A common brokenness

… the sources of our suffering becomes the source of our hope…

Here’s what struck me from this passage from Henri Nouwen’s book Life of the Beloved: living with and leaning in to our dependencies becomes a way of connecting with our dependency on God. I have read similar ideas many times yet when I get in such an obsessive/dependent state as he describes (so good to know someone else does this), I can’t yet automatically go to this idea, rather I just experience shame and, depending on the strength of the usually unreciprocated attachment, acute embarrassment. I get attached to people in the way he describes and lose sight of myself…I fear I am too much and also not enough.

 

But I find I can trust Nouwen and the 12 step ideas he draws  on in the passage in this photography … openly confessing our dependencies whether material or emotional is part of spiritual growth, and leads us toward understanding our dependency on God. I have noticed that the dependencies I have leaned into and acknowledged have produced vulnerability, which produces spiritual growth.

So here’s to embarrassment, awkwardness, dependency and brokenness. Indeed, blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven — a kingdom of shared brokenness and openness, where no one is placed above the other, and where we each give comfort according to our capability and take comfort according to our need.
Kelly Dombroski blogs as www.throwntogetherness.wordpress.com.

A visual question

 

What is RADICAL?

 

 

 

 

What is SACRED?

 

 

 

 

 

Are the two the SAME thing?

 

 

 

When does the ORDINARY become both?

 

How should I approach the RADICAL?

.

.

..

How can I invite the SACRED?

 

 

 

 

How must my ORDINARY change

 

… if God is BOTH?

 

 

  • SUSAN WARDELL is a Social Anthropologist, Mother, Jesus-follower, Tree-hugger, Muffin Afficionado, and Writer. She lives in Dunedin, New Zealand
  • [Images sourced from pixabay.com]

At-one-ment

Living with a trained theologian, I’ve had my fair share of atonement theory discussions. It was astonishing at first to discover that Christian thinkers had so many theories about how the cross of Christ worked to ‘reconcile us to God’.

I grew up Catholic, you see, and my theory of atonement was an embodied sadness and deep mysterious appreciation for Christ based on hours and hours of contemplation of the large crucifix hanging behind the altar in our local church — as a child, I would look at that crucifix, the stained glass windows, and the paintings depicting the stations of the cross, the priest fussing around with candles and bowls and cups, without necessarily even listening to what was being said. I also had a crucifix at home on my bedroom wall, and would spend many hours examining that while I was supposed to be napping or had been sent to my room for whatever reason.

Why spend so many hours staring at a crucifix? Well, it is a fascinating image of horror and torture, one that children are unlikely to see in books or children’s movies — except for The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, that is. It drew me in. Why would God allow this? Who is this man on the cross? What does it have to do with me?

Visiting my grandparent’s church in Island Bay was a contrast. In the large, light 1970s style church of St Francis de Sales, there was no crucifix on the wall behind the altar. Instead, there was a tile mosiac the height of the church depicting Jesus as king on the cross. No blood, no pain, but a strong, healthy looking man with glittering rings of tile-light radiating out from the image. The cross is an image of victory, there.

Just approaching atonement through different different images of the crucifix we might develop a sense of mystery and even diversity of exactly how the Christ reconciles and connects us into the divine trinity. Many scholars have critiqued what is known as the ‘penal substitution theory’ — that God used Christ to ‘atone’ for our sins or to ‘turn away his wrath’ so that we could then come close to him despite being sinners. Richard Rohr notes in Hidden Things: Scripture as Spirituality that most Catholics wouldn’t even know that the Catholic Church since the 13th century has officially preferred this theory, while alllowing for the minority positions of the Franciscans, who rejected it in favour of an atonement theory that looked at the whole life of Christ as a message of ‘at-one-ment’ with God. Rohr quips that maybe in the end although the Domincans ‘won’ the theological debate, the God-of-mystery won out — because many Catholics come to just know at-one-ment through meditating on the image of the crucifx. Even for those of us who are not Catholic, we might still meditate on the image of the crucifix as a way of coming to experience and know the mystery of at-one-ment with God. The best way to understand, Rohr notes, is to stand-under. Those that approach God through art and contemplative prayer often develop a deep abiding sense that it is all going to be OK.

God With A Body

Some years ago I discovered some beautiful Christas (female forms on a cross).  Discovering these images was a moving experience for me and one that helped me connect more fully with Jesus as painbearer and as revealing God to me.

 

Christ Jesus,  who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.  And being found in appearance as a man.

Philippians 2:6-8. New King James Version

To reveal his love for the world,
God became incarnate as fully man
as man.
His body crucified, broken – for them.

