How are you, really?” I’ve been asked this by empathetic friends and people wishing me well. I’m a little surprised by the question until I remember that Bishop Keith said “health reasons” have brought me to announce my retirement as Director of Personnel, December 31, 2007. In February 2007 I discovered I am a Type II diabetic. I try to stay humorous about this. I probably should join a support group: “Hi, my name is Alan and I’m a diabetic. I’ve been off ‘Sour Kids’ for six months.” Then I could confess sins of gluttony of glucose. “I fell off the wagon when I had a waffle cone with one scoop of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough that was virtually a pint of ice cream.”

I’ve agonized over the decision to go into transition. When I left my work as a pastor in 1992 I agonized over that as well. This is major stuff. The call of God is not to be taken lightly at any stage in life. I looked for a new challenge from God in 1992 when I left pastoral ministry. As well, in 1999 when I agonized over leaving medical social work to serve the FMCiC. There was a similar “ring” each time that God graciously granted through the affirmation of the Holy Spirit, my wife, and trusted friends. This time there is something different going on, something added to all the above in this transtion:

The need for replenishment. I preach this to my Bishop who is also my friend. I want it for him as much as I need it for myself. Though replenishment is needed for anyone working passionately in a very high calling, I have found it harder at my age) to get replenished. The passion is there, but it’s like my passion is running on ahead, then turning around, to see my body lagging behind.
We can’t live in the margins all the time without some consequences. Signs started showing up, emotionally (like, free floating anxiety, sleep disruption) and physically that I have not listened to well. The type II diabetes scared me. The day before flying to Calgary for the Pastor’s Conference, I buried a family member who had undetected diabetes at age 55, and suffered a long cognitive and physical decline to age 70. He was a devoted uncle to our daughters when they were very young, a man I respected highly, and I grieve the loss of him. I did not want to repeat his path.

It takes longer to recover than it did even two years ago. This position, like most of yours, requires high energy and resiliency. I could do that but now not as easily. Normally, I see my attitude as, “bring it on, hit me with another challenge or problem to solve.” I still love that kind of life! Yet, I am not getting recovered as quickly, I can get feelings of panic (and I don’t think I have space to describe that feeling. The attitude of “bring it on,” has often become, “stop, that’s enough!”
I like what I do. I feel called to this work, or work similar to it. I heard a person say about slowing down, “even Nolan Ryan’s fast ball lost a few KPH after he hit forty.” Roger Clemons’ fast ball has slowed down a bit as well, but enough with the sports analogies. Abraham slowed down…uh, I can’t go there. I am aware, I’m slowing down, I’m sixty. BUT:

What is God up to now? I don’t have an option, NOT to be in mission. I don’t mean Mission, British Columbia, as nice as it is there. My call is to my friend, Jesus.

I have loved my work in the FMCiC. I have loved working on this National Leadership Team. Bishop Keith is the best boss I’ve ever had. WE are very fortunate to have him. Dan Sheffiled and I have worked together in Niagara Falls in the 1990’s. Jared is a breath of fresh air. Norm Bull kept me accountable and now Mark is doing the same. But it’s a full time job needing full time energy. I’ve sensed a release, but it’s a very difficult decision. I’m giving up something very good.

I have some FMCiC work lined up. So you may see me around. Bishop Keith wants me to help make General Conference plans with the National Ministerial Guidance and Placement Committee (NMEGaP) in February 2008.

Dan Sheffield has asked me to go with the Sri Lanka Team in February, 2008 as well, which I have done for 5 years now. I hope to serve the FMCiC part time, and I am not looking outside the FMCiC for other part time ministry.

I anticipate that the FMCiC part time work will, “dry up,” after General Conference and the new Director of Personnel is oriented. If there is more, that would be fine, but I don’t have that expectation. I will trust Jesus for the next steps. I know what I can handle and what I can’t, now.

I am open to how Jesus will lead. That may sound like a platitude, cheap language. For me it means asking: “What is God up to now in my life?” “Who and what will God bring into my life that I may not have earlier paid attention to?”

I had an opportunity to go sailing for three days with four other guys from Niagara Falls, Ontario. The friend who invited me told the others he had invited, “a pastor.” So at first I think they wondered what I might do if they used swear words. Maybe walk on water to scare them? I don’t know. I felt like these guys were brothers after three days. I had conversations with one of them about Donald Miller’s book, Blue Like Jazz. I started finding things in common with them, besides living in the same city. They are not my project but that is mission at it’s best.

My wife Ellen and I have found friends through her teaching connection. I started going fishing with the husband of Ellen’s teaching friend. Ellen has started a group in our home for this guy’s wife and some neighbors. We are making plans to take a Spring Break together to go see their son pitch. He’s been signed by the Seattle Mariners. I feel God is opening new relationships. These new friends are teaching me something about relationship—I see God in them already.

In Gordon Mac Donald’s, The Resilient Life, he writes about having a vital Christian walk throughout the whole span of life. Gordon is about 66, much older than I! (Smile.) He made a projection that is etched in my heart. He said, “I believe that my most significant ministry may be in my 60’s.” I resonate with that projection. This may be the most significant ministry that is yet uncharted ahead, diabetes and all. Taking more time to replenish and not doing everything I use to do will be no deterrent.

I came across Matthew 5:9, “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.” That is going to be my verse for the decade of my 60’s. Cooperating with God’s mission. Look at the big result: you will discover who you really are and where you fit best. For me, this describes a great mission!

Alan Retzman is the Director of Personnel for The Free Methodist Church in Canada