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What would we do if we had the time to do whatever we wanted? It’s funny how quickly we qualify our answers with limitations. “If I had more money, I would…” “If my health was better, I would…” “If I had a college degree, I would…” “If I (fill in the blank), I would…” Knowing the limitations in our lives, and knowing the gifts and blessings in our lives, what would we do with more time?

Unlike what many people seem to think, retirement is not the preparatory step to getting ready to die. Retirement provides the possibility of broadening, and re-defining, our lives. I treasure my years of being a United Methodist pastor. Pastoring my first church at twenty-one, I have been a pastor for most of my adult life. My focus has been on how to help individuals, and churches, to grow. In retirement, I don’t think we stop having a heart for ministry. Our role, however, changes.

In recent years I’ve discovered I enjoy one-on-one mentoring. It’s hard to do much mentoring of this kind while pastoring a church. As a pastor, we are there for many people. As a mentor, we focus more on one person. In retirement, we no longer face the same expectations and time constraints. Mentoring becomes a much more realistic possibility.

Retirement also makes more time available for growing as an individual and as a disciple of Christ. For quite a while, I have found my creative side has been crying out to more fully express itself. It’s ironic how as a child/teen-ager we are exposed in school (at least back when I was a kid) to art, shop, drama, and music, while having more limited opportunities as an adult. As a kid, I was not a “natural” in any of these areas. I’m positive none of my teachers remember me! My growing interest, and some skill, has come much later in life. Unfortunately, my schedule has been so tight it has been difficult to explore the opportunities which have been available to me. I am really curious how growing some of my skills can be combined with ministry.

Do I have any specific areas of interest? I want to learn how to make things which require both skill and tools. I’m wondering about areas like silver smithing, wood-working, and I’m currently very intrigued by hydraulic presses. Our Covid-19 pandemic makes it difficult to find teachers, so I’m not sure what lessons will be available. Until I find my next “product”, I will continue to make ornaments out of drink cans. I am planning to spend time practicing my ukuleles and banjolele, though I’m still not showing much musical talent. It’s unclear to me if I will ever play for other people but playing brings a lot of joy to my soul! This last weekend I started putting on paper a plot for a book which has been simmering in my mind for years. I’ve never gotten far writing books. This might be my first one to complete a full chapter! Writing a weekly blog, along with exploring poetry, are possibilities. I am planning to take the summer off, but this fall a new blog could emerge. Yes, there is a very good chance it will be called “Mark’s Musings”!

Sometime later this year, my Mustang should be coming out of the body shop all snazzy with a new paint job. I am hoping to find a few classic car owners who want to travel together to future car shows. I’m very interested in using my car to connect with other people.

People have been asking if we are going to move. Yes, we anticipate this is going to happen sometime in 2021. The most current thought is to move to West Virginia, Virginia, or Maryland. In addition to having more time with my wife, I want to live closer to extended family. Our daughter and son-in-law live in Maryland, and any of these states would put us closer to family in Michigan. We will still have longer drives to get to family in other states, but will have more time available for trips.

All of this is to say, there is more living I want to do. As we get older, it becomes more obvious our time in this world is limited. It’s easy to have unfulfilled dreams, and to get into comfortable routines. It would have been far more comfortable for me not to retire. A year ago, while in prayer with God, I said “Too bad there isn’t a way to retire.” I clearly heard “There is a way”. When God clears a way, it is best to follow!

Your brother on the journey, Mark

Further thoughts: This past year I have been going through all of the “last” times of doing things. I am now on my last day as the South District Superintendent, and this is my last “Mark’s Musings” in this role. Thank you for letting me be in ministry with you! I hope our paths cross again in the future.

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