Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Digital Masterpiece

In February I became extremely ill and laid up on the couch for weeks. During that time I discovered a number of things that my hustle and bustle life wold not have afforded me had I not fallen ill. One of the delights God led me to discover was an art app on my iPad that allowed me to create these beautiful pictures and then "touch them up" in Photoshop Express.
Wild Beauty | Digital Print (c) 2013 Michelle Bentham, All Rights Reserved. 
 This first one is particularly fun! I love the wispy wildness of the daisies and the vibrant colors. It speaks of life, joy and promise to me.

Calming the Storm | (c) 2013 Michelle Bentham, All Rights Reserved. 

I love the volatile swirling that speaks of energy and power, but the light makes me think of peace. It reminds me of how the disciples were out on the water with Jesus. While Jesus slept a storm arose and the disciples grew afraid. But, Jesus, upon awaking to the storm simply spoke to the waters and peace came upon them all. He said He left His peace with us, a peace that passes all understanding. 

Waters Dance | (C) 2013 Michelle Bentham, All Rights Reserved. 
And after the storm... The waters dance. Bringing hope and light, rainbows and life. This digital image and Calming the Storm come from the same digital artwork that I created. Through editing the same pictures speaks different messages of life and hope.

Enjoy! And don't underestimate the power of God to create discovery and refreshing in the most unlikely circumstances.

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Monday, April 8, 2013

Her Name Is Wildflower | Paper Doll Series

Her Name is Wildflower | Mixed Media on 16x20 Canvas | Price: $200.00
(c) 2013 Michelle Bentham, All Rights Reserved.
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Wildflower is close to my heart. 

You see this is who God says I am. 

I love flowers. 

Several years ago when we first transitioned to the large, non-denominational and charismatic church we've attended since 2007 I began to receive prophetic words about flowers and really vegetation in variety. But three significant occasions stand out to me. 

The first happened to be at the conclusion of the very first Pink Impact conference I had ever attended. At the end of the last session I went forward to receive pray over paralyzing fears that consumed my life. The sweet woman who prayed for me said she saw a beautiful field of flowers when she looks at me. This would be the night I received my prayer language and a very specific instruction: "When you feel afraid, pray in your prayer language - the enemy cannot understand what you are praying, but God does. It doesn't give the enemy anything to use against you to pray for what you fear in your prayer language." 

Two years later my husband and I went to receive leadership presbytery. This is a special time when presbyters (or leaders trained and operating in the gift of prophecy) pray for candidates and then speak words of edification, comfort and encouragement to members who serve in leadership in the church. Scott received what I considered to be a powerful word. I, on the other hand, received words like "You are a treasure, spiritual decorator, worshipper, dancer and a wildflower." Which, to me did not seem as exciting as the words my husband had received. I received the words with one question in my heart - What on earth does all that mean?  

And when I came on staff at that same church the same year I received my presbytery, I received a word from a pastor. He shared that he did not usually receive pictures, but he did when he saw me. He said, "I saw a flower with roots that go deep. But, the Lord is going to prune you, He's going to cut you back, so you can grow. But, its not gonna' hurt."

Fast forward to last year when I was on the prayer team at Pink Impact, I found myself drawing our friend, Wildflower. During that same season I began to research the meaning of wildflowers in Scripture. In the Message paraphrase, the term "lilies of the field" translates to wildflowers.

Two Scriptures stood out to me. Song of Songs 1:14 "My beloved is a bouquet of wildflowers picked just for me." Along with Psalm 30:11 "You did it!. You changed my wild lament into whirling dancing. You ripped off my mourning bands and decked me in wildfowers."

The beautiful message of the wildflowers penetrated my heart and I received, finally, the truth about this message from God's heart to my own. He showed me that wildflowers are unique and precious. They grow in a variety of environments, soils and conditions. They can grow in hot arid climates or humid moist climates... They even grow out of rocks. HMMM! A Flower that grows out of a Rock. Love that. Wildflowers can be placed in a vase and set on the house to benefit a few or they can be displayed on a hill for all to see. A wildflower may also be hidden away for the pleasure of God alone. Some wildflowers may be eater as food and some are the forerunner for delicious fruit. Wildflowers are unique, beautiful, productive elements of creation and I AM A WILDFLOWER.

I pray the message of the Wildflower blesses you the way it blesses me.

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Sunday, April 7, 2013

Prophetic Chic | Bringing the PINK!

A Beautiful Expression of God's Prophetic Word
over the life of someone who inspires me.
 +Sandi Krakowski 
This past week I created this expression of God's love as a gift for someone I'd never met before. Sandi Krakowski is pretty awesome as I learned yesterday! Thanks to my friend, Angie Leigh,  I was able to attend her #saturdaywithsandi event in Dallas. 

Angie suggested I make a gift for Sandi and give it to her at the event. I think about these types of things but rarely act upon them. This time I followed through. As the week to attend approached I began to pray for Sandi and the event. 

