The Malone Family Annual 2016

So…I haven’t been blogging, but I’m committed to changing that habit. Look for a post once a week with mostly random thoughts, but to get back in the “spirit” of things, here’s a Christmas season catch-up for anyone who is interested.

The Malone Family Annual 2016

I must confess that I took 2015 off from writing the Malone Family Annual. I don’t know why I did. There are no good excuses, but as someone once said, “When you’re looking for an excuse, any excuse will do.” I won’t make an excuse. I took the year off. Don’t think, however, that you’ll get two years’ worth of news. I’ll bring you up to date on the past year and if you want news from other years, well, get on Facebook!

The year started off with Vanessa and me doing one of the silliest things we’ve ever done. We bought a house in Alabama! I don’t know why we did. I’d like to say it was my great business acumen that convinced Vanessa it would be a great investment, but really it was our banker convincing her we could make money on it if we decided to sell it. Anyway…we bought it, and yes, it is for rent! If you’re looking for a beach vacation, give us a call. We’ll hook you up! (Click here to make a reservation!)

pushmataha2016 also afforded Vanessa and me the opportunity to be reality TV stars. That’s right! We appeared on an episode of Island Life on HGTV. Oddly enough, the episode aired on Easter Sunday, March 27th. Here’s what I learned about reality TV during that adventure:

  • There’s nothing real about reality TV (it’s all scripted).
  • Making a TV show is hard work (three 14-hour days to shoot 19 minutes of video).
  • When someone asks you “Would you like to be on a reality TV show?” your first question should be “How much are you going to pay me?” (Our 15 minutes of fame actually cost us money!).

gc2016-logo-color-hi-res-690x370I was blessed (if blessed is the right word) to spend two weeks in May in Portland, OR at the General Conference for the United Methodist Church. It was my first trip to the Pacific Northwest, and it is a breathtaking part of the country. I took a day trip to Seaside, WA and dipped my toes in the Pacific Ocean. It was on a Sunday. May I confess I DID NOT go to worship that day? May I ask your forgiveness? General Conference was a neat and interesting experience.

Vanessa and I spent four days in Wichita, KS in July for Jurisdictional Conference for the South Central Jurisdiction of the UMC. It was the culmination of what I call my “pseudo” candidacy for Bishop in the UMC. I thought I heard God’s call to offer myself for the Episcopal office. Well, after Jurisdictional Conference, I’m not certain what I heard, but it obviously wasn’t that! I continue (gladly) to serve as Pastor at FUMC, Monroe. But, enough about me…

Vanessa continues to spend her time taking care of me and taking care of our grandchildren (she much prefers taking care of the grandchildren). Of course, each of those tasks over the past year fell between the demands of the BIG news in the Malone family this year (more on that in a minute), but suffice it to say, she’s stayed as busy as she wanted to stay. She has stayed busy settling us into a new house. Yes, that’s right, we sold our house here in Monroe, and no, that’s not the BIG news. Why did we sell our house? Well, when someone knocks on your door and asks you how much it would take to buy your house, you throw out a number and they accept it, you tend to sell it. It only means one thing, though: we left money on the table. We’re in a rental and looking for a new one to buy. Check next year’s Annual for updates.

family-wedding-pic-2So, on to the BIG news. On December 3, 2016, Kelsey Malone became Kelsey Malone Ingram as she married Matthew Ingram. The couple are at home now in West Monroe, LA where she is a customer service representative with State Farm Insurance (and she continues to serve on staff at FUMC as contemporary worship leader) and Matthew is in computers with CenturyLink.

Brittney is at home in West Monroe and is a sales representative with Republic Beverage. Adam and his two boys (Kade and Kobyn) call West Monroe home but he works half the year in Malaysia. Josh, Piper and their brood (Peyton, Ryder and Skyler) still call Minden home. Not much news about the children this year. They don’t live at home anymore, so we don’t have nearly as much news as we once did.

Well, that’s certainly the Reader’s Digest version of the Malone family news for 2016. I’ll stop because I’m tired of writing, and I KNOW you’re tired of reading. I’ll simply say “Merry Christmas and Happy and Blessed New Year!”

Reflecting on Rest (Three Reasons to take a Vacation)…

vanessas beach picIt seems a bit self-serving to reflect on reasons to take a vacation (especially while one is on vacation), and it also seems a bit counter-productive to write a blog while on vacation (isn’t writing a blog considered work?). So, you see the bind people find themselves in when they take vacation? Especially in the “helping” professions, the line between work and rest become incredibly blurred.

My lines have not been quite so blurry this week. I’ve managed a decent week on disconnecting. I’ve only checked work emails a couple of times (one way to avoid doing so is un-sync your phone from your work email), and I’ve only responded to a couple of work related emails. I’ve managed to spend some very relaxing days with my toes in the sand. It’s been a pretty good week…if I do say so myself.

