Going Indie on the World

mic on sound boardDon’t you wonder why sometimes when we ask God for specific direction we don’t hear clearly from him and other times the answer is so clear it’s almost unbelievable?

As I travel presenting Embraced by God, I am continually asked why I don’t have a CD to offer people and the truth is, the timing has never been exactly right and the appropriate funding has never been available to create a first class studio recording. I find that with God timing is everything and up until recently, I’ve never felt prompted to move forward with figuring out how to accomplish the impossible. So I’ve been praying about this CD situation and a friend suggested I consider raising the needed funds through an on-line fundraising tool called Indiegogo.  I’d never heard of Indiegogo, but the idea seemed intriguing and as I walked into church the next morning, I remember asking God if he would tell me in some way that would be very, very clear whether or not I should move forward with the plan to raise funds through Indiegogo.

On that particular morning, my pastor preached on different kinds of faith and explained that it’s very easy to have faith for that which we can see – like having faith that the chair we sit down on will actually hold us.  But it’s much harder to have faith for that which we cannot see or for that which seems impossible. Raising several thousand dollars for a CD sort of lands in that category.

Toward the end of the morning message, Pastor Steve referred to having faith like Indiana Jones as he stepped off the precipice and desperately hoped the ground would form itself under his feet.  And Steve challenged the congregation to “Go. Go Indie on the world. Okay seriously, would it have been possible for God to be more clear that moving forward with Indiegogo should be in the plan?  I still giggle when I remember that experience and delight in the fact that God’s communication with me was so immediate and clear. I can tell you that my answers to prayer are not always so quick and easily understandable, but I’m grateful that this time I heard the right words at the right time. So I challenge you to “Go, go Indie on the world” and trust God to give you the faith for that which you cannot yet see.  And stay tuned for more information on the CD project which I’m hoping to record in January!

Unexpected Blessings

FireworksA little over two years ago, I was toiling with the desire to move into a fairly new and larger apartment complex that was considerably more expensive than my tiny apartment by the train tracks.  I could just barely afford the new apartment and wanted it so much, but wasn’t sure that moving was a wise decision.  The apartment itself was beautiful, situated up on a bluff and from the balcony just off the living room one could see for miles.  I remember asking a close friend for counsel and I’ll never forget that she said God may be leading me into a season of life during which He wanted to bless me in unexpected ways.  So after considerable thought and prayer, I trusted my friend’s words and my instinct about God”s direction and moved into Hawk’s Point believing that God would bless my decision to trust Him.  A view of Mt. Hood on a clear day, refreshing breezes every night and no more deafening train whistles at 4:00 am were just a few of the unexpected blessings I noticed right away.

But I was not prepared for the fireworks displays. There is a minor league ball stadium less than two miles away and during summer months there is a professional fireworks display each Friday night after the game that I can actually watch from my living room.  And as if that were not enough, I could never have imagined the first class show I would be treated to every July 4th.  Because this apartment sits so high on a bluff, I can stand on my balcony every Independence Day and watch at least 10 different fireworks displays from all over the Willamette Valley.  Sometimes there are so many going off at the same time that I don’t know where to look. And seriously, what a massive delight for someone who likes “anything that sparkles.”  HA!  It is an absolutely amazing experience and tonight it felt like I might be standing in the midst of a Norman Rockwell painting.  I could see all the family fireworks on the streets about 100 yards down the hill, the fireworks from the stadium on the left, the display from Riverfront Park on the right and sometimes more sparkling explosions in between than could be counted. As I stood there completely dazzled, I remembered my friend’s words over two years ago and realized that God must be smiling down on my delight. It must give God great joy to surprise us with blessings He knows will give us so much joy.  Tonight I am filled with gratitude for all the blessings God has given me – like the privilege of living in such an amazing country, loaded with our complex problems, but amazing nonetheless.  And as I sit here feeling the cool evening breeze and the smell of fireworks wafting through the windows, I am especially grateful for unexpected blessings!  And tonight, my wish for you,  is that God would delight your heart with the unexpected!

