Monday, June 11, 2012

Watch Us Rock The House!


The h2 unlimited dance team! From L-R: Lydia, Robyn, me, Tatyana, Alexis
Front: Zoie, Melissa (also our wonderful teacher!), Olivia, Josh, Shameer, and Nick

Yes, it's true.  God moved through us yesterday and not only did the church really seem to enjoy the experience..we had a blast! I am so grateful to have been part of this, and hope you'll enjoy watching the video.  I think all of our hard work was definitely rewarded!

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Saturday, June 9, 2012

Effectively Dealing With Difficulties In Dance Part 1- Physical

Two of my dancing "sweet"hearts :)

*For those of you who have followed my blog in the past, thank you for bearing with my "jumping" back in where I left off over a year ago.  I have my reasons, and I will share them in God's time.  For now, know that I am glad to be here and even more so to have you with me!

No good thing comes without a set of challenges associated with it.  Dance, while a tremendous blessing, is no exception!  Especially when you are just beginning, or you are sorely out of practice [ahem] you can expect to have to deal with a little physical "opposition".  My hope in writing this is that you can laugh at (and learn from) my mistakes along the way- making your own transition into the dancing lifestyle a smooth and enjoyable one. 

Most of the "data" compiled for this post comes from the time spent these past several months working on a few dances to present during church this Sunday.  Never before have I been part of a dance-ministry team, and I'm excited for God to use us to awaken creative desires and impress His spirit into hearts.  Today I'd like to share some of the physical difficulties I've faced during this time of preparation and what has worked to press forward in my commitment to serve in this way.  In an upcoming post I will share some of the spiritual/emotional struggles I have gone through, along with tips for persevering in those areas.  

It took me a few mornings of waking up and literally crawling out of bed to realize that I wasn't the spry young gymnast I used to be!  I needed to s-t-r-e-t-c-h before practice, and not just a little toe touch and arm lift either!!  Of course, if I would have always arrived on time, this would not have been an issue, but..that's a different issue entirely (wink)

Stretching not only protects your muscles from being pulled and other injury, but it also allows you to feel more loose and limber as well-which makes motions more natural and less forced.  For example, certain jumps and kicks I do would not even be possible for me if I didn't take the time to put in a good stretch first.  Here are some basic stretches I would recommend, though I would also add a neck stretch to each side: 15 seconds is a good basic time to hold each stretch, but if it takes longer for you to feel more loose and relaxed, feel free to hold up to a minute or so.

Side note: Wouldn't it be fun to do some stretches with me to worship music? I'm feeling inspired!

Let's face it: unless you are used to regular physical activity, a 2 hour long dancing session is NOT going to end as pleasantly for you as it starts!  In fact, unless you want to end up like I did, prostrate on the floor, dizzy and wondering why you ever got yourself into this mess, I recommend avoiding it!!  Even a fast paced dance lasting over a few minutes without slowing down is enough to get your heart beating scarily fast and may best be worked toward over a period of time.

I recommend setting realistic goals for yourself based on where you're at right now.  Set aside a certain amt. of time for dance each week, and split it up over several days.  If you're thinking of joining a dance team or taking any classes, it's not too early to begin warming up your body and improving your stamina and overall health now.  You will be glad you did.  Even 10-15 minutes 3 days a week spent moving to your favorite music (after a good stretch) will offer surprising benefits. Try alternating between a fast praise song that inspires you to jump around a bit followed by a song you can move to with slower, more graceful movements.  Adding in two or three spins each time and increasing this amount every few weeks will slowly get your body used to the motion and help to prevent dizziness.  The spotting method is also worth a try if you find yourself using a lot of spins in your dancing.

You probably do not want to have to replace light bulbs from your overhead lights due to a dancing mishap.  I know I will be avoiding it in the future... Nor do you want to find yourself moving to the music while holding your toe after stubbing it on the corner of your computer desk.  Ask me know I know!  

