Even though I retired last year, I am participating in events again, a cross between Groundhog day and deja vu. I am at the denominational leader’s conference in downtown Kansas City. I moved to Kansas City in 1978 upon graduation from college. From the summer of 1978 until late 1981, this place was home. I was a seminary student. Susanne and I got married in 1980; Kansas City was the first city we lived in as a married couple. In 2000, I was appointed the Director of Clery Services for the Church of the Nazarene, and we moved back to metro KC. I have been back for meetings, conferences, and various gatherings. That is what brought me here this week. It was an added joy to be here as the Kansas City Chiefs won another Super Bowl.
As we ponder over our lives, one significant road sign is the places we have lived. Many events are wrapped around this city. We were newlyweds, seminary students, a Sunday School class teachers in Raytown, MO. Later I would be employed here as well. Susanne and I made many friends and learned life lessons here.
Winston Churchill said, “We shape our buildings, and then they shape us.” Many folks, events, and places in our lifetimes shape us. There do seem to be places that we return to periodically because of their importance in our lives.
What would you come up with if you reflected over your life or and attempted to name people, places, and events that have shaped you? Parents, friends, teachers, colleagues, professors, pastors, neighbors, and co-workers are just a few of the critical shaping relationships. Significant life events shaping took place at home, work, school, church, or service organizations. These are all easy to identify and understand why they are impactful. What about places? Where do they fit?
Places are essential for a few reasons:
- Everything happens somewhere! We encounter people and experience events in certain places.
- Certain Places are not always our choice. We were born in a place of our parents’ choosing. Yet, home is a significant place. A few defining moments transpire in a place we did not pick out.
- Place is a part of our identity. Right after your name and what kind of work you do, the next question is usually, ‘where are you from?’
- Place is like a file folder for memories. Our family lived in a place. We got married in a place. Our children were born in a particular place, and so on. You can hardly think of the event or the people without the place it happened as a part of the memory.
- Place often represents a sense of belonging and identity. We are attached to where we are from and root for the teams that reside there; we so identify with these teams that we use the word “we” when referring to our favorite sports teams. It gives us a sense of being part of and gives us pride that our team and our state are the best!
All of this got me thinking about Jesus’ words in John 14:6 “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”.
Regardless of where you are from or who your parents were, Jesus is for you! It does not matter where you were born; what matters is that you have decided to take Jesus at His word: He is the Way. Not one out of many ways, He is the Way! He is the truth, not just some truth or one of many options; He is the truth! He is the life. A life lived fully is lived in Christ.
Perhaps Kansas City holds a place in my heart, in that there have been times living here and visiting this city when I have seen Jesus working in the lives of professors, friends, and co-workers. I am thakful for the plades I have lived and for the people I met in each of those places and today I am mostly thankful for God’s presence. I have enjoye this week revisiting a special place filled with many precious memories.