Family

My Offer to Home College My Grandson

My Offer to Home College My Grandson

(Warning: Satire, not to be taken literally)

Marion D. Aldridge

My grandson, a junior in high school, recently began the formidable task of looking at colleges. He’s smart and makes good grades, and he’s also an all-area football kicker. Academics and Athletics: the Big Two in South Carolina—so he has a fine resume.

The elephant in the room is a price tag that can be as high as $60,000 per year. Sticker shock! Yikes! A quarter of a million dollars for four years.

So I made the offer to Home College my grandson. Why not? He would enjoy the ultimate small school. I’d sit him at my kitchen table every day for two percent of the fee. What a deal! I think I’ll recruit him. Bargain tuition of $1199.98 per year.

Here are excerpts of the curriculum I envision.

Physical Fitness: For starters, my grandson can sweep, mop, and vacuum inside the house, and plant a garden outside, weeding it weekly. This will also provide lessons in nutrition, especially if he prepares the meals.

Responsibility: After his morning chores, he can wake me from my morning nap for lunch.

Literature. My one promise is he will never be asked to read James Joyce’s Ulysses. He would, of course, read Chaucer, Agatha Christie, Shakespeare, and Maya Angelou. After those, I’m flexible.

Science. We’d take field trips to the Galapagos Islands, the Chattooga River, and NASA. He could hire out to intern at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, and I could go along and chaperone. We could take in a Cubs or White Sox game and study velocity of pitches, the arc and distance of home runs.

History. The Revolutionary War happened in South Carolina. That’s simple enough. Trips to Camden, Cowpens, and Ninety Six. We could try to find and excavate one of Francis Marion’s camps among the Tupelo trees on Snow Island.

Ethics: I’d stick with the Golden Rule. (Bonus information: The Seven Deadly Sins do not specifically mention blueberry muffins.)

Math. He could tutor his grandmother since he is already way beyond her ability to tutor him. He went beyond my skills years ago, too. His aunt could teach him statistics. Baseball games at Fenway Park would be the place for geometric and statistical calculations.

Music: With a playlist of songs from the 1960s, the Beatles, Ray Charles, the Mamas and the Papas, the Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Stevie Wonder, the Supremes, Buddy Holly, Etta James, and James Brown, his music education would be complete. Class dismissed.

Theology. I figure we could go to a cemetery and sit a spell. Walk around some. He could think about life and death. How many college kids take advantage of this opportunity?

Law. We could visit courtrooms for a few days. He would begin to wonder if these people were crazy or just mean. The criminals, not the lawyers.

Politics: I taught him everything I know about government before he was twelve. Government should benefit the governed, not the governors. That’s a hard lesson for politicians to learn.

Psychology: I will teach my grandson all the psychobabble I know, because I think most of it’s true. Life is a journey. One event or one decision will not make or break you. This too shall pass. One day at a time. Keep on keeping on. Hang in there. Every day is classwork, not the final exam. Mind your own business. The goal is progress, not perfection.

That’s my offer.

By the way, the kitchen table seats four. Do the math: four times $1199.98 equals $4,799.92. That’s enough to buy us all ice cream at the ball game. My treat.

Categories: Baseball, Diet, Faith/Spirituality, Family, Humor, South Carolina, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

January Depression

Thirty years ago, I began to notice the predictable pattern of my own depression every January. Over the years, I’ve kept a journal periodically. All I needed to do was look back at previous Januarys to see, sure enough, the same behavioral blueprint. It wasn’t hard to figure out.

  • The excitement of Christmas was over.
  • The days were shorter.
  • There was illness in the air.
  • We stayed indoors more.
  • The obituary list in the newspaper was longer.

January depression is no secret.

Situational sadness is not the same as clinical despondency or hopelessness, but, still, I learned to take the symptoms seriously.

My first clue was the television series Northern Exposure, which aired an episode on Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

https://screenwritingframeofmind.com/2014/12/21/northern-exposure-una-volta-in-linverno/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651

It’s not the same as cabin fever, but limited access to the outdoors also plays a part in the problem. When I spent the last two winters in New England, I was surprised at how much more of the season these hardy souls spend outdoors than Southerners do: ice skating, snow skiing, snowmobiling, and ice fishing. I was amazed.

For me, a big chunk of the January blues was good ol’ fashioned post-Christmas (think “post-partum”) melancholy. All the excitement, the church in overdrive, holiday parties, gift giving and receiving, travel, Christmas tree decorating and dismantling, came to a screeching halt.