Even in most small apartments, you can make room to dance.  It may involve getting rid of your coffee table, or using an uncommon area like a hallway or kitchen.  In my house I have an open area about 8x8 which I use to practice, but dancing is always taking place throughout the rest of the house, as well.  It does help to have an area where you feel comfortable that is relatively disaster-proof for freedom of movement.  However, I've made do with much less.  In fact, my ceiling fan light is still in place over my practice location.  I do hope to replace it very soon with something further away from my hands and (sometimes) feet!! 

Children who want to join in the fun pose an interesting dilemma to the dancing mama.  I know mine are quick to accompany me any chance they get, and I hate to stop them. For the most part, I've learned to embrace it, and keep any more "serious" practice time reserved for when they're sleeping.  Sometimes, though, I have said something like, "Give mommy five minutes to practice, and then I can dance with you", or something along those lines.  

Another terrific option for dancing is the great outdoors.  Especially this time of year, the temperature is just right in the morning and evenings and there something about worshipping God with dance out in the beauty of his Creation that adds a whole new element of joy.  You've got to try it!!

Well, I hope this has served to inspire and equip you.  I have been feeling a bit under the weather and plan to spend the rest of the day resting up for my performance tomorrow. I look forward to posting a video of our dance for you shortly!

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

My personal testimony- Part 3

(If you'd like to catch up, you can read part one here and part two here.)

The day I knew I was responsible for a life other than my own was truly a pleasure I can not put into words.  Instantly it was as if the Lord impressed upon me my own personal worth, along with this amazing love which embraced me like nothing I had ever felt before.  I was giddy, to say the least.  (I was also dirt poor, and basically homeless, but that was not important at a time like this!)  Several hours later came the call.  They had made a mistake with my labwork- I wasn't pregnant.

How could this be?! To me, my entire life had just become meaningful.  I had felt love for a precious new life that I never dreamed possible.  This could not be the end- we were over-comers.  Nine pivotal months and one marriage later, our first son would be born.

During my pregnancy and early marriage, the Lord worked in our lives in the most miraculous of ways.  As we began attending regular worship services and meditating on His word, He would slowly reveal truths that would change the way we had been thinking and behaving, and by grace, we began to conform more and more into his image.  I traded in Marilyn Manson and my books on the Occult for Christian music and the Bible.  I quit smoking, and instead God sparked in me a new flame- a passion for Him.  The high I used to depend on marijuana to provide was nothing compared to the rush I felt when lost in worship with the Holy Spirit!

One day an old friend called to tell me an ex user-friend of ours was rumored to have HIV. I was speechless.  In some of my darkest hours, I had shared his needles.  There was nothing I could do now but wait 6 months for my own blood test results.  Wait, and pray.  I can't tell you the hours I spent on my knees crying and praying to God for a healthy baby and a chance at a new life, but they were many.  I was desperate; needy for a Savior to wash me clean, to cleanse my baby of any dirty remnants of my filthy, sinful past.  The months rolled by slowly, yet I drew so near to God that His great peace sustained me until the day I received the beautiful news- we were both HIV negative.  Praise the Lord!

Life as a new wife and mother was a wonderful experience at first, but unfortunately things began to go dreadfully off-course.  It soon became apparent that my husband's past had a stronger grip on him than either of us had realized, leading to a broken trust which I felt may be irreparable.  I packed up my stuff, took my son with me, and went away to college- filing for divorce several months later.  When the school year ended, I packed up my bags once more and moved back home.  I thought I hated it there.  Maybe it was just too much, too fast.

My faith-walk had taken a bit of a nose dive toward the end of my campus days.  I was now your average single mom, trying to make ends meet, taking some college courses, and trying to re-enter the dating arena- all while caring for a boisterous toddler.  I was lonely, confused, and stressed-out.  Instead of running to Christ, I began dabbling in worldly pleasures once again, only to find myself feeling worse than before. This wasn't the mama my little boy needed, of that I was sure.  Still, it seemed so hard to make another turn around without someone there to do it with me.  I did not have a church family to call home, nor did I have any Christian friends who I felt could understand what I was going though.  After a few bad experiences and failed romances I willed myself to shape up, but my true heart condition did not improve much.  I even attempted a "real" relationship again, but without Christ as its center, it did not last.

