Available for Workshops, Retreats, Banquets, Sermons– Marion D. Aldridge

Close up Hilton Head photo MDA

Marion Aldridge …

Wisdom, humor, Exuberance, Faith…

“…is like your favorite old pair of slippers… honest introspection with himself and his world. His light has a unique brightness.” Craig Williamson, Pastor

“…combines wisdom, wit, and insight.’ Mark Tidsworth, President, Pinnacle Leadership Associates

Available for Workshops, Retreats, Banquets, Sermons
Marion D. Aldridge



Marion D. Aldridge is a popular preacher, public speaker, workshop leader and award-winning writer. Dr. Aldridge is author of numerous books and hundreds of articles on topics including religion, sports, travel, humor and personal growth.
In workshops, sermons and retreats, Dr. Aldridge’s primary life mission has been to help others “get unstuck.” Overcoming Adolescence is a memoir and self-help book about his own pilgrimage:

Marion Aldridge …

“… is my ‘go to man’ when I need someone to speak on a specific issue.” James Goudelock, Chaplain and Pastor

“… both cheerleader and prophet… keen insight into life.” Jay Kieve, Coordinator, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of SC

“… will challenge, delight, inspire, and enrich.” Randy Wright, Chaplain

“… speaks and writes with deep conviction… a love of God and creation.” Jim Catoe

“… authentic voice… a message of personal growth. If he has something to say, I always listen. Brenda Kneece, Ecumenical Minister

“… sees with eyes wide open, and helps us all to see more clearly…unique and unassuming… depth and clarity.” Tony Vincent, Associate Minister

“… loves life! … grace and joy… laughter and honest reflection. In other words, his love of life is contagious!” Beth McConnell, Pastor

Categories: Travel, Humor, Faith/Spirituality, Family, Health, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What does an angry person look like?

Have you ever thought about the images we use to describe anger? They aren’t very pretty.

She was out of her mind. Imagine an individual, clutching her decapitated head in one hand. She and her brain, for the moment, are not attached to the rest of her body. If she blew her top, then her brain is not in her hand but exploding from her scalp like fireworks. Flipping her lid turns her cranium into a tilted teapot with all types of gooey gunk oozing onto the carpet. Not an attractive picture.

To say that a person who is mad can’t think clearly seems obvious. With so much brain exploding into the stratosphere and splattering on the floor, and possibly onto family and friends, the function of our gray cells is certainly minimized and muddled.

He was beside himself. Picture twins standing beside one another, the first functioning within a normal range of emotions, the other one, red in the face, pulling at his hair, shaking his fist. Enraged. Out of control. When a person is angry, he is beside himself.

No wonder people say, “I can see you are upset.” You reckon?

I love the Richard Gere quotation from Pretty Woman in which he acknowledges his fury toward his father, “I was very angry with him. It cost me ten thousand dollars in therapy to say that sentence: ‘I was very angry with him.’ I do it very well, don’t I? I’ll say it again: I was very angry with him. Hello, my name is Mr. Lewis, I am very angry with my father.”

Sometimes, we try to deny it. “No, I’m just disappointed,” or “I’m hurt” or, “I’m just concerned.” Well, if your brain were somehow positioned outside your body, I’d say other people could probably tell.

When someone has made you furious, they are a pain in the neck to you. Think of all the body parts involved in anger.

• Our ears are burning.
• We grit our teeth.
• We can’t swallow that.
• We clinch our jaws.
• We could scream.
• We become stiff-necked. Our shoulder muscles tighten.
• We clinch our fists. We are itching to get our hands on somebody.
• We can’t stomach that.
• He makes my skin crawl.
• We are pissed off.
• She is a pain in the ass.
• We could kick her, then smash her and stomp her into the ground.

That pretty much covers the entire body, doesn’t it?

Sometimes anger is so extreme that it gets confused with mental illness.

• She is irrational.
• He went nuts.
• For a few minutes, she was crazy as a bat.
• He was a wild man.

If we admit our anger, then we can begin the process of resolving a problem. If we say we have no anger… well, sometimes, that’s just not true.

