My SHAPE: Nothing Is Wasted

May 22, 2014

As [Jesus] walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him. (Matthew 4:18-22)

When Jesus bid his soon-to-be disciples, “Follow Me,” they dropped their nets and came alongside the itinerant preacher from Galilee. That was some invitation! Suddenly, nothing was more important to these fishermen than staying in close proximity to Jesus of Nazareth. They had demonstrated skills at fishing, though this would be sorely tested and Jesus would be proven superior at the sport (Luke 5:4-11). Nevertheless, when Jesus beckoned, their fishing ability became an item on their resumés, and a new work path unfolded before them. They would be called upon to transfer their fishing prowess to “fishing for people.”

I feel like that is happening to me. My experiences as musician, full-time pastor, Presbyterian activist, and academician have shaped me, but in order to follow Jesus I must put down those nets and “fish for people” another way. Redirecting the gifts and skills God has given, I believe that it is time for me to embrace the discipline and ministry of writing as my primary focus. Perhaps I have mentioned before that I have maybe four books in my brain waiting to come out, and at this stage in life it seems right to make that endeavor a priority.

Writing requires quiet time alone, and I have proven in the last few years that I can function productively while working by myself (and know how to get people-contact when I need it). From a personality standpoint, as well as the cancer experience this year that radically quieted my life, thoughtful reflection has become a necessary part of my routine. The affirmation of friends and responses to my blogs have suggested that a potential readership exists beyond my classroom or pulpit reach; in other words, writing books can expand my ministry of teaching to a wider audience. Such a lifestyle switch is also an acknowledgment that any sort of administration-laden “church job” would feel confining and diverting from my call.

Having made the case for writing, I also realize how important it is for me to interact with people at a deep level. The daily visits of friends, my “helping hands” during my cancer treatment, not only met this need but also became the context for examining ideas, making disciples, and “exegeting people” with whom I wish to communicate. Not only does this regular fellowship test my thoughts, but it also exercises me spiritually. For this reason, I want to maintain some kind of pastoral practice in the faith community. A part-time contract at a local church is in the works, as I feel ready to emerge from my medical leave and resume my public service.

Saying “yes” to these two core activities—writing and part-time pastoral service—means saying “no” to other activities. After cheering on the Presbyterian Renewal Network’s advisory team going to Detroit for the PC(USA) General Assembly in June, I will retire from denominational activism. Ramping into that decision, I will not be going to Detroit personally, in order to maintain my pulmonary rehab and to avoid absorbing the spiritual toxicity so prevalent in these meetings. [Hasn’t my body taken in enough toxicity—chemo and radiation—this year?]

The life change I undergo does not in any way render my past experiences or my present skills as irrelevant, wasted, or misguided. In fact, I truly believe that nothing is wasted in God’s economy! It will be interesting to see how my history feeds my present calling and ministry effectiveness. However it all comes out, my desire is that you would be edified and my Lord would be glorified. Hold me to that, will you, dear reader?

9 Responses to “My SHAPE: Nothing Is Wasted”

  1. emd5542 Says:

    The road less traveled is becoming a major Rev Mary thoroughfare. From God’s mouth to your ear, you are hearing the Word anew and you must preach it in all viable venues. Not surprised but absolutely delighted so I’m cheering you on. In the Joy of the Lord, Eleanor

  2. Mary, Your presentation here (as always) is logical. May God bless you as you proceed to this next step in your journey.

  3. Rogene Baxter Says:

    Oh good! You mean I don’t have to nag you anymore about writing “the book”? LOL

  4. Sandi Hartley Says:

    I look forward to reading your blog. You have so many great thoughts. I am glad you will be putting them into books. Blessings!

  5. houstonhodges Says:

    That will surely be an extension of the Ministry of the Word, dear Mary. You write so well — but that only describes the net you’re called to employ. Knowing what to write about is Work of the Spirit, and you’ve shown great receptiveness to that as well (with a whack or two along the way to make sure you’re still listening). Go for it.

  6. Jason Huff Says:

    Catha and I will miss having the opportunity to see you come to our adopted home, but I will be looking for your works with pleasure!

  7. L. Lee Says:

    “For all that has been THANK YOU, for all that is to come….YES!”
    Dag Hammarskjold in Markings

  8. L. Lee Says:

    it is easy to think that God has taken you out of the arena
    and put you in the spectator stands.
    I prefer to think of you as being promoted to Coach!
    W e need a coach who knows the truth about how to play
    the game effectively because YOU have been there. you have been talking with the Team Owner!
    You can share your valuable insight and help us represent the
    Team Owner rightly in all God has for us to do.
    Thanks for saying YES. You are valuable to God’s will!

  9. Cindy J Says:

    Well spoken my friend… new seasons are the most challenging, yet the most rewarding as we see the path the Lord is leading us to and through.

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