When the Storms Life Are Raging

September 26, 2016

I glanced outside the terminal window at dusk, and it didn’t look good. The sky was dark as dark could be, and the storms were coming our way. Last Wednesday I waited out a three-hour layover in Minneapolis in route from Milwaukee to Des Moines after a College of Bishops meeting. I was eager to get home, but the journey was just beginning.

We boarded the plane forty-five minutes late because the incoming flight had to circle around the storms for ninety minutes before landing. Once we taxied out to the runway, the pilot said we were third in line. However, we never moved. After some time, the pilot announced that the airport had closed and that we were going to stay put on the tarmac. Then it hit. Rain pelted our commuter jet with fury, bolts of lightning flashed everywhere and the wind literally shook the plane. I didn’t dare imagine what it would have been like if we had taken off.

When the storms of life are raging, Stand by me;
When the storms of life are raging, Stand by me;
When the world is tossing me, Like a ship upon the sea,
Thou Who rulest wind and water, Stand by me.

storm-clouds-lightning-wallpaper-4The pilot said we could use our phones to let loved others know that we were going to be late. I began texting Gary in Michigan and my daughter, who was unexpectedly working into the night in South America. We commiserated with each other, “We’re both in a fix, aren’t we?” Gary checked the weather and texted, “Don’t get your hopes up about leaving any time soon.” I marveled at how we can instantaneously connect with each other around the world.

After forty minutes, the pilot came on again and echoed Gary’s prediction. Another storm cell was headed toward us, and it would be at least twenty-five minutes before it would pass. This time he shut down the engines, and there we sat. I imagined what it would have been like four hundred years ago for indigenous people living on the prairies to keep safe in storms like this. Little did I know that this monster storm would cause severe flooding in Iowa that night.

Settling in for a long wait, my seatmate asked whether I would be willing to switch seats so his wife could sit with him. “I thought this was only going to be a short flight,” he said wryly.   “Of course!” I replied. “I’ll sit anywhere.” What I was really thinking was, “I’m beginning to feel claustrophobic in this tiny plane. Don’t let me panic, God.”

delta_snack_foodTrying to distract myself, I asked the flight attendant if I could use the restroom and got up to stretch my legs. The storm continued unabated, and the flight attendant apologized for not having anything to serve but water, pretzels and peanuts. “It’s just supposed to be a short flight,” she said.

I checked Facebook and read about the protests in Charlotte that were going on at the very same time. There had been a prayer vigil at the condominium-complex parking lot where African-American Keith Lamont Scott was shot and killed on Tuesday night by police. Some marchers turned off into downtown, and an African-American male was gravely wounded, not by police, and later died.  North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency in Charlotte in the midst of the violence. I thought about how many people the world over are living courageously in the midst of the storms of poverty, prejudice, oppression and hopelessness.

In the midst of persecution, Stand by me;
In the midst of persecution, Stand by me;
When my foes in battle array, Undertake to stop my way,
Thou who savèd Paul and Silas, Stand by me.

I prayed for my grieving African-American brothers and sisters in Charlotte as they wonder why black lives don’t often seem to matter as much as other lives. And I prayed for law enforcement officers who steadfastly attempt to protect all of us from harm while refraining from excessive violence. Thank you, God, for the power of your Holy Spirit moving through our world with a spirit of peace and hope.

Observing all those around me on the plane and waiting patiently and uneasily for the storm to pass, I marveled how no one complained. No one said a harsh word to the flight attendants. No one lost it. It was a very diverse group of eighty people, but we all understood what was going on and remained calm. The flight attendant said cheerfully, “The good news is that after three hours on the tarmac, it’s a federal law that we have to go back to the gate. So, either way, you won’t be on the plane forever.”

I called the hotel in Des Moines where I had parked my car and asked if the hotel shuttle was still available after midnight. A man cheerfully answered and said, “Of course, sweetie!  We’ll be here. Just call when you get to baggage claim.”