Pastors are notorious for not taking enough vacation. That shouldn’t be surprising. It simply means pastors are a lot like other Americans. The Huffington Post reported that 40% of Americans don’t take all their vacation. 40%! That’s a large number. There are probably a lot of reasons that number is so high, not the least of which is that not many people can afford to “go” on vacation. I know I can’t afford (monetarily speaking) to be away from home four weeks a year. I rather think it has more to do with our need to be needed…which is all the more reason to take the vacation.

“All the more reason to take the vacation…” Because I’m on vacation, let me be brief and offer three reasons it’s important to take the vacation time each of us is given.beach view


As paradoxical as this may be to say, vacation is not ultimately about you. Resting is ultimately about our dependence on our creator. It is an acknowledgement on our part that we are weak and limited. It’s a confession, especially for us pastors, that we’re not the answer to all our church’s issues. Additionally, rest is a great way to break the “works righteousness” mentality. Rest allows us to better understand the theology of grace.

Moreover, rest is as much for those around us. Rest is a gift to our families, especially our spouses. Sure, we might not need a vacation, but our spouse and our children do! Don’t our families deserve as much of us as the world does? Yes, ministry is a calling, but so is being a good spouse and parent.

Taking a vacation is an excellent reminder of our ultimate expendability. That’s really not a fun think to think about, but the reality is that when we’re away, the world keeps right on turning. Tasks get completed without you. Yes, I know. There will be a pile waiting on my desk when I get back…but…they are “waiting.” Nothing earth-shattering happened because you weren’t there to take care of a task.


Vacations lower stress and reduce anxiety (unless you’re one of those rare persons who stresses out because of all the work they’re missing). We need to take a lesson from professional athletes who routinely “recover” between training sessions. We can only push our minds and our bodies so far without them breaking. The tighter the rubber band is wound, the more likely it is to snap. Time off and vacations are some of the healthiest things we can do. And, it’s biblical, too. God built rest into the rhythm of life. There’s a reason He did. (Read more about rest here).

work-vacation-policy-pop_3122Vacations also promote health within the organizations we lead. Vacation by the leader of the organization provides a positive example to staff of the importance of maintaining a proper work/life balance. Additionally, it frees up staff to creatively manage in the leaders absence. In churches, it also empowers the laity to embrace their own gifts for ministry as laity step up to fill roles usually reserved for their clergy leaders. Who knows? A pastor’s vacation may be the very vehicle God uses to allow someone to discern God’s call to ministry in their own life. I’d say that was a pretty healthy thing.


Routine tasks stifle creativity. That’s why it’s called “getting in a rut.” When the mind relaxes, it begins to function in a more creative way. Imagine…getting away from work may be the very thing that frees up the creative juices so you can solve that pesky problem that’s been hindering you at work (see…another paradox). I’ve always had a hard time writing sermons or preparing bible studies when in the office. It’s when I’m away from the “routine” of work that creativity is spawned.

Yeah, I know…it’s not a deep reflection…but, hey…I’m on vacation. You can’t really expect me to think too deeply, can you? Maybe you’ll find these three reasons helpful in encouraging you to take your own vacation.

Until next time, keep looking up…

Rest Area Ahead…

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
    he restores my soul.   Psalm 23: 1 – 3 (NRSV)

Psalm 23 is the best-known, best-loved, and not to mention most-memorized of all the Psalms. We read it at funerals to comfort the grieving, at hospital beds to encourage the sick, and to those who have run aground on the discouragements of life. We read it because it is a song of confidence in God. This psalm is called the Shepherds Psalm because it portrays God as a good Shepherd, who cares for his flock. The Psalm is attributed to King David. If anyone was qualified to describe God in this manner, it was David. David had been a shepherd before he became king. So David had a pretty good idea of what a shepherd is like. How often David must have gazed up at the heavens on those star-filled nights while he was out watching over his father’s sheep and pondered the very nature of God! There in the depths of his heart he must have pondered how much God was just like a shepherd. His years of shepherding had taught him a few things, and as he contemplated the shepherd’s work, he found a fitting description of what God does for his people.

rest areaThere are a number of things David notes in this Psalm. The opening sentence really says all that needs to be said: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” The NIV says, “I shall not be in want,” and the NLT says, “I have everything I need.” Everything that comes after the first sentence is unpacking what the Psalmist means by having everything he needs. We’re already into the summer months, and we’re anticipating time off and vacations and days on the lake or the river, so I believe it’s important to focus on only one aspect of this Psalm today—rest.

