Monday, March 12, 2018

A Poem about Alzheimer's

Do not ask me to remember.
Don't try to make me understand.
Let me rest and know you're with me.
Kiss my cheek and hold my hand.

I'm confused beyond your concept.
I am sad and sick and lost.
All I know is that I need you
To be with me at all cost.

Do not lose you patience with me.
Do not scold or curse or cry.
I can't help the way I'm acting,
Can't be different 'though I try.

Just remember that I need you,
That the best of me is gone.
Please don't fail to stand beside me,
Love me 'till my life is done.


Saturday, March 3, 2018


What are the day-to-day challenges for you?

1. Some lost sense of what day of the week, month, and year it is
2. Forgetting scheduled tasks, appointments, and engagements
3. Withdrawing into comfortable settings (like my office and computer, and in some sense avoiding too much interactions with others)
4. Attempting to maintain normal activities and responsibilities (handling finances, schedules, appointments, etc. without overly depending on others or relinquishing my desire to be "in control")
5. Accepting the offered help of others when I often feel that I am losing control and direction of the important senses of my accountability

Is there anything you would like the community to know about living with dementia?

1. Dementia is a frightening attack on my selfhood (in terms of who I was in the past, in terms of where I am today, and in the dread of what my future might bring).
2. Dementia overtakes my integrity as a whole person. It scatters the core of my being, my integrity, my wholeness, my future, and the essence of who I am and who I want to be.
3. I often have little hope and little confidence that the slow slide down the track of dementia will ever be halted or altered. Please don't try to encourage me that "everything will be alright." While that is a nice goal, the reality is that your attempted encouragement actually heightens the reality that "everything will NOT be alright" for me and many others. False assurances or wishes for the best would better be withheld. Instead, listen to the broken-hearted sufferers. Don't try to lift them up. Just hold them in your arms and give them love, compassion, acceptance, forgiveness, and your faithfulness.

What resources and services have been most helpful about living with dementia?

1. When I recognized that I might be following my mother into the kind of dementia that she developed and that eventually took her life, I decided that I would take whatever steps I could to address the attempts to finding solutions for dementia, not just for myself, but for all who are and would face this debilitating disease. Living at that time near the University of Tennessee, I sought out a UT doctor who was beginning a clinical trial study on Alzheimer's. Before we could get deeply into that study, however, my wife and I were asked by our youngest daughter to move to Orlando so that we could assist her and her husband (both of whom are airline pilots) in caring for our two grandchildren. UT suggested that I search for a trial study in the Orlando area, and that eventually led us to Compass Research, which now has become Bioclinica Research. Michael Lesnett and the Bioclinica staff have led me through an entire clinical trial, and they continue to do the follow-up of the clinical trial. They have been wonderful specialists, but even more wonderful friends.

What sustains you?

1. I am an ordained Baptist minister, who has served as pastor, minister of education and music, Baptist university professor, and a publisher of curricula and resources for churches. Currently I am a member of a United Methodist Church. I cannot fully express how important the congregations of which I have been a part have encouraged me and upheld me through all the ups and downs in my life. I would not claim that God predestined me for being an Alzheimer's victim-I'll leave that to those who currently seem to tilt toward high fructose corn syrup as at least a partial problem in the Alzheimer's scourge. But whatever the cause, and whatever the ultimate solution might be, I have decided not to blame God or my fellow citizens for what I am dealing with.

2. Sometimes however, those who blaze the path for others face the hard consequences. We know that none of us has THE solution; but working together for an important advancement, we can take the baby steps into an uncertain future with courage, anticipation, and hope. Working together as a team, from the victims of the disease to the best strategists for a solution, we will take important steps toward solutions. We will not give up! We will not give in or retreat! We WILL take the steps one-by-one until we know what the enemy is, what causes it, what can defeat it, and what will eventually set free many who have struggled with Alzheimer's as well as those who don't yet know that they are on the rough and bumpy road.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

