Our artwork for Advent and Christmas Eve this year is by Noel Shiveley. These pieces complete the series Noel has done for us this year within the church calendar (also including Lent, Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter—see below). But what does the artwork mean?
the series as a whole
In each piece, including Advent and Christmas Eve, a wide “landscape” is pictured. From the outside edges in, rolling hills, jagged deserts, or the ethereal cosmos center a symbolic item and a celestial body. The symbols each focus on life as it is traditionally considered in its liturgical season. For example, Ash Wednesday depicts ashes blown from a censer (life as temporary, fleeting; Psalm 90:3, 10), while Palm Sunday shows a budding tree in front of a gate cracked open (new life imminently coming; Mark 13:28).
“the weary world rejoices”
Our series for Advent this year has been “The Weary World Rejoices.” Our intent is first to make space in our hearts to feel the tension and dissonance of our weary world (this will be easier for some than for others) while also looking to Jesus as the one who took on flesh to secure the promise of a better future here: a future where the disillusioned can have hope, where the divided can find peace, where the suffering can experience joy, and where the self-centered and outraged can know love.
A shadowed world is centered low, hung in a mostly-empty cosmos. Space is clouded, and the space dust is somewhat serpentine, covering stars. Sources of light are partially obscured, but clearly coming—a dark world, but not for much longer (John 1: 9). As the four weeks of Advent progress, the artwork depicted on our bulletins and screens changes to show a rising moon and star. The symbolism for life is somewhat direct: the world is conflicted and gloomed, and all life therein waits for the light. Even more directly, the Bethlehem star is depicted. Though it was a symbol in the sky to guide those seeking to meet Jesus, it was not a “symbol” in that it was a real celestial event—baffling the experts then as it may even now. Such was the first coming of Jesus.
A depiction of Bethlehem is shown under complex light—the tops of towers are lit; the streets are dark. Feelings of sunrise are suggested (one who considers the last art piece might say, “at last!”), but the barren desert hills around still depict a cold nighttime. John writes that “the true light which gives life to everyone was coming into the world,” but also that “the light shines in the darkness…” (John 1:4–5). As we now know, “the darkness has not overcome it,” but what tension on that night! Why such squalor for this King? Who is this family? Did these shepherds really get a personal invitation from angels?
Noel Shiveley was born in Pasadena, CA. He first started sharing his graphic design work on Instagram in 2012 under @noeltheartist. This account is now a favorite to many, using his design to blend fun social commentary, Gospel snippets, random illustrations, and his professional portfolio. This is how we found him for this project! Noel now lives with his wife Bethany in Colorado Springs where Noel serves as Worship Director for YWAM Colorado Springs.
The series to date
Click an image to enlarge. All images Copyright Park Church 2020–2021.
From Wednesday, December 8
A night of singing, reading about, and longing for Jesus, our coming King.
Earlier this week the Denver County Health Department issued a Public Health order requiring masks at all indoor public gatherings. Starting this Sunday, November 28th, we will be requiring masks at all Park Church gatherings.
As we have throughout the pandemic, we are following the directives of the local government and seeking to love our broader community by doing our part to slow the spread of the virus so that hospitals can have capacity to help those who need it. Below is a link to the full public health order if you would like more information. We are so thankful for this church body and we are praying for you this week.
If you were at our Family Meeting on Monday, October 25, you may remember hearing about our new Member Covenant Renewal process. In short, for the Elders and Staff of Park Church to shepherd and care for our Covenant Members well, it’s essential that we know who you are! If you are a Covenant Member at Park Church, we’re asking you to begin renewing your commitment on an annual basis.
Why are we doing this? First, this annual practice helps us organize our approach to shepherding members of our church family. Second, and even more, we’re calling ourselves to a rhythm of remembrance—remembering what Jesus has done to make us part of His family and what it practically looks like to live into this reality:
Through the broken body and shed blood of Jesus, those who trust in Him are ushered into covenant relationship with the Triune God and with the spiritual family He has created. This is the Church. While it is true that every Christian is inseparably united to Jesus and His people by the work of Jesus alone, to practically experience and actively live in this reality, we must commit to a local expression of this universal family of God—a local church.
If you are a Covenant Member of Park Church, please take a few minutes to complete the form linked below. It will walk you through the main components of our Membership Covenant—both what we commit to you as well as what you commit to the church. Lastly, there is space for you to let us know how we can more effectively come alongside you as a member of our church.
NOT CURRENTLY A COVENANT MEMBER?
Our next membership class, called Foundations, will happen in Spring of 2022. We will share more info about that class as it approaches.
HAVE QUESTIONS FIRST? NOT RENEWING?
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
A QUICK NOTE: STORIES
Before we move into this next section, we wanted to introduce you to our first “story” since 2018. From culture to culture and era to era, stories define history. Yet we’ve identified a problem at Park Church—our people don’t know our stories. For the joy of our people and for inspiration to ask God to show more of His glory, we’re excited to share more of our stories. You can share yours here. Matt—thank you so much for telling us your story.
