Posts Tagged With: friends

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

Advice for a Young Pastor

Advice for a Young Pastor

(First of two parts. Part two: Advice to a Congregation with a Young Pastor)

Marion D. Aldridge

  1. It won’t be like they taught you at seminary. That’s not always the seminary’s fault. They can’t predict the random realities of your life or our culture for the next thirty years. The past two weeks of my ministry have been dominated by trying to get the musty smell of mildew and mold out of our church building in the least expensive way. I am highly motivated because recently a couple visited our church and the wife told me she has allergies that respond badly to mold. De-humidifying a sanctuary was never mentioned in any seminary course.
  2. It’s a real job. Recently, I talked with a 26-year-old Dartmouth grad who wasn’t particularly thrilled with the nitty-gritty, unfulfilling duties of the entry-level job in her chosen career. But, she had been humbled by initially having to work as a maid—even with her Ivy League education. Every job involves grunt work. Nobody gets to do only things they enjoy. That’s why we call it “work” and why we are paid to do it.
  3. You are a meeting planner. You have pious thoughts about introducing people to God and counseling people in crisis, but what ministers spend much of their week doing is preparing for events—the big ones such as Sunday morning worship and the little ones such as the finance committee. You must become expert at convening groups. Some young pastors (like many laity) assume events magically happen and have no clue that hours are spent each week in coordinating schedules and planning activities.
  4. You are a fundraiser. No matter how big or small your congregation is, bills must be paid. Budgets and projects must be created that people will support. Call it stewardship, but the money must be raised. Emergencies happen. Heating systems fail. Your church’s best contributor dies. An unbudgeted summer mission opportunity needs to be financed or twenty teenagers will miss out on the experience of a lifetime. Jesus didn’t hesitate to think and talk about money.
  5. Preaching is the silver bullet. Your congregation will want your sermons to be lightening in a bottle. Every now and then a pastor is charismatic, charming and dynamic (one in fifty?). Have something to communicate, say it well, with humor, with drama, with clarity. Inspiring preaching will fill pews faster than excellent hospital visits. That may not be fair, but it’s reality.
  6. Your calling is crucial. There will be times when people criticize you. Sometimes you’ll doubt yourself. I never self-appointed myself to a pastorate. A congregation asked me to shepherd them. You’re not a pastor-in-waiting. This is your calling, your vocation. You could be led to a different vocation or the church could vote to rescind their call. But individuals or small groups of unhappy members do not have the right or the authority to alter what the church and the pastor have previously agreed to be God’s call.
  7. Take care of your own spirit, mind and body. Pastors who read scripture and pray only when desperate to prepare a sermon are sad, lost souls. Study. Listen. Learn. Exercise. Grow. Don’t get stuck in the theology or habits of youth. Change. Forgive others. Forgive yourself. Pay attention to your physical, emotional and spiritual health. Pastors who are more-or-less friendless (and there are thousands) with no systems in place (outside their congregation) for encouragement and accountability are not modeling relationships of love. You need to have a life outside the church. Find faithful friends. Pastors who aren’t working to maintain their own family ties are to be pitied. First things first.
Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Health | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Strays

Sally and I have a long history of taking in strays—the human kind. I’m referring to a scale grander than hosting friends and family in our guest room overnight or for half a week.

Over the years, we’ve opened our doors to a wide assortment of total strangers for a few weeks, a few months, or a few years.  I’m not counting the dozens of teenagers who, it seems, half-lived at our house while Jenna and Julie were growing up. And I’m not counting Fuzzy, who is a category all his own.

An early failure was in response to a campaign here in South Carolina that “Runaway Kids Don’t Belong in Jail.” Our state’s unfortunate response to children (under age 16) who were homeless was to incarcerate them. We agreed to keep one or two. Some stuff got stolen. The program failed.

Another early failure was a couple, somehow related to our church in Batesburg. They had difficulty with life in general and were kicked out of their apartment. They stayed with us a few weeks, and then moved on to whatever was next for them.

