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Posted by: Brad Miller11/7/2007 3:18 PM
Greetings on this crisp fall day!
Yesterday I had one of those experiences at the office that, while small and seemingly insignificant, made me feel, however briefly, like I was in control of things. Let me explain:

Our new administrative assistant, Ruth Luckett, has been with us since Thursday November 1st and has already shown herself to be a nice addition to our staff. She has been working with Nichole Woodward to learn the computer software we use here; with Judy Mowrey to learn about office procedures and tasks; and with Chris Brooks to become more familiar with our website and how to maintain it. A lot has already been thrown at her and she has handled it all with good humor and grace.

Yesterday afternoon however, something suddenly was amiss. While attempting to update the prayer list on our website, she was suddenly unable to complete the task and the computer was denying her access to the program she needed. I tried to bring it up on my computer, and when I did, the prayer list was gone! Nowhere to be found! Vanished into thin air! Both Nichole and Ruth assured me that they hadn’t done anything different and couldn’t figure out what was going on. I think I speak for both of them when I say that once again, we felt handcuffed and held captive by the very technology that is supposed to make our lives so much easier. Yeah, right.

So, I decided to turn my pitiful computer knowledge loose on the problem. Lo and behold, I was able to figure out who had access to the system and in what capacity. Ruth’s account was there, but didn’t match what she had used before. But by using her e-mail address, Ruth was able to find her password and get logged on. First problem solved. Now, what about that pesky prayer list.

I rummaged around in the “administrator” mode for awhile and found a button called “refresh” on the prayer list and tentatively clicked it. Bingo! There was the missing prayer list in it’s entirety! When I logged out and logged back in, it came up just like it should. When Ruth logged in, she was able to accomplish her task and I walked away feeling on top of the world. We had faced a problem and solved it! We had seen the fruits of our labor and accomplished something!

So why did this make me feel so good?

Before I entered into ministry, a good bit of the work I did was “black and white”. Success was identifiable and concrete. Failure was just as identifiable. As a truck driver, success meant completing my appointed rounds with the various parts of my cargo being delivered to the correct vendor without damage. As a store manager, the profit and loss statement told it all. As the grievance officer for a union local, success meant resolving the grievance to the satisfaction of both sides without having to go to an outside arbitrator. Sitting before an arbitrator was a failure for everyone in a system and allowed decisions to be made by someone with no stake in the issue. As a teacher, student performance helped me gauge how I was doing. As a minister, however, those concrete, identifiable markers are very hard to come by.

Should we count numbers of members as the measure of success? Number of people in worship? Number of new visitors? How much offering is taken up? But do any of these get at the spiritual development of members? Do they tell us how we are growing in our faith? I can certainly sense when someone is developing and growing and feeling more confident on their faith journey, but as the saying goes, “I know it when I see it.” But define it concretely? Well that’s another thing altogether. The success of the church is something that we can feel, but concrete identification can be a very slippery concept.

But that’s okay. Because that is the nature of our journey. Sometimes people come to church when they are hurting and the church does it’s best to be there for the person, to nurture them, to welcome them into the fellowship. And then, just as suddenly as they appeared, they disappear. That doesn’t mean we have failed. It means we have done what we know we are supposed to do, and now must trust to God that the person will come across someone else who might continue to reach out, and that ultimately, they find the peace they need in God’s grace. Even in our own faith journey, we may question if we are doing the right thing, if ultimately we are honoring God with our actions. But, in faith, we gather with members of our faith community and do our best to understand where God is leading us and move forward as best we can.

In short, the Christian life is one where we have lots of questions, lots of unresolved dilemmas, lots of unsolved riddles. Every once in a while I think I have figured it all out, and then, 10 more questions come up! And I just laugh to myself and say thank you to God for giving me the faith to live without all the answers, without solving all the problems. I thank God for showing me that I am not ultimately in control. I thank God for loving me enough to allow me to seek out those answers and solutions. Because in the end, with God’s grace, I will get it right.

But every once in a while, it’s nice to accomplish something concrete, like gaining control of the computer with my superior intellect and knowledge. Because let’s be honest: it may never happen again!

Announcements:
Please give Chris Brooks a big “Thank You” for his great work on the website. While there is more to come, the new site is remarkably easy to update, navigate and manage. In fact, go to it today! To get this week’s prayer list and calendar, go to www.brookhavenchristian.org and when you see my smiling face and scroll down, you will see the calendar. Look to the right and click on the “prayer list” link to access the updated prayer list. The prayer list will be updated every time the office gets notice of new request, so it may be a site you want to visit often. While you’re there, get to know the whole web site a bit by navigating through the site. Lots of good info there!

There will be a Congregational Meeting this Sunday immediately after worship. There are two major items to be voted on: the nominations for officers, elders and deacons for 2008 and the budget for 2008. Please make every effort to attend.

Plan ahead: November 18 will be a big day:
First, remember to bring canned goods and produce for our “Procession of Bounty” at the beginning of worship. All food will be used by the Tweens to put together Thanksgiving baskets for the families of the Interfaith Outreach Home.
Second, along with celebrating Thanksgiving Sunday, we will be celebrating Campbell-Stone Sunday as we honor the ministry, staff and residents of the Campbell-Stone Christian Centers during worship.
Third, that day will be a Fellowship Pot Luck Luncheon! Since we may have some guests from Campbell-Stone maybe we could all plan on bringing just a little bit more than normal to share.

Please welcome our new administrative assistant, Ruth Luckett. For the present time she is working on Tuesdays and Thursdays and that will expand in the future. Give her a call, stop by, introduce yourself and let her know how happy we are to have her with us. She is an active member of St. James United Methodist Church but has expressed a desire to visit with us soon on a Sunday morning to get to know us even better.

I am looking forward to seeing each of you this Sunday as we once again celebrate the Lord’s Day together! The sermon is entitled “The Big Ten” and the scripture is Exodus 20:1-17. Have a great rest of the week!

Be peaceful,
Brad
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