One evening, I came across an ad in the newspaper for a new church in town which sparked my interest.  I decided to go check it out, and felt instantly welcome.  I even ran into an old friend of mine!  As I returned weekly, the word of God once again seeped into my spirit and I was hooked- this time He even began to fill me with the desire to dance for his glory, and to remove the spirit of fear which bound me (and my feet!)  Of course, it didn't hurt that I thought the lead musician was just about the hunkiest man I had ever laid eyes upon.  We were introduced in March of 2006 and had our first (perfect) date on April 1.  By May we were engaged in Detroit, MI and we were married on June 25, just 6 weeks later!  Breaden (now 6) was thrilled to finally have a daddy in his life, followed by 3 siblings in the 4 years to follow!  Life was wild and beautiful and filled with the awesome presence of God- I could not have asked for more.

***Fast forward 6 years later***  

Life has been beautiful.  Life has been hard.  Same with marriage, motherhood, and my walk with God.  Each day brings its own challenges and blessings, and I am still learning to take them with joy.  Through it all, though, our passion for worship remains unchanged, and watching as our children get excited when we praise Jesus together is one of the most precious gifts I have ever received.  I have so much to be thankful about.  God is so good!!      

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Monday, April 25, 2011

My Personal Testimony- Part 2

Note: Part one is posted directly before this, but you may also click here if you don't feel like scrolling :)

Slowly, I was able to transition back into normalcy, which for me meant returning to the same user- boyfriend (though often in jail for I-can't-remember-what), drinking and partying binges, and the typical rock and roll lifestyle.  It was all in good fun, I thought, and I made a promise to myself that I'd never let heroin get its sticky fingers on me again.  Its destructive power was still fresh in my mind, and I was on a mission to take charge of my life once and for all.

Unable to restore a healthy relationship with my father and step-mother, a friend and his family invited me to come and live with them in their house/church, as long as I attended their services each week and promised to "keep things legal" at the homestead.  I agreed, and signed up to begin 1/2 days at the high school that fall, in pursuit of graduation.  Things were going well.  I even enjoyed church for the most part, though I kept a low profile and still didn't really "get it."  Soon though, the days grew cold.  Without a vehicle or even a license, I had been walking almost 2 miles each way to school most mornings, and it didn't take long before the warmth of my covers in the morning convinced me that they were the smarter alternative.  Once again, I dropped out of school, deciding a GED would be the way to go.

A lot happened in the months to come, and I share but a hazy (yet thankful) recollection of it here.  Not surprisingly, I did not hold up my end of the deal with the pastor's family, and so I packed my bags yet again and moved in with another friend of mine.  I was now 18 years old.  I had managed to secure a part-time job, a car, and a terrible fixation on LSD, to name a few.  Still, I was able to keep it all in stride for the most part, and even managed to pass my GED testing with flying colors.  This pleased my father, who allowed me to return home several months later and even bought me a guitar.  I played that guitar until my fingers almost bled.  Until the pain and suffering of my past seemed to fade into melody, and the heroin beckoned me a second time.  I told no one, secured my "packet" and snorted in secret, feeling like I was queen of the elite.  Until I got sick.  Really sick.  Everywhere.  This would not be enough to thwart most from the heavily addictive nature of this drug, as I myself can attest.  Yet by God's grace, it did the trick for me this time, and I didn't go looking for it least not right away.

Then I met a boy.  A front man in a band, with dreamy green eyes I could stare into for hours.  He was an ex-heroin addict himself, and we quickly fell in love and became inseparable.  One day we got talking about our past, and somehow convinced ourselves that we should try heroin together, just once.  So we scrambled up some money and headed to a buddies house who I knew could help us out.  I should have gathered from the room full of zombified flesh and pin-prick pupils that we'd never see the exchange go through.  Instead, we walked out that night with profuse apologies from a poor, addicted friend and a collection of some of his most prized personal possessions.  But no drugs.  Our talk that night was that of destiny.  God intervening.  I wasn't so sure, but you couldn't sway him an inch.  We promised each other that we wouldn't do it again, though I wasn't as pleased with the sentiment as he was.    