MORNING PRAYER and LORD’S PRAYER – August 20, 2017

O God, the hymn writer, Henry van Dyke, invited us to sing, “Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love;” and we indeed, upon reflection, should spontaneously and regularly express to You that joy of our salvation. So many things that we experience, when we take the time to reflect upon them, draw our attention to an overwhelming, abundant sense of grace and peace—grace and peace that come from Your love, Father God, and from Your compassion. If we turn our attention away from the emptiness that sometimes holds our earthly focus, we can take a full account of all Your love and blessings. That love and those blessings delight us and bring us a sense of happiness, joy, contentment, fulfillment, satisfaction, anticipation, hope, and expectation. In that love we can truly sing, “Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee,” with thanksgiving and with praise for all Your abundant blessings. Turn our hearts, our minds, our emotions, our commitments toward all the good and perfect gifts that You shower on us each day. Warm our hearts with Your love and peace that flood our lives with a sense of purpose, hope, love, and peace.

Let us for a moment also turn our prayer attention to a wider concern in our country. Let us pray today for all of those who are seeking ways to address and to calm the racial tensions that have risen as a result of the rally of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia. Open our minds and our hearts to your universal love for all—both for friends and especially for enemies.

Each week we focus on a time for sharing congregational prayer concerns. Many of us have thanksgivings or special needs, concerns, or intercessions for ourselves, our families, our friends, our church, our country, and our world. I invite you now to call out the names of those for whom any of you have special concerns and petitions that you want to lift up to our attentive Lord.

Bind us together today, O Lord, as these voiced petitions become shared petitions in this time of worship, for this fellowship of believers, in our shared mission and our call, both here and around our world. Also bind us together as we recite in one united voice the prayer that Jesus gave us in teaching us how to pray:

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

Thursday, July 27, 2017


With another birthday coming up soon, I’ve found myself recalling an interaction between my eldest daughter and my mother. Carolyn and “Grandmother” were playing the game which I have tried to name in the title of this post. The game has one player think of something in sight that fits into the category of people, places, things, etc. The player then announces, “Riddledy, riddledy, ree; I see something you don’t see, and it starts with a . . .” where the player then announces a letter of the alphabet that is the first letter of the people, place, or thing the player has chosen. With only that first letter, the other player looks around and tries to find something that starts with the letter hint.

On this occasion, my daughter gave a two letter hint of “O. O.” Now using two letters for two words was a little outside the regular parameters, but Mom began to guess. She could find a few items that started with the letter “O,” but the double “O” threw Mom off. Try and try as she could, Mom could not come up with anything that started with “O. O.” After exhausting all the things she could identify, Mom said, “I give up. What is “O. O.?” Carolyn then pointed a finger at Mom and said, “Old, Old.”

Maybe I haven’t gotten to the “O. O.” level, but I am aging. I am showing more and more signs of loss of short-term memory, and I really do struggle with all the new names that have hit me since we moved to Florida. Seventy-four means I’m approaching three-fourths of a century; but more significantly, I’m finding that my mental capacity isn’t what it used to be. I appreciate how my family and friends are helping me along the way to stay in touch and stay on track; and I appreciate all they do to strive to help me remember what I can and forgive me for my forgetfulness. Mom and Dad both had longevity, but we found out that is not necessarily a good thing when short and long term memory begins to fail. I’m grateful for the understanding of my family and friends. I hope that gratitude is something I will never forget.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Baptist or Methodist?

From my earliest memories, I have been a Baptist. The first church I can recall was First Baptist Church in Childersburg, AL, where we lived with my grandmother while my Dad was serving in the Pacific during WW II. When our family moved to Birmingham after the war, I made my profession of faith and was baptized in Dawson Memorial Baptist Church. When I went to Georgia Tech, First Baptist Church in Atlanta became my church (this was before Stanley!). When I transferred to Samford University (then Howard College), I was back at Dawson Memorial. When I went to Seminary in Louisville, I joined the staff at Shawnee Baptist Church and served in several roles including interim pastor. When I started my doctoral work, I became pastor of First Baptist Church in Crothersville, IN (an American Baptist, but still very much Baptist). When I went to Campbell College (now University), the First Baptist Church of Buies Creek was my home church (even though I often was away preaching in churches in the area). When I moved to Nashville to work at the Sunday School Board of the SBC, Immanuel Baptist Church became my home church. When I retired 25 years later and moved to Dandridge, TN, First Baptist Church in Jefferson City, TN became my spiritual home for more than a decade. Last Sunday I became a Methodist, joining the First United Methodist Church of Oviedo, FL. Generally I would say, Baptists gradually "left" me through the years rather than I left the Baptists. While there is a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship church in the Orland area and I wish I could have joined there, it was just too far away for me to be actively engaged in its work and ministries. The Methodists required me to attend a series of new member orientation sessions, something no Baptist church had ever required of me. For me, the issue now is no longer what branch of the Christian faith I am associated with. It is more which believers will open their hearts, minds, and arms to all those who seek to know Christ, embrace His love, and follow Him in a loving and inviting way.

