By Daniel Malakowsky
Today marks three years since the passing of a man many knew through his ministry, Hope Thru Art. The reality is that he was more than that. He was a friend, an anchor in times of need, and a constant source of encouragement, especially in his later years to young artists and writers. To me he was simply my father, Steve Malakowsky.
In honor of the anniversary of his passing, it was on my heart to write a message to artist and those whom God has gifted to create. While not one personally endowed with such talents, my life has been saturated and enriched by those who are. If the call to create stirs in your soul, then this message is for you. If not, then find someone in which the gift of creativity resides, and encourage them today.
Beauty from Ashes - A Message to Artist
Your creativity, your talents, the skill-set you have been blessed with belongs not to you and you alone, but to the world. As one created in the image of God you are called forth to extend the kingdom reality of truth, love, and beauty, the harmonious reign of the King through art and the work of Christ's recreation. Yours is to take the chaos and nonsensical voids, the perverted creation of a world dislocated from its purpose, and to saturate it with the narrative of the Gospel. The world needs hope and when one creates meaning, they stir the depths of the soul and draw forth life from the valleys of pain, sorrow, and suffering, bridging in Christ the gulf of our despair in the glorious hope of his love.
The world needs artist. It needs art. It needs meaning, narrative, and purpose, a rediscovery of the majestic possibilities and limitless dreams of life in perfect union with the Father. It needs creativity to embrace and kiss the divine, and in so doing, to give symbol and sign to the kingdom as it is heaven, now only as it is expressed on earth.
Pointing to Heaven
In doing this, and those who create it, it must move beyond the empty and shallow pools of meaningless nonsense that so often convince the world of being art. We need to be reminded anew that there is a realm of angelic beauty, where the chorus of heaven, even if only briefly, can be heard. That the one who created the majesty of snow capped peaks and starry nights of unfathomable grandeur is still creating and recreating. His creation, us, now the extended brush in his hand, and the recreated life of Christ the eternal canvas upon which his gentle grip is reaching towards.
Fill the world with beauty. We need you to. Touch the depths of our beings with the graces of God that are in you. Saturate yourself in the Gospel and proclaim the message of hope to the world. Dance with words, swim in seas of color, sing the octaves of the angelic, and let mercy reign in you.
The world needs artist. It needs art...it needs hope.
by Ryan Thurman
If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants
Remember those leading you, who spoke the word of God to you, consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.
Who have been the people in your life that have helped shape who you are today? I have been thinking about this lately and want to write a few posts around this theme. It is a way for me to follow God’s instruction that we be a remembering people, those who remember God’s work of grace throughout history and specifically in our day and in our own lives. This is also a way for me to publically honor those God has so kindly placed in my life.
We live in a time where it is hard to maintain healthy relationships in our lives, from our own family, to our friends. We have been disappointed often by those closest to us and we are aware that we too have failed those we love most. But here is the mystery; although we are weak and frail God chooses to make our own limited and very conditional love the gateway for the unlimited and unconditional love of God to others. The first person I want to write about is George Miley.
Defining event: Bosnia
It was 1995 when I first met George and Hanna Miley, I was nineteen, hungry to know God and find meaning to my life. I was not too far removed from learning that chasing after the pleasures of this world only lead to emptiness and heart wounding. I did not get to know them very well but it was through George Miley’s leadership that I had the opportunity fly halfway across the world to work with Bosnian Refugees fleeing the war. During this trip God revealed himself to me in a life-altering way and was significant in my choice to enter into vocational ministry.
Defining gift: Learning to pray
In the busyness of my college years and first few years of vocational ministry with Young Life I was not able to stay connected with George Miley but in 2003 my friend Billy Thrall invited me to his house to hear George and Hanna Miley share about the new work God was doing in the German region of Hanna’s birthplace. They were inviting a team to join them for several weeks in Germany to help establish this new work through prayer. Noleen and I were in our first year of marriage and were planning on moving overseas to pursue ministry and decided joining the Mileys would be a great way to start this new chapter of our life. I learned two significant lessons that summer. First, prayer is not just something you do to start a meeting or an attempt to get God to bless our self-made ideas and efforts. But prayer in its essence is about being with God, who is always with us but because we are the ones who leave God, prone to wander and to hide from Him we need to grow in the grace to come present, and stay present to him, throughout our day. Secondly, when we are with Him he will lead us step by step to establish His work in His way. Over these many years with George, my prayer life has grown by watching him live a life of prayer but even more by praying with him.
Defining moment: Saying the hard things
Over the years I have walked a lot with George, it is an important aspect of our friendship to walk and talk. In my early days of working with George in the context of Antioch Network we were at Paradise Valley mall doing our loops around the mall because it is too hot to walk outside in the Summer. I was sharing with him some personal things that were hard and not making sense to me. I will never forget sitting at Starbucks and watching George scribble in my journal a few concentric circles expressing the importance of living in reality. He was pointing out to me that there were crucial areas that I was not rooted in reality and needed to mature. This touched a deep nerve and was very painful and for many days I wrestled through anger, shame, and defensiveness. But George’s speaking of truth, as painful as it was, led to necessary growth in my life. Better is open rebuke than love that is concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend.
Defining work: Ancient Wells
George has written many rich articles and a few books, If I had to choose one to recommend it would be Ancient Wells, it has been a faithful guide in my discipleship journey and we have used it a lot in our A2J community. You can read or download it by clicking here.