Friday, October 25, 2019
“This kind of thing doesn’t happen to us” is what Kyla said as we stood, hugging tightly and crying in the MRI office. My doctor had just notified us that the MRI revealed that I had a brain tumor, likely cancer, and that I needed to go to the hospital. We were both in a state of shock.
By the time we got to the car and started to drive home to pack for the hospital, our thoughts had shifted to, “How do we tell our boys the news?” We called our pastor and friend Matt Hand and asked for advice on how to break the life-changing news to our boys. Telling them that I had a brain tumor, was going to need major surgery, and that there were no guarantees on the results or me living was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.
Sunday, October 27, 2019
I had brain surgery and the neurosurgeon removed a tumor that he defined as a golf ball and a half in size from my left frontal lobe. The first thing I remember after my surgery was having a seizure in my left arm and side as I was being wheeled out of the operating room. For those who have not experienced seizures, it’s hard to explain. Imagine losing all muscle control and simultaneously cramping so bad that you can’t breathe. You think you are going to die.
After surgery I was put in the neuro-ICU unit, and I remember having a headache like nothing I had ever experienced. Every little movement, beep, or noise coming from all the machines they had me hooked up to caused severe pain and pounding in my head to the point that I thought it would explode.
From what I can recall, in the evening on the day after my surgery, they took me from the ICU for a post-operation MRI. That was a low point physically and emotionally—the reality of the how serious my situation was hit me hard, and the super-loud pounding noise of the MRI caused severe pain in my head. I remember crying while in the MRI from the hopelessness and pain. Silently in my mind, I cried out to God throughout the 30 minute MRI and repeated “Abba, Father, Daddy I need you, please take the pain away and heal me.”
One evening, Matt Hand brought me a burger and fries from Park Burger for dinner. While we were visiting, the hospital oncologist came in unscheduled to give me the diagnosis. The oncologist asked me to call Kyla and put her on speaker phone. The oncologist told us that the tumor that was removed was indeed cancerous, specifically glioblastoma. We asked what the prognosis was. The oncologist said that the average survival time for people diagnosed with glioblastoma was 15 months. As we were receiving this horrible news, for lack of better words, the Spirit came and filled me with a warm golden feeling and an unexplainable sense of peace. When Kyla asked the doctor “Is he going to die?”, my supernatural response was “Don’t worry honey, God’s got this.”
After my surgery, my left arm was essentially paralyzed. I couldn’t move my left arm, hand or fingers. It felt like there was a huge “knot” in my upper back behind my left shoulder that was preventing me from using my left arm, hand, or fingers. To illustrate how limited the strength and control of my left arm was, one day when Kyla and our boys were visiting, I was able to give a weak thumbs up with my left hand. I remember this because my family was so excited, as this was significant progress.
Later, one night in the hospital while sleeping, I had a sense that a warm golden figure was standing next to me on the left side of my bed. It is hard to describe the peace that I felt from the presence of this heavenly figure. The figure touched the spot where the “knot” in my upper back was, and instantly warmth ran down my left arm and into my hand and fingers. The next morning when I woke up I was able to raise my left arm and move my fingers! I was so excited that I called Kyla on FaceTime and told her a miracle had happened and that for all I knew, not only was my arm healed but my brain was healed of cancer as well.
Monday, November 11, 2019
After coming home from the 16-day hospital stay, including rehabilitation, I struggled to sleep as a result of the steroids I was taking. One night when I couldn’t sleep, I was so restless that it woke Kyla up, she said you need to read something to help you “turn off your mind” and she gave me a People magazine.
I ended up reading an article by Carly Simon talking about her surprising friendship with Jackie Kennedy, the common theme that made these ladies so close was the loss of their husbands. The reality that I could lose my battle with brain cancer and leave Kyla without a husband like these ladies hit me hard. It was at this point that I prayed and told God that I trusted his plan even if that meant I would die from brain cancer. At that moment the same warm golden presence of the Spirit that I experienced during my diagnosis in the hospital came to my aid again and gave me supernatural peace. The words that I heard in my mind were, “Matt, you’re going to get through this in order to bring hope to others.” During this time of spiritual presence, I heard our youngest son start singing some sort of divine tune while he was sleeping, further evidence that this wasn’t just all in my head.
In 2020 I did radiation and chemotherapy to treat the cancer. Post treatment, I started wearing the Optune device, which keeps cancer cells from dividing. If they can’t divide, they die. Don’t ask me how it works. So if you see me wearing something on my head with cords attached to it from a fanny pack, that’s what it is. I now get an MRI every two months to make sure the cancer has not returned. My last scan was in early October, 2021, and the Lord continues to bless me as there are no signs of cancer recurrence!
Here are some key things the Lord has taught me through this:
- The power of prayer is real. We need to remember that prayer doesn’t always get answered the way we want or when we want.
- We are not in control. God, in a very real way, reminded me that I’m not in control and that I need to trust His plan, even if I don’t understand it.
- My physical healing has nothing to do with me being worthy of it, or because so many prayed for me. It is simply a gift from a God who loves me. This is similar to our spiritual healing as believers in Christ: it is not earned—it is a gift from a loving God.
