Monthly Archives: March 2015

Kaleidoscope: the Crucifixion as viewed by Simon of Cyrene: by Jonathan Jackson

We asked a myriad of voices to engage the crucifixion as if they were one of the characters present and write from that perspective. We gathered last week for an amazing collective of perspectives that ranged from a diverse, colorful eclectic group of people gazing at the cross. We will post each character and their angle as we approach Easter. Enjoy!

 

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My name is Simon, and I’m from a town to the far West from Jerusalem called Cyrene. Here is my account of what happened on Passover, the year the veil was split in two.

I had arrived in Jerusalem just hours before the crowds assembled outside of Pilot’s court. I asked around, and found out that the one I had been hearing of for some time, this “Jesus of Nazareth” was being held accountable for claiming to be the Messiah. I was annoyed, and even a bit upset, because I had traveled some 900 miles over the period of an entire month, battling through storms, and potentially getting robbed or murdered by thieves to celebrate passover! I did not appreciate the distraction of this trial on such a day as this!

It was difficult to make my way through the city to get the things I needed to get for the meal. I was exhausted from my long journey, and eager to enjoy this sacred time with my relatives that I was staying with. Needless to say, things escalated, and I could hear the crowd yelling and saying something in unison. I wasn’t close enough to understand the words, but I could hear anger and excitement in their tones.

Some hours later, while I was a good distance away from Pilot’s court, I was talking with my cousins about my journey from my home to Jerusalem, when we suddenly heard yelling. People all around started scrambling to the road to try and see what was happening. Everyone began lining the streets, and I could see down the hill that there was a large group of people traveling up the road towards us. I could make out lots of Roman soldiers, and many Pharisees. There were also lots of others people following, both citizens of Jerusalem, and others who had traveled like me to come and observe Passover.

I had thought I was far enough away to separate myself from this whole ordeal, but I was very wrong. I quickly realized what was happening, and I was both incredibly angry and very curious. Angry that I was right in the way of where this party was heading, and curious to see who this Jesus was. This man was the talk of the town, when it should have been Passover!

I headed up to the side of the road, and pushed my way to the front, so I could get a good look at the man who was the cause of all this commotion. The Roman soldiers were a wall around him, and there were Pharisees in front and behind the group. As they approached, I jumped up to see this Jesus, but the old man in front of me lost his balance as I landed on him when I came down. A Roman guard shoved the old man out of the way when he stumbled into the road, and the next thing I knew I had been grabbed by that same soldier and thrown into the inside of the circle they created around this Jesus!

I was scared and angry, but I forgot about all that for a brief moment when I saw Him. He had fallen onto his side trying to carry the cross that I was sure they were going to hang him on. His face was covered in sweat and dried blood from the wreath thorns that were jammed atop his head. There was so much dirt and blood all over his body that I couldn’t even tell where all of his wounds were. His cross was covered in blood and bits of skin from His back. I had heard that he had been given many lashes. I don’t know how long I was staring at Him, but I was stirred from my fixation on this mess of a man by that same guard who grabbed me. He was screaming at me to pick up this man’s cross, and to carry it for him. I didn’t even answer. My eyes kept darting from the guard to Him. All I could think of was His blood. It would make me unclean, and all of this journey, and time, and sacrifice for Passover would all be for nothing. Because I had not moved, the guard finally he struck my back with his shield, and I stumbled towards Him. The guard yelled that he would kill me if I didn’t pick it up right then.

In a panic, I took the last few steps over to this Jesus, and lifted the cross off of Him. I was trying very hard not to touch any of His blood, but it was everywhere. I even wadded up my cloak to try and use it as a shield between me and the blood, but there was just too much. When the blood touched me, I felt defeated, but I knew I had to keep walking up the hill. After a few minutes, I started to worry that I was going to be killed along with this man. I started to panic, and thought for a brief moment that I could escape, but I decided not to try.

When I finally reached the top of the hill, I fell over from sheer exhaustion. Some of the guards grabbed the cross from on top of me, and I was just left there struggling for breath. I realized then that I was safe, so I got up as fast as I could to flee back to my cousin’s home where I was staying. I don’t know why, but as I got up to leave, I turned back to look at the man who was to be crucified on the cross I had been carrying. He was staring right at me! I froze. There was something odd about Him. He didn’t look scared and defeated as I would have thought. He looked sad, but it seemed separate from His obvious pain.

