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Mark’s Musings – Seeing Roadblocks as Opportunities

by | May 12, 2020 | South District Lay Leader(s) Blog

How big of a roadblock is the concept “I don’t know how”? This concept has great potential to transition into being an excellent excuse. We can’t be expected to do what we don’t know how to do. Can we?

One of my weaknesses is writing letters. This is ironic since I like writing. In a previous article I wrote about a friend in prison who I lost contact with. I was suspicious he was moved to a new prison, but I didn’t know how to confirm this. My cousin was the one who told me how to look up inmates on-line. When I looked up my friend, my suspicions were confirmed. I would like to say I hurried and wrote him a letter the same week. The truth is even when I knew his new address, it took me a few months to write the letter. I felt humbled this week when I received a letter back from my friend. He started his letter by saying: “It was a true joy to receive your letter! I have been hoping for some time now that you would write.” After living in the same prison for thirteen years and eight months, he was moved suddenly to another prison. During the move he lost my address. The part making me squirm is he was moved on December 27, 2017. In December of 2018, he was moved again.

My friend and I went to college together, in addition to both becoming ordained United Methodist pastors in the same conference. My friend is almost sixty and has another ten years to serve before he can be considered for parole. He closed his letter by saying no one from our college days, or our days serving in the Texas Conference of the UMC, writes. I’ve also lost contact with most of my college and Texas Conference friends. Over this past weekend, however, I reached out on Messenger to one of my friends who also went to the same college and was a pastor in the same conference. I wasn’t sure how he would respond when I asked him to write our mutual friend. What would he say?

Sunday morning, I received a Messenger response. I have been thinking about the opening from his response. It said: “THANKS! You bet I will! I was trying to find the information to write him for a long time and could never pin down exactly how to write him, and then I got busy, etc., excuse, rationalization, second excuse…etc.” I know exactly what he means! It is so easy to put off doing things we know would be good to do. If we just knew how…

I’m convinced most people want to grow as humans, and to do good in the world. Often times the problem is knowing what to do, and how to do it. Our intentions can be so good, and our follow-through so bad! This is part of what intrigues me about church. Church (ironically, even virtual church) is a place where we come together to grow, and to do good in the world. The combinations of people who gather (even at a distance), and the experiences they have, are fascinating! My experience is when I say “I don’t know how” at church, there always seems to be someone who can teach me how! Does the world truly know what the church has to offer?

Together we have a way of encouraging each other to achieve more than we ever thought was possible. At church we can find: preachers; teachers; coaches; mentors; builders; artists; writers; singers; actors; dancers; musicians; friends; and many more. Church is a place where it is possible to go from being the student, to the one training others. Church is also a place where we can discover a depth of spirituality we didn’t even know existed. As we learn “how”, we have the opportunity to invite others to join us.  Will we invite them? We might find they are searching for the same answers we are searching for!

Sometimes even within the church we under-estimate the value of church. This pandemic has reminded us the “church” is not the buildings. The “church” is a connection of Christian believers following a Christ who taught us the most important lessons.

Your brother on the journey, Mark

Further thoughts: In case anyone is wondering, my most recent efforts to kill the thrips (small bugs) on my African Violets seems to be working. I’m hoping I get the chance to teach someone else! As I look at future ministries after retirement,  I’m thinking about using: African Violets; classic cars (including my 1968 Mustang!); ukuleles; pottery; wood carving; blogging; motivational speaking; photography; story telling; lawn care; and coin collecting. Do you have any interests you have been thinking would make a good ministry?

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Author: Mark Conrad

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