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Health, Humor, Lists/Top Ten, Quotations, Writing | 4 Comments

Products and Services Associated with Places

This project/list began as a travel aid: What is a country known for that a tourist might enjoy? If I’m going to Denmark, surely I want to eat a Danish pastry. If I were in Sweden, wouldn’t a Swedish massage be a good idea? A Cuban cigar in Havana? Wouldn’t a Swiss watch be an appropriate souvenir from Switzerland?

Of course, words being words, with interesting histories, the country’s name may miss the point entirely. Panama hats are made in Ecuador, but originally were shipped out of the port of Panama, thus the name. In Scotland, what we call Scotch is merely whiskey. The French may stare at you with incomprehension if you ask for French fries. Even when I speak French, the folks in Paris stare at me with incomprehension. Merci, tout le monde.

Belgian chocolate
Belgian waffle
Brazil nut
Canadian bacon
China doll
Chinese checkers
Cuban cigar
Danish pastry
Dutch chocolate
Egyptian cotton
English muffin
English peas
English saddle
French bread
French fries
French toast
German chocolate cake
German engineering
Greek yogurt
Hungarian goulash
Irish coffee
Irish linen
Irish stew
Italian cream cake
Japanese maple
Mexican jumping beans
Moroccan oil
Panama hat
Polish sausage
Russian roulette
Scotch whiskey
Siberian tiger
Swedish massage
Swedish meatballs
Swiss cheese
Swiss watch
Turkish bath
Turkish delight
Welsh rarebit

Categories: Holiday, Humor, Lists/Top Ten, Travel, Uncategorized, Writing | Tags: | 2 Comments

The Cross Free Church

In reading a novel that takes place on Lewis Island in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, I laughed out loud when the author, Peter May, casually mentioned the Scottish Free Church, located in the small village of Cross, Scotland. Without so much as a wink at the reader, he described events that took place near the Cross Free Church.

Wow! A Cross Free Church. What kind of congregation would that be? No cross. Come to think of it, the Baptists of my childhood wanted no crosses in our sanctuary. Maybe we were a Cross Free Church, too.

I wondered about other towns in Scotland and around the world where the name of the community and the name of the church create some peculiar combinations. I discovered there is a Backside in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, which means there is a Backside Free Church.

There is no town in Scotland named Jesus, so at least there is no Jesus Free Church, as far as I know.

However, the country of El Salvador was named for Jesus, the Savior, so I hope the Free Church of Scotland does not send a missionary group to El Salvador. If they do, they would become the Savior Free Church. Yikes!

Decades ago, W. C. Fields, director of the public relations division of Southern Baptists, wrote a funny article about Baptist Church names. Example: French Broad Baptist Church, so named because of the French Broad River in North Carolina. It was a long, hilarious article and I would love to read it again if I could find it. I can’t remember if there were Brazen Hussey Baptists or not, but there was a Republican Baptist Church and a Democratic Baptist Church. Fortunately, they were not close to one another.

There is a church in Hell in Michigan, and an Intercourse Church in Pennsylvania, a Beer Church in Devon in the United Kingdom. Those church names suggest one kind of challenge.

A totally different kind of difficulty awaits if you worship at the Boring Church in Oregon or the Little Hope Church in Texas.

I suppose I’m still waiting for the Conflict Free Church. But if I joined, well, you know what would happen…

Categories: Book Review, Faith/Spirituality, Humor, Travel, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

My Unlearning Curve

Leaving the familiar is critical to travel and to life.  Doing something new is sometimes impossible unless you move past what is traditional, usual.

 An important part of human growth is detaching from what has been important previously.  A 20 year old who still sucks his thumb is a sad sight.  A 40 year old who is still waiting for Prince Charming to rescue her is emotionally bereft.

 What I enjoyed at one point in my life is not necessarily pleasurable to me now.  So, I unsubscribe.

We hear people speak of a “learning curve.”  An unlearning curve is equally important.  A lifelong bibliophile, I prefer books with real pages to my Kindle.  But I would be professionally foolish to resist electronic media as a productive member of the 21st century.  I am writing this “blog” on a computer, not on a typewriter and not with pen and ink.

