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

17 thoughts on “The Roadmap

  1. Laurie. Thanks for the beautiful analogy of moving. It reminded me of my move earlier this year to Arizona. Its nice to reflect back and appreciate the nuances of moving to a new state. My you are so organized…I haven’t found a doctor yet!!! Many blessings to you and your new role as bishop. You are always in my prayers!!!

  2. I’ve been thinking about you.. and praying; so glad to hear stories of you getting settled. I too am one that in spite of my tech equipment still travel with a paper map that I’ve studied in advance…like reading the Bible and checking the agenda before a meeting/service. Blessing.

  3. Hi Laurie: Thinking of you often. I just spent a long weekend in Lake Forest, Illinois. Driving on the Tollway, I passed the exit to Iowa and thought of you taking that route to get to Des Moines. It tugged at my heart remembering my time in Iowa. In the spring, you will notice lots of corn growing along the roadsides. Iowa uses corn on the roads in the winter instead of salt.
    What an incredible plan God has for you!
    Blessings, Pat Moseley

  4. May our Lord Continue to bestow Many Blessings to you, Gary & your Family! Cheers from West Michigan…
    Hugs from the Groters, Beals, Colon Families!

  5. So glad things are going so well for you. One of my best friends from South UMC here was from Iowa. I will be reading this to Bob later today. We have saved, paper and computer file, most of your blogs. Good to be able to stay in touch.

  6. Laurie, this is Joy Poole. I’ve been following your blog, ever since I stumbled across it a few years ago. I’d love to correspond with you directly. I have so much to share – hard to believe we left GR 14 years ago…my life is so different, yet fulfilling and happy. Drop me a line with the best email for you and I will fill you in.

    Blessings,
    Joy Poole

  7. Dear Bishop Haller,
    Welcome to Iowa. It is a fine state and has well-deserved pride in many areas of which Iowans will no doubt constantly remind you. I moved here in 1961 from Connecticut via Michigan and Illinois. I am a graduate of that fine U. Methodist institution known as Albion, and currently have two grandsons attending there and one who graduated a year ago. I retired in 2003 with 42 years of ministry in Iowa. I can tell you that you are still among friends who will do their best to make you feel at home. I can’t wait to greet you in person.
    Rev. Jim Nelson.

  8. Dear Laurie,
    I’m sure you don’t remember me as we met only a couple of times in Grand Rapids.
    Both times at Trinity. However, I’ve been receiving your blogs for several years, and always look forward to reading them. Best wishes to you in your new position, and may God bless and keep you and your family.

    Jim Henwood – TUMC

  9. I’ve been thinking about you so it was a great treat to find your blog post in my mailbox today. I really do love your perspective on life and things in general.
    The halls of Birmingham First were very alive today with the beginning of the preschool year. Lots and lots of laughter and excitement and only a few tears. We’re excited to do it again tomorrow.

  10. Laurie, so good to hear that you are settling in. I have a good bell friend who lives in Clive, so I appreciated your map showing the relationship to DesMoines. Blessings in your new ministry.

  11. Welcome “home” Laurie,

    Thanks for the wonderful color painting of your first days in Iowa. You are truly an artist with words and visuals. Ruth and I still use the road maps on our journeys. Planning is an exciting part of the journey. Blessings to you both…

  12. Dear Laurie,
    So good to read your descriptive e-mail about your new”home” and the kind friendly people that welcomed you.
    Iowa with its cornfields and miles of bike paths sounds like a good fit for you.

    Many blessings to you

  13. Hi Laurie: So happy most things went well for you in your move to Iowa
    Wow, learning more about Iowa. It has pretty much been just a state on the map for me. Love and prayers Bunny

  14. Laurie –

    I’m so glad Mary Molhoek led me to your blog, so I can stay in touch with what you are doing and feeling through your inspirational writing. You have the gift! By the way, I have driven around Des Moines several times, the most recent being three years ago when I moved back from Albuquerque when I actually spent the night there. So-o-o-o, you never know when I might show up.

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