The blog of Greg DeLoach

Roswell Georgia

Learning Gratitude From a Dog

Annie was a “rescue.” She was one of seven sisters picked up from a shelter by the rescue organization “You Lucky Dog.” Part boxer, part pit-bull, part something-or-another, we met Annie when she was just a couple of months old at The Roswell Farmer’s Market on a hot summer morning. The organization was showing off the pups that were available for adoption, and along with her sisters, Annie was there to be petted and loved. That day a year and a half ago we found ourselves rescued by Annie.   Annie is teaching me about gratitude. Of course I am skeptical that in dog cognition gratitude, as I understand it, is something a dog experiences. Nevertheless there is much I am learning about gratitude from this fifty pound brown pup.   Every moment is purposeful for her. I am not saying that she is always busy with frantic energy as she scratches off items on her “to-do” list. Rather, Annie fully engages the moment: she will thoroughly smell most anything new, different and unique. Butterflies delight her; bumble-bees amaze her, and squirrels engage her. Every moment seems to be filled with possible wonder.   Every creature is a potential friend. Of course not every creature is friendly, including the two-legged variety, but every creature she meets is greeted with an enthusiastic wag of the tail. Instead of fear, anxiety or defense, she chooses to meet another with the hope of kindness exchanged.   Every day is a gift. And in each day, there are many gifts to experience. Whether nosing through the trash to fish out a tasty bit...

Take a Knee, Take a Stand

Last year an NFL player, self-identified as a devout Christian, decided to “take a knee” during the playing of the National Anthem. It was a silent protest on behalf of Black Lives Matter. He is bi-racial and was raised by white parents. I can only assume that matters of race are acutely and personally important to him. Currently NFL players across the country are taking a knee during the National Anthem – some for the same reason, others out of solidarity, and still others for any number of other reasons. I am quite certain that by now you are more than familiar with the issue and have perhaps formed an opinion. Of late those opinions are fierce and divisive. I have no desire to offer yet another voice to this debate by making my own point, clarifying a side, or otherwise adding another remark that will add yet more division. I have nothing to add…   Except to write and say there are times to take a knee and take a stand.   Taking a knee during the National Anthem has created an uproar that has a religious fervor to it. A belief system has been challenged and assaulted. There was a time when making a point against those in power would cost a life. Nero lit up the Appian Way with the crucified bodies of Christians and other “dissenters” that stood against the regime. In this current debate, if you do not stand it will cost you derisive ridicule, your reputation, and perhaps even employment.   Please do not read into this. I stand up for the National...

Packing Your Fears

Recently I was listening to an interview of a backpacker who hikes as a “minimalist.” I know what you are thinking – this is not about hiking in the buff! Minimalist backpacking – or ultralight as it is more commonly called – is about packing the minimal essentials for the hike. Instead of a tent, for example, he packs a tarp. He cuts the handle off his toothbrush and removes all the tags off his gear. His “stove” is not one of those expensive, fancy kind that I covet. He uses the bottom of a soft drink can that he has modified to burn twigs and leaves. The interview was intriguing, but I like my gear, tags and all. This guy is so into minimilast hiking that he even shortened his name from “Clint” to “Lint.” Who needs that extra consanant? In the interview he reflected that when he first started hiking trails he quickly learned what he could do without. So far he has clocked over 14,000 miles all over North America and all along the way he has shredded “gear and fear.” He dryly observed, “You pack what you fear. If you fear bugs and weather, you pack a heavy tent. If you fear hunger, you pack too much food. If you fear the cold, you pack extra clothing.” You pack your fears. I noticed others packing their fears this past week as the threat, and then reality, of Hurricane Irma blowing through. Gasoline was in short supply. Grocery store shelves were emptying. Most all of us were hunkering down at home, myself included, staying off the road....

