Everything is spiritual… so how can one write about their spiritual journey without writing about everything? My purpose in this series is to explore what I believe about God and why I believe it to be true. It will be a very personal journey. My purpose is not to say that I am right and why, but to say, “This is who I am.” Like everything I write on this blog, my purpose ultimately is for my friends and family, to know me better. The unexpected gem for me is how much I learn about myself in the process. If it is encouraging to others, so much the better.
I expect it will be mostly chronological, but not completely. As I get into some particular thread of thought, I may chase it through time. You will undoubtedly meet a few people who helped to shape my spiritual thought from Mom and Dad to my own children, from my Sunday School teachers and Youth Leader to a few very influential pastors and friends. Much of my journey has been shaped by trying to please others. A desire to please others is good, but it is also flawed. The simple fact is that I cannot make anyone happy. I can do acts of kindness, but whether the recipient truly receives them is not my choice. Whether it is enough to make a difference is not my choice. I hope that in the process of exposing the unhealthy addiction to making others happy, I can be freed to explore my own heart deeper… and continue doing acts of kindness, but with no expectations.
Before the Beginning
At least, before my beginning… It occurs to me that as a chronological journey, I should tell what I know about the spiritual journeys of my ancestors. It isn’t much…
I know that my Dad’s family was from West Virginia. He was born and raised in an area on the Kanawha River nine miles from its intersection with the Ohio. The area was called “Nine Mile”. His father’s family (Anderson) had bounced all around West Virginia and even into Kentuky and Tennessee having children as they went. They made a living by building or fixing up a house then living in it a while, selling it and moving on. When they arrived at Nine Mile, they stayed to have several children. My guess is that the nomadic lifestyle was a bit much with a lot of children. No matter why they chose to stay, they took up farming and became part of the Nine Mile community. They attended church at Pine Grove Church, which is now gone. There is still a cemetery there where many of my ancestors are buried (none of them are Andersons though). Pine Grove Church was a Methodist church, I believe.
Another family in the Nine Mile area who also attended Pine Grove Church were the Lewises. Bernice Lewis was my grandmother. Her father, Miles Clement Lewis, was a school teacher and a devout Christian. He spoke in church on at least one occasion, for which I have published his notes here. Bernice Lewis and Preston Anderson met at Pine Grove Church where both of their families attended services. They told me about going to social events there for dates. Anyway, that’s not the point of this entry. The ancestors I spoke of were from the Lewis side of my grandmother’s family.
They married and made a life for themselves very close by that area. For their whole life, they were members of the United Methodist Church. They believed in God and raised their two sons in the church. Their younger son, my uncle, is a Christian pastor and a great mentor to me. He comments frequently on my blog. Their older son is my father and also a great influence in my life. He has occasionally left his mark here too.
My mother’s family came from Alabama. I believe they were Baptists, but I don’t know much about that. Her parents moved to Charleston, SC when she was a young teenager. Her father became a machinist in the Charleston Naval Ship Yard. They attended Charleston Heights Baptist Church, which was very near the Naval Base (that little fact will become important soon).
My dad joined the Navy when he graduated high-school. He had high hopes of attending the Navy School of Music. He had passed the entrance audition and was well on his way when life took a different turn for him. In his physical exam, they determined that he didn’t have enough teeth to be a navy musician. I can only imagine how dissapointing that must have been. The Navy sent dad (of course he wasn’t my dad yet) to Charleston. While there, he went to Charleston Heights Baptist Church to worship. Guess who he met there… yep. He and my mom were married about a year later.
Mom and Dad took my brother, Ken, and me to church in the Baptist church as long back as I can remember. Some of my very early memories were of my dad directing the music at Highland Creek Baptist Church in Hanahan, SC. I remember singing from the hymnals and feeling embarrased when one of the ladies would look at me and smile with that “isn’t he cute” smile. When my mom was recovering from having my brother, she tells me that I would go to church with my dad and I would sit on the front pew very still and good while he directed the singing. Then he would come sit down with me for the rest of the service. People would just rave about how good I was. I liked that attention and I’m sure it had a big impact on my being “good”.
So there you have it. It’s a beginning… not an earth shaking beginning, but it is the one I have. Next time, I’ll talk a little more about my childhood experience in church, what I remember of it and move into the teen years. Until then…