a Dangerous Journey | I AM Forgiving 

As we move into the 3rd month of our I AM Powered study, I AM Forgiving takes us on a dangerous journey. “This is not your grandmother’s bible study!” one woman declared. True. We are not meeting together for fuzzy affirmations & rumor-soaked prayers. We are committed to transformed lives! And when you have to present a topic as earth shaking as forgiveness, it is best served with milk & homemade chocolate chip cookies over a picture book story. Yes, on the 2nd Tuesday of the month, it just seemed appropriate to have a story hour at the Public Library where we meet. “Dangerous Journey” is a picture book version of John Bunyan’s classic tale, “Pilgrim’s Progress”. As Christian runs the race marked out for him, through some of the most seemingly dark & disastrous deterrents to anyone’s faith, I think we each saw the span of our own lives from a bird’s eye view. It was the disappointing discovery of 2 characters I had met along my own path that bolstered my resolve to forgive & be forgiven. Wicked & Worldly had been my friends. ..close friends, I believed.. .until that misunderstanding. Matthew 18 teaches us the 4 simple steps to restore a relationship:

1. I reached out to Wicked and also to Worldly one 2 one. With beautiful cards, letters, & phone calls I sought to make peace. This could have been resolved and we would have been restored by forgiving from the heart.

2. Wicked, brushed off the offer, refusing to acknowledge her role in bullying my family, and my close confidante, Worldly, sought vengeful insult by ignoring me-turning her whole family against my own, breaking our childrens’ friendships with each other. I realized that meeting together as accountability witnesses would not be.

3. We 3 were part of a community I believed to be sound & wise, professing to be founded upon a biblical worldview.  My husband and I humbly prepared to meet with the leadership to discuss this restoration, according Matthew 18, for the purpose of protecting future families from this lack of respect for the scriptures taught & testified to and tacked onto their mission statement. We were again met without love, “If you don’t like it here, then leave.”

4. When restoration is refused, the scriptures advise us “to treat them as  tax collectors.” The beauty of this step is not to treat them pharisaically as outcasts, but as JESUS treated tax collectors, with LOVE & FORGIVENESS. Jesus invited Himself to Matthew, the tax collector’s house for dinner.. .and nourished the dinner party with a story. Jesus’ ways were certainly not the Pharisee’s bible study!

Do you remember this powerful scene in the movie, JESUS of Nazareth-when Peter & his sworn enemy, Matthew (this very Matthew who wrote this very passage) are united in forgiveness?

In this scene, we hear JESUS telling the parable of the prodigal son. We should be WATCHFUL as that father who was wronged by his youngest son, and ready to forgive the moment he returns. If God’s love then does not motivate us to be restored to our family & friends, then let us be mindful of His WARNING in the parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:21-35).

Easter is the perfect time of year for us to REMEMBER Christ’s horrific, earth shaking execution on behalf of our sins and RISE with His birds eye view perspective, saying, “Father, forgive Wicked & Worldy, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Are you thinking, uncomfortably, of the Wicked one who brushed you off? Are you the Worldly one who has sought revenge instead of restoration?

After story hour, with crumbs of humility we considered the Homework Challenge:

1. On SIDE A of sheet of paper, list the names of each person (living or deceased) who has offended you since birth.

Throughout the month, each day as you pray your memory verse, insert a name from this list. Remember, right thinking and doing will lead to right feelings. “Father, forgive ___________, he/she does not know what he/she is doing.”

2. On SIDE B of that paper, list the names of each person who you have offended.

Throughout the month, pray for strength to enter upon a dangerous journey, asking God to prepare the heart of each precious person on the list and an opportunity to ask forgiveness of that person. Send a beautiful card-be simple & sincere-not rehashing their part in the offense, only asking forgiveness for your own.

Be prepared for 1 of 3 responses:

Rejection | Revenge | Restoration

3. At the end of the month, destroy the paper completely, for as JESUS said, “It is finished”, and His forgiveness is forever, “as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us.” 

Do you accept this dangerous journey toward the ABUNDANT LIFE Christ came to give?

I AM Forgiving

Do you feel “walked on”? The steppables in this photo are some of the most rigorously growing plants in my garden. They are creeping throughout the grass like a glorious carpet. Although we walk, run, & play on them all summer, they continually spread & bloom these teeny, delicate, & most lovely of flowers. Even “walked on”, may you continue to grow & bloom!!