- There is always hope because of what Jesus did for us on the cross. See the passage below that helped me along this journey which is now at two years and counting:
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
(2 Corinthians 4:16–18)
Our artwork for the ongoing Mission of God course is an illustration by Bruce Butler. Three overlapping circles contain depictions of three cities (from top to bottom): the heavenly Jerusalem as described in Revelation 21, the “City on a Hill” as described in Matthew 5, and the Tower of Babel as described in Genesis 11. The cities are connected by a depiction of the River of Life (Revelation 22). This illustration reads in two directions—from top to bottom and from bottom to top.
Read from bottom to top, the humanity-wide quest to live a meaningful life in a broken world starts by default at the Tower of Babel. If we are not working towards God’s mission, the next mission we pursue is our own. Although we may be able to do incredible things as individuals or as a culture, the charge to mankind was to image God in the world, not simply to image ourselves. In grace to us, God breaks up our godless work. Jesus comes with a new city in mind, a “city on a hill” that “cannot be hidden.” We are invited to be members of this city, displaying Jesus’ upside-down kingdom in the sight of all people. In ironic contrast to Babel (a city that wanted its works to be widely visible but was then abandoned at God’s decree), Jesus expressly charges the city on a hill to have its good works seen! However, it is for the glory of “your Father who is in heaven.” Lastly, we are invited higher again through Jesus’ vision to John of the heavenly Jerusalem, a “cube of meeting” that represents the holy of holies in the temple. The city on a hill of our present age ultimately becomes the heavenly Jerusalem, where heaven and earth finally meet in fullness.
Read from top-to-bottom, the River of Life flows from the heavenly Jerusalem down onto the City on a Hill. This city acts as a watershed, and a “preview” of this river is precipitated to the world through it. Two things are intended in this illustration. First, God abundantly provides from heaven for those who seek to be on His mission. For example, we have the Holy Spirit, we have His incredible promises through His Word, and we are on mission within a community and inspired by the faithful before us. Second, the world that is not yet on mission with God receives a sort of gracious, River of Life “rain” by the faithfulness of God’s people as we seek to image Him. Though far different than drinking from the river, feeling its mist makes the human heart yearn for more. “Therefore, we are ambassadors… God making His appeal…” (2 Corinthians 5:20).
Lastly, the circles overlap as a way to illustrate that we are truly “residents” of all three cities. We often pursue our own missions like the people of Babel, and the “rain” of the River of Life is for our coming-to. We likewise often join Jesus in His mission and demonstrate Him to the world, empowered by heaven and its King. Ultimately, “we seek the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:13), to which we belong as a result of Jesus’ work, enjoying Him and His completed mission until we drink straight from the river with all the redeemed.
Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadGary and Kaitlin sit down in the sanctuary at the Highlands Building to discuss how their families observe the Sabbath. Their conversation on the Sabbath includes the ups and the downs, pizza on paper plates, standing on chairs, and experiencing a God-given rhythm that is well worth its sacrifice.
Learn more about Christ in the Psalms weekly artwork and see previous pieces here.
Person: James StukenbergJames Stukenberg is a photographer based in Denver. Since relocating to Colorado from Wisconsin in 2018 he has freelanced, photographing editorial and commercial assignments. He and his wife, Anne, have a daughter, Henrietta, and are expecting another child in December.
Upon first look, Psalm 119 may simply read as a straightforward declaration of the beauty and truth of the Word of God—an unwavering devotion from someone brimming with confidence in their Creator. But these praises aren’t offered lightly by someone who has been handed a life of ease. The psalmist is enveloped in struggle—struggle with his own brokenness and struggle with the brokenness of the world that surrounds him. He senses the threat of succumbing to these forces.
I’m drawn to the tension between the psalmist’s firm belief in God’s goodness towards him and his broken-life experience that causes him to approach God in vulnerability, crying out “Do not utterly forsake me!” I identify with the position of the psalmist as I wade through my own season of struggle—questioning my purpose and identity, feeling isolated and unknown, longing for a sense of home and wholeness. Engaging with the corresponding darker emotions with a raw honesty towards self and God is the first step toward hope and healing.
The process of making these photos was reflective and instinctive—as I read and considered Psalm 119, I let it inform my thinking and seeing, intuitively making images that resonate with this emotional state shared with the psalmist. This short series overlaps with a larger ongoing body of work, visible at the link below.See complete series
Learn more about Christ in the Psalms weekly artwork and see previous pieces here.
Person: Tamara CareyI am a wife and mama learning with my husband and our children about God and the world He made. I am privileged to walk alongside others as we together seek to know and love Him more, ever aware that we are all sheep in need of our Good Shepherd.
Piece: Mixed Media
Imagine a shepherd beginning to write this song as he watches his sheep, writing the Hebrew alphabet and capturing his love for God’s words, panting for the Word and earnestly desiring to walk in it. His sheep are close by and even wandering across this piece after he sets it down to seek after a lost lamb.
Psalm 119 is beautiful. It is daunting. We see an author’s absolute love for the Word of God and his to walk in God’s commandments with his whole heart,.Yet we also see a keen awareness of his inclination not to do so, requiring complete reliance on his Shepherd.
I wanted to do a rough, raw piece, helping us imagine the potential roots of this psalm.