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Man, You Gotta Love That

In January of this year our Church Council established a new Vision Team to identify where Fishers United Methodist Church should be focusing our ministries for the next 3 – 5 years as we seek to impact the lives of our rapidly changing community for the sake of Jesus Christ.  15 member of our congregation – 12 lay & 3 clergy representing all segments of our congregation – meet twice a month [with assignments between meetings] to do the necessary work of studying demographics of our surrounding community to seek to know the life needs that individuals and families face; and studying our own congregation to know who we are – our character; our strengths; and areas in which we need to grow to carry out such impacting ministries.  It is difficult but very important work.  And at the core of this process of discovery we are praying; praying for God’s wisdom and guidance; for God’s vision for us rather than our own.  We have been doing the work of creating community among the team; learning to trust each other and have confidence in our gifts together so we can fully “hear” each other and listen for God’s voice in each voice around the table as we seek God’s direction.

As we have been working together now for 5 months I have had opportunity to reflect on some of the core values a person or congregation needs in order to be an effective and faithful follower of Christ and discipling community of faith.  There are many but, in my mind, there is none more important than integrityIntegrity has been defined in many ways.  One of the better definitions I have seen is this:  Integrity is “doing the right thing even when you think no one is watching.”  Whether we are seeking to find the right ministries to focus on or to find the “right” individuals to lead and serve in those ministries I am aware that each brings a different and unique gift and skill mix.  One can do what another cannot and vice versa.  But integrity must be at the core of each individual or effort. 

In the book, A Father For All Seasons, Bob Welch writes about this most important personal value.  His story describes integrity well for me.  See what you think:

“Last summer, my son, Jason, was a 7th grader playing in a 7th/8th grade league.  A fire-armed pitcher – more than a foot taller than my 4-foot-9 son blazed a fastball right down the pike.  Strike One!  The 2nd pitch scorched across the plate for a called strike 2.  The third pitch, unintentionally, I’m sure, came right at Jason.  He turned to avoid being hit and fell to the ground.  His bat went flying.  His helmet bounced off.  The ball seemed to have skimmed his shoulder.

‘Take your base,’ said the umpire.  Standing in the 3rd base coach’s box, I was happy just seeing Jason alive, much less getting a free base.  ‘It didn’t hit me,’ Jason said to the ump.  ‘Take your base, son,’ said the ump.

Our fans were most likely thinking the same thing I was thinking: ‘Take your base, son.  You’ve been wounded, soldier, your war’s over.  You’re going home…’

‘But honest, it didn’t hit me,’ Jason pleaded.  The umpire looked at Jason and out to the infield ump, who just shrugged.  ‘Okay,’ said the ump, ‘the count is one-and-two.’

Should I intervene?  Make him take his base?  Jason was already digging in his cleats in the batter’s box.  I mentally shrugged and headed back to the coach’s box.  The towering pitcher rocked and fired.  A bullet right down the middle – the kind of pitch that would send a kid to the dugout.  Instead, Jason ripped the ball into left-center for a stand up double.  Our crowd roared.  The manager of the team in the field was standing a few feet behind me.  He had no idea that the kid on 2nd base was my son.  He spit out his sunflower seeds and slowly shook his head.

‘Man,’ he said, ‘You gotta love that!”

There are many ministry opportunities we can consider and many volunteer and professional staff people among who

– clergy and lay - with varying degrees of skill and experience in many areas that bring opportunity for us to impact the people of our community.  I am grateful for the gifts, talent, and dedication I see in so many of my sisters and brothers.  I thank God for you all and for the gifts you bring.  But what we need most – what will allow God to use us most effectively can be summed up by the actions of a 7th grade batter named Jason.  And when I see it clergy or laity, experienced or green, young or old, I lean back and smile as I shake my head… “Man, you gotta love that!” 

For The Only Cause That Matters,
Pastor Kevin McKinney
Sr. Pastor

 

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Broken Fountain

Some of you know my love for flowing water – the ocean, a mountain stream, a river – it has been a recurring theme in my spirit for as long as I can remember.  For several years I had a beloved fountain – not a wimpy desktop size – but a “serious” fountain.  Being a typical male I know that bigger is better.  My fountain stood over 4 feet tall, held over 30 gallons of water and filled the air with the vibrant sounds of a waterfall – too big and too loud for any room in our home.  When I used it inside we either could not hear each other talk or our trips to the “facilities” greatly multiplied so the fountain stood silent most of the time.  In our last house we had a great screened in porch which became home for my fountain and I have loved reading and writing in the shade of the porch awash in the sounds of the nearby waterfall.

The final Fall that I had with my beloved fountain [this timing is important] Joyce and I spent a “warm” evening on a cold night [temperature was like 20 degrees the entire week before it] with good friends and were given the tour of their beautiful home.  My favorite part was their back yard which was home to a fountain that dwarfed mine as well as a fish pond.  As I shivered in the cold I was surprised to hear the sound of running water – their pond had to run year round to keep the water aerated or the fish would die.  I was reminded that flowing water doesn’t freeze unless the bottom really falls out of the thermometer.  Two days later I made a terrible discovery.  I’m usually pretty careful about maintenance issues but last fall when I was “winterizing” my precious fountain I got interrupted.  I removed the motor from the water and bled the waterlines but was diverted before I could drain the 30 gallons of water in the base of the fountain…I never came back to finish the job.  I didn’t remember until I went out on the porch weeks later and noticed the fountain looked different.  The base was cracked and not just a little!  Before I got near enough to look in I knew what I would find.  The water had frozen solid.  When 30 gallons of water turns to ice it expands…did you know that?  And ice is harder and stronger than fiberglass…did you know that too?  Suddenly I had a beautiful flower pot filled with ice – it wasn’t leaking yet but when spring came… I say “flower pot” because my beautiful fountain will be forever silent.  The pump would still work and the waterlines would do their job but the base wouldn’t hold water to be pumped – all for want of a little bit of maintenance.

Why do I tell you this besides my need to share my grief?  I tell you this because I am reminded of Jeremiah 2:13, “For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, And hewn themselves cisterns—broken cisterns that can hold no water.”  The people of Israel had forgotten that it was God who brought them out of slavery and into a land of “milk and honey.” They had gotten lazy in their relationship with him, finally turning their backs on God and seeking security and life from self-made religious systems.  But their self-made efforts were nothing more then broken cisterns that could hold no water.  They went thirsty due to their own religiosity expecting to be refreshed and found only an empty well.  And [like me and my fountain] all for the want of a little maintenance. 

It takes maintenance, whether we are talking about my fountain or our relationship with God. And often it only takes a little maintenance, certainly less than the work it takes to repair the broken fountain or our broken relationship with God. We seldom make a full turn away all at once– usually we just let our attention slip a little at a time.  How is it with you right now?  Are you thirsty?  Have you tried to go to the well only to find what little water may still be there is stagnant or possibly even found your well empty?  Maybe you’ve just been too busy lately to find time in God’s presence in prayer and study.  I hope not.  Broken wells are hard to fix.  But God invites us to return to Him.  During this season of Lent God is waiting to embrace us.  In that embrace we can hear, feel, and taste fresh running water.  All it takes is a little maintenance.

Anybody need a 30 gallon fiberglass rock shaped flower pot?

For The Only Cause That Matters,
Pastor Kevin McKinney
Sr. Pastor

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