I remember when Scott first told me he felt God was calling him into the Methodist church. I said very adamantly, “No, He is not”. But, after much groaning, fit pitching, weeping and gnashing of teeth, I finally decided maybe I ought to take the advice I’d given to so many others, and surrender to the Lord’s will. Trust and obey… simple right?
There were many reasons I didn’t want to join the Methodist church. One major one was worship style. I had grown up in an Assembly of God church, where we had charismatic, demonstrative worship services. When I had gone to Beverly United Methodist with my precious Nanny as a small child, I just remember how BORING it was. Now as an adult, with 11 years of Methodism under my belt, I actually appreciate the traditional services that my Nanny held so dear. But at the beginning of this journey, I was afraid I would never be able to raise my hands again in church… that I would never sing another contemporary worship song again! That whole way of thinking is really funny to me now. Hindsight is 20/20 I guess.
Another reason for my unhappiness was that I was not a fan of liturgy. Responsive readings? What in the world was that all about? Even to this day, I sometimes struggle with that element of worship. Especially with my spontaneous, Pentecostal background, I did NOT need someone telling me what to say to God! It all seemed very juvenile to me, like I couldn’t come up with my own things to say. But of course, that is not the intention of the liturgy, but it was a hang-up I had. I do remember a funny story from my first worship service at Taylor Memorial UMC. They gave me a worship bulletin with the order of worship on it, which of course was a foreign concept to me. But when the service came to the Apostle’s Creed, everyone started reading/reciting together. I elbowed Scott and asked, “Why are they all just saying the lyrics to Rich Mullins’ song ‘Creed’? They should just sing it.” Scott then informed me that the Apostle’s Creed had been around long before old Rich’s song 🙂
The last reason I was struggling with this Methodist move was because I knew what the future held. Scott was called to be a full-time, grown-up pastor (he was a youth pastor for about 13 years or so). If we were in the Methodist church at the time for him to ‘graduate’ into ‘big church’ ministry, I knew that itinerancy would be our future. Itinerancy is the process the Methodist church uses to rotate their pastors. I did not want to be a part of that. I had grown up in the same church and private school attached to that church from Kindergarten through 12th grade. I wanted that stability for my kids as well. I wanted to have best friends that we hung out with and watched our kids grow up together. That’s what I wanted. But of course, God knows what we need, and when we are open to Him, He helps us change our mindset from what we ‘want’ to what we ‘need’. And what He has for us is always exponentially better than anything we could ever attempt on our own.
Just like I had the wrong mindset regarding worship style and liturgy, I had the wrong mindset about itinerancy. Instead of seeing it as my kids (and us) always being picked up and moved all over the place and never having best friends that you do everything with, God showed me that now, because of itinerancy, I have more friends than I ever would have had by just being in one place. I have gotten to meet some of the most extraordinary people through our moving from place to place, and my life is blessed because of it.
In our most recent appointment, we are at GracePoint at Mt. Olive, which is located about 10 miles north of Birmingham. At our church, there are some fabulous people, but there is one couple that truly stands out. To me, they are superheroes. I like to think of them as ‘Real Life Incredibles’. And thanks to the Methodist appointment process, our lives have been beyond blessed by crossing our paths with the Costellos.
Wilma and Rufus have been married over 60 years. Wilma actually turned 85 this week. She worked for 30 years at the Army hospital at Fort Rucker. During those 30 years, she was a pediatric nurse practitioner from 1975 – 1991. Rufus is 88 years old. He was a Sargent Major in the Army, of which he retired after 21 years. He then went on to teach air traffic control classes as a civilian for 20 years at Fort Rucker.
On their own merit, these 2 people are superheroes. First off, they have been married for over 60 years. If you look at today’s society, you know that this is indeed a rare thing. It takes the super power of love and perseverance. Secondly, they were both educated in a time that higher education wasn’t the norm. Wilma was actually a nurse practitioner, and until I saw her retirement plaque on the wall in her house, I thought that profession had just come around in the last 10 years or so. But she was one when that was a somewhat new role! Rufus was a Sargent Major, and the way I understand it, was one of the first air traffic controllers in the army. And after he retired, he wanted to share his knowledge on the topic, so he spent 20 years doing just that. Truly, they are superheroes.
But even in light of all those earthly achievements, that is not why they are superheroes to me. They are my spiritual superheroes because of 2 things: praying and mentoring.
These 2 people are prayer warriors. Especially Mr. Rufus. This sweet, elderly, small statured man is a GIANT of faith whose super power is prayer. He told me one Saturday while we were serving together in our church food pantry that he has a steno pad that he keeps next to his bed. He has a big list of prayer requests on it. He then proceeded to tell me that first thing every morning and last thing every night, he gets on his knees by his bed and prays for every request he has listed. And then he smiled that sweet Rufus smile and said, “You know who’s at the top of my list, don’t you? My pastor.” Possibly one of the greatest things a church member has ever shared with me. I hugged him, smiled, laughed, and cried all at the same time!
As I reflected on what he said to me later that day, I remember thinking that from a physical standpoint, someone might think Rufus is weak. He’s 88 years old; he’s a pretty short fella not much taller than me, and very slim. But from a spiritual standpoint, he is mighty warrior. He is the epitome of what true strength is. He is the very physical example of James 5:16 that says, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” And I sleep better at night knowing that this superhero is fighting spiritual battles on behalf of my family. I can never say thank you enough.
The other super power these people possess is mentoring. They take the scripture described in Titus 2 seriously. It describes where Paul was encouraging Titus, one of Paul’s converts, on how to lead a group of believers in Crete.
1 You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. 2 Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.
3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4 Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.
6 Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. 7 In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness 8 and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.
Wilma and Rufus invest in the lives of younger couples at the church. In particular, there is one newlywed couple that they have mentored for years. Wilma and Rufus have Kelli and Brian over to their house to eat and play dominos. They always eat our church’s Wednesday night fellowship dinner at the same table. And they have taught them how to set up giant Christmas villages.
Yes, you read that correctly. Christmas villages. After both Wilma and Rufus retired, they got involved with the Department 56 collectible Christmas villages. They were actually part of clubs and traveled all over the country selling these pieces. And when you go to their house, they have Christmas villages set up all year round! It is heavenly! When we first went to visit, they showed me everything they had upstairs, which is ALOT. But then we went to the basement. I couldn’t believe what I saw! It is entirely full of giant Christmas scenes, and one room that is entirely dedicated to his train collection. It is unbelievable. But what I love is that they have some Halloween village pieces, and this year, they had Brian and Kelli come over to help set that up and so they could teach them how to do their own village. It is Titus 2 acted out in front of my very eyes, and it is a beautiful thing.
Wilma and Rufus make me want to be a better person. They remind me that we are never too old to be in ministry. They remind me that the most important thing to invest in is not a ‘thing’ at all – it’s people. So my personal challenge in 2016 is to invest in people. To stop investing in building my own house, and invest in building the Kingdom. Find someone to mentor. Not only that, find someone to be your mentor. Find someone to pour into you, and in return, pour into others. Our world is full of spiritual orphans. Find that person that is in desperate need of a spiritual father, spiritual mother, sister or brother, and be that for them. Before you know it, you’ll be someone’s superhero.