Monthly Archives: April 2015

Finders Keepers


This has been such a crazy year! It was our first year as a non profit and boy what a whirlwind! God has done so many amazing things and for that we are grateful! Our last gathering of this school year for women is this Saturday and we sure do have a special day planned!

We will center around the collision Jesus has with religious people muttering in Luke 15 when He busts into parables about the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son. The entire day we will be hearing stories, parables and challenges about what really is lost. What if what is lost is not what we thought? How does Jesus challenge religious mutterers? What are we to do about getting home and back, close to God? What stories do we tell ourselves about God that might be untrue? How does God’s desire for restoration find us?  How do we help others get home? What is God’s heart for people wayward and astray? Have you lost that heart? How do you get it back?

We have a thought provoking line up of speakers.


Julie Burleson, who is on staff at Ekklesia is speaking on “A Party Worth Inviting Everyone To”. She has spent time diving into the parable of the lost son and wants to challenge us with what she has learned. Her perspective on the party that God throws is one you won’t want to miss!

Shawn Hofing, a graduate student pursuing his Masters degree in Counseling and a man who has 15 years of ministry experience working with youth and those considered lost or the “least of these” is going to challenge “The Stories we Tell Ourselves”.  The stories we tell ourselves are so powerful and his message will pierce just the place you find yourself!

Lori Hein, who is traveling up from Seattle and is quite connected with Touchpoints ministry in the Pacific Northwest and Young Life is sharing from her own life and story about adoption and being “Rescued and Restored”.

Willow Weston, the Director of Collide will be challenging our religious comfort and sense of getting what this all too familiar parable in Luke 15 actually means as she speaks a message about what is actually “Lost.” And it might not be what you think.

We have a rich line up of teachers for the breakout options for women to choose from. How will people possibly pick 2 – they all sound so great!

Finders Keepers Breakout Teachers


Some of our very favorites are leading worship.


We will have modern comfort food catered by 250 Flora.


There will be several women sharing their stories of being lost and found and women sharing stories of giving of themselves to help those in need, those on the margins and those who have lost hope. This day will fill our cups so much so and is just the perfect celebration to a year full of stories of God finding us and keeping us! Because that is the kind of God He is.


Women, take time out of your crazy superwoman schedule and invest in your self. Take time to stop. Take time to learn. Take time to grow and understand God’s heart. A  few simple hours could be life changing. Register here. 

Please be praying friends, for a day to be found by God.

My breast cancer journey by Penny Sherwood

We have had the amazing gift of a wonderful teacher this year as my son has transitioned into middle school. She radiates joy and light and has been so helpful and welcoming in the adjustment. A few weeks ago, Aidan came home and sadly told us that Mrs. Sherwood has cancer. The way she is taking the news is profound. This woman teaches in such a way that she inspires her students (read the story about the student whose teacher got cancer and what he did for her that was so inspiring.) She not only teaches in a way that is inspiring, she lives that way too! As you read her story of this new found journey she walks, her faith will grip you. Her peace will invite you. Her words will fuel you for your own road. Her courage is astounding and her hope is big. May you find some comfort in how she faces cancer and please pray for her along the way.- Willow
pennys story

My fingers brush again the skin of my breast – then probe more deeply. No doubt then – a significant lump not just my imagination. Immediately I look into the face of my Lord. “Is this it then?” I question. “Is this my ticket home… to you?”

I hear no definitive answer, just the sure sense of his presence warm around me and a whispered reminder of Joseph.

“Joseph?” I ask. “What does a man – betrayed by family and sold into slavery, one who suffered imprisonment and the threat of death, have to do with me …now?”

And it is as if he has cupped my face with those nail scarred hands, looked tenderly…deeply into my eyes and breathed those words spoken so long ago of Joseph’s plight… and now mine. “Satan meant it for evil, but I, Beloved, intend it for good.”

His presence enfolds me as I visit my doctor who schedules me for an immediate mammogram. That same presence soothes me as I begin to read on-line about breast tumors and core biopsies. Yikes, I think, I not only hate needles I’m a real baby when it comes to pain inflicted by others!