We finally departed two and a half hours after our scheduled time, but it was still storming. As we took off, the plane rocked and rolled, and as we ascended into the darkness, we were treated to the most amazing light show I have ever witnessed. Jagged bolts of lightning exposing monstrous thunderclouds greeted us on the left side of the plane for much of the flight. Just as I was starting to relax, however, severe turbulence slammed the plane, and the roller coaster was out of control for a few minutes. Everyone gasped. The woman across from me closed her eyes and placed her hands in a position of prayer. Other braced themselves.

In the midst of faults and failures, Stand by me;
In the midst of faults and failures, Stand by me;
When I do the best I can, And my friends misunderstand,
Thou Who knowest all about me, Stand by me.

screenshot-2016-09-26-09-52-02We finally emerged from the storm and made a beeline to Des Moines.  We landed safely, only to discover that many planes had diverted to Des Moines on the way to Minneapolis.  We had to wait another half hour until a gate was available. I walked off with my backpack, grateful to be alive but knowing that the danger for others was just beginning,

The storms have taken a toll in Iowa. In many places ten inches of rain fell on Wednesday night. Roads are closed, downtowns are inundated, and church basements and homes have several feet of water. Rivers are cresting. Our district disaster response coordinators have sprung into action, and there is information on the conference website about how you can help (iaumc.org), including making flood buckets.

Most of all, please pray for and stand with all of our brothers and sisters who are in the midst of this historic flooding or are experiencing others storms in their life. Let them know you care.

In the midst of tribulation, Stand by me;
In the midst of tribulation, Stand by me;
When the hosts of hell assail, And my strength begins to fail,
Thou Who never lost a battle, Stand by me.

Ripples of Mercy

September 19, 2016

When Mother Teresa was caring for the very least of God’s children in the slums of Kolkata (Calcutta), India, she used to say, “Perhaps I don’t speak their language, but I can smile.” Pope Francis shared those words on September 4 in the homily he preached in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on the occasion of the canonization of Mother Teresa, affectionately known as “the saint of the gutters.” Tens of thousands of pilgrims gathered in Rome to honor her during this Holy Year of Mercy in the Catholic Church.

mte1oda0otcxodaxntq0mja1As I followed the celebration from afar, I couldn’t help but think of my favorite quote of Mother Teresa, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” Nineteen years after her death, Mother Teresa is still creating ripples of love across our world because of the purity of her mercy for the poorest of the poor.

When Mother Teresa felt called in 1946 to leave the Loretto Convent in Ireland to minister to the poor in Calcutta, India, the voice of Jesus said to her, “Come, come, carry Me into the holes of the poor. Come, be my light.” Thus began a year and a half process to seek permission from the archbishop to begin this new ministry. Her plan was to leave the convent, wear only a sari and live like an Indian. The voice of Jesus also said to Mother Teresa, “Your vocation is to love and suffer and save souls.” 

For Mother Teresa, the salvation of the poor meant helping them to experience God’s infinite love. She made a deep connection between the suffering of Christ and the suffering of the poor. In 1948 Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity, which has established more than one hundred and thirty houses around the world to provide care for the sick and dying. Missionaries of Charity nuns are required to follow the traditional vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience as well as a fourth vow, which is to give “wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor.”

It’s no coincidence that Mother Teresa’s sainthood was fast-tracked in what can be a very long process. In his homily, Pope Francis said, “Mother Teresa, in all aspects of her life, was a generous dispenser of divine mercy, making herself available for everyone through her welcome and defence of human life…  She bowed down before those who were spent, left to die on the side of the road, seeing in them their God-given dignity; she made her voice heard before the powers of this world, so that they might recognize their guilt for the crime – the crimes! – of poverty they created. For Mother Teresa, mercy was the ‘salt’ which gave flavour to her work, it was the ‘light’ which shone in the darkness of the many who no longer had tears to shed for their poverty and suffering.”

