Feb 26, 2017

The Creative Process

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. - Eccl. 3:11

Meditating this morning on the mysteries of the Creative Process, inspired by a colleague who wrote insightfully about nurturing his desire to "Listen".  It has been obvious to me that in his artistic work, he has been learning to "perceive" better and better, as it has beautiful impacted his artistic expression... 

I have been using that paradigm much lately when explaining "how the arts work" to people who are just beginning to notice their power, their allure, their ability to engage at the most visceral level:

- that we all "Perceive" things, but Artists are granted by God with that innate ability to see further, deeper, wider - its part of the prophetic nature of the arts... and true "listening" is part of the art of perceiving...

- and then of course there is the "Process" part of it - and that brings in all our filters, our experiences, the nuanced hues of our differing rainbows, all pointing back to the God of Restoration, but at the same time allowing us to put our own autographs on things as small "c" creators...

- and then "Production", that sometimes glorious, sometimes tortured process of giving birth to something that at once produces stretch-marks and relief, a product that comes from the convergence of those internal forces of perception and process, incarnating something that tells a story, invites a journey, confronts a stronghold, brings reconciliation - so many uses God has for the things He helps us procure... 

And that leaves me with the beauty of Philippians 1:6 converged with Ephesians 2:10.  Seems the Apostle Paul understood a bit about the Creative Process as well...



Aug 26, 2016

Light Into Darkness


The Bill Drake Band at Rackeresztur, Hungary

The Bill Drake Band has toured in many countries all over the world, and as such, we have been in a variety of circumstances – on a ship in Turkey, in a prison in the UK, playing on truck trailers in Azerbaijan, and setting up the drums on table tops in Serbia!  But rarely have we had the opportunity to do a concert in a Roman Catholic Church, and even be allowed to carefully move some of the more “valued” items on the platform, such as a statue of the Mother of Jesus, or a solid stone lectern used for the Scripture Readings. 

But the little Catholic Church in Rackeresztur (pronounced: ‘rats-care-est-tour’ whilst rolling all the “R’s”!) Hungary, not only allowed us to do so, but welcomed us with open arms to bring the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the men of the local drug rehab center and their extended families. 

We arrived at the rehab center for lunch, and were treated to a great Hungarian meal.  Marcel, one of our translators, noticed a young man looking extremely dejected, as he was apparently being enrolled in the drug rehab center.  Hovering nearby, his mother was extremely distraught, while his father, obviously distancing himself from what was an embarrassing and disappointing situation, was trying to stay detached.  The mother was trying to get her son to go to his father, but neither man was willing to bridge the gaping chasm that was separating them. 

Later, after setting up, respectfully moving certain religious paraphernalia, and sound-checking in the difficult space, we started the concert to a hall nearly filled to capacity.  After the first three songs, I usually share my testimony, and this time was no different, emphasizing the part where my dying mother prayed for me even though I cursed Jesus in her face.  I shared how I rejected God after her funeral, and went out and trashed my life. 

As I was sharing, many in the room began to tear up, and some began to weep.  That particular testimony ends with me sharing how Jesus Christ saved my life, and how I hope my mother can see her prayers have been answered.  I close with dedicating my next song, There’s a Place of Immeasurable Blessing, to all the mothers in the room who pray for their children, regardless of where they might be at with God in the moment.  It was obvious to all of us that the story and song had a deep impact on the audience.

At our next tour Devotions, my daughter Sharayah humbly shared that she had had a vision during that part of the concert.  She said through great emotion, that as we sang the lyrics,

There’s a place of immeasurable blessing
There’s a song that cannot be unsung
There is God Who inhabits our praises and sings over us

…it appeared to her as if the painted ceiling of the church opened toward the back of the sanctuary, and angels began descending into the church, and began processing up the aisle.  They were carrying torches, and bringing light into the areas and hearts in the room that were dark.  As the song finished, repeating the same opening lyrics, Sharayah felt as if God were impressing on her, “These messengers of mine are inhabiting My presence.”

Others in our Devotional time recalled that many responded to the Lord at the end as we impressed upon them the message of reconciliation from 2 Corinthians 5:17-21: 

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.


