A Word from DS Laura Merrill-03/24/22

A couple of weeks ago, Rio Texas clergy gathered at Mo-Ranch in Hunt for our annual Clergy Convocation. The camp setting was gorgeous, and the agenda was designed as a retreat, with a variety of optional activities available. One of those was a zipline, and I made sure to sign up. I’ve never been on one and was glad for the opportunity.

At the appointed time, I followed “Ropes Course” signs to the meeting place at the top of a hill (in Texas we would call it a mountain 😁), along with others who had signed up. Some nice young men explained to us the safety gear and how to put it on. We got all rigged up in harnesses and helmets and walked to the site. I saw the zipline attached to a tall, telephone-type pole. No steps, no elevator. It clicked for me that “Ropes Course” meant this was not a tourist-type zipline. It was going to require some effort from me!

The young men gave us more safety instructions and showed us how this would work. To get to the launching platform, we had to climb the pole. When my turn came, the guys strapped a cable to the back of my harness, and I started up. Straight up. Two people spotted me from behind as I got going. There were little metal loops to put my feet in and grab onto with my hands, but those were spaced way farther than my 5’2” body could span easily. As I climbed, I felt new muscles called into action.

I guess I got about 3/4 of the way up the pole, when I started to question if I would actually make it. I felt with each pull up that my leg might not just stop responding, might even give way mid-push. I battled the sense that I was going to pitch off the pole, backwards. But as I stared at the wooden pole right in front of my face, a couple of things were clear: I could feel the cable holding me from behind, so I could trust I wasn’t going to fall. And I was too far up to do anything but keep going. Backwards was not an option. The thought also entered my mind that my legs had power in them that I wasn’t conscious of. So, I took some breaths, went a little slower, and made it to the top, where I had to not look down, as I scooted around the pole and onto the platform. My body shook, and my hands were raw.

When the time came to step off into thin air, I couldn’t make myself take a big leap. Instead, I think I ended up doing a lame, modified sit-down thing, sort of like a mom sliding into the swimming pool, trying to keep from getting her hair wet. But the zipline itself was glorious. The trees and sky and air, the speed—it was all very good. And the people on the ground had called out to me in encouragement and celebration, the whole time.

While I try to stay moderately active, it’s not often that I really challenge myself physically. There have been a couple of other notable occasions like this one, and each time, I’ve been blessed to come away having accomplished something that, at some point, I truly thought I wasn’t going to be able to do. It’s easy to spin this into a metaphor for doing hard things, and some do this sort of thing way more often than I do. But it does lead me to a few questions for myself:

  • When was the last time I willingly tried something new and difficult, outside my comfort zone?
  • When are some times I’ve felt support that I knew I could trust to encourage and hold me up? Where did the support come from, and how did I know to trust it?
  • Does it change my view of myself to know that I have reserves I’m not aware of? How might I be able to call upon those reserves?

The folks at TMF have been hosting a podcast series called, “Igniting Imagination.” The most recent seasons have explored what they call the “five adaptive muscles” that churches need to strengthen and flex, to respond well to God’s call upon us in this moment. The five muscles are: grieving well, discerning purpose, walking alongside, distributing power, and expanding imagination. Some people and churches are already studying this series, and I’d like to invite you to join in conversation as well. Laity and clergy are all welcome.

Look for Igniting Imagination on your podcast source; start listening and begin wondering. I’ll post conversation times on the district webpage and Facebook page.

It’s a wild and wonderful—if challenging—time to be the church. God is good, God is faithful, and by God’s grace, we can find the courage to be a little bit of both, too. As always, I’m glad to be in it with you.

Grace and peace,