Rev. Benton Heisler finds strength and comfort in scripture as he leaves a familiar neighborhood to “go, when and where the Bishop appoints me.”
REV. BENTON HEISLER
Director of Connectional Ministry
I begin this month’s writing with the framing Scripture you usually see as a post script at the end of each blog …
“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) Linda and I have made a commitment throughout our itinerant United Methodist ministry to “go, when and where the Bishop appoints me.” In each setting we have lived in a parsonage provided by the church.
Every move has been filled with the grief of saying “good -bye” to people who have become beloved friends and surroundings that are familiar. I knew all along that the progress of becoming a new Michigan Conference would inevitably mean some element of change for us. When I was selected to be the Director of Connectional Ministries, in one sense there was no significant change. Similar responsibilities would now be conducted across the entire state and with a wider range of colleagues and staff.
Our parsonage in Grand Rapids is just 56 miles from the Area Ministry Center. On most days, the commute is less than an hour. It is a drive I have made 2-3 times a week for the past ten years, as a variety of meetings have taken place in Lansing. Many of you commute on a daily basis that far or longer. The parsonage is in a delightful neighborhood with a forest of mixed hardwoods that provide a canopy above us and create a wildlife refuge around us. Sit quietly on the bench at the top of the hill and you can hear the brook trickling below.
We have lived here ten years and made deep friendships with the neighbors on our street and in the United Methodist congregation we attend. Our parsonage is decorated “just the way we like it.” It was easy to say, “Yes, I will live here and commute to Lansing.”
However, there was something in our spirit, for both of us, that seemed like it was the “easy way” and not necessarily the “obedient way.”
“If you make my Word your home, you will indeed be my disciples.” The messages of multiple devotional thoughts began to point clearly that, a “new appointment, in the new Michigan Conference, would also mean a new location to live and all the associated changes with it.” Letting go of the comfortable and embracing change is not without challenge, heartache or hard work. I can tell you that God has been very present in every step of the transition!
Please excuse the brevity of this month’s article, but there are walls to paint, boxes to pack, extra items to distribute and emotional self-care to address. We will not be the same when we arrive in the Lansing area in our new parsonage. Many of my wood working supplies will have been donated to Habitat. My chain saw will find few occasions in the new yard for its loud whine. One of our beloved golden retrievers died a week ago, her companion is not well either, so there may be no pets making the move. Both of our daughters and sons-in-law have moved in the last three months. Who knows if any of us will be able to find our Christmas tree stands. If you have read any of the past articles, you understand the significance of these images.
Despite all the change, there is in our spirit a deep peace and anticipation for what God holds in store for the future. So whatever change or challenge you may be facing, go to the Scriptures first and listen for God’s still small voice of guidance and grace.
“You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”