When my mind begins galloping toward myriad uncomfortable possibilities – “How do I tell my sons? Will I be here to see my eleven treasured grandchildren grow up? How can I teach my sixth graders if I’m lopsided, shedding hair, and throwing up? Who will watch over my aging parents? And my other half – my husband who has already lost so much, what of him?” – My Lord’s voice beckons me back and the lessons of this past year flood me with memories. “Be transformed, my beloved, by the renewing of your mind. Take every thought captive and bring each one to me. I will keep you safe and hold you close.”

And the words penned by Isaiah – one of the passages I velcro to my exercise bike each morning – replace all my what ifs. “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast – set on you – because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord – my Lord – is the rock eternal. In repentance – turning always back to Him – and rest is your salvation; in quietness and trust is your strength…. Blessed are those who wait for Him.”

Tears spring to my eyes as I realize… Of course, he has known all along. This is no surprise to my God. He has been preparing me for this new path and a journey he – who is all that is good – intends for his good purposes.

The night before my biopsy, I pick up the phone and press the numbers that will connect me to my sister in France, my “little” sis and best friend, with close ties that distance can never loosen. “Lee,” I begin. And minutes later as I finish my news there is a long pause.

Then her voice, oddly bemused, travels across the wires. “Pen, I just had my biopsy yesterday. I was waiting for the results before I called.”

We sit in quiet amazement. This is no accident, no coincidence we agree. This chapter of our story has our mighty, loving God’s fingerprints on every page.

Long minutes later, as we murmur our goodbyes, I stand at the window gazing out. The serenity of the softly rippled lake echoes the peace that flows through me. This gift of beauty never fails to stir my very soul. I close my eyes and lean hard into my Lord, resting against the one who calls me his beloved and hearing again his promise to bring his good purposes to life. And I smile – filled to the brim with a sure knowledge of his presence. “Thank you… Thank you,” I whisper, sure that whatever lies ahead, this journey of ours is a gift equal in beauty to this world he created.

Three days pass – I here in Bellingham and Lee, in Lyon, France – as we wait for the results of our biopsies and just hours apart we both sit with our doctors and hear the news. “Positive for breast cancer.”

Strangely enough – I am not surprised. I’m not sure where this path we are on will lead, but the one who set us on this journey walks alongside…

Think Pink and think Make a Difference


Ian McDevitt and friends

I got an email a few weeks ago from my son’s teacher. She messaged the entire class’s parents as she does every Monday morning. Only this particular Mondays’ message was different. It still had details about what book they were reading and what ancient civilization they were studying and what to expect our kids to bring home for work that week. But at the end, in what I would say was a paragraph full of hope in a place there often isn’t, this teacher announced that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

She wanted to let us know that she let the kids know at school that day, but she shared her news with such a strong grip on hope. I read it as though I could never write it. Not that way.

That night Aidan came home sad and concerned. He said kids were dressing up in pink the next day and he was brainstorming what to wear. He decided to take one of his dad’s not so white, white undershirts, cut off the sleeves and beg of me to, in pink pen, claim “I’m strong, but not Sherwood strong.” So I got my crafty self to work.

aidan and sherwood

Sherwood, of course is his beloved teacher and boy is she truly loved! The day he sported this shirt to school I had to pick him up afterwards. As I waited in the car for the bell to ring and kids to file out, it was like the doors opened and puked pink. I saw pink hair, pink ribbons, pink fairy wings, pink wigs, pink sunglasses, pink socks, pink tutus, pink mustaches. There was pink in every shade on almost every kid! It was crazy!IMG_1774

This reigning pink support of the entire school was incredible and perhaps what is even more incredible is that it was inspired by a 6th grade student. And I got the cool opportunity to sit down and talk to Ian McDevitt about what inspired him to come up with this all out pink day for his teacher.

Ian is one of those kids that when you are talking to him it feels like he has an old soul, like the kind of kid who you know has big plans for his life and you can’t wait to watch his story play out. He went home that tuesday and the next week was spirit week and he says that the 6th graders were scheduled to wear orange, the 7th, green and the 8th, blue. And he couldn’t shake that his “by far the best teacher” he has ever had was diagnosed with cancer. He wanted to give back to her what she has given him. He describes Mrs. Sherwood as a teacher that “works so hard, checks on you, cares how kids learn and cares about everyone.” Ian just wanted to make her feel important.

