Ten Years of Leading from the Heart

In January of 2006, I was appointed by Bishop Jonathan Keaton as a district superintendent in the West Michigan Conference. Both excited and terrified at the thought of what lay ahead for my ministry, I went away on retreat to St. Simons Island in Georgia, a holy place for United Methodists. During this time of solitude, I walked the beach for miles every day, pondering my call and God’s grace.

A major discernment from that week away was to regularly communicate with the clergy and laity on my district once I became a superintendent. I did not want to send out a newsletter filled with information, however. I wanted to share my heart. On July 11, 2006, I published my first blog and have written almost five hundred weekly essays since.


Now, ten years later, I am a bit older and, hopefully, wiser. But, again, I am both excited and terrified. Last week I was one of four clergy elected to be a bishop in the North Central Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church and have been assigned to the Iowa Conference as of September 1. As I transition into this new role over the coming weeks, I will be posting some of my favorite blogs from the last ten years. I anticipate retooling Leading from the Heart as a way of communicating my heart as a United Methodist bishop.

My first blog was published on July 11, 2006. “In the summer, I have a practice of taking a walk every night that I am able. It is a time to let God speak to me through the beauty of God’s good creation. I don’t power walk. I simply saunter along, opening my eyes and heart to all that surrounds me. At times, I will replay the events of the day and ponder issues of concern. However, I attempt to quickly clear my mind so that I can make room for God’s presence to surround me with joy.

“Tonight I was walking after 9 p.m., just as the sky was beginning to turn yellow and orange. As I gazed at the sunset, I thought to myself, ‘These are the most amazing clouds I have ever seen!’ Wispy, swirling, dancing, grace-filled clouds, beckoning me to come out and play, reminding me of the promise of a Holy Spirit that blows where it wills, urging me to rest in God’s love and then go out to serve.

“Please take the time to rest and savor the very best that Michigan has to offer this summer. Walk, run, play tennis, hit a few golf balls, fish, feed the birds, sail, swim, eat an ice cream cone, read a good book, enjoy a picnic with friends. Most of all, remember that God saw everything that God had made and called it good.”


As I prepare to begin my ministry as an episcopal leader, I offer the words that I shared with the delegates shortly before my election as a bishop last week. “The heart of my ministry is modeling the radical, suffering love of Jesus for all people as experienced around the table of the Lord. It’s the Heavenly Banquet, the Peaceable Kingdom.

“Suffering love is not just the foundation on which we build everything, but it’s also the energy with which we proceed, and it’s the final goal toward which we strive. The spiritual writer Richard Rohr says that love has two lovely daughters, twins called grace and mercy. Like identical twins, they are often indistinguishable. Grace is the inner freedom to be merciful, and mercy is grace in action. Both are children of love. Radical, suffering, unconditional love.

“Can we United Methodists create a church that will witness to everyone that we not only love the world but we actually love each other as well? Are we willing to let go of self, ego, pride and our tightly held convictions in order to see God in the face of someone who is not like us? Can we stand firm that God’s love is also found in the very least of God’s children and that God’s call is to transformative action to bring in God’s kingdom on this earth through Jesus Christ?

“This is the challenge and the task of The United Methodist Church. And it is the challenge and task to which I have offered my life and ministry.”

Wherever you live or serve, may you find ways this summer to feed your spirit, lead from your heart and be a walking witness to the radical suffering love of Jesus.

Walking, I am listening to a deeper way.
Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me.
Be still, they say. Watch and listen.
— Linda Hogan



20 thoughts on “Ten Years of Leading from the Heart

  1. Congratulations on your appointment. When I started reading today’s blog I was afraid you were saying goodbye. So relieved that is not the case. Your leadership here in the GR District was important, and I was happy to be able to follow you to the east side of the state through your blog. Thank you for sharing your faith in so many ways. Praying that God will continue to give you the wisdom and strength to bring growth to His Kingdom.

  2. Laurie, you have no idea how pleased I was to hear and see your name being announced as “elected.” Your grace and humility shined through as you spoke to the gathering in Peoria, and to all of us watching and listening to the live stream as you accepted the results of your election. I will continue to pray for you and God’s blessings upon you as you minister to and bless the people of Iowa–and they bless you as well. I am sure you will find great beauty in the people and topography of the state. Who knows? Maybe one year you will decide to join Eldonna’s and my longtime friend, as well as hundreds of others as you participate in RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Accross Iowa). While the route varies from year to year, it always begins at the Missouri River and ends at the Mississippi River. What a way to see much of the state and meet many of its people.

    Laurie, it pleases us to no end knowing that Ludington was one of those places where you stopped along your ministerial journey. We at the UMC are blessed that you shared four years with us. I know that as you take your next steps alongside Jesus, you will continue to model grace and mercy to your new flock.