January is also a time of reality checking. Why else do we make resolutions? We’ve eaten too much, spent too much, and formed bad habits that need to be broken. Yuk. The fantasy of living as if there are no consequences comes to a demoralizing end. We’re going to have to make some changes. No wonder we are dispirited.

No magic list here of Ten Ways to Get Out of Your January Funk. There are probably a thousand websites to tell you that.

The great insight for me was simply to name the demon. I wasn’t just randomly depressed for no good reason. There were a dozen causes for the January doldrums, and I needed to pay attention.

 

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Competitive Childbearing as a Church Growth Strategy

Competitive Childbearing as a Church Growth Strategy

Marion D. Aldridge

(Note: I thought this was funny when I wrote it five years ago, but I never had it published. So, here it is, finally, as true as ever…)

The mantra of most American churches is “Grow, Grow, Grow.” This refrain springs from the wells of Wal-Mart, capitalism, and the American Way, not from the Bible.   The Jews of the Old Testament did not have a “growth strategy.” The words and life of Jesus repelled as many people as they attracted.

But, since enlargement is at the heart of American evangelicalism, I make a modest suggestion to ensure success.

***

I recommend competitive childbearing as a means of helping numerically declining congregations and denominations return to the robust and vigorous expansion of their former days—before birth control.

We all know families in which the adult siblings race to have the first grandchild, or the first grandson, or the brightest or most athletic children, or more kids than their brothers and sisters. The contest may never be acknowledged overtly, but it happens in millions of families all over the world.

Competitive childbearing plays itself out in a thousand ways: Who gets Grandpa’s name first? Who looks like Grandma? Who will inherit Mama’s china? Who will receive Dad’s blessing? Who gets the family fortune?

Middle class and upper middle class families are simply not having a sufficient quantity of babies to keep our churches as populated and growing as they were through the 1960s.

I propose that churches not already using this natural sibling competitiveness as a strategy for swelling attendance and income are missing a grand opportunity. How can a congregation realistically expect to increase numerically if the following pattern is followed?

  • Four grandparents produce…
  • Two children who only manage to procreate…
  • One grandchild.

That is the definition of a downward demographic trend.

It is an ugly fact for increasingly wealthy denominations that the higher up the educational and social ladder parishioners go, the fewer newborns they produce. As Pentecostals become Baptists, as Baptists become Presbyterians, and as Presbyterians become Episcopalians, their capacity for and interest in breeding a new generation diminishes.

Any church paying attention to numbers (traditionally, budgets, butts and buildings are the important issues) should consider competitive childbearing as a growth strategy. Imagine these numbers:

  • Four grandparents (two sets) have…
  • Twelve children (six per couple), each of which in turn has their own half-dozen babies, totaling…
  • Seventy-two offspring.

That’s serious church growth.

Ask for advice from the Protestants and Roman Catholics of previous centuries when large families were the norm. More recently, since Roman Catholics outlawed birth control, their numbers continued to expand while Protestants, embracing all manner of contraception, watched their numbers shrink. The growth of the church in South America and Africa is less about dynamic preaching than about shunning birth control. Nor is the principle of competitive childbearing limited to the Christian religion. Muslims and Hindus have also practiced this strategy with success. Children having children is always a good thing for increasing religious population.

In the Baptist church of my childhood, we gave awards on Mother’s Day for the oldest mother, the youngest mother (sometimes age 15 or 16) and the mother with the most children. Forget Christmas and Easter! If your congregation will focus on Mother’s Day with the right rewards, competitive childbearing will happen naturally.

Ask for advice from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS). They can’t build fast enough to house all their offspring/constituents. Their men are allowed to marry multiple wives. That helps the toddler totals even more. Maybe Plural Marriage is a Biblical idea that Protestants should consider. Let a 65-year old man marry 6 wives, ages 65, 55, 45, 35, 25 and 15, and I guarantee there will be a steady supply of fresh infants.

The answer to almost every church growth problem is “Just Have Babies.” By the way, you certainly don’t want non-productive, non-procreating homosexuals in a church committed to a strategy of competitive childbearing.

