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3 reasons not to call acquaintances "Sugarpie-Honeybunch"

Featured photo:
My parents &
8 of their 9 grandkids,
Summer 2019

If it happens in other parts of the country, I’m not aware of it. It might. As far as I know, it’s just a Southern thing.

But every time it happens, I wonder if this will be the time he just loses it.

“What are you having to day, Sweetheart,” she says to my octogenarian father, resting her hand on his back as she fills his upturned coffee cup.

He shifts in his seat, his jaw set. She can’t tell she’s annoyed him; but we can. He places his order and hands the menu to her.

grandmother and grandfather
Daddy dining out with his Sweetheart on board the Majesty of the Seas in May 2019

“I’ll get that right out for you Sugah,” she says, as she turns to go.

Daddy cannot stand it. He shakes his head, and mutters just loud enough for us to hear, “I’ve got one sweetheart. And it’s not her.”

In the South, whether you are checking out at a grocery store, signing in at your doctor’s office, or ordering your breakfast, you are likely to become, “Sweetie,” “Honey,” “Sugarpie,” or any of a gazillion other faux endearments.

There are several ways this is offensive. For one thing, using such familiar terms is just inappropriate. These pet names are meant for . . . well . . . pets, loved ones. Not strangers. Maybe at one time it was fine to greet a person you’d never met as you would a six-week old cocker spaniel. It isn’t now. A simple “Sir” or “Madam” will work; or skip the address all together and just make eye contact. That should do the trick.

Secondly, its sexist. Would it be okay for a waiter to put his hand on a woman’s back and call her “Hot Lips?” Of course not. I mean, yeah; they got away with it on MASH. But that show was set in the 50’s, so I think we can safely say that behavior is, at least, outdated. Using intimate greetings for strangers is just not okay these days—if it ever was.

Third, I think it is ageist. My parents are young 83 and 81 who neither look nor act like octogenarians. It’s patronizing and disrespectful for mere acquaintances to address them as they would children. My father pastored churches for 40 years before retiring to start a business that he and my mother ran for almost 20 years. He has his doctorate, for goodness sake! And my mother is a mentor to more young women than I can count and has good friends the age of her children who hang out with her because she’s great company. My parents text with their nine grandchildren regularly, go to soccer games and band concerts, and in May 2019 they went with my husband and me on a cruise to Cuba.

But you know what? Their vitality should not even play into this discussion. Older adults should be addressed with deference and respect regardless of their physical or cognitive condition.

Pause.

I know there are those who would say, “I don’t just speak that way to senior adults. I use endearments with everyone!” Okay. In that case, it’s not ageist. It’s just sexist and offensive.

Others are thinking, “But that’s just the way I am! Why are people so sensitive?” Okay, you can be whichever way you choose and that’s fine.  

All I’m saying is that there are reasons why people may not want you to call them “Sugarpie-honeybunch.” Why not just call them by their names instead?

7 of my Favorite Teachers

(As the summer winds down, my teacher friends are gearing up for another school year. Over the next few weeks, I'll be rerunning some of my favorite posts about teachers as a reminder of how much educators do to make the world a better place. Let's all thank a teacher today; and let's vote for education reform that honors the good work that our teachers do and respects the value of every single student.)


I've recalled for you here seven of my favorite teachers, in chronological order. (Caveat: I can't pick a favorite from Gardner-Webb Divinity School. For one thing, I still have my Doctorate of Ministry left to do and I ain't crazy. But, I couldn't pick anyway. I love you all!)

1. Ms. Brown, 5th grade. In the 70's, as in every decade, North Carolina tried some stupid stuff in education. In my 3rd and 4th grade years, I was in open classrooms. I don't remember why that was a thing, nor do I really care. I just remember it was loud, distracting, and overwhelming (for me, anyway). In the 5th grade, I got to be in one classroom for the whole day with this one marvelous teacher who loved students and teaching. On what must have been the first day of class, she announced to her class full of mostly white kids, that her name was Mrs. Brown and if we forgot we could just remember that "Mrs. Brown is Brown." Brilliant! She got racism right on out of the way and beat a bunch of 10 year olds to the punchline. She was fabulous.

