Reflection Connection

Reflections

Saturday Prayer for Interims and Their Families – By Rev. Alan Mead

Saturday Prayer for Interims and Their Families

By Rev. Alan Mead

It is Saturday and I have been holding those who do transition ministry, and their families, in my prayers.

It is cold today, and a strong wind, coming in off the sea, has begun to shift to the northwest. The sky is clear blue without a hint of cloud. As the bracing wind numbs my face, I look out across the bay, noticing the whitecaps and a solitary, cargo laden ship heading from the port out to sea. From here it looks unaffected by the wind and waves. It simply plunges along on course to some unknown port, where it will unload it’s cargo and begin again.

It is more difficult to maintain course in high wind and following sea. As with an airplane it is necessary to steer in a direction that looks wrong; but that keeps the vessel moving in the desired direction. Doing so well takes training and practice. It is so also with interim ministry.

O God, be a strengthening presence and source of hope and joy to all who labor in your vineyard, especially this day for those who serve as interims.

Life and Beauty Observed in the Time of Silence – By Rev. Alan Mead

Life and Beauty Observed in the Time of Silence

By Rev. Alan Mead

On our first trip west we passed a sign saying that we were entering the Mohave Desert. I had been looking forward to my first view of a real desert for weeks as we began to plan and prepare for our trip. I had envisioned sand and stone and barren landscape. I was surprised at the colors and the occasional vegetation. My biggest surprise, though, was when I parked, found a place away from the highway to sit, and was quiet. After a minute or two I began to notice signs of life. I observed little things scurrying nearby, intent on moving from one place to another, probably in search of food. I heard sounds of the wind, very small reptiles, birds and insects.

As I sat quietly I realized how inaccurate my preconceptions were. I realized I was for this moment in one of the most beautiful places I had ever been. Had we simply walked around for a minute and returned to the car to continue our journey I would have missed several minutes of solitude where my soul was refreshed, and also importantly, I would have missed seeing and hearing the small, often hidden life in the desert beyond the road.

As I begin each new interim assignment I find it valuable to take time to listen and to observe the authentic and unique beauty and life within this new to me congregation. I have often attended each worship service before being introduced, without any sign or indication that I was to be the interim pastor. I would sit near the back and allow myself to be still so that I could listen for the voice of God as well as the congregation.

Accident and Delay Yield Unexpected Joy – By Rev. Alan Mead

Accident and Delay Yield Unexpected Joy
By Rev. Alan Mead

Some years ago we were traveling on a cross country camping trip. We had a VW Vanagon and a pop up camp trailer. I had four bikes attached to a roof rack on the Vanagon, seats down and wheels up. We had been traveling for several days when we pulled into a beautiful campground on a man made lake about 30 miles northeast of Tucumcari New Mexico. The park was nearly full; but we found a very nice site right on the lake. We set up the trailer, unpacked the Vanagon and our two teens began asking me to drive back to a donut shop they had seen as we drove in. There was a covered entry in the drive up and, as I drove under it I felt a lurch. When I got out to look I saw four narrow black skid marks on the donut shop entry roof above our van and the bicycles leaning off to the side and disconnected from the roof rack, which was hanging precariously in two pieces. I didn’t have any idea what to do, so I jammed the bikes and the broken roof rack into the van, bought the donuts, and headed back to camp. On the way I stopped at a gas station and was told they didn’t weld aluminum and had no idea what I could do.

There we were, in the middle of a very unfamiliar wilderness, on a Saturday night, with no idea how we could correct this unfortunate development. So, not being able to do anything, we went for a swim, ate dinner and enjoyed a lonely fire before bed. Sunday morning we drive into Tucumcari for church and were surprised that a visiting minister from Syracuse, NY, near where we had grown up, was the visiting pastor. It was a small congregation and after worship someone invited us to go with most of them to get lunch at a nearby restaurant. We had a great time. Soon, a woman, learning that we were camping at the lake, said “I haven’t been there in years. Why don’t we come out and have a cookout.” Her husband, in chagrin, said “we can’t just invite ourselves.” Pat and I indicated that it would be fun, and they all agreed to bring the food.

