Yesterday was Mother's Day and it was the third Mother's Day since my own mother died in 2010. I found myself feeling both sad and grateful all day.
I also felt tired – after flying home late Saturday night from a 9-day trip to San Diego for the first-ever gathering of active United Methodist bishops in a Learning Forum. The Forum included a lot of great presentations and sharing in small groups about our leadership roles as bishops. We heard from guest lecturers, and we also heard "best practices" from other bishops (I was pleased to lead one of those times). It was a very meaningful experience – not because our retired bishops were absent, but because our agenda focused upon helping one another learn to lead. When we meet as a full Council of Bishops we have much of the agenda determined by other issues, and we seldom have time to learn together like we did this past week. Our Forum (which we may re-name "Retreat" in future years) was a good experience – in fact much better than the 33 Council of Bishop meetings I have attended over my 17 years a bishop.
Alongside the Forum, however, were a whole series of other meetings – which made good stewardship since we were already together, but which added to my fatigue. We had a Legal Forum to hear from attorneys about the changes in our Book of Discipline (yes, that was just about as boring as it sounds, but it was information we needed). I was personally involved in a very painful "supervisory response" with a bishop who is facing a Formal Complaint for allegations of misuse of funds. I was also involved in a meeting of the Presidents and General Secretaries of our general agencies (because I am President of GCFA), and another meeting of those Presidents with the officers of the Council of Bishops. Those kinds of meeting are efforts to "get our act together" as leaders of the church, but they are tiring.
So I came home late Saturday night and on Sunday – Mother's Day –- I rested, worshiped online with several congregations, and had time to reflect on the central message of my own mother. Thus the sadness and the gratitude. I am sad not to have Mother around for continued conversations, but I am so grateful that her message is still present in my life. What was her message? She treated each one of us kids as "beloved." That is an old-fashioned word, and I don't remember Mother actually using that word, but it describes how she treated us. She always believed in us, was proud of us, expected the best of us, and found many ways to show us her love.
I know from my pastoral experience that not everyone has been blessed with a mother or father who shared this message. Many people are hindered in their life because they were not treated as "beloved" – which is why it is so important for all of us to discover the love of God who says to each one of us, "You are my beloved."
I am grateful that Mother taught me I am "beloved" and I pray that her message is one that I can help others to hear.
So hear it now: You are beloved! God's love fills your life, whether you know it or feel it right now. You are beloved!