The wonderful thing about this approach to church growth is that it allows American Christians to continue to worship their three Great Gods:

  • Competition—We love to have winners and losers in our culture, especially if we are the winners. Forget this win-win stuff. We all want to be Winners. Losers are just losers.
  • Materialism—We love Stuff. We love the Money that buys Stuff.   I know that Jesus said some weird things about hoarding and greed, but Jesus was not an economist. So be careful about giving his opinions too much weight.
  • Size—Oh, how we worship Bigness. Big Houses. Big Box Stores. Big Churches. Big Cars. Big Stadiums. Big Guns. The Bigger the Better. There is no place in a True America for modesty in size. More than half of the pop-up ads on the computer are selling products to increase Size. Surely, if we understood him correctly, Jesus was more interested in growing the numbers of the local Synagogue than healing the sick, or feeding the hungry, or making peace, or any of that other humbug stuff. Right?

If competitive childbearing is the perfect solution for the problems of our church culture, then have lots of kids. By the way, I don’t know any pastor-search committee or any group of deacons that wants to grow their church with old people. Another mantra in our culture that will be resolved by a steady supply of children is “Youth, Youth, Youth.”

It will baffle me if congregations don’t leap to this policy of competitive childbearing to increase their size.

This would be an especially effective approach if we could retroactively get Jesus to be married.

If only Jesus had practiced what we preach…

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Humor | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

Thanksgiving Guest Blog by Joe Darby

~ MID-WEEK MEDITATION ~

Based on Psalm 34

 

            I’m writing this Meditation after phone calls from my sons that made me smile.  My oldest son was preparing to do an early Thanksgiving dinner for his wife of two years and wanted me to send him my turkey dressing recipe.  My youngest son, who lives out of state, told me what he and his wife were preparing together for Thanksgiving dinner – a couple of days before their first wedding anniversary.

 

            Those simple phone calls led me to reflect on the joy of seeing my sons grow up.  I witnessed their births, changed their diapers, saw them learn to walk and talk and watched them go through all of the joys and challenges of evolving from children to teens to college students to successful men, both of whom are doing well in their careers and both of whom joyfully married the “women of their dreams.”

 

            I give thanks for the men they’ve become, especially since forty years of ministry – that included fourteen bi-vocational years as a juvenile probation counselor – allowed me to see how good young people can easily run into bad situations that derail their hopes, dreams, progress and well-being.  The success of my sons is a simple but significant reason for me to give thanks to God.

 

            I share that blessing with you on the eve of Thanksgiving Day 2017.  America’s national day of thanks – that was first formally proclaimed during the American Civil War – is a time for families to gather for food, fellowship, football games and parades.  It’s easy to get caught up in the obligatory traditions of the day, forget the real meaning of the day or simply see the day as a welcome and brief break from life’s routinely stressful and troubling daily situations.

 

            When we take the time, however, to “exhale” and remember the real meaning of the day, we can thank God for life’s routine and extraordinary blessings.  We can reflect on the things that God has already done for us – great and small – look forward to what God will do for us, take the time to praise the Lord and prepare to return thanks every day by what we do to serve the Lord and to reach out to and stand up for those around us.

 

            Take the time, in the midst of all that you do on Thanksgiving Day, to pause, count your blessings and praise the Lord for all that’s right in your life.  You’ll find new joy, new strength, new peace of mind and new hope as you face each day – not focusing on your obstacles but celebrating your opportunities and saying with one hymn writer – even in the “age of Donald Trump” – “Oh, come to the Father through Jesus the Son; and give Him the glory, great things He has done!”

 

This Meditation is also available:

 

As a Blog on the Beaufort District’s Website: wwwbeaufortdistrict.org

 

And on Facebook at:

www.facebook.com/BeaufortDistrictAMEC

 

Get Ready for Sunday, and have a great day in your house of worship!

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

A Week with President Jimmy and Mrs. Rosalynn Carter

Last Saturday, April 29, when I arrived in Plains, Georgia, I assumed I would have a chance to meet the Carters. After all, he was teaching Sunday school in the sanctuary and I was preaching there immediately after—for two Sundays.

I’ve never been to this section of Georgia, so I had a couple of places on my “to do” list for the week—Koinonia Farm, the Habitat for Humanity Global Village, and the Andersonville Prison. All three of these were pilgrimages. Clarence Jordan, author of the Cotton Patch translation of the New Testament, was a huge influence on my young life. Greenlawn Baptist Church and I built the first Habitat for Humanity House in Columbia, SC. I said the first cuss word on a South Carolina Habitat site when a nail punctured my flesh in an inconvenient place. Andersonville prison, as someone posted on Facebook, is the saddest place in America and its story needs to be told.

