My Spiritual Journey – Part 2

Gran-Great

naomi-lewis-1964.jpg The next logical part of my journey is my relationship to those who came before me. I was blessed to know all of my grandparents and three of my great granparents. I was pretty young when my great-grandparents died. My dad’s mother’s father (M. C. Lewis) died before I was born. I barely remember her mother, (Naomi) but I called her Gran Great (my grandmother was “Gran”). Mostly, I remember an old lady who I would “perform” for. At Christmas, we had a gathering of my grandmother’s family (the Lewis’s) at which all the kids were expected to say a piece for Gran-Great. My parents tell me that one of the pieces I recited for her went like this… “The chimney’s small. Old Santa’s fat, but he get’s down in spite of that.” I guess for a little guy that was pretty good.

Great Grandpa & Grandma Anderson

rom-bertha-anderson-1967.jpg I knew both of my dad’s, dad’s parents (Rom & Bertha Pearl Anderson). We visited them many times and I remember my dad telling me each time that this might be the last time we would ever see them alive. The fact that I remember hearing this more than once testifies to their longevity. It also tells me that the sadness I felt cut pretty deep. Many of our memories that stick do so because they are attached to strong emotion. This photo is just how I remember them. I even remember being that wallpaper, which struck me because of its “oldness”. Everything in their house seemed so old. It even smelled old. My great-grandfather liked to put me on his knee and tell me bear (pronounced “bar”) stories. His voice was airy and soft and he had a gentle laugh that I liked.

Hymns

My great grandmother was impressed with my singing hymns when we visited. I do not remember this, but my mom tells me it is so. My mom sang hymns a lot when I was little and, being the little musician that I was, I picked them up and sang them too. I still remember most of the standard hymns very well. I suppose it is because of hearing them so much when I was growing up.

Interestingly to me, I do not “treasure” the hymns the way I hear from so many people who grew up in the church. So many times I hear people my age and older wish we sang more of the the old hymns in church today. To my mind, they seem distant and old fashioned. It seems as if I should cherish them and hold them dear since they were clearly such a huge part of my childhood, but they do not. The reason, at least partly is because my musical taste and my love of variety are not met in the old hymns (you don’t get much new and avant-garde with hymns). It could also be that I unconsciously associate hymns with a “by the rules” religion that I attach to my grandparents’ generation… a religious attitude that I find repellant. For whatever reason, the fact is that I loved hymns when I was a youngster but today, I do not prefer them.

I was sharing this dicotomy with a friend the other day and he reminded me of some of the “remakes” of old hymns to a more modern sound. I like very few of them. The ones I like are the ones in which they make interesting harmonic changes instead of merely “changing the beat”. Most of these remake productions lack depth musically speaking. They are merely rock and roll facades on old hymns. It isn’t that I consider what they are doing sacreligious. It is hard for me to imagine that any musical style in and of itself is unpleasing to God. I believe to my core that God is mostly concerned with our hearts.

The Attitude of the Heart

Samuel, in the Bible, says when choosing the next king for Israel, “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Sam 16:7. This is a principle that I hold very dear. God is more concerned with my heart than my actions. I once knew a man who loved to perform gospel music ( good-ole hillbilly, bluegrass gospel music). He didn’t love Jesus, but he surely loved gospel music. Something about that bothered me. To sing for Jesus when you don’t love Him, just doesn’t make sense to me. I believe that as a musician, I can perform secular music with an attitude of worship to God that is pleasing to him. Likewise, I could sing a hymn with a poor attitude and I do not believe it would be pleasing to God.

Thinking about God’s looking on the heart also reminds me of Jeanie’s and my philosophy of raising children. When our daughters were little, it was very important to us to try to discern the reason they did something wrong. Did they have an attitude of defiance, or was it a childish mistake? Were they truly sorry, or just embarrased that they got caught? Once I was so exasperated with Danae that I shouted at her. I said, “Why don’t you stop acting like a three year old?” This broke the spell for me long enough to laugh at myself… because she was three years old at the time.

Way over here at the other end of the parenting continuum, I have also asked my daughters many times to judge me by my motives more than my actions. As a parent there are many times that I have just not known what to do or say. I know what I want, but I don’t know how to get it. I have made some real hum-dingers of mistakes with my words. Hurt feelings, miscommunications. I am blessed that my family is so forgiving.

