Wednesday, May 30, 2012

"Happy Memorial Day, y'all!" Yep, I know that the holiday of remembrance was observed on Monday (two days ago). However, in my younger days Memorial day always got observed on 30 May regardless. So today IS the traditional M.D.! Now that I have that little detail taken care of. . . . I observed the (observed) Memorial Day with two ceremonies in Clarksville. And even approached the current "it's the start of Summer" fad by visiting a neighborhood park, Valleybrook Park, for a while of relaxed strolling and sitting in the evening. The first ceremony took place late on Sunday, the eve of the holiday, at C'ville's Veterans Plaza. This is in what used to be a shopping center featuring Montgomery Ward, Harvey's Dept. Store with its signature carousel horse and small shops. It's off Madison Street on Pageant Lane. Some of the occupants nowadays are the public library, county clerk's and other city or county offices, and a vet's help office which looks out on a seating and activity area with some natural greenery which is the actual vets plaza. The Sunday evening ceremony remembered thirty Tennesseans (two from C'ville) from the Vietnam era who are still MIA, and honored two former Mias whose remains were recently returned to their families. Thirty-two empty and black-draped chairs represented these men. Invocation and benediction were prayed by Scott Witt, pastor of Gateway Christian Church, leader of a Bible study at his home on Sunday evenings (cancelled for obvious reason) and longtime friend of yours truly. Featured speaker was a member of gateway and another longtime friend, Van Stokes. Van had a tight schedule on Sunday p.m., because he called the radio play-by-play of the OVC baseball championship game in Jackson. Austin Peay State U. of Clarksville won! But the hustling between two different assignments at two widely-distanced sites didn't seem to phase my friend. Van gave a great address on the significance of this memorial event. Then the name of each man was called out, high-tone bell rung and his chair brought front and center. All in all the ceremony was sobering and impressive. Sobering in that it raises the dark shadows of that conflict in Vietnam which tore severely at our nation during my childhood. Impressive in that were remembering the men, and the "we" was a decent-size crowd. On the actual (observed) holiday morning, I attended another, more traditional ceremony of remembrance at Veterans Memorial Park. This is on Madison near Pageant Lane, and features poles for flags (one more prominent than the others for the American flag), stelae (upright inscribe stone slabs) with lists of Clarksvillians who gave the ultimate sacrifice in our various wars in the past century (including the current war on terror). The garrison commander at Fort Campbell was the featured speaker. the 1012st Air Assault band provided live music (ther was also a piper, but let's not go there), and a three-Marine firing squad. A half dozen local military veterans chapters and organizations located wreaths near the end of the ceremony, and the very end of it was a bugler in the band playing Taps following a triple volley of firings from the Marine squad. I conclude by pointing out that speakers in both ceremonies, but especially the Monday one, alluded to the close ties between the local Army post, Ft. Campbell, and the local municipality, C'ville. Yes, those ties are deep and strong. Unlike Killeen, Texas, which would fade to a little village were Fort Hood to close, my city has a diverse economic foundation. It's the county seat, was a historic center of the tobacco industry, hosts other industries, and is the home of APSU. So it's natural that Clarksville, even tho' it's much smaller than Nashville and San Antonio, where I've also lived and attended Memorial Day ceremonies, should put some effort into having observances related to this holiday of remembrance. Good for you, Clarksville!

Monday, May 21, 2012

The On-going Dilemma of the Spiritual "Home"

Next month I will arrive at the first anniversary of my relocating from Music City to the Queen City, Clarksville. (A few days afterward will mary one year since I was hired for my job at TSLA.) During this almost year-long stretch, I've failed to locate a C'ville church "home". And today I was reminded why the search has so far been fruitless. Today was Youth Sunday (and honor graduates day) at Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples) in East Nashville. So I made the long drive from the Queen City to Music City to attend Woship this morning. I'm so glad I made the effort to attend worship at a place I hadn't since the first Sunday of April! Even as I approached Eastwood driving my Saturn SL, I had a strong sence similar to "I'm coming home, approaching a place where I've experienced healing and unconditional love over and over!" And while the youth were leading us in worship in the sanctuary, over and over I was impressed that "THIS is still my spiritual 'home'!" What probably strengthened this sensation or impression is that I ventured to sing the Anthem with Eastwood's choir -- several members of whom expressed gladness at my presence. The song, "A Gaelic Grace", is based on a Celtic that bestows "deep peace" in various forms upon the recipient. The Bass vocal score had two parts, so I sang the "baritone". It wasn't an easy piece, but I felt that I did okay. And I sensed during and after the singing a "deep peace"! And then we observed the Lord's Supper, as we generally do (except on First Sundays when we observe in a different manner), taking the bread -- the Body -- in unison and then the cup -- the Blood -- in unison. Since I had recently read an on-line encyclopedia-style article about the Eucharist (or Lord's Supper) and how in Protestant circles, fellowship with Christ and with one another is an important theme of the ritual. And within just minutes the worship was concluded and we adjourned to the potluck fellowship meal upstairs in the Fellowship Hall. All of this was underscoring my deep love for and deep peace while among my sisters and brothers of Eastwood. Which brings me back to my dilemma. Do I keep seeking and seeking more diligently a church "home" in Clarksville? Currently I usually attend nearby First Christian Church (Disciples), and very occasionally Gateway Church. Other possibilities might be Grace Bible Church (Ellen attends it, but they only have Communion on First Sundays), or Trinity Episcopal (an early-start service!), or Hilldale Church of Christ (I already attend their evening service on Third Sundays) or Hilldale UMC (pastor of which is Skip Armistead, my good friend, Emmaus brother and kin by marriage -- but also doesn't observe Communion every Sunday). Or do I act on my strong impression that Eastwood is still my spiritual home and seek to attend there more frequently? I pray to the Lord for guidance!

