The Rev. Benton Heisler calls pondering life alone with God in your favorite workshop a home improvement project. “We are living in that tension of the Kingdom of God being both here and now … This is not our eternal home.”
Director of Connectional Ministries
The workbench in my garage was my great grandfather’s. It is cracked, oil-stained, perforated with multiple size drill bit holes, from the day “the children” were left alone while others drove the buggy to town. The height is too short to be comfortable for me to work on, so wheels and a discarded countertop now bring it to a useful level. I never met my Great Grandfather Shively, but I knew his daughter, her husband, and their son, my dad. Lessons I learned while visiting that farm, fixing projects in his workshop on that bench, and hearing stories of faith and friends helped formed my early spiritual life and an appreciation for “leaving the world better than you found it.” (Grandma’s homemade ice cream left an impression as well!)
I still have my great grandfather’s hand crank drill, auger bits, and their wooden case along with some other items from that mid to late 1800s agricultural era. The 6’ long two-person crosscut saw we sharpened on that bench now hangs above it. The memory of using it that day in the woods with my father and grandfather are a treasured recollection. My tools of choice now are Dewalt cordless and Stihl. Same tasks — building, repairing, and creating a source of heat — but new skills are necessary, and new knowledge of their distinct techniques and component parts is essential.
Each time I use one of those old tools, memories return, and I am reminded of my small place in a much longer legacy of adventure, hope, faith, and family. Times are markedly different now than when my German-born ancestors first arrived in the Dakotas and then finally settled in northern Indiana. I realize the land on which they prospered once was the home of Potawatomi Indians who were displaced as “progress” moved west in the early 1800s. I now understand that our family was a beneficiary of the systemic racism at work in that century.
The above paragraphs were from the first blog I wrote on September 8, 2009. There is a poignancy to their appropriateness as I compose my final blog in this role as Director of Connectional Ministries in September of 2020.
Through these years, I consistently strived to help us focus, as a conference and in our congregations, on the mission of the Church, “Making Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World.” I firmly believe the statement in our Book of Discipline and have seen the fruit, “the local congregation is the most significant arena for making of disciples.” I offered encouragement, inspiration, prophetic challenges, along with reflections, ideas, best practices, and “new” tools. The congregations we serve and ministries we support have long predated most of us. The songs are different, sermon illustrations have an “expiration date” for younger generations, and few, if any, of us travel to church in a buggy with a warm soapstone under the wool blanket. So why do we still have some congregations only a buggy ride apart from each other? (A question for the next generation of leaders to address.)
There is a plaque I removed from my office shelves as I packed up the books and mementos. It was given to me by the first Disciple Bible Study I led. It says simply, “If you make my word your home, you will indeed be my disciple.” (John 8:31 The New Jerusalem Bible)
Time spent alone with God pondering scripture in your favorite reading chair, or pondering life with God alone in your favorite “workshop” are both home improvement projects. It was that belief that inspired me to title these 100 plus articles “Homewords Bound.” We are living in that tension of the Kingdom of God being both here and now, while still yet to be. This is not our eternal home.
The depth of our relationship with God (Wesley’s personal holiness) is the foundational element to our capacity to accomplish any of the justice (Wesley’s social holiness), which seems so elusive in our current culture. So often, the chant is “no justice, no peace.” I repeat the phrase I offered last month, “No Jesus, No Justice; Know Jesus and Know So Much More!” My prayer is that in some small way, I have helped somebody grow closer in their relationship with God or meet God for the first time as they encounter Jesus in a very real way, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Only our capacity to be as Christlike as possible, see Jesus in others and greet them as a friend is what will truly change the world. Thank you for the opportunity to have served with you all on this journey to our wholeness in Christ.