Shower Joy

bird bathIf I’m not traveling for ministry, my Saturdays all look pretty much the same – visiting my 93 year-old father who lives in an assisted living environment, taking him to Marshalls or Ross, a vocal work out and then home to do my household chores.  However, this past Saturday, my boring routine was interrupted by an amazing experience in the parking lot of Walmart.  I was rushing to pick up several things for my dad when I saw something that made time stop for a few minutes.  It is still surprisingly warm for October here in Salem so when I arrived at Walmart, the sprinkler system which waters the flower beds in the parking lot was on full blast completely flooding one particularly large flower bed.  As I parked the car, the sprinklers turned off and within seconds, thirty or forty little birds that had been up in a nearby tree descended into the pool of water and went completely nuts splashing around as if they had never seen water before.  I was transfixed by the number of birds that participated in this public bathing extravaganza, but what really captured me was their unbridled joy. What a pleasure to see a moment of absolute truth.  I”m so sorry I didn” t have my camera with me.  Those little creatures were so involved with their joyful play that they didn’t seem to care that I had approached them and stood so close that my pant legs got wet from all their splashing. It was one of the most amazing things I had ever experienced.  Much later in the day, I still felt a spring in my step as I vacuumed the living room and remembered those little birds.  It never ceases to amaze me the joy I derive from nature.  Before church yesterday morning, I took a leisurely shower and as I recalled how much those sweet little birds enjoyed their bath, I decided my morning needed to start with a little dance of joy in my own shower.  It was great fun and it colored my whole day.  A word of warning however.  If you decide to do our own dance of joy in the shower, you might want to lay a few towels on the floor.  Shower-joy is a wet business.  HA!!

The Valley of Humiliation

It occurs to me that I actually have blogs in three different places on the internet and it”s time to clean house and consolidate.  I”m going to repost a few old blogs from the days before I had my own website because, well frankly, I don”t know how to consolidate any other way.  I”m not so much a technical wiz.  HA!

The following piece by Oswald Chambers was sent to me during a particularly rough time while I was living in New York. It made such a deep impression on me that I still carry the words with me and have incorporated the concept of being “battered into the shape of a vessel God can use” into my “Embraced by God” ministry presentation. In my imagination, Chambers’ words evoke the image of a piece of metal heated by a fire and then literally beaten into the shape of a water pitcher – a usable vessel- with which to serve others. We’ve all heard it a million times: you grow the most during life’s difficulties. So it has been with my life and I would bet your life as well. The heartaches, difficulties, frustrations, losses, and disappointments we all experience and recover from are the forging instruments God uses to shape who we are.  Something that has helped me get through the really rough times is remembering that pain doesn”t last forever and statements like “it won”t always feel this way”  have been very comforting to me during the really hard times. Mr. Chambers thoughts are below:

“We always have visions, before a thing is made real. When we realize that although the vision is real, it is not real in us, then is the time that Satan comes in with his temptations, and we are apt to say it is no use to go on. Instead of the vision becoming real, there has come the valley of humiliation.

“Life is not as idle ore,
but iron dug from central gloom
and battered by the shocks of doom
to shape and use.”

God gives us the vision, then He takes us down to the valley to batter us into the shape of the vision, and it is in the valley that so many of us faint and give up. Every vision will be made real if we will have patience. Think of the enormous leisure of God! He is never in a hurry. We are always in such a frantic hurry. In the light of the glory of the vision we go forth to do things, but the vision is not real in us yet; and God has to take us into the valley, and put us through fires and floods to batter us into shape, until we get to the place where He can trust us with the veritable reality. Ever since we had the vision God has been at work, getting us into the shape of the ideal, and over and over again we escape from His hand and try to batter ourselves into our own shape.

The vision is not a castle in the air, but a vision of what God wants you to be. Let Him put you on His wheel and whirl you as He likes, and as sure as God is God and you are you, you will turn out exactly in accordance with the vision. Don’t lose heart in the process. If you have ever had the vision of God, you may try as you like to be satisfied on a lower level, but God will never let you.”

