Corporate Worship

A Call to Worship: The First New Blue Pigment Discovered in the Last 200 Years

There are many around the world suffering from senseless violence. Here in Portland, Oregon we have lost people needlessly as well. I wrote this call to worship last week, after 3 men were stabbed for rising to the defense of 2 teenage girls on a train who were being verbally assaulted. Thanks to Cedar Mill Bible Church for giving me the opportunity to deliver this call today:

We are not innocent
we are not guilty
what we are
is Sad
(have you heard of the discovery of a new shade of blue?)
we are sad for the city, we are sad for the children
we are sad for two teenage girls on a train
just kids
and we all lost something when hate screamed and then
tore red holes in the world
we are sad that we needed the helpers and heroes
and the temptation is to huddle in the upper room
to say, “Now what Lord?
Now what?
Now what?
This is a new shade of blue.”
When Christ looked at His city, He cried too.
How did the disciples know it was time?
to leave the room and enter the streets?
no speech, no word, no voice was heard
and yet love breathed courage and called them,
Knock on a door
Console
because this is not political
You Know
You Know what is critical here,
a sorrow shared
a universal tongue
a hand outstretched
a hand taken
lives given for one another
we ask God, “How will you heal?
What will you do?”
And He answers, “That, my child, is why I made you.”
—Michelle Winter, 2017

Standing on the Threshold

The November Women's Ministries Event was about identifying the things that hold us back from growing in our relationship with God, leaving those things behind and moving forward. During Pastor Gaby Viesca's sermon, women wrote down their obstacles, then stuck them onto the back sides of the doors (which were painted black), opened the doors and walked through them towards the beautiful. It was an exercise in Truth and Hope.

 Here  are the five doors. These are the beautiful sides, the other sides were painted solid black. Many thanks to my amazing crew: Veronica Lake, Constance Lee Adams, Kathy Berry, Sue Epps, Gaby Viesca,  and Quynh Nguyen . There is something quite wonderful about painting with friends.

Here are the five doors. These are the beautiful sides, the other sides were painted solid black. Many thanks to my amazing crew: Veronica Lake, Constance Lee Adams, Kathy Berry, Sue Epps, Gaby Viesca, and Quynh Nguyen. There is something quite wonderful about painting with friends.

This is the benediction I gave as the event transitioned from the planned portion to the vital mingling-in-the lobby portion:

It's not hard to think of reasons not to come. There are many reasons to go it alone, but we are the Body of Christ and you have spent the entire week being an elbow--alone, being an ear--alone. You know in your bones, even if you don't know it in your head, you know it in your bones, that we must come together to be a BODY.
You were home behind your door, you reached out your hand and turned the knob, crossed the threshold and walked out into the rain, you crossed the parking lot, entered through the outside doors into the building where everyone looks like they have it all together, you crossed the lobby and entered these sanctuary doors where you found we are all broken together.
What happens when we set aside reasons, and cross into community? It's a mystery--a surprise, a delight. We have painted bright colors, different paintings on the backs of our doors. You have crossed so many thresholds tonight, will you cross one more? Go through the doors and enter into community, offer and receive love. Please linger. Good night.

A Call to Worship

I had the joy of writing the Call to Worship for our Women's Ministries Kick Off event in October. It is written as a Spoken Word Poem meant to be a true call to worship--an oral summons to turn our faces and lift our eyes--rather than a reading.

Pause
Turn and Come
Turn away from what ails
Frightens
Worries
Brings you low
Turn your hearts to God and Know
That He is Here
And He is Good
Believe
Be loved Beloved
Come.
Come in,
You’re invited
Yes, you hear the drum
That’s our God calling you
Come
Leave it all behind
You are mine, Our God calls us
out of the night
Into the light
He gathers us
And says it is good
In the desert there was one bush that burned
But that was enough to make Moses turn
He turned aside and worshiped God
Now what if you
Who are Called out of the dark
What if you took up that spark
What if you let God’s breath warm
Transform you into a fire storm
Each of you burning bright
together
Each one conquering the night
together
Each one carrying the light
together
You keep the doors closed on your dark places
Those deep spaces
When was the last time you opened those doors and looked
really looked into the deep
You’d be surprised at what you see.
Arise
Because even in those places God’s put an ember
Arise woman remember
That you were not made for the dark, you were made for the light
You were not made to be alone
But to stand side by side
To sympathize
You were not made to be ignored, not made to be bored
Arise woman
You were made to inspire
To rise higher
You were made to be fire
Arise woman you are mine says the Lord
You were made to be light
Arise woman
IGNITE

Abraham's Stars Part 3

And after all that preparation, after sharing our stories and playing together, it got hard. In order to stabilize the weavings we had to sew every warp piece to the one next to it—by hand. There was no other way, no short cut. We had to show up and put in the work, we worked side by side and we built relationships. We were in the lobby every day except Sundays, for 7-9 hours a day for 4 weeks. 67 different people showed up to volunteer. Many came numerous times.