Advertisements

Come with Me | I AM Cherished

So, giving homework is a major part of the I AM Powered study. For I AM Cherished, we are meditating on the theme page scriptures each day, memorizing a verse, watching One Night with The King, and making a date with Christ (to develop a deeper intimacy with The Bridegroom, vertically, so as to remember & rekindle better earthly relationships.) Today, I planned to share my morning Grande Americano with Christ at the Starbucks in Chagrin Falls, while researching Song of Solomon.. .rough start to the day & I really wanted to postpone until I felt like a strong woman. But, when we think & do what is right, right feelings are to follow, not determine our steps. Off I went, though, 3 hours later than planned. ..providentially, right on His schedule, for during the exact time of my drive from home to cafe was a radio message on Song of Solomon. Peace, like a river, caressed & carried me along. I felt cherished.

Stepped into my favourite place, in my favourite little town in northeast Ohio, & my favourite seat next to the window filled with streaming sunlight overlooking the waterfall was immediately vacated as if that patron was a place holder until I arrived. I felt cherished.

Writer’s block. ..and a frozen waterfall is the perfect metaphor for writer’s block.

then, WOW! Powerhouse breakthrough! Thank you for sermon #388, Joseph Prince!! Delivered from discouragement as a person, parent, & professional by the perspective in this 1 message on Christ’s fervent passion for His Bride. “COME WITH ME” (Song of Songs). He whispered through my spirit, “Remember when I whispered this phrase to you a few weeks ago? I knew you would have these moments of doubt & disappointment. I knew you would make time to really listen to Me today.” He woos us away from the slippery slope like a wise parent who peacefully attracts her little son away from the street by offering something he likes and would be drawn to!! He doesn’t shout, “No! Don’t go there!” because we would naturally look toward the danger, slip, and fall away. By keeping our focus on Christ, we are saved & strengthened.. .and able to walk on water as Peter did. ..even more miraculously when it is not frozen over by a foot of ice & snow!!

I AM Cherished

50 Shades of Light

Christ & The Church
Christ & The Church

I AM Cherished, our theme for this month, encourages women to know that their true beauty, worth, & value is defined by a personal relationship with Christ. In Song of Songs/Solomon, we learn the thrill of true love and intimacy in this book of erotic Persian-style love poetry between King Solomon &  Queen Sheba. This often overlooked book of the Bible is a metaphor of the dynamic, worshipful relationship between Christ, the Bridegroom & the Church, His Bride.
Do you have a personal relationship with Christ? Has your spiritual life been pacified like a perpetual babe by pampered teaching? Are you ready to be transformed into a WOMAN of excellence in spiritual maturity? One of the homework assignments for our I AM Powered 2nd Tuesday Study is to read & meditate on the book of Song of Songs/Solomon throughout this month and practice a pure marital relationship by scheduling private time to delight in Christ. How would you prepare for a date with your Bridegroom? Spa treatments & fine jewelry? Where would you invite Him to go with you? Chinese takeout & your favourite movie (when the kids are tucked in for the night) or morning coffee with a spectacular view? When we practice intimacy with Christ, it not only deepens our relationship & develops our spiritual maturity, but it also empowers us to lavish our earthly husbands with the same level of preparation and 121 presence!!

Husband & Wife
Husband & Wife

For me, it took a mission trip halfway around the globe to learn this lesson! But then again, as Christ knows each of us intimately already- the very hairs on our head is
counted (He knows about this new silvery streak I just  discovered gracing my
left temple)-and He knows that I have always been a romantic who is dazzled by the exotic. So there I was, surrounded by glittering, colorful Indian saris with the scent of night blooming jasmine in the air, in a country where I was isolated from others by the language divide, and Christ wooed me. As I traveled with a driver and translator to remote rural villages in southeast India, listening to women’s stories, blessing & encouraging them, it was as if by day my bridegroom and I were doing our Father’s family business. But at night, while palm trees swayed under swinging monkeys and mosquitoes ruled their humid domain, I was on a honeymoon with Christ. His Word, by candlelight in this faraway land, was a life
transforming getaway! I would return home to start my walk of ministry-through spiritual maturity-and the birth of our union there, Lydia’s Purse International, conceived by the Holy Spirit.

Maryann & women at worship in southeast India
Maryann & women at worship in southeast India

Yes, true intimacy can be pure & even holy, for holy means “set apart”. We are living in this world, but we are not to be of this world. As women of The Word, are you still being fattened by the milk of nursemaids or are you standing strong on the meat of spiritual maturity, confident in your position as a Queen of The Kingdom & empowered to do the work of a helpmeet to the King of Kings?

