|Two of my favorite bloggers: Reverend Bill Peterson, a retired Presbyterian minister, and Dr. R Scott Colglazier, Senior Pastor of the First Congregational Church of Los Angeles. http://rscolglazier.com/blog/
Reverend Peterson was the pastor of Salem Presbyterian Church in the 1990′s, where my father was pastor from 1960-1968. Dr. Colglazier and I both lived on Main Street in Salem. His mother worked for my first husband’s drugstore, Apple Drugs, and my mother was his third grade teacher. Oh, how I love these webs of connectivity—across the miles, across the web, reaching out through time and space, reaffirming Thomas Merton’s epiphany “…we cannot be alien one to another….” The line of connection stretches from Connecticut to Indiana to California, a shared experience of place and memories.
Posted by: jeanne
Father’s Day Meditation–given at Salem Presbyterian Church
Sunday, June 16, 2013
I want to honor two fathers who have been vitally important to this church family and to my own family, for the past 50 years. In the hallway collage, there is a b/w picture of these two men, taken about 1965-66. At the top of the picture, my father, Pastor Floyd Doud Shafer, stands in the church doorway, greeting parishioners who are leaving the service, while my husband Max Bedwell is shepherding his young family—Deanna, Steve, and their mother LuAnn–down the steps. That’s how I think of these two men—as shepherds, guiding and directing their own families, as they guided and directed others in their professional lives.
My father and I had a prickly relationship. I greatly admired his scholarship and knowledge, but thought he was too harsh with me—and that his knowledge of how to raise girls was adolescent, at best. He did better with my sister, who is nine years younger, having had some difficult learning times with me. Where my father excelled was as a grandfather, greatly enjoying his six grandsons and one granddaughter, inspiring his oldest grandson to become a scholar, and supporting the education and development of his other grand-children. He had the joy of knowing two of his great-grandchildren, Zoey and Anthony.
Those of you who knew my father probably remember his witty conversation, full of jokes, irony, satire, literary illusions, and sometimes brilliant remarks. He loved to joke and laugh. He loved repartee—-conversation with him was scintillating and fun. My childhood was filled with laughter.
My father was born in Grayville, Illinois; his father was a Presbyterian minister and his mother was a teacher. Sadly, Grandfather Shafer died when my father was 14, leaving my grandmother and father to struggle with poverty during the Depression. After graduating from Hanover College in 1938, he studied for the ministry at the Louisville Presbyterian Seminary, earning a Master of Divinity in 1941, and was ordained to the ministry of the United Presbyterian Church in Valparaiso, Indiana in 1941. He entered Union Theological Seminary in New York City where he was thrilled at his good fortune in studying with the theologians Paul Tillich and Martin Buber, receiving a Master of Divinity in 1942. All of my life, I heard my father speak with wonderment that he, a poor kid from rural Indiana, was privileged to study with the greatest theologians of the 20th Century. In March 1942, he and my mother, Carol Jeanne Parsons, were married, a union of 54 years. From 1944-1946, he served as a Chaplain in the U.S. Army, the 96th Division, 382nd Regiment, 2nd Battalion, accompanying the troops in the landing and invasion of Okinawa, and also serving in the South Pacific.
My father always wished to be called “pastor,” seeing his role as that of a shepherd. He served pastorates in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio. In his younger pastoring days, he enjoyed working with the youth. I remember church picnics, youth camping trips to the mountains, and fishing and swimming in the lakes of several states. Here in Salem there were hot dog roasts, outings to the Bogg’s cabin on the lake near Brownstown, and swim parties at the DeJeans & Haags’ swimming pool.
A writer as well as a pastor, he wrote Sunday School lessons for Crossroads, the Presbyterian Sunday School series, as well as numerous articles, book reviews, and a book on liturgy. Many of his articles were written here in Salem in his study in our home on Main Street. A scholar, my father studied Latin and Greek all of his life, always carrying around little books with verb or other declensions. He loved books and amassed a collection of 15,000 books, which he left to his grandson, Jimmy [Professor James B. Apple, PhD]. In his ministry, my father took great pride in the written and spoken word. His powerful sermons were literary and erudite, uplifting and intellectually stimulating. When he retired from the active ministry in 1981, he served the Sciota Valley Presbytery as a pulpit supply pastor, retiring in 2002 when his health declined. He spent sixty years as a pastor.
He and my mother, Carol Jeanne, loved Salem Presbyterian Church, finding the years they served here–1960-1968—rich in friendships and shared Christian service. Serving the Church of the Savior out in the Delaney Creek Valley was a joy for him and he loved spending the day or evening in Doc Lopp’s cabin.