The President Carter component of the week many of you have seen on Facebook was pure serendipity. My boarding house hostess is, it appears to me, the primary source of orientation for the guests at Maranatha Baptist Church, where the former Leader of the Free World teaches Sunday school. She talks to the gathered congregation before Sunday school about protocol. She makes sure the Carters’ needs are met and is very protective of their privacy. Between Sunday school and worship, in the seclusion of a church office, she (Jill Stuckey) asked if the Carters might be interested in having a meal with the guest preacher (me) sometime during the week. President Carter answered, “Let’s see how he preaches first.”

That’s an honest man. (I didn’t know this story until later.)

Of course, the Carters and I spoke to one another briefly after worship and after pictures had been taken with everyone else. That was a pleasure and an honor, and I was a happy camper.

President and Mrs. Carter returned to Sunday evening church. That was a surprise. They were good listeners. They seemed to like what I had to say.

Later, Jill told me we’d been invited to dinner at the Carter’s on Monday night. I actually prepared some questions in case we had time for serious conversation. I don’t intend to share details of a private evening, but this is worth repeating:

In response to one question, he said, “Be flexible for changing times, but cling to enduring principles.”

Two Mrs. Carters were at dinner. Billy Carter’s wife, Sybil, joined us for dinner. I thoroughly enjoyed her part in table conversation. After dinner, we admired the audacity of a raccoon eating his supper from a bird feeder. He did not seem particularly threatened by the 39th President, but he eventually ambled away.

On Tuesday, I played the tourist, visiting President Carter’s boyhood home and other attractions around Plains. I understand the President was turkey hunting. Sunday school teacher, author, volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, hunter, fisherman, peacekeeper, humanitarian, husband, father, artist, furniture-maker, eradicator of diseases (through the Carter Center in Atlanta) and who-knows-what-else? The former President stays busy.

On Wednesday, I visited the POW Museum and the Andersonville Prison about which I blogged earlier this week.

Meanwhile, I discovered the Carters were coming over for Thursday supper as long as I cooked. Landlady Jill claims she’s not a chef, but my Mom taught me how to prepare a meal long ago. Everybody in my family loves breakfast for supper, so I bought sausage, bacon, berries, milk, eggs, coffee and pancake mix and prepared a meal. Folks have asked if I fed the Secret Service. Yes. Sybil Carter and one of the other boarders here also joined us.

Today, Friday, Nelle Ariail, wife of the former pastor at Maranatha Baptist Church, escorted me to Americus and sites of interest there.

There’s a big front porch on the boarding house, and I’ve spent a good hunk of my free time there reading.

Sunday will roll around again, and my plan is simple: Go to Sunday school and hear a good lesson and then preach. After lunch and a nap, I’ll preach again on Sunday night.

“The boundaries have fallen for me in pleasant places.” Psalm 16: 6

 

 

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A Carolina Baptist in Two Yankee Winters

For two consecutive years, 2016 and 2017, I’ve confused my seasons and moved North in the dead of winter. Minus seventeen degrees was the lowest temperature—on a Sunday morning! Church was not cancelled. Here are a few observations:

Calling/Vocation—I didn’t initiate either of these experiences. I’m a retired pastor/preacher/church consultant who lives in South Carolina with my wife Sally and my cat Caesar. During the last fifteen years, I’ve worked with churches in crisis or transition. My skill set is to serve as a “bridge” from their past to their future. Trinity Baptist Church in Hanover, New Hampshire, and Wilton Baptist Church in Wilton, Connecticut, needed help. They called. I responded. It’s a good thing to feel useful. It’s even better to be useful. I’m grateful for all my friends who encouraged and/or prayed for me. Trinity called a fine young pastor and Wilton, I believe, is close to calling someone as their pastor. I’ll keep you posted.

Family—Anyone who knows me understands that family is important. Sally and I have been married 44 years. Our daughter Jenna, son-in-law Thorne, and Grandson Lake live three blocks from Sally and me. They eat supper with us every Sunday night. On the other hand, our daughter Julie and her husband Tom live outside Boston, a long way from South Carolina. I don’t like that distance at all. By being in New England for good chunks of 2016 and 2017, Julie, Tom and I could get together about once every three weeks. I loved, loved, loved those times. Francis Bacon said something like this: “If the mountain can’t come to Mohammed, then Mohammed can go to the mountain.” So, off to New England, I traveled.

