Christmas Surprise

March 8, 2017

Not too sure how long it has been since I actually sat down and put fingers to keys and felt as if I had something to add to the global blogosphere; but I decided it was time. This little tale begins on Christmas Eve 2016 (with a glance back to August 2015), and jumps into 2017 pretty quickly.

First the glance to August 2015; I can’t believe it, looking back, and discovering that I did not blog this, but on August 22, 2015, our daughter Anne became Mrs. Ryan Brody. Anne and Ryan repeated their vows at Church in the Pines on the shore of Lake Martin, AL–the place where I have been privileged to preach for about 20 years, and only 3 miles from the family Lake House. It was a glorious day, the day every family dreams of, and every detail was absolutely perfect. I delighted in the privilege of walking my daughter down the aisle, and the service was begun by Dan McCall, my first boss out of Seminary, and the pastor who baptized Anne. After I “gave her away,” I stepped around and officiated the remainder of the ceremony.

While the outdoor service (Alabama in August?!) was a bit steamy, the reception was indoors where the AC was set to blizzard. We danced, dined, and partied until the newlyweds departed for Atlanta and then their honeymoon. We returned to the Lake House, where a bunch (BUNCH) of friends were coming to hang out, have a beer, and catch up.

On returning to the house, I was a bit distressed to not be able to locate Gumbo, our almost-15 year old black lab. Long story short, I found him a bit later; he had “expired,” and gone to that place where there are no fences, no cats, and the rabbits are all fat and slow. We buried him there, and took solace in our daughter’s joy in marriage.

We pretty well decided that our dog days were behind us. Lib was tired of sweeping up hair, and I didn’t think I had another dog burial in me. So life moved on.

Until Christmas Eve 2016.

I arrived home a bit before 10:00 PM, having been in or observed what felt like 100 worship services (in actuality it was only eight); I was exhausted, and as I pulled in the driveway I watched Lib run through the kitchen, and wondered, “What’s that all about?” I parked in the garage, walked in, and did not see her. I made it to the den, calling her name, and nothing. I walked upstairs, tossed my suit coat on the bed, and turned to see her step into the opening to the sunroom off our bedroom, as a puppy trotted out of our bathroom into the sun room.

Lib smiled and said, “Merry Christmas,” as I gawked and asked, “Have you lost your mind?!”

She is a pure bred English Lab, and we named her “Scout” (as in Jean Louise in To Kill a Mockingbird). Here she is at about 4.5 months: Scout

This little wiggle worm (see her tail moving too fast to be photographed?!) has brought so much joy into our lives, “It takes two to tell it” (as my mother in law would say.) We have spoiled her rotten, trained her pretty well (she’s easily the smartest dog I have ever had), and she has spoiled us.

And she has taught me about the love of God.

In the mornings, I get up at an unthinkable hour (4:30) to have my quiet time and exercise before the day begins. I let Scout out to “do her business,” then she goes to my office where I have my devotions. I’ve put a bed down there, and she has a couple of toys, and a chew or two. But what she wants is to be in my lap (even at 35 pounds now!), licking my face, begging for attention.

And I find myself wondering, “Why do I not hunger for God’s attention the way this little girl hungers for mine?!” She has inspired me, and taught me that simple affection-pure, unbridled joy-is what God wants from us, as much as Scout gives it to me. She is unquestionable an instrument of sanctification in my life.

And wow, do I (we!) love her!!!