The other strong and loving shepherd in my life, and in this church, is my husband Max Bedwell, a father of two, a grandfather of four, and a great-grandfather of eleven. He is also the proud and caring step-father of Jim & Shinobu Apple and Dan Apple. I first knew Max as my brother’s football coach and later as the high school principal for whom I subbed back in the early 1970’s. After he hired me in 1977, I worked for him for 20 years. Max was such a great principal; he shepherded his small town high school with strong values, much inspiration, intense dedication, and a clear vision. The term “slave driver” comes to mind, as he pushed his teachers and his students hard, demanding that we strive to do our best. During his 27 years as principal, Salem High School had 12 National Merit Scholars, five students with National Merit commendations, and at least nine students who were later Phi Beta Kappas at Indiana University, including our own Christopher Beck. That is an amazing record for a small town high school. We all know that our students’ education is a collective, community effort, but Max thought of and spoke of the students as “his”—always so invested in their success. Many of his students won scholarships; many students went on to study at our great universities, earning degrees and doctorates; and many have served with distinction in the United States military. Today, hundreds of his students lead their businesses, churches, and communities. Max wanted his students to excel and he knew that education was the road out of poverty and the road to solid citizenship.
Max has served on numerous boards and now enjoys volunteering and gardening, raising lots of vegetables for his family and friends. For over twenty years, he has represented Salem Presbyterian Church in the Presbytery of Ohio Valley. He served a term on the Presbytery Commission on Ministry and now serves on the Camp Pyoca Board. He is serving his second or maybe third term on our Session. Each Sunday, he is here, faithfully, often with his beloved Addi and now with his loving daughter Deanna.
I want to share a story—an example of the kind of Christian leadership which is so typical of Max. I wrote in my blog…..
“February 12, 2009: Our church has been having weekly soup suppers, inviting anyone in the community who wants to come. We have enjoyed this activity no end and several people have joined us regularly, to eat and to visit. Tonight, someone came who really needed help. This man anxiously asked for Max, who had been there earlier to set up the tables and had gone on an errand. The man was agitated, disheveled, and obviously so poor. Some of the workers kindly greeted the new man, trying to be helpful and calming. Just then, Max came back. Recognizing the man as a former student, Max got a bowl of soup and sat down across from our guest, chatting in a kind and friendly manner, treating the man with respect and dignity. The guest began to relax and enjoy the meal. Max asked how we could help and a conversation developed. Soon, we were all chatting and joking.
When I encounter very needy people, my heart is full of compassion. But, I am afraid–I am so frightened that I do not know what to do or say. I think I will be too condescending or too bossy—or too friendly or too helpful. I am not sure how to show proper respect. Max knows exactly what to say and what to do. He talks in a friendly and conversational manner, making the person feel reassured and comfortable. And then Max thinks up helpful things to do– useful and practical things.”
Max experienced hardship and poverty in his youth, growing up on their family farm in Sullivan County, Indiana, late in the Depression. They weren’t destitute, but his father drank up money that should have been used to help raise his family. Max went to college on a dream and a prayer, working his way though Indiana State, and later earning a master’s degree and a specialist’s degree from Indiana University. Hard as this early start was, instead of making him bitter, Max’s struggles made him compassionate and caring. He began his career as a teacher and coach, and later became a principal. In his long years at Salem High School, he shepherded hundreds of students, guiding them through the transition-to-real-life process; it gave him particular satisfaction to make the phone calls or to write the letters to help poor students to attend college on a scholarship or to help them get a job. Later, when he worked in real estate, he often gave up part of his commission to help needy clients—and he gave mountains of free real estate advice and help to clients and people in need.
Nothing gives Max more pleasure than helping other people; he has a big heart.
The garden he and his friend Verne Ratliff created has just been sold, but Max still has our large backyard. He’s teaching his beloved great-granddaughter Addi to garden, passing on the skills he learned from his mother. His little Greats live around the country and in Germany, so we communicate on Facebook, through email, and by phone—which is not nearly as much fun as when they visit and race each other to the creek.
A dedicated father, Max shepherded his children through the tragedy of their mother’s too early death. He guided Steve and Deanna, and also his stepsons Jim and Dan, and Shinobu, with their educations and career development. He has guided his beloved grandchildren with long phone calls, and visits of support, and tireless directions, and generally patient explanations, and by example. His little Greats play at his feet, and he treasures all of the things they say and do.
His life of dedication and hard work is the model he has shaped for his family.