2. Ms. Highsmith, 6th grade. She's the teacher who said of me, to the class and on my report card, "Aileen has real heart. She sees students in need and cares for them." I didn't know I did that, or at least I thought everyone else did too. She pointed out a giftedness in me that I'd not realized myself. That's a good teacher right there.

3. Ms. Lewis, 7th grade. I was seriously bullied in 7th and 8th grade, but in Ms. Lewis' class, I forgot all about that. Language Arts! Books, language, words. I loved it, loved it, loved it. Plus, she was funny. (I realize now what an amazing gift of comedic timing she must have had for seventh graders to find her humorous!)

4. Ms. Delaney, 9th grade (I think). Mary Delaney, did not play when it came to English grammar. I've always loved grammar, and so I appreciated her zeal. She was also quite quirky, a fact that made her even more loveable. My best friend and I were so crazy about her, that at the end of the year, we took her to our favorite lunch place, our treat. (We had open lunch back then and could leave campus for that blessed hour.) It's to Ms. Delaney's infinite credit that she accepted our invitation, and went out to eat with those two geeky white kids.

Mrs. Hayes (left) and her daughter Carol

5. Ms. Hayes (RIP 2019), 10th grade. Ms. Hayes, sock footed, would not have been five feet tall. But at school, in her 3-4 inch heels, she was a giant. She taught history, but mainly she taught joy. I can still bring her laugh to mind, see her vibrant smile. She was an absolute delight. As a 15 feet year old dealing with all kinds of self-esteem issues, I found her energy exhilarating. Because of her, school wasn't so bad.

6. Dr. Walter Barge, undergrad. Around 1984, Campbell University hired a new dean of the college of arts and sciences, Dr. Walter Barge. Dr. Barge was one of those deans who loved teaching so much that he straddled the administrator/faculty divide and did both. I had him for my senior seminar. He said of my writing, "You have a gift. Develop it." (Then he proceeded to mark up my papers so thoroughly that it was hard to see any evidence of said giftedness.) He was a man of integrity and honor. God rest his soul.

Product Details

Dr. Kremm's book is available on Amazon.

7. Dr. Diane Neal Kremm, grad school, round one. Dr. Kremm was flat out crazy about Southern history. When she taught, history rushed forward into the present, alive and relevant. I sat in her class enthralled, amazed, and inspired. It was invigorating. In her office, she had a portrait of John Brown. What's not to love?

Oh wait! There's one more. And she's my favorite teacher of all time. I was her first student, and she was my first teacher. She taught me to read in her makeshift classroom in the upstairs hallway. She stood at her blackboard easel wielding pastel colored chalk; I sat in a little red chair and propped an oversized book on my knees for a desk. So, yeah: my sister will always be my favorite teacher of all time. (She started her official career as an educator in 1985 and is teaching still.)

So thanks Dawn, for teaching me to read and, ya know, everything. And thanks to all educators who tirelessly bless the children of this world day after day. You absolutely--no question--make a difference.

kindergarten class

Kindergarten Teaching: Heart Enough to Share

July 28, 2019

As the summer winds down, my teacher friends are gearing up for another school year. Over the next few weeks, I'll be rerunning some of my favorite posts about teachers as a reminder of how much educators do to make the world a better place. Let's all thank a teacher today; and let's vote for education reform that honors the good work that our teachers do and respects the value of every single student.

Written June 2003 in honor of Mrs. Lois Jones' retirement from kindergarten teaching.

My youngest daughter on Kindergarten Celebration Day in 2004

My youngest daughter on Kindergarten Celebration Day in 2004

In the spring of 1999 my husband and I had a five-year old, a three-year old, and a one year old.  After reviewing every possible option from Home School to Charter School and beyond, we chose Oakley Elementary School for our children. In just a few months, our oldest was going to Kindergarten. Now, I'm quite certain it would have been easier to peel away my skin and send it off with a backpack than to do what I had to do. I had so many questions, so many concerns. I read everything I could find on preparing a child for Kindergarten. But in the end, having chased every possible thought around my brain and back again, I decided to give up, and give in. “Lord,” I prayed. “I have done the best I can to find some peace in this thing and I'm just not finding it. So you just fix it. Find the teacher for my child. I give up.”