I guess it shouldn't surprise me anymore, but it always catches me fresh and new when God inspires me to create by talking to me about who the creation is for - even if I don't have their name or have never met them before. I have often heard people ministering in the prophetic say that they "see after people in the Spirit." I understand, at a deep level what this means. You can see depth, value and maturity in people you've never met before when you pray for them and ask God's Holy Spirit to give you revelation in order to encourage and build them up. 

This project involves creating a decoupage effect on the canvases by cutting strips of tissue paper I purchased in the scrap booking section of Hobby Lobby.

I also used a zebra striped tissue paper from the gift wrapping section, a chipboard crown and letter as well as jewel embellishments and clips to complete the look. On the crown I used the music note paper and pieces of torn sketch paper applied using painting medium as my adherent. All the while I pray and listen for God's heart to be expressed. I sponge paint the color on the canvases and chipboard pieces with very wet acrylic paints, and then add the embellishments. 

The Scripture comes to me while I am working on the crown. All I have is "She's a jewel in His crown." So I  use Google search looking for the Scripture related to that phrase.  After a few seconds of pinwheel work, Google displays Zechariah 9:16. I read it in several versions before settling on the second half of the verse in the New King James Version

I script it out a couple of times with a ruler by hand and then make the ink bolder. I read it serveral times... Did I say that? Yes, I think I did. 

Here is the way it appears on the artwork. "For they shall be like the Jewels of a Crown, lifted like a banner above His head." Zechariah 9:16

Before too long, I begin to select the little art cards fixed to the canvas at the bottom of the page. Each card has a Scripture related (from left to right): 2 Corinthians 3:2-3 You are a love letter; Ephesians 1:3-6 Identity in Christ; Proverbs 13:12 A Dream Fulfilled; Jeremiah 30:2 Write it down; Isaiah 6:8 Send me. 

I sit back and feel like I've spent most of my life knowing this woman as I type out a letter to accompany the prophetic word of affirmation represented in the art. 

I didn't understand what the word would mean to her, but to me it felt deeply personal. When she walks out on the stage during worship you can tell she is a worshipper at heart which is what God told me about the music notes. But, what would blow me away... She walks over picks up a microphone and shares her testimony about how she had been a worship leader and singer, but an illness had robber her of that ability at one point. That day, yesterday, she opened her mouth and her heart as a forerunner for those who needed to be encouraged to run after something they felt had been taken from them. 

As she begins to sing I remember the crown and sit down and write to her that I had heard she was a worshipper and that is why I included the worship notes. 

AMEN. Hallelujah. I love it when what I believe is God's inspiration is so affirmed. 

Is God speaking a Prophetic Word over your life in this season? Would you like to order a prophetic piece of artwork to represent the promise and legacy of that word? Email me: michelle@michellebenthamcreates.org

Prices vary based on the embellishments and size. If you would like to host a group event where you and friends gather together to produce a similar work of art based on God's promises to you in this season email me as well.

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Friday, January 11, 2013

A Journey of Faith | Timing and the Lord's Provision

"The Lord's Provision" Original Mixed Media/Acrylic on Canvas size 30x40. 
Scripture Philippians 4:19

I completed this painting as we prepared our hearts for Thanksgiving this year. Painting took a back seat this year to leaving a full time job in vocational ministry at a church and launching a new online radio program. In many ways my journey with the Lord's Provision mirrors the growth in my faith in Jehovah Jireh, my Lord who sees to my every need.

Still, this story begins before the first pencil stroke pressed itself out on a page. My husband and I have spent years struggling financially, starting out behind the 8-ball so to speak. When we met in 1997 we had five children ranging from three to nine years in age. Two oldest boys, two youngest girls and my middle child, also a girl in the middle of the alphas and the babies. 

Having a long history of legally financial issues, I worked hard to make our extremely inadequate budget work with a child support payment, house payment and the many other requirements that come with raising a blended family with five children. 

I worked off and on throughout the years as our kids grew up, and for some reason we always seemed to manage with a little help from our parents and God, Himself. We walked our way through a bankruptcy filing, "robbing Peter to pay Paul," and many other sorts of Creative Financing. Even taking a turn through Financial Peace University. 

God rocked our boat a bit in 2007 when He moved our hearts to leave my part time job and our secure place in a small rural church for something unknown in a larger environment. Scott and I began to explore what leaving would look like and felt strongly called to a growing young body in Southlake, Texas. You may have heard of it as it has gone from around 10,000 members to just under 20,000 in the last five years. It is a fast growing, visionary church that values people and God's ability to transform and use any life. 

I began to check out things online including a page on the website called "Job Opportunities." I even applied for a position and eventually interviewed. Scott and I made our decision in the interim. We would move our membership to Gateway. I remember the Saturday before our final weekend of transition. We returned home from our Saturday evening Gateway service to prepare for the Sunday morning service at our previous church. I opened the mailbox and removed a letter in a Gateway envelope. 

I walked quietly into the house and retreated to our master bath where I hastily ripped open the envelope and read the nicest rejection letter one could ever hope to receive. "We regret to inform you that we offered the position to someone better suited for its responsibilities." In other words, we did not think you were a right fit for this position. 