Then came a series of memorable successes where a friend, or a friend of a friend, or a friend of a family member had a specific short term need, often having something to do with a local college. I don’t remember the exact chronology, but I’m glad each of these good souls came into our life:

Jennifer Thrailkill Seigler babysat for Jenna and Julie when we lived in Batesburg. Sally taught Jennifer sixth grade math. When we moved to Columbia, Jennifer said she would come live with us while she was in school. She did. She stayed for a couple of years and became a heart x-ray technician.

Second cousin, once removed, Becky Cremer Taylor (daughter of first cousin Lola) used our house as a retreat from her college dormitory a few times during her four years at Presbyterian college.

Christen Green Kinard (Sissi) also retreated with us during her college years. But since Sissi’s parents were overseas, in Belgium, where we had become friends, we became surrogate parents. It would be hard to say when retreating with us stopped and living with us started. Here is what Sissi wrote on Facebook yesterday after we went to her Dad’s 60th birthday party:

  • “I am one of Marion and Sally’s many strays. They took me in when things were rough in college, fed me expensive cheese regularly, woke me up too early on the weekends and just generally loved me when I was hardest to love. Thank you, both, for being our family. We love you.” (Note: Sissi was never hard to love.)

Jenny Johnson Rooks, daughter of J.J. Johnson, almost a relative (through my beloved cousin Patsy) stayed with us, if I remember correctly, once a week for a year or two while she became a nurse. Who knows when we’ll need the services of these medical caregivers?

Ryan Payne, a friend of our niece’s (Hope Craig) husband, came for a continuing education course, and stayed a while working on his teaching credentials.

Irina Pevzner stayed with us a couple of nights each week for a few years while working on her Ph.D. in piano performance at USC. She got it! She is the Director of the Charleston Academy of Music. We’ve gone to Spoleto a few times to hear her perform. I officiated at her wedding.

Our most recent adoptee is Ramin Pajoumshariati, from Iran, on a post-doctoral fellowship at USC. Ramin only stayed at our house a couple of weeks. I helped him find a permanent place to stay and Kathwood Baptist helped furnish his apartment. His bride, Kimia Yavari, a medical doctor, arrived a year later. She and Ramin have won our hearts. We are trying to help them get Green Cards. Keep them in your prayers.

Sally and I agree that we have received far more from these strays than we have given. They have blessed us beyond words.

Marion (and Sally) Aldridge

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, South Carolina, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Thank You!

Recently, I sent out a public appeal for contributions to help Trinity Baptist Church of Hanover to move forward to their next chapter, including their next pastor. Many of you responded with a generous check. As I write this, we have collected at least $13,000 (out of $18,000) toward a new furnace to replace our 30-year-old “I think I can” heating system. Or, our sorta sometimes hit-and-miss heating system.

As I have tried to indicate in my various blogs and Facebook posts, this is a tiny congregation with a superior history as a mission point for Baptists in the Dartmouth College community. College kids simply can’t pay the freight for this ministry any more than teenagers in churches can pay the salary of their youth minister.

The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia provided a huge boost to this effort with a large gift from their “Trinity Fund,” established for just such circumstances as this. That contribution is in memory of Sam and Betty Penn and John and Julia Palmer, and in honor of David Mount, the last pastor of Trinity Baptist in Macon, Georgia. When Macon’s Trinity congregation sold its property, the proceeds were placed in a designated fund. The Trustees of the fund felt that Trinity Baptist Church of Hanover, New Hampshire, provided a proper memorial in keeping with the wishes of the congregation that donated the funds. Thank you to Frank Broome, Coordinator of CBF of Georgia, for his help in providing this gift.

It’s been fun for me to open the incoming envelopes and see the notes (and the checks) from friends of mine, old and new, and from friends of Trinity.