Nostalgia can be fun when I am with high school or college buddies playing the “remember when” game, but it can also be deadly.  People fantasize about the “good ol’ days,” but I don’t want to return to the years before penicillin or to the Jim Crow racism with which I grew up.  I enjoy the benefits of the safety features in my car.  I am grateful for cell phones and air-conditioning.  My grandson has never had to put aluminum foil around the rabbit ears on a television set. 

Moving into unfamiliar areas is the very definition of travel—marshes, seashores, mountains, deserts, caves, rain forests, islands, canyons, rivers, urban landscapes.  I love our kitchen, our back porch, home cooking, my family and most things familiar.  God knows I do not like everything that is strange to me.  I ate ants’ eggs one time and I did not like them!  But my life is not limited to what I already know.  Sometimes, instead of holding on, I need to let go.

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Health, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Euphemisms for Death

Last week I was speaking at a conference of Retirement Community Chaplains.  My thesis was that people who deal with the vicissitudes of life best tend to deal best with the reality of death.  There are seventy-year-old men and women who seem to be surprised when their ninety-year-old parent dies.  Death happens.  Living beings have a 100% mortality rate.

 One of the sidebar conversations initiated by the chaplains concerned the euphemisms people use to distance themselves from the certainty of death.  I think I would prefer to kick the bucket or croak rather than merely to pass on or cross over.  My list is not exhaustive, but long enough to demonstrate our resistance to acknowledging that human life has a termination point.  Interestingly, medical and religious people may be the worst at avoiding the obvious.

 Asleep in Jesus

Breathed his/her last

Came to his end

Communing with the angels

Crossed over

Departed this life

Didn’t make it

Entered eternal rest

Entered into his reward


God called him home

His hour had come

In Abraham’s bosom

Laid to rest

Lost her life

Made her last curtain call

Met his Maker

Negative patient care outcome

No longer with us

Out of her misery


Passed away

Passed on

Resting in peace

Slipped away

Stopped breathing



Went to the Happy Hunting Grounds

With God now

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Health, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

I Say My Alleluias Softly

On Thursday, June 17, 2010, I was in a bad wreck. The people at the scene of the accident could not believe that I survived my car taking a direct hit from a logging truck. But, thankfully, I did. A week after the wreck, I have only one small scratch remaining. People told me how “lucky” I was. They mentioned that I had been protected by my guardian angel. “God is not finished with you yet,” was a frequent phrase.  I don’t intend to argue with any of those sentiments.

My primary thought and emotion has been one of gratitude. During my career as a pastor, I heard how many dumb things people say after a tragedy. They may be well-meaning, but there is a lot of bad theology that surrounds heartbreaking disasters. Be careful with your words in times of crisis.

The two sentences that made the most sense to me are these:

  • I say my Alleluias softly, and
  • God is present.

I am happy to be alive. I am grateful that on July 3, 2010, I was able to walk my baby girl down the aisle and present her to the man who is now her husband and my son-in-law. All four of Julie’s grandparents are dead and my best friend, her second dad, passed away this past year. I am grateful that I was there for Julie and Tom, and not in a hospital room or in a grave! I am glad that I am still here to cuddle with Sally at night. I am thankful I can still take my other daughter and her husband and my grandson to a baseball game. More than ever, I appreciate peach cobblers, roses, jazz, waterfalls, and good books. I love my friends. I am grateful to be alive.

But I do say my Alleluias softly, because everyone who has been in a wreck did not survive and/or thrive. Many sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, mothers, dads and best friends have been seriously injured or even died in tragic accidents. I don’t think God loves me more or that my prayer life is better. Anything that credits my survival to my goodness is probably bad theology.

As I was sharing this perspective with two friends, I discovered that one of them, my seminary buddy Don Garner, had indeed lost a son in a car wreck about a decade ago. God loves and loved Don and his wife and their son as much as God loves me. Don told me that their “lesson” during their awful grief is that God is always present. God is present when I survive my wreck, and God is there when Don’s son did not survive his wreck. God is present.

Those are lessons enough for me.