A Prayer Request

I have had a cold for the last week and a half that has wiped me out. Just sitting up and writing for a while is draining all my energy. Please pray that I will recover quickly. I am sick and tired of feeling sick and tired… if you know what I mean.

My Spiritual Journey – Part 1

Beginning

ps145-4.pngEverything 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…

Gathering at Pine Grove ChurchI 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…

MLK

mlk.png Thoughts on Martin Luther King Jr. Day…

  • I was ten years old when Martin was assasinated. I do not remember ever having heard of him, which was not unusual given the fact that we didn’t talk about world events in my home. It wasn’t that world events were taboo, my parents just didn’t discuss it. I feel sad that he met such a tragic end.
  • Being a white guy from the south, I grew up immersed in a paradigm that thought of people like King as trouble-makers. He was a trouble maker. Sometimes we need trouble-makers to stir us out of our complacency or worse, our bigotry. It disturbs me that we need to be shaken up because we ought to be able to examine ourselves and make the changes that result from that examination. Alas, people aren’t very good at self-examination. I am thankful for the courage of Martin and others who risked everything to make things better.
  • Our garbage pickup is delayed one day this week because of the holiday. Jeanie already heard one person make a smart-assed comment about how “they” have to have this day off, don’t they? Will we ever get past having an us and a them? I feel angry and sad that a whole group of people is marginalized because of the color of their skin.
  • This morning, I was reading a newspaper article on King’s legacy and I was thinking about my African-American friend, Chris. (Chris is not my token black friend. He is my friend because we relate to one another well. We used to work on the same team at Wachovia. We no longer get to work side by side because of corporate reorganization decisions. I picked up the phone and called Chris.  I told him how I had been thinking about how much of an impact King’s dream and work had on our ability to be friends at all. If it were 40 or 50 years earlier, there is no way we would be working side by side in an office. I celebrate our friendship today!

There you have it. Joy, because I am living Martin’s dream and sadness because it is so far from a complete reality. Hope that we will be able to one day truly judge one another by our character and not by our skin color or any of the other differences that divide us. Call me crazy, but I believe that is what Jesus wants.  I believe that only when we truly embrace Him and follow His teaching can we have any hope of true reconciliation. Only when we learn to embrace one another, only when we see the “fingerprint of God” in everone can we experience Martin’s dream. Only when we learn to disagree well can we celebrate our differences as we together celebrate the One who made us all so different! We have so far to go, but I see movement. Movement in my life and the lives of some of my friends.

God help us to embrace You, embrace Your ways, see the world the way You see it. Help us to see Your fingerprint in every person and love them the way You do… the way Jesus showed us.

Funeral Programs

rose.jpgOne of my hobbies is documenting my family’s genealogy. I say, “documenting” and not “researching” because my joy comes from listening to and reading the family stories and organizing all the information that others already know. I get no pleasure from doing research. I also love using my talents to publish this genealogy and family history on the web so that all can enjoy it.

I started going through papers and photos that I got when my grandmother (Anderson) died in 2005. She was faithful to keep records (letters, stories, charts) of our family history. Documentation like that is of vital importance when one is recording genealogy. Sometimes you will come up with two conflicting pieces of information and without documentation, you would not know which was more likely to be true. Interestingly, Gran was practically obsessive about saving funeral programs. They are little cards that tell the barest of details. Who died, when they were born and when they died, where the services are to be held and who will officiate. She has them from her parents, her brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles… As much as I understand their value as documentation, it seems a bit odd (even morbid) to save them.

As I was sorting through things tonight, I came across Gran’s own funeral program that I had saved. I thought about how she had passed this job to me and how I was the one now filing her funeral program. It then occured to me that someday, someone else will file my funeral program.

I don’t mean to scare anyone. This is not meant to be morbid or some kind of prediction of my demise. It is a reminder that death is a very real part of life. That’s the way it is supposed to be. For me, it helps to keep the worries of life in perspective. I wonder if Gran ever thought about that…

gran-funeral-program2.jpg

A Clearing in the Distance

olmstead.gifLately I find myself enjoying more biographies.  I love experiencing other people’s stories. Seeing things from the perspective of other people helps me to see the world in new and different ways. I especially like biographies that are “real”; ones about well known people, but that show them as real people with their weaknesses and failures as well as their giftedness and strengths. I am about a third of the way through reading, A Clearing in the Distance: Frederick Law Olmstead and America in the Nineteenth Century by Witold Rybczynski. (The title and the author’s name are enough words to consider them a blog entry alone!)