Kaleidoscope: the Crucifixion as viewed by The Soldier: by Anna Joy Walker

We asked a myriad of voices to engage the crucifixion as if they were one of the characters present and write from that perspective. We gathered last week for an amazing collective of perspectives that ranged from a diverse, colorful eclectic group of people gazing at the cross. We will post each character and their angle as we approach Easter. Enjoy!

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HAIL KING OF THE JEWS!

O MAKE WAY FOR HIS MAJESTY!

See him in his crimson robe

Stained deeper by his own blood

Regal in his thorn crown and reed scepter

Behold him, Crowned with the futility of twisted humanity, holding the scepter of hollowed out, worthless authority

 

He’s standing there silent!  COWER, you Fool!

Under the weight of this, of this betrayal

Your own people leading you to slaughter

 

Son of a god, they say, god in skin they say

Well, we’ve rid you of your skin

You can come out now “god”!

 

Hercules would have fought his way out of this

What kind of son of a god are you?  Just standing there

Meek like a sheep, brought to be sheared, brought to be slaughtered.

 

We BOW to you O King of restraint and weakness!

 

I saw how they worshipped you, lauded you with fronds of palm just days ago.

I saw the way crowds swarmed you, children running ahead, women singing.

Hail!  King of Peace, riding on a donkey.

Fawning over you all frothy with rejoicing,

Now look at them, rabid for your blood!

Fickle fools fit for the fettered king.

 

And these are the “Chosen People”?

Why come to this dusty side road circus  Why here?  Why now?

Who would want to be King of a place like this?

Of a people like this?

 

I heard what you did to the Centurion’s servant from miles away, I heard whispers of the words you said.  Are you inheriting a kingdom now demigod?  Where is your god-father now? Let him deliver you!  Let him rend the heavens and come for you.

 

And yet, here you are ragged and bloody, not fit to be a King of anyone, except maybe the dead.

 

Who would follow a powerless god who allows himself to be killed

Power is given to the strong, Kingdoms to conquerors

You are a worm and not a man, the shame of a sheep-herding tribe of slaves.

 

Kaleidoscope: the Crucifixion as viewed by Pilate: by Ben Amundgaard

We asked a myriad of voices to engage the crucifixion as if they were one of the characters present and write from that perspective. We gathered last week for an amazing collective of perspectives that ranged from a diverse, colorful eclectic group of people gazing at the cross. We will post each character and their angle as we approach Easter. Enjoy!

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What is truth? That’s a great question. I don’t know. That man, Jesus of Nazareth, whom his own people seem intent on having killed, has brought up that question for me again.  It is easy for me to live day by day ignoring that question.  I have so much official work to do, so many distractions that fill my day, I don’t have time for questions of truth.  Frankly, I don’t like that question very much. But this man has forced the question on me.  Why? Why do I care? I do not even know this man … this Jesus.  Moreover, I don’t even know why he’s here.  I hadn’t really paid much attention to him as he wandered around Judea.  He seemed to have run ins with the religious leaders of the Jews but I can understand that. I actually quite liked his obstinacy, I honestly wish I had the same ability to see into their hearts and get at what’s really bugging them.

But now he’s done that same thing to me. He’s peered right into my soul and got at the thing that really bugs me. He made me face the question I have tried to avoid … what is truth? We Romans are very pragmatic.  Yes, we have our philosophers and our poets.  Yes, we enjoy some theatre, but our true strength is our might and our ability to keep some kind of peace throughout the empire.  If we spent all our time talking about truth we’d end up like the people we’ve conquered, who were too busy soul searching to put up much of a fight.

But he has pulled me out of that pragmatism and forced me, at least for the moment, to face the question of truth. 