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Clarksville Library

With my love for reading and for libraries as repositories of things to read (specifically, books), it's no surprise that the local book-lending institution here, the Clarksville-Montgomery County Public Library, should be significant in my life. Indeed, of all the public buildings in Clarksville it's most likely the one in which I've spent the most time!

I remember the original facility; at least, it was the one I knew of during my first sojourn here. It was downtown on Main Street between Third and Fourth, and was small and overcrowded. It was decidedly "quaint".

In the late 1990s the former Harvey's department store in Montgomery Plaza off Madison Street got completely overhauled into a new library facility. This one was very spacious, with plenty of room for expanding the holdings. It had a computer lab for public use that carried programs that, while not as up-to-date as those of the library at Austin Peay State University, were certainly adequate for most of my needs. Ditto the electronic "card" catalog.

Indeed, when I moved from C'ville to San Antonio in 2002 and began patronizing the much larger city's library I found the Texan system to not be as user-friendly. But when I moved back to C'ville last year and resumed usage of the C-MCPL I found that the catalog and the computer lab programs were the same as they'd been a decade earlier. And again the adjective that often came to my mind by which to describe the local library was "quaint".

As of last Wednesday (4 April) this attitude changed. The local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) conducts occasional genealogy classes or workshops in the C-MCPL. One was the afternoon of the Fourth, and I attended it. Reference librarian Tim Pulley gave us a tour of the Brown Harvey Sr. Genealogy Room. I was impressed with the variety of materials in the room, which I had known only to contain volumes of Tennessee counties history, military records, a few family histories and microfilm rolls.

After the tour I returned to one end wall, which held bookshelves of genealogy-related and local history books from surrounding states. Since my Graham line goes back into Georgia I zeroed in on that set of tomes. I was wondering if they had anything about Pike County, adjacent counties or that area of the State, just south of Atlanta. (Yes, I'm talking "Gone with the Wind" or Tara territory.)

To my surprise and great delight, I found a large book (a couple inches thick!) of Pike County history! The Tennessee State Library and Archives in Nashville, where I work, offers one or two books about Pike County, and both together are not nearly as voluminous as this one at C-MCPL.

I suppose it's time to drop "quaint" as descriptive of Clarksville's library, don't you?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Divine Love, Godly Grace and Déja Vu

This is being a most interesting and uplifting weekend!

At work at the Tennessee State Library and Archives Saturday we got treated to bagels (with spreads) in place of donuts. Yum, yum! And my co-worker Steve suffered a most embarrassing incident. 'Nuf said 'bout that!

The real lifting up came in the evening, when I attended Candlelight worship for Women's Walk to Emmaus #176, in Hermitage UMC. This worship service was conducted somewhat differently from Emmaus community worship I've experienced in the past. Oh, we still prayed for the Walk's Pilgrims and partook of the Lord's Supper. But, for one, we had even more and even more uplifting music and singing this evening, led by the same two musicians who provided the music for Men's Walk #175 two weeks ago. One song we sang was my favorite song I associate with Emmaus: "Here I Am Lord".

I ought to add that when folks from other Emmaus communities introduced themselves, one man stood up and declared that there was a notable number present from Clarksville (as tho' they had gotten together and planned joint attendance and/or were from the same church in C'ville). I kind of doubt that he was aware that Clarksvillians who'd participated in Walk #175 were also present! Not to mention that one of the Pilgrims on #176 is the wife of Clarksvillian and #175 Pilgrim, Bobby Ortt.