On this Father’s Day, we honor all of our fathers and grandfathers.
For me, there are these two men who frame my life:
* devoted to their families
* devoted to this church
* devoted to education and learning
* both leaders
* both shepherds
* each an example of what it means to be a loving father and grandfather
Happy Father’s Day to all of the fathers and grandfathers with us today.
Happy Father’s Day to all of the fathers and grandfathers who have shaped our lives.
The Buddha Shakyamuni took birth as a prince of the Shakya clan in India. He achieved enlightenment at the age of thirty-six and entered Mahaparinirvana at the age of eighty-one. These three great events took place on the same day of the year, over 2500 years ago, which we celebrate at the season of Wesak.
As you know, Buddhahood is a state free from all obstructions to knowledge and disturbing emotions. It is the state in which the mind is fully evolved. The Buddha’s declaration, based on his personal experience, was that all beings experience suffering even though they do not wish to do so. At the same time all beings also have the innate potential to achieve the joy of liberation. This realization formed the basis for all his teachings. Because his teachings are profound in insights and skilled in means, the Buddha is referred as a supreme guide.
Although our world has changed substantially since the time of the Buddha, the essence of his teachings remains as relevant today as it was 2500 years ago. Many different schools of Buddhism have evolved in different lands. All possess methods for attaining liberation from ignorance and suffering.
The Buddha’s advice, simply stated, was to avoid harming others and if possible to help them. We can begin to do this by recognizing that everyone is just like us in that they want happiness and dislike suffering. Seeking joy and freedom from suffering is the birthright of all beings. But personal happiness very much depends on how we relate to others. By developing a sense of respect for others and a concern for their welfare, we can reduce our own self-centeredness, which is the source of all our problems, and enhance our feelings of kindness, which are a natural source of joy.
The achievements of our modern age are great. We have put much effort into technological and material development. Such progress is important, but by itself it cannot bring lasting satisfaction. Obsessed with economic and political strength, we lose sight of the effect our actions have on others. Our narrow and self-centered focus results in widespread suffering and destruction of the environment. We need to reassess our motivation and our behavior in the light of a greater sense of universal responsibility.
From the Buddhist point of view all things originate in the mind. Actions and events depend heavily on motivation. A real sense of appreciation of humanity, compassion and love, are the key points. If we develop a good heart, then whether the field is science, agriculture or politics, since the motivation is so very important, the result will be more beneficial. With proper motivation these activities can help humanity; without it they go the other way. This is why the compassionate thought is so very important for humankind. Although it is difficult to bring about the inner change that gives rise to it, it is absolutely worthwhile to try.
I offer my greetings to all our Buddhist brothers and sisters participating in the Wesak celebrations…. And I pray that each of us, by putting the Buddha’s teachings into practice in our own daily lives, may contribute to creating a happier and more peaceful world
Dr. Mark Poindexter, “The Church, Depression, and the Death of Matt Warren,” and a blog post from Dr. Bill Peterson
“The Church, Depression, and the Death of Matthew Warren,” by Dr. Mark Poindexter, pastor of the First Christian Church of Martinsville, Indiana, followed by a blog post from Reverend Dr. William D. Peterson, a retired Presbyterian Church USA Teaching Elder/ Minister of the Word and Sacrament, who blogs at Still Faith-Full firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Mark Poindexter
The suicide of Matthew Warren, Pastor Rick Warren’s twenty-seven year old son, is a reminder of the devastating impact that mental illness can have. Pastor Warren made it clear that his son had suffered a life long battle with depression that had previously included suicidal thoughts.
As a parent, I simply grieve with the Warren’s over this most difficult loss.
As a pastor, I have stood beside parents who have lost a child and have witnessed their deep anguish.
I also saw my mother bury two of her children, my brothers, and the pain of their loss was part of her life every day. The grief over losing a child becomes quite complicated when the child’s death comes at their own hand. Like Matthew, my brother David suffered with mental illness, specifically bi-polar disorder that included severe times of depression. At the age of fifty-four, my brother took his own life. He left behind a wife and three children. Our entire family felt regret and guilt that we were not able to do more to help David. This was especially true for my mother. The fact that David was an adult did not keep her from thinking that if only she had only been able to be with him more and express her love to him better, than he would not have taken his life. I have no doubt that the Warren family has been asking a lot of “What if ” type questions and imagining many “If only” scenarios. I hope with the love and support of friends, the foundation of their faith, and with some understanding about mental illness, they are able to move beyond those questions.
