Sitting on the beach for six hours a day will give you plenty of time to think, especially if it’s the low season and there aren’t a lot of people on the beach. One of the things I like to do on the beach is people watch, but with less people this time of year, I’ve had more time to think.
Sitting on the beach is conducive to thinking. The waves rolling, the birds chirping, the breeze blowing. I’ve thought about a lot of things the past two days. Part of that thinking this week has been self-reflective. I didn’t plan this vacation with the intent of being self-reflective. It just kind of happened. I suppose the fact that I’m soon facing the big 5-0 might have something to do with it.
One of the things I’ve reflected on is how blessed I am as I face that big number. I told the congregation in the message on Sunday that it’s easy to give God the credit and the praise when things are going well, so I confess, this is the easy part for me. Someone asked me a few weeks ago how things were going, and my answer was, “I couldn’t write a book or a script to make my life any better.” Well, in the interest of full disclosure, if I were writing a book or script, it would include a chapter in which I received a great financial windfall, so technically, the statement wasn’t the truth, but that’s another story–literally!
I am, however, incredibly blessed, almost to the point that I’m embarrassed to say. Seriously? Who gets to be married to the best friend for almost 32 years. We have a great life together. We have incredible children and grandchildren, and they’re all healthy. Blessed, I tell you! And, when I came to ministry almost 22 years ago, I never, ever envisioned that I would be pastoring such as great congregation as the the one at FUMC, Monroe. I’ve spent a fair amount of time over the past couple of days thanking God for His blessings. I know they are his gifts to us, because I know I don’t deserve any of them. I hope that doesn’t come off as a “humbler than thou” attitude, but I’m just a blessed man.
I’ve also done a fair amount of reflecting on the state of our denomination. I have said in the past that I love the United Methodist Church. I love it enough to want to stay and see it make a difference in the world. There have been a few times I’ve considered leaving for another denomination, but the reality is I don’t know what denomination it would be. Not many people know this, but coming out of seminary, I flirted with another denomination–even went out of state to visit a denominational official and the church they wanted me to pastor–but, in the end, I’m a United Methodist. For better or worse. I’ll be United Methodist until there is not a United Methodist Church. If there comes a day in my life time when there’s not a United Methodist Church, then I’ll consider being something else. In the meantime, I’m going to do all I can to live out my discipleship where I am, and I’m going to do all I can to insure that we people called Methodist continue to seek “holiness of heart and life,” and that the life-changing grace of God made real in Jesus Christ is made available to all who seek it.
Of course, that does make me wonder if I’m being faithful, or if I just don’t like change. I prefer to think it’s the former, but I sometimes know it’s probably the latter. It’s easier not to change. It’s the path of least resistance. I suppose it’s like so many other areas of my life. The Holy Spirit convicts me. I respond, but usually only momentarily, and then things return to “normal.” It’s like if I sit real still, the Holy Spirit will note the futility of his efforts and move on. He never does, he keeps coming back confronting me in the areas he desires to transform in my life. Transformation is hard (and sometimes messy) work. Again, this week, the Holy Spirit has been working on me. He’s spoken pretty clearly into some areas that he’s working on. I’ve heard him loud and clear. There’s more than a little anxiety as I explore some next steps because they will require change. But, isn’t that what transformation is all about?
I’ve pretty much come to this one conclusion–if there had been more people here to watch I wouldn’t have done so much thinking. Oh, well. Maybe next time I’ll come to the beach during high season.
Until next time, keep looking up…