This is the part that scared me. I knew it would. Much of my work I do alone. Community pinches me. At this point the tapestries held my fears: that I don’t belong and would never be able to break in, that I would fail. But early in this process someone came and she sewed quietly. I worried about how to entertain her, what to say? After several hours she thanked me for providing a space where she could sit with women and just be, where she didn’t have to talk. And just like that the Lord released me. Instead, I prayed every morning that He Himself would offer hospitality, that the lobby would be a safe place and that everyone would feel welcome here. And every single day He brought people who needed one another to sew next to each other. We shared lives, good books, good movies, recipes...

While I stitched in the lobby, a man came by. “You’re listening to stories? I have a story.” “It’s too late to write it into the tapestry,” I told him, “but if I can keep working while you tell me I will stitch it into this piece.” A total of 73 people over 4 weeks stopped by just to tell their stories. Their stories are just as much a part of this work as the ones written and they bring the total number in the tapestries to almost 400.

The lobby became a sacred space. One woman walking through said, “There is a stillness here, a peace. I can hear the women talking, so it isn’t quiet that I am feeling. No, it’s stillness.”

 
 Part of a stitching crew. Each of the three looms could accommodate 4 sewing volunteers at a time. The Navajo-loom-inspired-Olivia-and-Larry-designed warp tightening mechanism worked well for rolling the large pieces and keeping them tight while we worked.

Part of a stitching crew. Each of the three looms could accommodate 4 sewing volunteers at a time. The Navajo-loom-inspired-Olivia-and-Larry-designed warp tightening mechanism worked well for rolling the large pieces and keeping them tight while we worked.

 

Someone said, “When you get these pieces up no one will know how much work really went into them.” But isn’t that true for every single ministry in the church? How many people really know how much work is done behind the scenes to pull off any act of love or kindness, any ministry, or even a sermon?

This started as an offering to the Lord, and a project to illustrate community. It became a love letter to my church:

To all those people who said, “I would never put so much work into something” as they walked through on their way to put just as much work into preparing for their ministry. I see you. To those people whose stories filled my heart. Yes, it was a love letter. But, in the end, I was the one most blessed. By your courage as you face every day. By your faith as you hold onto God’s promises. By your love for your families and neighbors. And by the dear people who came and sewed beside me, offering their friendship. Thank you. I see Jesus in you.
 Some of the dangles made by the children. I was just getting ready to put them on when teenagers started arriving in the lobby for youth group one night. A few asked if they could help, which inspired the rest of them and the job was soon finished. Their spontaneous generosity rounded out the statistics for this project. Now every single demographic in the church could claim to have had a hand in it!

Some of the dangles made by the children. I was just getting ready to put them on when teenagers started arriving in the lobby for youth group one night. A few asked if they could help, which inspired the rest of them and the job was soon finished. Their spontaneous generosity rounded out the statistics for this project. Now every single demographic in the church could claim to have had a hand in it!

 The weavings in place in the main lobby above the doors into the sanctuary.

The weavings in place in the main lobby above the doors into the sanctuary.

 Our stories woven into and through God's story.

Our stories woven into and through God's story.


praying twice

This is the playlist we used off and on while we sewed. In many ways our songs were prayers. The songs are related to the stories, people and hopes invested in the weavings.

Abraham's Stars Part 2

And then we played...

See, the thing about three gigantic looms in the lobby is that they are hard to ignore. They are, in fact, so hard to ignore that people who would normally avoid involvement in such a project became caught up in it.

We had God's story in God's words written out on the warp fabric, our stories written on the weft fabric, the looms were warped and the weft pieces rolled and organized into baskets. Here is a portion of the email instructions I sent to volunteer loom monitors and paint helpers:

Thanks so much for agreeing to help out! This is a true community project! So many people have contributed stories, time and effort already and this Sunday we get to help even more to participate. What we are doing is offering hospitality. The default word is, "Yes!"
Here are the general guiding principles:
* We want to include everyone. Please encourage cooperation. Shorter persons can weave the lower end and from underneath, those with mobility issues can weave from the side, etc. The looms are large so it will be very difficult for someone to weave the entire length alone. That is intentional. We are all a part of one another's stories.
* Have FUN! Lots of it!