Marcel then shared the epilogue to his story:  During the invitation time to the concert, he noticed that the father of the troubled son had moved next to him in the pew, and had his arm around him.  Praise God for the ministry of reconciliation. 

Aug 5, 2016

The Arms of Jesus

By William Trimper & Sarah Liu

 

Bill Drake Band at the Rakospalota, "Youth Women's Prison"

 

This was the second time we have presented a Bill Drake Band Concert at this facility. Both events felt dark, lonely and heartbreaking and we prayed hard for God to reach out to them thru Bill Drake's ministry in music and words.

 

Just before the inmates arrived, a leader of the prison told us we could have some limited contact with the women, but no photo's were to be taken of their faces. After the concert was over, the women would immediately be taken out of the concert area. We also had restrictions as to the area we could walk around the campus. He also told us to sit in the back row and the next row in front of us would be where the more hardened women would be required to sit. One mother-killer was also going to be in that row!

 

After that row filled up, and all the other inmates were still waiting to come in, the women began to ask about the 8 year old Chinese boy who was with us, and what his name might be. "Sarah's son, Casson" we answered. When they all turned around to look at Casson, he began to hand Salvation Bracelets to each of these woman in the last row, bracelets with the colors: Black, Red, White, Blue, Green and Gold.  One woman happened to speak English and listened as we explained what each color represented for a person who trusts Jesus Christ for Salvation.  She promised that she would share what the colors meant with the inmates.

 

Bill Drake's testimony is used tremendously among any Prison Ministry and our team was praying for the Holy Spirit to speak softly to the hearts of these young women. 

 

Sure enough, one of the young women directly in front of Sarah Liu (dancer, media person and evangelism team member from CVCC), began to weep; softly at first, then harder and harder. Sarah has a mother's sensitivity, and felt the need to offer a tissue, then a soft voice, more tissues and then hugs, not to just one, but three, one on each side of the original woman had also broke down and was weeping.

 

Sarah recalls, "When I used my whole arm to hold the original girl, that girl started to kiss my arm many times and that caused me to tear up immediately. Then when as I wiped the tears off her face, the girl kissed my face, as I leaned into her.  Nearby, another girl didn't cry, but always was staring at me. I felt she was so hungry for love, so I held that girl also, as my heart was being broken for what was happening to them. I wish I had more arms to hold all the girls who were crying at that moment!"

 

Sarah softly asked them, "Did Bill's testimony about his mother touch you? " to the first

woman to cry. She said yes, then Sarah asked the second the same question, and she too said yes! Then Sarah asked the third and the terse response was, "NO! I don't have a Mother!" Sarah and others think she had just found the mother-killer…

 

Sarah made sure that every woman in that row had a "Hungarian Gospel Tract" in their hands as they were led away. How thrilling for us to have the privilege to pray for each of these women as they passed by us and back to their confinement areas. They were short prayers, but we know God heard every one of them. (Psalms 116)

 

Only God knows for sure how many girls came to Christ that day, and if the "Mother-Killer" will come to repentance and reconciliation. We are praying for that to happen!





Aug 4, 2016

You Just Found Him

By Bence Fonyad & Bill Drake

Bill Drake Band at Baracska Prison - Hungary

I would like to share a story with you from yesterday when we had a concert in Baracska, a male prison. This is another testimony of how Jesus is lining up encounters for us decades before we even show up. It also testifies to the reality and significance of Romans 12:1, which says to present our bodies as a living sacrifice. Basically showing up at a certain place at a certain time in this case regardless of opposing circumstances.

The inmates at Baracska responded very well to the Bill Drake Band concert.  At the end, when Bill gave the invitation, at least a third of men (around 30) raised their hands to indicate that they wanted to receive Christ; to surrender to "The Lamb" before every knee will have to bow to "The Lion".  It was an awesome sight to see these convicts being set free from spiritual chains in Jesus name!

