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Home Words Bound

Rev. Benton Heisler talks about the nature of the creative process … of furniture and an annual conference.

Director of Connectional Ministries, West Michigan Conference

Rev. Benton Heisler
Rev. Benton Heisler

I have a sign in our three-season porch that hangs in the back of a hutch I constructed from old barn siding.  It reads, “Anything worth doing is worth doing right.”  My father would often add, “…because if you don’t do it right the first time, when will you have time to do it over?”  There is some great truth to that sentiment, at the same time we worship God in Christ who is filled with second chances and experiences of Grace.

Those who know me best know that I have a passion for restoration.  I am consistently on the watch for things that are about to be discarded that could perhaps be repaired, refinished or repurposed.  This is driven by a core value of a stewardship for resources and making the most of all that God has already provided.  My efforts focus not only on things but people.  I hold the importance of education as another core value that guides my decisions.  I consistently ask, “Why?”  I want to learn and in turn I desire to share what has been learned with others.

These two values clashed this summer as I worked for over 15 hours over the course of several weeks to remove decades of old varnish and stain, paint, burns and scrapes from a turn of the 1900’s table found at a Habitat Re-Store. (See photo left.)  My use of a new-found soy bean oil base stripper greatly improved my “ecology safe” approach to this often toxic work.  A new found combination stain and varnish product seemed like the answer to that tedious work of “stain, wait for the days of drying, then several coats of varnish.”
table-comboJuly 3, the first coat went on perfect.  I followed the steps on the can.  July 4, I applied the second coat….Disaster! It spread out like oil on water. (See photo right).

It was two months later before I was finally able to bring myself to begin again to the repeat of all the stripping, cleaning, sanding over Labor Day weekend.  A couple of days ago I took the newly prepped table and leaves to “a professional” for their final stain and varnish touch.  Failure?  Maybe.  A moment of education?  Absolutely.  The time, expertise and climate control context needed for this project were more than I had available.  I asked the “professional” why he thought this failed.  His explanation made sense.

We have been in the process of creating a new Michigan Area United Methodist Conference in place of the West Michigan and Detroit conferences for over 30 years.  It was this fourth vote in 2015 that opened the path for us to truly move toward this ultimate new reality.  Were the other attempts, failures? Maybe.  Were they opportunities for education?  Absolutely!  The more than two dozen persons who are part of the Design Team have been bringing their most creative ideas and committed passion to bear on the details necessary for this creation.  Three dozen more persons as part of the Cabinet, finance, trustee, pensions and health benefits teams have been giving their attention to the significant details necessary as we envision a new future.

During September and October the Conference Leadership Teams and conference and district staff will have opportunities to review and comment on various elements of the design process.  In November the Bishop and Design Team will post this material to the web site,  and provide four sessions across the state as opportunities for your interaction and feedback:

  • Saturday, November 12,   2016   10 A.M. – Noon,   Marquette Connection Center, 927 W. Fair Ave.  Marquette, MI 49855;
  • Thursday, November 17, 2016   7 P.M. – 9 P.M.,  Cornerstone UMC, 1675 84th St. SE,  Caledonia, MI 49316 (Live stream online event).  Details for how to follow this event online will be posted on our Michigan Area website;
  • Saturday, November 19,  2016  10 A.M. – Noon, Hope UMC, Southfield 26275 Northwestern Hwy Southfield, MI 48076;
  • Tuesday, January 17, 2017  7 PM – 9 PM,  Michigan Area Ministry Center 1051 Northcrest Road, Lansing, MI 48906.  This will be a webinar with room for guests to join us in person and/or room for 100 sites/persons to join us online.

To date, our work has been done as representative groups, designing on behalf of the entire state of United Methodists.  The next phase is an opportunity for all of you to confirm and refine the progress to date.  Before this work goes to the 2017 Annual Conference for its final actions, we all have an opportunity to offer our ideas for improvement, affirm the vision that has been cast and review the details that have been cared for to date.

table-combo2I have had other furniture projects go well and the transformation was profound as the photos of this old yellow table display. (Top photo-Before; Bottom photo-After.)  I could focus on the mistakes and failures, but that only brings further disappointment.  I choose to see them as education by Grace along the way.  Like my table project, as a Michigan Area we have needed to remove some old layers and begin again.  Learning from our past experiences and building upon the treasure of human, financial and property resources, what God has provided to us has been essential.

The Apostle Paul phrased it this way: Finally, my friends, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

“Truth, Honor, Justice, Purity, Love, Grace, Excellence and Praise” these are some foundational elements that will serve us well for the coming decades of a new Conference.


Rev. Benton R. Heisler

If you make my Word your home, you will indeed be my disciples.  You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.
(John 8:13 New Jerusalem Bible) Each article I write for this column is based in the guidance of a particular Scripture passage. I trust these reflections and information will assist you in your own witness and service as a disciple of Jesus Christ.


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