The Cross

It’s been a busy week here, as Easter celebrations are completed, chocolate has been consumed, and we’ve enjoyed having the whole Mitton crew around for a long weekend. In this week’s blog, I want to continue our thoughts from last week, and examine the way that images can spark so many emotions for us. (In case you are a new visitor to the the blog and missed that great read… you can check it out here).

Specifically, I want us to focus on the image of the cross. The cross design has taken many forms: from the simple wooden “t” — to very ornate and beautiful beacons encrusted with jewels and gold. Jesus follower or not, most people are familiar with the image of a cross and it’s association to the crucifix, or depiction of Jesus’ death on Good Friday. It certainly sparks emotion for people… one way or the other! History has presented us with burning crosses of protest, crucifixes to ward off evil, and rows of white crosses amidst blood red poppies. It seems an appropriate image to look at since we are in the throwbacks of Easter and have seen some powerful images from the recent Notre Dame cathedral fire from April 15th. I watched, along with many others in the world, as the spire collapsed and the roof of this beautiful, old building was engulfed in flames. Many of my social media sights were dotted with the images of personal photos of Paris visits before the destruction, but one news image in particular caught my eye:

Mandatory Credit: Photo by CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON/POOL/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock (10205506cs) A view of the cross and the sculpture ‘Pieta’ by Nicholas Coustou behind debris inside the Notre-Dame de Paris in the aftermath of a fire that devastated the cathedral, in Paris, France, 16 April 2019. The fire started in the late afternoon on 15 April in one of the most visited monuments of the French capital. Cathedral of Notre-Dame of Paris fire aftermath, France – 16 Apr 2019

It was hailed as a “glimmer of hope” or a “miracle” that the cross within the Notre Dame Basilica still stood – despite the destruction all around it. And so I muse: what is so special about the cross? This simple shape is immediately associated with Christianity. Our graves are marked by it, our churches are adorned with it, we tattoo it on our bodies and wear it around out necks. But if we take a moment to really think about it, does it seem odd to hold such a device of torture in such revere? Seriously. Do we wear guillotines on our sleeves? Little electric chairs around our wrists? Skulls and crossbones? (okay, maybe that one gets tattooed a lot …) But you get the picture.

Crucifixion was reserved for the vilest of criminals. The hanging on a cross was proposed to be a political show of guilt, as a way to shame the criminals as they hung from stakes or crossbeams along public walkways. Displayed as spectacles for all good citizens to take note of. The victims essentially were asphyxiated as they hung, and their bodies were often left to be eaten by the buzzards and wild dogs as the ground was considered “too sacred” to allow criminals of such stature to desecrate it. The death itself is painful and slow. It is where we get our word “excruciating” from… not the prettiest of images to admire. It’s no wonder we fluff up Easter with yellow flowers and cute bunnies.

So, why a cross then? I’m going to propose that the cross has been allowed to stand as a symbol of Christianity, because our Creator embedded the ability to see past our sinful natures (and all it’s desires for pain and torture) into the spark of hope that occurred on Easter Sunday; when Jesus defeated that painful death, and rose again to give us the victory over our sin. The news stations were right when they declared the remaining cross in Notre Dame as a “glimmer of hope”. It has become a reverse icon… not promoting pain, but seen as the ability to move beyond destruction to the deliverance from the evils of this world — through Christ.

It’s important for us to see two sides to every story. One cannot see light unless you’ve been exposed to the darkness. One cannot experience true joy unless you’ve felt the pain of grief. Perhaps we embellish our symbols a tad too much. The golden cross left standing in Notre Dame didn’t do so by it’s own miraculous merit. Hunks of metal and clay statues do not save our sins. We must remember that the cross is not the saving grace itself, but the one who overcame this vilest form of death. It’s true. Images can spark such deep emotion within us. And symbolism is simply one way to elicit those responses. So, yes, feel free to wear that shiny gold and silver cross around your neck. Light it a top your church frame for all the world to see… but not as a magic icon, but as a conversation starter. As an image to add insight to a much, much deeper story of hope, compassion and love. The love of a Saviour for a dark and desolate world.

Why Disney is Better than the Bible

Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom is one of the most visited theme parks in the world. Nearly 20.5 million people visited the attraction in 2017. And that’s not including all the off park resorts, hotels and other theme parks. Mickey Mouse is certainly popular. Not to mention all the memorabilia! Magic Kingdom sells over 300 000 pounds of popcorn and employs nearly 70 000 cast members. Approximately 285 thousand pounds of guest laundry is cleaned by Walt Disney world employees every single day. During the Christmas season, 8.5 million lights and 300 000 yards of ribbon decorate the park. And you think you had a hard time keeping up with the housework?!

However, I am curious to do some research on the underlying (and overwhelming) reasons why Disney products are so popular. What have they got that makes them… well… the most magical place on earth?

Legend has it that Disney created the theme park for his little girls. A place to feel like a princess. Filled with adventure, mystery and treasures. If you have ever been, you know it is a reality. We visited way back when our beloveds were a little younger … a trip the kids still talk about. From the check in desk, to the ice cream vendor, every “cast member” was trained to talk directly to our little “prince and princesses”, and to make everyone’s stay the most special visit ever. We even talked to the cashiers in the Canadian pavilion at Epcot… and they enlightened us that most of the employees were chosen from their home countries and had to undergo two years of training before joining the Epcot world teams.

And it’s not all about the kids. In 2013, about 1 500 weddings were held at Disney. That number has steadily grown, and last year, more than 4 000 ceremonies have been performed each day! I have heard of lots of newlyweds who have chosen the theme parks as a honeymoon destination. You can even choose to live there (if you happen to have a couple of million to put out on a house and are willing to abide by the rules). More and more travel companies are promoting adult only Disney visits. And we are eating it up!

