Sunday, April 29, 2012

Beauty from Ashes

Resurrection Window, St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Clay Center, KS, Photo by Lisa Bauer
The stained glass window doesn't look like it was taken from the pages of a children's Bible. There's not an image of Jesus welcoming the little children. The Good Shepherd is not cradling sheep in his arms while standing in a lush green pasture. Jesus is not standing on the other side of a door, ready for our knock.

Instead, it's like random shards of glass were tossed onto a stained glass canvas and soldered together. And, to a degree, they were.

When a tornado damaged the stained glass windows at Clay Center's St. Paul's Episcopal Church, the members collected the fragments of glass and had this window made. It now stands as a testament to God's faithfulness and the congregation's ability to piece together beauty from tragedy.

Out of despair, comes hope.
Out of hope, comes creativity.
Out of creativity, comes art.
Out of ashes, comes beauty. (Isaiah 61: 2-4)

I suppose this message resonates with me as neighbors clean up from the April 14 tornadoes that ravaged the Plains. It's hard to see the beauty in houses that are demolished or farm equipment that was tossed like Matchbox vehicles. And the beauty isn't there: Instead, it's in the neighbors helping neighbors and the unwavering faith seen in people who have lost their homes and tools of their livelihoods.

Our theme this month at Lovely Branches is "Creativity." My friend, Shari, recently posted this on her Facebook wall. (I've added the photos as illustration):
Artists take wood, or clay, or rock and sculpt beauty.
A tableau created by Arlene Lickiss for our Easter morning worship service.
They take a piece of coal and use it to draw breathtaking scenes.
Drawing by Pablo Renauld, Found on Google Images
 They take a spool of thread and weave meticulous designs.
Christmas tapestry made by my late mother-in-law, Marie
Each one sees beyond the ordinary material in their hands and envisions what it can become.
Isn’t that just what our Heavenly Creator does with each of us? He takes us in His hands and envisions the beauty inside. He considers us “wonderfully made." (Psalm 139:14)
Why is it that we can not see in ourselves what we see in others so easily? Too often we see what is crumpled and torn. We see only the parts of us others may have crushed and tossed aside. We see the imperfections, the scars, the mistakes.
Photo illustration by Adrienne Minnis, Lovely Branches' photographer and LBM's Moments in Focus blog writer.
But God sees the potential. He sees what can be. He can take the pieces of our lives and turn them into a spectacular work of art. (Isaiah 64:8) Not one of us is worthless. We are wonderfully and fearfully made because all of His works are wonderful.
Not long after I read Shari's post, one of my favorite bloggers of faith, Emily at Chatting at the Sky, wrote a post called, "We don't want your loveless art." (Emily is the author of Grace for the Good Girl: Letting Go of the Try-Hard Life that I wrote about last month.)

She talks about "making art" in our lives. But she's not talking just about writing or drawing or painting or sewing or crafting or baking. She's talking about recognizing and using the talents that God grants each and every one of us. And she supplied this graphic to remind us of the ways we frail humans end up squandering those precious gifts:

So let's not make mediocre "art." Let God help us pick up the pieces of our broken lives and, instead, make something of beauty.

Because, we too, can be like a stained glass window. True beauty can be seen only when there is Light within. 
In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."
Matthew 5:16

Do these colorful M & Ms remind you a little bit of brilliant pieces of stained glass? Use your imagination and creativity, and I think you'll see it, too. These Cranberry Cream Cheese Bars would be a delicious dessert for Mother's Day or for graduation parties. Enjoy!


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