Feb 26, 2016

Culture Shock

...and then the angry man punched the Bus Driver in the face...

You know, there is only one thing in life that we can control - only one.  And when things don't go the way we like, we still have control of that one thing.  And this became so apparent last Saturday as we prepared to take Incarnate 2016 into Rome for the day.

Dileep did his job right, booking 34 bus tickets on the "Express/Roma" bus line, which was to pick all of us up at the end of a lonely off-ramp called "Colledara", just outside of Isola del gran Sasso where we are running Incarnate.  And some of us got up quite early that morning, to wait for the second round of vans to transport us the 4.5 kilometers from our School to the stop.

Then the bus pulled up, and 34 of us tried to get on.  Whoops - there were already too many people on the bus!  It seems the driver and his helper had already allowed too many people on who had NOT booked their tickets online or ahead of time, on this bus - after all, this is rural Italia - and the result was chaos.  The poor bus driver kept coming on the bus's little PA system, asking the Italians on board different things (we found out later that it was "scrunch up", or, "Maybe get off if you got on without a ticket", and the final straw for one angry man, "please take all your children off the seats, and put them on your lap now".  We all started to pray.

Dileep and I realized after 10 minutes of going no-where, that the situation was deteriorating - you could feel the tension rising in the bus.  More prayer, and then a determination - Teri and I stood up, and asked for 6 Incarnate Students to volunteer to get off with us, not knowing if we'd get to Rome that day, but it was obvious that the bus wouldn't leave with people standing in the aisles.  

6 wonderful souls got off the bus with Teri and I. The bus doors were just closing when there was suddenly screaming coming from inside.  It seems one of the Italians on board had had enough with the chaos, and so brought some of his own to play - by slugging the bus driver in the side of the face, after reaching between two of our students to do so!!!  

The screaming came from the Bus driver's wife and child, who were sitting in front along with some other concerned passengers, who grabbed the man and pulled him back!  The Carabinieri (Police) were called, and the drama continued.  When it was all finished, the man was fined, the bus left 8 of us there on the side of the road, with four empty seats we found out later!

One of those who got off with us was a lovely Italian from the Center that is hosting us, who has befriended us, and was coming into Rome with us that day.  She called the Center's leader, and he in turn called the Express/Roma company to tell them that what was happening was entirely out of order, and to get a vehicle and someone up there to take us to Rome straight-away.  Low and behold, a van appeared within 10 minutes, and the driver went so fast down the motorway, we overtook the bus and got to Rome 5 minutes ahead of the bus!!!

We had an awesome day in Rome after all.  But came away with some great lessons from the experience earlier that morning.  At the end of the day, none of us can control our circumstances, but we can control our response - our attitude towards them.  And the lesson I took from that experience once again, is that no matter what happens, look to God.  He is the one who is in charge of our plans.  He is the one in charge of our timetables.  And of course He is the one Who holds our lives.  Friends, never let your circumstances dictate your attitude - let that rather be the Holy Spirit Who reigns within our hearts.

Feb 18, 2016

The "Stuff" of Trinity

One of my favorite exercises that we do here at Incarnate is the worship session that happens right before we unpack the concepts of Unity and Diversity.  The Students sit around tables in groups of three, and have to work together to paint, pastel, pencil, marker, whatever (!) on pre-drawn ancient symbols of the Trinity.  The artwork that gets produced in this just over 30 minute collaboration is inspiring, even if is is Dancers and Musicians doing the work as well as Visual Artists!

Of course delving into the Trinity is to jump straight into the deep-end of a seminal and over-arching truth so basic to Christianity, that you don't have Biblical Christianity without it.  Scholars and Theologians alike have tried for centuries to "nut this out" as my British friends like to put it, and although many have come up with some incredible thinking, and certainly some truth, there is still mystery, and how can't there be - God is God and we are not.  I'm a little concerned about a god that I can wrap my head around!

Of course there are some beautiful examples in nature - I think one of the best is H2O - 3 atoms make the most incredible substance needed for all life, and even those 3 atoms form a molecule that comes in 3 forms depending on the temperature.  Not to mention that so many standards of volume, weight, temperature itself, and altitude, are all measured by the most basic substance for life itself that is 3 in 1.  