“Dear Parent: Your child will be in Mrs. Jones class. School starts Tuesday, August 10, 1999. . .” The letter came after I'd prayed for weeks for the perfect teacher for my child. Now I know my prayers were answered in Lois Jones.

Two years later, I walked my son, Baker, to her classroom and just last fall, my youngest daughter, Margaret, was assigned to Mrs. Jones class.

Margaret & Mrs. Jones on Margaret's last day at Oakley Elementary

Margaret & Mrs. Jones on Margaret's last day at Oakley Elementary

She has given my three children a wonderful beginning to their education. I am infinitely grateful for that. But, in truth, that’s not what I appreciate the most about Mrs. Lois Jones. What I want to thank her for today, is not for what she did for my children academically, but for what she did for their hearts.

See, I left my Heart with her. And she gave her heart back to them. She has taught them, sure. But she has loved them. And know this: Mrs. Jones does not play favorites. She loves them ALL! I've witnessed her teaching for the past five years. She’s been here influencing children for much longer than that. And each one of my children, and every other child she has taught, has a little bit of Lois Jones' heart tucked inside their own.

preemie

My favorite July 4th story: Meredith (oh what) Grace

One of my favorite posts about one of my favorite people.
In celebration of my 50th birthday 7-22-15, I attempted to write 50 thank you notes. I didn't come close to 50, but I did write some. Like this one.

Technically, in the biological and legal sense, she's no relation. Meredith, daughter of my dear friend Debbie, was born July 4, 1995 at 25.5 weeks; her identical twin fell victim to twin to twin transfusion. Meredith lives 1000 miles away, but for nearly 15 years, our families celebrated Thanksgiving together. I'm so very grateful to have this grown-up miracle in my life.

My beloved Meredith,

Who could have ever guessed that a baby who weighed less than two pounds could make such a big impression on my life? You slipped into this world three months before you were due, right by yourself (your identical twin went straight to heaven, bypassing Earth altogether). Immediately, though, you found yourself surrounded by love—family, friends, medical staff—and found within your tiny little self, the spirit of a champion. I am so very thankful for you, sweet girl, and I thought it was time I tried to tell you how grateful I am for the gift of YOU.

Thank you baby Meredith, for surviving your shaky beginning.  Somewhere in your amazing self, you found the will to thrive. So, after four months in NICU and I-can’t-even-remember-how-many days on the ventilator, you went home. It was only a few weeks later that I got to hold you for the first time. Thank you, tiny one, for smiling at me so readily. I can still recall the feeling I had, holding all five pounds of you (a pound for each month of your life), looking into your beautiful brown eyes. You made me feel like I was the only person in the world. Thank you.

Thank you little girl Meredith, for always being delighted to see me. (You’ve always been so easily delighted.) Thanks for crawling up in my lap, for letting me read to you, for playing games and watching movies with me, for letting me push you on the swings. And as hard as leaving always was, thanks for always holding on so tightly to me, asking me not to leave, begging us to stay longer next time. Oh how I loved every precious moment of those fleeting days.

Thank you middle school Meredith, for being so unexpectedly full of spunk. I know it wasn’t easy. I’m so grateful for the grit in your makeup that kept you moving forward. Middle school is just the worst, isn’t it? I’m so grateful that you survived those difficult times. Thanks for liking me when it was hard even to like yourself. It felt so undeserved and it felt like treasure. It still does.

Thanks high school Meredith, for sticking with it. It is just so very hard . . . being. Especially in high school. But you connected and found friends I’m certain you’ll have for life. Thanks for not giving up on my Meredith during high school. I’m eternally, endlessly grateful.

I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am to have you in my life, but I’m even more grateful that you let me be a part of yours. Thanks for emailing, Facebooking, texting, and SnapChatting with me. Thanks for loving me from far away and for still wanting me to be with you. I’m so very grateful.

You will have nieces and nephews of your own before you can truly know how gratified my heart is that you are a part of my life. So thank you dear girl. Thank you for being Meredith.