Some inmates were chosen to stay behind to help us load the equipment and they started to talk to me. One of them was a gypsy man named Csaba (pronounced Chaba), and he just began to share his son's story with me:

His son had an accident about 20 years ago when he was almost four. He was playing outside and fell off of something, got hooked into a rope or something, and basically got hanged by his throat. He was taken to the hospital where they said he will most likely not make it, but even if he did, he will have severe brain damage. He spent the night on the ICU where his bed happened to be between the beds of two old ladies. One of ladies died during the night. 

In the morning the son woke up and was completely fine and wanted to have his favorite breakfast!  Later Csaba asked him what happened during the night, and how does he feel now?   The son shared that a guy with a shiny face in a white robe came to him in the night, stroked his face and told him he needs to go back because he's got nothing to do there yet.  As he was going back through some kind of a corridor he saw one of the ladies who had been in one of the beds next to him coming past him...

The father then said to me, "Three year old kids don't lie about things like this. They don't make up stories like this either.  Ever since then I have been looking for this man with a shiny face in a white robe, and I wanted to know who he is."

I then asked him, "Have you found Him yet?"  He said, "No".  I immediately replied that he actually had just found Him and His name is Jesus - the Savior that we all had just sang and talked about during the concert, and Whom so many just received when they put their hands up to indicate their surrender to Him.  I told Csaba that he can get to know this Jesus better from the Bible and through a personal relationship with Him. 

After this I prayed with Csaba, and asked Jesus to meet him, in the same way He did with his son. Csaba was saying he will try hard to meet Jesus, but then I told him, "No need to try hard, He will come to you so just expect Him to show up sometime soon."

Csaba shared proudly that his son is a successful young man today, who speaks 4 languages.

As we drove away from the Prison, I was reminded again that God meets us right where we are at, reveals to us what we need to know, and is always waiting to receive those who will humbly receive Him.  

 






Mar 23, 2016

Truth or Poison

You see my Father and I, we haven't really got on. Pretend it was all right, but both knew something was wrong. There was irritation, miscommunication, in desperate need of reconciliation. I didn't want to be around him and felt that it was mutual. Not wanted, not needed. Oh yeah. That's the usual.


The space between my ears, it's filled with thoughts and emotions. They're not always loving and they're not always true. There's thoughts that are poison, in instant reaction of dislike and judgement.

 

Love is a decision yeah, a choice and an action in the world out there, and the same laws of physics apply for the world in here. There's choices every moment for how I react. What I believe about myself, what I believe about my Dad, what I believe about our Dad. I've noticed so many attitudes in my head telling me lies, judgements about people and myself who I suddenly despise. 


When the bible says to take every word captive, I imagined a huge net of rainbows and of butterflies. But there's good and there's evil, there's light and there's dark. One of them is from God and the other certainly is not. The people around us, our peers and mentors, their attitudes and opinions have a massive influence. But the crux of the matter is what we choose in here. The battle is raging, whose side are we on? Whose advice are we listening to? Whose flag are we flying? Sure I can decide to love, but I need to decide to listen. To actively pick up every thought that flits inside my mind, to question, is it agape? Is it from God? Or is it a lie? Am I focusing on poison, giving it the power to destroy me from the inside?

 

Do I now need to fear? Am I destroying myself? In the midst of the fight I've forgotten the punch line: God isn't simply a figure on my bookshelf. He's alive, he's here, in both of my realities. I don't need to sit there alone, sifting the bullets from the beauty, but simply need to ask for his perspective, to view the way that he sees. To choose truth, not poison; life, not distortion. Not just a good idea but to be actively lived out. Not a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind. THAT is the influence that I choose to let surround. 


- "Truth or Poison" - a Spoken Word piece from an Incarnate 2016 Student

Mar 1, 2016

Unity & Diversity (Trinity)

Dear Friends - I wanted to share with you this work done by three of our students at Incarnate, as a sample of what they wrestled with, concerning the implications on humanity of being made in the image of our Trinitarian God.  It was a remarkable effort on a number of levels, and while not being perfect, I couldn't help but share it with you as an example of the kind of interaction we are having here.  Please enjoy!



The example of a prism: One source of light (God) gives rise to many expressions of colour for a reason.