He said, everyone who knows the truth listens to him.  So, either I can dismiss him by saying he is just wrong, a liar.  Or he is crazy, one of those messianic leaders who claim they are going to overthrow the Roman Empire (as if that were even conceivable).  Or … he is who he says he is. If he is wrong, or a liar, what can I say against him? What truth do I posit to contradict what he says? If he’s crazy … but he’s not crazy.  I’ve seen a lot of crazies who claim power (some of them succeed and become emperors …) but he doesn’t seem like that.  I mean, he just stood there, and looked at me.  Really looked at me.  And there was love in his eyes when he looked at me. So, he’s not crazy.  But … if he is who he says he is … what does that even mean? Who is he claiming to be? The Jews say he claims to be their king, but they reject that claim. When I asked him if he was a king he sort of affirmed it, saying that he was born to be a king.  But then he says that his kingdom is from another world.  What the hell does that even mean? Maybe he is crazy. But … there is that look … that love in his eye. It is a look that says he knows me, knows everything I’ve ever done, all the rape and murder I’ve allowed in the name of the Empire.  He knows all of that and still … he loves me. It’s that look that tells me that he can’t be crazy. If he’s not crazy and I cannot say he’s a liar … then I’m stuck back at my original question again, what is truth?

And then there is the other thing he said.  He claimed that my power, my authority, has been given me “from above.” What does that mean? Clearly my authority comes from Rome, from the Emperor.

Also, the Jews seem to have some authority over him. Is that authority given them from above?

This Jesus seems to assume that he has a close relationship to this authority “from above.” Maybe that is the “kingdom not of this world” he was talking about … Anyway, if he does have a relationship to the authority above, why would it or him or they give authority to the Jews who want to kill him and to the Romans who have the might to kill him? That makes no sense to me. He’s got to be crazy … right? But there is that look again. There is also his posture.  It was not defensive and yet it was grounded.  It was weak and yet it somehow made me nervous.  It put me on the defensive … me, a Roman who holds enough power to crush him without blinking.  And yet, he put me on the defensive.

And there is that question again, “what is truth?” It is that question, my inability to answer that question.  Actually it was my inability to accept the answer to that question, that led me to hand him over to be crucified. In my heart, I knew that he spoke the truth (I know it even now). I knew I should listen to him.  I knew that he was more than a man. At the same time, I knew he was different then the Roman gods, so hungry for power, so bloodthirsty, so devious, so capricious.  Was he a different god? A Jewish god? But the Jews say they have only one God.

I don’t even know what to do with those questions.  Nevertheless, deep down, I knew I should listen to him.  But if I listened to him, if I acknowledged that he was or had the truth, what would that mean for me? I know what it would mean … it would mean giving up everything I worked for. It would mean giving up my position and my power, my wealth and my property.  It would mean a rejection of the Roman way of life. It would mean a rejection of the Empire and an allegiance to a new kingdom and a king whose authority comes from another place.  In sum, it would mean giving up my life.  Not just metaphorically either.  Rome does not do well with rejection. I know what they do to those who don’t conform.  I would end up just like that man out there on that cross. I would end up just like he is, bloodied, bruised, broken, weak, exposed, pleading, crying. And yet, even now, I bet he has that look of love on his face.

Anyway, I can’t think about that.  I had to get rid of him, I did.  As long as he was around I would face that question of truth. And if I let that question get at me, I’d be forced to face consequences that I just could not handle.  No, it’s easier just to go back to my distractions, my official duties, my life as a Roman … a powerful Roman.  Once he’s dead (hopefully soon) I can put this behind me. I can forget that look, that face. He’ll be dead and buried and I can get back to the life that I’ve made. I won’t have to bother with truth.

 

Kaleidoscope Recap

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We often try experiments around here. I learned a long time ago that if you call  something an experiment, you are free to fail. And when you are free to fail, you allow yourself to risk. And when you allow yourself to risk, you allow yourself to trust upon God for bigger things than you yourself can muster. So we did another experiment.

With the great gift and new friendship with St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, they allowed us to come in and make ourselves at home in their beautiful sacred space. What we hoped would take place did. Our hope was that we would gather together, from all different stories, backgrounds, faith journeys and traditions, around our commonality, Him, who is Jesus.

We engaged in a collective of perspectives of those in our own community. It was very simply, just that. It was not a theatrical presentation, or entertainment, nor a sermon. We had an eclectic, colorful range of thoughts from that of a college aged woman to that of a priest to that of a baptist preacher to that of a husband and a wife and even a published author. They each have their own stories of suicide and cancer and abuse and stories with roads back to God, victories won and freedom found. Each one different. But we didn’t hear their stories, but we knew their stories were woven into their wonder at the cross. We asked a myriad of voices to contemplate the cross from the perspective of a character who was actually present at the crucifixion. People in our community presently reading their perspectives as if they were those present on that historical day and moment.

