South Carolina

A Difference in Patriotism?

A Difference in Patriotism?

Marion D. Aldridge

 

Don’t confuse a difference in politics with a difference in patriotism.

The angriest I remember being at a church member in my twenty-five years of serving as a pastor was when a man came to the pastor’s study to complain about something he didn’t like. I had not even been aware of the oversight he brought to my attention. The church secretary had left any mention of the Memorial Day holiday out of the congregational calendar.

I apologized, which was easy, because a mistake had been made. Inadvertent. Unintentional, by either the secretary or me. Memorial Day was a church holiday. The church office had been closed. Furthermore, we had paid appropriate attention to the occasion in worship on Sunday.

But he was not satisfied. After listening to him express his dissatisfaction for a few minutes, I realized something deeper was going on. He and I disagreed on many political issues. I’m sure we often cancelled each other’s vote on Election Day. That was okay with me, because that’s the way America works. Maybe it wasn’t okay with him.

“Are you questioning my patriotism?” I asked. He was silent.

“Don’t you ever question my patriotism,” I said. Anger is not my customary emotion, but I was livid. “I love America. I do everything I can to be a good citizen and encourage others. I vote. I serve as a poll manager. I serve on juries when I’m called. I preach on Christian citizenship often. I fly the American flag on my front porch. Don’t you dare question my patriotism.”

Reaching over to my filing cabinet, I pulled out my folder on “Christian Citizenship” to demonstrate my point. “This is the thickest folder in my files. I will be glad to go through it with you piece by piece. You’ll find nothing here except evidence of my love for our country and my desire to live in it as a Christian ought to, and to make our nation better every year.” I was hot.

To his credit, he backed down, and acknowledged an honest mistake had occurred.

There are a lot of ways to be American. It is not your way or the highway. I don’t plan to go anywhere. We are Republican, Democrat, and Libertarian, black, brown, white and many other colors, male and female, Northerners, Southerners and Westerners, gay and straight, Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, Orthodox, Muslim, and Jew, Clemson fans and South Carolina fans, and there is room for all in this great nation. There is room for people who agree with me and for people who disagree.

“One nation under God indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” That’s not just a pledge. It’s my commitment and my prayer.

 

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Football, Holiday, South Carolina, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Theology and Politics

Theology and Politics

Marion D. Aldridge

We are living in a time when politicians are trying to be theologians, and theologians are attempting to be politicians. It’s not working out very well.

Over the years, I’ve resisted the temptation to post my political inclinations on Facebook or my blogs. I’ve been a happy American, blessed beyond reason under both Democratic and Republican Presidents.

My specific concern this week is when people speak, as if they knew what they are talking about, in areas where they don’t know what they are talking about. For instance, the Bible.

I know little to nothing about economic theory or geological formations. Neither is a field in which I have expertise. So, I offer no opinions.

The Bible is a Big Book. It says a lot of things. If you study the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, and take a course in systematic theology, and another in ethics, you will discover quite a long and complicated history about how people of faith should live in the secular world. Here are a few of my summary thoughts about matters of faith, as they relate to the law:

1) Jesus was clear when he said to let Caesar have what belongs to Caesar, and let God be in charge of the God-stuff.

2) Paul was a follower of Jesus, willing to go to jail for disobeying laws. In fact, when he named his top three motivators, the law did not make the list. He said the Big Three are Faith, Hope, and Love, and the greatest of those is love.

3) The Old Testament prophets, Jesus, and Paul all point us to higher ground: “What does the Lord require of you but to act justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)

The law is not to be our moral compass. Legalism is a methodology for defending, instead of fixing, a broken compass.

These are principles even a politician can use as an ethical guide.

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Quotations, South Carolina | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

The Arrogance of Everyday Evangelical Anti-Semitism

The Arrogance of Everyday Evangelical Anti-Semitism

Marion D. Aldridge

The most obvious examples of intolerance in contemporary America are the obnoxious bigotry of the Westboro Baptist Church (of “God Hates Jews and Fags” fame) and the hate-filled prejudice of other white nationalist and neo-Nazi groups. Fear, paranoia, and clannishness are the usual culprits, resulting in a worldview of Us versus Them.