This assignment was written by H., E., and D. Each of us chose to answer one section of the question. D. has commented on whether we agree or disagree with the reaction in the essay (Bill Drake wrote on "The Myth of Biological Race" by Eloise Meneses).  E. has commented on what she has learnt from this essay that she didn't know before. H. has commented on how the ideas in the essay intersect with the teaching on the Trinity.


D:

I agree with the conclusion of the essay by Bill Drake, which is written in response to the essay by Eloise Hiebert Meneses. Drake's conclusion to his essay reminds me of a personal experience I had while serving in Missions. I met an older lady in Talamanca, Costa Rica. She was illiterate. Nevertheless, she found the Bible in audio tapes and she memorized the whole Bible. What I learned from this experience is that there are no limits when we desire God with our whole heart. She didn't have anything and at the same time she had it all. Each culture, tribe, and tongue have their own essence. It's impossible to think that we cannot learn from one another just because we are different. Even though, we are from different cultures and we have different personalities and knowledge of the world around us, we should feel proud and thankful of the way God made us. Each different country and culture that we are from is individually important. They all matter equally.  


E:

What stuck out to me was that race and ethnicity are different things. I learnt that the answer to solve racism isn't to simply merge everyone together and so become 'equal' in that way, but to look at it from a different perspective. Genesis 1:27 tells us we're all created in his image, and 1 Corinthians 12 talks about how we're all parts of the body and none is more important than another; each part has something valuable to bring to the table. I realised that the 'us and them' mentality is an issue in (my country) and so I found it so interesting that God has created us in a way that is scientifically proven to not be separate races. Ethnicity and culture is not here to separate us or to give levels of importance to people groups but to bring us together, not as racial groups somehow making it work, but as God's people celebrating the beautiful differences he's given us. 


H:

Somewhere along the line, a group of people (Caucasians), driven by a healthy desire for exploration (being inquisitive is normal and good) and spices (desiring that which tastes good is positive)[1], made a decision that their difference in skin colour, their race so-to-speak, meant that they were not only different in some manner, but that they may be superior. The sin of the illusion of superiority overran a positive desire to explore other parts of the world (ie- diversity). The illusion of superiority resulted in colonisation, and later on, it resulted in the South African apartheid. We still suffer the consequences of the decision that was made, somewhere along the line, that one group of people was 'better' than another. The South African economic structure, employment opportunities, and education/ literacy discrepancies are still testament to the wrong thinking that crept into one, or perhaps many mens' hearts centuries before.


Drake's essay, which responds to Meneses' essay, makes it clear that we as human beings are one body of people made in God's image. I am not a scientist but am aware that genetics have made it such that many skin colours, body shapes and types have been brought into the world through genetic mutation. Due to us all being One in the body of Christ, this would mean that God would need to have created all of these facets in people. He created male and female (Genesis 1:27. So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them). God also created the potential in people as different and diverse in terms of culture and place of origin. 


With reference to the Jewish people group and the Gentiles (non-Jews), one people group had power over another due to the political setting of the time Nehemiah 5:8 "As far as possible, we have bought back our fellow Jews who were sold to the Gentiles. Now you are selling your own people, only for them to be sold back to us!" They kept quiet, because they could find nothing to say. These two cultures were different, yet one had power over another at the time. Later on in history, the Jewish population suffered under the rule of the German government and many Jews lost their lives during the Holocaust. This is another example of how diversity is seen as negative, as opposed to positive. Preserving one race or ethnicity unfortunately became more important than celebrating differences.


Due to God being tripartite, having three roles, but being fully One, we as His followers, no matter what so called 'race' or 'ethnicity' we are, need to imitate diversity (many roles and different types of people) as well as unity (the trinity functions in complete unison). Acts 10:38 …"God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him. What I take from the above scripture is that The Father needed Jesus to show His (God's) love to the world. Jesus needed The Father because this is where he (Jesus) took his power and authority from, as well as directions. Jesus needed God's Spirit as this is what physically and spiritually gave him the power to carry out His Father's commands. The Father never gave Jesus a direction that He (God) didn't provide for. The Father, Jesus and the Spirit work in unison.