The clergyman who led the worship and consecrated the bread and cup for the Lord's Supper gave a meditation beforehand. More than once during this he had us all turn to the person next to us and say something positive and encouraging. Such as "You are forgiven!" or "God loves you; so do I".

As always, the actual candlelight segment of the worship moved and uplifted me. And on the way home to C'ville, even tho' I had the final hour of the late-night Grand Ole Opry show on my Saturn's radio, I was more into mulling over the Candlelight experience I was coming home from. As beautiful Country music provided background I considered God's love and grace as expressed in an Emmaus Candlelight. . . .

Then this morning I attended Sunday School and Worship at Clarksville's First Christian Church (Disciples). And déja vu! The topic of the adult class was love, as defined in I Corinthians 13. Unconditional, other-affirming love, or in Greek, agapé. Then furthermore:

The congregation is in an interim period, since Tom Youngblood just resigned as Pastor to return to his home State ('Bama). The fill-in preacher during his sermon commented about the morning class' topic and directed us all to turn to our neighbors and say, "I love you!" The hymn of commitment which followed the sermon just "happened" to be "Here I Am Lord"!

Wow! I tell you, dear reader, this was a major case of déja vu! But it was very welcome. I mean, you cannot beat Daddy God's love and grace!

Thank you, Jesus!

Monday, March 12, 2012

C'ville and Heaven, aka Men's Walk #175

If you've read my earlier two blogs (especially "Glen Alan's San Antonio") you know that a significant element in my life experience is a Christian renewal movement called the "Walk to Emmaus" or more generally Cursillo de Cristiandad (Short Course in Christianity).

A Walk to Emmaus, Men's #175 (or 175th local walk, and for men), was conducted at Hermitage United Methodist Church this past weekend. Even tho' Hermitage is on the east of Nashville, Clarksville was well represented. The Spiritual Director, myself as an Assistant SD, a couple other Team participants and three or four of the Pilgrims hail from the Queen City.

For C'ville and me, the Walk, or prep for it, began a few months ago. I was already participating in one of the so-called "Fourth-Day" aspects of Emmaus, a Reunion Group in my hometown. Six, seven, sometimes eight men get together at the Shoney's at Second and Kraft when it opens on Wednesday mornings, for breakfast, sharing of how our life-walk is going and for accountability and prayer.

Some Wednesdays we have an additional element. Little packets, each with 12 fishing swivel clips in it, will be put out on the table. From each packet we make two "fisher-of-men" bracelets. These bracelets make a consistent element of the agape for any Walk; in other words, each Pilgrim on a Walk returns home sporting a reminder of unconditional love (agape) on her or his wrist. It's also a reminder that they are now equipped for fishing for people, drawing them to Christ. The Team members can also take home a bracelet -- in fact in Texas I knew vet Emmaus people who had good-size collections of "fisher-of-men" bracelets, due to being on numerous Walk teams. My former bracelet was getting worn out, so now I'm happily wearing one of the bracelets our little Reunion Group recently made!

The other "heads-up" aspect is that Skip Armistead, the Spiritual Director selected for Walk #175, also belongs to this Reunion Group. Skip conducted our wedding and is related to my wife; I think he's also the one who goes to Wal-Mart to buy those little packets of swivel clips. When I found out he was SD for the Walk, I knew I just HAD to get on the Team!

The Walk to Emmaus experience is structured around fifteen Talks given to the Pilgrims over the three days, ten by laity and five by clergy. (There are plenty of other activities structured in, especially worship, silence, prayer, lots of singing and LOTS of food.) On Walk #1327 (Men) in October 2007 in Kerrville, Texas, I did Talk #12, "Sanctifying Grace", one of the clergy Talks. (I'm ordained clergy in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) not currently serving in a salaried clergy position.) And I gave this same Talk on this Walk, #175 (Men). Wow, did I have the sense while speaking, that I was merely God's instrument -- unworthy instrument -- by which He was communicating His grace to the listeners!

In the Southwest Texas Emmaus Community it's common to assert that a Walk that's about to start will be "the best Walk ever/yet!" I didn't hear such words as we did the Team formation for this Walk here in Tennessee, but dear reader, let me assure you that of the four Walks to Emmaus in which I've participated as Pilgrim or Team member THIS Walk was indeed "the best Walk yet!"

The working of the Spirit of God on these men, opening them up and changing them spiritually, was very evident and marvelous to witness! When you see tall, barrel-chested, tough-looking men -- one of whom was a policeman -- get honest and vulnerable with one another and crying at times as well as laughing. . . well, you HAVE to say it's a "God-thing".