Later in the afternoon about 30 people from the church found our site and set up for an incredible western cookout with steaks, beverages and all the fixings that anyone could possibly ask for. After dinner as we sat around the campfire and talked, someone asked how long we were staying. I mentioned we had intended to leave in the morning, but with the broken bike rack we were stranded until we could either get it fixed or replaced. A couple of the men looked at, remarked that it was aluminum and that it takes special tools to repair. One of them said he knew a business in town that could do it and said he would call them in the morning.

Sure enough, the place could fix it! Not until Wednesday, though, and so we decided that we were in just about the most beautiful campground and ideal site of any place we had visited in years. So we decided to stay for the week. We ended up having more visits with people from the church, met some locals who lived near the campground and who invited us to dinner at their home. (Turns out we were just about the only campers there during the week).

Not only did everything work out OK; but we met many delightful people and enjoyed one of the best weeks camping as a family that we have ever experienced. If I had been observant and stopped before the overhang at the donut shop, we would have been on our way in the morning right after church and we would have totally missed one of the more memorable and enjoyable weeks we have had as a family.

January 25th Reflection
January 25, 2015
by Rev. Alan Mead
We all experience times of transition, and sometimes we learn from our experience. Whether we learn or not, as we experience change we are changed also. I remember when we moved from a small village where we lived in the same house as my grandmother, next door to my aunt and uncle and four cousins, across the street from where my father worked, and from where I attended school. Another uncle owned a general store where retired men gathered in the cold months around an old pot belly wood stove, telling wonderful stories, and where everyone knew me and I always was asked to choose a penny candy from the enormous glass bins before I left the store.I was eight years old, it was spring, and I learned two new realities: my mother was going to have another baby and we were moving to the city, about 45 minutes away from where we lived and from everything that I knew. My, how my world changed!To say that I was in a tailspin would be an understatement. In fact, I was several years adjusting to the changes and realized much later, as an adult, that I was still working through my feelings, about what happened, and also about my response to change and moving, particularly my ability to say goodbye and to release the past as I learned to embrace the present.As an intentional interim I soon realized that if I was to minister in a healthy and effective way I had to resolve some of my own issues concerning saying goodbye, leaving, and beginning anew. While this process has involved painful moments as I have learned to accept the part of me that wants everything to stay the same, the part of me that wants to remain in control, I have learned to let it be, to accept my feelings and memories as something to be thankful for as they remain with me. I have also learned that friendships, while losing the immediacy of close contact, remain constant and are a source of ongoing support.As we learn more about ourselves and our own history regarding change, we find that we are able to help others navigate change, as individuals and as congregations.

January 24th Reflection
January 24, 2015
by Rev. Alan Mead

It began raining before I awoke, before the morning light filtered through the closed shutters. It is now mid morning and the rain continues on and off. The wind, coming off the Bay is gusty and has been growing in strength. It is the kind of day where a cozy fire and easy chair beckon.I read again in Mark’s Gospel of Jesus calling Simon and Andrew, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, and of their leaving the familiar and perhaps the comfortable to follow Jesus. In my mind I see the sun shining, perhaps a puffy cloud or two along the horizon. It is interesting to me that have never pictured this scene as overcast, brooding, or stormy.As I have watched the fishermen along our beach I have become aware of how hard and long their work is. Their hands are rough and chapped from the work and the weather. After their haul, besides separating and preparing the fish, there are long tedious tasks of cleaning and repairing nets.Powerful words, “Follow me.”Challenging words, “…and I will make you fish for people.”I have a large oil painting in my living room. It is a scene of a fishing boat with four men straining to haul in a net. The sea is active although not roiled, and the colors are more brooding than bright. The entire painting conveys a mood of laboring in the midst of obstacles, including the weather. When you make your living from the sea it is not only during the lovely, peaceful days that you fish; but also on days when hearth and fire beckon. Although we see the men straining we see nothing of a catch. There are no fish in the painting.Is fishing for people as hard as the work of fishing in the sea for fish?

And what was it like for Simon and Andrew, James and John, in the transition between choosing to follow and actually beginning to fish for people? What did they have to unlearn? What did they have to understand and adapt to this challenging new application?

May we be filled with hope and may we keep our hearts focused on that harvest yet unseen. May the God who calls us renew within us a joy in serving as we create opportunity for celebration and mission to thrive during times of transition.

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