentionality and intentionality takes time and we all know, ‘time is money.’ So instead we let our scales be measured by how busy we are, how much weight we’ve lost, who notices us and how successful our business is etc. When we get tired we say we need a cup of coffee. When we don’t want to deal with a problem we turn on the television. When relationships get messy, we find new ones with people who won’t challenge us because we’d rather stay comfortable.

Let’s face it. We have our own Athens idols inscribed with ‘unknown god’ all around us and they distract us from our real value in Christ. And when we depend more on coffee than we do Jesus, something isn’t right. Our scales are imbalanced. Our souls suffer and so do our relationships.

I’ll be the first to admit, I spend too much time measuring my own scale and not enough time giving who I am to the Lord, trusting His time and His ways. Which is ridiculous! I mean, if He could make all nations from one man, how much more could He do through both me and you?


Today I was handed a gift. It was a white frame with a mint green picture that simply said, “You are so loved.” And when it was handed to me, the gifter said, “I just wanted you to know you are seen.”

That was the Lord saying, “I’ve seen where you’ve been walking this month, and I love you. But I’m God and you’re not. Place your value in Me. For in Me, you move and live and be.”

20542967_862477410581342_918361442_oFriends, let’s not just be a religious people, but rather a people who know the God they worship, a people who seek Him and a people who turn to Him before pouring a cup of coffee. 

 

 

Snake Skin

Sometimes I’m a feet dragger. When things grow uncomfortable or seem to be too much, I hide in my skin and slither away. Because let’s face it, life isn’t always ice cream and syrup (or peaches and cream). Sometimes it’s more like walnuts, and I strongly dislike those. 


This week a group of us have been at NTS (Never The Same) Camp with students from Radiant Life Church. I’m mainly the photographer and video catcher, but I do get to lead a small group of young ladies who are nearing college much faster than they would like.

There have been moments of deep belly laughter and moments of gut wrenching tears. There have been hundreds of conversations; some that make perfect sense and some that make absolutely no sense because sleep was little the night before.

But God has been here. 

Santes Beatty (our speaker for the week) has been declaring we are all witnesses for Jesus. We have been encouraged to show up, speak up, and told to not give up. Each message has been moving and if applied to your walk with Jesus, could be transforming. Last night, eleven students applied that to their lives and committed to following Jesus. People all over the worship center cheered and cried and prayed. The Spirit was there and everyone seemed to sense it. Students were confessing, praying to be made new and shedding old skin. Shedding skin is an amazing thing to watch. Not always pretty, but powerful.

Pastor Beatty shared a story about a man who said he felt like a snake. He felt like a snake because he was shedding old skin and being transformed, putting on new skin in Jesus name. I LOVED that analogy. Mainly because the caterpillar turning into a butterfly is the go to analogy for being made new. But shedding skin doesn’t mean your changing your whole self, it means you are transforming bit by bit and putting on new skin. And as Laurie Northrop shared at breakfast, “It’s not a one time thing. Snakes shed their skin over and over again.”

I am SO thankful that we never stop growing and learning and that the Father doesn’t stop teaching even when we resist the shedding. The skin I wear now looks completely different than the skin I wore when I first met Jesus. I had coffee with mentors this week and took a walk down memory lane to when I first met them. I’m the same person as I was then, but walk in completely different skin (thank you Lord)!

 


To those of you who may feel as those you are hiding in your skin, don’t be afraid to shed it. Let Jesus walk with you and in the midst of what is uncomfortable or terrifying. Exposing yourself isn’t ice cream and syrup (or peaches and cream), but it is freeing. It’s freeing to know that who you are now, isn’t who you have to be. It’s freeing to know that when you are rooted in Christ, the Father continues to make you new, over and over again.


“Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” [Colossians 3:9-10English Standard Version (ESV)]

 

Patricia

Photo Credit: Emily Gardner

 

To The Moms Who Have Heard Those Three Words

We love those winning moments. Those ones that make you smile wide and jump high. Those moments that seem to say, “You did it.” and, “You got it right.” But then there are those moments that make you frown deep and lay low. Those ones that seem to say, “You can’t do it.” and, “Wrong again.”

Today I had a kid tell me he hated me. That was a first and I walked into my office feeling rather depleted. Were those words really meant or were they just a knee jerk reaction from an angry little being because I had dared to say, “No.”

“I hate you.” I’ve never heard a child say that in real life before. Television and movies? Yes. Storybooks and songs? Yes. Real life? No. But I know parents all around the world struggle with little beings who sometimes say those three words.

And as I’ve read through your mother’s day posts, I’ve thought a lot about all of you moms. You who have heard those three words and those of you who someday may hear them. I’ve thought about you moms who have kids who dump glue on rugs, throw chairs and break crayons (all of which happened today in kids church). I’ve thought about you moms with high anxiety children and you moms who are at a loss at what to do with your little beings who carry bursts of energy and bursts of anger. I’ve thought about those of you who now have kids in college and those of you who have kids that are now moms. I’ve thought about you moms who have lost a child and you moms who feel like you’re losing yours. I’ve thought and prayed for all of you and all I can say is, thank you. Thank you for daring to take care of those little beings of all ages and in all stages. Thank you for loving them even in the hardest of moments, because I’ve gotten to meet several of your ‘little beings’; some younger than me and some older and I have to tell you, even though words are said and things are broken, your kids adore you and I adore that.

