As the four of us sat down for an extended lunch recently, one of my friends asked, “What is saving your life right now?” We sighed, laughed, and began to reflect, all of us United Methodist clergywomen. We didn’t bother trying to unpack what the question meant because we instinctively knew.
What is it that keeps you going during this uncertain time in our denomination, country, and world? How can we live fully when others are living in fear, refugee families are desperate to find safety, friends are reduced to poverty because of medical debt, and racial/ethnic tensions continue to simmer? What does Jesus mean in Matthew 16:25 when he says, “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”
What is saving my life? Let me count the ways.
- Visiting the Detroit Zoo with my three friends on a spring-like February day and running into a former church member, who was carrying on his back a six-year-old Syrian refugee boy sponsored by the church. What joy was on his face!
- Hearing about a church that made several hundred paper hearts for Valentine’s Day and delivered them to a nearby Muslim congregation.
- Celebrating both Christmas and Hanukkah with our Christian family and our son-in-law’s Jewish family. Talking about how we are all obligated to advocate for those who are on the margins, for we rise and fall together.
- Reading books that deepen my faith, challenge my mind, and inspire me to make a difference: Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce, and A Life of Being, Having, and Doing Enough by Wayne Muller
- Meeting with various groups in my travels who are asking, “How can we be people of faith in the times in which we live, especially when our own families are divided?”
- Spending time with United Methodist college students who are grateful for a safe place to explore their faith and do not hesitate to make their voice heard.
- Walking through a botanical garden and marveling at the variety of God’s world, including the sausage tree, which is sacred to many communities.
- Observing how people are learning to dialogue about difficult issues in ways that are not defensive, accusatory or mean but rather honor others.
- Driving across Iowa on I-80 and listening to the splendid symphonies and symphonic dances of Sergei Rachmaninoff.
- Discussing theology with my new six-year-old friend Kinnick from Council Bluffs, who asked what a bishop is and then prayed for me in worship the next day.
What is saving my life?
- Celebrating the lives of two dear friends who died recently. Dorothy Wimmer, who died on her 90th birthday, sent more encouraging cards and notes to me over the past twenty-four years than anyone else. And Helene Hill, a deaconess in The United Methodist Church, was a prophet and leader in the area of social justice for the very least of God’s children. If only I could be more like Dorothy and Helene.
- Reveling in the sweet song of a cardinal in a tree.
- The wonder and innocence of small children.
- Appointive cabinets across the country working prayerfully, strategically, and fruitfully to make clergy appointments.
- Clergy giving themselves fully to ministry, yet also intentionally caring for their own physical, mental, and spiritual health.
- Those who believe that the church is a big, big tent where there is room for all of us to live in peace, follow our passions, and change the world together.
- A flower poking up through the ground in February.
- Reading Exodus 3 and reminding myself that the God who self-identified as “I am who I am,” is also the One who will always be there for you and me.
- Late night comedy shows that remind me it’s okay to lighten up once in a while.
- Dear souls who pray for me and make sure I get where I am supposed to be.
What is saving my life?
- Interacting with people who are bent over by the pain of the world but at the same time stand tall and reach out to others in need.
- Welcoming to our churches those who are openly skeptical but have found a sanctuary where they can explore who God is and who they are called to become.
- A husband and children who love me as I am and are doing their part to change the world.
- Watching ordinary people do extraordinary things through the power of the Holy Spirit.
- An Iowa sunrise from a different perspective
- Children of God who are hungry to learn, grow, and serve.
- Stimulating interfaith conversations with Jews, Muslims, Christians, and Buddhists, confirming that we humans are more alike than we are different.
- Saying “I’m sorry” and receiving grace.
- After Meals on Wheels was in the news last week, remembering my mother, who served Meals on Wheels for many years and modeled for me the importance of using our time and gifts to make a difference in the lives of others.
- Saving my life by losing it, and losing my life in order to find it.
What is saving your life right now?