Such hostility has been largely outside my ecclesiastical sphere, except when I see it on television. Though I’ve been to thousands of Christian meetings over my seventy years, I’m grateful I have no memory of hearing overt anti-Jewish political propaganda at any of them. I read about obsessed fanatics and the events in which they’re involved only when they emerge from the dark corners of humanity, committing some newsworthy atrocity against their neighbors.

Anxious, angry individuals, not part of any organized movement, also qualify as xenophobic and anti-Semitic. Hidden from public view, these shriveled spirits go unnoticed until they write anonymous letters to say something like, “Your type doesn’t belong in our club.”

Unfortunately, however, there is a subtler path that results in anti-Semitism, one not based on fear or paranoia, but on theological arrogance. It is created from the cavalier assumption that all Jews (as well as all Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims) who have not converted to Christianity are going to spend an eternity tortured by their Creator in a horrifying hell.

This is fundamental to the theology of many evangelical Christians. They thoughtlessly accept this belief as temporarily harmless dogma concerning a far away future. This doctrine, however, is a social malignancy, a casual contempt for our neighbors who do not share our faith. It is not a benign belief when a segment of the population contends that God condemns all Jews or Muslims, casting them into eternal torment because they are not “saved.”

Many of those same individuals will read Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl or Elie Wiesel’s Night, and be appalled that such events actually happened. They may visit the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. and genuinely be moved by the displays there, finding it beyond comprehension that six million Jews were slaughtered during the reign of Nazi Germany.

Then they return, time and time again, to a hostile, hellish, and humanity-diminishing theology.

A survivor from a Nazi death camp may have visited their classroom when they were studying World War II. They were sickened by what they heard. Maybe they listened to the horror stories and saw the videos from the liberators of the concentration camps. They would quickly disavow any relationship of their Christian faith to such cruelties.

Yet they slip back into the habit of accepting, never challenging, the cruel, deadly doctrines concerning the perpetual punishment of Jews they were taught as children.

Some well-traveled Christians have visited the sites where the terrible events of the Holocaust occurred—Buchenwald, Auschwitz, or Dachau. There are no words to describe what they saw there. They returned home and mentioned the experience to their friends when they attended church the next Sunday. They might have even felt uneasy when the preacher insisted that everyone who is not a born again Christian is going to hell.

But their brutal theology never wavered. They had been taught, and so they believed, that Jews were not destined for heaven. They may remember that over half their scripture consists of the Hebrew Bible—from Genesis through Malachi. They may feel slightly uncomfortable when they realize there would be no Christianity unless there had first been Judaism. It might dawn on them that not only are Abraham, Sarah, Moses, and Miriam Hebrews, but so also are Mary, Paul, and Jesus.

Nevertheless, they compartmentalize their lives—Jews (Them) over there and Christians (Us) over here.

Some Christians build sophisticated theological arguments around acknowledging Jews were God’s first “chosen” people. But, according to their worldview, Christians are now God’s favorites. The bottom line is that those who are not selected for inclusion as full partners into God’s Kingdom are secondary, not valued, worth less.

That sounds like the dictionary definition of anti-Semitism.

Making decisions about the eternal destiny of other people is above my pay grade.

What can I do?

“[God] has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6: 8 NRSV)

(First published in the Holocaust Remembered supplement to The State Newspaper, April 6, 2018.)

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, South Carolina, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

My Answer: Marion’s Billy Graham Story

My Answer: Marion’s Billy Graham Story

Warning: This narrative ends with a whimper instead of a bang, and maybe we can all be grateful for that.

After my week in Plains, Georgia, enjoying the company of Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter for a week, someone commented that the experience must have been THE highlight of my life. Well, no… Much as I loved the entire series of events in South Georgia, I would remind readers that Sally and I had a really nice wedding in 1972 in Columbia, SC. Highlight!

I was present for the birth of my two marvelous daughters in 1974 and 1983. Highlights! Fuzzy and I were in the Orange Bowl when Clemson won the National Football Championship in 1982. Highlight! I’ve been stuck in the sand in the Sahara Desert. I’ve sailed in a hot air balloon over Cappadocia in Turkey. I’ve been to the Holy Land and walked where Jesus walked (more or less). Highlights!