Trinity is in the interviewing process with individuals now, looking for next person called to serve as our pastor. My last Sunday here will be June 19. My term as an interim will be complete. Sally is flying up, and then we are driving home together. I’m not done here yet—another five weeks to go. My friends have encouraged me, by phone calls, emails, Facebook and blog comments. My support system is awesome. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Marion D. Aldridge

mariondaldridge@gmail.com

PS: This sounds a bit like a goodbye-to-New Hampshire blog, but it’s not. I’ve still got a way to go, but I wanted to report and to say Thanks to those of you who have made a donation to Trinity. For others who have had good intentions but haven’t yet sent a contribution, here is the address:

Trinity Baptist Church of Hanover

PO Box 5079

Hanover, NH 03755

 

 

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I believe…

I believe…

…America will still be here when I die.

…Baseball is a great game.

…Books are important.

…Deserts and wildernesses exist.

…Easter will arrive this spring as usual.

…Education is better than ignorance.

…Friends are worth the effort.

…God is good. The Universe is good. Life is good.

…Humor is a gift.

…I will love my family and they will love me—forever.

…Life is a pilgrimage.

…Listening is almost always better than talking.

…Love and Justice are bottom line values.

…My cat is a bundle of fun.

…Progress is more realistic than perfection.

…Religious Doctrine is overrated.

…There is a time and season for all things.

…Waterfalls are beautiful.

Marion D. Aldridge

mariondaldridge@gmail.com

 

Categories: Baseball, Book Review, Faith/Spirituality, Family, Humor, Lists/Top Ten | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

40th High School Reunion

 (The title is not a misprint.  Though my 50th high school class reunion is just a week away, I found these thoughts on an old computer–written right after our last major reunion.  They are still true.)

The 40th Class Reunion of North Augusta High School, Class of 1965, was a magical weekend of Thanksgiving, pure nostalgia, an occasion of warm and delicious memories.  The girls of forty years ago are even more beautiful now as mature women.  The boys, many of whom went to Viet Nam, have, over the years, become men.  Some of our class members are no longer with us, having died too young.  Others have coped with the death or mental illness of children or the loss of a spouse.  We have all lost our innocence.

In North Augusta, South Carolina, in the mid-1960’s, though we were mostly middle-class, we were privileged to live in a virtual childhood wonderland, a town of good churches, peewee football and baseball, peach trees with plenty of ripe fruit, movies that would have all been rated G, parents who loved us, streets that were safe.  We were clueless, at that time, about the extent of our cultural racism.  Now, we know better.

Even our music was innocent.  “Young Love” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand” were typical of the era.  We studied Julius Caesar and Geometry.  We read Gone with the Wind and The Old Man and the Sea.  Our parents were people of faith and took us to church on Sundays and Wednesdays.  We were taught to respect people who believed differently than we did.  We might not have understood the complexities of our world, but we were capable of learning.  We were taught to be open, tolerant, and charitable.  “Moderate” was a good word.  “Fanatic” was not.

We knew each other in a way that you can’t know someone you met in a bar two hours ago.  We grew up together, and we sat by each other in classes, and chased each other on the schoolyard.  We played sports together and we knew who cheated and who played fair. When you know each other from childhood, you know who is decent and good and kind and honest.  You also know who was deceitful and malicious.  Thank God there were only a few of those.

As an adult, I am now conscious that some of my classmates were marginalized for a variety of reasons.  Also, I now know that just because you lived in a nice house didn’t mean you weren’t abused or depressed. As self-absorbed teenagers, we were utterly unaware of some of the hurts and crises of some of the boys and girls who sat in the desks next to ours.

Time moves on. We grow. I loved being seventeen. Even more, I love being an adult.

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Football, Race, South Carolina | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

High School Cliques—50 years later

Planning a high school class reunion is a hoot—lots of laughter and old jokes. Good memories.

Planning a class reunion elicits other emotions as well. There is the surreal experience of literally not recognizing someone with whom you were close, your lab partner in chemistry, a teammate, even a girlfriend. Of course, they don’t recognize me either. Some of the insecurities of adolescence also return as cliques re-form: the popular boys and girls, the jocks, the beauty queens, the rich kids. If there is a way to divide human beings, we will find a way to do it.