There was so much joy in that lobby. Both weeks, people lingered long after each service. Adults and kids played together, crawling under and into the looms, others weaved from the outside. We laughed a lot, caught up with people we hadn't seen in awhile and talked to some we had never met. Did I mention that we laughed a lot? Yeah, that's a beautiful sound.

 Little hands sticking through the tapestry help the fabric along. In this project, everyone made a valuable contribution!

Little hands sticking through the tapestry help the fabric along. In this project, everyone made a valuable contribution!

Meanwhile, on the patio Leslie Dugas led kids in a painting project. I wanted people to look at the tapestries later and know that they were "in" them, that the weft pieces represented their stories. I felt that adults would be able to make that leap, but that kids might need something more concrete to understand the concept. I asked Leslie, an amazing watercolorist who has a heart for sharing art with children, if she would help kids to create dangles for the finished tapestries. We had plywood stars, circles and swirls. I was hoping that each one would be distinctive so that kids could look at the finished project and find their pieces. Leslie has always come through in a big way. She helped kids find their voices and translate them into unique and beautiful painted pieces. I love them so much! Thanks Leslie!

There were four older men who had not turned in stories, and made it clear that they did not want to weave. However, they were fascinated by the loom construction and had lots of questions about the fabric preparation. I answered all the questions to the best of my ability and then became involved in something else. Later, I noticed that they had deputized themselves as unofficial docents and hosts.  All four of them had little groups in tow and were giving tours filled with loom construction and fabric preparation trivia. I heard them call this "our project," "our looms," "our tapestries," and it made me so happy. We all participate in our own ways!

If you missed Part 1 you can find it here.

Abraham's Stars Part 1

The leadership team at CMBC asked me to come up with a project that met this criteria:

  • include people of all ages and skill levels in a large art project
  • correlate with the sermon series on the life of Abraham
  • illustrate and encourage community
  • fill a large empty wall over the sanctuary doors

I offered them several ideas for a community project and they decided on this tapestry weaving project. Everyone of any age or skill level can weave. The colors represent the night sky and the stars that Abraham saw when God told him that his descendants would be like the stars. The entire piece would be approximately 40 feet wide (including the white spaces between) and 25-30 feet long.

 
community quilt mock up20150624_18231960.jpg
 

I sketched a design for 20ft by 10 ft looms on a napkin and asked Larry Haggin if he could build three. He answered with the most magical word, the word that opens doors and gives wings to ideas, he said, "Sure!"

 Loom #3 in the hallway.

Loom #3 in the hallway.

 Loom #1 in the lobby, loom #2 would be in the gym.

Loom #1 in the lobby, loom #2 would be in the gym.

I mixed white acrylic paint, pearl interference paint and fiber medium in a squeeze bottle and wrote out the story of Abraham from the book of Genesis onto 1500 feet of fabric. God's story in God's words would become the warp for each loom.

We invited the congregation to participate by sharing their answers to any of the following questions:

  • Describe a moment of revelation.
  • Describe a time when you felt strong even though you were clearly weak.
  • Describe an experience that made you feel like part of something larger.
  • Describe a time when you knew you were in the right place.
  • Describe a time when you felt called to something other people considered strange or silly
  • Describe a time you gained or lost someone or something important to you.

We received 244 submissions and we wrote them on the fabric that would become the weft. There were stories about miraculous healings and the mighty power of God, stories about long suffering with no end in sight and the carrying presence of God, stories that asked where is God in this?

Olivia and Larry devised a warp tightening mechanism for the looms based on a Navajo-style loom, and then she, Nick and I warped them:

 
 Sweet Olivia, my favorite art intern (don't tell the others), warping a loom.

Sweet Olivia, my favorite art intern (don't tell the others), warping a loom.

 

When we warped the looms, we didn’t worry about keeping the story in order. God is outside of time. However, we saved out the first and last line to use as binding. The first tapestry binding furthest to the left is the first line of Abraham’s story: “Terah set out with his son Abram from Ur of the Chaldees…” The last binding, the one furthest to the right is the last line of Abraham’s story: “And Abraham breathed his last…”

I sorted the stories submitted by the congregation into baskets that went with the parts of Abraham's story. I started doing this because I noticed how relevant Abraham's life and experiences were to today and saw some similarities in our stories. ALL of the stories submitted fit into the Genesis story! We rolled the weft pieces into manageable rolls and set the baskets by the correct looms and we were ready for Kid Friendly Summer Sundays!


All That is Unseen

God puts beauty in places where no eye will see it, where no one will applaud it. Why does He make the depths of the sea beautiful? Why does He make the outer reaches of space beautiful? Because He can. Because He makes beauty for the sake of beauty and it gives Him pleasure. Because He is God.

