Sunday, August 26, 2012

Lichens on Bark



I’m hopelessly addicted to gathering up objects that have little value to most people, but which my eyes see as potential “artworks”.   So when I saw a piece of bark lying in a street just beyond where I’d parked my car – why, I rescued it.  Intricate lichen patterns on intriguing knobby bark.

Lichens are plant-like growths that form on rocks or trees.  They are “composed of a fungus in symbiotic union with an alga.”  [ ]  There are thousands of kinds of lichens.  (They are not parasites, so they do not harm the trees.)  Their interwoven shapes and patterns entrance me.

Seeing this piece of bark enlarges my imagery about the nature of God.  He must be hopelessly addicted to gathering in people that think they have little value.  Humans are composites of good and bad traits.  Yet if we turn to him in trust, if we believe he is rescuing us from our unshapely parts, surely he must see our crusty places and little knobs as “artworks”.  We place ourselves in his hands to be made over, in the image of God. 

When I’m tempted to devalue myself, let me consider how I see beauty in a piece of gnarly bark strewn with strange lichen.  God, the Great Imaginator, doesn’t belittle me.  He says I am his beloved.  That must mean I’m beautiful, yes even entrancing, to him.  May he reinforce my intricate patterns and intriguing spiritual shapes until they complete his grand design.

“Long ago, before he made the world, God chose us to be his very own, because of what Christ did for us; he decided then to make us holy in his eyes – without a single fault – we who stand before him covered with his love.”  (Eph. 1:4  TLB) 

(c) 2012 by Marilee Miller 

This post is shared with "On, In and Around Mondays" and "Playdates with God"

Monday, August 20, 2012

Using Creativity

Using Creativity:  Self-promotion, or Dying to Self?

(soap box mode on)

So many internet users scramble to collect a lot of  “friends” or chase after self-branding.  The images they post, and the tone of all the writings, is supposed to fit an ongoing theme.  And their presence on the web is calculated to get them more friends or more sales or more success.

A lot of bloggers now are publishing books or selling artwares or gifts.  After while, one wonders if some of them blog for the pleasure of writing, or only to drum up more public notice.  “If you are only able to read one book this year, THIS is it---- “ proclaim countless sites. 

A popular subject at this time is “you ought to use your creativity”. 

I’m not against making money online.  I’m not against books, or artwares, or products.  I’m certainly not against using one’s creativity.  I mean, being creative is “who I am.”  I’m made in the image of God – the Great Creator – therefore I’m reflecting Him when I unleash my creative gifts.  But I have to be careful not to let any show of activity define who I am. 

Unfortunately, for personal reasons, other people’s suggestions on how to “unleash creativity” often make me feel lost, deprived, or wounded.  I’m not a strong person.  Actually, I need a way to stay challenged and creative in my mind while giving myself permission not to create more actual projects than I can handle.

Others’ advice on how to find time to be creative often makes me feel I can’t measure up.  Say “no” to other activities.  Manage family life more efficiently.  Give up an hour or two of sleep every day.  Whoa!  For many, there’s no energy left for doing activities, to say no to.  And family needs are absolutely important.  Besides this, some of us need every hour of sleep we can get – and a lot of down time, alone time, rest time between.

 For me, the hardest to bear is the branding (a new fancy word for self-promotion; advertising) which will supposedly focuses our spiritual energies.  Especially when one must start today or the train will leave without you.

“a God-sized dream” (post the story of how you’re working on that, on my blog today).
“God gave you a unique dream that will go unfulfilled unless you do it”  (let me show you how).
“the chance a lifetime” (a book that will absolutely change your life; on sale this week only).
“become exactly who God created you to be” (pay me $500 to be your coach). 
“Bible study helps” (buy a Kindle).
“take a sabbatical from technology” (complete line of online Christian resources).  [No, I’m not kidding; I saw a site advocating this.]

I would dearly love to have a prayer partner.  I wish I had friends I could be myself with.  I’d like the reassurance that my life isn’t in vain just because I haven’t the energy to turn the world upside down.  But when I find someone online who seems compatible with me, they are usually too busy “friending” a lot of impersonal friends, or branding themselves by constant online efforts.  There’s no time for me to interact with them.  Wow, do I always have to BUY Jesus, or my godly friends?

I understand that books and products cost money to produce.  And that people need to earn a living.  I’m happy that some have found a new outlet for their talents.  (I’d like to do that myself, if I were able.)  But thank you very much, I honestly don’t have the money to pay people to help me find more of Jesus, or the strength to produce great works for him if only I’m prodded a little harder, and force myself to get up earlier each day.  And I thought that rather than promote self, we were called by the Lord to die to self and let him live in us!

I tend to root for the underdog.  So what about those who don’t have the money, or maybe the health, or maybe the technical savvy, or maybe the privacy, or they have kids to feed, or, or---  ?

Does the self-promotion, the branding, the frantic activity, intimidate or break the hearts of the poor, the homeless, the uneducated, the mentally or physically challenged, those who work two or three jobs just to survive?  What about people who are persecuted for their faith, or who become victims of violence, or who live in oppressive circumstances?  Are we to say that their God-sized dreams didn’t matter as much as those who got to fulfill their dreams in actuality?  `(Maybe our wonderfully creative and imaginative God, seeing their earthly un-entitlements, will in heaven give them special creative assignments.)
Undoubtedly there are people who have the capacity to accomplish many activities well.  I don’t belittle them at all.  But I’m not one of them, alas.  So each day I have to ask myself -- does Jesus want me to wear a brand other than “seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness”?  Which is best?  To create tangible things for his glory?  Or to receive him more fully because I give him my creative thoughts but don’t rush about to “do more” than I’m strong enough to enjoy carrying out?

