The Garage at church is dark and very hip and cool. So, the Christmas decorations won’t stand out if you do the usual woodsy-greens.
Enter my Silent-Night-Holy-Night-O-Little-Town-of-Bethlehem-all-in-white theme. It came to me 2 years ago during church one Sunday morning – I saw silhouettes and sparkly huge cut-outs encasing the room. Scott gave me the go-ahead this year. He is so trusting.
Add in my friend, Pearl, who is not only very creative and artistic, but has always wanted to create “Bethlehem.” Three years ago, she created Narnia at the church we attended then and it was the most magical thing I have ever seen for church decor! She brought her love for “sculpting” with foam, her attention to detail, her heat gun, her very talented husband, Bryan, along with great ideas for back-lighting the town and we were off to the races. Pearl did a lot of the detail work and “smaller” projects at home, then we worked at the church together some for 3 days.
There is a heavenly host of angels suspended from the ceiling over the stage, which is draped with light curtains. Genius lighting tech, Alfonso Lopez added some amazing effects the other night to cause shadows to double our angelic group and it was beautiful! He also spot-lighted the Star of Bethlehem (which Pearl carved and fit together from 2 star shapes of 2″ thick foam) to a brilliance I did not know you actually could achieve from white and silver glitter and a few hundred sequins.
Up high, over the entry doors, are the “Wise guys,” heading directly, on their noble camels, toward the star, which will lead them straight to the babe.
The stage is garlanded in crystally, poofy fabric wrapped around hundreds of lights. Just below the garland are a small group of lambs straining to get a glimpse of the baby Jesus.
Bethlehem itself lines one wall leading to the stage, while the shepherds in the fields are overcome by the brightness of the host of angels on another.
But center stage? The Nativity is illuminated on the main center screen – for the whole thing leads directly to Jesus. His birth. His coming. Him.
As near as I can tell, the whole project took about 85 or 86 man hours (you can’t just cut the foam at your own speed, you know). We went through a few pounds of glitter, quite a few sheets of 4 x 8 foam, yards and yards of fabric, many strings of lights, and a lot of help from our husbands!
The best part was my time with Pearl and getting to see the whole thing finally finished on Thursday night (even though we still had ideas and materials-you have to stop sometime) and “coming to life” while the worship team practiced for Sunday.
On Sunday morning, just in time for the “unveiling,” we got a beautiful, wet, full winter snow outside. Just like inside, it was white. It seemed holy. The four lambs on the stage right in front of the Nativity testified that, through Jesus:
“Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” (Is. 1.18 NIV)
So this is what I have been up to…Jeanie
Big-time thanks to: Pearl and Bryan Younger, daughter Tara, daughter Steph and my little Guini-muggins, Laura Frye, Mike-the-maintenance-big-wig, Rocky, Alfonso, my longsuffering husband, Dave (he rolls with my flow), and daughter Stormie
PICTURED: top row ~ Stormie did the graphic so the big screen would be part of the whole design, a angel sampling; second & third rows ~ (thumbnails, click to enlarge) more angels, a Bethlehem wall, wise men on camels (nearly 6 feet tall!) up over the entry way, one sparkly donkey, hard to photograph a spinning star! It was 40-some inches “tall”; final four shots ~ a vista (I may have to finish the fabric and lighting we had planned, hmmm…), shepherds in the field wall, Rocky leading, some of the band amongst the sheep.
Heather and I commented on Chapter Ten here. Amy Jo shared her thoughts on both Chapters 10 and 11 here. And now our good friend, Candi shares some insights she has received from Chapters 10 and 11: “On the Road,” and “Desert Communion – Learning to Live on Heaven’s Shores” and I add my 2-cents’ worth on Chapter 11.
pictured: Heather and her family and Amy Jo and her husband
We are nearing the end of the book, The Sacred Romance~Drawing Closer to the Heart of God by John Elderidge and Brent Curtis. We have all been reading the book and jotting down our reactions and thoughts to share with you. I am glad to know some of you have read the book along with us and even though you didn’t necessarily wish to “tell all” via the blog, it has been good to hear how God has reaffirmed His love to you through the reading. If you want to re-cap where we started and see how far we have come during our “summer romance”, just click on the “Sacred Romance” category link on the left, or here to get you started.
Candi picks up at Chapter 10: I’ve been away from The Sacred Romance for awhile. Not THE Sacred Romance, but the book. In fact, although I’ve been out of the book I have completely had THE Sacred Romance on my mind the whole time. As I reread Chapter 10 (I’ve read it about 4 times now) I’m realizing that I AM starting to view things differently, from a different perspective. It is all about “wondering what God is up to in all of this.” Pg 145.
I’m ready for the Journey. From Pg. 149, “So much of the journey forward involves a letting go of all that once brought us life. We turn away from the familiar abiding places of the heart, the false selves we have lived out, the strengths we have used to make a place for ourselves and all our false loves, and we venture forth in our hearts to trace the steps of the One who said, ‘Follow me.’ In a way, it means that we stop pretending: that life is better than it is, that we are happier than we are, that the false selves we present to the world are really us.”As I prepare for the journey (finally!) I’m looking back at the many times I’ve desired to go on it but for various reasons have not completely surrendered to it. I’m starting to analyze past situations, relationships, thoughts, “Nits”, and my roles in them for what many of them really were, but I’m also asking what God’s real purpose is in all of this. It’s really been a path to discovery more than a hard road. And it’s all leading me to Jesus!
