I crept out to the living room and grabbed my bible, wrapped myself up in my soft and fluffy creamsicle colored blanked and opened to the Psalms.
Psalm 143 had been showing up in my devotional and prayer time for a few years. The notes in the margins testify to my frequent reading, praying, and yes, tears stains left on the now crinkly paper.
It was just past one in the morning. A storm raged outside, thunder booming and flashes of lightning sending bolts across the sky. It was like something out of Lord of the Rings. The storm didn't wake me up. I'd been awake for hours, unable to sleep, gripped with uncertainty about my future and frozen on the inside.
"Hear my prayer, O Lord...(the enemy) has made me sit in darkness like one long dead." Verses
What a beautiful well of living water Psalm 143 is.
Honest, anguished, raw, reverent, pleading, remembering, renewing. I took a deep, deep drink and began to re-immerse myself in the words of King David, the man "after God's own heart" who seemed to be in such a mess so often. I picked up my pens and Bible and dove deep into word, taking his words as my own prayer.
The next few days, I prayed through the psalm.
It was messy. My thoughts of my heart and mind tumbled unfiltered out onto the pages of my journal.
There were tears.
Then there was confession.
And there was worship. Remembering. Resting.
And renewed hope.
And painting. The pile of paintings began to multiply.
Painting softens my hands, heart, and mind. What a good walk does for the body, painting does for my soul, heart, and mind.
While I paint, the chatter of my internal person quiets down, the quieter parts of my heart and soul come out.
Have you tried using a creative medium to invite your soul out into the open? To help propel you into a deeper time of prayer?
Inviting the soul and heart to come out into the open is kind of like watching for deer in the meadows down by my old home near the American River Trail in Sacramento.
If I wait, patiently and quietly, the deer come out. Even though they know I'm there, my presence didn't bother them. They'd glance at me, warily at first, then find the patch of grass they'd been hunting and happily start munching.
Painting is like that. It settles down the heart and mind and can be a way to let the soul "come out" a bit. When I paint to allow my inner self to quiet down, I often paint simple things, nothing too complex or detailed, like mountain scapes. In fact, journeying through a terrain of mountains is a way to think of our time in our wilderness seasons.
From Fainting to Creating
"...my spirit faints within me. My heart within me is appalled." verse 4
Wilderness seasons are often dry, dark, and dangerous. We can't see our way out or over and often we travel through them alone.
When I first started reading through Psalm 143 and it began to weave its way into my mind and heart, the theme of mountains came to me. Mountains are often wilderness areas, only safe to travel with a well-traveled guide.
Jesus began to guide me as I soaked myself in the word. The painting helped me so much.
Mountain scapes with rugged peaks with a color palette reflecting the mood of David (and myself) popped up on watercolor paper. The colors were muted and heavy, but occasionally a bit of color would pop out: yellows, purples, a deep blue.
I began to paint skies and mountains with small pathways winding in and around the rugged peaks.
As I prayed and studied through the psalm, the sky changed, the mountains changed. Bits of yellow appeared in the sky, the coming of a sunrise, a new day, the renewed message of God's love coming, coming, coming. A rescue for my soul.
David's words mirrored the cries and anguish of my own heart.
Note: I can be a tad dramatic and David is dramatic + skilled word artist. What I had not been able to put into words, David did beautifully, albeit dramatically.
My frozen heart began to thaw. Oh, it didn't happen overnight and it wasn't pretty! I'd find myself crying as I jogged (this is why I exercise early in the morning – so no one else sees me!), uncomfortable with my own words and confessions in prayer times.
Knowing what God has promised is elemental. It guides our thoughts, our actions, even our motivations. It must be more than logical though, doesn't? We've got to hear his voice through His word and experiencing life with Jesus.
Knowledge on its own is often unhelpful. I needed to know "the love that surpasses knowledge" as Paul says in Ephesians. God's word has to go down deep into the soil of our hearts and minds to develop and grow and produce results.
The Good News About WIlderness Seasons
"let me hear in the morning of your unfailing love..." verse 8a
Here's the good news.
God shows up in the wilderness.
Boy, did I rediscover Him. My frozen, frightened heart thawed.
What God reveals to us in our wilderness seasons is always a surprise, a revelation of who He is and who we are.
For me, the external circumstances didn't change.
But I did get a rescue.
A rescue out of the wilderness.
And a re-discovery of the love and gentleness of Jesus.
The dark nights disappointment and heartache and loss in the wilderness season can be a way God uses to bring us into a deeper understanding of His enduring love and stability. What was meant for our harm really can turn into something good, enduring, maybe even beautiful.
"...Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground...." verse 10
God will take care of what He has promised to take care. He will lead me. He is leading me.
What would change in your life?
With paint and prayers and pens and times of quiet, Psalm 143 will forever be marked on my heart and soul. If you'd like to join and paint with me through Psalm 143, there's information below on how you can do that.
I can't guarantee any external outcomes will change.
But what might happen if you spend time slowly painting, praying, and meditating on Psalm 143?
Here are some possibilities...
• Time spent meditating and praying through Psalm 143 will bring light to your heart and mind.
• You may discover a path to navigate out of the "wilderness" right from the pages of Bible. David lays out a guide that is seen over and over through the Bible.
• You'll create some lovely art! Creating beauty with our hands and hearts is a gift and a joy and helps us to rest.
No matter what got you into the wilderness, you aren't supposed to stay there.
I'm pretty convinced of that.
No matter how hard life is, we are meant to be full of life, blooming on the inside, navigating the challenges with peace, purpose, and joy.
Of course, you can journey through the Bible with your pen and journal, grab some paint and paper, and paint through the psalms or another part of the Bible on your own. There are many wonderful bible studies, small groups, books to help facilitate you.
But if you'd like to someone to go with you on this journey, I'd love to jump into Psalm 143 with you. I'm not a bible scholar, but I'd love to be a friend, a sister, a fellow journey-er out of the wilderness with you.
And this isn't a bible study.
We will read and re-read the psalm, but we don't go through historical context, etc.
This is a creative prayer experience.
I'll share a 3–5-minute devotional in each session.
Then, I'll lead the painting session that lasts for approximately twenty minutes.
For the final portion of each session, you'll incorporate the verses into the paintings as you, on your own, pray and reflect on them.
The goal is to connect with Jesus through his word, through painting and experience more of His care.
If you'd like to read more about the details and purchase the course, click here.
The course is $27 and comes with a downloadable pdf Artist Guide and devotional along with lifetime access.
If you'd like to have a "taster session," to see the style of teaching and art, you can paint and pray through two sessions. Learn more about that when you click the button below.