Oswald Chambers

“Dulcinea”

Man of La Mancha LPSeveral weeks ago, I saw a movie that completely blew my mind.  The film was “Matthew: The Visual Bible” and  the actor who played Matthew and narrated the film was Richard Kiley. Hearing his voice again took me all the way back to childhood.  Well the truth is, when the movie began, I started jumping around the living room shouting, “Don Quixote is Matthew!?!?!” over and over and over again.  As an opera singer, I’d love to tell you that the first musical influence in my life was Placido Domingo or Luciano Pavarotti, but the truth is, Richard Kiley introduced me to music.  I was a kid in grade school when my father’s job transferred our whole family to New Jersey for one year – 1966.  I didn’t know what musical theater was and was delighted when Dad took us to see Richard Kiley who delivered the performance of a life time as Don Quixote in the Broadway musical, “Man of La Mancha. “  I was absolutely transfixed and I remember that night as the most exciting and meaningful experience of my young life. That performance of “Man of La Mancha” had a major impact on my life as it was during that performance I realized my future just had to include story-telling through music in some form or other.  Little did I know where that desire would eventually take me.  In those days, music was recorded onto LP records and believe it or not, I still have that recording of “La Mancha” in its bright yellow jacket.  OH, what fun it has been to listen to that album over and over again during the last several weeks. I”m sure my neighbors are sick to death of hearing me sing all the parts.  HA!

For those not familiar with “Man of La Mancha,” it’s actually a story within a story. Sixteenth-century writer, Miguel de Cervantes, is thrown into prison during the Spanish Inquisition and in order to keep the other prisoners from stealing everything he has brought with him into captivity, Cervantes entertains them with the story of Don Quixote, a delusional old man who believes he is a knight on his quest to right unrightable wrongs.

What I particularly latched onto during the performance was the concept of “Dulcinea.” Aldonza was the female lead’s name and she was a woman who had lived through the ugly, harsh side of life and was treated accordingly.  She was called a “whore” in the musical, and as child I did not understand what that word meant, but I knew that Aldonza should never have been treated as poorly as she was.  When Don Quixote lays eyes on her for the first time, he looks past the tragedy that has become her existence, only sees her beauty and perfection and calls her his lady, Dulcinea.   As a child, I struggled with self-esteem issues from a very early age.  Most people I know have had similar struggles – maybe it’s just part of the human condition as we all try to negotiate the fractured, broken creation in which we live.  When I heard Quixote call her Dulcinea, I started wondering if anyone in my life would ever see who I am underneath all the self-esteem issues that plagued me and see me for the beautiful little girl I so wanted to be.

And that brings me back to the film, “Matthew.”  I had never really associated Jesus and Don Quixote, but I think there are similarities.  The Jesus I saw portrayed in the film looked right past the imperfections and the ugly things life had done to people and saw only the beauty of who God created each individual to be.  As I watched the film, I took that personally.  I knew the portrayal of a joyful, passionate, intimate, affectionate Jesus in the film was Truth and I also realized that Jesus looks at me the same way Quixote looked at Aldonza.  Jesus sees each of us as His exquisite treasure, no matter how many ways life has beaten us down and scarred us.  He loves us with an intimate, passionate love that defies description.

At the end of “La Mancha,” Aldonza’s boss wants her to return to “work” but she refuses saying that her name is no longer Aldonza, but is now Dulcinea.  My life and broken dreams look very, very different from those of Aldonza”s, but unconditional love has affected us both in similar ways. The ramifications of how God used actor, Bruce Marchiano’s,  portrayal of Jesus in “Matthew – The Visual Bible” to deliver Christ”s unconditional love, affection and joy into my heart are too deep and vast to go into in the confines of this particular blog.  But I will say this.  God reached into my heart, broken by life”s disappointments, and massaged healing into the deepest recesses of my soul. It has been as profound a thing as I”ve ever experienced and just one of the results is that I can now see myself through the eyes of Don Quixote . . . or more importantly, through the eyes of my Savior, Jesus.  Everyone calls me Marcia, but my name is Dulcinea.

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