Rise

Rise, Jonah 3

As Jonah’s story continues, we find him washing up on shore and being faced with the exact same call that made him run to sea to begin with. Go to Nineveh.

Jonah rejected God, then he ran to escape his shame. In his shame, he brought torment on his companions and was thrown overboard. Alone and desperate, it still took Jonah three days to turn to God in prayer. Tossed onto shore, Jonah pulled himself up from the sand, only having to face the very thing that caused him to run in the first place. Yahweh is a God of second chances. When we turn our back on him, he will always bring us back around to the place we rejected him and give us another chance to change our mind.

When Nineveh repented of their brutal sins and warped worldview, they buried their heads in sackcloth and ashes to symbolize their mourning. Imagery of rising out of ashes is often used to describe coming out of a dark time. Ashes are more than just the leftover matter of what used to be, ashes are a valuable cleansing system. Charcoal filtration has been used to produce clean drinking water since the Ancient Egyptians in 2000 B.C. When contaminated water is poured through a charcoal filtration system, the pores of charcoal capture pollutants, allow the beneficial materials pass and exit as clean drinking water on the other side. Ashes have the same affect on our lives. When we fall and parts of our lives burn, it is a time to mourn, but also a time to grow. The ashes of what was captures the pollutants that have worked their way into our lives. As we rise, we are also purified; brought back to the place where it all began in order to begin again.

Today’s drawing is rising up from the ashes. The figure is strong, but humble. They were beaten, but not defeated. New life is rising from the old, more powerful and confident than before.

Burning to ashes is not punishment, it is graduation into new life.

Rise and embrace renewed strength.

Powell Manhood Ceremony

This weekend, I received the honor or participating in a birthday celebration that was the start of a tradition that fathers of pre-teens will continue as our guys transition from boys into men. Using a medieval model of a page or squire’s transition into knighthood, The elder (did I seriously just refer to myself as an elder?!) men who influenced this young man’s life during his fourteen years spoke our wisest encouragements and charges to compile a code for strong, influential and Christian manhood. Along with my contribution to the man code, I also participated by commemorating the event with spontaneous visual art.

My first objective for the piece I would create was something that represented the young man’s boyhood. I’ve known him for the last five years, in that time it became quite obvious among his top passions is playing baseball. Using an image shared on social media with a Sports Illustrated-worthy pose (wearing his baseball uniform, echoing his #4 with his right hand), I re-created his silhouette using spray paint on a plywood panel. Quite honestly, I was hesitant to continue with the piece because I was so pleased with the panel at this point! (kind of Banksy, don’t you think?)

Powell Manhod Ceremony starting image

The men commenced to taking turns speaking into this new man’s life, encouraging him in some areas and teaching him in others. As each man spoke, I listened intently for the key words appearing in our code for manhood. Using oil pastels and a graffiti style, I applied these words over the shadow of the boy that once was to signify the foundations of the man who will be.

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Courage, character, faith, blessing, respect, strength, integrity, excellence – qualities that define a man.

Strength by Submission

The day has finally arrived, week four of our RE: series, the climax of the last four weeks. North Ridge is five years old today. Our celebration today touched on celebrating the last five years, but focused on how the next five years will look. We’ve aptly titled the last installment of our series, presented on our fifth anniversary and revealing our new location, Relaunch.

Our celebration of the last five years was a little less than traditional. No pot luck meal, no grills stacked with hot dogs, no inflatable jumpy houses, not even a birthday banana pudding. To mark our five year accomplishment, we invited the top five organizations in our community we’ve worked alongside over the last half-decade. Each organization received a check from the celebration allotment of our budget, $1000 each. Diving into the message, the curtain was drawn away from the resolution to our building dilemma. Our current facility (the second location in our five-year span) comprises of three fairly small warehouse buildings we retro-fitted to meet our needs, very limited parking, and limited visibility to the general public. The worship building strains to contain us all on Sunday morning like a balloon ready to pop if it receives one more puff of helium. Our new facility is the shell of an abandoned grocery store, one two miles away from the current building. We’ll have 30,000 sq ft to do with as we please, and ample parking! This is a prime location next to the public middle and high schools in one of the communities we serve, across the street from the city’s Wal-Mart shopping center and less than a mile from the interstate for easy access. We have lift-off.

With all the excitement the morning had already contained, one would easily fall into an internalized celebration of God’s goodness to us because of our faithfulness and lose focus of our  responsibility with this new territory. Before commencing with “relaunching” North Ridge, Dean reviewed where we’ve come through the RE: series. God’s mission is to glorify himself. Our mission is to glorify God. The mission of the church is to make disciples. We train disciples by submitting ourselves and our mission to God individually and as a church body. God’s mission is not at odds with our joy, our joy is found in serving God. Through submitting our wills to God’s mission, the church unites and grows into and influential powerhouse of servant-hood, changing lives and communities.  Through this unified body, God will flex and reveal himself.

I ran with the concept of God flexing his muscles through the active church, putting a surreal spin on the image. The drawing is the muscular system of an arm as it flexes its bicep. The muscles all look naturally anatomic, smooth and fibrous; all but the bicep itself.

Upon closer inspection, small human figures com into focus.

The muscle fibers of the bicep are human chains, each figure grasping the legs of the one in front of them. Muscles grow by flexing against added resistance over time. The muscle fibers expand and contract by submitting to the will of their person. By submitting ourselves to God (and to each other), we grow stronger as a unified body. Flexing together with the common mission of glorifying our Creator builds behind it a steamroller influence where, through us, God will change the cultural landscape of not only our community, but our world.

North Ridge’s mission is simple, glorify God by serving people and growing disciples. Our new location will become more than a place we worship. Ridgewear (our member-run clothing and basic needs donation and distribution center) will continue impacting local families, The Dream Center will continue influencing and mentoring local students, new ministries will find themselves established and flourishing over the five years to come. North Ridge will be known not for how we worship, but how we serve. People will ask about our community involvement to learn that, oh yeah, people meet there to worship too.