Memories and Calling


This picture says a lot – Great perch except for the doo under your feet. I know folks who can see a pile of manure and believe there’s a pony underneath, and then there are folks who seem to attract trouble. I guess most of us are somewhere in between those that appear to have a Teflon coating and avoid trouble sticking to them, and those that seem to never ever catch a break. Reminds me of the Apostle Paul who said in Philippians that he had learned to have contentment whether well-fed or hungry. How? The answer is in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ.”

Now that’s the rub isn’t it? At least it is for me. Doing everything through Christ is easier said than done. Basing my contentment and joy on Christ rather than circumstances, doctor’s reports, or bank account balances is more than kind of hard for me. For instance, the bird picture comes from a shot I took this past January at Epworth-By-The Sea on St. Simon’s Island, Ga.; beautiful spot and brings back memories. One of those memories is from 2 years ago when I was a nominee for Bishop. I, along with others, had to stand up and speak about our episcopal calling. Then last week I was at Lake Junaluska Assembly in NC where I made the same type speech and where the election was held. Two years ago today I came in second to a great guy. Second, second – beats last, but… am I spiritually up to going through that gauntlet again? There’s a lot of doo and poo that abounds in the process, but that’s life, c’est la vie, n’est pas?

Someone yesterday asked me if I was “running” again for Bishop. Well, it’s not “running,” is it? At least, not for me. It’s a calling, and in the United Methodist Church, you can have a wonderful personal call, but that call has to be ratified and confirmed by an ecclesiastical call via the voters at Jurisdictional Conference. Well, the answer is “Yes.” I still feel called to do the task. Everything I’ve been through has been a school for this calling, but I am not and will not be presumptuous about other people’s clarity about that. I can die content with whatever happens, and I’d trade everything I have in life for my little girl to be well.

Next year’s Annual Conference elections have a lot to say about all of this anyway. That’s who gets a lot of “say” in this, and my hands are full in the meantime as a Dad to Narcie (Mike) and her future, husband to Cindy who was thankful to get her mother’s estate settled today. And, of course, I’m MacMac to Enoch and Evy and will keep on encouraging Josh (Karen) and Caleb. Plus, I love being District Superintendent to the Columbia District Clergy and laity spending time with both. For going on 5 years I have been spending 3 hours with each clergyperson doing whatever they want to do and we’ve done everything from hiking, trips to the zoo, crawling under churches, Frisbee golf to real golf. What we’ve been doing is making friendships, connections beyond consultations in my office or at a Charge Conference. I have spent hours with District laity getting to know the people, teaching in Lay Speaking classes, leading United Methodist Men’s retreats, and more.

To be honest, I think this kind of community-building underscores one of the most important senses of my call about being a bishop. You can’t be a decent one, in my book, if you don’t stay in and know the Annual Conference to which you are assigned. I don’t know why over 4-8 years I couldn’t do what I do now with the Columbia District clergy and laity. If a bishop takes their being on site seriously, there has to be a genuine concerted effort to connect with the clergy AND laity of an Annual Conference. It can be done!!! I’m doing it now, on a smaller scale, every year.

And this is in the midst of everything else on my plate. There’s no way that being a Bishop or a District Superintendent is a part-time job. Next week I head to Emory’s Candler School of Theology for my 10th year of teaching “United Methodist Discipline and Polity.” Then right afterward I head to our Cabinet Retreat, then it’s off to Africa for the Worldwide UMC Study Committee where we will listen to how other UM’s around the world live out our polity and ponder how much do we have in common and what should be in a shared Book of Discipline and not adapted region to region. I’m not for much, if any, diocesan regional adaptation. That’s one of the reasons why we’re UNITED Methodists! I’ll stop in Ethiopia, go to Mozambique, then through South Africa, and end up in Ivory Coast (Cote D’Ivoire). I’ve had enough inoculations to last me a lifetime – wish I’d had some before I went to Manila for the Connectional Table earlier this Spring.

Anyway, in the midst of all this my email from the Columbia District will be answered, and I’ll be in touch with the needs at home with my family. As a potter I know how you have to stay connected to the clay, become one with it, to create art. The emotional oneness is what makes the difference between a craftsman and an artist. I want to be an artist and feel the inner dance of this marvelous life God has given us through Jesus. You can’t enjoy the perch without making fertilizer, right? Ah, but the view is great, and worth it all. The song “The Summons” from The Faith We Singarticulates the call I feel better than I can. Give it a listen.

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