So he went home as a 6th grade kid, wrote a rough draft and brought it back the next day and asked the principal, “nervously, sweating and wondering if it would be approved,” if he had permission to suggest the whole school wear pink rather than the other colors that were planned. The principal, who is awesome thought this was a great idea, helped Ian’s rough draft shape into something Ian could communicate over the intercom in 20 seconds and officially the next day became “Think Pink Thursday”.


Ian wasn’t sure if anyone would actually do it and he says when he got to school and the bus turned the corner of D street, he saw “a beautiful view of Whatcom Middle School. It was a pink mob! It was amazing to see!” He got off the bus and people were posing for pictures and making hearts with their hands and dying each others hair and Mrs. Sherwood’s room had been filled with pink balloons and even Mr. Marsee, Ian said, was wearing a pink shirt! Mrs. Sherwood was overjoyed by the support and showered in pink and hugs and love which will mean so much on the journey to come!

I listened to this young man share. It struck me that every student heard the news. Every student was sad and concerned and families prayed and brought flowers and reached out to Mrs. Sherwood, but there was something about Ian that made him step out and do something when it wasn’t asked or expected of him. So I asked him “Ian what inspired you to do this ?”

His response?

“No matter how small you are, you can make the biggest difference.”


I think we could all learn from Ian’s example. No matter how limited we feel, our efforts can create an abundance. No matter how young we are, we can impact the world. No matter how ineffective we think we are, we can have an effect.


I love his example and his challenge and thought his story should be told. To simply give ourselves the permission to impact sadness with support, to put pink back where there has been black news, to start a pink mob because a fantastic teacher needs to know she is loved, to make a difference in someone else’s journey, that is powerful.

Think, make a difference. Imagine what would happen if we all did…

Mrs. Sherwood has written her story of the journey she is now on and  you will be gripped by her perspective and her hope. And that perspective will feed yours.

Letting Go and Listening by Trina Bedlington

I have known Trina for so many years. We first met in a bible study we were in with 7 other couples that lasted for 5 years. What a sweet time of sharing life together! She is now on the Collide team and leads our worship team, planning and dreaming….I love Trina’s authenticity and her laugh has me giggling for hours. She radiates joy and strength and you will see that here as you read her story. – Willow

There I was, sitting at my kitchen table staring at a bowl full of apples. I had just finished reading a letter from my former fiancé urging me to forgive him for things in the past and give him yet another chance. Really, the nerve of him! I had a wedding dress in my closet that would never be worn, I had to face all those people in humiliation to tell them the wedding was off, and he had the audacity to ask me for a second chance. It had taken me months to not feel physically ill every time I thought of my situation and to stop replaying events in my head over and over again. You know us women, we don’t forget anything! How could I have been so naïve and how could he have stooped so low to have treated me this way? Then again, he must be feeling really bad about the way things ended and he did mention in his letter that he was a changed man. He had gotten counseling and he truly wanted a new start. Hmmm, maybe it wouldn’t hurt to write him back and just start a conversation. After all, perhaps it was in God’s will that we came back together again…what a testimony we would be able to share together.

That is when I heard it, loud and clear. As I was staring at that bowl of apples, I heard God say, “It only took one bite of an apple to change the plans that I had for my people.” What? Did I really just hear that? It wasn’t an audible voice but I knew deep in my spirit that God had just given me a talking to and I was going to listen. You see, I had heard this voice before and I had chosen not to listen and the consequence was very painful. I had wanted to take control because things were not happening on my time frame and I thought I knew better than God. Let’s rewind to a time 2 years earlier in order for you to better understand why I chose right then and there that this time I was going to listen.

