Marsha came home from a meeting last night and reported that she had filled the gas tank on her van -- for $52. Ouch! There is real pain in going to the gas pump these days. Although we have seen higher prices for gasoline during a brief period last fall after Hurricane Katrina shut down several refineries in the Gulf region, still these prices are high and seem to be staying there.

For people like me who drive all over Indiana in my role as supervisor of our 1200+ churches, those high gas prices add up. We bishops get reimbursement for our mileage at the IRS rate for business miles driven, but obviously those higher gas prices cut into that reimbursement pretty fast. I traded vehicles last summer, and I noticed that my odometer now reads over 25,000 miles which will translate to about 35,000 miles for this full year. That is about typical for my ministry here in Indiana, but far less than I drove while serving in the Dakotas.

Will these higher gas prices keep me from making my rounds? Probably not. Will these prices affect any summer vacation plans? Maybe. Do I think a little more before hopping into my vehicle to drive somewhere? Yes, I have at least a brief pause to ask myself, "Is this trip necessary?"

How about you? How is the "pain at the pump" affecting your work and your lifestyle?

I wonder … we all talk about ecology and being better stewards, but how high would gasoline prices have to be in order to really change our lifestyle and our driving habits? Would $5 per gallon cause us to drive less? Would high gas prices causes a cultural shift away from our large cars, SUV's, and vans and move us into smaller cars? Would really high gas prices (like Europe and other parts of the world face all the time) cause a shift to more ethanol and perhaps even hydrogen cars?

There is a principle here which applies to CHANGE in every aspect of our lives, including our personal discipleship and our church life. That principle has been stated this way by a friend of mine: "We will only change when the pain of our current reality is greater than the pain of changing." Change is painful, but it can be less painful than remaining stuck in our current situation. That is true for us personally, and it is true for our church life.

In the Indiana Area we are introducing, in cooperation with Clarian Health Partners (Methodist, IU, and Riley Hospitals), a new plan for clergy health and self-care. This plan involves asking all clergy to commit to (1) keeping Sabbath practices of prayer, rest, vacation, and days off, (2) following good medical advice and practices, including annual physicals, (3) improving our nutritional habits, and (4) increasing activity, especially walking regularly (to that end Clarian is providing every clergy with a pedometer). Lots of the clergy have started signing up to participate in this emphasis upon health, wholeness, and self-care. I hope that we can follow through on these pledges, because we need healthy clergy in order to have healthy churches.

I really don't like to change from my comfortable habits, but sometimes the pain of our current reality makes CHANGE the better option. May God help all of us to discern the changes we need to make it our lives, and may God give us the courage to make the changes toward wholeness that we need to make.

from Bishop Michael J. Coyner