Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Joy Instead of Discouragement

Last night was the third meeting of Lake Bible Arts (if you count the first one, which nobody showed up to). We had a very successful event, although it may not seem like it as you read on.

Ekphrastic poetry is poetry written in response to a piece of art, usually a painting. I like the idea of applying that to all the arts, so when I sent the event reminder to my small email list, I asked everyone to bring something they had created, for us to respond to with new work. I myself printed out three of my poems, and brought a variety of other artworks in case anyone showed up without something.

I got to the church early to set up: I planned to give my testimony as an artist, so I put out a circle of chairs for everyone to sit in. I set up a table for the art everyone was supposed to bring. There were two additional tables for creating new work, one covered with a tablecloth for the painters. Both rested on a tarp to protect the carpet. A fourth table held snacks.

Everything was ready with time to spare. While I waited, I helped myself to some snacks and watched a few YouTube videos on my tablet. The time to start came and went.

Nobody showed up.

Somewhat tempted to be discouraged, I decided to look on the bright side: it was possible folks would arrive late, but if they didn’t, I’d have the room to myself for two hours – I, at least, could get some writing done. And then I realized, what better time to praise God? So I grabbed a hymnal and sang Holy, Holy, Holy. Flipping the pages, the next familiar hymn that I came to was A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. I was going to skip it, but I hesitated.

In previous posts, I’ve referenced what I call tiny little, nobody’s-fault roadblocks that keep popping up with this arts ministry. I find it interesting that Satan feels the need to meddle in this, and it makes me wonder what God is up to.* Given that, I decided to sing the hymn, and was glad I did. Next up was Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing, followed by Great Is Thy Faithfulness. That seemed like a good place to stop.

At this point, I was quite certain nobody was coming. So, having praised God and encouraged my soul through singing, I sat down to work.

I attempted an ekphrastic poem in response to some installation art in the room, but I knew it was the wrong subject a few lines in. Great Is Thy Faithfulness lingered in my thoughts, so I decided to write a poem to that melody.

I love hymns, but I don’t write them very often. Every time I do, it feels like an enormous gift from God. The first one I wrote was in 2012, to a new melody Ginny Owens had written to an old song. The second was to How Great Thou Art. The third was last night.

Yesterday, I had a Skype interview with Ms. Owens ahead of her coming out here for a concert. We had a great conversation about faith and the arts, which, to my surprise, informed tonight’s poem almost as much as the tune it was written to.

I had asked a question about how God uses her own work to speak to her, and as she gave an example, she spoke of learning that “trust is surrender. It’s not, ‘I know what you’re doing here: you’re helping me develop patience.’ Trust just means surrender: ‘I don’t know what’s going on and what’s coming around the corner, but you do.’”

Boy, do I know what she’s talking about. The last three years have been all about that for me, and last night was just one more example.

I also asked how she deals with the dual pressures of writing honestly and writing for commercial success, and in her answer she said, “I have to pray and trust that God will take care of me and provide for me.” Given my own recent switch from traditional employment to freelancing, it’s not surprising that this also resonated with me.

Both of those concepts ended up in the poem I wrote last night. Go figure.

I normally don’t post my poetry online, but I’m feeling a nudge to share, so here’s what God gave me:

Why am I walking alone in this cavern?
Even your presence seems so far away.
I see the signs that you’ve carved to direct me,
But my faith’s flickering, causing delays.

I am not troubled, for I know you’re here.
You have ordained it, and it will be so.
I can’t help wondering where we are going,
But all you tell me is, “Step out and go.”

I have been learning to trust through surrender,
Leaving contingency planning to you.
All I can do is show up and be faithful;
You’ll lead and guide me as I wait for you.

So I will praise you, Lord, out of this chaos;
Your Spirit’s moving in ways I can’t see.
I will surrender my need to be sovereign;
Rest in assurance that you’ll care for me.

Thank you, Lord. Amen.

*I realize my unattended meeting may seem like a small thing, but God works in the small things in our lives, too.

I was quite pleased with the set-up.

What I brought to be responded to.



  1. I would have come! I so loved the poetry class we took together. The snacks looked yummy, too! Glad you weren't discouraged, but searched out the Lord for, "Now what?" Those times can be so rich that you wish you would have asked if in the first place!

    1. I would love to do more writing with you! But yes, it turned out to be a very rich time indeed. :)

  2. I wish I lived close enough to join you- I've never tried anything like that! I love your poem. I'm going to have to get another copy of your book- it was one of my treasures that drowned recently :/

    1. Thanks, Abby! I'm so sorry for your lost books. :(

  3. Oh dear Rachel, I too would have loved to come had not it been for inescapable commitments. Your blog inspired me to reinterpret it in a poem. So much of our trust is wrapped in our expectations that sometimes we can quickly dismiss his faithfulness as inaction. I praise God that you are remaining steadfast and allowing God's timing and His transforming you in the midst of disappointment.

    The azure skies with carnelian dyes
    That wrapped the setting sun
    There was a thrill to crest the hill
    Reveling on what’s to come

    You see I’d planned and stations manned
    For each like minded soul
    New thoughts to part to old worked art
    But then the bells did toll

    My eager surge became a dirge
    When none came to my fete
    I was denied I inward cried
    I took a lonely seat

    But a breeze thawed my freeze
    The Spirit let me see
    It was His leading I must be heeding
    Not ambitions made by me.

    My pen flowed along to a well worn song
    I engraved my angst and hurt and doubt
    To serve and pray, surrender and obey
    To let Him work things out