A painting of Jesus on the Cross
Jesus Crucified by Van Dyck

I feel my body sagging, fattening.
My body has failed, is limiting and limited
my body is female, it makes me other.
I feel my body as a barrier resulting in separation, disconnection,
my body as a place of disunity.

A bronze sculputre of a bare-breasted female form on the cross
Christa by Edwina Sandys

Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God,
 did not regard equality with God
 as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
 being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form.

Philippians 2:6-8 NRSV

To reveal his love for women, men, and all he created.
God incarnate as human
as human.
A body crucified broken for and with me.

The Crucified Woman by Almuth Lutkenhaus-Lackey. On display at Emmanuel College, Toronto. Photo by Jay Bawar

I feel resonance, connection.
I know that my shame has been taken to the cross.
My pain is born by one in human form
the brutal knife of endometriosis – on the cross
the heart wrenching loss of infertility – on the cross.
My body is no longer other.

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

1 Corinthians 12:27

 

Christina Baird lives in Auckland, NZ and nurtures creative wisdom by providing coaching, professional supervision and by blogging  at bread and pomegranates

Pure WHAT?

Purity seemed, at times, more an absence than anything

~ Purity (noun): The condition or quality of being pure; freedom from anything that debases, contaminates, pollutes.~

They wanted me without sin, without fault,

and emptied

They wanted me without thought, without desire,

Without myself;

a chalice, a vault.

… against this I could only revolt

But over time my focus changed: pure WHAT?

  • Pure love (without fear) …. 1 John 4:18
  • Pure courage (without fear) … Deut 6:1
  • Pure faith (power without conceit) … Eph 3:16-17
  • Pure grace (full, complete)… 2 Cor 12:9

~Pure (adjective): not mixed with anything; complete, absolute.~

This kind of purity I will seek and sow, guard and grow,

Forging and filling

this body with purpose and kindness,

this soul with strength and goodness,

with

~purity: the freedom to overflow.~

SCULPTURE: ‘Water of life’ (Christ and the Samaritan Woman). Chester Cathedral. Artist: Stephen Broadbent. Photo source: http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SUSAN WARDELL is a Social Anthropologist, Mother, Jesus-follower, Tree-hugger, Muffin Afficionado, and Writer. She lives in Dunedin, New Zealand.

Covering up Christ

Jesus washing Peter’s feet – Ford Maddox Brown                       

When Ford Maddox Brown first painted this in 1852, he painted Christ stripped down, wearing nothing but the cloth wrapped around his waist. Combined with the low angle and compressed space, the emphasis was on Christ’s humility as he washed Peter’s feet.

The painting was disastrously received. Too “coarse” people said. Scandalous really; the divine, in a posture of such humility at the Last Supper.  The painting would not sell. Although Brown strongly felt the nakedness of Christ to be an important part of the message of his work, he eventually grew frustrated. Finally in 1856 he gave in and painted some clothes on Christ. This the version we see now.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION:

  • Why was it so shocking for people to see Christ like this?
  • Have I been guilty of the same tendency to ‘cover up’ Christ? To sanctify the coarse, the raw, the vulnerable, the ugly, of the gospel story?
  • What would it mean to let myself be present with God in that state? Would I, could I, let him wash my dirty feet with his gentle, bare hands?
SUSAN WARDELL is a Social Anthropologist, Mother, Jesus-follower, Tree-hugger, Muffin Afficionado, and Writer. She lives in Dunedin, New Zealand.

He is risen

The day where everything changes. Where our hope is planted.

Blooming from the darkest days of heart-torn, sky-rent sorrow.

A miracle: powerful, beautiful, touchable. He is risen.

On this day we read the story and “deep in wonder and full of joy” (Matthew 28:8) we say it again: he is alive, he is with us. He is risen.

Watch, listen, and read the scripture below:

[Video from National Geographic (via YouTube). Contents: against a dark background, a time-lapse sequence of colourful flowers opening from buds to full blooms]

Matthew 28 1-4 After the Sabbath, as the first light of the new week dawned, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to keep vigil at the tomb. Suddenly the earth reeled and rocked under their feet as God’s angel came down from heaven, came right up to where they were standing. He rolled back the stone and then sat on it. Shafts of lightning blazed from him. His garments shimmered snow-white. The guards at the tomb were scared to death. They were so frightened, they couldn’t move.

5-6 The angel spoke to the women: “There is nothing to fear here. I know you’re looking for Jesus, the One they nailed to the cross. He is not here. He was raised, just as he said. Come and look at the place where he was placed.

“Now, get on your way quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He is risen from the dead. He is going on ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there.’ That’s the message.”

