Monday, May 14, 2012

The Trifecta

Here is the obligatory, "Wow, the time sure has passed since our last post." Now that that is done...

This weekend presented Laura and I with the ability to go out of town three days in a row to three different towns and cities, mixing the familiar with the unfamiliar in our continued journeys around Georgia.

Friday evening gave us the distinct pleasure of supporting our former classmates at McAfee School of Theology at the annual commissioning service at Smoke Rise Baptist Church in Stone Mountain, GA. There was, of course, the mandatory stop at the newly opened Chipotle in Tucker just miles from the Mercer-Atlanta campus. If it had only been there when I was in school... We arrived at the church with plenty of time to hug necks and catch up with some of our favorite people in the world before things got underway. The event is a highlight each year for the McAfee community as it brings together graduates, faculty, alumni, family, and friends in the sending off new graduates on the evening before the official Mercer graduation. To our community, the real graduation is on Friday night.

The opportunity to share stories and smiles with individuals I love honestly was the highlight of my week. It is amazing how connected one becomes with others when you spend years wrestling with some of the toughest questions people of faith will ever face. I am proud to be a graduate of McAfee School of Theology and welcome the new group of alums that finished their MDiv studies to MAM (Ministry After McAFee)!

Saturday was a catch up day for us, full of the enjoyable chores of cleaning, laundry, and most importantly, trying to figure out if all the containers we tote our lunches in each week had matching lids. These formerly routine chores were made a shade more difficult after our first 'Butts and Guts' class at Mercer on Thursday evening. A few of my colleagues in Admissions alongside some student workers and my lovely wife have created a pact to weekly workout together at this class that works well you guessed it, butts and guts. Having never attended a workout class in my life, I knew it may be difficult. Little did I know that not only would it kick my gluteus maximus, but it also caused me to be sore basically up until this (Monday) morning. I am going to follow through on my promise to attend weekly this summer, but now having full knowledge that this thing is no joke! All I know is that I had to sit down to piece together those Tupperware containers on Saturday in the bottom cabinet.

The day finished on a fun note as we visited one of the only towns within another city in the nation. A sort of Vatican of the American South, if you will. The great establishment of Payne, GA, known locally as Payne City, is a former mill town made up of 178 people that is completely surrounded by the city of Macon. We had visited Payne City before to check out a great antique store with some friends, but this trip was to sample the tastes of The Shamrock, an Irish pub actually located in the old mill building. Our friend Rusty from McAfee invited us to join him for dinner and to watch a band play connected with his church. The food was great! We went with traditional Irish choices of fish and chips and shepherd's pie. It wasn't completely Irish as the chips were actually chips and not fries, but that is not bad for a town that the US Census states takes up 0.0 square miles of the country. Nonetheless, we had a great time catching up and enjoying the ambiance that Payne City has to offer! We'll stop in for a pint with you if you visit!

Sunday brought about an opportunity for us to venture a bit farther away than a town located within our own city. Laura was asked to preach both the 11 a.m. and baccalaureate services at First Baptist Church of Manchester, GA. We celebrated Mother's Day with complete strangers, aside from the pastor's family who welcomed us in for a great Mother's Day lunch, and got to visit a part of the state neither of us had spent time in. The beautiful country road drive took us through towns like Barnesville, Molena, and Meansville before arriving in Manchester. I kid you not, we passed by Means Street in Meansville. A mean place to be indeed!

Laura did a wonderful job relating the story of Ruth and Naomi to the story of mothers and the need for mother figures in our faith at 11 a.m. She did equally great work in connecting with graduating seniors from Manchester High School in the afternoon. She spoke about the story of Esther in order to portray a biblical figure that stayed not only steadfast to her roots, but one whom believed in the path of God before her.

We definitely plan on making our way back to the Manchester area soon to visit the nearby town of Warm Springs. For you history buffs, Warm Springs is where FDR would spend time in the pools warmed by geothermal heat hoping to improve his paraplegia. The Little White House, where FDR retreated and eventually passed away in 1945, is also located in this small Georgia town. We are excited to go and explore and will share here with pictures when we do!!

Three towns in three days. Some farther than others, but all great ways to further explore this state that we call home.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Blessing of Ordination

Laura and I had the opportunity to attend two ordinations in two cities on Sunday. Some may think watching paint dry would be more enjoyable than sitting through about two and a half hours of worship across the state of Georgia, but for the two of us we were thrilled to be able to celebrate the calls to ministry that each of these McAfee graduates feel upon their lives from God.

We had the chance to experience two well crafted services by our former classmates and now members of the cloth, first in Macon and then in Atlanta. We were able to hear from former professors and employers about the sincerity with which of these individuals have already begun to act upon God's call on their lives and gave advice for the bumpy, but rewarding road ahead. Words of encouragement and challenge filled the air as these members of the church were set apart to lead God's people in distinct and unique ways.