I am Mermaid | fisher of men

Mermaid Textile
Mermaid Textile

I don’t quite know what it is about mermaids that I identify with most. Perhaps my romantic notions parallel with Picasso’s minotaur metaphor. Some say it is a psychological need for sentient & spiritual beings to feel grounded, to connect in some way to this terrestrial ball. Mermaid tales span all of world history & cultures with mythological mysteries of ladies luring pirates from passing ships with sweet siren songs or other deaths from stirring storms to shipwreck those at sea. And what of those benevolent types with the cascading golden tresses~teaching humans cures for certain sicknesses & rewarding service with pearly stranded gifts, instead of stranding them? Then again, there are the more tragic traditions from my own Czech culture, the Rusalkas~restless spirits who drowned before their weddings & are bent on avenging untimely fates, tempting young men by name to treacherous ends. Further east are mermaids who cry tears that turn to pearls and a few who fell in love with humans. Farther back in time we learn the Persian word maneli means both mermaid & stay with me.

I do know this, though, I love the sea, I always have, it stays with me. I had even convinced my younger siblings that I was a mermaid on our annual island holiday. I would sit under the rippling waters looking up at bending, bouncing sunlight on the surface & hold my breath as long as I could stay. There’s just something about the sea that holds such sway.

‘He cast all my sins into the depths of the sea.’ Micah 7:19 | forgiven

Oh, and I just remembered how fixated on & fascinated I was by the pearl divers at Sea World. I would push past the crowds as if no one else was there, holding my breath until the divers returned to the surface with those magical iridescent lined shells, waiting to glimpse at the milky round treasures inside.

‘The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold all he had and bought it.’ Matthew 13:46 | found

And here I am today, delaying the daily minutia of drying dishes & driving middleschoolers by pinning pins on Pinterest. 50,000 pretty pictures tell the tale of Maryann121~from fabulous designs to DIYs, skirt styles to studio spaces, and of course, the mermaid life~all an attempt to brand this calling: to be SALT & LIGHT.

‘Follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’ Matthew 4:19 | follower

I am continually amazed at Christ’s creativity & ability to use any & all we bring to His loving hands for God’s glory, our good, & the eternal good of countless others~5 loaves & a few fishes, or a fascination with mythical sea creatures, complete with a coffee habit that includes a smiling siren on its cup! As salt & light in a dying world, He redeems our earthiness and makes us captivating. He can make a mermaid one who lures men to eternal life, not death. Gifted with pearls of wisdom & singing songs of praise, forgiving instead of avenging & teaching others this way, how can we not lure men to the depths of an intimate relationship with the one who created the seas & calms the storm with one word, Peace.

I am Mermaid | fisher of men

Now I See the Light | the Disney Princess Movie format

While encouraging a friend, my very own dear woodland creature friend who has been my 1 true confidante in this fairy tale life, I had a revelation! The format of every Disney Princess movie is not just a thing of fairy tales, it is THE stuff of real life . the abundant life . the one that Christ was talking about. That day, the Disney Princess movie format flowed through a text message, a text message! The words, SPIRIT SIGHT have been repeating in my thoughts in 72 point font since this new year rolled out, so that’s when I really listen . and see. and now I see the light! To prepare as a speaker, I am learning all the tips & tricks to “take you on a journey”, “Tell you stories, epic stories of grand adventures”, “Connect with my audience”… well, inside every middle aged woman, I believe, is a little girl who once believed in happily ever after . I know I did & still do. Not the sappy, lose yourself in an alternate reality for a few hours, but the stuff of real life. I am talking about delighting IN crappy circumstances because your character is still sweet, discovering you do have a soul mate, deciding to step out of your comfort zone midlife to try something new which makes you strong, and being delivered from years of battling sinful strongholds & oppressive people. So, is that annual trip to Disney World really for the kids or the moms? Beyond all the flash & facade of Cinderella’s castle is hidden the stuff of real life dreams tucked into the core of every Disney Princess’ heart . every woman’s heart . the epic love story. Now I see the light! I am living it right now! Aren’t you? So here’s the text message I sent the other day. May it be a bit of encouragement for you, as it was to my own heart & dear friend …until I develop the rest of this speaking topic which I think may be a work of art, my masterpiece. Until then, I am off to watch Tangled, again tonight, with my daughter & a notebook.

