Do you ever think much about your gene pool? You look for traits that keep popping up in your family. For example, I notice that in my family history, religious faith plays a big role. There are some ministers there and I’m glad for that.
Also, I notice that intermarriage across denominational lines seems common. There seems to have been a tendency for my Quaker and Methodist kinfolk to be attracted to Baptists. In 1805 one ancestor got kicked out of the Quaker Church for marrying a Baptist girl. That seems a bit harsh to me. Presbyterians aren’t common in our family. I’m guessing they were predestined to steer clear of we rowdies.
Simplicity is a common theme when we think about spirituality. Jesus went away into the wilderness to contemplate his life’s work. He was tempted there. In the simple seclusion of the wilderness, he sought clarification, focus and direction. In ancient Christianity, devout people sometimes adopted lives of seclusion and simplicity. Some became hermits. Some became desert dwelling, solitary souls and some became monks living in remote communities of like-minded persons devoted to prayer and reflection. They lived with the barest of necessities.
Some folks are hoarders. They amass amazing amounts of stuff in their homes. I have known persons whose homes are so filled with stuff that they can move only through narrow pathways to get from room to room. We don’t associate this behavior with the search for spirituality. When this happens, it is an indication of something amiss. It is a complex condition and a sign of the need for professional help.
My beloved and I were sitting under the covered part of our patio after midnight. We were listening to a soft, falling rain. This is one of the small pleasures of our lives. We talk about the people we love, ideas that interest us, memories we treasure. Sometimes we will talk ’til dawn. The best times are when rain is falling.
On this particular night I was in a dull mood. Normally I’m upbeat. I am by nature an optimist. Often I err in that direction. My glass is almost always more than half full and rarely half empty. But, on this night, I am down in the dumps. My favorite college football team has played four games in the young season and has lost two of them. Each game by one point. When your team experiences something like that, what does it mean? It means you are a two-time loser, that’s what!
We’ve had a good time with Pope Francis visiting here in the USA. Ninety million Roman Catholics have rejoiced in his presence. I’m guessing that at least that many non-Catholics have also been very happy he was here. As you know, I’m a garden-variety Methodist. He has lifted my own spirits. I have a host of family and friends who are Catholic and I know this has fired them up!
One of the pleasures of writing this blessed blurb is knowing that you, dear readers, are smart, well-educated and tuned into what is happening in the world around us. Oh, I know there are a few of you who are like me — cursed by being regarded mostly as a pretty face. Even that doesn’t make us a bunch of airheads. We all know that there are certain times that call for us to furrow our brows and think especially hard. We are entering such a period.
Labor Day is now in our rear-view mirrors and because next year is a presidential election year, we will begin now to seriously consider the candidates before us. So here is a little bit of my advice for us thinking folk as we ponder the forthcoming election. You may think that my advice is not worth much. However, you are also not paying a penny for it. Cheap as it may be, however, if you don’t pay attention to it, you may pay a seriously heavy price when you cast your vote.
Ah, mid-September! Summer temperatures are beginning to drop and lots of other changes are under way. Those of you, dear readers, who are of my generation are wearing shoes once again. We took them off at the beginning of summer mostly because barefooted-ness was a fashion statement for kids in the summertime. Plus, no matter how middle-class our families were, the reason we were middle-class was that we did not waste anything. That included shoes. Wearing out shoes by wearing them in the summertime was needlessly wasteful.
I know y’all will understand if I am a little lazy as I write this blessed blurb during this Labor Day weekend. I think I have a pretty good excuse for laying aside every possible activity that might be construed as work. Especially on Labor Day. I am now an old geezer who has worked for a long, long time. Now, don’t get me wrong. I have always loved my work.
Honestly, I think that I have erred on the side of being a workaholic. For more than 50 years I have been a minister and I could never slow down. I was never happier than when I was doing the work of my vocation. I know now that I should have taken off more time to relax. So, in this column, I am indulging my idle mind.
My friend Michael Braswell, who lives over in Jonesborough, Tenn., is a professor. Professors know stuff. They give exams to determine what other people know. He sent me an exam recently to discover what I know. I share it with you because it is time for a new school year to begin and it is time to remind us all of the importance of paying attention. You may be returning to school or your children or grandchildren may be taking their seats in the classroom.
It’s trash talking time again across the land. It’s football time again in the home of the brave and the land of the free! Stick with me now. I want to stir up some good old-fashioned rivalries here today and say a few good words for trash talking.
Of course, I will begin with some historical support for this brief sermon. To hurl harsh words at an opponent is a practice as old as conflict between rivals itself. Cavemen stood at the doors to their caves and yelled insults at each other before they plunged into battle with clubs and stones. Little could they imagine that a gazillion years later rivals would rush yelling out of their dugouts and go to battle with bats and balls. And be paid bazillions and become known as heroes around the world for doing it.
It’s the heat that’s bugging me. Now I know, some folk will say, “It’s the humidity, not the heat that’s making us miserable.” Humidity is bad, too, but it’s the heat that’s getting to me. I know there are some places in the world where the temperature is 120 degrees or more at this time of year. But you give me week after week of 90- to 100-degree heat like we have been suffering in the South and I’m as cranky as I can be.
Little things bug me when it’s hot like this. There’s my wife, Judy, for example. You know I think I’m the luckiest husband in the world. Been happily married 54 years. She’s the best cook in the world. She’s smarter than I am. She’s good looking. She’s patient and puts up with me.
I am a principled fellow and this is a principled column. My motto is: “A bit of what’s Southern, fried or preachy and more or less fit to print.” From time to time I repeat some of the guiding maxims of this divine epistle. This is because new readers are discovering this blessed blurb all the time and may be trying to figure out what this is all about. Then there are faithful readers who have been reading it for many years and are still bewildered by it. And, of course, all of us are growing old together and sometimes we forget stuff. I always have a serious point in mind when I begin writing each week. Sometimes when I get to the end, I can’t remember what the point was when I started.