I loved you before you were born.

Aileen

Margaret at 20 almost 21

My Daughter the Joy Bringer


Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls;on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

Matthew 13:45-46

And now she is 21. A good time to rerun this piece about our Joy Bringer. 

Margaret, my youngest child (born earlier this week), turned 18 today (2/13/16) In honor of her birthday, I thought I’d share 18 reasons why we Lawrimores call her our Joy Bringer.

  1. Her preschool teachers called her Giggle Box and rightly so: Margaret’s laugh is contagious and irresistible. Still.
  2. She laughs at the comics. Who does that? I only know one other person who laughs so readily at the funny papers: my grandfather’s Joy Bringer (I call her Mother). And when Margaret laughs, so do we.
  3. Margaret thinks Horton Hears the Who, Tangled, and most any Pixar flick is hilariously delightful. I used the present tense on purpose here. The most recent animated flick she’s seen is still in theaters.
  4. She laughs at things no one else even notices. Just seeing a tractor trailer sans trailer makes her smile. But you know how that same kind of tractor will sometimes pull an identical tractor (facing the opposite way) behind it? The sight of that devolves Margaret into uncontrollable giggles that don’t end until the duo is long gone. It’s hysterical.
  5. Margaret’s imagination knows no bounds. When she was about six, she came strutting through the kitchen, hand on hip, looking around as if she’d lost something. “Mommy, have you seen a little mouse run through here?” (I assured her I had not.) Apparently this invisible mouse had escaped her imaginary classroom and was facing serious consequences.
  6. Further evidence of her imagination? The fact that throughout her elementary school years, Margaret’s stuffed animals had full and meaningful lives. She’d come home from school and go straight back to her room to find out about the day’s activities, then report their shenanigans to me. Oh the stories she told . . . .
  7. She loves real animals too. From 2-year-old Margaret pointing out “soft woowee wambs” to high school senior Margaret drawing our attention to animal rights causes, her love of all God’s creatures is a joy.
  8. And I mean ALL God’s creatures. When she was younger, no one would kill a bug in her presence for fear of retribution (see #11 below). Just recently, I found her standing at an open door saying, “Go ahead little stink bug! You have to go outside!”
  9. Giving Margaret a gift is enormously self-rewarding. Whether it’s a pair of fancy new stilettos or a handmade trinket, when you give a gift to Margaret, you are repaid with a picture of absolute joy. Seriously. People give her things just to see the expression on her face.
  10. Margaret is protective of her loved ones. When she was three, there were some girls picking on her older sister. Having had enough, she pranced over, blankie draped across her shoulders, reared back and kicked the offender saying, “Don’t mess with my sissie!” Her siblings were mortified at this blatantly disobedient behavior, but Margaret was unfazed. She flounced away with a sneaky smile creeping over her face and a self-satisfied twinkle in her eye.
  11. No question about it: Margaret has a temper. This quality has certainly not been all joy over the years, but there have been times . . . . like when preschooler Margaret, having lost a board game, would throw the thing up in the air, raining cards and tokens down on the entire family. It was annoying, sure; but watching that 3ft tall fireball careening down the hallway, pink blankie flying behind her, yellow curls bouncing . . . well it was totally worth it. We’ve not stopped laughing at that sight yet.
  12. Margaret is happy for her friends when they succeed, even if she fails. Take for example every single all-county band audition prior to this year. She would try out, and not make it. Year after year after year. When she didn’t make it, she’d be painfully disappointed. Soon enough though, I learned to do what was counter-intuitive: I ask her if any of her friends had made it. She would perk up and say, “Yes! So-and-So got first chair! Isn’t that awesome?” Yep. That’s totally awesome.
  13. She is blindly persistent. Me, when I fail, I generally take that as evidence I was never meant to do it in the first place. Not Margaret. She keeps trying out, auditioning, applying, interviewing. Seeing Margaret pick herself up and try again and again gives me a deep, soul-filling joy.
  14. Her hair. That child’s hair brings joy to pure strangers: “Your hair! It’s so . . . it’s just . . . Wow.” With that hair she won the genetic lottery. It’s golden ringlets of delight.
  15. Margaret is a great friend. Even though she is as introverted as she could be and still live among humans, she has made true and lasting friends whom she treasures. Listening to her with her friends is one of the great joys of my life.
  16. She’s strong willed. Like her temper, this is not always a delight. But it can be a beautiful thing. Like when she stands up for friends or refuses to abide injustice. Margaret with a cause is a joy to behold.
  17. She loves deeply; when she was younger, she illustrated that in unique but precious ways. Back in those days, my husband would be gone at least one weekend a month for guard duty. She hated it and decided that since Daddy never left without giving her a hug, she would just refuse to hug him; that way he couldn’t leave. When her older brother went to Kindergarten (in an effort to help her work through her own feelings), I asked Margaret what she thought someone should do if their older sibling was going to school the next year. She just shook her head and said sadly, “They should go in their room and cry and cry and cry.” A year or so later when her sister was hospitalized, Margaret slept with a picture of her night after night. She loves like she laughs, completely and without reserve.
    daughter