I asked several Radiant Kids today what their favorite thing about their mom is. And they had ALL kinds of things to say:

“She feeds me.”
“She is stylish.”
“She does my laundry.”
“I don’t have a favorite thing because I love everything about her.”

So to the moms who have heard those three words, here are three more:

You. Are. Amazing.

Press on, and happy mother’s day!

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Dear friends entering their first year in full-time ministry,

As the university year comes to an end, many of you are preparing to walk across the stage you’ve stared at for four years. Some of you have already walked that stage and are now getting ready to jump in. If that is you, if you are walking or have already walked, hi. I couldn’t be more thrilled for you to begin your first year in full-time ministry. It is a job like none other. It is unpredictable and wild and terrifying and wonderful.

By the end of this month, I will have officially finished my first year in full-time ministry (which is an unbelievable concept to me). And as April quickly comes to a close, I’ve spent the last few weeks reminiscing over my first year and am so thankful I’ll never have a first year in ministry again. Because although it is both transforming and powerful, ministry can also be incredibly hard.

Here are seven things I’ve learned this year and by no means have I mastered. I pray in some ways this helps you as you begin the adventure of a lifetime.

Take it slow. New can be exciting both for you and for the ministry team you join, but don’t rush into change. Be okay with steady. Be okay with taking your time to understand your area of ministry and those you will be working with. I didn’t take it slow enough. From the minute internship ended I ran full force and most days feel as if I’ve never stopped running. Don’t run. Walk or at least jog.

The tasks will still be there a year from now. Believe me.

Be patient with yourself. Some of you may be headed to a familiar place or landing in a town with familiar faces, but to those of you who are headed to unfamiliar territory with unfamiliar faces, be patient with yourself. It may take you a year (or longer) to learn street names and find your way to Home Depot and back without a GPS. You will not know everyones names nor their family tree within your first year. You will frustrate people because you won’t know that so and so shouldn’t have been put in a group together because they have ‘history.’ And you will get frustrated with yourself because you wish you did. Michigan is becoming more like home to me but some days I still feel so far behind with much to learn. But rather than be frustrated with my lack of knowledge I am learning to be patient as I learn. Be patient with yourself too.

You don’t know everything. I often joke with my team that I have no idea what I’m doing. Yes, I have a degree in ministry but by no means do I consider myself an expert in it. The job is still very new to me and it will be for you too. Sure, you may have gone on mission and ministry trips or traveled with the school band, worked at camps and completed your internship, but full-time ministry is a different kind of animal. Not knowing everything wasn’t and isn’t a hard concept for me to grasp, the hard part about the not knowing is not letting it defeat me. I’ve made mistakes, failed in areas, and could give you a list of things I wish I’d done differently (and that’s only year one!), but I’m continuing to learn and read and ask questions. You should too. ESPECIALLY ask questions. Oh, and fight the need to defend yourself. Work for the Lord, not for people. NEVER lose sight of HIS vision and HIS mission. 

Take time to rest. Out of all the spiritual disciplines learned at university, this was the one I heard the most on. Friends, those professors were and are not kidding. If you do not take the time to be still and know that God is God, you will burn and it will show. Ministry is not a nine to five job so you have to be strategic and set aside time to rest. Your soul will thank you and your team will too. The moments I am the least like Jesus are always traced back to a lack of rest in Him.

Know when to say, “Not now.” We hear all the time that we have to learn when to say, “No.” True, but in ministry there are certain things you can’t say no to because they simply must get done. So instead, I am learning how to say, “Not now.” Knowing your limitations isn’t laziness, it’s wisdom. Sort through the need to get done list and decipher what needs to get done now or later. You might be surprised how much falls into the later category. Everything you hope to accomplish in your area of ministry will not get done over night and that’s okay!

If you are single, love yourself and do not fall into the guilt trap. We are a people created to do life together and when you find yourself doing parts of life alone, well, that can be lonely. Know this, there will be people who point out your singleness and see it as something to fix. Being single is not bad or wrong, it’s a season to walk through with grace and adventure and a season to embrace yourself. But know this, there will be people who are married with children who will look at you with envy because you are single and can essentially ‘do what you want.’ Do not feel the need to prove them wrong and do not feel guilty because you haven’t started a family of your own. Love yourself. Embrace yourself. Honestly, this was an unexpected thing to process through and probably has been (and rather surprisingly) one of the toughest for me. But we are loved by a God who is rooted deep in love. Grow in that.

