On Wednesday, I was at Stacks, by favorite local eatery, when I noticed a man coming in. He had what appeared to be dirt on his forehead. Then I saw his wife and several others with cross-shaped smudges on their foreheads. It dawned on me. It's Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. I should have known; I was busy getting my remarks together for our Ash Wednesday service later that evening. It moved me to see the public witness of those Christians. They were literally marked for Christ. It made me want to go to an earlier service so I could join them!
Now that Pope Benedict XVI has decided to retire, people are wondering about the last time a pope retired. To get to that we have to go to 1415, and it was not a happy “retirement.”
Over the 19 years of my teaching career I have taught in 12 community colleges, colleges, universities, Bible colleges, and seminaries in the USA, and I have also been blessed to teach in Belize, Nigeria, and India.
In Louisville, Kentucky, in the library of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, behind the stacks of books, stands bookshelves containing doctoral dissertations. (In order to graduate with a Ph.D. degree, one has to write a 150-300 page “dissertation.”) Amongst those dissertations is one with the long title of “The Slave Religious Experience in Biracial Churches in North and South Carolina from 1822-1861.” That would be mine.
This past Tuesday night, I was happy, busy, terrified, stressed, relieved and shamed. Yes, and all those emotions were within about a 20-minute timespan.
I turned 55 last week. But that's not what makes me feel old. It's the fact that all of the icons and mentors of my life are dying off. Andy Griffith, Andy Williams, Davy Jones, Mike Wallace, Dick Clark, "Stormin'" Norman Schwartzkopf, George McGovern, Phyllis Diller, Sally Ride, Earl Scruggs, and Ray Bradbury are just a few of the influential people who've passed away in 2012. They all left their footprints on my soul.