A Change of Seasons

A Change of Seasons

Funny thing about seasons – just as soon as you get use to a season, it changes. There is a reason why the author of Ecclesiastes uses seasons as a metaphor for life: “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Life is always turning and changing. Sometimes for the better and sometimes not, but life is always in motion. The only way we can experience the gifts of the future is to accept the changing from the old. It is also trusting the One who holds all seasons of time. …a time to break down, and a time to build up… When I left the pastorate at First Baptist Church of Augusta to work with Developmental Disabilities Ministries (DDM) I was responding to God’s changing of the season in my life, as well as the life of the church. This of course was not the first time that in order to say “yes” to my call, I have had to say goodbye to others. Now the season is drawing to a conclusion with my work at DDM. I have accepted a position at Mercer University to work with the McAfee School of Theology and Penfield College as a Development Officer. This great institution labors to equip men and women in their service to God through changing lives and transforming communities, and as such it is a position I feel uniquely equipped to fulfill. …a time to weep, and a time to laugh… While I eagerly look forward to this new, emerging season, believing it is a part of...
Yom Kippur for the Rest of Us

Yom Kippur for the Rest of Us

New Year ’s Day, like 2016, is now in the past and most of us are back at work, back at school and back to routine. The last of the Christmas fudge is now gone and we are dutifully promising to do better this year; or at least this month; or maybe just this week.   I have never been one to stay up for the arrival of the New Year, mainly because staying up that late is difficult for me. For fifty years now I have discovered that the New Year arrives whether I am awake or not. Still, I like the days leading up to the New Year as well as the days following it, because it affords me a time of reflection. It is a type of religious experience for me.   Each year, usually in the early fall, my Jewish friends observe Yom Kippur, which is a kind of New Year. It marks the end of the year and a time to prepare for the coming year. Yom Kippur, meaning “Day of Atonement,” is the holiest day of the year for Jews around the world. I admit the name itself sounds a bit foreboding and heavy.   In contrast New Year’s Day is pretty much a secular day around the world, prefaced by parties and over-indulgence. For me it serves as my own kind of Yom Kippur. It affords me the opportunity to look back, reflect, ask forgiveness and see what I need to do for the coming year that will be different, better, and more compassionate.   Only a fool thinks one can live...
Just Another Refugee

Just Another Refugee

Christmas Eve 2016 Isaiah 9:2 – The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness– on them light has shined. Luke 2:1-7 – In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 All went to their own towns to be registered. 4 Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5 He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. At the risk of sounding political you could call Jesus a Syrian refugee. “All the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.” Jesus was not from Syria, but events in this world beyond the control of Mary or Joseph led to a regional upheaval, not at all unlike what is happening today in that same part of the world. The holy family would continue to deal with upheavals. Not so long after his birth they would then flee to Egypt, before finally settling in Nazareth. Is there...
Turn the Page

Turn the Page

My year began homeless. Well, not really. We were making due with a few worldly goods stuffed in a couple of suitcases while staying with some dear friends (who are, thankfully, still dear friends). The house we lovingly called home for ten years in Augusta was sold and turned over to new occupants. We moved to the Atlanta area on New Year’s Eve, but did not yet have a place to call home.   Not only was I homeless, I was unemployed. Well, that is not quite true either. I was soon to start a new work and ministry, but at the start of the year I felt a bit unmoored. For the first time in 28 years I did not have a sermon to write, let alone a church that wanted to hear from me. And although I projected confidence to my new colleagues at my new job, I knew, and they did too, that I did not have a clue what was going on. For my first month in this New Year at the agency I honestly felt like I was just making it all up until I could figure it out.   Each day, especially in the early days of 2016, was the turning of another heavy page in the book of life. Everything was new, different, and at times a bit overwhelming. But soon we moved into our “new” house – built in 1985 – and placed familiar furnishings that helped transform the house into a home. Soon I was invited to speak at churches for Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings, and Wednesday nights. Soon I...
Fragments of a Life

Fragments of a Life

Tiny scraps of paper were scattered about the floor of my small study at home. My first inclination was to pick up the little pieces and toss the debris in the trash. Well, actually, my very first thought was to ignore the litter and pretend I didn’t see the mess and leave it for another, more convenient time. I thought better of the first thought, so I stooped down and starting picking up the little tatters of paper. This small mess was created by our “little girl,”  Annie – a bullboxer puppy we adopted from a rescue shelter this summer. Picking up the pieces I noticed that it was a photograph she nibbled away from the bookshelf. I am sure she thought, “That guy in the picture looks nice…I think I will bite his face and maybe digest a few parts.”   The picture was from a 1992 whitewater trip I led with a group from the church I served as pastor. I was 26 when the photo was taken, and my oldest child (not pictured) was only a few months old. There I was in the snapshot (or what was now left of me): young and confident; hopeful and expectant. Twenty-four years later I can say that I still like a good paddle down a river, but I am not so young and that little boy of mind is now nearly as old as I was in the photo.   I am a bit sad that there is not much left of the picture. What Annie left me is more like a cheap puzzle missing several pieces. Still,...
Am I My Brother’s Keeper?

Am I My Brother’s Keeper?

I am the older of my two brothers. One is just 10 ½ months younger (so we share the same numerical age for six bemusing weeks) and the other, the baby of the family, is 2 ½ years younger. We are close in age and growing up we were fierce in loyalty. I should add that we were, from time to time through adolescence, just as fierce antagonizing each other, tussling through our childhood as brothers tend to do.   There is a well-known story in Genesis of two brothers, Cain and Abel, sons of Adam and Eve. Cain harbors anger against his brother Abel that escalates. Inexplicably Cain kills his brother. Immediately in the story we read that the LORD asked Cain, “Where is your brother?” Cain retorts, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9)   Although the question is not answered, we know the answer, don’t we? “Yes, yes Cain, you are your brother’s keeper.” And so am I and so are you. We are our brother’s and our sister’s keeper.   Yet much too often we abide more in the isolation with Cain, absorbed in self – pity, narcissism, greed, and anxiety. Cain loses a brother because he was looking out for himself, forgetting that his identity is shared with others. In losing his brother he loses himself.   We neglect our brothers and sisters in so many small acts. On Facebook we “unfriend” those whose words are inconvenient; we objectify according to gender, race, socio-economics; and we selfishly consume conspicuously because of our steady-belief in the god of scarcity. Who has time for watching out...