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Health, Quotations | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Phases/Chapters/Stages/Layers/Transitions of my Life

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Some people, when they reach my age, are still thinking and saying pretty much the same things they said when they were 18 years old, freshly minted high school graduates. I can name clear phases where my life has been altered—more or less in this order:

 1)   Where I began: Conservative/Cultural—I thought and said what I had been taught to think and say by my parents, church and culture. Also, I love nature, sports and reading.

2)   Friendships—The importance of peer pressure is huge for teens as well as adults. We tend to become like the people we spend time with. I have been fortunate to have good friends with positive influences.

3)   Intentionally Evangelical, but, at the same time, less churchy. Young Life was important.

4)   Socially Conscious—I became aware of ethical issues in the world, particularly racism. “There are none so blind as they who will not see.”

5)   Ecumenical, I became aware that the Christian world was larger than my Christian denomination.

6)   Family commitments, marriage and daughters altered my worldview and priorities.

7)   Pastoral care skills learned—I discovered there is pain in the world I had never experienced. The knee-jerk responses, opinions and habits that were intuitive to me were inadequate to deep challenges of the human condition.

8)   Travel—In my early thirty’s, I began to travel and discover worlds about which I had been ignorant. The world opened up for me.

9)   Listening better and paying attention affected every area of life.

10)  Professionalism, i.e., developing the skills needed to manage/administer/lead the organization(s) and people that paid my salary.

11)  Scholar. Eventually, I discovered I had a brain and enjoyed thinking. Wrote two books about worship.

12)  The language of Alcoholics Anonymous and Codependency became important to me as I attended AlAnon meetings for half a year.

13)  Humor—I discovered not only that I was funny but also that the world has plenty of irony and paradox at its core.

14)  Grace—I was slow to get to grace, but eventually I did. Wrote another book: Overcoming Adolescence.

15) Interfaith. Aware of the positive values within other faiths: Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and other. My understanding of God kept getting bigger and bigger. God told Moses his name is, I AM WHO I AM.

16) Yoga—Not sure yet what I will discover, but, after half a year, already I am learning and profiting from this new experience of focusing on breathing and mindfulness.

I’m 67 and still growing, wondering what’s next…

What phases, transitions or chapters have you experienced since adolescence?

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Health, Travel, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments



This thing about a Father “giving the daughter away” at a wedding is a lie. They were never ours to give.  Daughters are not the property of their Dads or Moms any more than a male child is the property of his parents.  My daughters, Jenna and Julie, independent from the beginning, were on loan to us temporarily for nurture and safekeeping.

 Sally and I both changed their diapers and gave them baths, but that was our duty.  They don’t owe their mother or me lifelong allegiance for taking care of them. I stood in an impossibly long line so Jenna could have a Cabbage Patch dolI one Christmas.  Julie’s Big Wish was a bit more complicated, but, when Christmas morning arrived, she had Rainbow Brite sheets.  Those were acts of love, not a deal I made to be paid back later. 

Dance recitals:  I never missed one.  They (and their costumes) were cute and I was proud.

 When one of my daughters was quiet too long, we would discover she had been unrolling the toilet paper or giving her dolls a bath in the toilet.  Sally and I laughed.  We didn’t think or say, “You owe us.”

 Over years, they dealt with bullies, as every kid does. I could not always protect them.  They had to figure some things out on their own.

 When they were teenagers, each asserted her independence and I hated it.  Let them go?  Willingly? Not while I was still breathing.  They were independent nonetheless. 

I took them on trips rather than always sending them off with someone else.  With Jenna, I’ve been to New York City at Christmas, and climbed the Mayan Pyramids in the Yucatan Peninsula.  With Julie, I’ve seen the monkeys on Gibraltar, and roamed the streets of Amsterdam. We toured England and Scotland as a family, Jenna a teenager and Julie a preteen.  They have memories of our time together that will outlast me.

At some point, B. O. Y. S. entered the picture, and that was a challenge.  But, all’s well that ends well.  I approve of Thorne and Tom and I thank God every day for my sons-in-law.