Olmstead is famous for his landscape designs including New York’s Central Park and the Biltmore Estate in Asheville , NC (just a couple of hours away from here). What strikes me about Olmstead is that, unlike so many famous people, he didn’t start a career and stick with it the rest of his life. In fact, a full third of the way into the book, the closest he has come to doing anything related to landscaping was his strategic planting of some trees on his farm. He dropped out of college, was a shop keeper, became a farmer and toured Europe looking for better farming methods. Wrote books on the farming and returned to continue farming. Eventually, his writing skills take him to a job as a writer for the N Y Times newspaper. I can relate to this guy. He does not know who he is. I still am not sure who I am.

Another thing I love about the book is his perspective on America in the 19th century. In the mid 1800’s, slavery was by far the biggest issue in America. Reading this book gives me the perspective of a regular guy (with whom I very much relate) on these kinds of issues. He is not a politician and has no ambition to try to solve the issue singlehandedly. But that does not mean that he doesn’t have an opinion. Olmstead is against slavery, but like many others, he wants to ignore it and let it die a slow death. He fears that to ban slavery would be the end of the Union of the states. An abolitionist friend tries to persuade him otherwise to no avail. In hopes that seeing the conditions of slavery for himself will change his mind, his friend convinces Olmstead to take a job with the Times. He becomes travels throughout the South, reporting on the conditions there and his perspective is fascinating. He makes great economic arguments against slavery, showing why it just does not make sense.

I could go on about the book, but this blog is not about Frederick Law Olmstead. It is about Jimazing Jim Anderson. I have often wondered what I would have done if I had lived during those times. I would like to think that I would have been an abolitionist… that I would think for myself and stand up for what is right. However, it is easy to cast stones from the safety of 2008. Unlike Olmstead, I was born in South Carolina, which was a slave state (not after I was born, thankfully). Slavery would have been a fact of life for me… whether I was for it or against it. What was it really like? Many who just stood up in arguments were killed. How many of those “unreported incidents” would I know about? Would I speak out in spite of the danger, or hold my tongue out of fear?

I’ll keep plugging away at the book and hopefully Olmstead’s life will continue to stir me. Who knows what I might find out about myself in the process.

Everything Must Change

I had hoped to be back in the swing of writing by now, but it is coming slow… because life is going fast! I wanted to quickly write about an upcoming event… in case you want to come too.

Brian McLaren is coming to Charlotte. Who is Brian? Why is he coming? I can only tell you what I know. He is a major voice in the emerging church. I was ready to sign up for this event from the beginning because a great friend of mine, John, had invited me. When I read Brian’s book, The Secret Message of Jesus, I became really excited about it. The title of the book was a bit of a turnoff to me. It sounds like hocus pocus stuff like using a special decoder ring to learn the secret message. It is not like that at all. Brian invites his reader to return to the Jesus of the Bible. I found the book to be refreshing, engaging and challenging.

I would like to invite you to this event at Area 15 in Charlotte on Friday and Saturday February 1st and 2nd. Click the photo above for details.

Reflecting and Thinking Ahead

streamer-3.gif Looking at my post on January 1, 2007 , I expressed hope that during 2007 I would be come more of myself and more Christlike at the same time. I believe I have experienced some of that transformation. Now that I understand it better, I want to continue to live it on purpose. Jesus said that the most important thing is for me to love God and love my neighbor as myself. With God’s help, I plan to do that.

I went for a walk today and stopped on a little footbridge over a stream. The water was running hard from the recent rains and there were rocks in the stream that the water had to get through on it’s journey. The stream was bubbling and churning and the sound caused me to stop for a moment. The moment became two moments and three as I thought about all the great things that happened this year. I had some really fun times, but the great things that happened weren’t all pleasant… in fact the very best ones were downright unpleasant. These were best because, as my uncle recently reminded me, those unpleasant conflicts are where the real growth happens.