Adventure—What’s not to like about a Currier & Ives Winter Wonderland? For someone with an incurable case of wanderlust, New England is an attractive option. Ivy League schools, hockey games, moose, frozen ponds and rivers, all sounded intriguing. Merely sightseeing (no offense to my touristy friends) is not an adventure. Getting out of my comfort zone is. I dreaded the idea of shoveling snow, but that worked out just fine. Also, I was aware of the proximity of New Hampshire to Canada and Connecticut to New York City, so I took advantage of both. I spent a few days in Montreal and several days in Manhattan. I saw four Broadway plays. I toured West Point. I loved the picturesque town squares and greens, as well as the streams, waterfalls, hills and wildlife, the covered bridges, mansions, churches, shops, restaurants, museums, and monuments I discovered all over New England, from Newport, Rhode Island, to Walpole, New Hampshire, to Quechee, Vermont, to New Haven, Connecticut, to Sturbridge, Massachusetts. Lots of beauty, lots of history, and lots of fine food!

(Bonus points for Adventure: Dartmouth College was an intriguing part of my 2016 experience. As the Baptist Student Minister for the campus, I had access to libraries, lectures, and other aspects of campus life. I took continuing education courses.

Serendipity—Food! I’ve never taken a road trip for the sake of a culinary experience, but neither have I shied away from dietary excellence. King Arthur Flour was a highlight of my first winter away—pastries, breads, desserts. Incomparable. The farms of Vermont and New Hampshire produce some of the best cheeses you will ever taste. This year, I discovered the restaurants in the corner of Connecticut where I lived were exceptional, with a commitment to locally grown meat and vegetables. On my last trip into New York City (the train ride costs only $8.50), I determined to eat at a Michelin-starred restaurant. I couldn’t afford most of them—over $300 for a fixed price meal. I discovered NoMad was within my price range, made a reservation, and had one of the great dinners of my life.

Being alone—Traveling by myself has, of course, pluses and minuses. I’ve blogged about that before. I’m comfortable with Quiet Time. I read a lot. I write. I walk. I think. I eat. I read. I eat. I walk. I read. I eat. I’m perfectly content to go to a baseball game, a high school musical, or a museum tour by myself. I prefer to be with someone, but that’s not always possible.

In case I sound a bit too blasé or pious about all this time unaccompanied, let me be clear: both years, I got very lonely. The adventure wore off. I’m sure I don’t want to spend a full winter in New England or apart from Sally again. Sally and I really missed each other. She came up once during each of these sojourns for about a week. Thank God for those occasions when friends or family called or visited or wrote. Sometimes, member of the Trinity and Wilton congregations reached out to me, and sometimes I reached out to them, so I also enjoyed local fellowship.

I’ve reflected about people who have no choice about living alone: widows and widowers. I’m sensitive to the fact that being by yourself is not always a choice. It can be painful. I’m fortunate. I came home to a wife who loves me.

Until the wanderlust strikes again, or, until I get a phone call, whichever comes first, I’m glad to be home.

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Holiday, South Carolina, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Homeward Bound

Having been in New England for ten of the past sixteen months, I’ve thought a lot about home.

With respect to Robert Frost, home is the place where they’re glad to take me in.

Sally, Jenna, and Julie are home to me, wherever they are.

Home is sleeping in my bed with my wife.

Home is our cat, Caesar, loving me as if I’d never been gone.

Home is grilling salmon on our patio. Home is our bright red Japanese Maple tree.

Home is a hug from the lady at the dry cleaners who missed me. Home is friends at Kathwood Baptist Church welcoming me back.

Home is my Grandson Lake showing up at our house at 6:45 a.m. wanting blueberry muffins on Thursday morning.

Home is my shower, my pillow, and my favorite coffee mug. Home is iced tea with mint freshly picked from our garden. Home is my bookshelves with my books with my favorite passages underlined. Home is being surrounded by memorabilia from Charleston, Cooperstown, Scotland, Italy, Turkey, Kenya, and Romania.

Home, for me, are tigers, tigers everywhere.

Home is driving on familiar roads and walking on familiar sidewalks.

Home is my Dad’s picture on the wall and my Mother’s baking sheets (which we still use to make chocolate chip cookies) in our kitchen cabinet.

