Sunday, October 31, 2010


In just a few days, Kristy and I are traveling with 10 other clergy couples from the Memphis area. We are going to Israel.

This cadre of clergy represent the diversity of spiritual leadership in Memphis. We are friends first, colleagues second.

We raised our voices as one to call the city together after the Lester Street massacre. We spoke as one about the need to preserve a healthcare safety net for the least among us, which is currently provided through The Med.

We believe that the character of our friendships feeds us because we understand in each other the impact our work has on our families and us.

I've been blessed to know these guys and their spouses. We travel together as interfaith, ecumenical and multiracial representatives of the people of faith in the Memphis area.

I'll be filing updates of our pilgrimage throughout.

Looking forward to something special.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Catharsis in Baltimore

I've written much over the years about my life and times in Mayfield, Kentucky.

In fact, I guess this blog has given space for thoughts and feelings to be processed and considered.  As an old friend is want to remind me, all things unresolved always resurface.  As I've alluded in previous posts, I think that much of who I am comes from my understanding of what of me was left unresolved from those years--
  • Friendship, and the fierce loyality attached to those you dare call friend.  The truest since of that for me is probably a confusion between loyalty and desperation that the friends you have are friends you'll lose.
  • Living in the balance between self worth and self loathing.  That's probably always been there, but is exacerbated by not being able to process what it means to be "me."  Am I loved for who I am?  Do I even love me for who I am? 
  • Saying goodbye to the world you know when you're not ready - but truth be told, when are we ever really ready to leave the comforts and protections of the world that is safe to venture out into the great unknown?
  • Curiosity of what happened to that world you left with you no longer in it.  It's not like people you leave behind will never be the same without you, I mean, really.  But there is something about knowing you've been remembered, especially in your absence, that brings a depth of meaning to what you once knew.
I've called those years my "wonder years."  It's a romanticized past. I've enough self awareness to be honest about that.  It's a romanticism born from what never could be given my leaving it.  Feel free to peruse previous posts for my musings of that time and place.

And there's the tie....the worlds I've left, from childhood to the present moment.   For most of my life, those chapters never interact or overlap.  They are sequestered pieces of the overall puzzle of my existence.

Part of my own issue about what of me I'll reveal to another, and the biggest part of me that I won't is impacted by this realization.  It is part and parcel of being an itinerant family.  And almost literally from the day of my birth (the family mythology goes that the day I was born was the day dad got his first appointment - it's no "brand plucked from the burning," mind you, but it is something to hang your hat on), to this moment in time.

I've not known anything other than itineracy.  While my experience of it, and my reaction to it may not be that of others (and I certainly hope it's not), I can only claim what the impact of that covenantal life has had on me.

Just because you promise something to God, and honor that promise, doesn't mean it stops being hard.

So I've had this fascination with my life in Mayfield in recent years.  I think it may have been brought to the surface when Jimmy died.  Nothing like the recognition of mortality to make one look across the broad expanse of one's life and wonder what if?  And, what now?

A month or so ago I was asked to represent the Memphis Conference Board of Ministry at an event in Baltimore.  Apparently, no one else but the chair could go (which I take as no one else wanted to), but I was willing.  Because I value the work of that body so much, if there was something I could glean from representatives across the church who do similar work, it seemed well worth the effort.

That, plus my expenses would be paid.

As soon as I knew I was going, I was reminded that someone I knew lived there.  Someone from my Mayfield childhood.  Someone with whom I had reconnected on "the" Facebook.  Elaine.

So I wrote her, told her when I was coming, and wondered if she'd be available for a visit.  She was.  She and her husband were going to pick me up and take me out for crab--in Baltimore.  Not too shabby.

I was shocked by how excited I was to reacquaint with her. I had not seen her in over 35 years.  Me, whose emotional shield is usually always up, was venturing into something I never thought I would or even wanted to.

What would I say?  Would she recognize me?  We spoke on the phone to arrange pick up times and she said "you sound just like I remember you sounding."  And I thought, "really?"  I was like 11 or 12 when I left and now I'm 46.  Could that be right?  And all the while I was thinking "you do, too."

I sat outside the hotel to wait for her to come by after her work.  I saw her, and of course it was Elaine.  We smiled and hugged and sat to visit for awhile waiting for John, her husband to drop by and pick us all up.

We talked about our lives.  Where we'd been.  I asked about old friends and if she still goes home to Mayfield.  We small talked for awhile as I mustered up the courage to do something I could no longer avoid.

Make a confession.

Now some of you reading this will have heard my sermon in which Elaine is an illustration.  It has to do with growing up and she was always the one who'd score just one point ahead of me on a test.  For every 10 grades I might eek out a "win" on 1 or 2 of them.

Hmmm.  Maybe that's while I'm a Tiger fan?  Another post for another time.

I was the Methodist preacher's kid.  She went to the Baptist church...blah, blah, blah.
I was "confirmed," she was "saved."  You know, that old chestnut.

And I've told that story of my competitive engagement with her several times in ministry.  Why wouldn't I?  I'll never see her again.


Preaching 101 - don't tell stories about other people without their permission.  I'm just saying.

You should have seen her face when I said, "I need to make a confession to you."

And I shared my story.  She was most gracious.  Even laughing a bit.  I don't know if she needed to hear what I said, it's no big deal, really.  But I surely needed to say it.

John picked us up, and took us to Nick's Fish House.  We sat outside on the water, learned how to eat crab, and had a wonderful time.  We reminisced.  We laughed.  I heard about her life and I told her about mine.  She's always been brilliant, and her work career bears witness to that.

One of the first things she said to me was "so, you followed in your dad's footsteps, huh?"  Her inquiry came from a point of reference that few have.  She knew me for what I was and now sees me for what I am.  There was also a sense of "really?  you?  a preacher?"  I get that curiosity, bordering on surprise....I really do.

Resolution.  It felt like grace.

It was as profound a couple of hours as I've had in many a year.

I have no idea what our reconnection meant to her, but I know what it meant to me, and I was so glad.  I felt like I had a claim on the lives of that bunch of people with whom I shared a childhood.  Trapped no longer in the past, it now has new life and perspective.  The chapters of my life are no longer sequestered from each other.  And this word rarely (and sadly) comes from my lips--it makes me "happy."

Because the occasion that had me in Baltimore kept me in a hotel conference room, I didn't get to see much of the city.  She told me I'd have to come back one day, and they'd show me around.

I told her I'd want to see Lovely Lane Church, the birthplace of Methodism in America.

"Oh really," she said.  "I didn't know that."

Ahhh.  Score one for me!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

What I Plan to Do on Fall Break

This whole Fall Break thing is new to me. Sounding like the old man that I am...."back in my day we didn't have Fall break. We just had the weekend. That's how it was, and we liked it!"

Rather than declaring the kids of today as soft, needy of constant breaks, I've seen the wisdom of living fully into the opportunities that come.

Fall breaks are ok. Fall breaks on the beach are better. So here we are.

Aren't we the better for taking the opportunity of every day and make of it a blessing?

I'm doing my best.

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