Archive for August 13, 2017


A $14.99 piece of carved wood inspired an adventure into the Unknown. Fresh parables from God are found everywhere! Elizabeth Barrett Browning opened my eyes with this reminder:

Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;

Candice Olson, host of a TV program that tackles challenging home design dilemmas, was a co-contributor to the inspiration. On one of her recent episodes, she purchased a chair for the family room she was designing. It was called the Smoke Chair. I call it the Charred Chair. The classic wood carved chair had been torched to create a cracked patina of burnt wood. It was beautiful!

So a few weeks ago, standing in the aisle of HomeGoods, I looked at a glossy-varnished wood heart and my spiritual eyes saw it transformed into a heavily-textured charred parable.

I love to redesign found objects and provide worship participants context in which to create altered worshipart. This process slows down time, and like Jesus’ writing in the sand of the temple, it provides that unmeasured moment when the natural barriers between heaven and earth become very thin. And God, in that suspended space, speaks the Truth to us individually, like the words that healed the prostitute’s abused heart and the words that penetrated the conscience of each of her accusers.

Isaiah prophesied that the Spirit of God would heal the broken hearted and, as the Message puts it, “give them bouquets of roses instead of ashes.” What a promise of restoration. What a beautiful picture!

We explored the parable of Beauty from Ashes over several worship gatherings. The first weekend, using a plumber’s torch with MAPP gas, we scorched the wood heart. Then, using coffee filters, florist wire and watercolor paints we created a magnificent bouquet of roses to “bloom” from the charred heart.

Everyone shared in reading the Story of the freed captive, the prostitute who stood on the sacred sand in the midst of her accusers. Tradition suggests that it was this same woman who came into the midst of quite possibly the same group of accusers, when she crashed Simon’s party. What a daring risk she took as she poured out her praise, her oil of joy, anointing her Redeemer, Jesus Christ.

I have experienced that when you provide the time and opportunity for the creative work of the people, texturized liturgy, God’s Story is revealed in real-time. It takes your breath away, the air is so thin. It makes curated worship beautiful.

We always provide an opportunity for interpersonal interaction, some might call it an icebreaker; I think of it more as a heart softener. For the second weekend of our Beauty from Ashes, I placed a generous stack of Table Topic™ cards on each table. These cards are a great conversation starter with some provocative questions. Active participation promotes community and lowers barriers, authentic participation thins the air.

Chris was the second person to read his card out loud. I was so proud of him! He read the card all by himself and didn’t need any help sounding out the words. He started attending our group when he was 5 years old and was very timid. Now, at age 7, he is eager to be involved with everything we do. His card asked this question, “If you could do anything without risk of injury, what would you do?”

He pondered the question on his card. I suggested that he think about it and offered the same question to Jack. Jack is in his mid 20’s and is an extreme sportsman. He rock climbs, backpacks mountains in the middle of ice storms and has conquered Central America in his four-wheeling truck-beast. He is angry with God, but regularly attends our gathering. His engagement to the love-of-his-life didn’t happen. The ring was refused. He was rejected. It’s been almost a year. He is a bitter man. Usually he is sullen and slouches low in a chair at the back of the gathering room. I don’t know why I offered for Jack to answer the question while Chris considered his response. Maybe it was because I thought that it was a “safe” question, an easy question for our adventurous explorer. Void of vulnerability.

“If you could do anything without risk of injury, what would you do?”

Jack turned his eyes away and looked down at the floor. Then, in a very soft voice, Jack responded, “I would open my heart.”

God speaks. God moves. God is beautiful.
we respond. we create. we worship. Michael Card

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