    Margaret at 18 months.

  18. Margaret Aileen Lawrimore is a mama’s girl. Strangers and friends alike said this derisively when she was a baby. (Not me. I rather preferred it.) But it has brought me unspeakable joy that even now—at the height of adolescence—Margaret seems to like me. I’m amazed when any high school kid likes to spend time with me. When that child is my own? I can barely fathom the gift of it.

We named our third child Margaret because, though she was beloved, she was not exactly planned. “Margaret” means “pearl.” Some of her earliest conversations included, “My name is Mawgwet, cuz I a tweasure of gwaaaaate pwice!” She is indeed. She is our Joy Bringer.

10 Things I've Learned about a Government Shutdown

"I invite everyone to choose forgiveness rather than division, teamwork over personal ambition."

  • Jean-Francois Cope

This from 2013 demanded another run. It's deja vu all over again!

10 Things I’ve learned (or been reminded of) during the government shutdown:

  1. During a government shutdown, federal employees aren’t the only ones who lose income.
  2. The statement, “No matter what your political party . . . ,” precedes a statement that totally depends on one’s political opinion.
  3. The work that federal employees are hired to do, waits for them if they are not able to do it.
  4. People say things to families of federal employees without realizing the implication of their comments. Example: “Yeah, but they’ll get their money eventually, so what’s the big deal?”
  5. Creditors actually want current pay, not back pay.
  6. Unscheduled time off that comes up suddenly, could end at any moment, and includes a cessation of income? Not exactly a vacation.
  7. Passion does not equal knowledge.
  8. Facebook™ doesn’t lend itself to polite political conversation.
  9. People who post political rants on social media, don’t really want to hear from people who disagree with them.
  10. I never want to be so arrogant as to believe my opinion is the only opinion of value.

 

 

aunt edith and aunt edna

RIP Aunt Edna

After learning my father's oldest sister had passed away, I received a call from my mother, asking if I would write the obituary.

Wait.

That's not what happened. Mother said, "We need you to write Aunt Edna's obituary. And they need it ASAP. They want to have the service on Saturday. Here's your cousin's contact information. Call her. She'll tell you where to send it." (There wasn't any "asking" about it.)

My Mother knows me. She knew this direction would be a gift. I needed something to do with my brain. See, until yesterday, all my dad's siblings--he has six--were still living. I kind of thought they'd live forever. So, maybe you shouldn't be shocked by the passing of a 90 year old woman who was in poor health. But, as my daddy always says, "Should never could do anything."

After talking with one of my cousins, messaging another, and doing a little research for details, I sorted through some of my own memories of Aunt Edna. I remembered her making round pineapple and mayo sandwiches on white bread. I remembered her magical sewing room that frequently morphed into an assembly room full of cloth body parts. And I remembered her soft voice, her sweet smile, and the way she'd laugh with her mouth shaped in a small oval, her eyes crinkled, her head tilted back just slightly. What a dear woman. I loved her so.


aunt edith and aunt edna
Aunt Edna (right) with her sister, my Aunt Edith (left)

Edna Ruth Mitchell Jackson, 90, born in Bainbridge, Georgia on June 6, 1928, passed away at home on Wednesday, December 19, 2018. She was the second child of James Powell, Sr. and Naomi (nee Carter) Mitchell who preceded her in death. She was also preceded in death by her husband Robert Carroll Jackson, Sr., daughter Patricia Jackson Banks, sister Annie Mitchell, niece Sherry Mitchell, brother-in-law George Storey, and sisters-in-law Dollie Mitchell and Fran Mitchell.

