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.

Sparking Joy Through Photographs

This weekend was spent pouring over memories. I sat in a room with with about 50 other ladies (and the occasional man) scrapbooking. Technically, it was a scrapbooking “retreat” — but I’d like to think of it as time spent recalling happy (or sometimes sad) memories … with a little paper and tape mixed in. Okay… a lot of tape, and glue, and patterned paper, and embellishments, and ribbon, and die cut machines and lap tops and…oh, nevermind.

Ask any scrapbooker or photographer (or blogger for that matter) why they do what they do, and one of the first responses is this: I want to capture the moment. To savour a unique blip in time that brings an emotion to life. And, we want to share it. How many grandmas pull out those precious pictures of the new grand baby? How many times have you looked through that trip to the mountains album and discovered you have taken 101 shots of the same piece of dirt? Photographs produce memories. Visual cues to a time and place stuck in our brains forever. Moments to be recalled and re-lived. Moments that spark joy. Or moments that bring a flood of tears as you remember challenges… and how you are overcoming them.

I skimmed through a few articles about how our brains and memories work together to store and interact with images — and no surprise here — looking at pictures helps to recall memories. We remember: who, what, where, how and sometimes the why of those pictures. Lots of research is being done to see how scrapbooks and albums are helping Alzheimer patients and people with learning disabilities cognitively connect. I will try and Pin some of the articles on my Pinterest board for you to check out.

Having discovered all these great facts about pictures, I decided for this blog entry to ask a few of my friends to share some of their favourite pics. Images that capture “joy” for them. Some of my friends have studied photography. Others are still learning. For this project, though, I simply asked them to send me photos that “spark joy” for them. I love the results. When you google “joyful images” you get a lot of smiles, a lot of hand raising… and for some reason: bubbles. I suppose “joy” ignites the feeling of freedom for some of us. Therefore, without further ado, here is the collection of a few images that “spark joy” . Please check out the links to follow along if you like what you see –and share the joy around!

As Easter rolls around this week, I am musing about what it would be like if there were photographs of that last trip of Jesus’ ministry. What a contrast of images from the triumphal entry on palm Sunday to the dark hill and the gruesome scene on the top of Golgotha. What would the Instagram accounts of the disciples document in the eventful three days of the first Easter? Does it spark joy in your heart? We’d love to see what images kindle joy for you! Share with us on our Facebook page and tell us why !!

Why there should Never be Leftover Chocolate!

Photo MinA Pexels

Photo: MinA via Pexels

I love chocolate.  Milk.  Dark.  White.  Hot, cold, melted, stirred, mixed, non-GMO, organic or infused with orange essence!  I love it all.  This to the detriment of my hips, and to the disgrace of my healthy optioned hubby.  So with the arrival and passage of Easter this past weekend, the bedeviled stuff has arrived.  Now don’t get me wrong… I believe Easter should be celebrated with its true meaning… the resurrection of Christ and all the holiness and grace of His sacrifice for us.  But at our house, we indulge in the confections too.  According to my limited research, the egg (having been the pagan sign of fertility and new life) became associated with Easter somewhere between the 15th and 19th centuries.

Easter should be celebrated with Christ’s sacrifice for us as its true focus (Photo credit: Jacob Meyer).

Most likely the Germans and/or the French were the first ones to create a hollowed out chocolate egg.  Then they filled it with sweets and distributed it among all the unsuspecting, innocent children. The children!(Personally, I think the Belgians make the best chocolate… but… whatever). Our taste buds have been hooked ever since. Currently, Cadbury World in Birmingham produces 1.5 million creme filled eggs a day.  Oh my heart be still!

So, this got me thinking… why? Why did I once buy a whole Costco-sized carton of Easter-creme eggs and store them for when I am having “one-of-those-days”?  Why do we love the melty stuff and drink in the “food of the gods” as our comfort cuppa?  Turns out chocolate is made up of some 380 chemical compounds that affect our brain chemistry.  The chemical substances in chocolate cause the release of neurotransmitters in the brain that signal us to feel — get this — “happy”.  A lucrative word.

Bear with me as my science mind takes over for a second and we research those chemicals for a bit.  Tryptophan.  It releases serotonin… a commonly known  “anti-depressant” making ya feel, well, no longer depressed.  Phenylethylamine.  An amphetamine releaser creating that excited, pleasurable high.  Theobromine.  Derived from the Greek word, “theobroma” meaning food of the gods.  A stimulant.  Anandamide.  Another “pleasure” producing chemical receptor named after the ancient Sanskrit word for bliss, joy or happiness.  No wonder chocolate bars are sold in drug stores!  Powerful stuff, people.


Turns out chocolate is made up of 380 “happy” chemicals! (Photo credit: Jon Tyson)

Leaving aside the science for a moment, let’s go back to that happy thing.  For most of us… women especially… chocolate is a good, happy thing.  If it were the only thing that kept us going, though, Cadbury would be manufacturing a heck of a lot more than 1.5 million creme eggs a day.   Recently, my world has been bombarded with sadness.  We lost my beloved mother-in-law a few weeks ago.  A friend recently lost her husband in a quick and unrelenting battle with cancer.  I sobbed big, snotty sobs on my last day of work just last Monday.  The world is filled with UNHAPPY.  Even in biblical times, we see examples of folks who have had to deal with their own sadness and feelings of injustice.  Psalm 10 outlines David’s struggle to make sense of his own unhappy.  Why does it seem that everyone around us prospers while we are stuck struggling to keep our heads above water?  David concludes that God is still the master overseer.  A few chapters later, in Psalm 30, David dedicates the temple to God, recognizing that Christ is the true source of happiness.  Sorry, chocolate.


Even 1.5 million chocolate eggs can’t make us truly joyful (Photo credit: Annie Spratt).

I’m not sure where you are on the happiness scale right now.  If you are like me, and are seeing some unhappy things in the world around you, be encouraged, my friend, to indulge a little.  Not only in that all that rich goodness of leftover Easter goodies (yes… that is permission to eat that whole bag of m&m’s), but be sure to share it with a friend.  One who points you in the direction of the true overseer of the “unhappy” and turns your sorrow into dancing.  There should never be leftover chocolate eggs in the house. Enrich the children in your life with yet, another Easter egg hunt.  Who says it should stop with only one long weekend? Encourage one another.  Connect. Turn those neurotransmitters on high with a cuppa melty, rich, heartfelt conversation.  Creamy hot cocoa optional.Blog1 - Page 015