If I examine scripture, I am aware that my thinking has also been wrong. I am fully aware of the fact that one people group is not better than another, this is settled. As D. has said: We "all matter equally". But my thinking is incorrect in that I have accepted that history is just how it is. What has been missing from my thinking is this: There is no fear in love and God (the trinity) IS LOVE.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18 NIV.

It is truly possible that one people group could have arrived on the shores by ship to the home of another people group many years ago without difference getting in the way of celebrating diversity. Perhaps if the fear of losing what one has to the pale strangers that just arrived was not present, then it may have worked. Perhaps if both people groups decided to love their differences and share their skills, and resources, they may have come to a better outcome. If love replaced fear and wrong exertion of power, then the outcome would have been more Christlike. History cannot be un-done, however, it can be examined with right-thinking and hope.

I return to the image of the prism- if we acknowledge that there is one source of light (UNITY), then it is easier to understand the equal importance of each colour and expression (DIVERSITY) which comes forth from it.

 



[1] The need for a stop-over station on the sea journey from the Netherlands to India, in the quest for spice, as part of the Spice Trade; was the inception of the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. The DEIC (Dutch East India Company) settled in the Cape and Caucasian people inhabited the same spaces as Khoisan and black people (Negroes as it was termed) who were already living there.  




Feb 26, 2016

Culture Shock

...and then the angry man punched the Bus Driver in the face...

You know, there is only one thing in life that we can control - only one.  And when things don't go the way we like, we still have control of that one thing.  And this became so apparent last Saturday as we prepared to take Incarnate 2016 into Rome for the day.

Dileep did his job right, booking 34 bus tickets on the "Express/Roma" bus line, which was to pick all of us up at the end of a lonely off-ramp called "Colledara", just outside of Isola del gran Sasso where we are running Incarnate.  And some of us got up quite early that morning, to wait for the second round of vans to transport us the 4.5 kilometers from our School to the stop.

Then the bus pulled up, and 34 of us tried to get on.  Whoops - there were already too many people on the bus!  It seems the driver and his helper had already allowed too many people on who had NOT booked their tickets online or ahead of time, on this bus - after all, this is rural Italia - and the result was chaos.  The poor bus driver kept coming on the bus's little PA system, asking the Italians on board different things (we found out later that it was "scrunch up", or, "Maybe get off if you got on without a ticket", and the final straw for one angry man, "please take all your children off the seats, and put them on your lap now".  We all started to pray.

Dileep and I realized after 10 minutes of going no-where, that the situation was deteriorating - you could feel the tension rising in the bus.  More prayer, and then a determination - Teri and I stood up, and asked for 6 Incarnate Students to volunteer to get off with us, not knowing if we'd get to Rome that day, but it was obvious that the bus wouldn't leave with people standing in the aisles.  

6 wonderful souls got off the bus with Teri and I. The bus doors were just closing when there was suddenly screaming coming from inside.  It seems one of the Italians on board had had enough with the chaos, and so brought some of his own to play - by slugging the bus driver in the side of the face, after reaching between two of our students to do so!!!  

The screaming came from the Bus driver's wife and child, who were sitting in front along with some other concerned passengers, who grabbed the man and pulled him back!  The Carabinieri (Police) were called, and the drama continued.  When it was all finished, the man was fined, the bus left 8 of us there on the side of the road, with four empty seats we found out later!

One of those who got off with us was a lovely Italian from the Center that is hosting us, who has befriended us, and was coming into Rome with us that day.  She called the Center's leader, and he in turn called the Express/Roma company to tell them that what was happening was entirely out of order, and to get a vehicle and someone up there to take us to Rome straight-away.  Low and behold, a van appeared within 10 minutes, and the driver went so fast down the motorway, we overtook the bus and got to Rome 5 minutes ahead of the bus!!!

We had an awesome day in Rome after all.  But came away with some great lessons from the experience earlier that morning.  At the end of the day, none of us can control our circumstances, but we can control our response - our attitude towards them.  And the lesson I took from that experience once again, is that no matter what happens, look to God.  He is the one who is in charge of our plans.  He is the one in charge of our timetables.  And of course He is the one Who holds our lives.  Friends, never let your circumstances dictate your attitude - let that rather be the Holy Spirit Who reigns within our hearts.