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The word Kaleidoscope is defined as: an instrument containing loose bits of colored material between two flat plates and two plane mirrors so placed that changes of position of the bits of material are reflected in an endless variety of patterns.

In the same way that you can look through a Kaleidoscope and turn it to see different colors and angles, centering around the cross and viewing it from many angles allowed those present to contemplate and reflect upon their own perspective of Christ on the cross, seeing Him with new eyes and fresh thought provoking each one of us.
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C.S. Lewis, in The Four Loves said: “God, who needs nothing, loves into existence wholly superfluous creatures in order that He may love and perfect them. He creates the universe, already foreseeing – or should we say “seeing”? there are no tenses in God – the buzzing cloud of flies about the cross, the flayed back pressed against the uneven stake, the nails driven through the mesial nerves, the repeated incipient suffocation as the body droops, the repeated torture of back and arms as it is time after time, for breath’s sake, hitched up. If I may dare the biological image, God is a “host” who deliberately creates His own parasites; causes us to be that we may exploit and “take advantage of” Him. Herein is love. This is the diagram of Love Himself, the inventor of all loves.”

Lewis when looking upon the cross found love.

The prophet Isaiah in chapter 53, says we find healing in Christ’s wounds inflicted upon the cross.

Thomas à Kempis said “In the Cross is salvation; in the Cross is life; in the Cross is protection against our enemies; in the Cross is infusion of heavenly sweetness; in the Cross is strength of mind; in the Cross is joy of spirit; in the Cross is excellence of virtue; in the Cross is perfection of holiness. There is no salvation of soul, nor hope of eternal life, save in the Cross.”

Kempis says over and over again “in the cross” describing what He finds.

There is so much to be found in the cross as you survey it. As you turn it’s cylinder and let light in, the colors reflect hope and freedom, love and redemption. Perhaps that is why Paul who collided with Jesus and was forever changed said in 1 Corinthians 2:2: For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

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Every one of these characters present at the crucifixion viewed a moment that changed and altered history forever, but not just history. This wounded collision had to have changed and altered them, personally. Each one of these people had religious affiliation or religious baggage. Each one had wounds and sin that had marred their lives and they saw, that brokenness, up, on that tree. Each one had hopes and dreams and hopelessness and plans astray. Each one had fears and worry and faith in something and doubt in another. Each one had to have watched the crucifixion and come away with a perspective that left them seeing God and self and man differently. This view they had must have changed their position or their angle, their bend or their posture, their understanding or their assurance. If there is one thing I know about the cross, it is that it forever beckons us into our own perspective of Him who lie there.

This was a beautiful, ecumenical, thought provoking experiment.

Follow along our blog everyday until Easter, to allow the light to come in and see the cross with new eyes….

 

White Picket Fence Syndrome by Cris Hageman

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I have known Cris for so many years! I love how she has allowed God to write a story though her pain! You will be moved by the strength and compassion that God has formed in her though trials and hardships. Her story will encourage yours as you find yourself trying to build your white pickets and for every one you put up, another falls down. – Willow 

WHITE-PICKET-FENCE-SYNDROME: A state of mind where a person blindly holds on to the idea of their perfect lifestyle, regardless of the inevitable life factors that make it impossible for it to be true.

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It made perfect sense to me growing up. Algebraic thought patterns applied to my reality. If A + B = C then….so if I loved God plus lived a “good” life, shouldn’t that equal a white-picket-fence life? Then life happened and it happened big time. Was it God’s plan for my life- these things that happened? I confess I may not be able to make any sense of it this side of heaven, but it is my reality and Jesus was there in the midst of the pain and sorrow. I can say with great assurance that as I reflect back over my life it is very obvious how my Heavenly Father prepared me. (Note to self and others: don’t ever tell God that you will do whatever He calls you to do if you are planning on an easy life!)

Romans 5:3-4 (Phillips translation):

This doesn’t mean, of course, that we have only a hope of future joys—we can be full of joy here and now even in our trials and troubles. Taken in the right spirit these very things will give us patient endurance; this in turn will develop a mature character, and a character of this sort produces a steady hope, a hope that will never disappoint us.