I had just come back from a weekend of being in my 7th wedding as a bridesmaid, yes, you read that right. I had every bridesmaid dress imaginable from robin’s egg blue to sea foam green and despite what they had all said, I hadn’t worn any of them again. This was the last wedding of all my closest girlfriends and my dearest childhood friend was trying to be funny but didn’t realize that she would be sending me into a downward spiral when she exclaimed, “and then there was one” while looking right at me. Upon my return home, I was feeling pretty sorry for myself and I cried out to God about how miserable I was in my single life. Didn’t he know that my desire was to be married and have a family? During that vulnerable moment, I felt that God was telling me not to rush things but to be patient. I read Jeremiah 29:11 over and over again knowing that God did have a purpose and plan for my life but it was just taking too long. I wasn’t getting any younger and I wanted to have a ring on my finger before I started attending baby showers that I was bound to get invitations to in the very near future. This was the perfect opportunity for my on-again-off-again boyfriend of 10 years to enter the picture.

Fast forward through a whirlwind reconnection that resulted in an engagement 4 months later. Never mind that I had felt God telling me the last time my ex and I had parted ways that this was not in His plan for my life. With every ounce of my being, I knew that I was making a big mistake but I pushed through that gut check and decided that I was taking control of my life and ending this singlehood season. In a few short months, I had managed to become someone that my friends couldn’t recognize. I was compromising on things that I swore I never would and I alienated family and friends who tried to give me wise counsel. The desire to have a lifelong companionship outweighed the red flags that were waving like crazy and on a cold December day, my world imploded and it was a long, hard, and ungraceful fall down. I never knew that someone could cry as much as I did those next few months that followed. Friends and family rallied to my side to help distract me from my pain but I fell into a deep depression that took me several months to escape. I will forever be thankful for those who loved me at my most vulnerable moment and prayed me out of that darkness and back into a place of joy, peace, and most of all, forgiveness.

Now, back to the apples at my kitchen table 2 years later. After hearing God’s strong rebuke, I decided it was best to not take that bite and I chose not to reply back to my ex-fiancé’s letter. I realized that when I ignored God’s prompting to be patient with His plan for my life years earlier, I was in a sense questioning God’s character and doubting who He said He was. I was reminded of the promises in the Bible that told me how much He loved me and how He had great things in store for me. If God created me in my mother’s womb, how could He not know me and the desires of my heart? I was finally ready to wait on His direction for my life. It wasn’t easy to do and almost daily I had to surrender my own plans before His feet. I still cried out in frustration A LOT and I knew it would be a difficult road, but I had a peace that in the end it would be worth it. I even decided right then and there to enjoy what He had for my life that day. I didn’t have to be married or have kids to be used by Him and I certainly was tired of being the “Debbie Downer” at my own life party. I was filled with encouragement, excitement, and hope for what was in my future.

It has been 17 years since I had that bowl full of apples experience and I am so thankful that I listened to God’s prompting that day and released the control of my life to Him. In doing so, I was able to do things in my life that I normally would have never had the courage to do without the strength and peace I felt from following God’s lead instead of trying to run ahead of Him. I traveled, lived in three different states, and eventually did marry in my thirties. My husband, Kevin, was so worth the wait and he is a true example of unconditional love and someone that I trust with my whole heart. How we met is an amazing example of God’s faithfulness but I will leave that story for another day. ☺ We became parents much later than most of my friends and I find it comical that most of my classmates have college age children and I have 8 and 10 year old boys. Still, I wouldn’t have it any other way and am thankful for God’s perfect timing. I still have my moments when I become impatient and have taken control of situations and messed things up in my life. In those moments, I am reminded of that bowl and I decide to put the apple that is in my hand back in the bowl. Remember, God is for you and He has mighty things in store for your life. His plan is different for you then it is for someone else. Be patient, put the apple back in the bowl, and get ready for an amazing, one of a kind adventure.



our rhythm: learn then teach.

learn then teach

The Collide team this year is made up of 21 women who have given selflessly all year to the mission of Collide. They spend countless hours making this ministry happen.They each have their own unique gifting, their own stories, their own faith experiences, their own doubt, their own dreams and their own fears. Together they comprise the hottest body (As we as members of the Church are called a body). Some use their voices to belt out songs of praise and thanks. Some use their artistic bend and their left side of the brain to school us right brained thinkers with color and non linear lines that shape into life and art and story. Others use their logic and their wisdom to punch numbers and organize and plan and that helps make sense out of everything.

