Cling to the Cross

Cling to the Cross

Blog – 9-7-16

I sang at a sweet church in Akron last Sunday, Immanuel Lutheran. As I sat in the front pew and readied my heart and mind for the service, I noticed a beautiful mural that was above the altar of the church. Here’s a picture of it:

I tried to research and find out more information about the picture, but I wasn’t able to find out anything about it other than the artist who painted it was Olof Grafstrom. He was from Switzerland and was commissioned to paint many church altar paintings in the early 1900’s.

As I looked at this image on Sunday morning, I couldn’t help but notice the woman at the bottom of the cross. I interpret this woman to be Mary Magdalene. Mary is a woman we don’t have any family history for, and all we really know is Jesus drove out seven demons from her. Some say she was a prostitute, others say she had mental illness, but she was definitely afflicted with something and was healed by Jesus. From that point on she followed Jesus and his disciples with extreme devotion.

Right up to the end, there she was, clinging with all her might to the cross. You could tell she didn’t want to let Jesus go.

There’s so much more to say about Mary that I will delve into in next week’s blog, but her
action portrayed in the painting of clinging to that lifeless piece of wood which held the one who had given her so much caused one of those aha moments for me. This faith thing isn’t as complicated as I try to make it sometimes. It’s really pretty simple.

All I have to do is cling to the cross.
(Click to Tweet)

Mary didn’t have to totally understand faith and tear it apart into tiny little pieces like we so often do in order to follow Christ. She just followed. She was grateful for the healing she received from Jesus, and she lived her life in gratitude for that freedom. Her childlike faith was not complicated, but it was incredibly genuine. It was Simple. Real. Passionate.

Could it really be that easy for us?

When a friend hurts our feelings…cling to the cross.

When we get a diagnosis we don’t want…cling to the cross.

When we lose our job…cling to the cross.

When we feel lonely and afraid…cling to the cross.

Whether life is good, bad, happy or sad, this image is a beautiful reminder of where our hearts and our lives need to be…clinging to the cross with all our might. Never letting go!

This position of humility and surrender is the place where we are at our best. It’s where deep faith is lived out. It’s the only place we will ever find true freedom.

I urge you to take a minute and look at this picture closely. Imagine yourself in Mary’s position, clinging to the cross with everything you have, I mean EVERYTHING.

Maybe it will help you see faith in a whole new way, just like it did for me!

Hugs and love,



7 thoughts on “Cling to the Cross

  1. Jill, loved your music last Sunday. Grafstrom was born in Sweden, taught at two Lutheran colleges in the U.S., painted about 300 altar paintings. He returned to Sweden, where he later died. I have a picture of his grave stone in the cemetery in which he was buried when I visited in Sweden in 1981.

    • Phyllis, Thank you for your information! I would love to see your picture of the grave stone. My plans are to continue next week with more information, and the secretary at Immanuel has some information for me! God’s blessings!

  2. Jill, yes Sharen has some information on Grafstrom, which I wrote up while I was secretary prior to Sharen. The printing does not show up good on the picture I have, but it is diffinately him. My mother in law was from the same church in Sweden as he came from and when I questioned relatives, they took me to his gravestone. My mother in law claimed he was a distant relative of hers. Saw where he lived also. The sheet Sharon has states where he taught, etc. Interesting to me too.

  3. Hi Jill, I’m Phyllis Frisk’s niece and am enjoying your interchanges. Although I’m from Greene, IA and my sister Kay is from Duluth, MN, we were with the congregation Sunday when you shared your music and message. We purchased your book combo at the same time with the leftover $5.00. 🙂 Your message was such an inspiration. I was touched by your words that as you looked at the painting, you thought of Mary Magdalene, and the words “cling to the cross”. I grew up looking at that painting every Sunday, and I’ve been back to Immanuel MANY times for worship, looking at that painting, and I never thought of Mary Magdalene and “cling to the cross”. It’s just wonderful. And helpful!! I had written that down, and also “that’s when Grace finds wings” prior to finding how much meaning that has for you too!! God’s blessings with you always!!

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