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Wow. So much that we have seen, and how in the world to sum it up in just a few paragraphs?
The last day that we spent in Istanbul was a really busy one; we started the day walking to a museum devoted to ancient mosaics, where grand mosaics that have been discovered by archaeologists—most found in homes or courtyards—have been painstakingly excavated and moved, so that people can see and appreciate them. From there we walked to the Carpet Museum, where we viewed ancient—and I mean ANCIENT—carpets on display in atmospherically controlled environments.
Hagia Sophia From there it was Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom), the church built by Emperor Justinian in 537, that was converted to a mosque after the Crusades (conversion of a church to a mosque involves facing Mecca and saying a prayer from inside the church, then adding some architectural accoutrements that are required for a mosque), which is now a museum. The artwork within it is fascinating, the architecture that went into building it is historically groundbreaking, and the grandeur of the space—even with the scaffolding inside used in current restoration—is stunning.
Interestingly, at the top of the main dome, there is a painting or fresco depicting Jesus, which was covered entirely with a painting of the first verse of the Koran; but allegedly in the ongoing restoration, plans are being made to uncover and reveal the painting of Jesus.
The next day we drove—a LONG way—to view the ruins of ancient Troy, and ponder the truth of Homer’s depiction of the Trojan War (he wrote about it around 5-800 years after the war, basing his story on oral traditions); the archaeological discoveries are jaw-dropping, with some speculation that there may have been a Hittite city on the site that predated Troy by hundreds of years. But the evidence of roads, and homes, and temples, and theater, are plain to see.
After a night in Canakkale, we traveled to the ruins of the ancient city of Assos, visited by the Apostle Paul on one of his journeys (but no mention of his staying there any amount of time), then on to the site of Pergamum, where one of the churches mentioned in the letters to the seven churches in Revelation was. To read and remember that the message to that church mentioned the “temple of Satan,” and to see the many temples in the area—to Athena, to Trajan, to Dionysius, to Zeus—helps one to reflect on the fact that the hope of the Christian faith struggled in a culture that was oppositional to the message of the Gospel. We today, in lands and cultures where the Gospel is unknown (even in America!), and where other faiths are more prominent, need to remember that we must always speak the truth—and in love!
EphesusThe magical port city of Kusadasi was our next stop, allowing us to make a trip to the sprawling, ancient city of Ephesus. Ephesus was an important port city in its time, was where Paul’s preaching and the conversion of many to the Christian faith prompted an economic crisis in the city that resulted in a riot that led Paul to need to “hot foot it out of town.” The Apostle John allegedly ended his ministry and life here, as did Mary, the mother of Jesus. There is a tiny church on the alleged site of Mary’s home, as well as the ruins of an ancient Basilica above the purported site of John’s tomb.
But the archaeological site of Ephesus is simply amazing—it spreads far and wide, with evidences of Greek and Roman influence, but here and there, the sign of the Cross can be found. To think that both Paul and John came here to spread the good news of Jesus; and that a church started here to which Paul later wrote one of his letters—is an encouragement to all followers of Jesus to continue to be bold witnesses wherever we go, and whatever we do.
Lib and I ended the day with a few others at a carpet school, where we were privileged to see how hand-woven Turkish carpets are made; how silk is collected from cocoons and spun into thread; and were later treated to an explanation and display of probably 50 rugs. And despite the soft-sell, great price, and wonderful attention, we walked away without purchasing one!
Next up? The cruise of a few Greek Isles, with the Isle of Patmos, where John received and wrote the Revelation, on the first day!