She is survived by countless loved ones including brothers James and wife Nell, Edward and wife Anne, Harold and wife Gloria, Joseph, and Earl and wife Jennie; and her sister Edith Storey. She is also survived by her children Robert Carroll Jackson, Jr, Linda Jackson Johnson, Anne Jackson Griffin and husband Clarence, Jane Jackson Stephens and husband Bertrom, Debbie Jackson, David Jackson, and her son-in-law Steve Banks; her grandchildren Emily, Maggie, William, Marilyn, Michael, Timothy, Jeff, Teelah, Kelly, Mark, Jason, Melody, Randy, Christopher, Jennifer, Mary Catrina, Robert, and Bradley; 19 great-grandchildren; and 15 nieces and nephews.

At six years old, Edna suddenly became her parent’s oldest child when Annie passed away from appendicitis. Since that time, Edna has been the consummate oldest sibling to her younger sister and her six younger brothers, setting an example for them of quiet faith, gentle strength, and everlasting love. Her love for them formed the prequel to her life role as the mother for her own seven children for whom she modeled the same godly qualities she exhibited in her childhood home.

In addition to being a devoted wife and mother, Edna was a sharp business woman who turned her fondness for sewing into an impressive cottage business. From hand-sewn garments and custom alterations to beautiful dolls and whimsical toys, Edna could transform fabric into magic. Her sewing room, full of teddy bears and ragdolls, spilled over with Christmas fabrics selected for her favorite projects: holiday arts and crafts. Eventually, she began selling her wares at craft shows across the state of Georgia at which she nearly always sold out of her inventory, no matter how much she had made for the event. Counting the ones she sold, the many she made as gifts for grandchildren and other loved ones, plus all the ones she gave away for the pure joy of it, Edna created thousands and thousands of dolls and toys that are loved to this day.

Aunt Edna Doll
My Aunt Edna doll, 1977

Edna was an ardent learner. When her children were still young, she was taking classes at the local junior college in pursuit of a liberal arts degree. When a technical school opened in Albany, Edna switched her focus to arts and craft classes, honing her innate artistic talent to the professional level. She truly was a lifelong student, never missing an opportunity to learn something new.

Edna was also a faithful teacher. Her love of God that sustained her throughout life, gave her the longing to share the gospel with others through Sunday school classes. She taught both children and adult classes over the years, sharing lessons she gleaned from Holy Scripture.

Her godly influence spread far beyond the church walls, beginning in her own home. She never missed a chance to tell her children that she loved them, that God loved them, and that she was praying for them. Her family knew they were loved. And she defined “her family” more broadly than most. It didn’t matter how distant—or questionable—the relationship, to Edna, you were family. The highlight of her year was planning the annual family reunion. She had a way of making every single person in attendance feel as if she had planned the whole event just so she could see them. Her sweet smile welcomed each newcomer as she called them by name, inviting everyone to the table.

Edna Jackson, a treasure of a woman, is best described by the words of Proverbs 31:25-30: “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her happy; her husband too, and he praises her: ‘Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.’ Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”

Funeral arrangements to be determined. For more information, see Kimbrell-Stern Funeral Directors, Albany, Georgia. https://www.kimbrellstern.com/

anna kate and houdini

An Advent Devotion: Joy Comes Home

An Advent message from the prophet Zephaniah
"Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! . . .At that time I will bring you home, at the time when I gather you; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes, says the Lord."  
                                                                                                  Zep 3:14, 20 NRSV

2 Year Old Girl Caucasian"Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday to you!"

Twenty voices sang to the little guest of honor enthroned in her high chair. Anna Kate, celebrating her second birthday, celebrated her first in a very different place. Back then, she lay in a Russian orphanage awaiting her turn for nourishment and a little nurture as well.