I’ve heard someone say that at class reunions the same ol’ pecking orders emerge.

As my North Augusta High School Class of 1965 has begun to plan its fiftieth reunion, I’ve had a bit of a different take on our so-called cliques. Of course, it’s no fun to be excluded, so there is obviously a negative aspect to dividing ourselves into factions.

But, who else would we hang out with other than the people we knew best? At least five elementary schools fed into our one junior high and then our high school. We merged just fine as far as I recall. But, it’s natural enough that some of my best friends with our own special memories go back to grammar school. Some of us went to the same church. That’s why we were best friends then and good friends still.

Even in high school, we had groups that were exclusive in their own way, but what other option was there? I was never in the band and band folks have a unique bond, an in-group that I was not in! Why wouldn’t they want to hang out together at a reunion? Some classmates went off to the same college and have shared memories of high school and university. Some stayed in town and raised their own kids together. They have been in the same Sunday school class together for forty years.

We can be a bit prickly and paranoid at these events but the time together is worth the effort.

Happy days then. Even happier days now.

Categories: Humor, South Carolina | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Mentors

We didn’t talk so much about mentors when I was growing up through my teens, twenties and thirties. I like that term and I also like the word “elders.” Every culture, from the Navajo to the Kurds had and has elders, men and women who invest time and energy in intentionally training, educating, demonstrating, forming, and mentoring those who are younger how to grow older. Here is my list of friends, more or less chronologically, who gave me knowledge of what it means to mature, to grow up. Some of these souls are no longer with us, and I don’t want to lose any more before giving a public Shout Out to…

Julian Bugg

Jerry and Jane Howington

Larry Abernathy

Herman McGee

Fuzzy Thompson

Charlie Shedd

Bob Stevens

Vernon Grounds

Horace Hammett

Henlee Barnette

Glen Stassen

Paul Carlson

Bob Mulkey

Howard McClain

Shelden Timmerman

Bill Bishop

Beth McConnell

Loretta Gunter

Ted Godfrey

Joe Darby

Randy Wright

I have great gratitude and Thanksgiving to those who influenced me immeasurably as a young adult and to those who are still making a difference in my life.

Parents Carlton and Allene Aldridge, wife Sally Craig Aldridge, daughters Jenna and Julie, as family, have all taught me more than words can say and are in a league of their own.

Thank you.

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Lists/Top Ten | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Fabric of Life

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 Life is woven from threads of different color (I like orange) and different strength (faith, family and friends tend to be dominant in any tapestry I produce).

 Life is not as simple as “Put God first” or “I’m a family man.”  Life has many shades and hues and the very nature of artistic weaving means that one pattern may dominate for a while and another takes center stage a few years later.

 The threads of my life tend to be very long.  I am a loyal kind of guy.  I have been married to Sally for forty-plus years.  My two friends who stood up with me at our wedding remained my best friends until their too-early deaths.  I stuck with jobs.  I even stick with the same car brands.  I bought five straight Nissan Maximas and I am now on my third consecutive Volkswagen Passat. 

 In high school, I won the Most School Spirit “Senior Superlative” and at Clemson, I was chair of the Central Spirit Committee.  I remain a loyal Clemson alum.  When I commit to something, I hang in there.  I tend keep on keeping on.

 About 20 years ago, I began walking two miles every day.  I still do.  When I discover and like an author, whether it is John D. MacDonald, Lee Child or Dorothy Sayers, I will read every book that person wrote.

 When I was a kid, I loved baseball.  After a lapse of twenty or thirty years, I returned to the game I enjoyed as a child.

 All of this is to say that my life and our lives consist of dozens, hundreds of strings of influences—from gardening to cooking to favorite television shows, to music about which we are passionate to our most desirable vacation destinations (Beach?  Mountains? Grandma’s house?) to our preferred section of the newspaper.  Sally does Sudoku and I read the sports page.  Each of us is different.  What you and I weave might look very distinctive, but that’s what makes life interesting. 

Images,

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Football, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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