Travel

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

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 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 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

 

 

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Health, Holiday, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Andersonville Death Camp

Imagine a football stadium, maybe the bottom half of a two-decker. Cram 45,000 people into that arena, then lock the gates. Nobody can leave. Keep the people enclosed there for months, maybe a year. If anyone gets close to an outer wall of the compound, they have entered the Dead Zone and are immediately shot.

No one leaves.

Twenty-five acres total for thousands and thousands of God’s children crowded together. The only water available is a tiny, two-foot wide muddy rivulet that runs through the center of the newly formed camp. The stream serves as drinking water and sewer. Every day is worse than the day before. More men. More disease.

Nobody can leave.

Very little food is available for those within the walls of the stockade.

Nobody can leave.

Andersonville is a Prisoner of War camp. These are not, in spite of my metaphor, sports fans forced to live together in a confined space after a football game for a few hours or a few days, but United States soldiers being held captive in 1864. There’s not enough food or supplies for Southern troops, much less enemy combatants.

These prisoners are not criminals. They fought honorably.

Of the 45,000 imprisoned at Andersonville, 13,000 died. Within months. Dysentery. Starvation. Murder.

Through the years, I’ve often read about and seen at least one documentary concerning the Andersonville Prison. You can find videos on YouTube. I’ve wanted to visit there for the same reason I wanted to see a Nazi Concentration Camp—to be reminded of the horrors of war. I don’t ever want to be complacent about human atrocity. I want to be at least a small voice in the wilderness crying, “Stop. No. Enough.”

It’s strange how many Americans can tell you the names of Buchenwald and Auschwitz but who’ve never heard of Andersonville. It’s always easier to confess someone else’s sins.

I’m not a pacifist. But violence should be a last resort. There are codes of human decency, even during combat. I’d be glad to explain the Just War Theory to anyone who isn’t familiar with it. What happened at Andersonville was not just. It was evil, one of many immoral, criminal, foul results of the belief that some human beings are less human than others.

Attached to the Andersonville Prison site is a Prisoner of War museum. You can see both places in a single morning or an afternoon. But what you see there, I predict, will stay with you for a lifetime.

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Football, Health, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sunday School at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia

Here’s the bottom line of this blog: If you’ve never attended Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia, to hear President Jimmy Carter teach Sunday school, you need to put that on your short term bucket list.

This is a unique experience. One-of-a-kind. Unparalleled. This humble Christian, former President of the most powerful nation on earth and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, stands in front of a sanctuary full (about 300 people) of pilgrims to Plains almost every Sunday. He delivers, without notes, his understanding of a selected Bible text.

Maranatha Baptist Church invited me to preach for them today (April 30) and next Sunday (May 7). Home from my four months in Connecticut, I gladly accepted.

Long an admirer of Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, I’ve looked forward to being in Plains at the same time as the Carters so I could participate in Sunday school at Maranatha Baptist Church. My daughter Julie and I attended the Baptist World Alliance in Birmingham, England, in 2005, and President Carter taught the Sunday school lesson there to a couple thousand of us gathered in a civic arena of some sort. That was a good, but different, experience.

The church members of Maranatha, a small congregation, are the unsung heroes of this ministry. They arrive at the church as early as 5:30 on Sunday morning to begin their hospitality ministry to out-of-town, out-of-state, and out-of-country guests. This morning, worshipers gathered from half a dozen or more countries and twenty or thirty states. The locals are gracious in sharing their church with visitors from afar, as well as with Secret Service agents. Before Sunday school, the church’s guests are given an often-humorous lecture about protocol, what to expect, and what not to expect. No clapping. You don’t clap for your Sunday school teacher, after all, do you? Today, Jill Stuckey gave the speech. She charmed everyone, but she was also clear about appropriate behavior. This is a Baptist church, after all. You can’t be too careful.

After church, members and guests are likely to adjourn to The Cafeteria, a local eatery owned by Jody Monts. I ate supper there Saturday night, pork chops and turnips, and she asked me if I was in town to go to Sunday school. I told her I was preaching. I ate lunch there again today, baked chicken, dressing, collards, and sweet potato pie. There were other choices, but snails were not on the menu if you’re hoping for French food. This is Southern cooking. I’ll weigh four hundred pounds by this time next week.

I’ve not been in Plains for twenty-four hours yet. But I’m enthusiastic about being here. Nearby is Koinonia Farms and I’m going there tomorrow with a church member. I’ll report on the remainder of the week, I’m sure, but I wanted to get this message across:

Plan a trip to Jimmy Carter’s Sunday school class at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia. You’ll thank yourself later!

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Holiday, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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

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