It was spring of 1984 and my husband had just been fired from his Music Pastor position. We were already having marital struggles and I had no idea what was going on. Then God gave me this Romans passage. Full of hope? Full of joy? Are you kidding me, God? I want those things but I don’t want trials and troubles. Yet there I was. Overwhelmed with fear. Confused about our marriage. Clueless as to what was coming. But the one thing I knew was that God gave me these verses and many others for a reason.

I begged God to reveal to me what was going on with my husband. I cried out to Him many times in the shower, and I mean I truly cried out. Then on the Saturday after Christmas 1984 my life was turned upside down. While crying in the shower, God told me that my husband was having affairs with men. What I believed was shaken. Dreams of a white-picket-fence life were now shattered by a storm that was ripping my fence out of the ground and tossing it around like a hurricane.

The Message version of the Romans scriptures say, “…continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles…” Hemmed in. No way out. I was there. Yet I was being told to shout my praise to the God Who inhabits, lives, dwells in the praises of His people. It works! The more I praise, the more I feel God, the more that I feel that there is some hope in the darkness of my dank prison.

If you grew up in the church you probably have heard that you should never, ever, under any circumstance pray for patience. Why you ask? Well, the only way to learn patience is by being in a situation that requires a lot of patience – which most of us are not born possessing. But The Message says troubles “can develop passionate patience in us.”

Passionate and Patience – not two words that should go together in my mind, but there it is. Passionate: expressing, showing, or marked by intense or strong feeling. Patience: the quality of being patient, as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like.

Okay, God, if this is to happen it will definitely take Divine intervention because I want to kill someone or at least slightly maim them. You are calling me to not just be patient but to be passionate about that patience? It happened almost immediately. God called me to stay faithful in this marriage. He wanted me to stay in the “house” even though my white-picket-fence had now been damaged seemingly beyond repair. Seriously God, have you seen me walk on water? I read the scripture in Psalms saying that You know our weaknesses and that we are but dust. Yet You are asking me to walk in the Divine. I can barely get my kids ready for school and get myself to work on time, never mind become a super saint.

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“Tempered steel of virtue” – yep, The Message translation throws that in there just in case you don’t already think that there is absolutely no way you will survive. I guess the word virtue is going to make me dismiss the “I want to kill or maim” mood I was in. But tempered steel – that I like! I’ve always been a strong female. Even as a little girl I was the anomaly of girls in that generation. When God lined girls up and gave them a quiet nature that never questioned anything, I apparently was in another line! As a child I questioned scripture in a pastor’s home….my poor, sweet, Mom! No wonder my Dad became what I call my “handler.” By 12 years old I had not only accepted Christ but promised Him I’d do whatever He called me to except go to Africa. I had read “Foxes Book of Martyrs” and sobbed as I told God I would be willing to stand up for Him no matter what the cost. Is this what it had come to? Was “this” going to be what made me a woman of tempered steel?

And last but not least from The Message we read, “keeping us alert for whatever God will do next – in alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged.” I do not like expectations. Lots of pressure in that word. Lots of opportunities for failure. But expectancy – makes me think of spring and watching with expectancy as the crocus and daffodils break through the soil even sometimes with snow on the ground. I could hardly wait for Easter because I love spring flowers. Hope after bleak desolation. A realization that weeping endures for a night but that joy comes in the morning. Hope. I love hope.

My husband died of AIDS related diseases in 1990. I was left to raise my two young teenagers. I can’t believe it’s been 30 years since God gave me the Romans 5 passage. As I confessed right off the bat, I sometimes dream of the white-picket-fence life. But the only guarantees we have as followers of Christ is that He will never leave us or abandon us. He has to be faithful to His Word because He cannot lie, He gives us beauty for ashes, strength for fear, gladness for mourning, and peace for despair. (“Beauty for Ashes” – Randy L. Scruggs and John W. Thompson)

While I hold no secret strategy other than relying on Jesus, I can stand with full confidence to say that God will see you through whatever trial you are going through. He is with you in the valley, in the darkest of secrets, in the pain of what has been done to you – He is there even when you don’t feel His presence. May the Lord open all of our eyes to see His holy presence; open our ears to hear His loving words of comfort and care. May He make us more like Jesus and give us the strength we need to glorify Him. May He hold you close to His heart in His tender arms of love and give you a hope that will not disappoint you! – Cris

Romans 5:3-5 (The Message)

We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!