Monday, January 11, 2016


As I have been reflecting about this occasion over the last couple of months, I have noted one of the peculiarities of our human experience. So much of our history is personal. Our histories are continuous in terms of our own experiences from birth to death—though we certainly may have lapses of memory that remove many of the experiences from our consciousness. At new junctures in life, we find our experiences intersecting with new actors on the stage. People enter the stage on which the drama of our lives are being acted out. These people come from off stage, where the history of their off-stage experiences often are unknown to us.  As long as the stage lights are on, the interactions, the dialogs, the exchanges, the experiences of togetherness are noted, remembered, celebrated, cherished, and sometimes memorialized. As actors move off the stage, they move out of the spotlights and out of the shared “stage” experiences. Their voices are no longer part of the dialogues. Their lives continue off-stage, out of the common experiences, away from the script of the on-stage dialog.

The imagery I am drawing on is a little unsettling. For any of us to claim a stage on which we act out the core story may seem very egocentric—but in reality, this central consciousness of self is the way most of us live. If other characters only pop on and off the stages that are our lives, they easily become bit-players who exist only to make the main character (ourselves) the star. But all of us know that there are parents, friends, guides, supporters, spouses, encouragers, enablers that have laid the solid foundations upon which we have built our lives; and without even one of these, our lives would have taken different directions or would have suffered from the faulty foundations of self-interest.

I could name six people who played especially supportive roles for me during my Baptist Sunday School Board/LifeWay experiences. These people opened vocational doors for me to come to the Sunday School Board. They affirmed me, my gifts, and my work. They opened the doors for advancement and greater responsibility. They took risks to support, encourage, and even protect me in the changing culture and new directions of a new regime. Max Caldwell was one of those six people; and he himself suffered some of the consequences from which he and others had protected me.

When I entered the stage called the Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1978, several main characters were already on stage. Harry Piland had recently become the head of the Sunday School Department, the area that was central in the mission of the Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. By coincidence, I was attending a conference in preparation for writing a series of teaching materials for the Adult Life and Work Bible study curriculum when Harry Piland was being elected Director of the Sunday School Department. Coincidently, Harry’s wife, Pat, was at that writers conference and was assigned to write the teaching materials for the very set of lessons that I was writing. Harry and Pat were major actors on the stage of my life as I transitioned from being a professor at Campbell University to becoming a curriculum design editor at the Sunday School Board. By further coincidence (or God’s providence), the manager of the Adult Life and Work section was Ernest Hollaway. Ernest had served as a missionary in Japan; and during the summer between my junior and senior years in college, I visited in his home in Japan as I was traveling to Taiwan as a student summer missionary. The editor who enlisted me to write, Clifford Tharp, had been one of my closest friends in college and seminary.

If God had been preparing me for my transition from college professor to Sunday School Board employee, Harry, Pat, Ernest, and Cliff were central actors on the stage at that time. One of the other major actors, who made his first appearance on the stage from out of the blue, was Max Caldwell. I confess that I have very little knowledge of where Max came from in becoming the director of the Youth-Adult Group at the Sunday School Board. I think Max had been a Sunday School field service consultant. I vaguely remember having a brief interview with him when I visited the Sunday School Board in view of an invitation to accept a position as design editor in the Adult Life and Work Section. Knowing little about the organizational structure at the BSSB, Max was just another new face to me. Later, of course, Max became a central character in developing my role at the Sunday School Board.

