Is it Spring Yet?

I passed by these doors the day after Easter, when I was walking the dog. It was cold and snowy and blowy outside, so the doors captured my attention. They proclaim that Easter is here, and spring is on its way, despite the weather.

 

That is the message of Easter. Christ has conquered sin death and evil, despite the “weather” we see around us. C.S. Lewis frequently uses spring as a metaphor of God’s new Creation. He writes,

“A [person] really ought to say, “The Resurrection happened two thousand years ago” in the same spirit in which s/he says, ‘I saw a crocus yesterday.’ Because we know what is coming behind the crocus. The spring comes slowly down this way; but the great thing is the corner has been turned.

 There is, of course, this difference, that in the natural spring the crocus cannot choose whether it will respond or not. We can. We have the power either of withstanding the spring, and sinking back into the cosmic winter, or of going on into those ‘high mid-summer pomps’ in which our Leader, the Son of man, already dwells, and to which he is calling us. It remains with us to follow of not, to die in this winter, or to go on into that spring and summer.”

crocua

C.S. Lewis writes within the Christian framework of God’s Creation, the Fall into Sin, Redemption and New Creation in Christ. Theologians call our present time God’s “already but not-yet Kingdom;” the Kingdom of new life that started with Christ’s resurrection.

Here in West Michigan, there are Easters doors, and blades of green grass beneath the snow. Before too long, there will be carpets of grass, sprinkled with cherry blossoms. These are signs of our sure hope in Christ, small signs of the Kingdom that is coming.

Can you picture a “high mid-summer pomp?” It’s on its way.

One day, Christ will return and “the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples…Then the Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces…
It will be said on that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the LORD for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation (Isaiah 25:6-9).”

Please join the conversation!

What signs of God’s already but not-yet Kingdom do you see around you, in people, in Creation, in worship?

I also invite you to follow and share my blog by clicking blue tab on the right.

This is my drawing of the banquet we anticipate when Christ returns. It is from my intergenerational multicultural book on Communion, “Supper with the Savior: Communion in the Bible and Today.” My book contains many resources, including 21 Bible studies for youth and adults, and coloring pages! To order a copy, please email me for a signed copy: bjellandbarbara@gmail.com, or contact your local bookstore (they order from Ingram), or order on Amazon at: www.amazon.com/Supper-Savior-Communion-Bible-Today/dp/157383453X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1524508105&sr=8-1&keywords=supper+with+the+savior

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Text and images copyright 2018 Barbara Bjelland

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Christmas and Christmas Victor

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It’s the second week of Advent, and Christmas is coming. Advent means “coming.” We remember when Christ came to earth and look forward to his return, when he will make all things new.

When we think of Christmas, we think of the babe lying in a humble manger. We may think about how the wood of the manger-bed points to the cruel wood of the cross where Jesus died for our sins.

Jesus didn’t just defeat sin on that cross. He was also victorious over death and evil. I recently learned in my Theology class, that the classical biblical view of the Atonement is also called the Christus Victor view. I like that. Zephaniah 3:17 says:

The Lord your God is in your midst,
    a warrior who gives victory;
he will rejoice over you with gladness,
    he will renew you in his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing
     as on a day of festival (RSV).

Above is my drawing of Jesus as the Victorious Warrior, defeating the evil one.

Below is a photo of our beautiful new puppy, Caspian. He is not afraid to be in a graveyard, because Christ has defeated sin, death and the devil. In fact, Caspian is even eating the graveyard grass, like a sheep lying down in green pastures!

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OK, so I intended to post this photo at Halloween and am a bit late. OK, so the neighbors may not have appreciated Caspian eating their grass. However, this all ties together for Advent, in a very old poem by Aurelius Prudentius (Roman, ca. AD 348-415). This poem is also a splendid Christmas hymn, entitled “Of the Father’s Love Begotten.”

Here is the closing stanza of the poem/hymn:

Christ, to Thee, with God the Father,
And, O Holy Ghost, to Thee
Hymn and chant and high thanksgiving
And unending praises be,
Honor, glory, and dominion,
And eternal victory
Evermore and evermore.

Let’s keep that eternal victory in view, as we wait for the time when there will be no more mourning, crying or pain, and we see our Savior face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12; Revelation 21:4).

Advent Blessings to You!

Please leave a reply and share some encouragement with others.

Where do you see goodness and beauty? How do you see God’s Kingdom and Christ’s victory breaking into this world?

Lent, Easter and an Icon

Lent has ended. Now it is the season of Easter. There are Lenten practices that we can continue. During Lent, we remembered Jesus’ 40 days of fasting and temptation, after he was baptized. We often think of giving something up for Lent. This can be a way to open up and make room in our lives for God.

This children’s book looks like a great way to explain this for children:

https://www.amazon.com/Make-Room-Childs-Guide-Easter/dp/1612616593/ref=sr_1_fkmr2_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1488501259&sr=1-1-fkmr2&keywords=childrens+books+on+lent+and+making+room

During Lent, I tried to draw or paint every day. The point of Lent is to draw closer to God, and creating art helps me do this.

icon

I also have a Lenten picture that I will continue to carry in my mind. It is the icon of the Holy Trinity, by Andrei Rublev (completed 1425). This icon is based on Genesis 18:1-15, where Abraham and Sarah welcome three angelic visitors. Christians believe this was a theophany—an appearance of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. (Remember in Genesis 1:26, when God says “Let us make humankind in our image”?)