 

Kaleidoscope: a collective of perspectives

ec·u·men·i·cal
ekyəˈmenək(ə)l/
adjective ; representing and relating to unity among the world’s Christian churches.

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I think what I am most excited about when I think about this gathering we have coming up is the ecumenical aspect. During this season of Lent, Christians all around the world are meditating on Jesus and his death and on Easter, His resurrection. They enter into prayers, devotions, feasts and traditions to engage in the deep meaning of this time in history to their faith. On Friday, we are gathering with people of faith from many different traditions to unite around the commonality of Christ on the cross.

This will be a collective of perspectives from people across the spectrum, from a young college girl who wrote a piece from the perspective of the one who brought before Jesus a sponge soaked in wine to a couple who wrote from the perspective of Jesus’ aunt and Pilate. A Baptist pastor will share his piece from the perspective of the unrepentant thief who died next to Christ and a priest will give a benediction. There will be rich ideas, story and thought from  myriad of voices. We will reflect in silence, by organ and in song. The beauty of the collective will be simple and yet astounding as we sit in our commonality, Him who draws us all together.

This is the kind of work I am honored to do and honored to be impacted by. –Willow

Power to Remain Recap

We had such an amazing Collide at Hillcrest Chapel!

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We centered around part of Jesus’ farewell speech in John 15 where He re-invites us to walk with Him just as He did in the garden before things go so very messy and broken.

Three artists on our Collide ministry team, Lindsey Kinery, Nia Sayers and Christine Gerhart, worked tirelessly for weeks beforehand painting these three giant canvases to resemble a beautiful garden. (Which by the way, we are selling and you can message us here if you are interested in having these beauties on your wall)  The morning of Collide started by being reminded of the garden the Lord made and invited Adam and Eve to walk and spend time with Him in. As we all the know, the story goes that things went a little haywire and Adam and Eve found themselves hiding, rather than remaining with God.

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As this part of the story was being told, the canvases were then covered in black and brown and slashed as if to show the destruction and pain of the distance we choose.

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All throughout this beautiful day, women shared stories of God re-inviting them to remain in Him when they had given up, when they had lost hope, when they had distanced themselves and as women shared, this painting slowly became a beautiful garden again.

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This was such a beautiful reminder to all of us that God renews what has been destroyed. God reinvites where there has been rejection. God replants where there has been pruning.

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Jesus says 11 times, the word “remain” in this passage. There clearly is something about you and about me that God so desires us to stay, be steadfast, not waver or give up and create distance. Of all the things Jesus could have said in His farewell speech, this was key. Remain. May we continue to walk with Him when all else pulls us away.

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It was a joy to gather with women with all different stories of hiding and running and pulling away and yet all different stories of God’s reinvitation and rewriting and redemption. There were so many things that took place from the messages to the “Restroom” drama to the worship to the amazing pull pork lunch to the dancers from Dancing for Joy to each individual conversation we got to have by intentionally setting aside a Saturday to convene with God.

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It is pure joy to gather together and be reminded and reinvited into God’s desire for us all!

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Ladies, mark your calendars and join us for our last Collide day of for women of this year! 

Learning to Love by Amy Brandt

Amy Brandt has been on our Collide team for a few years and her presence on this team has been so special as she brings her counseling background and her spiritual wisdom, but even more she truly desires to love those around her, to shine the light of Jesus and to see transformation take place in people’s lives. I think you will truly enjoy her humility and be able to say amen to her prayer as you make it your prayer as well! – Willow

“Love….true Love…. is what brings us…. together…. today…”

I have a dear friend getting married in a month. And today we spent over an hour talking about the wedding, her man, marriage and thanking God for His goodness. While she has waited longer than she would have wanted to marry, God has faithfully delivered a great man.

Talking with her has me thinking about and reflecting on Love, not to mention Valentine’s Day was a few weeks ago. I’m not sure about you, but the older I get the more convinced I am that I don’t know how to love. The older I get the more aware I am of my selfishness and my inability to love the way that I wish I could.