TEXT MESSAGE

Hi! I didn’t say in our convo, but took it to prayer while walking pup, that I started getting the phrase, “she has become bitter as wormwood”, within my promise. So on the walk I asked for clarity and here’s how I believe it is meant to be understood: in the fairy tale “formula”, usually the Prince is blinded to the truth because he is happily doing his own thing, and the Villainness cleverly disguises herself in a way that pleases him-for her own selfish desires. She sees the truth, and envies it so much, she has the Princess locked away/hidden, so that she can pursue “the dream” for herself. Her bitterness is such that she is enraged by others finding the truth/True Love, and spends all her energies on stopping their joy and fulfillment. Meanwhile, the Princess finds contentment and joy IN her captivity, and is attended by humble creatures, and even visited by angels to help protect & provide for her. She remains full of love & grace as she waits. Along the way, a treasured space of time is carved out for the Prince & Princess to meet and realize “the dream”/the truth/True Love!! But they are separated again, trying to get back to one another.  The Princess is stretched to become strong & wise to overcome the force of EviI, with the training help of her gifted small group of friends. In the turning point, the once foolish & carefree Prince, now with “SPIRIT SIGHT”, sees who/what the Villainness really is and a battle ensues. He is strong & determined to overcome the forces of evil until he is finally be united with his Princess..happily ever after! I believe we are to pray for our Princes’ “SPIRIT SIGHT” to clearly see the truth!!!
Sent from my iPhone

“Delight yourself in The Lord & He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

I AM reBORN | January’s Theme

I AM reBORN | January's Theme
I AM reBORN | January’s Theme

Happy New Year | Happy New You!
January’s Theme is I AM reBORN

Are you ready to BE TRANSFORMED?
“I AM Powered” is designed as a devotional with 12 themes, 1 for each month of the year. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind as you daily meditate on the words of The Great I AM

PRAYER | Since there is no way for me to work and repay any of my sins, I REPENT & RECEIVE your gift of forgiveness through Jesus’ death & resurrection on my behalf. I RENOUNCE my former, selfish ways & ask for your Holy Spirit to come into my heart & RECLAIM my whole life! In Jesus’ powerful & precious name, I reCOMMIT my life to you. Thank you.  Amen

If you have just prayed this Salvation Prayer, Congratulations! Hallelujah! The angels are rejoicing in heaven & we would like to share in your celebration, too!

Contact Maryann at maryanndesigns121@gmail.com

I am Thankful for Art & People

“The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right name.” Proverbs

"call things" detail from "Whispering", 2007-8 by Jaume Plensa. art installation at The Cleveland Clinic
“call things” detail from “Whispering”, 2007-8 by Jaume Plensa. art installation at The Cleveland Clinic

Could the recalcitrant, college-bound teen, teetering the tightrope of doling respect for & desiring respite from her mother, have possibly prophesied her path? Each incoming freshman was invited to select only 2 things that best represented his/herself to the incoming class of peers.

Katy Koran, Art in the Afternoon. The Cleveland Clinic
Katy Koran, Art in the Afternoon. The Cleveland Clinic

Art & People | the 2 necessary entities required for an Art in The Afternoon discussion at The Cleveland Clinic‘s Wellness Institute. I am thankful for the opportunity to volunteer in this Arts & Medicine program designed for Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers. As an Art History major, all those years ago, I was passionate about the people behind the paintings. Now, with each group that tours the world class contemporary art collection, I am compassionate for the people before the paintings. In those brief lucid moments, memory loss patients recall a lifetime of adventures in dazzling detail. Each story is a precious pearl, hidden within the shell of a person with Alzheimer’s. Alan* once serenaded me from his walker, “Maryann, Maryann in the moonlight…”, recounting a song his father used to sing. For the next hour & a half, every artwork, prints to photos to paintings, seemed to stir Alan’s treasured memories of skinny dipping off cliffs along the French coastline, war, & family. The few of us gathered there who would not forget Alan’s escapades within the blink of an eye, glimpsed at a rare pearl-the abundant life-joy itself.

The wayward teen, with all the detours & downturns since, has finally rediscovered her prophesied path. Art & People. I am Thankful.

"Whispering", by Jaume Plensa 2007-8. The Cleveland Clinic.
“Whispering”, by Jaume Plensa 2007-8. The Cleveland Clinic.

“In the poet, Francois Rabelais’ Gargantua and Pantagruel (1532-42), the protagonist Gargantua and his crew are on a ship at sea when they hear strange voices in the wind. Because the air is so cold, the words quickly become inaudible and congeal into icy letters, falling soundlessly onto the deck. In Whispering, Plensa translates this poetic fantasy into an artistic reality, creating a silent stream of cascading steel text. Not just a random sequence of letters, Plensa’s Whispering spells out quotations by a wide variety of historical and literary figures, including Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, and Martin Luther King, among others. Plensa writes, ‘Like doors, the curtains reveal and frame our experience in the environment. Language becomes the space of memory.'”

* Names are changed for the security & privacy of patients & their families.