About 3 years ago I started realizing that my focus for salvation was for what I could get (the streets of gold!) rather than really desiring and fostering a relationship with God. A dear spiritual teacher (MaryJean!) gave me this and I pass it along because it really was the beginning to my Sacred Romance with Jesus:
It’s not healing I need – It’s the healer.
It’s not help I need – It’s the helper.
It’s not comfort I need – It’s the comforter.
It’s not teaching I need – It’s the teacher.
It’s not provision I need – It’s the provider.
It’s not protection I need – It’s the defender.
It’s not strength I need – It’s the strong one.
I don’t need to get a life; I need life, HIMSELF.
On Chapter 11: Now I find myself at a time of desert communion. I understand this as the path that I’ve been on from reading this. Had I written on this a month ago I wouldn’t have had much application. Just this past month my husband and I have completely stepped out of ministry at our church. A couple years ago our church faced a “perfect storm” scenario that if it wasn’t for God’s will and power I know it may not have survived. At times like this God calls you to help man the ship although you may not be the best sailor. You do the best you can through obedience knowing that He will provide the sails. Well, through God’s glory there has been much healing and the church is sailing on much more secure waters.
My husband and I were still a part of the crew. However, we were still feeling caught up in the “doing” of it all. I was trying to seek God in the aftermath, but too busy to really hear Him. Isn’t it funny we were “doing” church things? And so, for our various reasons we have stopped everything. In this break, I’m asking myself, “Is my identity synonymous with activity?” Pg. 163. “Am I experiencing my spiritual life not as a love affair, but as burdensome, heavy, exhausting and alien?” Pg. 165.
Jesus’ answer is this:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30)
“Only Christ can carry us to rest. The kinds of ‘doing’s’ we have learned are not weighty enough to allow us to walk in the spiritual fields of the kingdom of God.” Pg. 169.
My next destination on my journey, I now know, is to “give up everything else but Him. We experience the freedom of knowing that he simply loves us where we are. We begin to just be, having our identity anchored in him. We begin to experience our spiritual life as the ‘easy yoke and light burden’ Jesus tells us is his experience.” Pg. 175.
Lord, I pray that I am always “hearing” your soft whisper and in turn whispering back to you. Forgive me for not always making our desert communion the focus of my spiritual walk, and instill in me a repentant attitude. Bring healing, rest, focus, and peace at this time, so I can serve once again with my whole heart to glorify your Name.
My turn on Chapter 11 (Jeanie):This chapteris about learning to rest in God and His unbridled love for us as we follow Christ’s own tradition (as well as early church “Desert Fathers”) to pull away from the restlessness and activity of life into the “spiritual disciplines of silence, solitude, meditation (heart prayer), fasting and simplicity” (Mark Buchanan includes these in his “holy habits” in the book, Your God is too Safe).
The author talks about that place when you really stop for just a minute, when you have pulled your heart away from your adrenalin-addicted, activity captivity and your heart tells you how truly tired and burdened and worn down you are. He said, “…it is of no use to ask God to give us energy to make our way back up the cliff over which we have fallen.” I had to laugh at that because I have tried. Lord knows I have prayed and prayed (God, heal me, give me energy to do kingdom work, yada yada yada) and made all my friends pray it, too!
But I love the prayer in the book, “Jesus, help me. All my lovers have failed me. Forgive me. I cannot quench my thirst. Give me the water of life.” It is prayer God can answer in the deep places of our hearts. And He’ll tell us, “Go, and sin no more.”
I’ve most recently been overwhelmed in the tiniest beginning of understanding about the Father-Heart of God towards me. And in that, God is practically leading me through verdant woodlands of his love, green lush life and babbling brooks of refreshment, a recognition that all He has is mine because, and simply because, I am His child. He is a few steps ahead and spreading the branches so I can navigate this place of purity and life. I keep getting glimpses, as He is calling me toward Himself, right over here, Jeanie, come on, and I can see my true homeland just beyond in fleeting moments. Just a few more steps and I may actually get this thing…
But I backslide. I slide back into thinking I need to impress Him with my righteousness or my work for Him or by “paying my own way.” Wait – the branches just moved. He keeps wooing me. My Father loves me. It is OK for me to go into the desert with Him. It is OK not to have an answer when some one wonders what all I have been “doing” for Him. He calls us to the Secret Place.
I so enjoyed the author’s word pictures describing the intimate and wild-love of the Song of Solomon in direct contrast to the imaginary couple at a sidewalk cafe, where as the bride-to-be is talking about her excitement for the upcoming wedding and how she can’t wait to get to know her lover better and be with him more and experience true intimacy, he, a cad, tells her, “I’ll send you a book that describes more about my life. I’m sure you’ll get a lot out of it,” and “…I’d like to send you to a weekend seminar [about intimacy with me] and that should be very helpful.” The writers pointed out that that is the way we very often carry on our love affair with God. When in reality, the conversation would be more like that in The Song of Songs, which everybody knows is some pretty hot talk! But on page 161 when the writer is explaining that God isn’t giving us this glimpse through the bedroom window at the love affair between Solomon and the Queen of Sheba just to be voyeuristic (but rather to realize that “this is the kind of passion He feels for us and desires from us in return”),I had to laugh!
It turns out I am, indeed, the Queen of Sheba! Spiritually speaking, of course, and you are, too!
Sincerely Yours, The Queen of Sheba, aka…Jeanie
NOTE TO SELF: So grateful for the friends who have so openly shared the glimpses of God’s work in their lives through their responses to this book. That ain’t always easy!