"Happy Birthday Anna Kay-ate! Happy Birthday to you!"

Anna Kate beamed, looking around at all the people gathered just for her. A look of wonder filled her eyes as she said just one word, "Happy."

And in that moment, I beheld joy in the shape of a little girl. I got a snapshot, just a glimpse, of what it must have been like to see the face of Christ.

Christ had a second birthday too, you know. When Jesus was two years old and toddling about, do you think humanity realized the treasure in its midst? Of course Mary did, and Joseph. And surely other family members recognized that this baby was indeed extraordinary. But there must have been those who missed their chance to cradle joy incarnate in their arms. There must've been.

This advent season, we are called to embrace the coming of Christ. Don't miss your chance. Celebrate the joy of Christ today.

"Jesus, let us glimpse this day, joy incarnate. In the midst of our 21st century frenzy, slow us down that we might recognize your face, thereby experiencing the wonder of Advent."

Anna Kate & family 2018

Reign of Christ

Dreaming Big on Reign of Christ Sunday

“Before I was ordained, I just thought every day was Reign of Christ Day,” the rector quipped. Comfortable laughter wafted through the sanctuary.

I was attending the early service at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Georgetown with my husband and our daughter who was a senior at Georgetown University. She worshipped regularly with this congregation, so it was a delight to join her there in her chosen sacred space. The Sunday we were there was the last Sunday of the liturgical year, the Sunday before the beginning of Advent: Reign of Christ Sunday.

Referencing Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggemann in her sermon, the rector discussed one difference between good and evil. “Good doesn’t like big imagination because it requires us to be too vulnerable, to work too hard. Evil, on the other hand, loves big imagination.”

I wasn’t sure I understood; she continued.  “A wistful mention of the end to local homelessness tends to be met not by enthusiastic support, but by scoffing judgment and wringing of hands. But let Evil mention a big idea. ‘Let’s kill an entire race of people! Let’s fly planes into buildings! Let’s open fire inside an elementary school.’” She listed these real-life tragedies with machine-gun fire rapidity.  “Evil has a preposterously huge idea and gets busy, plotting and planning, seemingly unconcerned with any possibility of failure. Good holds back. Good lists all the reasons this dream is improbable and unrealistic, then Good shrugs its shoulders and walks away.”

It was a valid point and frankly, hit me right in my self-righteous intentions.

“On this reign of Christ Sunday,” she challenged us, “the Body of Christ needs to remember where our center of government is. It’s not in Washington, but in the tender hands of merciful Jesus. Those hands can handle any dreams we can conceive, regardless of magnitude.”

Prayers followed the sermon and then it was time for Holy Eucharist. (What we Baptists call the Lord’s Supper and have monthly or quarterly, the Episcopalians have weekly and then some. If it were a competition, I’d say they are beating us on this count.)

We all filed to the front of the church and circled around the table—there were about 30 of us, maybe 40. The officiants blessed the bread and the cup, then handed one plate of bread to the left, one to the right. The organist began playing a familiar hymn as the elements of communion passed from person to person around the circle.

Let us break bread together on our knees.
Let us break bread together on our knees.

“The body of Christ, broken for you,” said a silver haired man as he leaned over to the caramel colored girl next to him.

“Thanks be to God,” a bespectacled brown man said as he received the bread from a young white man sporting a fresh military haircut.

When I fall down on my knees, with my face to the rising sun.
O Lord, have mercy on me.

The cup made its way around, passing from a teenage acolyte to a tall Asian woman with two children of disparate ethnicities.

“The blood of Christ, shed for you,” a college student said to a young dad who held his infant son, swaddled but squirmy.

A little girl—three years old or maybe four--rocked back and forth, toe to heel, in her shiny Mary Janes; a twenty-something year old woman, her raven black hair plaited in the back, smiled at the fidgety girl. A baby cried. A grown man, eyes glistening, shed a tear or two himself.

Let us praise God together on our knees.
Let us praise God together on our knees.
When I fall down on my knees, with my face to the rising sun,
O Lord have mercy on me!