It was only a few weeks later I was told I was pregnant...

for part 3, click here 

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Friday, March 11, 2011

She Speaks: My Personal Testimony ( Part 1)

I am a well that runs deep.  Beautiful but to One.  Valuable as the Lord's holy presence flows through the very waters I choose to draw out each morning.  His grace is the sustenance of which I feast.  Without its Light and each molecule of oxygen which fuels my blood, there would be no story of tragedy and triumph.  Only a cold, grey marker (if I would have been found worthy for such) would remain.  

My shoulders quickly rise and fall and the back of my neck tenses tightly as I think back to those years.  Years of desolation with a mother in heaven and a father who sought a new wife and business gain.. yet made no strides in understanding a daughter on the brink of destruction.  It would not be many years later that I was marked by hopelessness and bondage, and the needles that punctured my flesh with their false promise of freedom.  My heart ached hard and my hands trembled as I reached for whatever I thought would ease the pain, yet I was so disconnected with myself that I barely recognized my own reflection.  I was a high-school drop-out.  A user and  dealer- "that" girl on the streets.  

The day my battered body was pushed head first over the edge of a second story balcony foreshadowed the transformation that God was about to begin working in my life.  The hands that grabbed me and planted my feet back on the ground took every last belonging I had before chasing me away, leaving me desperate and in need of rescue.  Still unaware of my need for a savior, I agreed to solitary confinement in my old bedroom, shaking, sweating, and vomiting my way through the fierce aftermath of addiction for several weeks.  

Somehow I made it through the withdrawal without physical intervention of any kind.  I had asked Jesus into my heart as a little girl.  Could it be that in His great mercy He sent his angels to keep guard over my healing body?  I can imagine them right now, reaching out to steady me as I lay curled up in the corner, riding out the waves as they came.  There is no way I could have gotten through that on my own.

This post is dedicated to my sweet friend Kristy, who gently exhorted me to get started writing my testimony and informed me of the scholarship contest going on for registration to the SheSpeak conference- a place for women to grow in their ability to passionately serve God through writing, speaking, and ministering to the body of Christ as an act of spiritual worship.  Update: Kristy's post was one of two chosen, which entitles her to a free scholarship to the conference.  I could not be happier for her!!

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Worship 101: A Passionate, Non-Expert Shares


Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—which is your spiritual act of worship.  Romans 12: 1

I've considered myself a "worshipper" for several years.  Yet, so many times I have found myself wondering, "Just what does it mean to worship God?  What should it look like in my life?"  As I read, consulted, and sought the Lord for these answers lately, a funny thing happened. He answered! (Isn't that just like Him to do what He says He will do?!) This post is an attempt to flesh out the hurriedly scratched early morning words as I woke to receive them.

Reverance.  Adoration.  Willful submission.  These are all common terms used in the definition of worship.  According to Ellen Taricani in her book, Worship In Freedom,  "The English word derives from a conjunction of "worth-ship"- a celebration of the "worth" or supreme value of God."

There Is Only One Who Is Worthy 

In 1 Cor. 2: 2-5, the inspired words of Paul read as follows (emphasis mine):

For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.  I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling.  My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power,  so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.

Where our faith lies determines where our worship lies.  Think about the message of the cross.  God sent his only son Jesus to die for us that we could be freed from the eternal bondage of our sin.  This is unconditional love, and the root of our true joy and hope as Christians!  There is nothing/no one that is holy or righteous in all the earth except through the power of the cross- Jesus' shed blood.  (1 Cor. 1: 26-30) We should worship God alone because He alone is worthy.  If anything else is truly good in our lives, it is only because God made it so! 

Because we know Jesus to be the object of our hope, we also must devote ourselves to learning more about Him through spending time in His word.  As we do, we will develop a deeper personal relationship with Him, which will strengthen our ability to keep our eyes on Him alone.  The more we know Him, the more we will want to worship Him!