George would not be who he is today without his wife Hanna Miley. So I thank God for Hanna Miley! As I write this realize how it has been a while since I have thanked George for his friendship and investment in my life, I am going to do that right now. How about you, who is God bringing in to your mind?
by Ryan Thurman
“Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart,
I have just returned home from a rich Ash Wednesday Service at North Phoenix Baptist. Entering this Lent I am mindful of my historic struggles in observing Lent but instead of being discouraged by this I am full of hope because I see Lent as a gift from God. It is not a time to try to impress God or others, nor is it about trying to earn God’s love or favor. It is a gift because we are invited to cast aside all that keeps us from embracing and walking in the love of God and the abundant life found alone in Jesus. It is a season to confess and lament how prone we are to wander, how quick we can become entangled by sin, and how easily we fall into idolatry by placing a variety of things before God. It is an opportunity, to return to the Lord with all of our heart, as did the younger son of the parable, to the arms of our tender and merciful Father.
Lent is one of the oldest observations on the Christian calendar. In 325, the Council of Nicea discussed a 40-day Lenten season of fasting. The purpose of Lent is to be a season of fasting, self-denial, spiritual growth, conversion, and simplicity. Lent, which comes from the Teutonic (Germanic) word for springtime, can be viewed as a spiritual spring cleaning: a time for taking spiritual inventory and then cleaning out those things which hinder our corporate and personal relationships with Jesus Christ and our service to him. Lent is a time to ask God for a broken and contrite heart and the gift of tears to soften our hardened hearts towards God and the suffering of others.
It is fitting that the season of Lent begin with a symbol of repentance: placing ashes on one's forehead. However, we must remember that the goal of our Lenten disciplines is to transform our entire person: body, soul, and spirit, and help us become more like Christ. Marked with his cross, we are Christ’s own: pilgrims on a journey that proclaims lament and celebration, death and suffering, life and resurrection all at once. In Lent we experience the perfect blending of God's kindness and his strength. God is kind, but he’s not soft. In kindness he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change.
-Romans 2:4 (The Message)
O Lord, who hast mercy upon all, take away from me my sins, and mercifully kindle in me the fire of thy Holy Spirit. Take away from me the heart of stone, and give me a heart of flesh, a heart to love and adore Thee, a heart to delight in Thee, to follow and enjoy Thee, for Christ's sake, Amen
-St. Ambrose of Milan (AD 339-397)
,"Visible fellowship is a blessing...the physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer." ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer
This past weekend I had the opportunity to begin again Bonhoeffer's work, Life Together. Writing just one year before the dawn of the second great war, he began to look at the church of the persecuted where those who were scattered in their proclamation of the Gospel taught him invaluable lessons of what it meant to belong to one another, and more so, what it meant to belong to Christ. In these reflections he wrote the quoted words above that remind us that fellowship, our ability to share in proximity with one another what he have received in Christ, is always a grace. The tangible fellowship of presence, sitting face to face with those whom we now belong eternally to, is for us a fountainhead of joy whose waters find their source in the person and heart of Jesus.
2016 for A2J marks a year of continued transition as we journey down the path of belonging, both in the visible communion of community within our neighborhoods, but also in our growing understanding of how that is expressed in fellowship with one another through new and unique seasons. Brentwood has seen two marriages and will soon only be the Malakowsky's again, something we celebrate in that God is at work to answer prayers and birth families, but also something we lament as we, for the moment, let go of this visible grace. Woodland continues to be a community in transition with the Jesse's relocating and the Thurman's about to set off on a grand adventure that is surely the fruit of this growth we have all experienced in sharing our lives and love with another. The Alianza's have been blessed with work and the Lord's provision once more flows through their home, although under the cross of travel, fatigue, and a transitioning family.
Yet, despite the tugs that pull us physically from one another, it is in these moments where our grace in community is found. Bonhoeffer warned about the danger of a community so spiritual that the daily obligations of ordinary association, of family and everyday life with its 'claims upon people' are not able to project into the fellowship. This community only accepted the ideal and could not know the fullness of God's graces towards it, its own vision of how life should be becoming an idol that distracted it from knowing what life really is.
Still, the spiritual union which binds the community should be guarded and pursued. We come to one another only through Christ, meaning through the redemption of his love in salvation, and we know one another only in Christ, who overcomes our strife and ego and becomes our peace. We are not to avoid our burdens in this new season, just as Christ did not step away from or flinch at the cross, but in it saw our union with God and one another.
This year is unique for us, this season is as well. It appears that life is pulling in many directions and we are all being thrust into new challenges and seasons. I hope that in it you are as encouraged as I am by these words, that 'the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of the cloistered life, but in the thick of foes.' While visible fellowship is a blessing and grace, it is also an anchor, one that guards our hearts as the Lord propels us into his unfolding purposes and plans for our lives.
We will have new crosses to bear in this new year, but I am encouraged by words Ryan shared with me recently. We have no reason to fear because we have already been through so much together. We only need to lean into Christ and his faithful work in us. In these next weeks we will share ways in which we can continue to engage this transition and experience the faithful work of God's love in one another's lives. As we look ahead in seeing the 'projections' of this new season and its obligations, I pray we also see the hand of God maturing us as he raises us together to the 'full stature of Christ.'
"'Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity' - this is the Scripture's praise of life together under the Word. But now we can rightly interpret the words 'in unity' and say, 'for brethren to dwell together through Christ.' For Jesus Christ alone is our unity. 'He is our peace.' Through him alone do we have access to one another, joy in one another, and fellowship with one another." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer