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A Rockwell Kinda Christmas

A Rockwell Kinda Christmas

It makes me wonder, what makes a mission trip so powerful? Why does a Rockwell painting draw you to another time and place? Both, it seems, are connected to intense emotional experiences.

Mike Rhoades | Dec 16, 2015

Norman Rockwell paintings are pure holiday Americana at it's finest. Each painting seems to capture not only the image but the emotion of a moment, you can almost feel yourself in the painting. One of my favorite Rockwell paintings, depicts a boy standing at the bottom of the stairs yelling. Instantly, I'm back at my grandparents house, the snow is on the ground, the cousins are running and screaming. His painting pulls me back to warm memories, the kind I want to hold onto forever. In December each year, the Praying Pelican Missions staff gather in Duluth, MN for a week of meetings. As I Look at our staff photo it has a Rockwellian quality to it. The faces, draw me back to the mission field where our staff served alongside thousands of amazing people. We've shared incredible moments and worked through massive challenges together. These memories are formational, the type you never want to forget. It makes me wonder, what makes a mission trip so powerful? Why does a Rockwell painting draw you to another time and place? Both, it seems, are connected to intense emotional experiences. Our brain is amazing. It has this tendency to latch onto experiences with strong emotion. Oddly, as it sears these experiences onto our mental hard drive, our brain seems less concerned with the details than the significance of the moment. Often times, it will gloss over important information to piece together the emotional thrust of the experience. It's the same way a simple picture or a single word can bring us to tears. The trigger in our brain the memories tied to the strongest emotions. In the end, these are the memories that form us. Mission trips can be an overwhelming experience and often times require more of us than we ever expected. It's in this emotional authenticity, the beauty of the imperfect, that we are formed. Our brain is actively cataloging these experiences in conjunction with the emotions they illicit, latching onto the most significant themes. It's true that we choose how these memories form us but there is no escaping their formative power. In the faces of the Praying Pelican Staff I see stories upon stories. Thousands of lives that will never be the same, who view the world in a different way. My hope carries with it the warmth of a Norman Rockwell Christmas painting. It's the joy in believing God's love is somehow represented in a truer more passionate way as a result of the transformative work of missions. Have a wonderful Christmas season!

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