Home is my back porch where I eat breakfast and drink coffee as many days of the year as possible, January through December. I love it, especially the sound of the birds singing, the toot of the railroad train not far away, and the kids waiting for their school bus. When Sally, Jenna, Julie, sons-in-law Thorne and Tom, or friends join me, there is no better place in the world.

Home.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Health, Holiday, South Carolina, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

We Were Wrong…

We Were Wrong…

Marion Aldridge

As I matured as a Christian, I reflected, long, often, and sometimes sadly, even painfully, about much of what I believed as a youngster, and into adulthood. Because my doctrines, my ethics, and my habits have sometimes undergone enormous changes, there may be those who are presumptive enough to wonder if I lost my faith.

Quite possibly, I lost your faith. I found my faith. The Bible calls these transformations “repentance.” Here are some of my confessions:

WE WERE WRONG to believe that science and God could be enemies. Truth is truth wherever we find it.

WE WERE WRONG to assume uniformity in thought or action was better than independence or creativity.

WE WERE WRONG to accept what our culture taught us about racial segregation and the supposed inferiority of black people.

WE WERE WRONG to believe that we could somehow obey the Great Commission by paying for and praying for missionaries to go to Africa while ignoring the Great Commandments, disrespecting the African-Americans who lived down the dirt roads from our churches. We were either unaware or didn’t care that they often drank polluted water, had leaky roofs, and had no indoor plumbing.

WE WERE WRONG to believe that a glass of wine on Thanksgiving would send someone to hell but that it was okay for the preacher to be 100 pounds overweight and continue to stuff his face with fried chicken.

WE WERE WRONG to believe that people in other denominations who paid attention to the Christian calendar (Pentecost, Maundy Thursday, and Ash Wednesday, for example) were somehow less spiritual than Baptists who built their church calendar around secular holidays (such as Mother’s Day, Memorial Day and July 4).

WE WERE WRONG to believe we could be comfortable and Christian at the same time.

WE WERE WRONG to believe the primary thing that Jesus or the Christian faith cared about was Heaven and Hell.

WE WERE WRONG to believe that somehow America was the Kingdom of God.

WE WERE WRONG to believe the assumptions of our secular society, that bigger is better, that might makes right, that getting is better than giving.

WE WERE WRONG to believe that highlighting a few isolated verses could sum up the Bible, as if God could be contained in a bumper sticker.

WE WERE WRONG to trivialize prayer, as if getting all the things we want is the point!

WE WERE WRONG to believe God intended to silence the female half of the human race.

WE WERE WRONG to assume other people could practice the Christian faith on our behalf: pastors, missionaries, youth ministers, and social workers. When was the last time you got to know a welfare mother or a drug addict?

WE WERE WRONG to say there is only one biblical way to focus on the family. The family of Abraham looks different than the family of Jesus, which looks different than the family of King David, which looks different than the family of Mary and Martha, which looks different than the family of Esther and Mordecai.

WE WERE WRONG to think that Roberts Rules of Order, rather than the Bible, is the primary guide for working out disagreements in our churches.

WE WERE WRONG to teach (or imply) that talking, telling, and preaching, was more important than listening. The great sin of the Old Testament, according to Roy Honeycutt, was “They would not listen.”

WE WERE WRONG to let bullies, blamers, gossips, and other spiritually unhealthy people dominate the conversations and the decisions in many of our congregations.

WE WERE WRONG to think that repentance was primarily for non-Christians outside of our churches instead of for those of us inside. The more I know about Jesus, the Bible, the Christian faith, and the Holy Spirit, the more I know I am called to change, to repent.

WE WERE WRONG to believe that any tradition, law, bible, preacher, program, building, doctrine, convention or any other part of creation—even if God made it and blessed it—could possibly be as important as the Creator.

This, by the way, is the short list. I could write a book!

I have always been a loyal kind of guy. For decades, I hung in there, as much as possible, with the ecclesiastical world I inherited. I knew racism was wrong, however, and one by one, I began confronting the errors and inadequacies of my childhood experiences. I am grateful for the church of my childhood, for my family, for the appropriate lessons from my South Carolina culture. But I am also grateful I had permission to continue to grow, to get un-stuck from the habits, behaviors and beliefs of my childhood and adolescence.

(Four years ago, I wrote this column for the newsletter of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of South Carolina.)

