February 17, 2018

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ and Fellow Called,

As Local Pastors and Associate Members of the United Methodist Church we are called to the ministry of word and sacrament “even to the ends of the earth” or at least what can seem to be the outlying areas. Our ministry is often done without a budget because we can easily see what is needed financially but have little to no idea where the income will flow from. Many of us serve both as clergy and in secular jobs, as well as, raise children or grandchildren while doing so. Each of our settings and circumstances is particularly unique, but it is the same God who called us all. We are appointed to our locations for the bringing in and the building up of God’s kingdom and for the well-being of the United Methodist Church. Because of our unique calling we are able to serve some of the remotest of churches, in the most difficult environments and with smallest of numbers with powerful results. I believe that is because LP’s and AM’s are focused on loving the Lord and loving God’s people with a focus of heart and mind that supersedes human plans.

My husband and I have recently been given temporary custody of our 8-year-old great nephew. This was not part of our long-range plan. “Can I get a witness?” How many times have you said those words, “But this is not part of my plan.”? This adventure is requiring tie and energy that often leaves me weary before I even get to ministry responsibilities. But God is also bringing about transformation in me and the congregation I have served for 16 years. On the Sunday I asked for prayers for my husband and I to make the right decision regarding our nephews living arrangements, one my elders said, “You just need to get that boy here where your church family/we can help you take care of him.” And as on parishioner watched our nephew’s emotional meltdown, he stepped up to offer spending time with him to teach about building model planes. Numerous people have offered words of encouragement and to take our nephew for visits to give me/us time to do what we need or just a break. God, once again, is doing something bigger than me. When my sons were young, I would often say that God gave me children, so I would learn something. I am taking it that I still have something to learn.

And speaking of something to learn, as we enter the season of Lent I want to encourage you not only in the giving up of something(s), but in the taking up. I encourage you to take up Sabbath at least once a week, whatever that may look like for you: long walk with a loved one or just you and the Beloved; reading something you enjoy for just you and not so you can give to parishioners; go fishing for something other than souls; play with a child or like a child; sleep the sleep of one at peace with God, etc. Invite the Holy Spirit to help you choose. The goal is to cease working and find rest from the doing in order to be. Lent is a time that reminds us of and prepares us for resurrection life in the here and now. The season invites us to look carefully at ourselves and listen deeply for God and to God so that we can experience the heights and depths of life with Jesus.

One of my favorite prayers for this is season is simple but filled with potential: Psalm 51:10 – Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. That would be my prayer for you this season, the joy and peace of a pure heart and the hope and glory of a steadfast spirit.

On the Way With You,

PS – Keep an eye on the NFAMLP website and the FB page for more details about the 2018 gathering of the Fellowship in Nashville, TN, September 18-20. We will have the opportunity to learn more about the workings and resources of GBHEM, worship in the Upper Room and enjoy the fellowship of colleagues and friends.