The other aspect of Matthew Warren’s death that touches me is that I have waged a battle with depression myself. It is a battle that at one time took me very close to the kind of dark places that it took Matthew. Those of us who have battled this illness know that it is much more than just “the blues” or “being sad.” It involves a mental, emotional and even physical anguish that seems to suck the life right out of you. Though I thought my time of depression lasted only a few months at most, my wife told me that she saw a change in my behavior that lasted more than two years. My depression affected our relationship; it affected my ability to be a good parent to my children. The truth is since my depression was accompanied by a sense of paranoia it affected my relationship with most everyone around me. For a number of reasons I was able to come through my time of depression and I think I am stronger for it. I would like to share a few of the lesson I have learned.
Having suffered a mental illness is nothing for which one must be ashamed. I have chosen to be honest about my depression with folks in the congregation I serve. I do not dwell on it, but it has found its way into a few sermons and when I am in a pastoral situation with folks who I think might benefit from seeing a therapist, I am willing to share that therapy has been a part of my life. Being honest about my struggle with depression is one way I battle it. It helps me to stay proactive in dealing with it. For many reasons, mental illness – especially depression, carries a stigma in our culture. In seeking to live honestly with my illness, I refuse to let the misunderstandings of others define me.
I have also sought to educate myself about my illness through talking with professionals and a great deal of reading. I have read several books about depression, faith and depression, pastoral leadership and depression, etc., One of the most helpful books, especially as one who provides leadership to others, was Joshua Wolf Shenk’s, Lincoln’s Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has suffered a bout with depression or who simply wants to learn more about the illness. One way this book was helpful was by allowing me to understand that the depression I suffered can also be a path toward gaining wisdom and understanding for others. My illness has helped me to be more compassionate and patient toward those whose joy in life seems to have left them.
An important element in my on-going self-care has been daily physical exercise. When I was in my darkest place, I could barely get myself out of bed and was only up 3-4 hours before I would be back in bed. I knew I would feel better if I got out and exercised but I had absolutely no energy or desire. Finally, a dear friend, who knew my struggle, came to my house and would not leave until I went out for a walk with him. We walked four miles that day and I felt better afterwards – both the physical movement and the supportive companionship started my journey out of that dark place. Since then I have been intentional about exercise. I try to spend at least an hour a day, five to six days a week, exercising. I have learned that this helps not only my physical well-being, but my mental, emotional and spiritual well-being as well.
It is also important for the church to understand that depression is not a sign of someone’s lack of faith. Anyone who reads the Psalms can see that the “dark night of the soul” is honestly, and quite frequently, spoken about in the scriptures. It is important for communities of faith to make safe space for people suffering from depression to share their struggle. One of the most important things we can do is be careful and not turn the Christian faith into nothing other than a fallacy of how to “be happy all the time.” Though we do speak of joy and hope and happiness, we must also speak of sorrow and struggle and anguish, because they too are a real part of the human experience and thankfully, we have scriptures that recognize this reality. For me, dealing honestly with my depression has allowed me to experience the realities of joy and hope in an even deeper way. My faith was instrumental for me making it through my dark night of the soul. For I believe that even in the most difficult days, God was present with me, not simply to take me out of the darkness, but to share it with me.
My prayers go out to the Warren family and to all who have been affected by depression. I wish Matthew had found some way to make it through that night. I know that I do not believe God left him in that moment, nor that God does anything other than receive him now in love.
I do not know if this very brief sharing of my story will be helpful to anyone who will read it. I hope it might. I pray that I never go through a bout of depression like I did, but if I do; I know I have the resources of faith, family and friends to help me through it. I am not glad for the experience, but I am glad for what I have been able to learn about life and myself because of it.
Dr. Mark E. Poindexter has been the Senior Pastor of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Martinsville, IN since August of 2005. Pastor Mark has been in pastoral ministry since 1989. His area of special interest is ministry to the grieving and he has served as a volunteer Hospice chaplain. His doctoral research was in this area and his project was titled, The Human Search for Meaning: Confronting our Mortality. Pastor Mark has also been heavily involved in community ministries, serving on the board of the Alexandria, Indiana Emergency Relief Fund and Food Pantry for six years. He was also the founding president of the Washington County, Indiana Habitat for Humanity and oversaw the building of their first home. In addition to enjoying preaching, Pastor Mark recently had a sermon published by Guild Press in Keeping the Faith: Best Indiana Sermons in the New Millennium. He and his wife Becky have been married for 16 years and have two children Christopher (13) and Michele (9). Mark’s hobbies include reading, collecting “Lions and Lambs”, and running. He counts it as an accomplishment that he has completed 2 mini-marathons.