Monday, March 7, 2016

New Mercies For The Battle Weary

"New Mercies"
Acrylic painting on canvas board by Kathryn L. Berkowitz 2016

I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
Lamentations 3:19-26

Have you ever been through something that really left you feeling defeated, reeling with feelings of disillusionment, confusion, betrayal, or grief? 

There are some things that are beyond our ability to process on our own. 
We need a grid to interpret these experiences. 
I believe it is essential to understand that we are at war. 
We are in a spiritual battle for our lives. 

God is with us and has given us the armor of God and spiritual weapons of warfare to pull down strongolds. 
These strongholds are arguments, pretensions, philosophies or reasonings that set themselves up against the knowledge of God. 
We can take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ. 
In other words, we can judge an argument, thought or pretense by how it compares with the truth in God's Word. 

The armor of God consists of these things:

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 
Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, 
with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 
and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 
In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 
Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Ephesians 6: 10-17

Every new morning, God's mercies are new and with that He bestows grace to begin again. 
Battle weary saint, you are precious to God and His mercies, ever enduring love, faithfulness and compassion can pick you up, dust you off, heal your wounds and give you courage for a new season. You have a future and a hope!

 I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 
Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 
I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.
Jeremiah 29:10-13

He will bring us back from captivity!

But here's the thing. Don't go out to battle without your armor or your spiritual weapons. 
Don't take on battles that don't belong to you. 
Wait on Him. Wait quietly on Him. Hope in Him. 

I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.
Psalm 27:13 & 14

Monday, February 29, 2016

The Works Of Our Hands

About this sculpture: 
This is fabric collage over vintage plaster glove mold. Created for the "Show Us Your Hands" fundraiser for Arts Council of Lincoln County and Lincoln County Schools that, unfortunately, never happened. Still, I enjoyed creating this piece and hope to do another one, soon. 

Stop offering the parts of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness. Instead, offer yourselves to God as people who have been brought from death to life and the parts of your body as instruments of righteousness to God. 
Romans 6:13

If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire.
Mark 9:43

Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
Who may stand in his holy place?
 The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
Psalm 24: 3-4

Let the sweetness of Lord Jehovah our God be upon us, because of the works of his hands which he has fashioned for us, and he formed us among the work of his hands! 
Psalm 90:17

Take a look at your hands. Your hands are marvelous creations of the Most High God. We are created in the image of God. Romans 6:13 says we should offer our bodies as instruments of righteousness. Let that sink in. 
Because the Spirit of Jesus Christ lives in us, we are the righteousness of God, in Christ Jesus. Our hands are to be His hands in this world. 

Don't you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for you have been bought with a price, so glorify God in your bodies. 
1 Corinthians 6:19-20

I had an experience with God where I actually felt Him slipping into my hands, as if they were His gloves. I heard the Holy Spirit tell me to be confident, that He was animating my hands when I was doing the good works that He had prepared for me since the foundation of the world. It was a very moving and profound experience. 

As artists, we should be fully dependent on the Holy Spirit to flow through our hands. 
We have THE Creator of the Universe, living inside of us who has anointed us with skill and desires to be expressed through His creation. In other words, God desires to be expressed through your hands. 

Give Him your hands, go and advance the Kingdom !

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Effervesce : A Heart Plunged into the River

Creativity has always been my life’s passion.  It wasn’t until fairly recently that I became awakened to how central the desire to create was to my fulfillment as the person I was created to be.

   I was blessed to be the daughter of a beautiful, creative woman who encouraged me to try my hand at various creative endeavors. When I would embroider, doodle, paint, write poetry or play my guitar, I would feel focused, purposeful and accomplished. I struggled with depression and anxiety as a child, and still do. But when I am creating, I sense peace.

  This peace has followed me all of my life, the peace I know when I am colaboring with God, the One who created me to be creative. I now understand the reason for this, but it eluded me for  many years. I didn’t have a relationship with Jesus until I was twenty-five years old.  Up until then I had no category for the concept of being created for a purpose.  I thought that expressing creativity was just an enjoyable add-on to my life, but not something to which I could give all of my intention.

   I spent  a lot of time “trying to find my place in the Church body.” I didn’t understand that church should be a place that stewards and disciples artists. I had never really seen it done until I became friends with Linda, an artist who belongs to Morningstar Fellowship in Ft. Mill, SC.

