Saturday, November 30, 2019

Shit, man.

When I found out my friend Floyd was ill a couple of weeks ago, I saw him a couple of times in a couple of different hospitals. Then I visited with him at his sister’s home along with some other friends. He had been sent there under Hospice care. On each of these occasions, there was always someone else there.

Then last Tuesday, I went to sit with him for a bit and for the first time since this started it was just the two of us. In the quiet of that moment when we were first alone, he just looked at me shook his head and said, “Shit, man.”

The only response I had was “I know.”

It is hard for me to relate everything I felt he might be telling me with those two words. His embarrassment of his condition? His anxiety about what was to come? The disbelief that his life was coming down to this? The sorrow of what else life might have afforded him if it were not ending so soon? In the context of facing one's mortality, there are endless depths to be plumbed in that simple phrase. 

If you have read my blog before or my book, you will understand when I say that I considered Floyd a founding member of the Rocking Flock and one of the old hippie’s I counted among its members. If they offer him a mansion in heaven, I imagine he may ask if it’s okay if he just has his VW camper.

My heart is heavy and the loss of this “brother” has not even fully set in. I am trying to put into words how I feel, but all I keep coming up with is “Shit, man.”

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Dad Hugs

This is my church newsletter article for this week. Since so many people have seen my photo on social media in said shirt, I thought others might be interested to read this as well. 
I went to the KnoxPride parade on Gay Street this past Saturday. I wore a T-shirt that said, “Free Dad Hugs or Free Pastor Hugs.” It had a cute little rainbow elephant wearing glasses in the middle. While everyone’s comments to me have been overwhelmingly positive, I know it may have raised eyebrows with some of you. I always prefer to be direct, so let me state the reasons I was there.

My youngest daughter came out to me about 5 years ago. She cried hard telling me she was gay, but did not want to be. I do not intend to debate whether this is biological or a lifestyle choice in a few paragraphs. I will be happy to speak with anyone in depth regarding my thoughts on this in another setting. My point with this article is to tell everyone what I did at that time was embrace my daughter and tell her I loved her no matter what.

A few years later, I read about a man who went to a similar parade and held up a sign that said, “Free Dad Hugs.” He was overwhelmed by the response of those who took him up on his offer. They were primarily young people who had been disowned, kicked out or otherwise rejected by their own families because they were gay. We can debate at length whether being homosexual is a sin, but there is no question in my mind that discarding your own child absolutely is. This is why my shirt said “Free Dad Hugs.” I wanted to share with anyone who needed to hear the message they were still loved as a child of God.

With the climate in our own denomination making LGBTQ folks feel less than fully accepted, I also wanted to remind them they were people of sacred worth as it still says in our United Methodist Discipline. The tipping point for me was this former officer and so-called preacher here in Knoxville calling for homosexuals to be executed. That is so far from the Gospel of Jesus Christ I can hardly put it into words. I wanted everyone to know he does not represent me or Christians in general. This is why my shirt also said, “Free Pastor Hugs.”

As far as that elephant goes, my glasses wearing daughter loves and collects anything to do with elephants. That’s what Dads do.

Friday, April 5, 2019

What a Fool Believes

I have not posted in a while because I have been working on a couple of book projects in my spare "writing" time. I thought some of ya'll might get a kick out of this article I wrote for my church newsletter this week, though. 
I was reminded yesterday of the greatest April fool’s prank I have ever been personally involved in. It speaks volumes about my relationship with my father and my life as a preacher’s kid.
I had just recently returned from participating in the Holston Conference sponsored United Nations Seminar for youth. On this trip to Washington D.C. and New York City, I had swiftly fallen into infatuation with a girl from the Chattanooga area. I was a junior at Greeneville High at the time and did not know how well this long distance relationship would hold up. This was before internet, email, Facebook and cell phones, kids. It cost extra money to call long distance back in those dark times. (1982)
It was unusual for my father to drive me to school, but on this particular day he needed to talk to me about something important. On our way there, he explained that the Conference was projecting him to move in June. This was initially a kick to the gut, but then he said we were moving to Chattanooga. I could barely contain my excitement. My girl and I would be together after all! Dad was grinning ear to ear as he dropped me off. As I was closing the door, he said, “April fools.” He laughed at the time, but said he regretted it pretty quickly because of the look of utter dejection on my face.
When I got to Art class, I told my teacher what Dad had done. She was a member of our church and hatched a wonderful plan of retaliation. She called him at the church and told him I had gotten into a fight at school. She explained I had seemed upset all day for some reason and had finally lost my cool on a fellow student. The teacher then suggested Dad stop by her classroom before going to see me in the principal’s office. Knowing this must be his fault for upsetting me, he rushed to the school. When he entered the classroom, everyone in the room shouted “April Fool’s.” Neither of us has ever quite topped this prank.

I share this story for two reasons. First, it is a really funny story. Secondly, it is that time of year again when ministers and clergy families can be on pins and needles during the appointment process. Many may already be projected to move and have to keep it secret for now. Under the best of circumstances, moving to a new church, job, school and so on is very stressful. Keep them in your prayers. It’s no joke.