:Upside Down

Artist Seth Globepainter two kids running into each other

If You Start Fast, You End Up Slow…

April 17, 2017 | Taylor Field | Upside Down

And if you start slow, you end up fast. This isn’t always true, but it sometimes is. I’ve been encouraging some young adults in ministry this week. Numbers are strange things. They can encourage us when actually things aren’t going well, and they can discourage us when things really are going well.

It doesn’t seem like much was happening for Jesus when he was 22 years old, or 25, or even 29 years old. If he was tempted in all the ways we are, I wonder if he ever had times when he felt as though he was on the slow track and all his friends seemed as though they were on the fast track. Here he was, still lugging lumber around and setting masonry in a small village, and he wasn’t getting any younger.

Oh well, I’ve seen ministries that touched thousands in the beginning, but not many results came from them after a short while. I’ve also seen hidden ministries that worked with very few, and later, sometimes a lot later, what was done just took off beyond anyone’s imagination. It’s just the way things are sometimes.

Street Art by Kevin Peterson

Looking Up from the Bottom

February 21, 2017 | Andrew Mann | Upside Down

“At the top of the stairway stood the Lord, and he said, ‘I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather Abraham, and the God of your father, Isaac. The ground you are lying on belongs to you. I am giving it to you and your descendants.’” Genesis 28:13 NLT

Jacob certainly didn’t deserve what God promised. He was a cheating, conniving thief. When I read the chapter before this and see how he played his brother, I think, “Poor Esau!” As a kid I used to spend a lot of time in the basement of my childhood home. There my siblings and I played games. As the baby of the family, I often felt cheated or that they were taking advantage of me. I would run up the stairs and tell my mom how poorly I was treated. I knew what I wanted her to do. Never did I run to my mom thinking she would stand at the top of the stairs, call the offender to the bottom, and say, “I made some cookies for your brother, but now I will give them to you!” We all want the wrong to be made right. We want people to get what they deserve until we’re the one at the bottom of the stairs.

wasted love by artist fills

You Are All Alone

February 16, 2017 | Taylor Field | Upside Down

In one of our groups, we are reading again the book of Lamentations–not the cheeriest of the books in the Bible. Some of the people in the group are currently homeless–others have had a rough time.
Here are some of the verses that leaped out for me today:

I am the only one he punishes over and over again, without ever stopping….
I am a joke to everyone–no one ever stops making fun of me….
That’s all I think about, and I am depressed.” Lamentations 3:3,14,20 (CEV translation)

There are no instructions here–these verses simply describe one of the ways it can feel when you are depressed. For me, one of the most powerful aspects of being part of a group or gathering is realizing that other people have significant battlegrounds too, and some of them are the same as ours. In this season of Graffiti, we are focusing on gatherings, groups of people, even different types of consortiums.

That is the message I want to communicate–you are not the only one and not everyone is making fun of you. You are not alone.

Toronto street art

A Punch in the Face

January 21, 2017 | Andrew Mann | Upside Down

“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” Mike Tyson

I like to make plans and help others do the same. As comforting as it is for me to know how I will make it from point A to point B, it’s equally frustrating when others don’t. It’s easy to feel like my way is right and somehow they are doing it wrong. Success is often granted to those who complete their plans. It is awarded with a diploma, a medal, a wedding ring, salary with benefits, good health, or for a boxer, a title-belt. I imagine most boxers feel pretty accomplished while training when the environment is controlled. Even unexpected punches are not intending harm. I imagine these athletes feel pretty good about their skills—that is, until they step in the ring and get punched in the face. For a while in my life, I felt pretty good about my ability to plan for successful outcomes. But then came a series of punches. Ironically it wasn’t the expected punches of personal sickness or death of family that hit hardest. I was left reeling when the plans I made for others, the hopes and dreams I had for them, were dashed. At first I diagnosed their failure, bitterly thinking, “Why couldn’t they stick to the plan?” I frantically tried to take control, make a new plan, recalibrate—all to no avail. From my perspective things looked dark and were getting darker. But then came a speck of light in a paradigm shifting thought: Maybe they’ve been punched in the face a little more than me; maybe I need to learn something from them.

upside-down graffiti artist PREF

Why Do You Keep Saying Things Are Upside Down?

November 16, 2016 | Taylor Field | Upside Down

“These people who have turned the world upside down have come here also.” Acts 17:6

Jesus was sort of upside-down. The last will be first. We will find our life when we lose it. The one who humbles himself will be exalted. The ancient world even called the beatitudes the “paradoxes of Christ.” In essence, the beatitudes say “Happy are the unhappy.” What?

The good news story is upside-down. God came to earth to make things right and he was killed by the supposed enemies of God. When Jesus asked why God had forsaken him, in a sense, Jesus became the “God-forsaken God.”

But life is like that–the agonizing contradictions of the story of our Master are what make the story so powerful. It makes one want to keep reading…

Protector by artist Evoca1

Stop To Start

October 21, 2016 | Taylor Field | Upside Down

If there isn’t a God, we better fret and worry and expend all our energy figuring out what to do. But if there is a God, perhaps the most important thing we can do is to stop and listen. In the “Upside Down Training” we do at Graffiti, we sometimes share this important community service principle: Don’t just do something–stand there. In times of stress, developing the habit of stopping and being attentive may actually be the most practical, and, well, active thing we can do.

In Isaiah, God makes a remarkable promise. “And when you turn, whether to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it'” (Isaiah 30:21). We are flooded with potential information to our cell phones, televisions, radios, and we have to make some choices. In the same way, perhaps it isn’t that God hasn’t sent out a signal. Maybe we just haven’t stopped to tune in properly.

Photo: Jackie Hadel

Artist JR - Women Are Heroes

No Time To Stand And Stare

September 21, 2016 | Taylor Field | Upside Down

My mother used to recite the lines of a poem when we needed to stop and enjoy. It went like this: “What is this world if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare?” I can see my brother stretching out his legs and putting his hands behind his head. He would say the old proverb, “How good it is to do nothing, and after doing nothing, to rest.” Then my mom would tell us about growing up in China, and that the Chinese had a special word for rest, and it had a very different meaning than just goofing off. It was something you did after working hard. It meant something like this–“the art of leisure.” We were to learn the art of resting.

Our family friend Chris had his own little observation, which may not be true from a naturalist’s point of view. He would say that all mammals slow down in summer. They get more active in the fall as they prepare for winter. Then we would all talk about Thoreau living in simplicity, who said he wanted big margins to his life.

My family, or at least some of my family, was big on the “art of leisure.” When we stop for a moment, we recognize the rhythms of life, day and night, summer and winter, high tide and low tide. We resist them at our peril. A phrase I read some decades ago comes back to me, I think from Carl Jung, though I can’t track it down–“Whatever you repress will return to you, knife in hand, demanding a sacrifice.” If we shut out rest, it will return to us in some other form, like sickness or resentment, demanding a sacrifice.

I’m glad the Bible talks so much about rest. It is the first thing God makes holy in the first pages. Often for me the Bible reminds us of our song when we have forgotten it. Reminding us so that we can remember. That’s what the ten commandments tells us to do with the day of rest–to remember it. How could we forget? Time to stand and stare.