No matter what a gathering ends up looking like, we always do this: We always learn and then we teach. We gather together in my living room and spend time ourselves, colliding with Jesus. We start there. This year we have looked at the collision with Jesus and Peter, where the Lord called him to follow him and indeed he left everything and did just that. We looked at the centurion who didn’t feel worthy enough to have Jesus come into his house and yet Jesus believed differently. We looked at Jesus’ farewell speech where He urged His disciples to remain in Him because He so desires to be close to us. And for our final gathering of the year, we as a team got together and chewed on Luke 15 where Jesus busts out in parables to respond to religious mutters. (You wont want to miss out on this day!)

As a team we start with our relationship with the Lord. We start within before we go out. We start by engaging scripture with our own questions and pain and when we are struck, when we dialogue, when we collide, then we teach. I have found that starting first with how Jesus strikes us is the only authentic way to go about this ministry work that God has laid before us. It is so easy to go on auto pilot and plan and plug and do and go and produce and all those words that make us turn into spiritual ministry robots with no heart, no compassion, no real personal place we are living out of. But we will fight that temptation and keep stopping and reading and meditating and chewing. It is then, that I believe, we have permission to ask the question “How do we teach this message to other women?” We can ask that question after we, together, collide and discover God’s message for us. It is then, that we can begin to ponder how to relay the message to others.

When we ask this question, we are thinking about you, women. We are thinking about the burdens that have been put on you. We are thinking about the lies you have been told. We are thinking about the empty purposes you have been invited into. We are thinking about the ways you have been used and mistreated. We are thinking about the temptations you have been lured into. We are thinking about the roles you have been made to believe you have to be superwomen in. We are thinking about the false faith you may have been handed by someone who wanted you to have right answers over right relationship. We are thinking about you because we have already thought about us. We have shared about our broken marriages and our miscarriages. We have talked about the pain we have experienced in the Church and how we have been blaming God. We have cried about cancer together and been real about insecurities that get in our way of belief in God and His power in and through us. We have talked about what we once thought about Jesus and how that is changing and we have wrestled with who He says He is and who we have made Him to be.

team study2

So when we ask how we can weave and shape a day just for women to teach you Christ’s message, we ask from a place of compassion and humility and pain and understanding. And we ask from a place of having just collided with Jesus and seeing His power, knowing He will collide with you, too.  So that is our rhythm as a team and we are sticking to it. Learn, then teach. Perhaps this should be the rhythm of all people who dare to call themselves spiritual leaders for then our message will be delivered tenderly with humility, care and confidence in Whom we ran into and Whom we proclaim.

Join our rhythm in your own life as you learn and as you teach. – Willow


Called Excerpt: Turning Failure on its Head by Ryan Pemberton


Ryan Pemberton

It’s hard not to feel like a failure when you leave a successful career, drain your retirement and savings accounts in the worst economy since the Great Depression, and move your wife 6,000 miles from the only community you both have ever known just months after her 19-year-old sister’s death to return to school and study theology, and then run out of money halfway through the degree.

But that’s exactly what happened to me.

Called: My Journey to C. S. Lewis’s House and Back Again* is the story of how I left all the security I had ever dreamed of as a kid from a single-parent family that struggled to get by to pursue what I believed to be God’s call on my life. It’s also a story of learning that as soon as we step out in faithful pursuit of the One who calls out to us, “Follow me,” our understanding of success and failure are turned on their head.

The following is an excerpt from Called. I hope you enjoy it. But, even more, I hope it’s helpful.

Peace to you,




Bob Dylan once said a poem is a naked person. I’m not much of a poet, but I hope you’ll excuse me if I go ahead and take off all these layers.

This is a story of dreams coming true. It is a story of love and loss and adventure. It is a story of new life. But in the end, this is a story of how I failed, and what I learned about what it means to be called by the living God.

• • •

The cramped room smelled musty, like an ignored closet shut up for far too long. The blinds on the windows were pulled taut, refusing to let in much of any light. Other people were sprinkled around the room, all quietly waiting their turn to be seen.

It had been several years since my wife and I liquidated our retirement accounts in the worst economy since the Great Depression and left our jobs and the only home we had ever known to set out in pursuit of what we believed to be God’s call on my life. This call had led us on a journey to England, to the school of my dreams. It had meant having the kind of experiences I would not have believed possible had someone shared them with me before we left.

But now I found myself back in the States, resting my head against the brick wall in the back row of a social services waiting room, reflecting on how I had gotten there. Seated beside my wife and our baby girl—who had yet to celebrate her first birthday—I felt as though this was the end of our journey. And yet, in a very real way, I realized then that it was also the beginning.

It was in that quiet waiting room, where the eyes of people silenced by humiliation bored holes into the carpet, that I realized what our journey had meant. Even though the scene amounted to nothing short of my worst nightmare, a peace surrounded me on that afternoon. It was the kind of peace that’s only properly described as surpassing all understanding. It’s the kind of peace that puts a smile on your face when you might otherwise feel like crying. The peace that makes you kiss your wife on her forehead, the only other person in the world who knows just as well as you do what this journey has cost. It is the inexplicable peace that makes you smile at your daughter, with her apple-cheeked grin staring back at you, recognizing for the first time that this is what it means to follow the living Son of God.

I had spent the entirety of my short life running from the poverty of this room. But it was only here that I learned what it means to be called. It means, in a way I would not have believed before we set out on this journey, that even sitting in my worst nightmare, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

*This is an Amazon affiliate link. These affiliate links help support this site.

Kaleidoscope: the Crucifixion as viewed by John: by Harvey Chute

We asked a myriad of voices to engage with 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!

Kaleidoscope graphic


The awful sight comes into view.

I turn to the hill, and I close my eyes.

I can only think:

So it ends.


Steps before me, I see my Lord, my Hope,

savaged and scoured and sipping his final breaths.


His body bears the marks of mockery and torture.

They tell the story all too well.


I look to the hill

and I cannot help but think, selfishly, of all that ends now…


The hope and faith I held, that we all held

That we could be new again.


The days of stories and wisdom,

Of miracles and crowds.

 Days when his quiet voice

Lit up our hopes like stars,

Kindled our faith until it burned, warm as the sun.


It was a time for bold hearts

And I was there to drink it in,

To proclaim it louder than anyone.


Was it all just a strange magic? Where are the crowds now?


I walk closer. There kneels his mother Mary and the others.

We have little comfort to offer on this darkest of days,

not to him or to each other.


But comfort comes, for Jesus looks upon us.

He speaks to Mary: “Woman, here is your son.”

Then to me: “Here is your mother.

And I know that I will care for her through her last days.


I look to the hill, and I wonder:

Is he man or is he god?

The humanity of him, the fragility,

is on pathetic display in this cold place.

Is our faith to now snap, as easily as a twig?

Snap, as easily as a man?


It shakes me. I am… frustrated

he could have seen this coming!

He could have hidden his ways…

Taken a different path.

Saved his message.


Hah. Saved his message…for what? A safer time?


No… that was not his way.

Not the man I knew.


The man I knew

defied the temple leaders.


The man I knew

commanded the crowds

and fed them with fish and bread and wine.


Is this not the man

Who was lifted from the Jordan,

and revealed as the Chosen One of God..?


Is this not the man

Who saw me — in my wild and strange ways —

looked past my recklessness and vanity —

and proclaimed me a “son of thunder”?

I have felt his grace so completely

that I am bold to call myself

… the one whom Jesus loved.


Perhaps we all feel that…

all of us who knew him.


Such a love — that knows no limits —

has brought us to this day.


Yes, he saw this coming…

Yet he stayed true to his path.


I see this now for what it is — a choice.

An awful, inevitable choice

As raw as an open wound, as pure as blood,

He did this… for us all.


Perhaps the prophets were right,

that new beginnings require dramatic endings.

That salvation can be found through sacrifice.

That through death we find life.


Perhaps Jesus himself was right,

that darkness cannot overtake light.

That love endures over hatred.


And if that be so,

then what greater love can my own eyes witness

than that pinned above me now?


I look now to the hill, we all do,

for suddenly the ground shakes, the skies are darkened.


For a moment, we stare in silence, and we tremble.


What is to come is not known to me…

But I feel the dawning of a new kingdom.

My hope lives on. My faith lives on.


And as I look now to the hill,

I can only think:

So it begins.