Fatherhood and parenting did not end when they got married.  Conversations about grace, fairness, patience, right and wrong never end.  At least, not yet.  They will always be my daughters and I will always be their daddy.  But make no mistake:  they were and are independent women.  I am proud of them.


Categories: Baseball, Faith/Spirituality, Family, Football, Health | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments


I have coined a new word: Churchcraft. What I mean by Churchcraft is an individual’s ability to say and do the things that will help to build the organized church. My observation is that a lack of Churchcraft is the number one reason churches and pastors fail. In the 20th century, I might have called it churchmanship.   Some people think I am referring exclusively to the “soft skills” that pastors, staff and laity need for a church to succeed—the ability to negotiate, to compromise, to listen, to sell an idea, to understand limits, to provide leadership, to exhibit social graces—and I do mean those. God help the church whose pastor, staff or lay leadership are bulls in a china shop!

But Churchcraft is much more. It is also…

  • The ability to conceive, develop, implement and evaluate an event,
  • The ability to create a plan to overcome a budget deficit,
  • Time management, showing up, being on time, finishing a task,
  • Work ethic,
  • Knowing when to speak prophetic and challenging words and when to say pastoral or encouraging words,
  • Understanding congregational history, and the ability to recognize congregational land mines,
  • The ability not to create congregational land mines!
  • Making sure that buildings are maintained,
  • Discovering and honoring appropriate congregational rituals,
  • Knowing when new skill sets are needed and then learning them (or enlisting someone who has them),
  • Understanding when you need to recruit volunteers and then delegating responsibility to them.

 I could write a book about this subject. The two most common enemies of Churchcraft are probably 1) ego, which is a character issue, and 2) lack of intelligence, which is a capacity issue.

That ego is a problem is obvious. When a pastor, a deacon chair, or a Sunday School teacher thinks he or she is always right, there is no room for growth, change or compromise. Absolute certainty may be good for some things but it is rarely helpful in a Baptist congregation. We have all heard of or experienced ecclesiastical horror stories about men or women who were willing to split a church over the color of the carpet. One way of expressing this predicament is by asking, “Is this the hill I want to die on?” or “Is this the hill I want this church to die on?” (which helpfully reminds us that Jesus’ death on the cross was for the salvation of the world and not about the color of the carpet!).

The other enemy of good Churchcraft is ignorance. Some men and women cannot hold complex thoughts in their minds. Their world is black and white, all or nothing, right and wrong, good and evil, and anyone who thinks differently than they do they believe to be demonic. Even when I am right, surely there is something I can learn from the “opposition.” Some people, even in the church, do not have the gift of empathy. These people should not be elected as congregational leaders.

I grew up in the era of Martin Luther King, Jr. prophetically challenging America, and we needed to be challenged. In the Letter from the Birmingham Jail, he spoke passionately against “gradualism.” However, when the Deep South finally integrated, the NAACP adopted a policy of gradualism, of incremental change. The alternative to incremental change is revolution. Jesus, of course, was (and is) a radical, and not the best example of someone working within an institution. He preached utter and immediate transformation, and he was murdered. Christians, according to Reinhold Niebuhr, need to make a personal decision about whether they will be prophetic (and likely end up as martyrs) or, alternatively, work within the system.

“Administration,” according to St. Paul, is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 12: 28). Some people are called to hang in there with the spiritual skill of organizational leadership. Pastors and staff must have this gift and hopefully, every church will have laity who are able to take the long view. Gossips, saboteurs, blamers, second-guessers, the ignorant, the clueless (which is a different kind of ignorance), the petty, the irresponsible and the fearful do not have either the capacity or the character to possess Churchcraft. Churchcraft involves building coalitions of very different people. Any pastor who doesn’t pay attention to choirs and to the people who love music is foolish. A good church leader tries to make a place, even in the most conservative congregations, for the boundary-stretching rowdiness and challenges of the younger generation. Any pastor or deacon chair who does not know congregational members have different collegiate and political loyalties is naïve. Saints and Sinners! Maybe one of the best descriptions of a successful Christian congregation is that it is full of grace and radically inclusive!

I never said Churchcraft was easy, just that it is necessary.

Categories: Faith/Spirituality | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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