Archive for May, 2012

I Loved the Zip Line!

May 14, 2012

Last Saturday I went to a zip line at Banning Mills, Georgia. It is a beautiful mountainous site with a rapid river below the course. I went with my 21-year-old son, Austin, who is in superb physical shape and loves adventure. I was apprehensive a bit yet eager to have the experience with him. The staff took us through all the safety steps and orientation. Then we took off. The first stop was crossing a monkey bridge, ascending a platform and hurling 80 feet by zip line to the first platform. I took a deep breath and launched out. It was exhilarating and I landed on the other side with the assistance of the staff. After that I zipped through numerous other lines concluding phase 1 with a zip line that dropped rapidly and took us back to the starting point. I landed this time with no assistance and no damage to my body.

Our first adventure was rated a  level 2 course. I had also purchased the next level because I knew my son would want more challenge, and I wanted more time swinging in the trees with him while taking in the beauty around the mills.  The first zip was about 300 feet long and my son and I raced each other on parallel lines. He won by a nose (or more…) and for me, this was a taste of heaven: cool breezes, a beautiful river below, competing with my son and feeling free as a bird.

When I made the reservation, I did not realize that this next level included a series of cable bridges connecting five tree houses above the canopy of nature. So, at my young age of 53, I launched out with a group of young adults to navigate the cables like a trapeze artist. Yes, you guessed it, the young adults joined in with my son to shake the cables and add to my stress as I gingerly walked across the precipes and zipped the lines back and forth.

Well, I survived this test and celebrated arrival at the summit.  The grand finale was a zip line through the pines that carried us back to the parking area. I had done it and thrived! Another notch off the bucket list. I would even do it again; such a great confidence builder and heart tester! Now we are discussing jumping out of an airplane. Note my words: we are “discussing” this next adventure. Yes, it will be easier said than done!

 

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SIGNS OF HOPE after General Conference 2012

May 8, 2012

Every four years delegates from the worldwide United Methodist movement meet to celebrate mission, set policies for the church and the orders of ministry, vision for future growth and determine a budget for our connection’s agencies, missionaries and leadership. This gathering was held the last two weeks in Tampa, Florida and included 984 delegates. 41% of the delegates were from outside the USA due to the dramatic growth of Methodism in Africa and Asia and the decline of our movement in this country and western Europe. There are mixed reviews on the outcome of the conference, yet I see major SIGNS OF HOPE for our movement.

The growth and maturing of the church in Africa and Asia is bringing new life and hope to all the church. For 200 years we invested in making disciples overseas. Now we are seeing the fruit of that mission and these regions are bringing a fresh, new perspective into the church. They come from area of persecution, poverty, challenge and despair. Yet they are faithful, in love with God and zealous for the kingdom. I pray their influence leads to renewal in the USA and across Europe. We desperately need to emulate their passion to reach people with the good news of Jesus and their sacrificial attitude to meet the needs of the poor, the sick and the hopeless. They are unashamed to declare and live out the Christian story.

The vision and mission at our Global Ministry board is also a reason to rejoice. The board is now headed by a former missionary from South America. There is a renewed sense of sending and receiving missionaries committed to word and deed for Christ. The board is working for the first time with other Methodist mission-sending groups like the Mission Society, instead of seeing them as competition or a problem. Our movement’s commitment to ending malaria is making a huge difference and now we can send the potential end in sight to malaria in our lifetime!

Restructuring fell short of our hopes and dreams. Yet I applaud the many ways that the delegates and agencies came together to reduce the size of the agencies and build accountability into our structures. Let this be a strong beginning on where we can go. Our movement’s strength is in our connection and shared resources of people, prayer, vision and materials. Let’s use all of these blessings for the MAIN THING: to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Only the future will reveal the wisdom of eliminating guaranteed appointments. Due to many factors the time has come for this move. Our lay people want to see more accountability and more effective leadership. We have to admit that many of our leaders stay behind the curve when it comes to creative change and fruitful leadership. Our bishops and cabinets have cried out for this change. Now let’s work with them to match gifts and graces of pastors with local church need and protect the authority of our pulpits. We live in a much different age than 50 years old and our leadership must rise to lead this movement into a new day!

The United Methodist movement remains a diverse, international and theologically rich church. If you were disappointed in any way with the conference, you can now focus on the place where real ministry truly happens: YOUR LOCAL CHURCH. Everyday your local church can touch people with the love of Christ, deliver real hope and enable precious children of God to fulfill their life purpose. We  see this everyday here at Sugar Hill and in places like the churches of downtown Atlanta, the rural fields of Iowa and the dry plains of Africa. May the Holy Spirit continue to breath new life into our movement and this denomination that God calls to be servants of the Kingdom!