Worship Is A Heart Of Surrender

                                             image by callissa

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  Galations 2: 20

When we chose to make this truth a reality in our lives, a lifestyle of worship will follow.  It is beyond the ability of our sinful nature to come before the Lord and enter into His holy presence.  True worship is a supernatural experience- a gift afforded us only by God's amazing grace.  It is not confined to any particular activity or event, and it is rarely able to be planned.  (See Proverbs 16:9

It's Not About Us

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name; worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness.  Psalm 29:2 

It seems like a no-brainer, right?  Yet, commiting to worship God without our "selves" getting in the way is a lot harder to do than it sounds!  For an example, think of the lyrics to one of your favorite "worship" songs.  Chances are pretty good that there are as many references to you as there are of God!  Now don't get me wrong- there is nothing wrong with praising God for all He's done for us, or proclaiming our love for Him.  It is the natural response of a thankful heart, and it is pleasing in His sight.  However, I believe we are missing a foundational element of our response to Him if we do not extol God simply for who he is.  Psalm 145 is a great example of the type of God-centered worship that I'm talking about.   I will share a few lines of it here:

3 Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; 
   his greatness no one can fathom. 
4 One generation commends your works to another; 
   they tell of your mighty acts. 
5 They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty— 
   and I will meditate on your wonderful works.[b] 
6 They tell of the power of your awesome works— 
   and I will proclaim your great deeds. 
7 They celebrate your abundant goodness 
   and joyfully sing of your righteousness.

Notice that while David does mention himself here, it is only to bring God further glory, not to detract attention from Him.  The focus is still clearly on God.  A great book which illustrated this for me so clearly is Teaching Kids Authentic Worship: How to Keep Them Close to God for Life. Kathleen really drives the point home that we need to keep the focus on God alone if we're to paint an accurate picture of what true worship is all about.  I would recommend this book even for someone who doesn't have kids.  It's full of practical ideas and eye opening.

Nothing Short Of Everything

he eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth, that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His. 2 Chronicles 16:9

Anyone who is truly thankful can (and should) praise God, and as their interests and talents present themselves, they can create a physical expression of that thanks.  Dance, drawing or painting, drama, or writing are just a few examples.  True worship, however, is different.  Even with all the artistic ability in the world, it takes practice and hard work to get it right.  The practice required to experience worship lies in learning to yield our hearts- our everything, to His control.  

As we move from praise into worship, our thoughts and actions become uncluttered by "technique" and we simply are His, allowing Him to move as he pleases.  We are no longer thinking about the limitations of our physical bodies, but are caught up on the spirit of the Lord, instead.  What a glorious transition this is.  This is breakthrough to the Kingdom of Heaven!

"Taken", by Juliet Dobson

Our God Intercedes On Our Behalf

Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.  John 4:23

When we are yielded to Him (having casted all fear aside!), we are vessels overflowing with His glory.  He creates beautiful expressions through us by His spirit, and we reflect the truth of who He is.  It's important to expand our worship repertoire into new areas of expression while also allowing every other aspect of our lives to be saturated in Him.  In doing so, we can most accurately portray the depth and width of our God.  Bringing Him glory, and welcoming others into His presence is our goal.  Joy is a result!!      

Likewise, His wisdom pours into (and out of) us, and we have no need to worry about how to handle any situation we may face.  We trust that God will come to our aid with the perfect words, at just the right time, according to His word.  Consider the following verses:  

Romans 8: 26
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.  

Matthew 10: 19-20
But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.  

Kingdom Bound

One great idea I came across to help us center ourselves on God is to take 5 minutes to write Him a love letter- without a single personal pronoun to be found.  List His amazing attributes; lift His name on high!  

Another option can be to sing/ meditate on a song which truly does keep Christ at the center.  I have listed a few links to some I found on youtube which fit the bill.  If you know of others, please feel free to share!  Most of these songs are more contemporary in nature, but many hymns would be well suited as well.

