Even in the Silence

Recently I was introduced to artist Makoto Fujimura. In exploring his works, I discovered his love for another artist, novelist Shusaku Endo. This admiration led to Fujimura becoming an advisor for the movie production based on Endo’s book Silence, a movie directed by Martin Scorsese. With all this overlapping of creativity, I decided I would read the book and then watch the movie. Today I finished the book and managed to find the movie on demand to watch this afternoon.

First, let me say what a joy it is to receive the creative gifts by these three artists-a contemporary artist, a novelist, and a filmmaker. Not only are they masters at their craft, but they engage all of who they are into their work, including their faith and beliefs. Unafraid of transparency, they allow you into their wrestling and therefore make it acceptable for you to acknowledge yours.

Endo’s Silence is set in seventeenth-century Japan. The tale challenges your commitment to your faith as you follow two Portuguese Jesuit priests encounter the forced renouncing of beliefs by their Japanese Christian brothers and dialogue with a silent God. You are forced to acknowledge persecution has always been a part of Christian history and will always be, something we prefer to forget Jesus told his disciples to expect.

Such stories produce various responses. Responses usually focus on what ifs and reminders to not forget those currently experiencing persecution. My biggest response today is this: I am the sole guardian of my faith. It’s not up to the church, a pastor or priest, or anyone close to me to secure my faith. In decisive moments where I have to live out my faith, it’s entirely up to me. When my mind tells me I’m alone and God has abandoned me, my faith reminds me that he said “I am with you always,” even in the silence.


The Butterfly Effect, according to an 8th grader

Amalia is her name. She hadn’t really thought about the story she was telling, until she was asked. At least that’s what she said. But when she started answering, she voiced an important story. The story is found in her drawing.

Amalia said the story is about a broken girl who made a choice that has made her “unfixable.” She summed it up by her definition of the butterfly effect. I had my definition of that term, but I wanted to know hers. So I asked. And she answered, “One choice you choose can change everything in your life.” She’s certainly right.

Amalia didn’t know because we just met today, but I’ve been thinking along those lines a bit lately. My thoughts have been less about life-altering decisions and more about day-to-day decisions, which of course can lead to life-altering ones. All your “yeses” mean something to you, about you. Every “no” speaks to who you are and what you value. And each of both of those impact everyone in your world. Like it or not, they leave a wake that is its own butterfly effect.

Thank you, Amalia, for this visual reminder. To hear our full conversation about this drawing , visit https://www.facebook.com/firstpassage/

Didn’t See That Coming

In my experience, if you ask God a curious “I want what you want” question, he is happy to reply. And he often surprises you with his answer. And I believe he enjoys whispering to your heart, “Bet you didn’t see that coming.”

When I opened the winter issue of Facts and Trends a few months ago, I read about an Arkansas church that has a unique approach to engaging their community through the arts. The Article (see pages 16-19) describes their intentionality of establishing an art gallery in their new building as an avenue to connect worship and community. After reading it, I had a “Hmmmm…” moment. 

That moment was a connection between the answer to an earlier question (see It Started With a Question) and another question, “Where could this go?” The connection was the expansion of a one-time showing of work from Ballard students to an ongoing gallery that involved all facets of our community. No, I didn’t see that coming.

So I did two things. I called the church in Arkansas. Then I visited the Arts Center. Between those two things, we felt equipped and eager to follow what God seemed to be up to. Long story short, we now have a gallery that will continue to go after wanting what God wants. And pretty much all I can say is, “God did this.”

How might you incorporate curiosity into your prayer life?

What area of your life needs a “I want what you want” attitude adjustment?

When’s the last time you could only answer, “All I can say is, ‘God did this'”? What if you prayed for it to happen again?

How might you prepare to receive what you don’t see coming?

It Started With a Question

The question came last summer. I was searching for something. But it wasn’t really for me. And maybe that’s why the answer was so good.

My job as assistant pastor at a church is not normal. (Everyone said, “Amen!”) No need to get into all the possible answers to the wrong question here, so suffice it to say my job makes me ask myself a lot of questions. Last summer I asked the same question I’ve asked myself for several summers; but I was looking for something different, something deeper. And that’s why the core question I was really asking was this: “How can we go deeper?”

“We” referred to our church. “Go deeper” referred to our relationship with our ministry partner, Ballard Elementary School. This relationship has existed for five or so years. It’s very healthy, even admired by other churches and schools in our county. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t need evaluating and tweaking and improving. So to do these three things, we ask questions.

This time I got an answer that I hadn’t received before. Looking back, I believe the answer came because we weren’t asking how to improve an existing program but opening the question up by looking for other options, avenues, and pathways yet unexplored. The answer was revealing, refreshing, and certainly unexplored. That answer was, “What about connecting with the art teacher?” I dove in.

Long story short, we met and now are walking a path that is unlike anything either have experienced before. Students and their families are creating lifelong memories because an assistant pastor and an art teacher are collaborating on their behalf. And this collaboration has opened the door to a whole new ministry of the church in the form of an art gallery. Didn’t see that coming (more on that in an upcoming blog)!

But how can you see something coming when you don’t ask the question? 

How can you expect a different result when you keep asking the same question? 

How can go you deeper when you only ask questions about the surface? 

What could start in your corner of the world by asking the right question? 

What if you started by asking, “How can we go deeper?”

Running Tuesdays: Protecting Your Piece of Art

by Michael Wilder

​In case you haven’t realized this fact, you only have 2 feet. Those 2 feet are the only feet you get. Logic dictates then you should probably take care of them, right? 

Imagine for a second if you had a one-of-a-kind piece of art. The artist created that one piece and no other one exists in the whole world. What would you do to keep this piece of art safe? Would you take insurance out on that piece with some type of monetary value, or would you hire an armed security guard to protect it around the clock? This same logic to keep that one-of-a-kind piece of art safe should be the same with our feet. Like I said, we only get those 2 feet, so the best way to take care of them is with shoes. And not just any shoe but the right kind of shoes!

​To start the process of taking care of your feet it all starts with finding the right kind of shoe. If you head to the internet, there are tons of articles about finding the right kind of shoe for your feet. Those articles range from what type of runner you are in relation to where you strike the ground to how many miles you run in a week. I have used this before http://www.runnersworld.com/shoemine as a launching point, but the best way to narrow in on the right shoe for you is to go to a store that specializes in running shoes. By going to the store, they can give you an idea of what shoe to buy based on some tests they give you. One of the test is watching you run and video recording it to give you a better idea of the shoe needed for your running style. For me, I need a shoe that is neutral with high cushion. A neutral shoe helps absorb impact, relieving pressure on knees and joints. With the combination of having high cushion in the heel area, it helps me cushion the constant impact of my joints and knees. Unfortunately, the high cushion does wear off with the amount of miles you put on the shoe. To offset this, I put in a heel insole to get more miles out of the shoe.

​If there is one bad news in finding the right shoe for your feet in order to protect your 2 feet, that is the price. Let’s face it, finding the right running shoe is expensive. An average price on a running shoes is around $160. One way to offset this is to add an insole to prolong the longevity of the shoe, but eventually you will have to buy a new shoe. Experts recommend getting new shoes around 500 miles. The best way to track those miles is either a running journal or with a running app like runkeeper. Another way to offset the cost of shoes is to buy several year models older than the current one. Like cars, shoes have model numbers and years. You can save a bundle on getting “last year’s” model. Regardless of cost, bottom line is you need to protect that one-of-a-kind piece of art that you have. You don’t need to take insurance out for your feet, just need to find the right “security guard” aka a shoe!