We don’t often rest well in this 24/7/365 culture in which we live. Rest is almost a forgotten art, but rest is integral to our human existence. We can’t wind the rubber band tighter and tighter. The tension has to be released, or sooner or later the rubber band will snap. When it snaps it will lead us to a mental failure, a moral failure or severe chronic health conditions. I used to use a lot of Andy Griffith illustrations in my messages. I figured out, however, that younger generations didn’t know who Andy Griffith was. I don’t use them much anymore. Still, there’s one episode of the Andy Griffith Show that illustrates how we live most of our lives. The episode is entitled “Man in a Hurry”

and it’s about a business man whose car breaks down on Sunday. Of course, Wally, the owner of the filling station, isn’t available on Sunday, so Mr. Tucker convinces Gomer to try to fix the car. The man finds it imperative to get to Charlotte. No amount of coaxing will encourage the man to rest, relax, take it easy until Monday morning when Wally will be back and willing to fix his car. He’s a man in a hurry. That desperate need to be on the run was broadcast in 1963—that’s the year I was born, folks. Things have only gotten worse since.

We need rest, and the Psalmist says that’s exactly what the shepherd offers his sheep. “He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul.” You know how it is, right? Living life with all these balls juggling in the air—you’ve got the work ball, the family ball, the church ball, the society ball. We run frantically around trying to keep all the balls juggling at the same time. Let’s take a look at one of those balls—the work ball. The average American works 47 hours per week. We can’t wait to get to the weekend, right? But then, we don’t rest because we have to keep the family ball in the air. There’s laundry to be done. The yard needs mowing. The hedges need trimming. The roof needs fixing. The kids have ball games. Juggle, juggle, juggle.

Seriously, don’t think we’re going to wait until we take a vacation to rest. You’ve seen National Lampoon’s Vacation. That’s the way most vacations go. Run from one place to the next trying to take in all the sights we can because our time is limited and we want to get the most bang for the buck. We have to come home and go back to work to rest—most of the time.  There’s even a new Vacation movie coming out soon. Unfortunately, I’ve seen the trailer, and there’s no way I would link it on this blog (nor recommend you see the film!).

For me, a beach vacation is one exception that comes to mind. It was at the beach I discovered the value in doing nothing, and I discovered that doing nothing is actually doing something. Resting is not about letting all those balls we juggle drop. Resting is taking the balls and setting them down.

If we’re not resting, that might be a pretty good indication we’re not following the Shepherd.  If we go 24/7/365, that’s a pretty good indication we’re not following the Shepherd because the Shepherd makes us lie down in green pastures and leads us beside still waters. HE does it. He does it because rest is part of God’s nature. God worked for six days and he rested. God looked on the seventh day and saw that it was “very good.” The work was complete. And God built that rhythm into life. God didn’t need to rest because he was weary from the work. God rested because the creation was complete. It was whole. Yeah, we had to go and mess it up, but we can rest because we are complete in the Shepherd. We find wholeness in our relationship with the shepherd, and I remind you that wholeness is really the definition behind this little thing we call salvation.

Rest comes as a result of contentment. Sheep rest when they are content. Phillip Keller in his great book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, says there are four things that create discontent in sheep: 1) fear, 2) friction, 3) parasites, and 4) hunger. The sheep are able to rest when the shepherd addresses each one of those circumstances. So, what are we afraid of? Afraid of not getting ahead? Afraid of not keeping up with the Joneses? Afraid of death? Where are the places of friction in our lives? Is it work/family balance? Is it in a relationship? What are the parasites that are drawing the life out of us? What are we hungry for? More possessions? We find meaning, purpose and value in life when we depend on the Shepherd, not when we depend upon ourselves.

Most of us aren’t Andy Griffith, and we don’t live in Mayberry. Resting doesn’t come automatically to us. We have to cultivate the art. Let me offer four suggestions:

  1. Block out time on your calendar to do nothing. It’s not a license to be lazy. It is an intentional disconnect from the distractions, and a time to listen for the Master.
  2. Don’t take yourself (or your job) too seriously. Some things are serious, but far fewer than we think.
  3. Laugh every day, out loud, at something—I didn’t say laugh at someone. That can be destructive. But, the wisdom writer of Proverbs says, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine” (Proverbs 17:22)
  4. When you relax…really relax. Blow it! Enjoy the leisure. Ignore the critics. An unknown alcoholic with AA said, “A relaxed, easy-going person is more attractive than an uptight, rigid person who squeaks when they walk and whines when they talk.” Seriously! Relax!

Rest is part of God’s provision for our lives. As we kick off this summer, it’s a good time to be reminded that rest is part of the “all I need” the Good Shepherd provides. Perhaps that’s our greatest need. Maybe it’s why that’s where David started this greatest song.

Until next time, keep looking up…