I COMPLETED this mixed media Ink with Watercolor this Summer from a photo reference taken on Mackinaw Island, Michigan, a favored ‘vacation’ destination for the two of us.  This scene looks down from high ground on the island toward the water and mainland.

I chose it for today’s Thought—‘Signs’—because of the Church and especially the steeple.  Regardless of stories surrounding the origin of church steeples, they continue to be a ‘Sign’ to every community identifying a place designed to connect people with God.  


Art Block Enthusiasm

“I LOVE YOUR HAT!” she said. Marj and I attended an outdoor event connected with the Art Block in Edina, Minnesota last Friday evening.  It included several art projects as well as free pizza, popcorn and giant cookies (while they lasted).  I stopped by the popcorn machine to get a bag for Marj.  The young woman running the machine and filling the bags looked at me, read my cap and with great enthusiasm said, “I love your hat, do you know what it says?”  “Yes, I do.”  “Where did you get it? I want one of those!” The ball cap style hat was a gift from one of our sons.  It says ‘Teach Peace’ in such a way as to have each word share the middle three letters: ‘e, a and c’. The ‘T’ and ‘P’ at the beginning of ‘e, a, c’ are followed by ‘h’ to complete the word ‘Teach’ and ‘e’ to complete the word ‘Peace’.  Her final words, “I love that, I’m going to get one of those!”

Power of ‘Signs’

WOW!  WHAT AN enthusiastic reaction to a “Sign” on a ball cap.  I wear it when I’m out walking and sometimes when shopping.  I received the same positive reaction from the cashier at a grocery store earlier in the summer, “I love your hat!”  Perhaps others have seen the Teach Peace ‘Sign’ and didn’t comment. But this got me thinking about ‘Signs’ and their impact on people who encounter them.  We are all very familiar with literally thousands of commercial ‘Signs’ in the form of advertisements that inundate us daily.  What about ‘Signs’ followers of Jesus are often associated with?  Two come to mind:  The Cross and Church steeples.

The First Cross ‘Sign’

“WE HAVE GROWN SO used to the idea that the Crucifixion is the supreme symbol of Christianity that it is a shock to realize how late in the history of Christian art its power is recognized.  In the first art of Christianity, it hardly appears; and the earliest example, on the doors of Sant Sabina (built A.D. 430) in Rome, is stuck away in a corner almost out of sight. The simple fact is that the early church needed converts, and from this point of view the Crucifixion is not an encouraging subject.  So, early Christian art is concerned with miracles, healings, and with hopeful aspects of the faith like the Ascension and Resurrection” [1]

The First Practice ‘Sign’

 TERTULLIAN’S (A.D. 160-230) well-known words in the conclusion to his

Apology seems much more representative of the practice of the early believers.  To his provincial governor under the Roman Empire, he wrote:

‘Proceed in you career of cruelty, but do not suppose that you will thus accomplish your purpose of extinguishing the hated sect [the Christians].  We are like the grass, which gowns the more luxuriantly the oftener it is mown.  The blood of Christians is the seed of Christianity.  Your philosophers taught men to despise pain and death by words; but how few their converts compared with those of the Christians, who teach by example…  Who can enquire into that faith and not desire himself to undergo the same suffering in order that he may thus secure participation in the fulness of divine favor?”[2]

The ‘Sign’ for all Time!

BALL CAPS WITH WORDS like ‘Teach Peace’; a crucifix; an empty cross; or a Church steeple may elicit excitement from observers to the meaning they represent.  But the one ‘Sign’ that speaks any language is the fruit of the Spirit of Jesus radiating to others through the life of his followers! May this ‘Sign’ be seen in me (us!) today!

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5:22, 23

And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Colossians 3:14

[1] A quote from Kenneth Clark’ book and T.V. series Civilization, quoted on page 45 of Dallas Willard’s The Spirit of the Disciplines.

[2] Quoted in John, Bishop of Bristol, The Ecclesiastical History of the Second and Third Centuries (London: ‘Griffith “Farran Browne n.d.) page 66, and quoted in Dallas Willard’s The Spirit of the Disciplines, p. 35

2 thoughts on “

  1. I love this for two reasons. First, the content is wonderful. I agree, may the sign of the fruit of the Spirit of Jesus be seen in me and all of us! Second, Suzi and I honeymooned on Mackinaw Island so I love the picture, too.


    1. Thanks, Jim. I do remember that the two of you spent your honeymoon on Mackinaw Island. Well, your are moving in that geographical direction again…California to Nebraska! Looking forward to visiting you in your new home.


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