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Weary? Advice from another Bishop

May 15, 2019

So you’re a little bit older and a lot less bolder
Than you used to be
So you used to shake ’em down
But now you stop and think about your dignity
So now sweet sixteen’s turned thirty-one
You get to feelin’ weary when the work days done

— Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band

There are many different kinds of weariness. Bob Seger sang about one several years ago. 

Then there’s another, more profound type of weariness. Maybe you know this one better these days.

Kenneth Carter is another United Methodist Bishop, not to be confused with the Bishop quoted here yesterday, Ken Carder. He wrote this yesterday; the  highlights are again mine, trying to save time for some —

I meet many, many people, especially leaders in the church who tell me that they are weary. Weary of division. Weary of the difficult nature of the work. Weary of the way leadership sometimes makes them a target. Weary of uncertainty.

I am with you in the weariness. And I have given some thought lately to what is at the core of this weariness, and what I am finding to be helpful. Not that I have discovered the secret of life here. But the way I am at least living with the condition of weariness.

So, my short list.

1. I am finding it helpful simply to reflect on what is going on, as I teach and preach, and not to avoid it. I do hope to get some of this out publicly, as I can finish the revisions and edits, but one occasion was a talk to our M-Lab group, another a reflection with the UMC chancellors, another the opening sermon with the Council of Bishops. I am working on a talk with our clergy session and the ordination sermon of the Florida Conference. I find the process of trying to integrate what is happening with scripture and tradition to be therapeutic to me. I hope it is helpful to others.

2. Searching not for balance, but fun in the midst of it all. I would not describe my life as balanced. I imagine the same is true for you. Some days begin at 5:30 a.m. (remember our church is present in many time zones across the world). But I have learned to schedule something fun in the midst of it all. Last week was one of the more professionally challenging settings in my life, leading a group of 100+ bishops who speak multiple languages, who have different visions of how the church can be faithful, and who imagine many different ways of using our time most wisely. We made it through. There will be some good fruit. And in those seven days I also saw the Cubs and Marlins at Wrigley Field, went on the architectural boat tour of Chicago and visited Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and studio, all with Pam. If you are weary, I recommend scheduling something fun. This summer I will spend a weekend with my sister and brother. And this weekend I will hang out with a little girl named Paige!

3. Do constructive work even in the midst of the uncontrollable and uncertain. During the Way Forward process I invested fifty days in meetings, with some of the most passionate leaders of our denomination, across the whole spectrum. And this was in addition to a full-time job. Many from the commission continue the work. Some of them do it full time. I do not. I am involved in the work, but have found that I need to focus also, in a both/and way, on work that is building something for the future. If I know the world would come to an end tomorrow, the wisdom has it, I would plant an apple tree today. We plant trees that will provide shade for those who will come after us. And so tomorrow I will lead a retreat for those I will have the privilege of ordaining in three weeks. The next day I will speak to our large church pastors. And in a couple of weeks I will speak to our summer staff at Warren Willis Camp. We are planning a fall M-Lab primarily for laity, and also a fall day apart for clergy on resilience.

4. I know I am writing and you are reading this on digital media, but mastering social media is simply a must. More often than not FB and Twitter adds to the weariness. There are trolls. There is negativity. There are people who seem to be living the dream that we are not. There is misplaced anger. There is political despair, and lack of boundaries, and I could go on. And it does. So, I try to contribute to the social media but not become a monitor of it. It is like a stream that flows by. I love seeing the faces of friends and their lighter side. I rejoice when they rejoice and mourn when they mourn. But social media is not my church, political party, soap opera or family. A practice I recommend–try taking the first and last hours of your day without looking at an electronic device. Then increase that over time. There are many good alternatives. I have found that this helps to reduce the weariness.

5. Lastly, recognize that we are in an in-between time. There is no quick fix to our denominational divisions, or our national divisions for that matter. And if we divided in some way, or moved to another country, the basic human behaviors that have us hooked would simply follow us to wherever. Do you imagine that there is some pure form of church or politics that exists apart from the fallen and unredeemed human nature that is everyone of us? We might as well work on it now, where we are.

So if you are weary, you are awake, and you are living fully in the moment. Ask someone you trust–a friend, maybe your spouse, or a professional–to help you. We will all figure this out in a slightly different way. This is what I am finding to by my way.

Thanks for reading and blessings to you!

— Thank YOU for writing, Bishop, and God’s richest blessings to you as well..

And thank YOU, yes, YOU right there, for reading and commenting in whatever way works for you. Always love hearing from you. Always.

It’s an honor being in ministry with you.

 

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2 Comments
  1. Christine Sarah Lippert permalink

    I mean, could he please do something with his time?! (i am tired just from reading all his endeavors)
    Amen to this “So if you are weary, you are awake, and you are living fully in the moment.” I we aren’t reacting in some way, do we care? His bold comments are all good advice for all of us. Thanks for sharing Joe!

    Like

  2. Excellent advice. It sure feels like a weary season. Thanks for sharing Kenneth Carter’s blog.

    Like

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