My Billy Graham story is a highlight. In April 1987, The State Newspaper asked me to review, critique, and comment on Billy Graham’s sermons during his Columbia meetings at Williams-Brice Stadium. The idea of critiquing Billy Graham was a bit daunting. I wrote one preview editorial, one on-deadline article each night, summarizing the content of his sermon, and one follow-up commentary after Graham and his associates had departed. It was a plum assignment.

Like every other well-bred Baptist, I was a Billy Graham fan. I had attended his crusade/revival in upstate South Carolina when I was a student at Clemson in 1966. Our seminary had a Billy Graham room in the library. I liked that he insisted his meetings be integrated. He was an advocate of peacemaking in an era of nuclear proliferation. There was a lot to like about Billy Graham. All of us young preacher-boys wished we could preach as well as he did, and draw crowds as he did.

At the same time, I was aware that his ministry had the great benefit of introducing the Good News of the Christian faith, and welcoming converts into the faith. Then, he left town. Local pastors had to do the hard work of attempting to corral these new believers into churches and to make disciples of them. I could be impressed by Graham’s awesome ministry and, at the same time, aware that his calling was not the same as mine.

After the first few days of the event, one afternoon my presence was requested rather suddenly and mysteriously. Someone from the Graham team (that’s what his staff was called), walked me from the newspaper offices next door to Williams-Brice into the innards of the stadium and ushered me into a room with some snacks and…

Billy Graham. Just the two of us.

He introduced himself, complimented my reporting, and the two of us conversed for fifteen or twenty minutes. He said it was hard to find someone who was a good writer who understood the evangelical milieu, who wasn’t mystified by the language of Zion, whose heart was good, and who was not as cynical as the national secular reporters who ordinarily wrote about him. Of course, I was flattered, and thanked him. I wasn’t prepared to interview him. I was, after all, a Baptist preacher and pastor, not a journalist. So we chatted over cheese and crackers.

After a while, he said he’d like for me to consider ghostwriting his “My Answer” newspaper column. Wow. I had enough ethics and sense about me to say that for the next week or so, I was committed to fulfilling my obligation to The State Newspaper. After that, if he was still interested, we could have a conversation. Of course, I was dumbstruck, but I didn’t want a mid-event commitment to the Graham team and their public relations agenda to tempt me to write only complimentary comments about the sermons and the revival/crusade services. He understood. We enjoyed more conversation and eventually, our time together was over. He was as nice a man as you think he was, genuine, generous, thoughtful, kind. My twenty minutes alone with Billy Graham.

I’ve mentioned this time with Billy Graham to only a few people, including the editor of The State Newspaper. Sally knew about it, of course, as well as a few close friends.

Nothing ever came of the “My Answer” offer. After a month, I wrote him a letter at his Montreat address, asking if he still had an interest in working with me. I received a pleasant and positive personal reply from him, typically gracious, and the answer was, in short, yes. Someone on his staff would contact me. His public relations firm out of New York did get in touch with me, eventually, and I think it’s fair to say I got the runaround. Who knows what happened? Did they do a background check on me and discover that I drink wine and smoke cigars? Did they learn I was more moderate theologically than Graham?

Thus, this episode ends with a whimper.

For which, ultimately, I’m grateful. I suspect my answers to the questions he was asked through the years would have been very different than Mr. Graham’s.

That’s my Billy Graham story.

Marion D. Aldridge

February 22, 2018

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, South Carolina, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

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

Dispatches from Pluto: Lost and Found in the Mississippi Delta–A Book Review

Dispatches from Pluto: Lost and Found in the Mississippi Delta

Reviewed by Marion D. Aldridge

Before, during, and after a recent trip to Mississippi for a writers’ retreat, I read lots of Mississippi authors, from William Faulkner to Eudora Welty to John Grisham. But the gem I discovered was Dispatches from Pluto, winner of the Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize, and a New York Times bestseller. Richard Grant, an Englishman, is the author.

Grant is a travel writer who took a deep dive into Mississippi, bought a house there, married there, and made a life there. You can’t get much more immersed in a culture.

