Flying the UMC Trapeze

I have been thinking about this in-between time of being the Columbia District Superintendent and the new senior pastor of St. John’s UMC, Aiken. At 12:01 on this coming Wednesday it will be official, but I have already been flying the trapeze by attempting to let go of one bar to grab the other one. We have already moved into a house in Aiken. We have eaten in some great local restaurants, walked the streets, and met great new people both in the community and in the church. I have been acclimating myself to new surroundings while driving back to Columbia to fulfill my last days as DS – attempting to live in two worlds.

Jim Elliott, deceased missionary, was absolutely correct when he said, “Wherever you are, be all there!” I can’t reach out and be fully the pastor that St. John’s needs unless I let go of the other trapeze bar, and I surely don’t want to get caught hanging in the middle between the old and new. Flying the trapeze with one hand grasping one bar while the other hand is clenching the other is untenable. How many of us have found ourselves caught in similar circumstances between jobs, relationships, or situations? We catch ourselves wondering if we should risk a new thing or hold onto the familiar. One has to let go and be all there, wherever the “there” is.

As preachers move this next week there is going to be a lot of anxiety. There will be anxiety for churches and for clergy, and fear can be paralyzing. One church sign was frighteningly near the truth in this appointment transition time for churches and clergy: “Don’t let worry kill you, let the church help!” It’s almost not funny! For pastors and church members caught in pastoral transition, worry and church can often go hand in hand. What do we do with our worries? Do we bury them, or let them bury us? Do we have enough faith to take risks for God? Are we ready to move into God’s new opportunities for us? Are we ready to let go of the former things and embrace the new?

One day in July, a farmer sat in front of his shack, smoking a corncob pipe. Along came a stranger who asked, “How’s your cotton coming?” “Ain’t got none,” was the answer as he continued, “Didn’t plant none. ‘Fraid of the boll weevil.” The visitor then asked, “Well, how’s your corn?” The farmer replied, “Didn’t plant none. ‘Fraid o’ drought.” The visitor continued his line of questioning, “How about potatoes?” The reply was familiar, “Ain’t got none. Scairt o’ tater bugs.” The stranger finally asked, “Well, what did you plant?” “Nothin’,” answered the farmer. “I just played it safe.”

Playing it safe can be downright disastrous. Divine motivation demands our willingness to go out on a limb. Fear has to be defeated. Some of us anticipate the worst and don’t try anything. God wants us to put on our wave-walking shoes and get out of the boat of our comfort zone. I know that we all fear the unknown. I like routine as well as the next person. I’m infamous for ordering the same dish in restaurants. It’s simple really. I don’t want to be disappointed, but if I’m not willing to try something new, think what delights I’ve missed.

When a person fears the worst will happen, their own thoughts may help bring it about. Someone once wrote, “Fear is the wrong use of the imagination. It is anticipating the worst, not the best that can happen.” The story has been told about a salesman who had a flat tire while driving on a lonely country road one dark and rainy night. He opened the trunk and discovered that he didn’t have a lug wrench. He looked around and could barely see a light coming from a farmhouse. With relief in mind, he started walking through the driving rain toward the house.

The salesman began to think all kinds of thoughts. He thought, for instance, that the farmer would surely have a lug wrench that he could borrow. Next he thought about how late at night it was, and, of course, the farmer would be asleep in his warm dry bed. Maybe he wouldn’t answer the door. And even if he did, he’d be angry at being awakened in the middle of the night. And so on and on his thoughts went as he was walking to the farmhouse. Being soaking wet didn’t help his thought process, either.

He pondered that even if the farmer did answer the door, he would probably shout some rude vulgarity at him. This thought made the salesman mad. After all, what right did the farmer have to refuse him the loan of a simple lug wrench? He was stranded in the middle of nowhere soaked to the skin, and the farmer was a selfish clod! Fuming, the salesman finally reached the house and banged hard on the door. A light went on inside, and a window opened above. A voice called out, “Who is it?” His face white with anger, the salesman called out, “You know darn well who it is. It’s me! And you can keep your blasted lug wrench. I wouldn’t borrow it now if you had the last one on earth!” Anticipating the worst can become self-fulfilling prophecy. We need to give God a chance and stop worrying!

I hereby covenant to take a risk by trusting in God’s unfailing providence. Because God always provides, I am going to take flight on the trapeze bar of United Methodist itinerancy. I will not be caught in the middle, but will risk letting go of the past and embrace the glorious future called St. John’s UMC, Aiken! What risks are you willing to take on God’s trapeze?

14 thoughts on “Flying the UMC Trapeze

  1. Tim, I love your blog. You write such good and thoughtful things to think about. Good luck on the new trapeze bar to Aiken UMC. Brings to mind: Let go, let God. Love u!

    1. Thanks, Glenda! Come see us! tim

      Sent from my iPad

      On Jun 19, 2014, at 8:38 PM, “A Potter's View” wrote:

  2. Although I’m not a Methodist minister, I am flying that trapeze myself. After teaching public school for 25 years, I have resigned to take a part-time job teaching school groups at a local science center. This summer I am flying through the air, trying not to look back, but looking forward to new opportunities and challenges. I look forward to meeting you at St. John’s. We already have a lot in common.

    1. God bless you on the new adventure and see you soo , tim

      Sent from my iPad

      On Jun 19, 2014, at 9:33 PM, “A Potter's View” wrote:

  3. Welcome to St. John’s! We are so very happy to have you and your family become part of our church family.

    1. Carole, Thanks so much! It will be a great adventure! tim

      Sent from my iPhone

      On Jun 19, 2014, at 11:31 PM, “A Potter's View” wrote:

  4. Very relatable to me right now! Over the past 3 months I gave up 3 job opportunities and a place for further education my dream of working at ESPN because I know God has called me to ministry. I’ve heard plenty of “your making the wrong decision, take the job with ESPN” voices, but I know God is calling me to spread His Word. I am scared and worried about how my soon to be wife and I will be provided for. I know God will provide for us, it’s just scary. God will do it, and I thank Him for it all.

    1. God bless you with peace and clear direction, Daniel! tim

      Sent from my iPhone

      On Jun 19, 2014, at 11:41 PM, “A Potter's View” wrote:

  5. Tim, first: I had to re-read the first part of your writing, where you talked of “letting go of the bar,” because my eyes accidentally rolled over a few words–resulting in leaving the word “trapeze” completely out, making them then only seeing where you needed to “let go of a BAR!” WHEW! Glad THAT wasn’t the case! LOL! Seriously, wherever I have been and you, too, countless–including me–are drawn to you because of how God’s love shines through your heart. Rest assured and remember Jesus has promised to never leave or foresake us. He knows where Aiken is too! He knows where your always-open-to-be-for-Him heart is, as well. God’s Peace & Joy! Suzanne

    1. Suzanne, Yes, indeed! God is in Aiken, Shandon and everywhere! Thanks and peace, tim

      Sent from my iPhone

      On Jun 21, 2014, at 4:07 PM, “A Potter's View” wrote:

  6. Blessings on your new appointment, God has a plan and has put you in that beautiful city for a reason. Lived in Aiken for about four years and loved it there. Sending prayers your way and if we are ever in that direction will have to look you up. Much love the Stokes Family

    1. Great to hear, Phoebe! Miss y’all! Tell everyone hello and hope to see you in Aiken! tim

      Sent from my iPhone

      On Jun 23, 2014, at 1:18 PM, “A Potter's View” wrote:

    1. Thank you, Ray! We are so thankful to be here! tim

      Sent from my iPad

      On Jun 30, 2014, at 6:17 PM, “A Potter's View” wrote:

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