Friday, October 22, 2010

change of seasons...

I realized this morning as I drove to the central part of the state that harvest time is almost over.  On top of that there is a chance for snow not too far away (toward the end of next week in the northern part of the state!).  It's that time of year...time to unpack the hats, gloves, coats, long johns and electric blankets.  yikes!

When I was younger snow was very exciting.  It meant all kinds of adventures outside - especially sledding down the hill in front of the barn on the family farm in Pennsylvania, or crunching out to help do chores on our farm in Illinois.  When we moved to Tennessee from Illinois around Christmas time 1975, unseasonably cold temperatures and a dusting of snow delayed the re-start of school for three weeks!  My family found this response kinda silly, but after living in the south for over 20 years, I get it now.

Hannah and her snowman
(Senoia, Ga 1996)
When the girls were little, and we lived in Atlanta, I would bundle them up and take them outside to play in the snow - in fact the only pictures that I have of them in snow were taken at night, because it would melt by morning.

On the front range in the mountains of Colorado we would have snow - but it wasn't anything like snow in Iowa.  Very seldom did we have a gloomy, dreary or even windy winter day - the sun would shine and everything looked like a winter wonderland!

Ahhh, but the Midwest - something about being on flat ground and within reach of the polar express...let's just say the wind can be relentless (I can see why pioneer women went crazy from the blowing winds).

It's not that I dread the change of seasons...I love them all in their own special way.  But the approach of winter, at least in the Midwest, is messy.  And as I get older I realize I don't do messy so well.

I think thats the crux of the problem.  Change is messy.  Change can easily signal a time of instability as well as realignment, whether that is layering sweaters or grabbing a coat on the way out the door, or learning to live in new ways as one's family or life is reconfigured.  

I am at the Next Step Conference in Ankeny.  First UMC Ankeny is doing great things - Kingdom Building things.  Folks gather from across the state to share ideas and to learn from one another, we do this because we want to be agents of change in our parishes.  

As I think about what it means to be an agent of change I realize that so many times we (pastors) ask our congregations to embrace change - not thinking about how hard change is...we can talk all we want about the reason for change and how it is going to move us from one place thats good to another that is even better.  We can be cheerleaders - sharing a vision of hope that in the new place we will be healthier, and able to do things more faithfully (I pray that I do this as a church leader).  But as a person trying to navigate through some pretty major life changes right now I am reminded how hard change really is.    

Ethan power-kiting on snow covered
Big Spirit Lake, IA (2010)
Just as I have to put some effort into swapping our summer clothes for winters hats and gloves, I also need to set aside some time and reflect on where I have been and where God is calling me to go in the next season of my life.  I fear that I am not so good about this part of change...who wants to really slow down and think about (or even re-hash) this stuff?  But it is essential to really make any healthy, lasting change.  And ultimately that is what we pray for, isn't it?

Likewise to be faithful agents of change in the Church we must first pray - asking God for a direction or vision of where God wants us to go, and then listen...listen...listen...and THEN talk about it - sharing the vision, sharing the hopes and dreams and even, at times, grieving with one another as we move through the change of seasons.  

I am grateful for a safe and bountiful harvest across our nation, I am also grateful that I do not go through any changes of season alone.  God is always more than ready to embrace us, messy as we may be, and lead us through seasons of change.  We just have to be willing to step boldly into new places and do the hard work before, during and after we move through these times of change.  

Let's get out there and embrace change - even the messy parts!

to God be the glory!

(one of my favorite books of the Bible during this time of change is Ecclesiastes - you may want to check it out too) 

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