Wanderings

I am very grateful to have this opportunity – a privilege actually – to share a collection of my stories and reflections in my recently published book, “Wanderings: A Pilgrim’s Walk on this Good Earth.” Parsons Porch is the publisher and there are a few ways you can get your own copy. If you would like for me to sign you a copy, the cost of the book including postage and delivery is $21. Please reply to this blog and I will give you instructions. You can also order directly from the publisher with the following link: https://www.parsonsporch.com/baptist-books/wanderings-a-pilgrims-walk-on-this-good-earth. Finally, you can also order on Amazon.com and if you have a Prime membership you can save a little on delivery. Thank you for indulging me through the years by reading my stories and sharing your own through this blog. I look forward to the stories yet to be told through The Pilgrim’s Walk blog. Peace,...

I Didn’t Mean to be a Preacher

I didn’t mean to be a preacher. At least not that young. I had just turned 21; returning from a summer spent in the Philippine Islands serving, as it was called at the time, as a “summer missionary.” Fall semester was about to begin at college and I was one of a handful of early arrivals. My faculty advisor saw me chatting it up with some friends in the student center and walked over my way. I assumed he wanted to ask me about my summer on the mission field, or remind me to set an appointment with him to discuss classes. Instead he came right out and asked had I ever given any thought to being a preacher. Yeah, I thought to myself, when I get old. He said that there was this little country church just north of Rome that needed a preacher for Sunday mornings. There was not much more to the job than Sunday sermons and it would be good experience. The pay was $75 a week. I did not think to ask about benefits.   Since I had nothing better to do, and waiting tables that fall did not seem very exciting, I thought why not. I had plans to go to seminary after college, preparing for a ministerial vocation, but I had no clue what exactly that would look like.   That fall I was introduced to a people who gathered on Sunday mornings, except for fifth Sundays. Fifth Sundays, it was explained to me, the church did not meet. I never really understood why, but then again it was nice to have...

My Hula Girl Broke Her Hip

A friend of mine, no doubt thinking I needed a little more levity in my life, gave me a hula girl doll – the little plastic figurine that, well, bobbles and wiggles on top of the dashboards of respectable automobiles. He was disappointed when the hula girl arrived with a broken hip. Not to worry, because this same friend, with the assistance of a little glue, repaired the hula girl and presented it to me as a stand-by until the replacement arrived. I am now the proud owner of two hula girls, one with a broken hip and one who can wiggle her hip just fine. One can never have too many hula girls.   I guess I’m not supposed to have favorites, but I kind of like the girl with the broken hip. There is something about that “flawed but sassy” look I like. I keep her perched right beside a small figurine of St. Francis, which seems to me a safe place for a hula girl to hang out, broken hip or not.   As my beach vacation approaches, I look over at my hula girl and smile. I have friends that will join me on the sandy gulf shores and together we will assemble our children, our stories, and our laughter. For a few brief days we will listen to surf and to music and dance like, well, like a hula girl with a broken hip. More than anything else we will remind each other of the grace of friendship.   We have our flaws – some are pieced back together in a crude repair, and...

Before I Die…

I was in between appointments in an old section of Knoxville and decided to take advantage of my thirty minutes of downtime by wandering around the city. Deep down I felt certain I would eventually stumble across a good coffee shop, bakery, or maybe both! Turning a corner I was initially disappointed to discover yet another scruffy alley, littered with the usual urban detritus. Along one of the walls of the alley, however, was a painting of sorts – a splash of graffiti from a reflective artist with a philosophic bent. In large letters three words were carefully painted: “Before I Die.” Beneath the caption, lines were drawn in neat rows and columns, encouraging pedestrians to pause long enough to ponder and fill in the blanks with their respective answers. One person wrote, “Date your mom.” Another scrawled, “Dance in the rain.” A beleaguered fan wrote, “Titans make the playoffs,” and a parent wished to “take my kids to the beach.” Jimmy Buffett’s name appeared several times, sometimes inappropriately. The one word I saw over and over again was “love.”   One of the few things that separate us from the rest of the animal kingdom is that we have a knowledge that we will die. Daniel Ogilvie, a psychology professor at Rutgers, was giving a TED Talk about death and the soul. He tells the story of his four year old daughter. Late at night she had been lying in bed thinking and bolted upright, jumped out of bed, and raced into his bedroom crying saying, “I don’t want to be a thing that dies!”   The thought...