But it gets more personal than that.  Here-in the truth of the Trinity is the "stuff" of Unity, and the "stuff" of perfect Love.  God is one - as part of His essence, not His will, and the same goes for love.  He doesn't love because He wills to, or feels like it - He is love - it is integral to His very nature, because of the love that Father, Son, and Spirit intrinsically have for one another.  Isn't it interesting that the most powerful emotion, commitment, and motivation known to man, comes from the very essence of our Trinitarian God.  Colossians 1 tells us that "in Him all things hold together", and yes, atomically they do.  

But also, in terms of relationships, God is so love and so unity, that He instinctively responds to brokenness and separation with the desire to reconcile things back to wholeness, and back to Himself.  Just read 2 Corinthians 5:17-21, and you'll get the idea - that God was in Christ reconciling the whole world back to Himself, and now, He has given that ministry to us.

And that my friends is one of the main reasons we move to Italy for 90 days every two years and pour into some awesome people who traffic in some of the most powerful communicative medium known the man - The Arts.  If God Himself calls on his awesome creation to declare His Glory, then certainly the human beings who have been created in His creative image are called to do the same.

It is one of the great privileges of my life to engage in this work.  Teri and I literally love it, and experience the fulness of faith and the pleasure of God to do this.  We were born for this.  To help fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, fellow artists, launch into the depths of their potential for the greater glory of God and the "proclamation" of the Gospel and the furtherance of Gods' Kingdom?  Well, in terms of ministry, for us it doesn't get much better than this!

Thank you for your prayers for us in this season.  We could not be here doing this without that, and we trust that you too are experiencing the fulness of joy in your ministry as well, that you were called to do with all your heart soul mind and strength.

God Bless

Feb 3, 2016

The Beautiful View from Here

What do Bill & Teri Drake (and an AWESOME team), 26 Students, 3 Artistic Disciplines, 12 nations, and 90 days all have in common?  


Gathering here in the middle of Italy, we all arrived safely, and are beginning the journey of "Living Beautifully Together" for the next three months.  The opportunity to be in such a Creative Community is not only awesome, but so fulfilling as we get to participate in the missional discipleship of incredible artists from all over the world!

We also believe strongly in the Body of Christ, and that we are never more "god-like" than when we are in united community, for our triune God is in a sense a community as well!  The opportunity to live in transparency, authenticity, integrity, and humility speaks every bit as much as any artwork we do, and when it comes to pouring into artists who we want to incarnate the truths of Christ into their world-views and artworks, we are totally committed to 'walking the talk'.

It's also a great encouragement when you discover that God has been here in the Body of Christ since at least 700 AD, and most likely long before that.  We found a ruin just down the road, San Giovanni (St. John's), and it is obvious to anyone who goes there that our fellow-followers of Christ back then knew exactly where to build something for maximum beauty and effect!  WOW!

And I guess that would be the main point here for the first blog of this three month journey -- Beauty -- Beauty in Brokenness, Beauty in Longevity, Beauty in Creation, and Beauty in Community.  

          'Beauty is the reflection of the eye of God' 

...and in that, we get further glimpses of His Glory (Psalm 19).  We are aware that we are so-not-perfect, and are so becoming more and more aware of the growth process He has us in: exchanging us from "glory to glory" (2 Corinthians 3:18).  

And these experiences change our lives forever - we are a part of a much larger story that has been going on for a LONG time, but it is time to take the baton, and take our place in the race set before us;  we are creating as part of a larger creation that was launched by the ultimate artist eons ago, and yet He meets us in our humble offerings and plays with us, paints with us, dances over us, and fills us with more that we can then give back to Him; and we are together in this - not isolated, not stalwart individual artists, but an interdependent Body of Christ whose mission is to know Christ and make Him known where we are, for so much of His beauty comes from those who will choose to live beautifully together in Him.

We are staring our journey together - hope you can join us for it!  Blessings!