This very popular and perhaps over-quoted verse from 1 Corinthians is supposed to be our goal right? The Message translates it this way:

Love never gives up

I feel like giving up all the time. My patience is limited especially when my little one dumps the dog’s water on the hardwoods for the 15th time.

Love cares more for others than for self

I so wish this was true of me, but I really spend more time thinking about myself.

Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.

Oh Contentment….how elusive you are!

Love doesn’t strut,

Maybe I do okay at this one? But sometimes I get the balance between humility and self-loathing wrong.

Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,

I’m more of a glass half empty kind-of gal thank you very much! ☺

Never looks back,

This one is so hard. How do we not wish away the present, not avoid the past or look forward to the future? How do we accept and delight in what God has given now?

But keeps going to the end.

Do you ever do this? Read this verse or other verses and go through it like a giant checklist? I think that it is easy for me to feel discouraged in the conviction this verse brings. I am still learning to love; learning to love myself, my husband and our son. It’s hard to love sometimes. Or it’s hard to love selflessly without strings attached. It’s hard to love when my hairbrush is thrown into the toilet again, and when my feelings get hurt again. It’s hard to love myself when I find myself struggling with the same sins again and again.

It can be disheartening until I remember this…

He who began to work in you, will keep transforming you. He will make you more and more like Him until He returns. (paraphrase of Philippians 1:6)

Transforming me…that means that I am in process and I am not finished yet. Thank goodness! I don’t have to have this Love thing down yet. I desperately want to. I feel like I am learning that being a good lover to my husband and my son is less about perfection and more about being a learner.

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It’s not about getting it right. It’s about learning to love better, deeper. It’s about trying and trusting!

 And trying is hard work. You can’t sit on the bench and learn to love. Loving is active. It’s about trying and succeeding and then trying and failing. And then trying again and learning and growing and trying.

It’s about accepting and owning my imperfections without bashing myself for them and trusting God to continue to make me lovely…because He promises to.

 It’s about having a heart that wants to grow in love and inviting a God, who is gentle and sweet, to transform me. God isn’t standing over me, holding a clipboard (I’m a counselor so sometimes when I picture God, He has a clipboard) shaking His head and furiously making notes about my lack-luster Love performance. He’s more like the swim coach that gets in the water with you and shows you how a little tweak here and a little tweak there will improve your back stroke.

 So Jesus, teach me to love.  Help me to be a woman who is open to your conviction and your transformation. Help me to know how much you love me. Help me to remember that you are loving, kind and gentle and that like a coach, you have my best interest at heart. I invite you to lovingly and gently transform me. I want a better backstroke. I SOOOOO wish to love well; to be a gift of love to the people around me. I want to be lovely in my actions towards others and myself. Thank you that I can trust you to grow me in Love…true love. ☺ -Amy

 

10 Causes of Distance in Relationships

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10 Causes of Distance in Relationships

Are you feeling distant in your relationship with God? With your spouse? A friend? Your kids? This is a helpful list to walk through and as you do be asking yourself which of these resonate with your experience. Undoing the cause of distance in any relationship, must first start with awareness. Once we become aware of the cause of distance, we know where to begin in order to bridge the distance.

  1. guilt and shame. When we feel guilt or shame for something we have done in a relationship we are not too far off from Adam and Eve who pulled away from God and found themselves hiding from Him, who they once shared intimacy with.
  2. unforgiveness. In any relationship where one person is carrying grudges or bitterness or where another person feels unforgiven, there is a great distance created.
  3. records of wrongs. When expectations are unmet over and over again, we not only begin to expect to be disappointed but we form a record of all the ways the other has wronged us, hurt and let us down. We could at any point pull out that record and recite it like the Pledge of Allegiance. Even if we have said we have forgiven them we could point to this evidence of their hurtful and sinful pattern to use as our proof of pain.
  4. denial. When someone is in denial about the actual state and place the relationship currently finds itself the relationship cannot grow, be mended or thrive. When one person is ignoring the other or failing to recognize the brokenness, the relationship greatly suffers.
  5. fear of expression. In any relationship where a person doesn’t feel they can talk about what is really going on or how they really feel, closeness and intimacy does not exist.
  6. taking for granted. We often take each other for granted, assuming the relationship. They are going nowhere, we think. This attitude leads to lack of effort, time, talking and that leads to miles between one person and another.
  7. inathenticity. When there is falsehood or an act where one person is living out someone they are not, the relationship becomes about as inauthentic as the individual pretending.
  8. using. Consuming a relationship for one’s own benefit, pleasure, or advantage only ends up with a one sided distant relationship.
  9. defensiveness. When a person continually experiences attacks, nitpicking, criticism and threats or are told they will experience these, walking backwards is commonplace.
  10. lack of loyalty.  When one person in a relationship betrays, adulterates, cheats on, lies, backstabs, defiles, or pollutes a relationship a barrier goes up so high that it is hard to break down and hard to build trust back up.