An icon is “a window…into the realm of God.” For this quote and a meditation on the icon, see:

http://sacredheartpullman.org/Icon%20explanation.htm

There is a lot of great symbolism and meaning in this icon, that help us understand how God is a community of self-giving love. Theologians describe the Trinity as “three persons in one essence.” Notice how they all incline toward one another, and make a harmonious unit? Jeremy Begbie describes the Trinity in musical terms, like a single piano chord made up of three notes.  You can find more on this wise man at:

https://www.faithandleadership.com/multimedia/jeremy-begbie-theology-through-the-arts

Notice how there is an open space at the front of the table? That space is for you and me, and for everyone who will come.

As you make space in your life and draw near to God, remember that He has already made space for you! He eagerly waits for you to accept His invitation.

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Please join the conversation!

One way I make space in my life and connect to God is by doing art.

How about you?

A Diamond in the Rough

Thoughts after reading a passage from Ephesians, and attending the Festival of Faith and Writing:

“His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms… (Ephesians 3:10, NIV).”

When I read this passage, I thought, “Hmmm…who are the rulers and authorities…why do they care what the church is doing…what is the church doing anyway?”

Commentaries noted that “manifold wisdom” means that God’s wisdom is like an intricately cut diamond, that has many faces and facets that enhance its beauty. Commentaries noted that God’s work through the church, causes angels and heavenly beings to glorify God.beads like diamonds

“But many people have been hurt by the church,” I thought. “God’s wisdom may be manifold, but the church is too often a ‘diamond in the rough,’ its facets shrouded and clouded. “

(Photo at right: My prayer beads look like diamond dewdrops  in the garden)

I heard a great speaker at the Festival. He said that he was initially excited about the call to follow Jesus. Then he became disillusioned, when this call got equated with going to church and being good. Later, this man read in the Bible about Jesus and his radical love. Now this man is a prison chaplain and shines brightly with a heavenly flame.

This response fits with Paul’s letter to the Ephesian, which is about God’s amazing and radical work, in making Jews and Gentiles into one body in Christ (see Eph. 3:6). Paul goes on to say that when Christ ascended, he gave gifts to his people, to build up his body, the church (Eph. 4:7-13). God has given all of us unique gifts.

You may be a prison chaplain; you may write children’s picture books, but when you think of following Jesus, don’t just think about going to church and being good. Lets’s think about being the church that God intends, and letting the love of Jesus flow to us and through us, outside of the church building. Let God show us the unique people he has called us to be, the gifts he has given us that help us connect to him with joy. Let the living water spill out of us into the world.Let’s iInvite others to connect to Jesus and his body, the church. This is radical. This is Jesus.

••••••••••••••

The prison chaplain is named Chris Hoke; he has written awesome books, and his website is: http://chris-hoke.com/

I heard the prison chaplain speak at the Festival of Faith and Writing, April 14-16, 2016, at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a very awesome conference!

Please comment on any of these questions:

  • How does the idea of being observed by angels and heavenly beings, affect how you interact with people in the church?
  • Has your church experience been mostly positive or negative?
  • Why/how is God’s glory in the church so often shrouded and clouded?
  • What gifts has God given you?
  • How do these gifts help you connect to God and build up Christ’s body?

 

Good Friday and Isaiah 53

I use this crucifix for prayer. It was created by liturgical artist Grant Gilderhus, for a wall or procession cross.

(Grant’s website:http://www.vista3designs.com/uniquely-qualified)

cropped_cross 1

I notice how Jesus’ arms are stretched out wide, wide enough to embrace me and the whole world (even a world that rejects him).

He was despised and rejected by men; 

a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
    he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

 

The crucifix is made of metal. I feel its weight, as I hold it in my hands. I think of laying on Jesus, my sins and pain, burdens and sorrows.

 Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.cropped_cross 2

I touch the wounds in Jesus’ hands and feet. I know He suffers with and for us.

But he was wounded for our transgressions,
    he was bruised for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that made us whole…

I experience new freedom, as Christ bears all my burdens on the cross. 

   and with his stripes we are healed.butterfly

 

May it be so this Easter!

(Scripture verses from Isaiah 53:3-6, Revised Standard Version)

 

PLEASE COMMENT on what helps you connect to God during Lent and Easter—

Are there group or individual spiritual practices, traditions or Scripture that God uses in your life?

 

Barbara’s Writing Must-Have

This is my post  for the Breathe Writer’s Conference. This Christian writer’s conference will be held Oct. 7, 8 in Grand Rapids, MI. Hope to see you there!

on Mar 18, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

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In order to write, I must have light. I love to turn on the white twinkle lights, the ones on the white cords, left over from Christmas and still strung about my house.They help me settle down and sit to write, as they twinkle at me from over the French doors in my office.

