There are only a couple of hours left in the 2019 Special Called Session of the General Conference of the UMC. I have live-streamed most of it. I am emotionally exhausted.

This morning I picked mom up from the assisted living home to drive her to the doctor’s office. I try to be present and attentive when we’re together. But this is General Conference. This is my Church. My Church is my family too. So I confess that I live-streamed the Conference on my phone as I made the 20 minute drive with mom to the doctor’s office.

As we went through the first major intersection in town, there was a very large tractor trailer making a turn. Mom always marvels at “big trucks” and worries about how they can safely make a turn, but today she was over the top. “I have never seen a truck that long! How in the world can it change direction? I’m so glad I’m not driving that truck!” I chuckled and said, “Mom, I’m glad you aren’t driving that truck!” Then immediately my mind went to General Conference. I’ve heard back stories about strategies that different groups had going into Conference. I wondered, “Who is driving General Conference?” I felt that bottomless twinge of hopelessness. Then I paused to realize what I actually believe. “No matter who is driving General Conference, I believe the Holy Spirit is driving the Church that nurtured me, that I made vows to serve and that I intend to continue serving.” I believe that. But I don’t know what’s about to happen when the “final vote” comes. Maybe there’s a giant turn ahead? Maybe the church I know becomes two (or ten) churches? Maybe “nothing” happens (which of course means all sorts of things are happening but they are complicated and don’t make good headlines or bumper stickers.) But surely, whatever happens, this isn’t the final word, the end of a journey.

Before my train of thought went much further, mom spoke again, “Have you heard from anyone at Pittman Park?” That was the church I grew up in. Mom asks me this several times a week. She thinks it would be neat if we could go back and visit and I could preach there. It warms my heart, but we did that very thing two years ago for her birthday, she just doesn’t remember. Before I can answer her, she says, “Going back to your home church is like going to a high school reunion… at least for me, because my high school friends were so special to me and our church is like that too.” I nodded because I was crying and didn’t want her to know. My Church is special to me like that: Pittman Park UMC, Trinity UMC, Monroe First UMC, Buchanan UMC, and Philadelphia UMC in Georgia… also, Duncan Memorial UMC, St. Paul’s UMC, Mt. Vernon UMC, Front Royal UMC, and Mt. Hope UMC in Virginia. My Church is special to me and I feel a huge burden right now… a burden that we have so much further to go to be faithful in embodying Christ with Open Hearts, Open Minds, and Open Doors.

Just as I’m finishing (in my thoughts) the list of churches I’ve served or called home, mom spoke again. “Look at that beautiful Crepe Myrtle,” she exclaimed. We had one of those in Cairo, right next to the house. It was so beautiful, but we had to keep it pruned. It was a lot of work to keep it pruned.” Deep sigh. Pruning… the Church… General Conference…

Then she asked, “Tell me again where we are going?” I answered, for probably the fifth time in 10 minutes, “We’re going to the doctor.” Oh how I wish I could ask God, “Where are we going?” and receive a clear, direct, precise answer about the UMC. But this is a journey not a transaction. My friend Lauren shared a reflection this morning on Numbers 21 when Israel had left Egypt but wasn’t yet in the Promised Land. It helped to hear her words. This is a journey. And it ain’t fun. And it ain’t easy. And it ain’t pretty. But I am determined to stay on this journey, to love my neighbor, to love my enemy, and to be whom God calls me to be.

“To the doctor?” mom asked. “Tell me more about him? How old is he? Is he single?” And I laughed out loud, through huge tears. I wasn’t sure if the tears were from my sadness and pain from the past three days of Conferencing or from the joyful, honest abandon that Mom now lives in. Oh, it felt good to laugh. Mom laughed too. “You’ve met him before, Mom. I don’t know if he’s single, but he’s a lot younger than me, just so you know!” Then she laughed too. And we laughed and laughed. And I cried as I laughed, but then we laughed some more.

I’m posting this before the final “vote” comes in. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next few hours. I am deeply concerned for my Church. But once again, mom helped me today. She reminded me that no matter what happens, I’m not driving the big, long, truck called the UMC. Neither is General Conference. Yeah, General Conference might affect the journey, might take us down a very wrong path, but ultimately, I trust that Someone greater is driving and will take us to our destination, even if we forget where we are going. She reminded me that we all need pruning. She reminded me that it’s ok to ask questions when we aren’t sure. And… she reminded me that it’s ok just to speak what’s on my mind and my heart.

By the way, the doctor’s appointment went really well. For the first time in two months, mom is allowed to put weight on her right foot. The physical therapist came today and spent extra time with her. She sent an incredibly positive text predicting good days ahead for mom. My prayer is that soon my Church will be up and walking again too. There is so much to do. Stand up, UMC, and walk!

3 thoughts on “Stand Up, UMC, and Walk!

  1. What’s driving the changes, blocking the way? Who’s in the driver’s seat for the church, for our lives, for concerns small enough for an elderly foot and large enough to affect a group of worshippers around the world? Your blog always gives a reader so much to think about!

    Liked by 1 person

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