An Inconvenient Truth

There is so much good to say about the church. Through the years I have published articles, written sermons, and publicly and passionately advocated for churches. Goodness, to be really candid, for the last thirty or so years I have made my living working for churches.   But there is an inconvenient truth: sometimes, perhaps much of the time, church and church members can be difficult. Sometimes church and church members can be painful. One person commented recently that she could never seem to fit into any of the observable cliques that she saw in the churches she visited. She knew there was good there, but could never seem to be included in that good.   I get it, I really do.   Deep in our humanity is the need to find community. We live not in isolation, but in relationships. Communities, however, can quickly become closed groups. In a provincial sense of the word, communities can become cliques. This is when communities get twisted, mutated, and fearful. Maybe we do not mean to be, but it easier to turn our backs on others, because we are more comfortable with the familiar.   In my neighborhood live several families from Turkey. The old grandfather, hobbled by age and arthritis, speaks very little English. When I am out walking my dog, he will give me a small, toothless smile, while clutching his cane in one hand and his rosary beads in another. His children are much more comfortable with the language, although they still struggle for the right words when we exchange brief pleasantries. Their children, however, “fit right in.”...

Why Church?

They came bearing casseroles and cakes, paper plates and folding chairs. The tiny house in front of the dairy barn was filled with folks from all over the surrounding countryside. My grandfather died during the night, quite unexpectedly and word of it passed quickly in the farming community of Putnam County. I was 12 years old, confused and devastated, but comforted by all those older women who mothered me in the days ahead. Solemn men wearing weathered Liberty overalls stood out in the yard, kicking dust, telling stories that made me laugh and reminded me what a fine man my grandfather was to so many. That is church. I was a young preacher and remembered the time I saw church members surround this well-loved, but now devastated middle-age lady. Her son was arrested the previous week on drug charges. I had visited the young man shortly after his arrest, held his hand while he cried out of shame and disappointment, and assured him that our love was steadfast. His family was not giving up on him and neither was I. That is church. One Sunday we awkwardly sang songs in a “blended” worship service – a curious hybrid of hymns, modern praise choruses, drums, guitars and pipe organ. A guy with tattoos running up his neck wearing a sleeveless t-shirt, belted out his praise right beside a demure widow who was a bit uncertain about it all, but grateful for the big crowd that Sunday. Some people groused and complained, but I still carry that image with me of the big man with tattoos beside the little elderly lady...

Life and Death are Not so Far Apart

Some years back I had the opportunity to travel to Kathmandu, Nepal to explore some of the mission work going on that country through an ecumenical partnership our church supported. Kathmandu is a wild, exotic city and every turn offered to me something new to see and experience.   One place I wanted to visit was Pashupatinath; a Hindu Temple where cremations occur all day, every day. I’ve always had a morbid curiosity about such things. I wish I could say it is because I have a high-minded, philosophical bent of pondering my own mortality. More to the truth, however, is I am just curious about many things, death being one of them.   Late one afternoon I made my way to the ancient temple grounds. The air was choked with the dust of human cremains, filling my hair, my eyes, and my ears with ashy remains. There were distant, piercing wails coming from grieving family members, mourning their dead loved ones. Soon I saw the pyres of wood lined up, many engulfed in flames, alongside the Bagmati River. As I squinted through the hazy dust I could clearly see limbs of corpses stacked upon the smoldering piles of wood. Periodically brooms routinely swept the charred cremains and coals of wood into the river, where family members bathed in oblation and prayer.   Ah death. For young and old; Hindu, Christian, Muslim or Jew; death comes to us all.   Today is Ash Wednesday, the day in which Christians are called upon to reflect upon death. Many will attend services today and will be marked by ashes in the...

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