You Are Holy- Jason Upton
King Of Glory- Performed by Jesus Culture
Jesus Name Above All Names-
King Of Love- Hillsong

God showed his great love for us by giving His only son.  We are commanded to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.  Therefore we must freely lay down our own lives, as Christ did, for the joy set before us.  (Hebrews 12: 1-2)  An earth-shaking experience awaits!  True worship is some powerful stuff :)

I saved this video for last.  Maybe it's the hip-hop in me, but this song tore down my walls almost instantly.  The spirit is moving, and it's all about God's glory.  Give it a may just love it!

I pray you would experience a new level of worship today.  Thoughts?  I'd love to hear them!

Coming up:
A review and giveaway of Worship In Freedom, by Ellen Taricani.  Love it!
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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

How It Rolls


Since I'm horrifically tardy in doing so, I'll start off by announcing Sarah M. as the winner of the Art And Prophecy giveaway.  Congratulations Sarah and thanks to all who entered!

For those of you who may have wondered what in the world I've been up to lately, I'll give you a quick run down:  I was sick for almost 2 weeks straight, busy revamping my son's entire homeschool plan based on the Charlotte Mason approach I've fallen in love with, dealing with feelings of sluggishness and insomnia (adrenal fatigue perhaps?) and preparing to lead worship for the first time for a weekend retreat with my husband.  (Awesome by the way..more on this very soon!!)  I would be remiss not to mention one of the key factors that has held me back from popping in though, which is separate from (but a direct result of) the many things I just shared with you, so here it is:

Since I changed focus here at Dance And Be Glad awhile back, I began feeling like I did not have a solid foundation to build from, in the sense of really conveying just what true worship is all about and why it is so important.  Writing a post to this effect would serve as a heartfelt and (hopefully) spirit-led attempt to answer some of those questions, and in turn, would release me to continue writing about other related topics once again, something I've very much been looking forward to!  Ok, so I am in the midst of pouring into this post, plan to complete it by weeks end, and then on we'll go.

Just had to give you a quick update, and I will be back soon.  I promise!  Love to all :)

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Image by Amy Guth

Monday, January 24, 2011

Art And Prophecy


Today I have another delightful post brought to you by my dear blogging friend, Barbie, a new monthly contributor here at Dance And Be Glad!  If you'd like to read the story behind her original art work pictured above, read this!  A long overdue post by yours truly is in the works..

Post by Barbie Swihart

I was so honored when Leah at Dance And Be Glad asked me to guest write on her site again.  I hope to encourage you as you grow in the creativity that the Lord has given to you.

I have been asked several times about my prophetic art.  You can find it here.  I have never had any training in drawing or painting.  But as a person who often sees pictures, given to me by God during times of worship and prayer,  I began to wonder if maybe God would give me the ability to paint what I saw.  Over the last few years,  the Holy Spirit has been doing a work in my heart and has given me so much freedom as I embrace my creative side.  Many have been encouraged through my art.  It's all for His glory!

The church that I attend has an ongoing Prophetic Arts ministry.  Do not let the word "prophetic" scare you.  Although I do not feel qualified to teach about the prophetic, I love to share my experience with what God reveals to me and how it transfers to art.   

Prophesy.  In simple terms, prophecy is a message from God meant to strengthen, encourage, and comfort others.  Most often, prophesy comes through divinely inspired words, spoken to breathe life and hope into another individual, though it can also be expressed in various other artistic forms as well. 

But one who prophesies strengthens others, encourages them, and comforts them.  1 Cor. 14: 3

I have been privileged to serve on the prophetic team at my church, and it always amazes me how God will meet me when I am obedient to step out in faith with what He gives to me.  I remember one time the Lord showed me a picture of a flower.  I was ministering to a young girl and I asked her what her favorite flower was.  It was the exact flower that the Lord had shown to me!  From there, I was able to share with her God's heart towards her; how He saw her.  It was very touching.  

It was a simple picture, given to me by God, yet combined with my act of obedience, it was used to bring hope and healing. 

Art.  Art is a universal language.  I love that art can convey different meanings to each person who sees it.  I have had the experience of walking by a painting and bursting into tears as God brought healing to me through it.  I believe that God desires to use art in the Church to bring hope, healing, and encouragement to His children.  