 

 

Written by Willow Weston for Collide. Found on wecollide.net . Please do not copy or reproduce without written permission.

Finding God in Both Scarcity and Abundance by Adriana Collins

Adriana is what we call our “artist in residence” on the Collide team. It has been so fun to dream with her about what it look like to tell the gospel story in ways other than using words at our events and gatherings. The way that she connects with Jesus and thinks about inviting others into that same connection is so refreshing and unique and needed. Here she shares some of her very deepest hope and pain and it’s that kind of beautiful courage that I most admire about her. I hope you will gain courage for your own lives to hope and hold onto faith by reading her piece here.- Willow

I was captivated by this photo of a mama and her two children. I look at mothers with wonder, ache, longing and curiosity. What does it feel like to have her arms full? Will my dream to be a mother ever be realized?

Three Serious Women” by Chad Estes of Starry Night Media, Boise Idaho, All Rights Reserved

One child is older and looks alert as she looks at something intently. I immediately see myself in this child. I see the maturity and the extra set of responsibilities older siblings seem to carry. My parents journeyed through some trauma in my early years that thrust me into maturity and independence before I was ready. The other child in the photo is younger with wild hair and is adorably scrappy. She is clinging closer to her mama, pulling at her mama’s shirt. As I’m looking at the mother with the ache of my unfulfilled dream, my attention shifts to the younger child and I feel an invitation from God to be the younger child and not the mother. I feel an invitation to let myself explore the child I didn’t always have the opportunity to be. “Let me be the Mama right now,” I feel God tenderly speak into my longing.

Believing in God’s abundance and trusting Him with my dreams is frightening because it’s not a guarantee to get what I want. Faith is full of unknowns and uncertainties, but I believe God can give far more than this world offers. In this world our lives are full of limits. My childbearing years are limited and my dream of a family has not yet been realized. I am honest with the reality that it might not happen for me, but I’m trying not to edit my longing just because my circumstances seem limiting. I’m putting my faith in a God who promises abundance and whose resources exceed the capacity of this world. The way He chooses to give me a family may not arrive the way I expect. I have a daily invitation to step into this uncertainty and live a life that depends on His abundant and unlimited resources.

As we experience the limitations and scarcity of this world and all the pain and suffering it brings, we are invited to not be afraid and to trust He has infinite provision. As long as I believe in the abundance He claims to have, I will continue to hold out my longing in front of Him with open expectant arms. I will hold out my arms until my heart breaks and then I will hold out my both my longing and broken heart. When my broken heart turns to anger, I will bring him my longing, broken heart and anger. The moment I quiet or edit my longing to accommodate my seemingly bleak circumstances, is the moment I believe his resources are limited. The moment I get cynical about my dreams, is the moment I believe his resources are scarce.

I would have never anticipated this profound invitation from God to be the child instead of the mother I long to be, but it’s consistent with the poetry and rhythms he creates. Before I can give something I must receive it. Our God, the Divine Mother, has called me to be Her child and restore places in my story that need nurturing and healing. God is offering me a chance to be perfectly loved and mothered in a way no human could provide. My participation in this means I receive restoration. I also receive a gift that I’ve always longed to give.

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This experience was born out of a prayer practice called visio divina. It is inspired by an Orthodox tradition where visual art is used to cultivate prayer with God through our visual senses. You are invited to join me as I lead visio divina at the next Collide event: “Remain” on March 7th.

Chad Estes generously donated his stunning portrait, “Three Serious Women,” for this blog post. His work has so much life and energy that you can feel it breathe. Check out the beautiful work of Chad Estes of Starry Night Media, located in Boise, Idaho.