At the same time, Mother Teresa had her detractors, who made their voice heard during the canonization process. Some criticized the low level of hygiene, cleanliness, and medical care at the Missionaries of Charity clinics. Others claimed that the amount of volunteer training was inadequate, organization was lacking, and there were not enough doctors and nurses. Still others were dissatisfied with her traditional views on abortion, contraception, and divorce.

And then there were the shocking revelations in a 1996 book, Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, which contained the unpublished writings of Mother Teresa, writings she begged never to release. We admired her smile, were inspired by the ripple effects of her mercy, and respected her determination to offer her very life in service to the poor. Very few people, however, knew that Mother Teresa’s inner, spiritual life was filled with suffering, doubts, and deep pain. For years, in fact, for most of her time working with the Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa did not feel God’s presence in her life.

The first hint of darkness came in a 1953 letter to the archbishop, “Please pray for me … for there is such terrible darkness within me, as if everything was dead. It has been like this more or less from the time I started ‘the work.’ Ask our Lord to give me courage.”  Except for a period of five weeks ten years into her Calcutta ministry, when the painful silence of God left her, that emptiness lasted her entire life.

Mother Teresa was acutely aware of the discrepancy between her inner state and her public demeanor. “The smile,” she wrote, is “a mask” or “a cloak that covers everything.” She wondered whether she was being hypocritical.

Mother Teresa remarked to an advisor, “I spoke as if my very heart was in love with God – tender, personal love. If you were (there), you would have said, ‘What hypocrisy.’”

To her spiritual director, she wrote, “If I ever become a saint, I will surely be one of ‘darkness.’ I will continually be absent from heaven – to light the light of those in darkness on earth.” 

Mother Teresa is a saint precisely because of her very humanity and the way God used her as a wounded healer. Mother Teresa’s hesitation to reveal her inner life is understandable.  Yet, I suspect that since the publication of Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, many more ripples of mercy have extended to people around the world who live in darkness.

i-alone-cannot-change-the-world-but-i-can-cast-a-stone-across-the-waters-to-create-many-ripples-quote-1How do we find meaning when we are in the desert: when our heart is empty, God seems absent, we are utterly spent, scripture no longer speaks to us, there is intense loneliness, or we feel lost? Can we be light to others even from the dark side?

I used to think that if something was painful I shouldn’t be doing it. I thought God wanted us to live happy lives and that if we weren’t happy, we obviously weren’t in the right place. If I wasn’t feeling fulfilled in my appointment, I should just ask for another. If the place to which I was called caused too much suffering, I needed to get out of it and try something else.

After many years in ministry, I’m not so sure anymore. I have come to see that participating in the suffering of Christ does not necessarily mean physical deprivation and pain, but it can imply interior suffering, dryness, anxiety for self and others, misunderstanding, and failure. Furthermore, reading Come, Be My Light confirmed my conviction that sometimes God may call us to ministries where we won’t receive affirmation and accolades and where we might experience suffering, pain and misery on a regular basis.

We know that all great saints of the Christian church experienced dark nights of the soul.  It’s an integral part of classic Christian mysticism, and the church anticipates spiritually fallow periods. Mother Teresa came to understand that her darkness was the mysterious link that united her to Jesus and was an identification with those she served. By loving God whether or not she felt God’s presence, Mother Teresa’s greatest secret became her greatest gift, ripples of mercy cast across our world.

“May she be your model of holiness,” Pope Francis said.  How will you cast your stone across the waters to spread faith and light into the darkest corners of the communities you serve? Even if you or your congregation alone cannot change the world, how can you still be hope that will welcome all into the circle of God’s love? How can you smile and reach out even when you don’t know their language or you are in pain yourself? How will you be a ripple of mercy this week?