8-10 The women, deep in wonder and full of joy, lost no time in leaving the tomb. They ran to tell the disciples. Then Jesus met them, stopping them in their tracks. “Good morning!” he said. They fell to their knees, embraced his feet, and worshiped him. Jesus said, “You’re holding on to me for dear life! Don’t be frightened like that. Go tell my brothers that they are to go to Galilee, and that I’ll meet them there.”

 

  • SUSAN WARDELL is a Social Anthropologist, Mother, Jesus-follower, Tree-hugger, Muffin Afficionado, and Writer. She lives in Dunedin, New Zealand.

 

Who do you say I am, God?

When I was at school an ‘A’ was the most important grade. These days, it seems a ‘like’ on Facebook is the most meaningful grade to many of us.

A while back I reflected on the pros and cons of Facebook—especially the tendency some of us have to measure ourselves against how well we think we’re doing online. How cool are our status updates?  How insightful are our comments? Most importantly, what do other people think of us?

Sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking the only way of being known is through our Facebook statuses, which when we’re honest are at best heavily edited and at worst a work of fiction. But God knows us more deeply and accepts us more fully than any other person.

Read Psalm 139Relax into the truth that God knew you before you were born and that you are ‘wonderfully made’. How does that make you feel? Talk with God about this.

Re-read the two verses below. Ask God to help you weed out any thoughts that have taken root in your psyche and that would lie to you and say you are not good enough for God or others. 

Look deep into my heart, God,
    and find out everything
    I am thinking.
 Don’t let me follow evil ways,
    but lead me in the way
    that time has proven true. (vs 23-24)

Reflect on these great words from Frederick Buechner … and be glad in the love of God FOR YOU today!

‘Turn around and believe that the good news that we are loved is better than we ever dared hope, and that to believe in that good news, to live out of it and toward it, to be in love with that good news, is of all glad things in this world the gladdest thing of all.’
― Frederick Buechner, ‘The Clown in the Belfry: Writings on Faith and Fiction’


Christina Tyson is a Salvation Army officer, editor of War Cry magazine, Mum of three, wife of one, and proficient in ironing and other sundry domestics.

 

Hey God, can I get a like?

I used to see Facebook as a mindless space where people shared photos of their breakfast and other mundane moments. Eight years on, I experience withdrawal if I can’t scroll through my newsfeed many times a day to see who’s doing and saying what.

To my surprise, Facebook has become a significant influence on my prayer life. I often find myself reading people’s status updates and praying that God will help them with the challenges they’re facing.

Facebook has widened my horizons and perspectives on some complex issues. It’s also increased my empathy for those who don’t experience the same welcome as I do from the church, along with those struggling to make sense of Christianity.

But this is no blind love affair, because there’s too much unbridled meanness on Facebook.

This probably reflects Facebook’s origins. Its predecessor was called ‘Facemash’, a website developed by Zuckerberg and three of his university mates as a ‘game’ where people could compare student pictures and decide who was hot and who was not.

A lot of great inventions have their beginnings in simplistic roots, so I’m not going to criticise Zuckerberg and friends for their early prototype. The problem lies in the immaturity of those who still utilise Facebook primarily for the purpose of judging others today.

A Bible verse comes to mind:

‘When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.’ 1 Corinthians 13:11 (NRSV)

If we’re using Facebook primarily for its childish origins, to judge who is in and who is out, feeding a false sense of superiority about where we stand in some or other imagined pecking order, it’s time for a rethink.

Perhaps the solution is to return to the start of the real world, where we see God making man and woman in God’s image as the final act of creation, and then declaring all that had been made was ‘very good’.

Just imagine how powerful it would be to approach our social media interactions as a chance to encourage and affirm people all the time! And in those times when we may feel snubbed or put down online, to return to the voice we need to hear most clearly above all others … and to listen as God tells us we are loved (not just ‘liked’), and that we—all of us—are ‘very good’.


Christina Tyson is a Salvation Army officer, editor of War Cry magazine, Mum of three, wife of one, and proficient in ironing and other sundry domestics.

The unforced rhythms of grace

28-30 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

~ Matthew 11:28-30, The Message

Rest your eyes on this painting by Vincent van Gogh, and allow God’s rest-full-ness to penetrate your tired heart.

A van Gogh painting of two peasant field workers, a man and a woman, sleeping on a sunny day. They are resting against a haystack, their shoes and scythes beside them on the grass. In the distance are oxen grazing beside and a farm wagon.
Noon rest from work (after Millet), Vincent van Gogh, photo credit: Wikipedia.

If, after that, you’d like to contemplate the role of rest or Sabbath in your own life further, you might like to read this.

Thalia Kehoe Rowden, Sacraparental.com