Said the robin to the sparrow,
“I should really like to know
Why these anxious human beings
Rush around and worry so?”

Said the sparrow to the robin
“Friend, I think that it must be
They have no Heavenly Father
Such as cares for you and me!”

(soap box mode off, now)

This post is shared with
"The Wellspring," Playdates with God

Sunday, August 12, 2012

My Sculpted Wire Word

Blogger Brianne Phillips has found a unique way to worship God with words. However, the kind of words I’m talking about, are not written on paper, or posted on a blog – though she’s talented at those pursuits, as well.  Rather, they are handmade wire “sculptures”, each one spelling out a special word.

A number of bloggers have chosen a “word for the year” to help guide them in their life and spiritual walk.  Brianne’s word is “freedom”.  She craves the freedom to be “her own self,” not trying to pattern herself the way someone else thinks she should be.  She wants the freedom to pursue God enthusiastically without buying in, any longer, to the lies that she might not be “good enough”, “capable enough.”  To remind herself that she’s trying to learn how to be free, she sculpted in script lettering, her word, freedom.  She can see her wire word every day.  She’s also made wire sculptures of the various words chosen by several other bloggers.

Brianne asked me about my “word for the year”.  I said I didn’t think I’d really chosen a word for the year, but that if I had one at all, it would be “resting.”

My body isn’t at all strong.  I require more “alone” time than the average person.  Oh, how I need my physical rest.
I don’t want to be tempted to linger overlong on the internet, because I need my mind-rest.
There’s sometimes the “learned” guilt of thinking I should do more, think more deeply, have achievements to show for my having lived, in order to “be a good workman approved of the Lord” – but this sort of push can sap my intellectual rest.
The daily chores and “interruptions”, the attempts to meet self-imposed schedules, build up pressure until I need to give my emotions a rest.
The demands of other Christians that I “measure up” to their expectations of who God would want me to be, can only be outlived and outloved within His rest.
And I want, crave, and delight in lots of quiet spaces with God – times when I’m not DOING, but simply being.  He alone is my spiritual rest.
After ingesting glaring news headlines and realizing much of the world is sinking or in flames…  REST in the God who is in final control.
From the fears and doubts and lies that try to wash away  my value as His “beloved”…  REST in my
Saviour, the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
From the unexpected events that demand more strength than I can muster, and thus am left breathless and  
reeling … REST in the Lord who alone sustains me.
From the yen to fulfill the desires of my heart, which I believe God has placed in me, but which drive me to produce more art, or writings, or some expression of creativity than I’m really well enough to practice  … REST, simply seeing beautiful things in my imagination but not actually doing the “work”, allows me to simply bask in the Holy Spirit’s own vastly more beautiful, powerful creativity.

Brianne’s wire word sculpture arrived in my mailbox.  I hung it where I can see it while I’m preparing a meal, or sitting to eat at my table.  I appreciated her caring enough about me to make me my special word.  But I didn’t realize, at first, just how powerful a reminder a simple word could be. 

Now, when the pressure builds inside me, and I find myself frowning (or maybe even ready to grumble), my eye falls on that word on my wall.  RESTING.  And I sort of do a double take.  (Even though I’ve already done the same thing a number of times before.)  I take a deep breath.  An almost involuntary, restorative smile breaks forth. 

“Oh, that’s right.  I’m resting!”

Trusting in God to provide for me.  Agreeing that “he is able to keep me from falling and present me faultless before the presence of his glory.” I’ve already given everything I am, to Him.  And he’s already accepted my sacrifice of praise.” 

And some of the tension in my muscles laughingly drains away.  He’s already taken care of my rest.  I don’t need to keep on the go.  I’m not a machine that must produce!  I can just relax and enjoy that he’s promised he’ll always hold my hand, and never leave or forsake me.

RESTING: What a beautiful, endearing, restful, releasing word!  
RESTING: What a wonderful, enduring, full of zest, all-increasing God is our Lord!

Thanks, Brianne, for my sculpted wire word. 


Leave a comment on Brianne’s blog – This Is My Offering – any time this week, and tell her your own word.  If you are chosen the winner of her giveaway, she will sculpt and mail you YOUR OWN wire word.

You can reach Brianne Phillips’ blog at


This post is shared with Laura Boggess, "The Wellspring,"  Playdates with God

Monday, August 6, 2012

Dreamy Sketches

Dreamy Sketches

With the aid of an ancient but wonderful photo-manipulation graphics program, I can transform non-descript photos into dreamy sketches.  I get to play “artist”, without overtaxing my actual drawing skills.  The software does the work.  But there’s creative effort on my part, as well – for I’m the one who decides which buttons to click to pull out the most amazing patterns.

I’m filled with gratitude to think that God takes what seem to us mundane and often non-descript parts of our lives, and transforms them into godly patterns.  He not only knows “which buttons to click”, but best of all, he doesn’t need a “program” to help him re-create us.  He does the work because of his own majesty and greatness.  Dreamy sketches emerge in us, thanks to his amazing grace and unfailing Love.




This post is shared with "The Wellspring", Playdates with God
and "Seedlings in Stone"

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