Kaleidoscope: the Crucifixion as viewed by Mary Magdalene: by Kiersten Bethke

We asked a myriad of voices to with 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!

Kaleidoscope graphic


My first name is a common one in the bible, I am Mary; the one from Magdala, a thriving and populous town on the coast of Galilee. I am the one who scripture refers to as having seven devils. In fact, there has been much controversy about me over the years. While a pure person at heart, I was truly afflicted before meeting Jesus. Demonic bondage took over my mind, leading to complete mental instability. Thanks to God, the cause of that heavy burden met its Master in Him who came to destroy evil spirits.

I am devoted to God beyond measure. When Jesus met me, he saw my heart for what it is. He knew that I would be a devout follower of Him and fine leader of others. He performed a miracle in me. Just as the lake calms at His voice, my mind went from chaos to tranquil.

I left my home in Magdala to follow Jesus. I led other women and gave the most I could to the journey. In fact, I was there on Jesus’ last journey from Galilee to Jerusalem. I was there at the mock trial. While some scattered and walked away from Him, I did not hesitate to remain with Him because of all He has done for me.

I have heard, with my own ears, fine religious leaders fighting over the blood of the Messiah I follow. When I heard Pontius Pilate pronounce His death sentence, my heart sank and body crippled. I watched the precious Son of God be spit on and mocked. There were screams from the crowd, shouting to see His death. For me, it was a silent scene, slow in motion. I wept as I saw Jesus be nailed to the cross. I stood as close as I could to hopefully comfort Him. With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. My eyes shut tight; welled with tears, as I witnessed that soldier thrust his spear into our Savior’s side, declaring Him dead.

Witnessing Jesus’ voluntary crucifixion stopped my heart that day. He chose to be the ultimate sacrifice to fulfill God’s plan. He is merciful, compassionate and kind. His love is to be echoed by all of us.

Kaleidoscope: the Crucifixion as viewed by the Centurion: by Father Josh Hosler

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!

Kaleidoscope graphic

I’ve really come to hate this job. Especially the festivals. And now more than ever before.

It’s a pain anytime a higher-up comes into town, but with Pilate here, we all had to be on our best behavior. And my men are not exactly given to good behavior. Can you blame them, really? I mean, who wants to be in Palestine? Some of the youngest ones have big dreams of making it to Rome one day, but they’re only kidding themselves. Others used to be in Rome but got kicked out here for being drunk and belligerent all the time. Now they teach the young ones to be drunk and belligerent.

As for me, well, I kind of fell into this job. I was one of those young ones once, kidding myself with dreams of glory. When it came down to it, though, with my background and family reputation, I could have been a mercenary in Rome or a centurion here. So here I stayed. I’m just not that courageous.

I’m also not a great disciplinarian, which should be obvious to you by now. But honestly, most of the time we don’t have to be. Rebellions are rare, and we’re never really involved with them. Most of these Jews either go along with the system with their heads down, or find a way to make themselves rich, like that little Zaccheus guy. So the Jews aren’t happy, but they mostly keep to themselves and deal with their own kind.

And then there are the festivals, especially the Passover. That’s where I really start to have trouble with my guys, and with the Jews. Some of them are bound to get all uppity, and then my men have to round them up, and they tend to take their job description a little loosely. And I haven’t really taught them the discipline they need, so things can get a little out of hand.

I was OK with it all until a few years ago. That was when John was doing his thing down at the river. I was one of the senior soldiers, not yet a centurion, and I went down to keep order. But he really got to me. People started asking him what they should do to inherit eternal life. Zaccheus was there, and the advice to him was, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you,” which was funny, because everyone knows that’s how tax collectors make their real money. And I just got curious: what would he say to someone like me?

So I asked John, “What should we soldiers do?” The guy didn’t even blink. He said, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.” And you know, I thought that was right and proper and fair—nothing too crazy. But, see, extortion is what we did all the time. Because that was how we made our real money.

Not long after that, I was made centurion, and the first thing I did with my new power was to make sure my group was assigned to the neighborhood of the temple. I was surprised how many of our own people hung out there. They couldn’t go all the way in, of course, but so many Romans and Greeks really respected the Jews and their ascetic way of life that they spent a lot of time in the courtyard listening to the priests and the scribes. The Jews call these Greeks and Romans “God-fearers.” I was intrigued. I was sad when John was executed. And then this Jesus guy came along.