 

Cuando Madre Teresa cuidaba por los más pobres y necesitados en los barrios pobres de Calcuta, India, decía, “Quizás no hablo su idioma, pero puedo sonreír.”  El Papa Francisco compartió estas palabras el 4 de septiembre en la homilía que predicó en la Plaza de San Pedro en el Vaticano en la ocasión de la canonización de Madre Teresa, conocida afectuosamente como “la santa de las alcantarillas.”  Miles de personas se reunieron en Roma para honrarla durante este Año Santo de Misericordia en la Iglesia Católica.

mte1oda0otcxodaxntq0mja1Mientras miraba la celebración desde lejos, no podía evitar pensando en mi citación favorita de Madre Teresa, “Yo sola no puedo cambiar el mundo, pero puedo echar una piedra tras las aguas para crear muchas ondas.”  Diecinueve años después de su muerte, Madre Teresa sigue creando ondas de amor tras nuestro mundo a causa de la pureza de su misericordia a los más pobres de los pobres.

Cuando Madre Teresa sintió llamada en 1946 a salir del Convento Loretto en Irlanda para ministrar a los pobres en Calcuta, India, la voz de Jesús le dijo, “Ven, ven, llévame a los agujeros de los pobres.  Ven, sé mi luz.”  Así comenzó un proceso de un año y medio de pedir permiso del arzobispo para comenzar este nuevo ministerio.  Su plan era salir del convento, llevar solamente un sari, y vivir como indio.  La voz de Jesús también le dijo, “Tu vocación es amar y sufrir y salvar almas.”

Para Madre Teresa, la salvación de los pobres significaba ayudándoles a experimentar el amor infinito de Dios.  Hizo una conexión profunda entre el sufrimiento de Cristo y el sufrimiento de los pobres.  En 1948 Madre Teresa fundó las Misioneras de la Caridad, que ha establecido más de ciento treinta casas en todas partes del mundo para cuidar a los enfermos y los que están muriendo.  Las monjas de las Misioneras de la Caridad tienen que seguir los votos tradicionales de la castidad, pobreza, y obediencia – y un cuarto voto, el cual es dar “servicio incondicional y gratis a los más pobres de los pobres.”

No es casualidad que la santidad de Madre Teresa ocurrió rápidamente en lo que puede ser un proceso muy largo.  En su homilía, Papa Francisco dijo “Madre Teresa, en todos los aspectos de su vida, dispensaba generosamente misericordia divina, se hacía disponible a todos mediante su bienvenida y su defensa de la vida humana . . . Se arrodillaba ante los que estaban agotados, dejados para morir al lado del camino, viendo en ellos su dignidad dada por Dios; aseguraba que se oía su voz antes los poderes del mundo, para que pudieran reconocer su culpa por el crimen – ¡los crímenes! – de la pobreza que ellos crearon.  Para Madre Teresa, la misericordia era la “sal” que daba sabor a su trabajo, era la “luz” que brillaba en las tinieblas de los muchos quienes ya no tenían lágrimas a causa de su pobreza y su sufrimiento.”

Al mismo tiempo, Madre Teresa tenía sus detractores quienes eran oídos durante el proceso de canonización.  Algunos criticaron el nivel bajo de higiene, de aseo, y del cuidado médico en las clínicas de las Misioneras de la Caridad.  Otros dijeron que la cantidad de entrenamiento para voluntarios era inadecuada, que faltaba la organización, y que no había bastantes médicos y enfermeras.  Otras estaban insatisfechos con sus opiniones sobre el aborto, la contracepción, y el divorcio.

Y entonces había las revelaciones en el libro de 1996, Madre Teresa: Ven a ser mi luz, que contenía las escrituras no publicadas de Madre Teresa, escrituras que ella rogaba que jamás fueran publicadas.  Admirábamos su sonrisa, éramos inspirados por el efecto de las ondas de su misericordia, y respectábamos su determinación de ofrecer su propia vida a los pobres.  Muy pocas personas, sin embargo, sabían que la vida interna espiritual de Madre Teresa era llenada de sufrimiento, dudas, y dolor profundo.  Durante años, de verdad por la mayoría de su tiempo trabajando con las Misioneras de la Caridad, Madre Teresa no sentía la presencia de Dios en su vida.

