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  • Writer's pictureRev. Tarrah Vaupel

A Work of "Heart"

Hear the words of the prophet Isaiah 43:19, “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth; do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” When it comes to the beginning of a new calendar year, this sacred text always arises to the forefront of my mind. So many possibilities…a blank canvas ahead of us with God’s guidance prayerfully assisting in how we paint together.

I will be the first one to tell you that I am NOT good at painting. Yes, I know that the “painting” is a metaphor for how we will work together in ministry; however, let’s think about that together for just a bit and see where it takes us.

Painting is a skill and an art. Some are better at painting than others and that’s ok! Personally, I have never been able to make a “paint by number” piece look “good”. I think that my problem, in part, is because of the blending needed “outside the lines” of each numbered section. We’ve been taught from the time we were little humans to “color inside the lines” and we’ve been graded and evaluated by our teachers, parents, etc. because of it. This quite likely may be a part of my issue. As we get grow, the way we hold our crayons, paintbrushes, etc. becomes a “thing.” And then, the way in which our strokes fill the space comes into play. Some scribble hurriedly through just to “get it done” and some find themselves lost in their efforts to make their strokes blend and disappear completely. None of those things even take into account the color palette that we choose in our creating. (That could be it’s whole own piece of writing.) But in this moment, I find myself wondering, how much of that “inside the line-ness” and “method” affects not only me…but also others around me?

As little humans, we deal very much in categories of “black and white”. What’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong. There aren’t complications or gray areas thrust into our decision making when we were little ones. Gray areas aren’t really a concept that is easily made sense of. Stepping into those gray areas is typically what ends up getting us in trouble because we’ve strayed from the “right vs wrong.” In fact, it is those gray area struggles we still end up wrestling with, through, etc. as adults that cause us the most angst and turmoil.

Over time we begin to wear those “lines,” and the way we approach/engage the lines, on ourselves as we journey through our lives. I would never begin to propose that one approach is better than the other, because the truth is, is that we need all different types of approaches within our church family and in society to get us through. Have you guessed that this is about more than “painting” yet? 😊

The end of 2022 was especially challenging for many of us. There were great losses felt and experienced in our church families. Much sickness and life altering diagnoses swirling around inside our sanctuary walls, our communities, and even in our own homes. Changes impacting our church services and plans because of weather, illnesses, etc. I’d be foolish to assume that we can easily leave that all behind us as we are now in a new year….that when the clock struck midnight we were all visited by Cinderella’s “Fairy Godmother” and she bibbidy-bobbidied our boo’s, boo-hoos, and boo-boos away. Humans simply don’t work that way and we in no way live in fairy tale stories. We’ve carried the challenges with us into 2023…some carrying them in a heavier way than others, but we’ve all got “something.” It is within our approach to those challenges that we are carrying that set each of us apart in our own ways. This is where we need to do the work…in our approach. In the way that we blend together or not. In the way that we witness and respond to an unjust line that has been drawn before us, around us, or between us. Even in the way in which we approach whether the line is “just” or “unjust.” Do we rush through and hastily scribble inside our boxes? Or do we take the time to be mindful of our strokes and be intentional in coloring outside our boxes and lines? Many things to ponder here for ALL of us. Part of my prayer is that you indeed take some time to ponder these things and talk to God about what arises in your heart. No matter what your ponderings and wonderings bring up for you, we have such a gift in knowing that Jesus came to us to show us ways (some new and some not) of approaching and handling those lines.

“I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth; do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” ~Isaiah 43:19. The prophet Isaiah tells us that God is with us in the newness we create and the newness created around us. That God is creating “new things” for us to experience and be a part of. That God makes “a way” in our times of challenge and struggles. Sometimes that way isn’t OUR way…how do you approach THAT when it happens? Because it does and will happen to each of us throughout this new year. God is with us as we work through those things.

In this season of Epiphany, there will likely be some moments of “Aha!” and “Wow!” and “I see it now.” That’s part of what this season is about as our spiritual journey continues to unfold itself. Just as the Magi arrived at Bethlehem seeking the newborn king, there was a great “Aha!” to what they discovered. This newborn king, Jesus the Christ, crossed every line and broke out of every box that they had ever known or anticipated. Carefully, and intimately created by God’s vision and choice to enter into our human and earthly realm in this way…to and through those particular people.

If you were one of the Magi, how would you approach and respond?

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