Philippi to Istanbul

June 4, 2015

Tuesday we travelled from Thessalonica, again reversing the course taken by the Apostle Paul, making our way through Amphipolis to Philippi, the first city on the European continent where someone was converted to the Christian faith (see Acts 16), and where Paul and Silas were arrested and beaten, then jailed, before being miraculously released from their jail (picture is purported to be the location, while history and archaeology suggest otherwise—but it WAS somewhere in the area) and using the incident to proclaim the faith and lead more people to Jesus. Paul's Jail Cell (?)
We then pushed on to modern day Kavala, a nice port city, which was a major port in Paul’s day known as Neopolis. We spent the night there, and had a fun seafood meal in a nearby restaurant (Kavala is known for fishing today.)
Wednesday was a day spent on busses. We left Kavala headed for the border with Turkey, grieving that we would say goodbye to our guide Maria and driver Nikos (we’ll see Maria again, and we hope Nikos.) We arrived at the border around 11:30, and since the bus could not cross (long story, let’s just say that the Greeks and Turks don’t get along too well), we were met by two taxis that arrangements had been previously made to shuttle us across the border.
overloaded taxi We loaded (overloaded!) the two taxis with bags, filled the cabs, and sent the first crew across the border. It took almost an hour before we heard (via call) that they had made it, but the bud and guide on the Turkish side were not there. . . the taxi’s returned, we loaded more bags, and this time crammed five passengers in each cab. Passport went fine, customs went OK, until one car was pulled over, and held up. The car I was in zipped on through, and we waited (the bus and guide now having arrived) and waited and waited. It turns out that the taxi was emptied (of bags and people), and the auto itself was X-rayed. The same thing happened (to the same car!) on the first shuttle.
But finally we were all through, and on the bus with Tosun (guide) and Mahmoud (driver). We drove for a bit, stopped for a bite to eat, and proceeded on to Istanbul.
I must say that crossing the border offered a stark contrast. The terrain is markedly different in Turkey (no more mountains); the country is much more populous, there is a great deal more traffic, gas prices are about double, and the country just feels . . . heavier. With a population that is 99% Muslim (by birth, not by practice), there are as many mosques in cities as there are churches in America, but we are told that fewer and fewer people practice the faith.
After settling in to our great hotel with it’s marvelous views, we enjoyed a five-course dinner at the hotel next door, and returned to our hotel to crash for the night, just as the final call to prayer rang out (at 10:30.)
column in Blue Mosque Today was a really busy day; after breakfast we visited the Blue Mosque, which while still a functioning mosque, is a major tourist attraction (hundreds and hundreds of people lining up to view it and take pictures). Not only is it beautiful inside with its paintings and mosaics, it is also an architectural masterpiece, with the majestic dome flanked by four semi-domes. From there we viewed the Hippodrome (used for chariot races) with its three obelisks, the oldest dating from 390 AD.
Then it was on to the Topkapi Palace, the place from which 30 of the sultans ruled the country; the focus of this compound seemed to be courtyards more than buildings, although there were many of the latter. The treasures room, with an 86 carat diamond once given to a sultan as a gift, was pretty impressive, I must admit.
After lunch we enjoyed a private boat tour of the Bosporus Straight, where our guide pointed out many municipal and educational buildings, as well as many, many, mosques. Chuck & Lib on boat tour
We ended the day with a trip to the Spice Market, where all kinds of spices from all around the world are available (and yes, we did buy some, and hope that they make it home through customs!)
More tomorrow—especially the tour of Hagia Sophia, the Byzantine Church that became a mosque that is now a museum.

How does one sum up thousands of years of history in a few paragraphs? After sleeping on the reality of Delphi and the concept of people traveling great distances to make sacrifices and offerings to ask the Oracle the ONE question you can ask, and to walk away with a vague answer, we rolled out the next morning for more history.
First we made a quick, unplanned, side trip to Thermopyle, the historic site of the real battle of the Spartan army against the power of the Persian Empire led by Xerxes. Of all the movies made in or about Greek history, 300 is the only one the Greek people appreciate and feel that tells the story with authenticity (in other words, forget Alexander and Troy). We viewed the site, took a few pictures, then moved on to the city of Kalambaka, where after lunch, we visited Meteora.
Meterora is this incredible geological formation, where there have been (at one time) twenty four different monasteries; today, there are six still functioning, but the monks and nuns who live in them and find their calling in them, are dwindling.IMG_2974 We visited two of them, the Church of St Barbara, named for a woman who was beheaded by her own (Roman) father when he learned that she had converted to Christianity—it is an ancient Orthodox Church that is maintained by a tiny group of nuns.
We drove past the Monastery of the holy Trinity, which was used in the filming of the James Bond film “For Your Eyes Only”

Used in James Bond movie "For Your Eyes Only"