Locals often can’t see the forest for the trees. What we think is noteworthy is not interesting at all to outsiders. The everyday scenery that bores us is remarkable to a stranger. The language we know deep in our bones is charming to a newcomer. Grant moves into the world of the Deep South and tells our stores better than we can. He notices the strange bonds between the races that dominate our world and, without judgment, helps us understand ourselves better.

He writes of the poverty in the Mississippi Delta (not so different from the South Carolina low country): “Poor children hear thirty million fewer words than rich children in the first four years of their life.”

Grant observes what I’ve known for decades: “People vote against their own best interests, because they’re culturally so conservative.” Grant, to his credit, is unwilling to use the term “racist” too quickly. He quotes one woman, “Compartmentalize, compartmentalize, and then compartmentalize some more. If someone tells you that the Muslims are plotting to destroy America, or Obama is the Antichrist, you just seal that away in its own separate compartment, and carry on till you find their good side. There’s no sense in arguing with them.” Grant discovered that’s a necessary survival tactic in small communities of a few hundred or a few thousand people, where relationships with all members of the community are required. Nobody has the luxury of gated communities or ghettoes. All relationships are symbiotic and necessary.

He discusses not only the economics and politics of the Delta, but also the religion, the music, prisons, sports and education. He is as perplexed as everyone else that, during the Jim Crowe years, “Whites wouldn’t drink from the same water fountain as colored, but they were happy for their babies to have a black wet nurse.”

Grant has entered our world. He wrote he was “drowning in the deep end of the Deep South.” He did as fine a job of explaining us as anyone I’ve read.

Categories: Book Review, Race, South Carolina, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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My travels and adventures lately haven’t been as exciting as Dinner with the Carters or Winter in New England, but that doesn’t mean I’ve been sitting still.

Most recently, I traveled to the Gray Episcopal Camp and Conference Center in Canton, Mississippi (Did you learn to spell Mississippi the same way I did?) for a weeklong retreat for writers, sponsored by the Collegeville Institute, Millsaps College, and The Center for Ministry. Ultimately, I think it was Lilly Foundation money.

Participation was competitive. We had to submit something we’d written, and twelve of us were selected. Like the disciples? That was pretty cool. The event was free, though we had to pay for our own transportation to get there and back. That’s a ten-hour car trip in each direction, so I decided to drive. I spent some time, going and coming, with my Uncle Butch and Aunt Kari in Atlanta.

When I travel, I literally get out an old-fashioned paper map (remember them?) and draw a circle around my destination(s) to discover what interesting sites I can fit into my itinerary. The most obvious was the Vicksburg National Military Park, location of a deadly Civil War siege and battle. I visited there with my parents, grandparents, my brother, and Uncle Butch when I was a young teenager, maybe age fourteen, so I remember it well.

Then, nudged by one of those occasional moments of moral reflection, I wondered why I would willfully choose to re-visit a Civil War site. After all, we have been in a heated national conversation about how much we should venerate these painful Civil War memorials. I have all of that I need in South Carolina without traveling to the Mississippi River.

A point of particular aggravation to me is that our tourism board ignores the fact that the Revolutionary War happened in South Carolina! My name is Marion, after all, in honor of Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox, the Patriot! You can be at his burial site on the Belle Isle Plantation in Pineville, SC, less than a two-hour trip from my front door. Yet, we largely snub those sites while still glorifying the few Civil War events that happened within our state.

So, I made the decision to go to Oxford, home of the University of Mississippi and William Faulkner. Good decision. My cousin Lola was kind enough to drive down from Memphis so we could have a meal and spend the evening together. Lola is a much younger cousin. When I was fifteen, she was five, so she was a little kid, easy to ignore back then. But we discovered one another as adults and bonded over family, faith, and politics. Great evening of catching up with her.

Faulkner’s home was, frankly, a disappointment, but I’m glad I was able to spend time in Oxford.

At the writers’ retreat, we visited Eudora Welty’s home in Jackson, and that was a much more interesting tour than the time at the Faulkner residence.