And lastly, catch those moments. Ministry is a job like none other. There are days I walk out the doors and think, “Wow. God, You are good.” And there are days I walk out the doors and think, “God, I can’t do this.” Because although ministry is wild and wonderful, it is unpredictable and terrifying and comes with an unbelievable amount of pressure. It can be painful and lonely. It can make you angry and deeply sad. You can be both loved and disliked by the people you lead and you can wrestle with loving and disliking yourself. But if you catch those moments, those incredibly powerful moments when Jesus meets you in the, “God, You are good.” and in the, “God, I can’t do this.”, you’ll find full-time ministry to be one of the most rewarding boats you have ever jumped in. You’ll find that ministry is so much more than yourself and what you know and don’t know or what you do and don’t do. If you rest in those moments, you’ll find lives will be transformed and yours will be too.

Let me share a ‘catching moment‘: the last few weeks I’ve spent my nights simply wrestling with the Lord and some realities in my life and then on Sunday, a moment happened. There on a stage in front of hundreds of watching people, Jesus showed up and said, “I’ve overcome it. I’m alive and I’ve overcome it.” Catch moments like that. Moments when Jesus shows up in the midst of your chaos and leaves you weeping in His presence because He IS alive. That’s what ministry is all about. Don’t lose sight of that. It’s not about you, it’s about Christ in you. Live that. Share that. Teach that.

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Oh, and don’t forget to have fun. Find friends and go to the movies and eat dinner at nine o’ clock at night. I haven’t done fun too well this year, so here’s to the next! May we learn and grow and live full and full of joy in Him as we do!

 

 

Your still learning ministry friend,

Patricia

Kid, It’s Going To Be Okay

So often we are uncomfortable with slow. Slow somehow seems wrong. Wasteful. Pointless. Because who wants slow when you can have fast? The instants and quick fixes. The next day shipping and restaurants you can drive thru.

My soul wishes for slow but my flesh aches for fast. It wants the answers now and not later. It wants the broken pieces to be remolded in this moment not in a month. I want the next thing because the now thing seems too unknown and messy.

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We’ve been in a teaching series at Radiant Life titled Awaken 21. A series focused on three prayers: search me, break me, awaken me. Truthfully, I’ve wrested with them all, but break me? That one shakes me. I think more-so than the others because I taught the week we explored it. I slept with that message. I went on walks with it. I drove down back roads and found old picnic tables and ate with it. I prayed over it. I cared for it. I loved it, and it wrecked me.

It wrecked me because I don’t want to go there. I don’t want to talk about the things I hold higher than Jesus. I don’t want to share the deeper and hidden pieces in my heart. I know some of them too well and to share them, is to lay them down. And I don’t want to explore those places and those things I refuse to lay before Him.

Yet, I found myself going there. There on the stage waiting for all other noise to stop, and then it does. That’s the scariest part of it all. The silence before you begin. The moment you look out into the crowd and wonder if anything you say is going to make any sense at all. Wondering if Jesus will meet with them and if He will meet with you, because Lord knows you need Him too.

And somehow He does as you stumble through your words.

One service down. One to go. 

In between services, after fixing microphone and kid ministry dilemmas, I headed for the copy room, both as slowly and as quickly as I could. I held onto the edge of the counter and cried, “God, don’t make me go there again. Don’t make me get up on that stage and say all of that again.”

Yet, I found myself there again. Two services down. None to go. And I’ve never wanted to leave a building so fast in my life. “God, why did you make me do that?”

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I’ve continued to wrestle with my need to run. My desperation to get away and not talk about it. I’ve prayed and sought God on that and it’s come down to this: my soul wishes for slow but it aches for fast. This broken stuff, can’t it just be fixed and made new now? I know the answer is no, because all healing takes time. But as much as I didn’t want to go there, I certainly don’t want to go there slowly. I’d rather go there and be done with it. But God says, “Go there and stay there until I’m done with it.”

cropped-12768391_575580892604330_631067968804145124_o1.jpgI spoke about this journey of breaking the things we hold higher than Jesus. I asked the question, “Do you trust God enough to pray, break me?” Break me of those things I hold higher than You. I begged the question more for me than them because at the time, I wasn’t sure I did.

But when you’re in His presence, you learn truth and are lead to see the bigger picture, and the biggest thing I need to be broken of, is my brokenness. The stuff I can’t change and couldn’t control. The stuff of my life that dictates my identity. My relationships. My job. My heart. The stuff that I pile in rags, hoping no one will see. I need to take those piles and lay them at His feet rather than hide them in my closet as if they were tattered tokens claiming my right to stay broken.

Friends, we have no right to hold brokenness as a trophy when Jesus died to make us whole. That truth makes me trust Him enough to pray, break me.

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I’m still processing through this series and the process is going slowly. But slow isn’t wrong. It isn’t wasteful. It isn’t pointless. And I’m okay that. I hope you are too. I hope you take the time to talk with Jesus and wrestle through the tough stuff even if the wrestling is slow and uncomfortable. Often, it is in the slow God is able to meet us.

I spent Monday morning in the copy room working and reflecting on my child-like ‘but I don’t wanna’ tantrum from the day before. I wanted to hide then too but Jesus walked in and said, “Kid, it’s going to be okay. Break. We’ll remake. But it’s going to take time. Just trust. Break. Pour. If the now thing is remade and resting in Me, the next thing is going to be so much richer because it isn’t going to be resting in You.”

So here’s to breaking. May we wrestle and may He win.