Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

Gas station quandary



I anticipated with great joy the service of installation in the Oklahoma Conference. To meet the publishing deadline, I write this reflection prior to the service. But, based on the wonderful reception and welcome that you already have extended to Mary and me, I owe many expressions of thanks; they number more than I can recount.

My gratitude goes to Asbury in Tulsa for hosting the event, to the worship planning team, those who participated in the service, and everyone who attended in person or via the live stream.

I acknowledge as well the many gifts, cards, and words of welcome and hospitality that we have enjoyed since becoming your episcopal family.

It is great to be in Oklahoma!

As I’ve pondered what it means to be in this new role and context for ministry, I recalled other experiences I have had over the years.

I liken a new ministry experience to driving rental cars— although conceding the gravity of the example bears little resemblance to the real challenge.

Some times I pull into a gas station in a rental car and stop beside the pump, only to realize I’ve parked the car facing the wrong way. The gas cap is on the opposite side. So I drive around in a large circle, approach from the other direction, and try to look dignified in the process.

Even worse was my experience at one station as I searched for the rental car’s mechanism to release the gas cap.

I looked all over the car’s interior. No visible release. I grew more and more irritated. While I was not in a pressing hurry, I still sensed my day ticking away as I looked in vain for that gadget.

Finally I remembered that some cars do not have interior releases. I pressed the gas cap, and it popped open. I filled the car’s tank and drove sheepishly away.

Back on the road, I began reflecting on the challenge I had just encountered. I realized the question that I had used to begin the process was flawed. I had asked myself, "Where is the release for the gas tank?" That led me on a futile search.

Rethinking the moment, I recognized that my problem was not to find a release device. Rather, my newly framed question became "How do you access the gas tank?"

I had learned to reframe the question. I needed to learn how to access the gas tank for the type of car I had. It was irrelevant whether the car had a release.

In Romans 12:2, Paul writes, "Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is — what is good and pleasing and mature." (CEB)

Entering a new role in life and ministry is a great time to reframe the questions, test assumptions, and challenge presuppositions we have.

What questions are you asking? Do some of our questions need to be reframed?


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