It’s an interesting crossroads of life I find myself at today. In a couple of hours I will walk out of my office and begin Spiritual Renewal Leave. Tomorrow, I won’t be back. I won’t sit in the desk chair and open up my laptop and dig into the inbox or prepare for the next meeting, Bible Study or conversation. And that will be weird! But it is a welcomed break and opportunity to do some things I haven’t had time to do since my college days which has been a few moons ago. I was sharing my schedule with someone earlier today and I realized how busy I am going to be the first 6 weeks. The “rest” part of this leave will not come until about 2 months in! But for those who know me, that should not be a surprise.
One of the reasons for this Spiritual Renewal Leave is to do some very intentional discernment work. I am taking the time to ask questions I have not asked since I entered the itinerant system 24 years ago (the system that moves United Methodist Pastors around to different churches). I have always trusted the Cabinet and Bishop to send me wherever I was most needed. I always trusted that I would be sent where God felt I could be of most use for God’s Kingdom. For the most part, that has worked out quite well. But lately, it’s been a challenge. And I have begun to pay attention to signs that maybe God is calling me to consider ministry that is beyond the local church. Maybe God has plans for how to impact the larger Church from a place beyond one single, local congregation. I don’t know, that’s what the next four months will help reveal. But for the first time in my life, I am totally opening myself up to the possibility. And that is pretty amazing.
To the members and friends of Boone UMC, I pray that you, too, will take these next 4 months and look within in order to reflect on what we might have learned in our time together. What can we celebrate about the last almost 3 years? What could we have done better? There are things to place in both columns, for sure. I also leave you with this Scripture that Jesus shared with his disciples in the Upper Room that last night together. His prayer included a reminder that even in times of confusion or disheartened circumstances, how important it is to remain engaged and connected to one another. We can only bear fruit when we remain in Christ Jesus and one of the best ways we do that is be staying connected into the Body of Christ, the Church. That is most challenging in these days of COVID but maybe never more critical. Jesus followed that plea of staying connected to the “vine” by calling them to love one another. Above everything else, love.
15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vineyard keeper. 2 He removes any of my branches that don’t produce fruit, and he trims any branch that produces fruit so that it will produce even more fruit. 3 You are already trimmed because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. A branch can’t produce fruit by itself, but must remain in the vine. Likewise, you can’t produce fruit unless you remain in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit. Without me, you can’t do anything. 6 If you don’t remain in me, you will be like a branch that is thrown out and dries up. Those branches are gathered up, thrown into a fire, and burned.7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.8 My Father is glorified when you produce much fruit and in this way prove that you are my disciples.
9 “As the Father loved me, I too have loved you. Remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy will be in you and your joy will be complete. 12 This is my commandment: love each other just as I have loved you. (John 15:1-12 NRSV)
To the those beyond the BUMC church family – I thank all of you who have reached out with prayers and encouragement and curiosity about what is happening in my life right now. I pray that all of us may take the time to truly discern that we are on the path God is calling us to travel. Every once in a while we need to make sure we aren’t just going through the motions and that God hasn’t changed the game plan on us. If you are in need of that kind of discernment, I pray you will join me. You don’t need a Spiritual Renewal Leave to check in on God’s calling on your life.
For all of us, I offer this prayer for the days and months ahead:
May God’s blessing follow us all as we find new journeys to travel. May we walk safely along the pathways of our dreams.
May God’s gentle hand guide the decisions we will make and the passions that we follow.
May our hearts and lives always reflect God’s love and truth,
And may hope be a light within us that we carry into each new day. Amen.
Grace and Peace,
Pastor Lory Beth