So — I muse — WHY? Just think with me a minute. What would happen if our churches were like Disney? What if they were the most magical places on earth, and every child and adult had your church building on their bucket list for places to visit? What would that mean? The coolest rides? The best shows? The best marketing budget for toys and movie clips? Yeah, Disney has all of those things, and yes, many believers are discovering that Walt’s traditional themes are becoming subtly more “worldly”. I’m not saying we have to compromise our fundamentals to woo seekers with magic and pixie dust. The Bible is God’s living word and is perfect in all it’s details. But it doesn’t change the fact that people are seeking places to belong.

Places where they will be accepted. Maybe a place to feel safe. A place to feel special and loved — even if you have a funny voice, or a tiny fin, or ugly, mean stepsisters. To know that it really is “a small world after all”, and that all it takes is faith and trust. If we really and truly believe that we have the. best. answer. ever. to the problems we all face in this world, why are we not sharing it?! Why are my beloveds seeking adventure and drama in the latest superhero movie? Why do I wish for a fairy tale marriage? {no worries, honey, it’s pretty close…} Why is Disney our celebratory destination and not the streets of gold in Heaven? Is God not bigger and more powerful than Mickey Mouse?

As usual, I don’t have all the answers. I love Disney. The family is trying to convince me to see the new, live action Dumbo movie. I’m gonna cry. Poor Dumbo is snatched away from his momma all too soon. But I’ve got to wonder, am I moved the same way when I read of the atrocities that human babies face in our own world? Does it grieve me the way that it grieves our Heavenly Father? The Bible is filled with adventure, romance, humor, and boundless love. Love that can cross barriers, and the test of time. Are we training our “cast members” to treat every person who walks through our doors, that, they too, can experience the most magical place on earth through the person of Jesus… and that an even greater adventure awaits them after? To infinity and beyond?!

Photo credit: Roberto Gemini Pixabay

I want my daughters to feel like princesses. I want my boys to seek adventure and fight for justice. I want to whistle while I work as my house gets cleaned by a variety of adorable woodland creatures. But I know that, sometimes, fairy tales don’t always have a happy ending. So I entrust my friends and family to be sons and daughters of the king of kings. To put on the whole armour of God, and enlist in the adventure of a lifetime. Because with God’s help, Walt Disney himself, might agree… “if you can dream it, you can do it.”

Spiritual Awakenings at the Grand Canyon

This week has been frigid — I’m talking record breaking low temperatures and epic snowfalls that made even us, winter-hardened Canadians, quiver. Twitter was all a buzz with hashtags like #snowmageddon2019. It’s supposed to warm up again by the weekend, but the past week had me dreaming of warmer places, and so I thought I would muse a bit about our trip to Arizona and the Grand Canyon from last year! The week deserves some desert reminiscing!

Looking for a spiritual revelation at the Grand Canyon?

We don’t travel much, so when we do, we drive, we trek, we search, and we plan to fit as much in as our meager budgets will allow! Our trip to the Grand Canyon was no exception. We booked tours and saw as many parts of the world wonder (and surrounding places) as we could. I stopped at the burrow ride to the bottom, though… those winding paths on the canyon edge was just a bit too narrow for my liking! Let alone on the back of a teetering donkey! Sedona was one of our favourite places. The Red Rocks and the views were spectacular!! You simply cannot describe the colours.

If you do any research on Sedona, or Arizona in general, you will inevitably discover that it is a hub for “spiritual awakenings”. There is just something about our spirits that are drawn to a timeless place, full of organic mixes of earth and nature, that provokes within us a yearning to find some deeper meaning to our lives — you can call it a spiritual awakening if you want, but — it’s totally a God thing. He put it deep within us when He breathed life into our souls. Many people search for great revelations. Enlightenment. We inherently know there is something bigger than us. Something more powerful than our frail existence. We often feel the need to be challenged, to be driven, to somehow be more Holy. That’s why so many religious pursuits are just that: pursuits. It’s nice to know that we are saved by a free gift of grace and not our own pursuits and merit. Nonetheless, our faith journeys should drive us towards sanctification. I wrote this in my journal on the plane ride to Vegas:

“… Will be super cool to see the Grand Canyon — I ‘m actually hoping to have a bit of spiritual journey there — to see God’s great handiwork and know that this Great Big God loves me — and cares about my parenting and my kids. To be able to trust Him whole-heartedly and see where He takes my dreams: WHAT ARE MY DREAMS?!

Maybe that will be the awakening. That’d be cool. To have a great revelation of some “dream” I should take on. Hmmmn… will have to see what that takes me to….”

March 2017

I’m sorry to report that there was no great revelation the day our eyes beheld the glory of the Cavern. There was no voice from Heaven, no burning bush experience, no tongues of fire. Not for lack of trying. Our tour guide made sure we didn’t peek as we drove along. We were expected to see the grandeur of the Grand Canyon in all it’s finest in one great unearthing. To have that awe inspiring first view. To be honest, it is just too huge to fathom. It almost seems fake. Our minds cannot grasp how wide and vast the expanse is. You can see for miles and miles. Perhaps that is the point. When you first lay eyes on the vastness of a cavern carved out of rock and behold the raging Colorado River from the upper rim… you cannot help but be reminded of how fragile we tiny humans are. How insignificant we are compared to our great big God who flung stars into space! Yet, He has us right where He wants us to be. He is in control — always. This, my friend, is the daily encouragement we need. Not always a grand spiritual awakening. Not always a full revelation of our dreams to pursue, not always visions, dreams or flashes of light. Sometimes it is a still, small whisper that simply says: keep going. I’ve got you right where you need to be today, and tomorrow will be just one more step on the journey. You’ve got this — because God’s got you.

You’ve got this — because God’s got you!