By Judy Zabel
Ash Wednesday is just around the corner. Many of our Catholic brothers and sisters (and those who come out of that tradition) are thinking right now about what they will give up for Lent. I've always thought that it would be good if we would give up those things that hinder our relationship with God and each other AND take up some new practice which draws us closer to God and one another.
A few weeks ago, the Cabinet went to Nashville for training in adaptive leadership. I learned that I need to do a better job listening, asking questions, and giving work back to church leaders so they can make adaptive changes that will change the overall culture of the church instead of quickly moving to problem-solving mode to put a quick fix into place that will not really solve the underlying issue at hand. Adaptive leadership is not my strong suit. I must confess (and many of you already know) that I really like to jump in and problem solve. My bad! For those of you who have experienced this, my deepest and sincere apologies. I ask you for forgiveness. Truly, deep down inside, I really do know that I don't have all the answers but sometimes my mouth moves ahead of my heart where this deep truth resides.
So, for these forty days of Lent, I am committed to really working hard to start a new habit of listening deeply and asking questions. I will try to form a new habit of listening instead of speaking and I will pray for God's strength in sticking to this beyond the forty days of Lent. It won't be easy. It is working against years of habits that are second nature to me. But habits can be overcome. God is good all the time and I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Please hold me accountable to this new spiritual discipline because my desire is to build trust and to learn from you. You are gracious teachers. Thank you for being patient with me.
I suspect each one of us has something that we know has become our shadow side. It is that tendency or habit that trips us up as we are running the race that is set before us. I don't know what yours is but I do know we are not alone. We do not run this race alone and though we stumble and fall, God is always ready and willing to pick us up again so that we continue on, forgiven and freed. Every morning IS Easter morning. Maybe this is why Martin Luther said that the Sundays during Lent are little Easters. Who could endure six weeks of Lent without those Sabbath Easters?
I am praying for each one of you and for your congregations. You are incredibly gifted leaders, both lay and clergy. I appreciate the many hours you invest in moving Christ's church forward. Thank you. Ministry has so many joys but there are also some very real difficulties too. Don't ever give up. God is with us and our best days are still ahead of us if we are willing to put our trust in God and move forward boldly. Please call me if you need encouragement. I will listen.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church