May 18, 2017
So this is it. My final Rev’s Reflection.
Perhaps I should hedge my bet on that a bit. Once I spilled the beans on my retirement, many have said they will miss my reflections. I have been asked if I will continue writing. People have been very kind to say that they gain insights into my heart and mind, that I have been authentic and vulnerable, that the observations I make are very practical, and that they appreciate my honesty about struggles and difficulties in my own life.
Not unlike many other aspects of my retirement, my answer is, “I’m not sure.” Having written a weekly reflection for at least 8 years (I began in Traverse City), I am ready for a break. At the same time, I will continue to practice the foundational principle of my reflections, to “listen to life.” It is a phrase I borrowed from Frederick Buechner. God is everywhere and in everything, we just need to pay more attention.
In this last Reflection from seat in full-time ministry, I will share some random thoughts about life and faith.
Core values are important for organizations, institutions and individuals. Business writer Patrick Lencioni says that businesses should have only a few core values: no more than four. Core values are those values that are unique, have been central to an organization from the beginning and remain important currently.
One of the core values at Elmhurst Christian Reformed Church is generosity. People are generous with their time, their possessions and their financial resources. Becky and I were the benefactors of their generosity on Tuesday. They put together an “over the top” celebration of our life and ministry. It was elaborate and included many generous gifts of appreciation. To be recipients of such generosity is humbling.
My retirement celebration was overwhelming, but as I have reflected since then, I am reminded of the many pastors who are not the recipients of such gratitude and appreciation. Many pastors leave ministry because of conflict, or they are beat up emotionally, or they have experienced burn out. They leave limping and scarred. Ministry has taken a toll on them and their families.
By God’s grace, I have been much more fortunate and for that I am grateful.
I met with a group of local pastors this morning. One asked, “How are you feeling about retirement?” My new answer is, “I have a better understanding of Abraham’s story.” At retirement age Abraham was called by God to pack up his belongings and move. The problem was, God didn’t communicate any destination. It was an act of faith and trust. I do not have a specific plan for post-retirement. Becky and I have agreed to take some time to “figure this retirement thing out.” Like Abraham, we will move with trust and faith in God for our future.
I have a problem receiving compliments. Tuesday night was a great night of affirmation with expressions of gratitude, but I was very uncomfortable. My discomfort resides in the knowledge that anything I have accomplished, or contributed, any assistance I have given people, any inspiration, any sense of healing provided, or any love communicated, was done by God, through the power of the Holy Spirit. God deserves all the credit, thanksgiving and gratitude. I have tried to take my cues from Mary the mother of Jesus who, when visited by an angel, replied to the news of her impending motherhood, “I am the Lord’s servant.”
PRAISE GOD FROM WHO ALL BLESSINGS FLOW!