A little more than three years after I came to the Sunday School Board, a major organizational change was made in the Youth Sunday School area. Two editorial managers were shifted out of their positions, and the two editorial sections were merged into one section. While I had taught a couple of courses in youth ministry while at Campbell University, I certainly wasn’t a “youthie” by any means; but Max made the decision to move me into the editorial manager position for all Youth Sunday School curriculum materials. Frankly, I think I was chosen to gain managerial experience for an approaching retirement of my Adult Sunday School curriculum manager. Max, however, trusted me with this new level of responsibility; and for the next three years I worked with some wonderful youth specialists like Myrte Veach, Josephine Pile, Judy Wooldridge, Becky Martin, Louis Hanks, Ken Parker, and many others. Of course, behind all of this change, Max was facing critical issues that I’m sure kept him awake at night. As the conservative leadership in the Southern Baptist Convention began to focus on its institutions and agencies, Youth-Adult Sunday School and its leaders, like Max Caldwell, were the focus of many conservative concerns. Some of us were shifted to less visible and less influential positions. Some, I assume, like Max, were given exit packages. It was a difficult time, and the long-term impact generally has been negative for the Sunday School Board—now LifeWay Christian Resources—and also negative for many of its employees. Max was an exquisite example of a Christian servant who suffered humbly and quietly in the face of changes that significantly impacted his life. Unfortunately, those who followed him made choices that have weakened the institution we all sought to grow and strengthen. Today the institution into which we invested our lives is but a shadow of what once was; but the pride of those like Max who invested themselves in the work of serving the churches and seeing them grow and thrive should not be overlooked. Max has now received the final commendation cited in Matthew 25:23: “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful in a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness.” My hope, for Max, is this: that one of the things for which he has been put in charge in heaven are those 18 holes on the Everlasting Golf Club laid out beside the still waters.

And to Max’s family, I leave this familiar Old Testament blessing:
The Lord bless you
and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine upon you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace. (Numbers 6:24-26)

Friday, December 25, 2015


I have just completed reading a book entitled “Strangers No More: Memoirs by Lucy S. Herring” (Carlton Press, 1983).  I’m not sure how the book found its way into my library—perhaps it was a book my daughter contributed when we moved into our shared Florida home recently. The book was signed by the author: “Think big! Your thoughts will determine your destiny, Lucy Herring, February, 1983.”

Lucy Herring was an African-American educator who had an interesting life and who made a significant impact on the education of the African-American community. While I expect that few will be aware of her and her legacy, I found a couple of especially significant connections with my own pilgrimage.  The first connection was that she served early in her career as an educational coordinator in Harnett County, North Carolina. While her service was many years prior to my teaching years at Campbell University (in fact, I had been at Campbell for three years and had been in Nashville five years by 1983 when this book was published), Campbell is in Harnett County and is only a few miles from Lillington, where Ms. Herring worked. Her work was foundational in opening doors of opportunity for African-American students; and I had some very fine students at Campbell, who were evidence that doors of opportunity have been opened by people like Lucy Herring.

The most significant connection, however, was a stage-of-life connection that Ms. Herring faced at the time of her retirement. While I cannot apply her statement about retirement totally to my own experience (see page 166 for Lucy Herring’s list), she did inspire me with some perspectives that are helpful to those who are retiring or have retired. Here are my adaptions of Lucy Herring’s experience that retirees have to deal with in the significant transition from employment to retirement.

1.     Serving in a new role of second parent—that of a grandparent.
2.     Living in new accommodations.
3.     Living in a culturally mixed community.
4.     Being far removed from the kind of church of which you have been a member.
5.     Having to find new service providers to assist you.
6.     Having to make new friends (especially when your recall is declining).
7.     Living in a new city with a vastly different climate from the one to which you have been acclimated.

Lucy Herring captured a lot of the challenges that I have been facing in the last six months. Her spirit in addressing these issues have inspired me and challenged me to view these days as a new venture that requires readjustments, patience, supportive family and friends, and trust in God that all is working together for good.