Every one of the men -- and the one woman who did the first clergy Talk -- is cherished by yours truly and I'll always value my new spiritual link with them. But naturally some individuals stand out and are even more cherished. One is certainly the SD, Skip, especially since I'm distantly related to him thru marriage (and that he conducted the marriage). But the Lay Director (LD), Jay Campbell, is equally dear to me. Of the LD's I've been exposed to -- all of whom were wonderful servant-leaders -- Jay had the gentlest yet most directive spirit. (I don't know if you can understand this, but I cannot think of an adequate way to explain it.) Another connector between Jay and me is that he described his Reunion Group history, and it was identical to mine: reunion groups which met weekly (generally the most effective), groups which met bi-monthly and no group to join.

Jay's father Jerry served on this Walk as a table Team member (Pilgrims are divided into table families named after New Testament leaders and each table has two Team members). On Saturday I wore my fraternity tee-shirt I got while living in San Antonio. Turns out that Jerry too is a Lambda Chi Alpha. And it was easy to see whence Jay gets his gentle yet directing spirit. Indeed, when Jerry did his Talk he spoke of his own father and his grandfather and I preceived that this branch of the Campbell clan has a very worthy pedigree!

Then there was Ken Tucker, the Board Rep. A Board Rep is the link between the Walk and the local Emmaus community's board of directors; he observes, ensures that the Walk goes as a Walk is supposed to go, and assists with any potential problems. He and I happened to be next to each other when Jay introduced the "new best friend" activity on the opening evening (Thursday), so we two conversed, answering a set of basic questions (such as church where membership held, and including one interesting thing about the person) and using the info shared to introduce one another to the whole group. Thus I discovered that Ken and I have in common two adult children and two grandkids! Later, while sitting next to ken thru-out the retreat, I learned that we have the same favorite hymn: "Be Thou My Vision".

Then there were Mike Malzone and Steve Zuecher. Both served as very good assistant lay directors. Mike gave a very good Talk (Priority) and Steve is also a resident of Clarksville. My prayer partner is Ken Hampton, an Afro-American with a sweet spirit and a bright smile all the time. This Ken was one of the few guys I didn't see cry, but I probably just didn't happen to look at the right times. However, his table family, named after St. Mark, took to introducing themselves whenever the were giving a group presentation as "the emotional table of Mark". The policeman I mentioned earlier was a Mark table family member, and I did often see him grab a tissue to wipe his eyes.

Well, I could go on and on about Walk to Emmaus #175 (Men) and its impact especially on certain Clarksvillians. But I'll conclude now, by hoping I've given you a taste of the event. Sufficient taste to cause you to want to go on your own Walk to Emmaus!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

An Uplifting Commencement to the New Year

The Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Twelve began in a great way for yours truly. Very spiritual and very uplifting.

Perhaps it was that the first day of 2012 fell on a Sunday, but regardless, I commenced this New Year rather differently from recent ones. No, I didn't stay up to watch that infernal ball drop in Times Square or sing "Auld Lang Syne"; I went to bed at my usual hour like I usually do every 31 December (I'm talking around 10pm.).

Now, I had avoided making New Year's resolutions for some years, figuring what's the use, since these generally get broken shortly anyways. However, I sensed a need to go ahead and make a short list this year, and so I wrote it down.

Furthermore, I decided that, it being also the first Lord's day of the year I should attend not one but two worship services. Back in A.D. 2000 when I worked for the Census (I also worked a special Census in 1995), my team leader was a member of Clarksville's Hilldale Church of Christ. We had team meetings in the church library room, and I attended Sunday evening worship at the church at least twice. So, on that whim I chose to go to evening services at Hilldale.

I'm so thankful that I did! Did I say "on a whim"? No, it was surely more "by the Spirit's leading!"

Preacher Steve Kirby, who was there the earlier times I'd attended, preached a "dynamite" sermon, very timely for a New Year's Day service. And he used a unique, interactive format. His topic was that in 2012 we try to do less of a given negative and more of its opposite positive. After each of the six points he had the song leader lead a hymn that reflected that particular point. What a strong way to get the point across and have it dig in!

On other different thing I did on this New Year's Day was something I hadn't done since moving into 660 Martin. Dear reader, while I was at Sunday morning worship at nearby Madison Street UMC during the Lord's Supper the organist played an endearing instrumental medley of songs I associate with the Walk to Emmaus and/or Kairos Prison Ministry. This prompted me to, upon returning to the "boarding house", to break out my guitar and play a few such Emmaus-Kairos songs.

Yes it was indeed an uplifting commencement to the new year!