These tiny lights lift my spirits and point me to the One True Light. They remind me of the star shimmering over the dark clouds of Mordor, in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Tolkien writes, “The beauty of [the star] smote [Sam’s] heart…and hope returned to him…the Shadow was only a small and passing thing; there was light and high beauty forever beyond its reach.”

PLEASE comment on what you need to have in order to write or do creative work.

Barb_photo-300x277Barbara is an author, artist and chaplain. She writes, designs, and illustrates books, and has published an intergenerational devotional book on Communion found at http://www.amazon.com/Supper-Savior-Communion-Bible-Today/dp/157383453X

– See more at: http://breatheconference.com/home/featured-articles/barbaras-writing-must-have.html#sthash.qcLDbAIy.dpuf

Jesus’ First Miracle on the Third Day

God’s Glory in the Ordinary

We are nearing the end of the season of Epiphany in the church calendar. Part of Epiphany is Jesus’ first miracle, changing water to wine at a wedding.

(This is a photo I took in Italy this summer, of modern-day guests arriving for a wedding.)wedding_guests

John  writes,

“What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him (John 2:11).”

 I recently gave a message on this story, in which Jesus blesses marriage by his presence. I was struck by several things that I had not noticed before. To those at the wedding party, wine was a symbol of joy and celebration and a sign of God’s provision of fruitful land. God cares about the things that bring us joy, and we can bring all of our cares to him.

Wedding Feast coloring picture

(This drawing is from my book, “Supper with the Savior.” Here is the link: http://www.amazon.com/Supper-Savior-Communion-Bible-Today/dp/157383453X)

The large pots that Jesus told the servants to fill with water, were used for Jewish rites of purification. Hmm…and the water put in those pots turned to wine…and at the Last Supper, Jesus said the cup of wine was his blood of the new Covenant …and at the end of time we will celebrate the “Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:9).”

It is clear that this story has Eucharistic implications. (“Eucharist” mans thanksgiving, and is another word for Communion.) We are now purified through Jesus’ blood, which we celebrate in Communion.

The artist Veronese recognized the Eucharist implications of this story.

Here is a link to images and a commentary from the Louvre Museum in Paris, where Veronese’ painting of the Wedding Feast at Cana now resides after being captured, rolled up and transported to France by Napolean’s troops:

http://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/wedding-feast-cana

(Accessed for this blog on Feb. 1, 2016)

The commentary on this painting by Aline Francois notes that,

“in the center of the composition a servant slices meat, symbolic of the body of Christ, quinces—symbols of marriage—are served as dessert to the guests. “

The commentary also points out that the artist mixes sacred and profane images. This reminds me that Jesus ate and drank with tax collectors and sinners (Luke 5:30). We are all sinners in need of the great physician; this tells me not to live exclusively in the bubble of my church community.

The Third Day

John specifies that this happened “on the third day (John 2:1).” This was the third day after Jesus had called Nathanael and told him he would see greater things (John 1:50). John is also pointing to Christ’s resurrection on the third day.

Many years before, the prophet Hosea had referred to the third day and called out,

“Let us return to the Lord…on the third day he will restore us…he will come to us…like the spring rains that water the earth (Hosea 6:2,3).”

In the Bible, the third day symbolizes fulfillment, completeness, restoration, resurrection.
flowers

 

Jesus’ first miracle reveals that Jesus is our Lord the healer prophesied by Hosea, the restorer who brings new life, like spring rains awaken sleeping seeds buried in the ground.

 Water Pots

 

I like this utube video of the Marriage at Cana. (That part of the video is about 3 minutes long.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TTAl-v2qkc8

I like the sly smile Jesus has, when he asks his mother why she involved him in the wine issue, and says his time has not yet come. (“Woman” was a respectful address in that culture.) Notice how Jesus’ power is apparent as the pots are being filled and the water is changing to wine. His glory is almost scary.

I also like how the chief servant looks a bit confused after the pots are filled with water, but still follows Jesus’ instructions. (That is how I feel sometimes, but I can still live faithfully.)

The bride and groom continue to celebrate blissfully, not realizing all that has happened. Isn’t that like us too—not realizing all Jesus has done for us?

 

Wine and the Fountain of Life

At the Cana wedding, Jesus’ wine was the best. His party at the end of time will supersede anything we have yet experienced. All peoples are invited to the feast:

On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
    the best of meats and the finest of wines.
… he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
    from all faces;

 It will be said on that day,

“Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

Isaiah 25:6,8, 9 New International Version (NIV), Revised Standard Version (RSV)

This miracle reminds me that there are things worth waiting for, and I don’t have to fear growing old.

wine

As theologian Alexander Schmemann writes,

[Christ] is the wine of the new life of the children of God, and communion in it will proclaim how, by getting older and older in this world, we are growing younger and younger in the life which has no evening.

(Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World, New York: St. Vladmir’s Seminary Press, p. 91).

Comments are welcome!

How has God’s glory in Christ been revealed to you? What miracles has God done in your life and community? When have you been aware that the Holy Spirit dwells within? How have you have experienced new life, restoration and joy?