The opportunity also brought memories rushing back to me of my own ordination in July of last year. The event that sometimes seems so far away due to my current professional position became very close and real as I recalled the emotions, words, and faces of that day at First Baptist Church of Elon, NC.

The emotions were so real that day. I felt the joy of love from friends and family from near and far. I also felt the burden with which had been and still is placed upon my shoulder as a minister seeking to follow God's will in a special way. I in no way count myself as the shepherd, but instead attempt to be among the leading sheep that help others become closer to the shepherd. The tears that ran down my face that afternoon as individuals whispered words of love and challenge are still fresh and push me as well as uplift me to this day.

The opportunity to relive these emotions as well as offer my own words of care and challenge on Sunday was a special one. I look forward to the days that lay ahead in my own call to live up to the challenges placed before me as well as to rely upon those who were with me or sent their prayers along to me. I also look forward to seeing the call of God upon Rachel and Zach grow and flourish as they build the Kingdom up with each life they encounter.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Why Its Better to Have Carson Home

Our fall has been an interesting rhythm of marriage as Carson has traveled weekly recruiting for Mercer.  We usually see each other at least once a week, and this weekend I even get to visit him in D.C.  And during our sometimes brief time together this fall, I am reminded how much better my life is when Carson is home.  My best friend and companion is there to talk with me, to laugh with me, and hang out with me.

Then there are the raw, practical moments where it is adamantly clear life would be better to have Carson home.  Case in point: last night sitting on the couch reading, as something caught my eye.  A large roach scurried into the middle of the living room.  For those of you who do not know, this has always been a point of vulnerability for me.  I think its their size, speed, and crunchiness.  And the antennas.

The first step was constructing a plan that did not involve me touching or having to hit the roach due to said crunchiness.  I had enough room to move around the roach and grab the vacuum cleaner. The noisy chase led the roach behind the kitchen trashcan.  Texted my friend Aimee who recommended Raid.  None in the house.  Googled solutions and was relieved that I am not the only person online searching "how to kill a roach without touching it."  Hairspray could work.  I uncovered the roach and doused him with Tresemme 24-Hour Body.  His shell looked great, but he quickly retreated under our dining room cabinet.  I never saw him again that night, but I went to bed with the door closed and a towel stuffed under the bottom.   I hoped not to see him again, and felt honorable by giving him the chance to live and never make his presence known in our home again.

7:30pm tonight: I'm reading in our bedroom when said roach crawls out from under our dryer just outside the bedroom door.  I'm still confident in the hairspray and begin the chase again.  He runs into the bedroom and slides behind a small bookcase.  Now he has taken it to the next level - I can't sleep knowing he is in the room.  For a brief moment, I consider sleeping on the couch.

I hairspray behind the bookcase hoping to fumigate him (as evidenced now by the stain on the wall).  After several minutes, the darn thing literally begins peeking out from behind the bookcase.  Now I know he's screwing with me.  As a go to grab a shoe, one of my last resorts, he goes back to hiding.  This time, I call my sister for a pep talk.  As we are trying to psych me up for this, he runs out into the bathroom.  Hairspray in one hand, shoe in the other.  I trap him in a corner and then he runs at me.  With Lindsay on speaker phone to hear my shrills and "creative" language, I smashed the roach with my shoe.   And then more hairspray for good measure.  I swept him into a dustpan and dropped him in the toilet.  Game Laura.

It's pretty ridiculous that a 27 year-old can't woman up and kill a roach, and that it takes her 24 hours, text messaging, googling, and a phone call to do so.  But I am pretty proud of myself nonetheless.  It would have been better to have Carson at home to take care of it immediately, but instead I have a pretty embarrassing and overly lengthy blogpost about it.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Consumer Justice

Last July, I made one of the worst decisions of my life: I signed a two-year contract for DirecTV.  The low monthly price and over 200 channels lured me into a relationship that seemed right at the time.  Since being a customer, I have had to call over 10 times to have a service technician come out and fix my satellite for the same issue; 6 of those calls have happened between August 20 and today.  Each time I call, I'm assured the problem will be fixed, and that someone from customer service will call to address the recurring issue.  Until today, it had not happened.

There are always those occasional run-ins with the companies from which we choose to purchase products and services.  None are perfect (though I am beginning to believe Apple and Publix are), but none have tried my patience more than DirecTV.  In fact, it was not surprising that I recently discovered that they are not an accredited company of the Better Business Bureau.

Part of my frustration stems from the fact that I have a degree in Business Management.  I have been trained to know how a good business operates and why some companies fail, and I have always had a strong conviction to hold corporations responsible for their faulty products or incompetent service.  As consumers, we should have high expectations.  So, I have probably spent more time than most people caring about righting wrongs when it comes to the things I pay for and holding people accountable.  Consumer justice, if you will.