La primera indicación de las tinieblas vino en 1953 en una carta al arzobispo, “Favor de orar por mí . . . porque hay tinieblas tan terribles dentro de mí, como si todo estuviera muerto.  Ha sido así más o menos desde que comencé ‘el trabajo.’  Pida que nuestro Señor me dé valentía.”  Con la excepción de cinco semanas después de 10 años de hacer su ministerio en Calcuta, cuando el silencio doloroso salió de ella, aquel vacío duró toda su vida.

Madre Teresa estaba intensamente consciente de la discrepancia entre su estado interno y su comportamiento público.  “La sonrisa,” escribió es “máscara” o “capa que cubre todo.”  Se preguntaba si era hipócrita.

Madre Teresa le dijo a un consejero, “Si algún día soy santa, seguramente seré santa de las tinieblas.  Continuamente estaré ausente del cielo – para encender la luz de los que están en la oscuridad en la tierra.”

Madre Teresa es santa precisamente a causa de su propia humanidad y la manera en que Dios la usaba como sanador herido.  La vacilación de Madre Teresa en revelar su vida interna es comprensible.  Pero, tengo sospechas que desde la publicación de Madre Teresa: Ven a ser mi luz, muchas más ondas de misericordia han extendido a personas en todas partes del mundo que viven en las tinieblas.

i-alone-cannot-change-the-world-but-i-can-cast-a-stone-across-the-waters-to-create-many-ripples-quote-1¿Cómo es que encontramos significado cuando nos encontramos en el desierto: cuando el corazón está vacío, cuando parece que Dios está ausente, cuando estamos totalmente agotados, cuando las escrituras ya no nos hablan, cuando hay soledad intensa, o cuando nos sentimos perdidos?  ¿Podemos ser luz a otros aún del lado oscuro?

Anteriormente creía que si algo era doloroso no debo hacerlo.  Creía que Dios quería que viviéramos vidas alegres y si estábamos alegres, obviamente no estábamos en el lugar correcto.  Si yo no estuviera cumplida en mi nombramiento, debo pedir otro.  Si donde estaba llamado era demasiado doloroso, necesitaba salir de allí y tratar algo más.

Después de muchos años en ministerio, no estoy tan segura ahora.  He llegado a ver que el participar en el sufrimiento de Cristo no significa necesariamente la privación física y el dolor, pero puede implicar sufrimiento, sequedad, ansiedad por sí mismo y por otros, ser malentendido, y fracaso.  Además, leyendo Ven a ser mi luz confirmó mi convicción que algunas veces es posible que Dios nos llame a ministerios donde no recibiremos afirmación ni elogio y a donde es posible que experimentemos sufrimiento, dolor, y miseria regularmente.

Sabemos que todos los santos de la Iglesia Cristiana experimentaron noches oscuras del alma.  Es parte íntegra del misticismo clásico cristiano, y la iglesia anticipa espiritualmente períodos en barbecho.  Madre Teresa vino a comprender que sus tinieblas eran el vínculo misterioso que la unió a Jesús y eran una identificación con los que ella servía.  Por amar a Dios, aún si no sentía la presencia de Dios, el secreto más grande de Madre Teresa se convirtió en su don más grande – ondas de misericordia tras nuestro mundo.

“Que ella sea su modelo de santidad,” dijo Papa Francisco.  ¿Cómo echarás tu piedra tras las aguas para propagar fe y luz a los rincones más oscuros de las comunidades en sirves?  Aún si tú o tu congregación no puede cambiar el mundo por sí solo, ¿cómo puedes ser todavía la esperanza que dará la bienvenida a todos para que entren en el círculo del amor de Dios?  ¿Cómo puedes sonreír y alcanzar a otros aún cuando no sabes su idioma o cuando estás en dolor?  ¿Cómo serás onda de misericordia esta semana?

 

 

 

The Roadmap

“Siri, navigate to 2301 Rittenhouse St.” Ten days ago Gary and I left the hotel early in the morning to meet the moving van at my new office in the Iowa Conference Center. We had no trouble finding our way, yet I said to Gary, “I really want to stop at AAA this afternoon img_9510and pick up maps for Des Moines and Iowa. It’s not that I don’t trust Siri. I know that the episcopal residence is in Clive and the Conference Center is near the airport, but I’d like to be able to see how I am getting from one place to another.”

