This past week has gone by quickly, but I can't tell you why. One day I spent a couple of hours at the church working on a project; one day Tom drove with me to Memphis for a meeting I had to attend; we kept Elisa for a couple of hours one morning; I spent a day going to the Farmers' Market, the grocery and then cooking Sunday lunch for the family. This morning my body reminded me that I don't have the energy I once had and I am tired. Twenty six years ago when I had chemo the first time, I determined that treatment would not alter my lifestyle. I vowed not to let it get the best of me and for the most part--and with the help of family and friends--it didn't. Now, having begun the fifth treatment schedule, the determination is not as strong. Oh, it's there in my mind, but my body can't keep up with what the mind tells it. The honest confession is that in 1982 pride motivated me; in 2008 I am secure in the knowing that I don't have to try so hard: God is giving me the grace and it's just fine to be tired. Whew! What a relief!
I'm excited to be working with the church on what I hope will be an intentional, comprehensive ministry by, for and with older adults here. A telephone survey was completed a couple of months ago, the surveys have been compiled and I'm ready to meet with staff to give them my opinions of what the surveys mean for ministry. My late friend and mentor, John Rhea, used to caution about the "gatekeeper" and how that particular person--the senior pastor, to be exact--held the key to whether or not the ministry would be accepted. So, I'm praying that the Holy Spirit will overrule the negative response I expect.
Though I am now officially retired, I remain on Presbytery's Committee on Ministry. We met at a church on the far eastern side of Memphis Thursday and Tom rode with me. Both discouraging and encouraging reports were on the agenda. This is an interesting presbytery. It includes churches in a strip of Arkansas close to the Mississippi River, the bootheel of Missouri, those in Memphis and in the rural section of West Tennessee. Memphis is obviously the largest city and has the most PC(USA) churches; Jackson is the next largest, but with only one PC(USA) church. A county south of us on the Mississippi border has eight PC(USA) churches and only one with an installed pastor. It's safe to say that the majority of churches in the rural areas in all three states have no installed pastors, however, some have interims or stated supplies. One minister on the committee spoke of the problems that exist in these small towns that result in pastors not choosing to accept calls to churches there. The problems are real, but I couldn't help but wonder if in today's world ministry is considered to be just another job rather than a calling. I wanted to be able to jump up and volunteer to serve in one of these places, but my situation at this time says otherwise. The encouraging report came from a 200-300 member church with a ministry to Korean students in a university town. A retired Korean PC(USA) minister met with our committee to request permission to "labor within our bounds" so as to provide leadership for the students. Here is a retired gentleman, willing to serve where God calls and a group of young adults, willing to welcome him as their leader and pastor. Our Korean brethren have an "all out" view of discipleship and servanthood, coupled with honor for older adults in their midst.
This morning my worship experiece was with 2nd Presbyterian, Memphis, via TV. We had planned to attend services in Humboldt where our friend Paul is the pastor. The fatigue mentioned earlier kept us home. I would really like to be at Fair Oaks celebrating the ministry of Henry Wells as he retires. He and his wife Debbie and their two daughters remain on my prayer list, but they are especially on my mind this weekend. It's not easy to retire from something that is life itself. As I wrote a message to be read at the service at Fair Oaks this morning, I had an "aha" realization. Your may retire from a position, but you never retire from ministry. Is that not true for every believer? Is this not what Scripture teaches? As followers of Christ, should our lives not always reflect Him? Should we not always live out the fact that the One Who is in us is greater than the one who is in the world? Henry will never retire from ministry and those who know him will continue to receive the blessing.
This has gone on long enough. We'll talk about the grandchildren on another day.