Then there is the pastoral side of me.  The one that tries to keep me in check when I'm on the phone raising my voice.  The one that makes me think "I wonder if I'm ruining this person's day" or "would this person fall out of her chair if I stop my rant and tell her I'm an ordained minister?"  Carson has even looked at me once, while on the phone with DirecTV, and motioned his hand down, as if to say "Take it down a notch."  I probably have not always done the best job walking the line of utter frustration and anger and a grace-filled concern for the respect of all involved.

It took me over an hour to fall asleep last night because I was preparing in my head my opening arguments for the DirecTV call I knew I had to make today.  I wanted justice, I wanted to be articulate, and I even wanted to preserve the dignity of the stranger on the other line.

After an online chat to try to secure a phone number for an "escalations representative" (yes, they call it escalations) and finally receiving a call from a customer service rep after 2 weeks, I was able to express the frustration of the last few weeks.  I wanted someone to affirm that our service was unacceptable, and I wanted something to be done.  By the end of the conversation, we were approved for 60 days of credit for non-service, and I thanked the rep for letting me air my frustrations to her.  All in all, I think it was tolerable for both parties, but I'm not holding my breath until I see the bill credits on an upcoming statement.

As I "watch" TV now with a pixelating picture and sound that goes in and out, I can't help but think that these are the standards our government should care about as they consider the state of the economy.  I think I could get behind corporate tax rates that are based on quality products, environmental responsibility, employee care, and outstanding customer service.  Let these companies that run us around take on our national debt.  I'd be ok with that.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Roads of Georgia

One of the things that I have really enjoyed about my job is the fact that I travel roads in Georgia many people never do.  CBF/GA has churches in just about every corner of the state, which means I may not always travel interstates 75, 85 or 20 all the time (which after living in Atlanta for three years is refreshing to say the least!) Or, I may start there, but end up on roads that take me through the real Georgia.

I noticed this almost immediately last fall when I traveled south to Fitzgerald for the first time.  I was able to enjoy a two-lane state highway and the beautiful fields and pecan groves all around me.  Or in my many trips to Taliaferro County, while there is often little to look at besides trees, reminds you of the vastness of the state.  It has been at those points that my "Atlanta bubble" has been popped.  No, its true, Atlanta cannot be your only depiction of Georgia.

This past weekend, Carson and I traveled to St. Simons so I could meet with FBC about hosting March Mission Madness there this upcoming Spring.  After looking online at how to get there, I really was not quite sure what we would see once we exited I-16.  We went through towns with names like Lumber City, Hazelhurst, Baxley, and Jesup.  We saw old downtowns squares, beautiful old houses and literally slowed down as we approached each town every few miles.  Finally, after almost four hours, we arrived on St Simons.  We spent a good part of the day just driving and walking around the beautiful and pristine island, again, very different than other parts of the state.  We ate fantastic seafood, visited the local shops, drove through the round-abouts, and envied those on their bicycles riding around the island.

Being a proud North Carolina native and "city girl," I'm honestly becoming fascinated with Georgia the more of it that I see.  Every time I get the opportunity to travel, I hope that I take roads I haven't before, so that I can go to a new part of the state and experience the newness and uniqueness of each city or town, whether its just passing through or staying for awhile.  Wherever the roads take me, I'm just glad I'm branching out beyond 285 and that my experience has not just been Atlanta, even though I love it.  There is a lot more to see in Georgia, a lot to experience, many people to meet, and much to understand about the state where we now live and serve.  And I think I'm really going to like it.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Ordination & A New Job!

This week has been quite full of emotions and new titles. Last weekend I was ordained and today I just found out I have a new job!

Last weekend, Laura and I got to spend time with family and friends in North Carolina as I was ordained at First Baptist Church of Elon. My brother Jordan drove in from DC and my sister Sarah flew in from New Orleans to join the rest of the family in Statesville for some family time before the big events. This included a trip to Outback to use up some gift certificates Mom and Dad had won at a local Boys & Girls Club auction!

I knew going into the ordination that it would be an emotional day, but was still surprised by the overwhelming feelings of blessing and exhaustion that came as it played out. Laura's family along with my family and our friends Clark and Jessica joined FBC Elon for Sunday worship service to which Rev. Mark Mofield surprised me by calling me up to join him for the children's sermon and share how I came to the point of moving forward with ordination. I hear from family members that I did all right in answering, but I can safely say the challenge of explaining a lifetime's calling and spiritual movement to proceed with ordination to a group of elementary schoolers in front of a congregation of people may have been one of my more difficult in ministry thus far.

Following lunch with the Mofield family and our crew, I was able to take Laura's family around Elon and show them the ole' college stomping grounds. I have great memories of Elon and it was fun to get to share some of those with her family while walking and driving around campus.