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Health, Holiday, Lists/Top Ten, Race, South Carolina | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

No Church Gets the Pastor They Thought They Called

No Church Gets the Pastor They Thought They Called

The reverse is also true. Pastors do not end up at the church to which they thought they had a call.

(The exception to both observations is when a church calls as pastor a well-known associate already on their staff. Each party knows in advance whether the match is a good fit.)

Church and candidate need to say as much as they can about their hopes, dreams, agendas and, even, to some extent, deficiencies. Potential pastors should not say they love hospital visitation or evangelism if they don’t. Churches should not say they are conflict free if they aren’t. This isn’t to say the church or potential pastors need to pursue every idiosyncratic thought during the search.

When a new pastor is installed, grace will be required on both sides. Selecting a pastor and accepting a call is like dating and marriage. There’s a lot about the courtship that is charming, exciting, hopeful and lovely. But, as in marriage, there will be surprises. The pastor search committee didn’t know about the pastor’s kickboxing hobby. The prospective pastor didn’t know he/she was expected to join the Rotary Club.

As a lifelong observer of and participant in churches, I’ve noticed that sometimes the members of a pastor search committee are the first to turn against their new employee—which they selected! I suspect that’s because of unrealistically high expectations: “We thought our youth program would double in size within six months. It didn’t happen and I’m disappointed. We made a mistake. We got the wrong person.“

Generally, our level of satisfaction is directly proportional to the level of our expectations. If we have super-high expectations, we are sure to be disappointed. This is a principle for life, by the way, not just for search committees and pastoral candidates.

Pastors are also surprised. In almost every church there’s a hot button issue that’s untouchable in sermons and possibly even in private conversation. I can give you a list of fifty. The unhealthiest congregations are without grace on a dozen or more fronts. It’s silly to think the entire congregation and the new pastor will agree on all subjects.

Prepare for surprises. Life is a roller coaster. The pastor and congregation are on a pilgrimage together, at least for this season.

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Take My Breath Away

“The most completely lost of all days is that in which one has not laughed.” Nicolas Chamfort

Birthdays with a Zero in them are fine times for reflection. February 11, 2017, I turned 70.

I’ve enjoyed hundreds, thousands of moments that have taken my breath away. I’ve fallen in love and married. We’ve celebrated 44 anniversaries. I’ve watched the birth of two daughters. I baptized both of them.

I’ve been blessed to participate in the spiritual growth of many folks. I’ve helped alcoholics get sober. I’ve seen people whose lives were pure chaos find order, salvation and peace. I’ve watched rigid, self-righteous people discover grace. More importantly, I discovered grace for myself and for others.

In Mauritania, I got stuck in the Sahara Desert in a four-wheel drive vehicle. That might have taken my breath away but I found a small tent village and took a nap. You must have priorities!

I’ve watched Clemson win two National Championships in football. Exhilarating!

It’s a rush to hold a book you wrote that’s been published. I’ve had that privilege four times.

I survived two serious car wrecks, one with a fully loaded logging truck.

Sally and I were on a transatlantic flight when one of the plane’s engines blew. We heard it. No doubt about what had happened. Potentially breathtaking experience. Literally. When we landed, two dozen emergency vehicles followed our plane down the runway.

My two best friends died. Soul-crushing experiences. Even at their memorial services, we found ways to laugh.

I’ve listened to Ella Fitzgerald in concert. Magnificent.

I’ve seen Greg Maddux pitch. Incredible.

In Kenya, I’ve seen elephants, lions, giraffes, zebras, and ostriches in their natural habitat. Wow!

On Folly Beach, South Carolina, I watched loggerhead turtles bursting from their brittle eggshells and clawing their way across the sandy beach into the Atlantic Ocean. Awe-inspiring.

With my grandson, Lake, we peered over the edge of the Grand Canyon, then rafted on the Colorado River.

With my daughter, Julie, we watched whales and caught lobsters off the coast of Massachusetts. Incredible.

With my daughter, Jenna, my grandson Lake, and my wife Sally, we climbed to the top of Machu Picchu. Then, we hiked in the Amazon Rain Forest. Mindboggling experiences.

Two pieces of advice I got from Jerry and Jane Howington when I was a teenager: “Keep on keeping on” and “Hang in there.”

“I’m so excited. I’m about to lose control and I think I like it.” The Pointer Sisters

Categories: Baseball, Faith/Spirituality, Family, Football, Humor, South Carolina, Travel, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

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