Many of you have probably noticed that I have a couple of tattoos on my arm here. This one here was my very first tattoo; it’s probably hard to see from where you’re sitting, but the design is a rose sitting in the center of a cross. I got this tattoo the day after I turned in my candidacy paperwork to start the process of becoming an ordained pastor. It has a lot of meaning for me.
I took the inspiration for this image from my time out at Camp Carol Joy Holling, both as a camper and later as a counselor. There was a beautiful confessional rite that we would do sometimes, especially for our evening worship. We had this big, wooden cross that had a nail hammered into it so that the pointy end faced outward. And the way it worked was that everyone was given little slips of paper and invited to write their confession – whatever sins or troubles were on their heart – and then stick it up on the cross on that big nail. Then, once everyone’s confessions were on the cross, they would light the little bits of paper on fire. And as we watched everyone’s confessions go up in smoke – almost like incense to God – the edges of the papers curled inward and formed the shape of a flaming rose. It was beautiful, all ashy gray and fiery orange – such a powerful image.