The afternoon began to pick up when we headed back to the church. Folks arrived early as they came in from all over. FBC Elon friends came back for a second round of church in the building. Family came from Greensboro and Sanford. Statesville friends included friends from FBC Statesville, former ministers, my mother's prayer group, a few of my best friends growing up, Andrew and Brent, who came from Charleston, SC and Chapel Hill to be with their families and myself for the event. Anna, who took care of my siblings and me growing up, even made her way up from Wilmington to join her parents in celebrating the day!

I also was able to celebrate the event alongside fellow ministers who have mentored me in my path up to this point. Scott Hagaman, my former youth minister, came from Marion, NC to lead us in prayer. Tonya Stewart, whom I worked with for a summer at FBC Statesville, came to read scripture. Jack Causey, who pastored FBC Statesville when I was a child and teen, came to explain the meaning of the event. Laura led us in an ordination prayer. FBC Elon staff David Durham as well as Mark took part in welcoming the congregation and recognizing me. Phil Smith, my friend from Elon who serves as Associate Chaplain, gave me a charge. He based it off of a similar charge that I gave him at his installation to his position in 2006, the beginning of my senior year as a Phoenix. Each person spoke beautifully and humbled me greatly. Mark's wife Amy as well as the FBC choir did a wonderful job leading us in music as well in setting the tone of the call experience of ministry and acceptance to follow it.

The laying on of hands is where I finally became overwhelmed with emotion. It began when I heard Amy singing "Here I Am, Lord," a song that my youth choir would sing on choir tours in high school. I finally lost it when friends and family came to lay hands upon me with words of blessing and prayers for perseverance. The words shared are ones I will never forget.

The day was capped off by a visit to Twin Lakes Retirement Community in Burlington to visit Mary Ellen. Mary Ellen is Sarah's senior friend whom I have heard about ever since Sarah led the efforts for her sorority in spending time with individuals at the retirement community. Mary Ellen has become like another grandmother to Sarah and is someone who at 89 years of age, still has a great sense of humor and is lively during some natural health decline. I believe that this was the perfect experience to finish an afternoon of ministry because I got to see how Sarah has served Mary Ellen and Mary Ellen has served Sarah. Each has provided community to another and a comforting figure to rely upon. She already knew who Laura and I were from our introductions and congratulated us on the wedding. I was ministered to by Mary Ellen as well as I saw a wonderful example of a life-long Christ follower who shared joy with us for a simple visit.

I feel blessed to have been part of such a wonderful day and even more so to have friends and family that care so deeply for me in this ministry journey alongside Laura. I look forward to continue to share how that call develops as we move forward in life together!

In other news, I just got a call from Mercer University and I accepted a job as an Admissions Counselor! This has been a long time coming as the last few months I have looked for something that would not just utilize my skills, but be meaningful work. That all came together with this position and I'm excited! I'll start next week. I'm sure I"ll have plenty to post in my recruiting travels in the Southeast and into the Mid-Atlantic.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Under Pressure

Laura and I had lunch yesterday at the Greek Corner Deli downtown with Hannah, the President of the Cooperative Student Fellowship at Mercer University. I have been given the great pleasure of serving the group as it’s campus minister this year. The opportunity to sit down and not only get to know more about Hannah, but also talk shop about CSF got me excited for the fall semester!

After returning home, I stepped into a slippery situation, Apparently the pressure washer guy who had been washing the breezeways around the apartment complex got a bit too happy with the sprayer. There was a thin layer of water in the entryway that then seeped into the carpet. At that point I was forgiving. I mean a thorough job is nothing to complain about and a little water doesn’t hurt anything.

I then proceeded to sit on the couch along the entryway wall, which turned out to be soaking wet. I looked up to find that there was a line of water that had come down from the ceiling and soaked everything on the wall. There was a small puddle of water sitting in my sandal that I dumped out and then a little later realized that our potpourri bowl had also been filled to the brim.

We immediately called the office and a few hours later had a man and his son who own a carpet cleaning company come to clean the affected areas as well as leave us a fan to run throughout the evening to continue to help in the drying process. The man was nice and helpful, but I had flashbacks to Seinfeld’s cult cleaning service as the man handed us a bag of information with how to be saved with a request card for a DVD on the process. What is it about cleaning services and religion?

The gentleman moved on to the many other apartments that had been graciously given the same water carpet and couch problems from our pressure-washing friend before we could engage further in that conversation, but I am wondering what the rest of the week may bring. Just two days ago we received a message in the mail that we had a “sealed prophecy” with an attached paper Jesus prayer rug, and we could only open the message if we promised to do what God told us to do. Opened it and still waiting for blessings and/or judgment. Yesterday may have been judgment. Will keep you updated.