So how to prophecy and art work together?  Simply, the Father desires to express His heart to His children.  We serve a creative God who is always speaking.  God desires to (and does) speak through art.  As an artist, he desires to open our eyes and ears to see and hear what He is saying, and then transfer that onto canvass.   We do this for the Glory of God first and foremost.  If no one said anything about any of my paintings, it wouldn't matter.  I do it for God.  Do I want others to be blessed by it?  Absolutely.  But I do it out of obedience to what God has put on my heart, and leave the rest up to Him. 

Before I paint, I spend time in prayer, asking the Holy Spirit what He desires to show me.  God will often give me a picture.  I then ask for the Holy Spirit to help me to transfer the picture onto canvass.  Since I am not as skilled as some artists, I must surrender and rely 100% on the Hoy Spirit to move through me.  And there are times when God doesn't show me anything beforehand.  Imagine walking up to a blank canvass during a Sunday morning worship service and being completely oblivious as to what direction to go.  It's a humbling experience as I take God's hand and say, "Okay Lord, You've got this one."  I love to feel His presence moving through me as I paint.  

My desire is that God would use my art for His glory!

I would encourage you to begin developing your gift at home during your private worship times.  Or quietly in your seat during a worship service.  Maybe the church you attend is not yet at a place where they can be free to express themselves through art.  It is very important that you come under spiritual covering and leadership before attempting to develop an arts ministry in your church, or any ministry for that matter.  But what is stopping you from bringing a sketchpad and colored pencils with you to church?  Developing your gifting as an artist takes time, commitment, patience, and practice.  

God created us to partner with Him in releasing His glory on the earth!  He has given each of us a measure of creativity.  If you have a desire in your heart to begin drawing or painting, invest in some simple, basic tools and go for it.  And do not become frustrated if you do not see doors opening for you right away corporately.  Be faithful first in your own private life.  Cultivate your gift when no one else is watching.  God will be faithful to bring it into the light at the right time.

Below are some great resources if you would like to find out more about art in the church:

Theresa is a very gifted artist.  She has visited our church with her team on several occasions.  Take a moment to view her gallery, and read the testimonies of hope and healing that have been released around the world through there art listed there.

A very reasonably priced mp3 download of teaching and encouragement about prophetic art by Theresa Dedmon. 

A great book about using your artistic talent for the glory of God.  Written by Philip Graham Ryken.

Leah here:  Would you like the chance to win your own copy of the last two resources?  (Of course you would!)  Simply visit Barbie's worship arts site, Expressions Of His Beauty, and subscribe by email to receive updates of new posts (or let me know if you already do.)  Though infrequent, they are beautiful encouragements for the body and spirit.  You may receive additional entries by tweeting, posting on FB, following her (or me) via GFC or on facebook, or by following Barbie's main site, My Freshly Brewed Life.  Please leave a separate comment for each thing you do.  Giveaway ends this Friday at midnight (est).  Best wishes!


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Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Power In Connecting With Christ: Part 1

Are we being His hands and feet?

Lately the Lord has been speaking to me as I discern how we can respond authentically to His Holy Spirit, and I realized a big question had been left unanswered, even in my own heart: Why is it so very important that we as a body connect with Christ in such a personal way?  I want to share with you today one major reason as it was revealed to me, and plan to share again shortly of a few more.   

God's people are suffering.  All over the world, there is hunger, disease, poverty, and demonic oppression/ deception which grieves His spirit.  Many are living a life which holds nothing but the promise of eternal damnation.  There are those we see on a daily basis who are hungry for truth (even without knowing it) and would willingly accept prayer and the good news- yet we share it not.  At least, not often enough.  

 Here is where really connecting to Christ can make such a difference.  When we give Him the best of ourselves, really drawing deep from that inner well of creativity He's placed within us, we begin to  naturally grow in our relationship with Him and produce fruit that can feed others.  Boldness of spirit, purpose, and a greater love for the lost are natural responses to feasting on His presence.  Not only that, but we will allow Him to be seen, felt, and tasted as well, as we physically display Godly qualities through our various art forms.  Most importantly though, the power that is released through these acts of worship is actually able to tear down walls and bring deliverance, healing, or other anointings as the spirit chooses (more on this in another post).   