 

As I settle in to my ministry as the episcopal leader of the Iowa Annual Conference, three words describe my first days: wonder, grace, and perspective. I am filled with wonder as I explore a new part of God’s amazing world. I grew up in Pennsylvania Dutch country near Philadelphia. During college and graduate school, I lived in Ohio, West Berlin, Germany, and Connecticut. Since graduating from seminary, Gary and I have served as United Methodist clergy in his home state of Michigan.

My initial impressions of Iowa are of beautiful skies, clouds, and sunsets, roads without potholes, acres of corn, and bacon in just about everything. Life revolves around agriculture in Iowa whereas, in my previous home in the Detroit area, cars rule. I’m also getting used to gas stations with names that are different than national brands such as Shell, Mobil, and Amoco.  Kum and Go, Hy-Vee, and Casey’s are common here.  And I img_2760really love the prospect of exploring the six hundred miles of bike trails in the greater Des Moines area. Where else can you find an exercise station in the middle of a multi-use trail along the prairie?

Did you know that Iowa has the highest literacy rate (99%) among all states in the US? Cornell College, which is one of four Iowa colleges affiliated with The United Methodist Church, is the only college in the US to have its entire campus listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Among all fifty states, Iowa is not only the largest producer of ethanol, but it’s also the largest producer of pork, corn and eggs. And my hunch is that the Iowa/Iowa State rivalry is every bit as “friendly” as the Michigan/Michigan State rivalry. I have declared myself nonpartisan, but Iowa’s victory on Saturday was pretty impressive. Moving is filled with one wonder after another.

Grace has also accompanied me over these last several weeks in the midst of the inevitable hassles of moving. Two of the wardrobes containing my clothes collapsed during the seven days in which our “stuff” was in transit and storage. The clothes were in a wrinkled mess at the bottom of the wardrobes, so everything had to be dry cleaned. I was pleased to hear the employee at the counter declared the total cost of $270.24 to be a record for this dry cleaning establishment. Not only am I in the record books, but I also experienced the grace of a moving company willing to cover the cost.

img_2715Grace has been everywhere. It was fascinating to observe the movers cheerfully carrying heavy boxes on their backs down the stairs to the lower level of the house numerous times and still have a smile on their faces when they were done.

For all of the cards and expressions of welcome, I am deeply grateful. Each conference staff person has gone out of their way to make me feel at home. They set up my new laptop and phone, decorated my office, have been patient as I learn names and acquainted me with this amazing part of the kingdom of God called the Iowa Conference. They even commiserated with me as I have literally spent hours making several dozen phone calls between Michigan and Iowa doctors’ offices, trying to get a simple medical record transferred so that I can make an initial appointment.

Finally, I have been accompanied over these last ten days by perspective. That’s really why I needed the road map. I want to see things in context and figure out how everything fits together into the big picture.

It’s tricky, though. On the one hand, we need roadmaps to guide our journey. All organizations do, including the church. We cannot fly by the seat of our pants, although I’ve seen it tried many times during my years as a local church pastor. We arrive at the church for a meeting, and the chair says, “Well, what do you want to do tonight?” No minutes, no agenda, no forethought, no goals, no ministry.

Last week was filled with meetings, including learning about the Healthy Church Initiative (HCI) and Spiritual Leadership Inc. (SLI). I am excited at the ways in which these programs function as roadmaps that will impact the life of the Iowa Conference and encourage our local churches to better serve their communities and grow in wonder, grace, and perspective.

I’ve always been a planner and an organizer, not wanting to leave anything to chance. Congregations that prayerfully discern and execute transformative and sustainable ministry are more fruitful than congregations that wander aimlessly in the proverbial wilderness.