Panic gripped my heart as I considered what they could have learned, what about my life story (and there is a pile of it) had come up that would disqualify me. I reread the letter and peace covered me as I realized the meaning of the words. You are not the person for THAT position. 

I presented the letter to my husband who made his way to napping on the couch. He read it slowly as I sat on the arm of the sofa and waited. He looked to me and I noticed a hesitation in his eyes. "I-I'm sorry?' 

"More than that, what should we do now? Do we go back to our old church or do we continue to move forward? I mean this really changes things." 

He nodded and pulled his chin to his chest. I observed the mannerisms of my husband when in reflective consideration only a handful of times. This time I knew he was weighing the matter carefully. He smiled and spoke a single word of release. "Forward." 

We set about making plans for the transition since I would not have the income we had come to rely on for our monthly budget. Our choices: sell one vehicle, move to a smaller house where the rent payment would be less expensive and required us to clean the house so it would be inhabitable, and tighten the belt. May I add, Scott did not take the first two items on our list as well as I did, and I on the other hand did not fair so well at the last one. I never have been good at asking "Mr. Budget" or even considering much beyond the immediate need or desire. 

Life would change significantly over the next two years. It also meant giving up our dream of buying the home we had come to love in the year we had lived there. Certain of God's call we moved forward and made the painful cuts. 

We landed at Gateway and Scott began to blend into the background and learn to breathe in a church environment. Something I had not really given him the chance to do in our previous leadership roles. I volunteered "us" many times without asking him. I immediately signed up to lead a small group. It was in my wheel-house and the leadership of the church called for it from the pulpit each week that August. 

No one came to my group - I only received one call inquiring about it and she indicated the time and day were not convenient for her. I signed up for a couple of groups, engaged the inner healing ministry and inquired of the Lord. "What should I do now?" 

Habakkuk 2:2-3 came to me immediately, write the vision and make it plain. 

So I started a blog, joined a readers and writers group at church and dove into what I felt the Lord wanted me to do. I wrote my heart out for nearly two years. I recovered from grief over the death of my son. I even weathered a particularly difficult season working through some marital issues that threatened to dissolve our union, if you know what I mean.

In July 2008 our financial struggles were weighing on me. My husband seemed distant and unhappy and I felt like I scrambled every payday just to make ends meet. I lay in bed one morning running the financial calculator of my mind and I arrived at a number. Five figures danced in my head like a taunting bully threatening to undo me on a whim. I began to pray aloud. "Lord, I need a job. Any job. I need $XX,XXX today. I can't wait. I'm going out to find it."

As soon as that last sentence came out of my mouth the Holy Spirit began to massage my heart and I heard my Daddy God whisper ever so quietly in my mind. "You have not asked Me about that yet." 

In my dramatic, oldest child-rebel fashion I rolled my eyes and gave God the heavy sigh. "Okay! I'm asking..." 


The silence not only confused me, it also made me question what to do next. I had no peace about moving forward looking for a job so I resolved to wait until I heard the Lord say move. Over the next few months I would see God move in miraculous ways to help us recover in finances and He threw in saving my marriage while He was at it.  

Spring 2009 I began to regularly volunteer in the office for Freedom Ministries at Gateway Church. I had gotten to know the oversight pastor for Freedom Groups well by leading a "Freedom Group." It only seemed natural to come into the office on a regular basis and help out with the routine responsibilities that needed to be done. I got to know other staff members and within a few weeks both the administrative assistant and pastor I served began to ask me questions that suggested they might want to offer me a job. I didn't know if they would so I prayed. I hoped. And, I kept it to myself. 

By the first of June I was asked if I would like to apply for the position of administration assistant to the pastor I had been serving under in Freedom Ministries. I asked them if I could talk to my husband and pray about it. And within a few days I knew I would get the job. I emailed the assistant: I would like to be considered for your position.

In the midst of this glorious news we found out our landlord wanted to buy us out of our lease and they were willing to take us to court to break the lease. In the midst of this great opportunity we found ourselves homeless. We moved in with family for a few weeks while we found a new home, and decided to enter the home buying market. We found a house that we thought would do, and leased it with the intention of buying it within a year. Our solution to a homeless problem, but I had already realized there might be major structural problems with this home. I would later also recognize that God indeed had other plans for our housing problem. I did not have a clue at the time, but He had them just the same. 

After three interviews I received the job offer by email. The position being vacated had been held by an employee who had been on staff for five years. The salary available was higher than what had been indicated when I spoke to human resources about the details of the position. The offer was exactly the figure I had told God I needed in a yearly salary REMEMBER: $XX,XXX PLUS a TITHE. I wept at the revelation. I began work at Gateway Church July 19, 2009. Almost one year from the day I had told God I needed a job and two years from the date we transitioned from our old church to Gateway. 

The Lord shall supply liberally and abundantly, beyond your wildest dreams or imagination, all your needs according to His glorious and abundant riches in His Son, Christ Jesus. AMEN. (My paraphrase of Philippians 4:19 AMP)

To be continued... 

This post originally appeared on A Martha Heart in December, 2012. 

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