The caution here is to be mindful of the balance between moving through him and moving for him, as well as remaining in complete humility at all times.  While a rich and satisfying relationship with God is wonderful, it is not the movements of our hands and feet that matter, but rather, if we are being the hands and feet of Christ, serving and blessing others in His name.  This should be our ultimate goal.  

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free.  But do not use your freedom to indulge in the flesh; rather serve one another humbly in love.  For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: "Love your neighbor as yourself."
Galations 5: 13-14

Please understand I am speaking with humility (and from experience) when I say that as good as it feels to be dancing, worshipping and experiencing the manifest presence of God, though it is pleasing to the Lord, it is a selfish and an incomplete offering if I do not go out into the world loving and blessing others as a result.  My heart is being challenged in this area now more than ever, and I have a long way to go.  Still, each step we take towards this goal is like incense before the Lord, and will radically affect the course of history as the children's hearts are returned to their fathers.  The lost will be saved, the hungry will be fed, and the chain of events to follow will be unstoppable.  

Let us be bold to step out and shine the light He's placed within us, giving of ourselves, our talents and resources, even to the point that it hurts.  The reward is so much greater than the sacrifice.       

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Top image by roe_jessie

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A New Year..To Be Free!


These past few days I've been burning in my spirit after the things of God with a fiery passion, unlike what I've ever experienced before.  However, I know that this kind of victory won't come without opposition, so I'm preparing myself for battle.  Devil, stand back.  Jesus is doing a work in me and you will NOT be having your way!  

I just recently finished two books on Christian dance and the arts which the Lord really spoke to me through, and attended two dynamic worship concerts over the weekend which drew me deep into the presence of the Holy Spirit.  I am truly desperate to remain in Him.  Though I can't put the feelings into words, my expression of who He is through dance has been being shaped and stretched as I step out in obedience to the calling He's placed in my heart.

Last night, Shawn and I had the amazing opportunity to hear Stephen Roach and his band, Songs Of Water.  (Seriously.  They were MUST check them out!!)  They call themselves a folk orchestra, with over 40 instruments dedicated to releasing the sounds of Heaven: including hand drums galore- my weakness.  I was moved, literally.  The burning in my chest when one of the musicians called for the dancers to come forward was undeniable, and I knew I had to do it.  In fact, when he pointed his finger out toward the crowd, honestly, I think you could have drawn a straight line from it to my chair.  Why me?  I thought.  No one else is dancing!!  I mumbled something to Shawn about hating the awkwardness about to come and proceeded to stand up and make my way to the clearing at the front of the stage.  Then I danced like there was no tomorrow.  

Apparently, something broke loose in the atmosphere because when I began to look around me, I saw others dancing, too.  YES!!  I don't know what I looked like up there or what anybody thought, but I do know that I did what God wanted me to do in that moment...and it felt so free.

This is what I was created be a vessel used to usher in the presence of God.  And guess what?!!  You were created for this calling as well.  Wow.  I'm speechless.  

The previous evening, Sean Feucht led an incredible time of worship and shared a word with us that 2011 was to be a year that we would truly mean what we said.  As we sing our songs of praise to God, that each word spoken would resonate in our spirits and release us into walking in the freedom and liberty of Christ.  I can tell you firsthand that this message has a powerful anointing on it, and I pray that each one of you will receive it right now as you read this post.

Each day, I am becoming more and more passionate in my calling to encourage the artistic heart of God's people to be drawn out, and I welcome your suggestions on topics for the upcoming year!  But first, be on the lookout for some stripped down fundamentals all about the area of worship, including (hopefully) a debut here by my wonderful honey :)  In the meantime, in case you didn't see this from the facebook page, here is a song that simply took my breath away as I reveled in the glory of God.  And..he dances!

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Top image courtesy of Ben Bachman