In the end, however, a roadmap is much more than a strategic plan on a piece of paper.  The big picture is a way of living and being as disciples who are on fire for Jesus and are eager to reach out to their communities with new eyes of wonder and grace. Sometimes we just have to head out on faith, leaving room for the Holy Spirit to work, not even sure of the destination but always asking the questions, “How can our world become more just, forgiving, and merciful? How can the hungry be fed, the lonely be cared for, and the oppressed set free? How can every person be affirmed and equipped to be God’s agent of reconciliation?  How is God calling me?”

I am still getting settled, but I will always be “on the road” because of the call. May the roadmap of wonder, grace and perspective empower all of us on the journey to bring in God’s reign on this earth. And just so you know, I’m still keeping my Iowa map with me at all times.

Blessings,

Bishop Laurie

 

Guiando del Corazón

12 septiembre, 2016   El Mapa de Carreteras

“Siri, diríjame a 2301 Rittenhouse St.”  Hace diez días Gary y yo salimos del hotel temprano por la mañana para encontrarnos con el furgón en mi nueva oficina en la Conferencia.  No tuvimos ningunos problemas en encontrar la ruta, pero le dije a Gary, “De
img_9510verdad quiero pasar por la AAA esta tarde y rocoger mapas para Des Moines e Iowa.  No es que no tengo confianza de Siri, ya sé que la residencia episcopal está en Clive y la Conferencia está cerca del aeropuerto, pero me gustaría poder ver cómo voy a ir de un lugar al otro.”

Como me acostumbro a mi ministerio como líder episcopal de la Conferencia Anual de Iowa, tres palabras describen mis primeros días: maravilla, gracia, y perspectiva.  Estoy llenada con maravilla como exploro una nueva parte del mundo increíble de dios.  Crecí en la parte de Pennsylvania donde viven los descendentes de los inmigrantes alemanes cerca de Filadelfia.  Durante la universidad y la escuela posgraduada, viví en Ohio, Berlín Occidental, Alemania, y Connecticut.  Desde que me gradué del seminario, Gary y yo hemos servido como pastores metodistas unidos en su estado de Michigan.

Mis impresiones inciales de Iowa son de cielos hermosos, nubes, y puestas de sol, caminos sin baches, acres de maíz, y tocino en casi todo.  La vida revuelve acerca de la agricultura en Iowa mientras que, en mi casa anterior en la área de Detroit, los coches reinaban.  También me acostumbro a gasolineras con nombres que son diferentes que las
img_2760marcas nacionales como Shell, Mobil, y Amoco.  Kum and Go, Hy-Vee, y Casey’s son más comunes aquí.  Y me encanta la expectativa de explorar las seiscientas millas de bicisendas en la área cerca de Des Moines.  ¿En qué otra parte puede encontrar una estación de ejercicio en el medio de una senda para muchos usos en la pradera?

¿Sabía Ud. Que Iowa tiene la tasa de alfabetización más alta (99%) entre todos los estados en los Estados Unidos?  Cornell College, una de las cuatro universidades en Iowa que es afiliada con la Iglesia Metodista Unida, es la única universidad en los Estados Unidos que tiene todo su campus en el Registro Nacional de Lugares Históricos.  Entre los cincuenta estados, Iowa no solamente es el productor más grande de etanol, sino que es el productor más grande de puerco, maíz, y huevos.  Y tengo sospechas que la rivalidad entre la Universidad de Iowa, y la Universidad Estatal de Iowa es del mismo grado de amabilidad como la rivalidad entre la Universidad de Michigan, y la Universidad Estatal de Michigan.  Me he declarado imparcial, pero la victoria de la Universidad de Iowa el sábado pasado era bien impresionante.  El mudarse es llenado con una maravilla tras otra.