Thinking forward to this year, I was thinking about the futility of planning. I don’t have control of my life. There are so many things that happen to me that I have no choice over. My choice comes in how I respond or react to the things that happen. But reacting and responding is not planning. I know that I can plan. I can set goals that are worthy and yet unattainable. That seems futile… (read don’t want to go there). I can set goals that I know I can do because I will do them anyway. That is cheating for no reason. So with all that in mind what I want to do is set a few SMART goals. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. These characteristics are pretty much self explanatory, but the last one is worth a comment. Timely, to me, means that the goals are not just for the sake of getting things done, but they are to help keep me headed in the direction I want to go. With that in mind, here are a few “cheaters”. They are already on the calendar, or very close to it.

  • streamer-1.gifHelp out at the Brian McLaren event at Area 15 (I gotta blog about Area 15 sometime)
  • Trip to Montreal with LaClef in February
  • Personal Coaching Training in February
  • Pass my 10 year anniversary with Wachovia
  • Turn 50
  • Celebrate 30 wonderful years with my sweetie.

And here are a few wishes that I want to turn into SMART goals. They aren’t completely there yet, but they express my desire for the next year.

  • Move my spiritual journey from one of “learning about” to intentionally expressing God’s love in a tangible way to people who are in need. (hurting (everyone), poor, hungry, homeless…)
  • Invest the time that Wachovia allows for community service work around Area15. (They actually allow me to invest an hour a week-on the clock-in community service work. Isn’t that cool?)
  • Become more involved with Area 15. (Outside of the community service time. Just hang out there and see where I fit in)
  • Blog about my spiritual journey. (Kinda like my Work Experience Series)

streamer-2.gif These are wishes and not goals because they don’t have a deadline (beyond saying that I want to do them within the next year. Anyway, it is a start and that’s all I’ve got right now.

A wish, a hope and a prayer.  I wish I could spend quality time with each of you every day to know you better and to love and encourage you the way God does. I hope your new year takes each of you further in the direction that you want to go, and I pray that each of you feels the Love of God in your life in a special way today and the next day and the one after that…

Going Back

mels-flight.gif Kat is home. Danae is home. Erin is home. I am watching Melody’s flight home on flightstats.com. According to them she is passing over I-64 between Lexington, KY and Huntington, WV. The house is quiet. It feels surreal.

Now I know what it feels like to have all of the family come home for the holidays. I understand just a bit better why it is so stressful. Don’t misunderstand. I loved it! But at the same time I saw and experienced the stress of the girls coming home. We are their family of origin now. Until very recently, we were just their family. They are building lives of their own that will resemble ours, but be different as well. That’s the way it is supposed to be.

I desire to create an environment where our family feels welcome and loved; where they feel valued for who they are, not for anything they do.  A place they look forward to coming. I do so love my family!

Christmas Gift

jim-xmas.jpg Growing up, I called my dad’s parents Gran and Andy. I have great memories of going to their house every year in Point Pleasant, West Virginia for Christmas. One of the traditions in Gran’s family was that we greeted one another by saying, “Christmas Gift.” It was like a contest to see who said it first. I didn’t understand why we did it. It was just another one of those things that adults did that didn’t make sense. Unlike so many of those “adult things” that I eventually figured out, I still do not understand what it was about. Hopefully Dad or Uncle Dave can shed some light on the origins by leaving a comment.

xmasangel-right.gif These memories bring me warm feelings of the sights, sounds and smells of Christmas. Sights of the Christmas tree so brightly decorated at Gran and Andy’s house, wonderful smells of great food cooking, the sounds of all of Gran’s siblings and their families gathering for our Christmas Eve reunion. Someone always read Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke, chapter two in the King James version. Later we drifted off to sleep (after making a lot of noise and getting yelled at a few times) with visions of sugar-plums dancing in our heads.

I pray for peace at Christmas for you and your families all over the earth. May that be our Christmas Gift.  I invite you to view our annual collage and family news (my extra little gift to the family).

A Happy Man

happy-man.jpgI am a happy man. Family is coming and going. The house is crazy with activity. Two of the girls are home and the other two will arrive over the next couple of days. Jeanie’s sister, niece and mom are here today. My mom comes tomorrow. What else can I say? I am a happy man.

P. S. I just put up the annual collage and news . Please take a look at it and let me know if there are any glaring issues with it that I missed. Email or comments will be great! I will “announce it” through email to lots of friends and family on Christmas Day.

A jimazing view of life