One of the projects I did for Cedar Mill Bible Church this summer was their stage set to accompany their sermon series on the life of Abraham. I wanted to emphasize the section where God tells Abraham to look at the stars and to try to number them. Those stars would be his descendants. That was us. He saw us up there. Hubble telescope pictures are free images in the public domain. This one is called "The Birth of a Star:"

 

There is almost an innerspace quality to it. I can imagine that it is my birth picture, the gathering together of my soul that it might be placed into the body God knit together for me. David Hooten, artist-printer extraordinaire, helped me to fill the 40 foot stage with this image.

There are people who spend a lot of life bringing light into dark places. They share food and resources, they rescue hostages, they dare to go into the covered, the hidden.  But even in those places where no eye is meant to truly see, even there, they will tell you, there are embers of the beautiful.

The Girl With the Heart Ring

Scott Erickson is...ah, words fail me.... Let's just say that if you do art and do church, he's someone you need to meet. He has several really good videos (see? words failing again) on his website. Each one is about 10 minutes long, inspirational, and professional. The one video I am sharing below is from a talk he gave at Multnomah University this month. Wisdom tells me this is not the video to share here. I should go with a short, power punch. But, no. I'm sharing this one because he describes how he was called to be a Christian artist and his reaction was so very like mine. It is near the beginning of his talk, the part where he talks about Captain Planet.

Yeah, he's talking about me, the girl with the heart ring. Is that you too? It can be a difficult thing to accept the task God has given you. I guess I see it like this: an airplane needs wings to fly, an engine, etc. These things are pretty much what define a big shiny object as an airplane. The church is the church because of people who care for children and seniors, who run the food pantry and organize friends to mow lawns, serve meals and run support and study groups. Those are the things that make us recognizable as Church. However, I know a few pilots who have told me stories of planes that crash due to a faulty 13 cent O-ring. Not that the O-ring failed and the plane came down, but that the failed O-ring led to other problems, which led to more problems which became catastrophic. Those O-rings are there for a reason and they need to do the job they were made to do.

It's not that I feel like I am worthless. I don't need any emails shoring up my sense of self-worth. It is that I asked the Lord what He was calling me to, and His answer wasn't what I had hoped. His answer was, "I love you too much to give you the jobs you think you want. Just because I didn't assign you to the (insert-any-significant-job-title-here)-Team, doesn't mean I didn't pick you. And besides, people aren't significant because of what they do, but because I AM."

I'm learning that His way is better. Because He IS.

Contemplative Photography: God in the Ordinary

A few years ago after a conference, some friends and I were quickly packing the car to return home. I carried the cooler through the garage. One of my friends came running into the garage from the street still holding the bags she had taken out.

"I wouldn't go out there," she said. "There are a couple of ah...a couple of um..."

"Unseemly characters?" I offered.

"That's putting it nicely."

I went out anyways.

There were two large men approaching, one black, one white. As soon as they saw me coming they walked toward me.

"Mama!" yelled the big black man. That made me smile.

"Oh Mama, how you doin'?" He stuck out his hand. I was still carrying the cooler so I offered my pinky. He took it and shook it heartily.

The white man said something I couldn't make out, and his friend said, "No man. It's ok. I know Mama and she loves me." Then he wrapped his arms around me, gave me a big hug and planted a huge kiss on my cheek.

"See?" he said. They began walking away, "You take care now, Mama."

It was so beautiful. I felt anointed. A (perhaps slightly inebriated) angelic kiss from someone who felt safe near me.

On Pentecost, the disciples leave the protection of their rooms. They go out into the streets, into the world filled with the Holy Spirit and the gifts He gives: faith, hope and love among many others. They go out. But God is already in the world. The feasts and fasts, the festivals of celebration and remembrance, the studying, God is in all those things. But He is also in the Ordinary, and it is in the ordinary where our faith is truly experienced. God inside me, is the same God that is outside me. When I go out with my eyes open, I get more of God. Such a good thing.

I've been working for some time on trying to load all the projects I have done with churches and retreat groups onto the Project page. I hope that people looking for resources will find a spark they can use. It has been remarkably slow going, but I have just finished a page for a contemplative photography project we did titled God in the Ordinary. You can find it here.

Other posts on contemplative photography:

Treasure Hunting

Going On a Treasure Hunt

The Christ Victorious Project

I have put up a page for The Christ Victorious Project. This was a project created for corporate worship. One of the functions of the artist under King David was to help people remember The Mighty Acts of God. That is how my little team of artists functioned for this project which was unveiled Easter morning 2012.