You know that story in your own way, but as for me, well, I was just confused. I was just starting to learn something about the Jews, and then along comes this Jew who starts putting it all a different way. It wasn’t new stuff, as I understand it—but the way he used it was fresh, and electric, and above all, challenging. I’m sure that’s what did him in.

So along came another Passover weekend, with Pilate in town. And they brought in extra legions to keep the peace, because there was a lot of buzz this year that the Zealots were going to try something big. It seemed like they were all waiting for a signal that never came. When something finally did happen, it was a mob demanding the death of Jesus. I didn’t see that one coming.

You know, just a few weeks ago, he could have been exactly what the Zealots needed. One word from him, and all that extra security wouldn’t have been nearly enough. We’d have had tens of thousands of Jews calling for Caesar’s head, let alone Pilate’s. Instead, at first, it was just another Passover weekend, with a few skirmishes and a whole bunch of scheduled crucifixions. And Jesus of Nazareth became one of them.

I don’t know how else to describe what happened at that man’s death except to say … well … I don’t know who I am anymore. Forgive me—this is a side none of my men will ever see! But … seeing him there … a man who could have been king of a newly restored Israel … and he just let them do that to him. If he’d had a wife and kids to provide for, I think he still wouldn’t have fought back. He wouldn’t fight for anything. He looked so weak and helpless … and … strong. And dignified. It was almost a suicide, really. And it’s like my tongue just took over. When Jesus died, I said, in a strong, clear voice, “Surely this man was innocent.”

But no more slip-ups like that. I can’t let that kind of thing compromise my life. I’ve almost got enough saved up to retire and enjoy my grandkids. And let someone else do this job. I’ve really come to hate it.


Kaleidoscope: the Crucifixion as viewed by the Bystander: by Aiden Church

We asked a myriad of voices to engage with 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!


Kaleidoscope graphic


You, the one who hangs so gracefully on a cross overhead,
Took my gnarled hands and spoke beauty into them once.
Your gift placed tender in my palms, a weight I will miss though it was soft and fragile.
It is because of my impatience for the world you described that you hang here now.
Once your words painted hope on my scars, I no longer held my identity secure in my hands,
but was torn between a known and certain past, and an idealistic future.
Carpenter, your words promised hope and life, yet days passed and still I remained in a city of lost dreams, sitting in newly confused perceptions.
My nights were spent praying for change,
For some wind that might blow me from these streets of filth.
But you, Carpenter,
Were all that came.
You must understand, I am as lost as a lamb in the wild,
My reality one of tangible shame,
The kind you can hold in your hands, turn over, and wear like tarnished skin.
You said to be still, to have faith that the wolves would not come,
That their teeth would not cut deep,
That the ways of this world could be changed,
Yet here you lay in the jaws of the tyrant himself.
Why leave your power in the sea?
You have no place among these deadened souls,
Their crimes tangible as particles in this thick air, this diseased world.
No, your crimes hold not a stone to their destruction,
The destruction you wrought, not of law but of grace.
Yet here in the crackling stillness of this haunted mount you cry out with the question of my heart,
The insistent silence our only answer.
Do you still not see?
When men in high places began talk of death, I had no choice but to run like the rest of your accusers, though they’ve now gone from this place to numb their guilt.
Perhaps on this desperate night you will finally know the trite emptiness of the world you claim to save.
No matter the spark around us, once on banks and in fields,
I could no longer blindly believe the beauty with which you spoke.
The golden hours of teaching and dreaming have come to their inevitable end,
Never enough to fend the growling thieves of darkness.
The truth of my part in your end gnaws in the pits of my stomach.
It was me who burrowed nails in flesh,
Me who hung hope on a tree,
No longer any comfort in my empty hands,
Only soured wine,
Stained and running like the blood from your breaking human body.
Do you not see the state of your abandon?
In this moment, death is suffocating you,
The weight of undeserved accusation drawing the last breathe from your lungs,
Dear Carpenter,
Let yourself be rid of my dry bones.
Beauty has abandoned you here.