La gracias también me ha acompañado durante estas semanas en el medio de los problemas inevitables de mudarse.  Dos de mis armarios conteniendo mi ropa se derrumbaron durante los siete días en que nuestras cosas estaban en tránsito y en almacén.  La ropa estaba arrugada al fondo de los armarios, así que hubo que limpiar toda mi ropa.  Me encantó oír al empleado declarar que el costo total de $270.24 fue un récord para este establecimiento.  No solamente estaba en los libros de récords, también experimenté la gracia de una compañía de mudanzas que pagará el costo.

img_2715La gracia ha aparecido en todas partes.  Fue fascinante observar a los transportistas llevando alegremente cajas pesadas en las espaldas bajando por la escalera al nivel abajo de la casa muchas veces y todavía tenían sonrisa en la cara cuando estaban terminados.

Por todas las tarjetas y las expresiones de bienvenida, estoy profundamente agradecida.  Cada personas que trabaja por la Conferencia se ha esforzado para darme la bienvenida.  Ayudaron en instalar mi computador portátil y mi teléfono celular, decoraron mi oficina, han sido pacientes conmigo mientras que aprendo sus nombres, y me han ayudado a conocer esta parte maravillosa del Reino de Dios llamada la Conferencia de Iowa.  Aún compadecieron conmigo como he pasado literalmente horas haciendo docenas de llamadas telefónicas a las oficinas de médicos entre Michigan y Iowa, tratando de conseguir un record medicinal transferido para que pueda hacer una cita inicial.

Finalmente, durante estos diez días he sido acompañada por la perspectiva.  De verdad eso es porque necesitaba el mapa de carreteras.  Quiero vera las cosas en contexto y averiguar cómo todo cabe en la panorama general.

Es complicado, sin embargo.  En la primera mano, necesitamos los mapas de carreteras para guiarnos en nuestros viajes.  Esto es verdad para todas organizaciones, incluso la iglesia.  No podemos simplemente adivinar, aunque he visto esto muchas veces durante mis años como pastora en la iglesia local.  Llegamos a la iglesia para una reunión, y el/la jefe dice, “Pues, qué quieren hacer esta noche?”  No hay actas, no hay agenda, no hay planificación, no hay metas, no hay ministerio.

La semana pasada fue llenada con reuniones, incluso aprendiendo acerca la Iniciativa de Iglesias Saludables (HCI en inglés) y el Liderazgo Espiritual, S.A. (SLI en inglés).  Estoy emocionada acerca de las maneras en que estos programas funcionan como mapas de carreteras que tendrán impacto en la vida de la Conferencia de Iowa y animarán a nuestras iglesias locales a servir mejor a sus comunidades y a crecer en maravilla, gracia, y perspectiva.

Siempre he sido una proyectista y organizadora, no quería dejar nada a la casualidad.  Congregaciones que disciernen rezadoramente y ejecutan ministerio que transforma y que es sostenible son congregaciones más productivas que congregaciones que andan sin rumbo en el desierto proverbial.

En el fin, sin embargo, un mapa de carreteras es mucho más que un plan estratégico en un papel.  El panorama general es una manera de vivir y de ser como discípulos ardiendo por Jesús quienes son entusiasmados para alcanzar a sus comunidades con nuevos ojos de maravilla y de gracia.  Algunas veces simplemente tenemos que salir confiando en la fe, dejando espacio para que el Espíritu Santo pueda trabaja, ni siquiera seguros de la destinación pero siempre haciendo las preguntas, “¿Cómo es que nuestro mundo puede ser más justo, más compasivo, y más clemente?  ¿Cómo pueden ser dados comida los hambrientos, cómo pueden recibir cuidado los aislados, y cómo pueden ser librados los oprimidos?  ¿Cómo es que cada persona puede ser afirmada y equipada para ser agente de la reconciliación de Dios?  ¿Cómo me llama Dios a mí?

Todavía estoy acomodándome, pero siempre estaré “en el camino” a causa del llamado.  Que el mapa de maravilla, de gracia, y de perspectiva nos dé poder a todos nosotros en la peregrinación para traer el Reino de Dios a esta tierra.  Y para que Ud. sepa, voy a tener mi mapa de Iowa conmigo todo el tiempo.

Bendiciones,

Obispa Laurie