    With love and appreciation,
    Ken and Eldonna Tabor

  3. Laurie,
    Don & I and our Family wish to congratulate you on your New Endevor and pray & wish nothing but Blessings and Grace what you will share! My daughters family At UMC in Midland, Mi & my sisters family UMC in Flushing, Mi are extremely excited too!

    Hugs & Blessings from
    The Groters. Beals. Venman & Martin Families

  4. Thanks for your words Laurie. When I announced at Trinity that you had been elected the whole congregation spontaneously applauded. Our prayers are with you,

  5. I add my congratulations on the wise choice of our leaders. I pray you will continue reflecting Jesus’ love. And keep writing.

    Ken McCaw

  6. Thank you for pouring your heart out for all at NCJ. I was hoping to get a copy as it is a statement that all United Methodists should cling to and especially me.
    I liked the comment on the RAGBRAI. I emailed a friend in Iowa who does it every year for any tips to secure a place in the ride.
    I look forward to the “retooled” blog and will enjoy the best from the past.
    God will surely bless Gary and you as you conclude in Birmingham and begin another effective ministry in Iowa.

  7. Laurie, you do not know me however, I have been following your blog for a few years. I want to congratulate you on your election to bishop. I am a member of FUMC in Duluth, MN and am thrilled to now have 2 bishops to follow, you and David Bard. David will be greatly missed at FUMC but we all know he was meant to do more. I will be praying for both of you and wish you many blessings as you make your translation.
    Teri Tangen

  8. I celebrate the wisdom of those who elected you to this high office! I am so proud to be your friend and so elated that your spiritual walk has brought you to this place. Iowa is indeed forturnate. God be with you, and I sincerely hope that you will continue to include me in your congregation via this blog.
    So many blessings!

  9. Linda Hogan’s quote is one of my favorites! I have used in each of the 4 digital photobooks I have made and gifted to my grandchildren as they graduate from high school. Our youngest grandchild, Molly, graduated this past June.

    I especially love the additional line of the quote “You are the result of the love of thousands.” What an amazing realization.

    I am delighted for the people of Iowa – they are in for a blessing by you being among them, not to mention all of us in the larger church, as Tove said.

    May God continue to bless you and your ministry, Laurie, as I have been blessed!

  10. Congratulations on your new appointment, Laurie. No one could be more deserving! May God continue to bless you. Will look forward to hearing of your
    “travels” through “Leading from the Heart”.
    Jayne Thomas (now Porritt)

  11. I am touched to tears about the glorious choice of “our own” Laurie Haller for Bishop! “Losing” you is hard to take….until we realize the LIGHT you bring to our leadership, and the pride you bring to our congregation. May the Lord bless each step you take along this new and holy path, and may you receive strength and joy from our prayers along your journey.. God bless you, dear Bishop Laurie.

    With love, Suzi Davis

  12. Dear Bishop Haller, I wish to welcome you to Iowa as I have other joys from Michigan. I went to college in Michigan (Albion). I Married a Michigan girl from Muskegon, and we have a daughter living in Mason, whose first three children either have or are attending Albion. I think you will like Iowa. Methodist here are mostly humble, aware of their need to be in compassionate service. Our church (Grace UM in Des Moines) at this moment has sent its youth to Cass Community project in Detroit. Reports from them seem to indicate they are having an enjoyable time. Unfortunately I retired from 42 yearsactive ministry 13 years ago – unfortunate because I would have enjoyed being in ministry with you as my Bishop. As I read more and more of your blogs I see a person with wonderful gifts and an intellect that reflects honest joy in the excitement of things beautiful and natural. I am particularly impressed with your expertise in sacred music.
    So, when you arrive in September, I do hope you will find Iowa to be welcoming and a place of hope.
    In Christ,
    Rev. Jim Nelson

  13. God, bless you Bishop Haller. Thank you for your wise words. I am thankful you have been chosen to serve.
    Rev. Molly Dee Rounsley

  14. Greetings from Duluth, MN

    Congratulations on your new appointment! It was nice to see your smiling face again when I went to umc.org to read more about Rev. Bard. And to discover your blog!

    When I first moved to Duluth to be a part of the Catholic Worker Community I rode the van on Sunday morning with the little old ladies to the “Coppertop Church”.

    I am now a UCCer, but First UMC is just a short walk from my house and where I vote. Rev. Bard is a well loved and respected member of the social justice community in Duluth, but we are proud and excited to share him with MI.

    One of the last time I was in GR and went to church with my mom and sister, the sermon was about the schism that is facing the United Methodist Church. I know that both you and Rev. Bard will be strong leaders standing on the side of love during this important time.

    Melissa Boyle

    • So good to hear from you, Melissa. Bishop David is a wonderful person, and he will be a great episcopal leader in the Michigan Area. Thank you for your encouragement.

  15. Dear Laurie,
    congratulations on becoming Bishop! I know that you will continue to lead from your heart as inspired by the Spirit. May the Lord continue to bless you and keep you and remind you of your sermon today: Balance!
    I will miss you greatly,
    Many blessings,

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