   I attended a women’s conference with Linda,  sponsored by Morningstar, and the theme was creativity. I also read a book, called The Path by Laurie Beth Jones, which helped me form a personal mission statement. Here it is.  

To passionately worship Christ, my King
To be divinely inspired by Him
To skillfully create, and effectively communicate concepts
That will advance the Kingdom of God
In my own life, and the lives of others

  Many years later, I was introduced to a book called Unlocking The Heart of The Artist by Matt Tommey. In April 2012, I devoured it and could hardly believe that I had finally found someone with which I could relate on the subject of how to connect with God through worship and conceive something that I could give birth to and change the world.

These were powerful metaphors for me. During that time I was working as professional birth doula and birth educator. I understood that for conception required two individuals  coming together in an intimate way. I began to see how vital it was for me to come into God’s presence in worship and invite Him to place a dream or concept in my heart. I began to see it was my responsibility to fiercely protect and nurture these things until the appointed time that they should be birthed.

  The Holy Spirit led me to study of the word “heart” through the Psalms and Proverbs that same year. The word heart  means “The most interior organ, midst, mind, understanding, will, intellect, feelings, the center.”

One of the most important truths I discovered about my heart was this, from Proverbs 37:4

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

   I began to meditate on this. I began to realize a desire, placed in my heart by the Holy Spirit. The desire is this.  I want my art to glorify Him and speak of Him to the eyes and ears and hearts of people in a way that penetrates barriers and establishes righteousness.
I want people to have an undeniable encounter of His Presence, Love and Power.

   I have continued to express this desire to God.  He has started with my own eyes, ears, and heart. When I create with Him, for Him, I feel fulfilled, satisfied, filled with wonder and expectation and totally dependent on Him to bring the miracle of anointed creativity to pass.

  I am learning to stay connected to Him, to listen for His voice and to keep my eyes and ears open for inspiration, colors, textures, sounds, messages, and revelations of His love.
   I see myself as a vessel, which must be filled with the Living Water before I can be poured out. There is a season for filling and a time for spilling. As artists, it is important to know what season we are in.

  I have  come to appreciate how vital community is to the creative person.
I prayed about how I might facilitate this in my own community and the Holy Spirit showed me a picture of a heart, submerged in water with fizzy, colorful bubbles all around, and I heard the word, “Effervesce.” I believe this is a prophetic picture of a heart that has been plunged into the Living Water and is releasing the very life of God. It is a picture of joy, exuberance, vitality and exhilaration. I believe it is our inheritance to be in community with other artists whose hearts long for their intended design, even if they’ve not yet realized it ! Effervescence is like a chemical reaction for which creative folks can serve as catalysts for powerful reactions in the spiritual realm.

  It is an exciting life when your heart’s desire is to fully know and experience the love of God and to have that same love fully expressed through your creativity ! When I attended the Gathering of the Artists in 2013, I remember a dear sister, Aleona Isakova,  
challenging all of us with this statement. “When you get to heaven, He will ask you, “What did you do with My dream?’ If God put fire to your heart, you can create it!”
Those words resonated with me like a gong! In fact, just about everything about that weekend was confirmation upon confirmation that I was exactly where God wanted me,  and that He had created, chosen and equipped me to find my highest joy as a fearless, free, creative woman. To God be the glory !

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Healing Waters and a Pure heart

Pour over me water to clean all my intentions
Baptizing streams, I swim in the freedom of redemption
Floating on the sea of purity
Knowing I can dive in the love that rescues me

Healing waters, healing waters
Solace flows through the river of forgiveness to my soul
Oh, I need You, healing waters

From the song "Healing Waters"
By Michelle Tumes

This painting is the result of a dual creative endeavor between my husband, Bruce and me. 
He painted the woman, which is an abstract portrait of me, and I painted the water, sky, moon and stars. 
To me, it signifies the Mikveh, or ceremonial ritual immersion in water practiced by Jews as a purification rite. It is a type and shadow of Christian Baptism. 

Our Lord, Jesus Christ was baptized. 
And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, see, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting on him. Matthew 3:16
In the same fashion, baptized believers have this promises: 
Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Acts 2:38

Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Romans 6:4

I remember my baptism at First Assembly of God Church in Winston-Salem, NC. 
It is one of my most precious recollections. When I came up out of that water, I knew that I had a new heart. I had become a believer in Jesus a few months before, but something felt different after my baptism. The world looked different, people looked different, my heart was more tender and responsive to God. 

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hebrews 10:19-25