The Gray Conference Center is a lot like similar venues in South Carolina: ponds, woods, and hiking trails. Very fine writers had been selected to participate. There’s an advantage to having a competitive means of extending invitations. These were not wannabe authors. These were competent men and women of faith and literary skill. The facilitator was Robert Benson, a successful, insightful, and entertaining writer and retreat leader. His main message, at least what I came away with, was, “Write.” The conference provided plenty of time to do that. We listened to one another as each of us read what we had written.

It was a good week, and, now, here I am, writing.

Marion Aldridge

PS: If you would like to apply for next year’s retreat, Rebecca Youngblood is the brain behind the event:

The Center for Ministry

Box 150041, Millsaps College

1701 N State St

Jackson, MS 39210

601-974-1488

www.centerforministry.com

 

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, South Carolina, Travel, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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

A Cold Day for Clemson Baseball in Rhode Island

A Cold Day for Clemson Baseball in Rhode Island (and an Excellent Day for Gamecock Basketball in New York City)

Yesterday, March 24, the fourth day of Spring, I drove to Kingston, Rhode Island, from New Canaan, Connecticut, to watch Clemson University play Boston College in baseball. Boston College’s home field was a mess, we were told, so the game was moved to the University of Rhode Island.

As a Clemson fan and a baseball fan, this was close enough for me, a two-hour drive, each direction. I took the day off and headed up I-95 to watch a 1 p.m. game. We were having a warm spell, about 39 degrees with a wind chill making it 30ish. I wore long underwear, a beautiful orange and white checked Clemson Tiger Paw shirt nobody ever saw, a pullover Clemson jacket, an L. L. Bean outer coat, a Scottish wool scarf with some orange in it, a Clemson baseball hat, a Clemson stocking cap, and some New England rated winter gloves. It was not enough.

The University of Rhode Island has 16,000 students compared to Clemson’s 21,000. The town of Kingston is much smaller than Clemson, however. You must drive on a sorry two-lane road to get there. Intended ironically, considering the size of the state, the campus theme was BIG, as in “Think Big.”

My buddy Larry Abernathy, who was Mayor of Clemson for 28 years, went with Clemson City Council members to other small towns (with major Universities) around the US to compare town and gown experiences. I’m glad he never wasted time in Kingston. Clemson does town-and-gown about as well possible, thanks to a good mayor and fine Clemson Presidents, especially R. C. Edwards, Jim Barker and Jim Clements.

The baseball game was scheduled for one p.m. but was mysteriously postponed for an hour because of weather. So I walked around the hilly Rhode Island campus to get in a three-mile walk. Much smaller campus than Clemson, but with a very traditional quadrangle and granite buildings. A few modern buildings. Nothing very exciting. Not very Big.

The baseball “stadium” was a joke, not Big, so I can’t imagine how bad the Boston College field must be to have the game transferred to Kingston. The smallest high schools in South Carolina have more seating. The field was green and nice enough, but one small set of movable aluminum stands was all that existed for the fans. A few brought their own folding chairs and the rest of us stood and walked around to stay warm.

When the sleet finally started (yes, you read that correctly) at 2 p.m., the umpires said, “Play ball,” and the game was on. Clemson is the better team, ranked number six in the nation right now. The collegiate national player of the year, Seth Beer, is an outfielder for Clemson. I met his parents who were there in the cold to cheer their son and Clemson. We had two runs after four batters. After two innings we had five runs. Final score was 8-2. Attendance was announced as 107 but that may have included both teams.

After the game, I found a beautiful, old, local bookstore and bought a couple of John D. MacDonald novels, then drove to the coast, just a few miles away, for some seafood. The bookstore owner had called ahead for me to make sure her favorite restaurant was open: Champlin’s. It was. This is a fish-camp, picnic-table type establishment, and, since March is off-season, I had the entire place to myself. I watched the fish and lobster boats return to the Galilee Port in Narragansett. I ordered fried oysters and fried scallops, more grease than I’ve had in six months. I paid for it on the two-hour drive home with a tummy that was desperately unhappy.

When I retuned to my apartment, my day ended with watching the University of South Carolina Gamecocks obliterate the Baylor Bears. It was a nice ending to a cold winter New England day.

Categories: Baseball, Holiday, Humor, South Carolina, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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