The Rev. Benton Heisler finds spiritual meaning in his life-long practice of throwing things.
REV. BENTON HEISLER
Director of Connectional Ministries
One of the best features of warmer weather is the opportunity to be in my garage and work on projects that I couldn’t touch in the cold of winter. Pawing through some stuff, I came across an old rain gauge that has been in a box for the past couple of moves. Seeing it triggered a memory from my teen years.
I was a high school baseball pitcher. Years of throwing things had finally found a useful outlet. My parents would occasionally tell the story of me standing up in my highchair about to heave a ½ ear of sweetcorn across the kitchen. Why, not?!! I had just been at my grandparents’ farm and that is exactly what I had seen my grandfather do. (Well not in the kitchen, but to the pigs in the pen.) I could spend hours on a beach throwing stones at a stick floating in the waves or the bobbing dish soap bottle I was using as a target.
I don’t know what I was thinking that winter day. The snow was perfect for packing and with my arm limbered up having just nailed the side of tree with multiple snow ball tosses, I was looking for new targets. Suddenly my eyes focused on the rain gauge mounted to the top of the clothesline across the yard. It was a good 75-100 feet away…what were the chances? In shorter time than it takes to hit the keystrokes to write about it, that snow ball sailed across the yard. A perfect strike! Gone from the post was the rain gauge. Oh shoot! What was I thinking? I had bought that for my dad for Christmas a few years earlier. Now it was demolished.
I remembered confessing immediately and my paper route profits that week were diminished by the price of a new gauge. First lesson learned: our spontaneous choices can have long lasting and sometimes irreversible consequences.
I realize that the big United Methodist news story this week is related to the Report of the Commission on the Way Forward and the bishops’ actions related to this report. I am choosing to have Bishop Bard have the guiding words for us regarding the implications this report and the actions the 2019 General Conference may take.
My specific task as the Director of Connectional Ministries is outlined in the Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church to be the “keeper of the Conference Vision.” We are moving forward as the new Michigan Conference riveted on that vision of Developing Christ Centered Bold and Effective Leaders; Experiencing Christ Centered Vibrant Congregations; and transforming the world through Christ Centered Missions and Ministries.
In just a few weeks we will gather together for Annual Conference. The days will be filled with inspiring worship, instructive presentations and, I pray, heartfelt, kind and fruitful legislative deliberations. Creative options for interactions with new friends abound as well as ample opportunities for private reflection or field trips and meals in the Native American United Methodist ministry sites near-by. Important conversations will take place in formal and informal contexts that will reflect upon the three options the Commission on the Way Forward has outlined and the Bishop’s emphasis of the “One Church” model. I encourage us to not have those conversation be our singular focus.
There are exciting ministries happening in a variety of congregations which are reaching people with the message of the Gospel. There are significant steps being taken to address the human needs left behind after the Flint Water Crises, the Midland Floods and the hurricanes across Puerto Rico and the southern tier of states. New staff positions are beginning on July 1 that are designed to strengthen ministries in local congregations in the areas of ministries with children, young adults, lay leadership development and improving our multi-cultural competency. These staff come alongside the focus we have already made in the areas of youth, justice ministries, and congregational vibrancy. New faith communities are being established, camping ministries are ready and waiting for the summer’s flow of disciple-making experiences for children, youth and adults. Vacation Bible Schools will again bring the message of Christ to thousands of children through story, song, activities and new relationships.
So here is the second “snowball fight lesson.” Don’t focus on the big, slow lob headed right toward you. You see I developed a great “snowball fight strategy.” Get three or four balls packed and ready to fire. Lob one as a high looping toss that is on the mark and cause the opponent to take their eyes off you and focus on the looping toss. As they look high then fire the fast and hard ones straight at them.
When does a snow ball fight end? When somebody gets hurt or something gets broken. Neither really seems to be a “victory.”
You see that is my greatest concern. I pray we do not take our eyes off the primary task of “Making disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World.” Disciple making and world transformation are both complicated, strategic and life changing. That is the greatest gift we can offer the world. We are in countless places with a capacity to influence millions of people. The world needs the healing message the Hope of the Gospel brings. Too many people have turned their eyes away from God are being wounded by the “fast and hard” elements of life surprising them. “Fast and hard” challenges come at us every day, but with our eyes focused upon the power, grace, and love of God in Jesus Christ, we receive the wisdom to know how to step aside and dodge the threat or the strength to turn, let the challenge only graze us and we move on wiser.
While I put up that newly found rain gauge early one Spring morning, I was serenaded by the array of birds that frequent the forest around us. A lot was on my mind…. The Scripture came quickly to me; ”Don’t be anxious about anything. Consider the birds of the air…God cares for them. God will care every bit as much about you.” (Matthew 6: 26-34)
I’m not sure I will teach my grandson my snow ball fight technique. Somebody always gets hurt or something gets broken. I do plan to teach him as much Scripture as possible so he can hide those truths in his heart and the Holy Spirit can bring them to his mind at just the right moments.
~ “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 Scripture passage. I pray that these reflections, stories and information will assist you in your own witness and service as a Disciple of Jesus Christ.