What a holy and blessed time of worship. A challenging proclamation by a gifted and engaging pastor, sacred communion celebrated at the foot of the cross, and a rich foretaste of God’s kingdom: an eclectic, multi-generational, international collection of believers who came together for this one moment of connection. For me, it was like a glimpse of a dream come true.

Oh Lord, let me dream big and act with bold conviction that it is You who reign in my life.

What about you? What’s YOUR dream?

 

Published originally November 2015

 

 

my daddy my pastor

My daddy, my pastor

Back in January 2008, I had just started divinity school at Gardner-Webb University; one of my classes was Introduction to Preaching with Dr. Danny West. Among the assignments was writing an "Autobiographical Analysis of an Influential Pastor." We were tasked with describing the pastor's impact on our lives, including how their preaching style affected our spiritual formation. For me, this one was easy: it had been writing itself my whole life. 

I stumbled across it recently and realized I'd not shared it with my aileengoeson readers. Thought you might enjoy it.

Daddy, you must be so proud.” The two of us lingered over our toasted bagels and yogurt in the Hampton Inn breakfast area; Mother had gone to finish getting ready for church. Daddy looked up from his Bible and sermon notes; he hadn’t heard me.

“What was that baby girl?”

“Proud! You must be. I mean this church is having Harold Mitchell Day. Heavens, that reunion last night with twenty-five grown-up once-upon-a-time youth group members was enough to make your heart explode. How many of them did you baptize anyway? Daddy, this is huge.” I was surely proud. All the times I’d seen my daddy deal with dumb deacons and constipated committees. . . I was basking in this glow, even if I was in its shadow.

Few Baptists can say they have had the same pastor from cradle roll through baptism, to youth group all the way to their wedding day. That’s me: one preacher—for twenty-two years.  And here’s the thing: when Daddy’s preaching, I get so caught up in the message, I often forget he’s my daddy.

I get caught up right away too. Daddy often hooks his audience with a story, an illustration that pulls us in from the start. He’ll build on that story or use similar stories throughout his sermon so that at each juncture of the message, I am connected to it by real-life examples.

In fact, when I was little, Daddy’s stories were my favorite part of his sermons. I waited for them, hating for one to end, knowing it would be a few minutes before the next one. As I’ve grown older, and as my love of scripture has deepened, I’ve come to value a different component of Daddy’s preaching. Daddy’s sermons bring God’s Word to life for me.

I remember (it’s been at least 25 years ago) one sermon Daddy preached from Psalm 8 called “A Little Less than Divine.” In that sermon, he expounded on this psalm of creation. He pointed out that above all creation, humans were so precious to God, that he placed us just a little lower than the heavenly beings. He went on to talk about the pros and the cons of this distinction. In other words, he underscored our self-worth by showing us that God made us nearly equal to the angels. Then, he reminded us that we were in fact less than divine and didn’t need to get, as it were, too big for our heavenly britches. The whole sermon wove in and out of the text, using illustrations and personal reflection to connect listeners to the message.

That’s the way Daddy always preaches. The scripture carries the message. Daddy just delivers it.

Daddy is not a quiet preacher. He reminds me, sometimes, of those old Southern preachers you see in old movies but no longer in real life: preachers like Sally Field’s in The Places in the Heart or like the Waltons had. Daddy is passionate when he preaches. His tone of voice rises and falls. He gestures. He cries. And because Daddy never shies away from feeling the intensity of God’s message, I am freed to plunge into the depth of its meaning as well.

But while Daddy never speaks in monotone, he never speaks in what we children called a “preacher voice” either. He just talks like Daddy. Or Harold. Or Papa, or friend, or brother, or uncle. He is sincere. He is real. He is himself. When Daddy preaches, I never feel as if he is talking down to me or casting judgment on me. I feel as if I am being led to a holy message by a sinner like me. Consequently, I willingly go with him to the throne of grace, unfettered by misplaced self-defense.

Daddy fiddled with what was left of his Hampton Inn breakfast. “Yeah, it’s all been mighty nice. But I got a sermon to preach here in a little bit and there might be somebody there this morning who hasn’t heard the Gospel. That’s what’s on my mind right now.” He turned back to his Bible and went back to work.

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