Summer is a great time to catch up on some reading, and during this season I try to read material that I might not normally get to in the course of a year. As I write, I’m in the middle of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, which is a bit pessimistic to say the least. On the other hand, I’ve enjoyed a book by Gordon Goldsborough, entitled Abandoned Manitoba: From Residential Schools to Bank Vaults to Grain Elevators,
mainly because of its historical pieces on various places in Manitoba. The province of Manitoba isn’t that old, but lots has happened here since its formal inception in 1870. As a bonus, the book has a lot of pictures to keep one interested. It’s a picture book for adults, if you will.
I’ve also got an odd habit of reading commentaries, and though I am currently reading one on Jeremiah, I worked through 1, 2, and 3 John earlier this summer. John has a lot of interesting things to say, and it’s interesting to me that even though he had lived experience with Jesus, he too would have trouble in his church. The development of the early church, especially in its infancy, was precarious, and John had to write letters to combat certain beliefs and heretics. He was pastoral in his writings—clearly caring for his flock—but also wrote firmly against those who sought to harm the church and to draw people away from its teachings. He certainly had some interesting things to say about hospitality, like when to rescind it, and continued to write harshly against his opponents.
In this midst of these themes, there are two more pieces from his letters that I find especially appropriate for our time. John talks specifically about God as love. This imagery should be first and foremost in our minds when we think about God. If you’re like me, you may well have suspicions that God isn’t always pleased with your behavior, that God might be hard to relate to because of some of the stories we see in the Old Testament. John reminds us that God is love, that we can know what God is like by looking to Jesus—the most profound and vulnerable expression of love imaginable. And knowing Jesus, we know that we are loved presently and in the age to come. It’s a very encouraging read.
But another theme is clear and repeated at the end of 2 and 3 John. In 2 John, he writes, “I have much more to say to you, but I don’t want to do it with paper and ink. For I hope to visit you soon and talk with you face to face. Then our joy will be made complete.” Similarly, in 3 John, he writes, “I have much more to say to you, but I don’t want to write it with pen and ink. For I hope to see you soon, and then we will talk face to face.” John was clear that he preferred face-to-face meetings, and I imagine that many of us can relate to those feelings as restrictions from COVID are lifted.
I know my calendar is starting to fill with some celebration events for churches. Commissioning services and ordination services will be held again, and I look forward to being a part of those. But I also look forward to the conversations over coffee—those times of connecting with folks to catch up on how things are going in ministry, how life is treating them, and how their souls are faring as more change is on the way. I also look forward to seeing my colleagues again, to catch up on our work together, but also be able to stay after a meeting for a bit to share a laugh with someone or to make sure they’ve been heard. The pandemic has been difficult, and it has
also given opportunities to cherish. Yet now, as hope builds that more and more we will be able to be with each other in person, I look forward to seeing folks I haven’t seen in quite a while. To paraphrase John, “I have more to say to you, but I don’t want to type it and I don’t want to do it via Zoom. I hope to see you soon, and then we will talk face to face.”
Retired but not Tired!
Wendy Thom has been a part of Shoal Lake Baptist Church since 1988. In 2006, she became the pastor of the church, was ordained in 2011, and retired in 2020. Here are some reflections from her time in ministry.
Well, here I am, retired but not tired of serving my Lord and Saviour! I didn’t realize how hard it would be to retire; my emotions have been all over the map. At first, I was excited. I could see God’s answers to my prayers, but then I started to hyperventilate…lol! I kept saying, “How did I get this old, this fast?” No one seemed to be able to give me an answer!
I know it was time and I know it was God’s time—this is not the end. Rather than being dead and buried, God has planted me for a new beginning, a new season, stirring me up so I don’t get root bound, drawing me closer to His heart of love.
God is so amazing, and as I have often preached at the PCH’s, as long as you have breath. God has something for you to do! Don’t give up, look up and bloom/serve the Lord wherever He plants you.
The words in the book of Esther—“for such a time as this”— have always been very meaningful to me, and especially so as I served the Lord as pastor. I am still amazed at how the Lord led me into the ministry and I have always prayed that He would also show me clearly when it was time to step down.
Over the last two years, I have prayed specifically about when God would want me to retire as I zoomed past 65. I asked the Lord for clear direction; that I would KNOW when it was His time and that He would provide for the church as well as for me. As most of you know, it is very hard to find part time pastors for small country churches!
My personal concern was having to find a new church. Generally, when a pastor retires, they leave the church because it is easier for the incoming pastor. I have been a member of Shoal Lake Baptist since 1988. I used to joke that I had held every position except the pastor 🙂
God has answered all my concerns in amazing ways! I wanted to share part of that journey with you. In the last couple of years, God kept giving me a couple of verses. They showed up randomly in my devotional times. They even caused me to go gray! 🙂 The first one was Isaiah 46:4, “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”
God will sustain me, carry me and rescue me…and you too. Always, even to your old age and gray hairs!
The second scripture passage was Psalm 71:18, “Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, until I declare Your power to the next generation, Your mighty acts to all who are to come.”
I have always had a passion to tell the next generation about our God and how amazing He is— that His love and plans for each one of us are so awesome! He will never let you down. Everyone and everything else will, but God never will.
As I pondered the meaning of these verses and prayed about my life and ministry, I decided to stop dying my hair. The gray reminds me that God is in control and that He has a plan, even for old age. He will never abandon me. Ministry is not who I am; I am a child of God and deeply loved and protected by Him. And so are you!
Things really began to get crazy in my life around January 2020, and then COVID hit and the way of doing ministry changed drastically! I prayed for wisdom and direction—feeling that the time was coming for me to step aside but needing confirmation from God! Specifically, I prayed for the timing to retire, someone to take over, and a place to worship and serve in retirement.
About that time, God began to speak to a young couple that I know and love, Heidi and Joel Usick. They strongly felt God telling them that they were supposed to come and minister in Shoal Lake when I was ready to retire. Joel and Heidi came to talk to me about all that the Lord had been telling them, and it seemed so God-like. We took some time to pray about it, and God confirmed it. He specifically answered all that I had prayed concerning my retirement for the past couple of years.
Answer one—someone passionate to carry on the ministry. Answer two—I would get to stay in the church as a mentor. I joke that I go off the payroll and onto the pray roll. And answer three— I was able to finish well, exactly 15 years after I began my ministry as pastor!
Life is a journey. Years fly by, and sometimes we forget to savour the moments and enjoy the work God has created and called us to do. God is always with us and He has a plan and a purpose for us in every season. Our faithfulness to His calling on our lives will reap blessings for us for all eternity!
So here I am, retired but not tired! Hands up, palms open, eyes to the Lord, ready to serve Him in this season of life. God is so faithful! When we pray, He answers if we honestly seek His will.
If there is room to end this with another powerful, passage of promise, I would love to close with Psalm 92: 12-15 NIV, “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The LORD is upright; He is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in Him.” Amen and keep serving, wherever God has placed you!
This regional newsletter is published quarterly within the CBWC’s monthly newsletter, Making Connections. Have a story idea? Want to tell us how great we’re doing? Or how terribly? Email our senior writer, Jenna Hanger: firstname.lastname@example.org