A Wardrobe in Disguise

C. S. Lewis wardrobe housed at The Wade Center of Wheaton College

A Wardrobe in Disguise

“It won’t be long now,”
you said with a smile
your emotions under control.
And I marveled at your calm.
But when you got that call that said
all had been done (and all was not enough),
didn’t it take a while for your ready smile
to find your face again?

You are never quite ready
for the end to come, are you?
Even when you’ve had wind of the end
for a while.

When you finally face that familiar face
inside that greedy box,
your resignation to what you thought
you were prepared for
quickly bolts out the door,
leaving you alone with the lonely truth
that life will never, ever, really be the same.

But as Paul Harvey was wont to say…
“And now for the rest of the story!”

Death’s only glory is that overpriced coffin
in which it thinks it’s sealed our fate
(and that of those we loved).
But Death forgets its box is but a wardrobe.
through which the Risen Lion leads us
(and all those with faith)
into the Land of Narnia
where Death
(even if it could be remembered)
would only be a bad dream.

Long live, Aslan!
Deep be Your peace!

Christ is risen!
He is risen, indeed!

In “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” the author invites us to enter the land of Narnia through an old-fashioned bedroom wardrobe. That standing wooden box is the means by a new world is experienced. Have you ever thought of a casket as a wardrobe? For the Christian, a simple pine box is a time-capsule to eternal life. If you have never read this classic story by C. S. Lewis, why not commit to reading it this year?

The above post is an excerpt from When God Speaks by Greg Asimakoupoulos. It was written for a friend whose father died after an extended illness.

Picturing Faith at Eastertime

This original chalk image by Warner Sallman was drawn in 1963 for a church in Portage, Indiana

Have you noticed? As Easter draws near sacred art is circulating on social media. One particular image that caught my eye was a painting by an artist friend in the Denver area.

Rose Edin, an incredibly gifted watercolor artist in her eighties, was commissioned by her church to paint the crucifixion. When I saw Rose’s latest contribution to the world of religious art, I communicated my appreciation. As a chaplain at a senior adult retirement community, I continue to amazed at the abilities exhibited among an aging population.

But there is another iconic piece of art that is guiding my personal meditation as the Lenten season draws to a close. It is an original chalk drawing by Warner Sallman (based on his 1940 oil painting titled “Head of Christ”) that hangs in the skilled nursing wing of The Shroes.

The framed chalk drawing on newsprint sketched by Sallman was created in 1963 before a live Sunday evening audience at the Portage Covenant Church in Portage, Indiana. When the Indiana congregation closed down several years ago, it was given to a friend of mine who works at our denomination’s headquarters in Chicago.

When Rob Hall learned that I had a personal interest in the life of Warner Sallman, and had appreciated his work since I was a small boy, it was gifted to our campus. Since then it has graced our care facility as a year-round reminder of the fact that we are a faith-based community.

One hundred years ago, Warner Sallman, a Chicago illustrator, was hired as the art director for a new monthly periodical called “The Covenant Companion.” A few months later he created a charcoal sketch for the February 1924 cover of the magazine. He titled  his cover art “Son of Man.”

In 1940 Sallman used his original concept to create an oil painting which became known as “Sallman’s Head of Christ.” To date that painting has been reproduced over half a billion times and is considered the most reprinted image of all times. 

After retiring from his career as an illustrator, Sallman, a member of Edgewater Covenant Church in Chicago, became a popular guest speaker at churches and Bible camps. On such occsions, he would draw a chalk version of his famous painting in an hour before an in-person group.

Last Sunday in our morning worship service at The Shores, we celebrated the sixtieth anniversary of the framed chalk drawing. For many of our residents who have recently moved to the campus or who have not had opportunity during COVID to frequent the Health Center, it was the first time the orginal art was seen. I shared the history of Sallman’s various versions of his image of the first century carpenter-apprentice turned rabbi.

As part of my remarks I told the congregation that my daughter and son-in-law (while studing at North Park Seminary in Chicago) lived five houses from the Sallman home where Mr. Sallman painted his famous “Head” in 1940. Several years ago on a trip to visit my kids, the current owner of the Sallman home gave me a tour of the upstairs bedroom where history was made eight decades ago.

As part of my research of Warner Sallman’s life, I discovered something rather curious. Mr. Sallman’s brother-in-law Haddon Sundblom, another Chicago illustrator, became equally as popular as the Head of Christ artist.

It was Sundblom’s image of Santa Claus that he created for Coca-Cola in the 1930s that has largely influenced how the jolly elf is represented to this day. One brother-in-law’s career is defined by his image of Jesus. The other’s is defined by his image of Santa Claus.

For photos of the other illustrations mentioned in this article click on the following link…

Palm Sunday Reflections

The Palm Sunday display on the poet’s fireplace mantel invites childlike curiosity

The crowds lined the cobblestone streets that day
as a solitary figure emerged on a beast of burden.
There were exuberant cheers!
Smiling spectators waved palm branches in his direction
and shouted “Hosanna!”

Children sang a simple synagogue song.
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
Parents paved the path in front of where they stood
carpeting it with their outer garments
as the grand parade marshal approached.
What a day it must have been!

Within my mind’s eye
I see Jesus seated on that burro.
He is smiling.
I catch his glance.
His looks my way and his loving eyes speak.
They seem to say…

“You matter to me!
This parade appears to be for me,
but it actually is for you.
This procession punctuated by praise
will culminate in a post-parade party at which time
my critics will call for my death.
The painful conclusion to this joyful scene
will make possible the meaningful life I pictured for you
even before you were born.”

His eloquent eyes speak volumes.
But if that were not enough,
I see his arm reach through the crowd in my direction.
His calloused hand betrays his years as a carpenter.
He opens his palm and gently touches my suntanned cheek.
It is at once warm and cool.
A tear falls from my eye and trickles to his hand.
His hand remains unmoved.

He smiles.
I smile back bashfully.
My trembling hand reaches up to touch his hand.
My palm against his palm.
I feel my heartbeat pulsating in my hand.
It is a holy moment.

Two hands touching.
A sacred bond of sorts.
With no words being shared
I am convinced that I am loved by Jesus.

When God Speaks

This painting of Aslan is by world-renown wildlife artist Gregory Beecham

When God speaks,
I want to hear
against the backdrop
of constant distractions.

Amid the din of doing life
in the midst of mounting pressures
and maintaining routines
(all the while pursuing dreams),
I want to sense His presence
and hear the essence of His heart.

When God speaks
I want to know what He is saying.
And even if it means a moratorium from praying
(because my words can often get in the way),
I am willing to be still
to know that He is God.

Greg’s book,
When God Speaks
is listed on the
BOOKS menu
at $14.99 from
Lulu Books.

A Man Called Otto (Revisited)

It’s an unforgettable film with a timeless message

If your first name is Otto,
if the world thinks you’re strange,
can you hope for redemption?
Can your selfish ways change?

Can the losses you’ve suffered
create space in your heart
for the lost and the lonely
who are God’s work of art?

Though your life’s not worth living
(or so it may seem),
can you find renewed purpose
in a dying friend’s dream?

Can a cause to believe in
find you reborn within
though your past has been littered
by anger and sin?

Can your first love be kindled
though you grieve for what’s gone?
Can God’s grace and forgiveness
find you singing a song?

While your days may be numbered
and the end is at hand,
can you serve where you’re needed
as the Good Lord has planned?

That’s my prayer for you, Otto.
That you live while you can.
That you seize what you’re given
and die a loved man.

View a trailer of A Man Called Otto here: