It’s New Years Day

1 01 2018

As promised, the Song to usher in 2018. It is from Bon Jovi and is entitled, New Year’s Day.

It bids us to sing Hallelujah and Sha, la, la. For those out who are still celebrating Christmas,  the birth of a Christ child and angels’ singing,  it is a reminder of the wonder and hope of Christmas as we stand in the doorway of 2018.

Someone asked me what were my plans for 2018. What were my resolutions? What did I want to do?  What were the goals? My answer was a response that on the surface might sound a bit bland.  No set number of books to read. No itinerary for travel. Nothing worth putting in granite.

Rather, my response was to have a clean white board. I am looking forward to a New Year that has nothing written on it on January 1. 2018.  Let me explain. The obvious is that I may seem like a ship with out a sense of direction. Quite the contrary.

I am acknowledging that like a ship, someone else must set the sails so the wind might fill them and other hand will steer. It is to acknowledge that the ocean on which I sail will have calm and rough seas but the One who is at the helm can negotiate and navigate the journey and my small ship will arrive safely in the harbor.. Another hand is on the wheel, to quote Carrie Underwood.

It is also to say that the ship has been unloaded of the baggage of past voyages. I know there may be some duffel bags hidden in the crevices of the hull.  A rat or two might be stowing under a loose plank in the belly of the vessel. And yes, a crate or two that were too heavy to move alone will no doubt shift on perilous seas but the old cargo will need to stay on the shore for an effective and  healthy bon voyage.

So, what not join me in this New Year as we set sail. Unload that old dirty and musty baggage. Sing,  “Hallelujah”. Say, ” Amen”. Sing, ” Sha, la, la.” Sing and live Carpe’ Diem!! It’s New Year’s Day.

The tide is right, the winds are picking up and the Captain is on board. Time to cast off and set sail!!






Another One Bites the Dust

1 01 2018

It seems a song to ring out the Old Year and herald the New has always worked for me. One of the old and all time favorites goes, ” Fast away the old year passes, …Hail the new, ye lads and lassies, with the required number of fa, la la’s…”

This year I chose another one. Well, June and I chose one at dinner last evening. It comes from perhaps one of the greatest bands, ever …and one of the most iconic lead singers,  Freddie Mercury. The band?  Queen from the 70’s and 80’s. The title? ” Another One Bites the Dust.

I suppose the choice is a hint to my age and perhaps the reality of one day’ biting the dust’ as what  seems like the machine gun rapid fire of years comes from open doorways. If that doesn’t make sense, listen to the lyrics.

The bass line and the drum beat calls us into a swagger as we walk down the dusty street of life until falling face down into the dust from which we came and to which we will return.  But until then, we stride on into another year like Freddie Mercury  crosses the stage and another one bites the dust! Take that, calendar!!

Now in my case, the bass line is at 60 beats a minute. Oops, that’s the pacemaker! Still a beat that strides on.

So, sing out the old. Fa, La, La, la if you choose. For me, I hear the beat of the drum and the rhythm of the bass calling us from 2017. Can you hear it? Can you feel it?

Boom, Boom, Boom, another one bites the dust, and another one’s gone, and another one’s gone, another one bites the dust… and as the lead singer calls to us,

” Come on, let’s go!!”

Check out the next blog for the 2018 Introit!



Purposeful not Parasitical

21 11 2017

In the card catalog or hard drive of my mind is a quote stored and attributed to  Nelson Mandela. I wish I could recall the source. I have Googled it with no success. If I am wrong and/or you have the source, please share.

My memory records the quote as, ” It is not that we are afraid of dying but dying and never have made a difference. ” Another quote from Mandela seems to support my memory.”What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”

This past week I was in a Continuing Education event. It was focused on addressing poverty. We were a diverse group and I may have been the only clergy person there.  I usually do not disclose that I am clergy unless asked.  Often folks have some negative memory attached to religion and I would prefer not have the past effect the present. They can decide about who I am based on what is happening not what has happened. Eventually, I was outed.

While there,  I met some folks with whom I shared a passion and purpose for making a difference while on the planet. I left hopeful.

They ones I am thinking of now were Millennials,    They are the age group that seem to have given up on the church. Also in attendance were Boomers and Gen-X members. I was the old man in the group having made the Boomer class.

Many articles have been written about how the Church should adopt the strategy that appeals to Millennials. Some  seem like  the man proposing to his bride, who says ” I love you for who you are; strong, independent and beautiful.  Please marry me and let me change you into who I want you to be.”.  An old quote is, ” When the Church marries one generation, it is a widower in the next.”

I wonder,  what if the Church might be changed by and when embracing the diversity and passion the Millennials bring? In short, what if they changed us? Or better yet, what if we changed, married and  grew together?

So what could be done? From the Church’s stand point, my first thought is to get over ourselves. We are not the Savior, we follow one.  While we sing, ” Where ever he leads I’ll go”, we  often ask our Maker to go with us where ever we want to go.  Jesus called us to follow in places where we would often rather not be. It is a place of stained lives beyond stained glass, gutters beneath glory, hopelessness’ discord over  hymn’s harmony.

Maybe the first step in that parade is to celebrate that we can share a passion and purpose that is greater than our faith or absence thereof. What if the mission was more important than mantra, dedication than dogma and purpose that is  not limited to parochialism. What passion and purpose do we share? Not how do we disagree.

I am not suggesting that self absorption is limited to religion, or as the Christian Church is called, the Body of Christ. Parasitical behavior seems universal as the host is consumed by the voracious appetite of the worm within. Government, institutions, corporations, and the people down the street or across the  globe might be amoral, but regardless of the size of the host, self- absorption moves to self-survival  and the worm within is hungry. Eventually, feeding on oneself  ends in a slow death, beginning with the first bite. The only patient that can be healed is the self-aware one.

So, …about that Continuing Education Event?!   One of my takeaways is  that a purpose bigger, beyond and believable keeps one from being a parasite. A focus on what is outside and not what is sucking life from within.

I was so encouraged about the world in which my children and grandchildren might live.  These who have more actuarial years left than I who want to make a difference, not just show up, lifted my spirit.  They see beyond, they believe in the vision and the have a hope for the future. I found them with and without religion.

I have but a few acorns left in my planting bag and the tip of my shovel is dull , but I am hopeful these few yet to be  planted will grow into mighty oaks. But the people I was around this week have bags full of acorns and they are purposefully digging in the soil of their neighborhoods; from Alaska, to California, to Canada to West Virginia and all beyond and between.

Something is growing.  Purpose not parasites, life not death, hope not despair. A Future Story stretches out before us. Can you see it!?

And who knows, maybe an acorn or more is in your planting bag and soon an oak will be sprouting where you are.  One looking for shade and one yet unborn says,

” Thank You.”

Agree or disagree, I’d love to talk with you about this. Please comment or be in touch.



Principal or Principle

5 10 2017

” When someone says, ‘ Its not the money, it’s the principle’ , it’s almost always the money.” I first heard that sentiment expressed in Seminary in a class taught by Dr, Stuart Henry. Good quotes attributes it to Kin Hubbard with some slight changes  in grammar and inclusion by Dr. Henry.

I have found it  helpful in creating a lens through which to view the world and helps me to  challenge or question  moral and ethical decisions. Sometimes it is good to ask, ” Is it the Principle or the Principal?”  Is it a foundational truth or a sum of money that is the basis or end goal of a decision?

Wouldn’t life be easier if it were that simple?

I have discovered that getting folks to agree on Foundational Truths presents a primary challenge. The Golden Rule, ” Do to others as you would have them do to you”, seems woven in the fabric of humanity and has been universally held in religion for thousands of years. But any reading of history would suggest that we don’t find the rule so golden or the cornerstone when building a life.

If my memory serves me accurately, Elvis Presley said in Jail House Rock, his  rule was to ” Do unto others as you wouldn’t have them do unto you but do it first.” That seems at play for some, too. The irony of the quote and the movie title  is too good not to note!

Another version of the Golden Rule is, ” Whoever has the gold makes the rules.” In the play and movie, Cabaret, singers belt out, ” Money makes the world go around….” Such suggests that maybe principal is the principle. Again, the bawdy, gaudy nature of the presentation as a part of the ruse of the notion, deserves a nod.

So, let’s play out this ethical question in life. Since I live in the US, let’s choose some national headlines: ” Lone gunman kills at least 59 and 527 person injured. An arsenal was found in his hotel room”;  ” NFL is in a war with Trump it can’t win”; ” Tax reform”; ” Health Care Debate”; ” Hurricane victims”; ” Racism”

A friend  and former church member has found himself in the debate of racism in the US. The Reverend Robert W. Lee, IV is a descendant to General Robert E. Lee and has been outspoken in addressing white privilege and  racism. At the Black Caucus meeting in Washington, DC, he said, “There are more White liberal views out there in the church,” … “but they just aren’t speaking up. They don’t because they are scared of being kicked out of the country club. But at some point, you have to forget about the country club and do what’s right. And Christian.”

That quote lifts up one issue before the Church and Society and asks, ” Is it Principle or Principal?”

I can tell you that being a pastor in the South, even quoting Rob Lee will have folks buzzing. But isn’t it a question we White Southern Christians should at least ask? As a United Methodist pastor, I am proud of our global, multicultural,  integrated denomination; while I serve a mostly segregated congregation. While one hour of worship may still be the most segregated hour in the US, isn’t the church challenged to make sure any opportunity afforded one be available for all, in and outside of the Church.? Do unto others…My Bible attributes that saying to Jesus.

It is a question I have asked myself and invite you to join me in a personal soul-deep inquiry.  As a Christian , and I believe many other persons of good will and faith might agree,  the Golden Rule is a principled approach to life. A  goal,  target we will miss many times.  In New Testament Scriptures Paul called that missing the mark, sinful. But should we at least aim for the bullseye?

What if the next time it is time for a tough decision of ethics or life, maybe we might  ask,  “Principal or Principal?”  Let’s aim Higher!







Why and Who

14 08 2017

The two of us were in his shop surrounded by woodworking tools, piles of wood and several projects in various stages of completion. The man of her dreams and partner for life was in a hospital bed some 50 miles away after suffering his second stroke. The prognosis for a return to his shop and projects was not promising.

In retirement he had found a source of income to supplement a modest retirement check and they had been able to spend their days together in their mom and pop business, actually, more accurately stated, my mom’s and pop’s business.

The unfinished projects paled in comparison with the unanswered questions. We would finish the projects and deliver the cabinets and other items promised. The upcoming craft fair we could manage and the balance of the wood and tools would wait anticipating their master’s return to use or shape  into something of service.

However, the question was as present as a ticking clock marks the agonizing movement of seconds in a night of bad dreams. The deafening tick, tick, tick of the clock whose hands never seem to move and a dawn seems to never come.

Then she asked it. I must confess to being surprised by the question.

I had heard the stories of her father’s untimely death in her early teens, the struggles of the Great Depression, a husband away at war half a world away with a daughter to raise alone. I had seen first hand her hard work in a cotton mill, the garden and around the house; I knew she knew the harsh reality that life is hard. I also knew she was a person of faith; a faith that had sustained her in bleak times.

“What did your father and I do that was so bad that God would do this to us”, asked my mother.

I was taken aback at the thought that God would single her or my father out to visit some wrath on them and that she took it so personally.

My first response was one from the head. “Mama, there might be lots of reasons for daddy’s stroke; genes, diet, lifestyle and who knows what else but I don’t think God just singled him out to punish you or him. Sometimes bad things happen.” The words seemed to fall at her feet.

Grief was searching for meaning. That is the way life works.  Sometimes trying to make sense of the senseless makes one a bit crazy.

That conversation came to mind recently when  someone wanted to tell me how much she missed her good friend.

I gave all the right “head” answers. But the pain in her eyes wasn’t coming from the grey matter behind them. The hurt originated from about a foot below, from a broken heart. My words littered the floor like shredded paper.

Maybe a reason the head keeps asking, “Why” is to keep us from going spiritually and emotionally mad. If we could only make sense of it all. But eventually we come to the realization that is maddening to try to figure it all out. The most honest answer we can offer is, ”I don’t know. But I trust.”

I think the mind finds some freedom in that and I am sure it is of comfort to a shattered heart. I do not remember where I read this but it is written on my soul with indelible ink, “When you can not understand the mind of God, trust His heart.”

This is the heart of Jesus who wept at Lazarus grave, forgave and ate will sinners, lifted up the downtrodden, restored sight to the blind and gave spiritual insight to open hearts,  loved all, defeated death, and gave new life.

Life will surely leave us with a growing list of questions beginning with, “ Why”. So, in those moments, turn to the “ Who”, and trust His heart.

John Greenleaf Whittier wrote of God,

“I know not what the future hath
Of marvel or surprise,
Assured alone that life and death
His mercy underlies.

I know not where his islands lift
Their fronded palms in air;
I only know I cannot drift
Beyond his love and care.”

From where I sit, That is Good News! Praying for all to have closer walk with The Who of life as we wrestle with the Whys.



November 9, 2016. Now what?

8 11 2016

Voting is like choosing sides. In every stadium I have ever seen, the opposing teams are separated by a playing field. Each supports their team in varying ways. Like a tug of war the fans try to make more noise that their counterparts across the field. Some cheer for their team while others root against the other. After all, there is only one winner and to choose one team is to reject the other. Cheer or jeer, it all is the same in the end, right? Not, really.

A NY Times poll says 82% of voters are disgusted  with this election. I get it. Opposing sides yell at and over one another. Social Media is an insult littered landscape. Maybe I have forgotten other election’s rhetoric, but this cycle, which seems to have gone on too long,  seems to be  meaner, more personally attacking. In short, we have decided to jeer more than  cheer. From where I sit, the strategy is , ” vote against my opponent. Because if you don’t we are in a lot of trouble.”

Well guess what, one of them is going to win. Then what?!  As a citizen of these United States and as Christian,  I will lift up  the victor because either of them has a task before them that is astronomic in difficulty but affects the entire globe.

The Bible in I Kings 3: vs 16-28 tells a story that I remember from my youth. It is told to recount Solomon’s wisdom. Two women both claiming to be the mother of an infant came before Solomon. After hearing their arguments for maternity rights, he asked for a sword so each would have half of a child. Of course,  one half of a child cannot live.

One of the women said,” Do it, better neither of has a child that she have it”! The other said, ” Spare the child because it is better for the child to live than we each have half of a dead child.”

It seems to apply,  in some measure, to where we are as citizens and voters in the US. After all is said and done, you and I will have to decide how we might choose to move forward.  In the story of Solomon, the life of the baby was more important than winning or denying another victory.

When God said he would grant Solomon one request, Solomon chose wisdom, a listening heart.  I have always thought the woman who loved the child more that winning also had wisdom, a listening heart.

I have voted. In the solitude of the voting booth, I cast my ballot. If you have not, please do. If my vote be in the minority, as it has been in the past, I will pray for and work with the victor,  for the good of the child. May I suggest we all do that.

Yes, I had to choose between candidates. I am sure I did not choose all winners. That is of secondary importance, to me. Because what I really voted for was this child named Democracy.  As civilizations go, a mere infant, this USA.  As history goes, democracy seems to have a limited shelf life. Maybe we can change that.

Blame it on sin. It seems to have no limited shelf life.

Romans 12: 18 speaks to a troubled society and Church.  It reminds us to live at peace with all, as far as it depends on us. That seems wise to remember on November 9. Well, every day. Such is the foundation for a shared future.

As a Christian, I answer to a higher power and authority than any political affiliation or nationality. I do believe that allowing each person a vote and a voice has merit both practically and from my faith perspective. So, for me it is to help nurture this baby named Democracy for our children and grandchildren and follow the baby of Bethlehem, called Jesus.  Maybe you don’t share that belief. That’s also a decision made one person at a time in one’s own personal space. Yes, a vote in solitude.

Whatever one’s ultimate motivation , the end result seems that unless we want  to find ourselves  in a place that is inhabitable, scorched and littered with the dead, we must move forward together, in peace as far as it depends on us. I believe it will help nurture this young child named Democracy and honor the Babe of Bethlehem.



The Gift of Going Back

7 07 2016

I will soon be transitioning into a Sabbath rest period. During this time I am planning on being ‘fallow with intent’.

Many have asked what I am going to do. I have some plans than involve golf and limited travel. I envision some time to rest, reflect, renew and redirect. All of that involves some activity on my part. What seems clear to me with each day is that part of the wisdom of a sabbath rest is to not to  ‘do something’ but to allow ‘something to be done unto and into’. So, fallow with intent.

One of the items on my ‘to do list’ was to get some medical diagnostic tests done. That came as an early gift with some chest pains and the subsequent follow up procedures.  Sometimes we don’t get to schedule our ‘bucket list”. At least I did not kick it;-).

The results? All is well for a person of my advancing age. Some lifestyle changes are on the horizion and better health through pharmacology. All in all,  Great!

Another goal was to attend my 50th High School reunion a bit early. Since ’66 and ’67 are combined, I get to sneak in a year earlier. Some have asked what I expected. My reply is, “To go look at a bunch of old folks, many of whom I won’t recognize or probably remember and who will not recognize or remember me.” The buffet will have a high fiber choice and at least one chicken option, bet on it.

What I was not prepared for  was looking at the ” In Memoriam” page.  I had more heart pains. I went through the lists and saw classmates and friends with whom I shared some of the glory days, to borrow a phrase for Bruce Springsteen their images from the 1967 Senior photos life was frozen in time.

My sarcasm about old folks who I will probably not be able to remember fell silent before the reality that 50 years had gone by somewhat unobserved. I remembered. Like the scene from Christmas Vacation I was alone in the attic of mind with 50 year old home movies now digitized in memory. And yes, a tear or two fell.

What happened to these friends with whom I shared laughs, memories and some of the most memorable , difficult and formative years of my life? How did they die? How did they live?

Before we get too nostalgic or melancholy,  life is not to be lived frozen in time.  As Thomas Wolf reminded us we can not go back home again.  But a well timed trip back to another place, the old home place,  is good.

Dr. Harmon Smith, my Christian Ethics professor at Duke reminded me that ‘where we come from’  informs and  has a bearing on ‘where we wind up’ in life.

So, here’s to the 50 year re-union…re-uniting.

Here’s to those friends who will be in attendance with 50 years of wear on them. I hope we have name tags!!

Here’s to the ones who can not be present. We would be more complete with you! You will be missed.

Here’s to the ones whose youthful pictures will be their presence with us. You will be remembered.

Here’s to a place and time that helped shape us into who we have become.

This is a great place to be, here and now.


It will be great to go back and remember then and when.

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