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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Changing of the Seasons

Ask most people in the upper mid-west how they feel about winter and they will say they hate it.  When you ask them why they don't move south the response is usually because they enjoy the changing of the seasons.  In the north the changing of seasons can often be dramatic.  One day you are adjusting the air conditioning and the next the fireplace must be lit. One day you are wearing short sleeves and the next a sweatshirt.  In fact sometimes this can happen all in a days time.  Heater by morning and air conditioning by night.  That is how it is in the mid-west and that is what I love about it.  I love dramatic weather changes.  I love thunderstorms in summer and blizzards in winter.  I love a warm spring rain and I love the fragrance of autumn and the crunching of leaves under foot.  I love the change of seasons as they pertain to nature. There is only one season I don't really enjoy and that is the middle of summer when the heat and humidity are on.  As my husband puts it, we are all entitled to complain about one season.  And since nobody really complains about spring or fall, he has chosen winter to be his nemesis and I, summer.  

Nature's seasons come and go every year and with some predictability.  We complain as much as we celebrate their passing.  If we didn't have the changing of seasons, I'm convinced that many awkward silences would never be broken.  But what about the seasons of friendship?

I left Iowa three years ago, which for me was as dramatic as going from summer directly into winter without the transition of fall.  I had lived there for over forty years.  I have friends and family and the entire history of my livelihood in Iowa.  But I also knew much sorrow and pain associated with my life in Iowa.  When I moved to Kansas City with my husband Mike, I was scared and if you can imagine me as timid, I was a little bit of that too.  I didn't know anyone here and it seemed that every time I left home alone I would get lost in the city and have to turn around.  I was fired from my first job here just a few months after I started simply because they didn't like me.  With my confidence and cheerful spirit shaken, I knew that it would all be brought back in perspective when Mike would return home each day.  He was and is what I needed to keep things in perspective.  This season in my life felt like the bitterness of winter and the heat of summer colliding, with potential to shatter what resilience still remained inside. As difficult as that time in my life was, it was only a season; a season for which I am thankful.  

If I had not moved, I may have never crossed paths with some very dear people who I can proudly call friends today.  I may have always wondered what it would be like to live somewhere else. This change in seasons has been a wonderful opportunity for growth.  After all, isn't it true that much of nature couldn't grow without the changing of seasons?  

I needed a change in seasons to grow beyond what I could see as my potential, and there are people in my life who are experiencing the same thing today.  I hope that in the same way that Mike and my new friends and family in Kansas City have helped me to grow, that I will be supportive of changing seasons in the life of my friends.

            I'm not sure that this made much sense today and maybe it was written for myself, perhaps belonging in my journal.  But, somewhere out there is a person whose life is changing course and maybe you can be encouraged knowing that this is just a season and on the other side is a beautiful new tomorrow.

Blessings as you go,

Amy

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Gospel According to Janis Ian

At Seventeen
Janis Ian

"To those of us who know the pain 
of valentines that never came.  
And those whose names were never called 
when choosing sides at basketball.  
It was long ago and far away, 
the world was younger than today.  
And dreams were all they gave for free 
to ugly duckling girls like me."  

Several weeks ago on a road trip back home, I listened to a compilation CD that had this song on it.  Either I had never heard the song before or I had never really listened to the words.  But I found myself lost in the lyrics.  Because I was driving back to the place where I grew up, suddenly these words came to life.  This is exactly how I felt at seventeen!  I felt ugly, awkward and most of all I felt insignificant.  I don't think this is uncommon in teenage girls, but when you are that girl it feels horrible.  

We are entering into Holy week and my mind was taken to the book of Isaiah where the prophet was describing the coming Messiah.  And it seems that this Jesus would not have been the handsome olive skinned, curly haired man that we portray in pictures and movies.  Chapter 53 verses 2 - 6 in the Message say this: The servant grew up before God - a scrawny seedling, a scrubby plant in a parched field.  There was nothing attractive about him, nothing to cause us to take a second look.  He was looked down on and passed over, a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.  One look at him and people turned away.  We looked down on him, thought he was scum.  But the fact is, it was our pains he carried - our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.  We thought he brought it on himself, that God was punishing him for his own failures.  But it was our sins that did that to him, that ripped and tore and crushed him - our sins!  Through his bruises we get healed.  We're all like sheep who've wandered off and gotten lost.  We've all done our own thing, gone our own way.  And God has piled all our sins, everything we've done wrong, on him, on him.

What do you suppose Jesus teen years would have been like if he had lived in America today?  From what I've read, I'm guessing he would have spent a lot of time alone.  I'm also guessing it would have been alright with him.  I get sickened sometimes when I see the display that we put on in the name of Jesus to produce a church service; hair...makeup... wardrobe...lights... camera... action!  Let's do this service!  At least that's how it feels sometimes. 

Would we have chosen the Jesus described in this passage to pastor any of our churches?  Would we have even embraced him as he walked through the doors of our building?  Maybe I'm thinking of myself here, but I am doubting that I would give a second glance unless simply to judge this ugly man. 

Janis sings "those of us with ravaged faces, lacking in the social graces. Desp'rately remained at home, inventing lovers on the phone, who called to say come dance with me and murmured vague obscenities.  It isn't all it seems At Seventeen".  When I see the picture perfect Jesus portrayed in movies and paintings I know that it isn't all it seems either.  Jesus wasn't beautiful, but what he represents is beautiful.  He lived a short life and walked a long road for me even though I wasn't perfect.  In fact he did this because I'm not perfect.  

As we enter into Holy week I hope that we are reminded as we plan our services that there are those who will come to services broken and alone.  They will feel dirty and ugly.  I hope that I am able to have the eyes to see beyond what may turn me away from embracing the one who feels insignificant.  

Thanks for stopping by,

Amy

Friday, April 8, 2011

Sanctuary Within



"Sometimes I wanna go, where everybody knows my name".  Everyone remembers the theme song from the hit television series, "Cheers".  Right now you are probably at least humming this tune in your head, possibly singing it out loud.  Sometimes that is where I want to be. I want to be in the presence of my friends and family to laugh and to hear about their lives.

On a hectic day when my job is overwhelming and I am mentally exhausted I need a refuge.  I need a place where maybe nobody knows my name.  I need to be alone.  On days like this I will often drive to my church to play the piano in a dark sanctuary where nobody but me hears my prayers.  I begin to play whatever comes to mind.  Most of the time it is music that just flows from within, to my hands on the keys.  It resonates from the strings what my pastor referred to once as, "piano prayers".  I had never really thought of it that way before.  But when I think about the emotions that are welling up inside during this time, it can only be prayers.  The feeling is overwhelming and somehow, some way I know that God hears those prayers and meets me there. But I believe that God is meeting me in a much deeper place than the physical building.  He is meeting me in the sanctuary within.  

I suppose someone reading this is wishing they had access to a church sanctuary, while another is thinking I wish I could play piano.  Can you sit outside, or go for a walk?  Can you retreat to a room that isn't occupied by others?  Can you simply shut your eyes for a few minutes to listen to that still small voice?  If you can do any of this, you have found your sanctuary; your sacred place. When words can't express what you are feeling inside, and yet somehow you feel as though you've been heard, you have found that special place.  

Within you lies a longing, a prayer that has no words.  That prayer can be found if you are willing to meet God in your sanctuary, in the deepest part of your soul.  I know he will hear you and I know he will bring you peace, if just for a moment.
  

Thanks for stopping by,

Amy

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