Used in James Bond movie “For Your Eyes Only”

(I have dim memory of it, and will have to check it out when back home), before stopping at the Monastery and Church of St Stephen—another Orthodox Church, this one maintained by monks. The Church itself is relatively new, having been rebuilt after bombings during World War Two.
Monday we drove a short way before getting on the Via Egnatia, the interstate highway that functionally follows the old Roman Via Egnatia, the road built through the Roman Empire. Rome either managed the road such that there were already established cities, or they created cities about every 45-60 kilometers, basically the distance a Roman Legion could travel in one day.
We stopped in Veria, which in the days of the Apostle Paul was called Berea (see Acts 17), and where there is a monument depicting Paul’s work in that city, with beautiful murals.mural of Paul preaching in Berea While there, our great guide Maria told us a long, rambling story about a Torah scroll dating to 200 BC, on which rabbis had kept historical notes about the community (there was a strong Jewish community in Berea.) In the marginal notes was information about Paul having come there and preaching. But the Torah was stolen by the Nazis in WWII, found in Auschwitz, then moved to Austria, then Hungary, and is now held by a private collector in Canada, who refuses access to it.
You can’t make this stuff up.
From there we made our way to Pella, the site of the birth of Alexander the Great, and visited a museum devoted to the ongoing archaeological excavations of this ancient city, which at one time was the capital of Macedonia, and was the spot from Which Alexander launched his campaign to expand the empire (which he did until his untimely death in Babylon at the ripe young age of 32!)bust of Alexander the Great
Thessaloniki, our final stop of the day, is a fun port city with lots of shopping and night life (none of which we have sampled), but sadly, completely overlooks the impact that the Apostle Paul had here so long ago (again, see Acts 17.)
Philippi tomorrow, where there are ruins of the old city, and sites surrounding Paul’s work there!

Well, after much travel, no real adventures, but a lot of territory covered and time killed, we arrived in Greece!
We left Atlanta around 9:15 Thursday night, bound for Paris. An 8.5 hour flight with quite a bit of turbulence allowed a little bit (and I mean LITTLE) of sleep; the couple in the seats behind us singing “O Tannenbaum” (yes, I’m serious) did not help. But a bit of sleep, and we landed in Paris around 11:00 am. For the record, the Paris airport is not the easiest to navigate, but our hardy gang managed to get through alright, and find our departure gate, where we proceeded to kill the next six hours. Our attempt to buy a one-day pass to the Delta/Air France lounge was not successful, so it was shared space with the mass of humanity.
We boarded our next flight, and landed in Athens around 11:00 pm this time, and since we had passed into the EU in Paris, and had our passport stamped, all we had to do was collect luggage and meet our wonderful hostess Caterina. She and Niko, our driver, got us to the delightful Royal Olympic Hotel, right next to the Temple of Zeus, and we crashed after 1:00 am.
Fortunately we slept in, ate a late breakfast, and met Maria, our guide for the Greek leg of our trip, and headed out midmorning. A lunch stop, followed by another stop for some majestic views and pictures, and we moved on to our stop for the night, Delphi.
Delphi is known to Greeks as the “center of the universe,” because this is where the Greek god Apollo chose for his temple. Fascinating archaeological ruins are here, that for years (centuries?) were buried under landslides and had homes built on top of them until they were discovered and unearthed. Interestingly, here (as in other locations around the country), people would come to ask a question of the oracle, a woman kept in a trance and under the spell of “vapors” (since discovered to be underground streams heated by volcanic heat, now dormant), who would usually give a vague, ambiguous answer to your question. But people, desperate for direction, would travel to see the oracle, make lavish gifts, and produce a sacrifice, in the hopes of hearing direction.
Tomorrow we will visit the monasteries at Meteora, where (I hope) clearer answers to the questions of life are found!
IMG_2951

A few years ago, I was privileged to lead a gaggle of Presbyterians on a “Presbyterian Heritage Tour of Scotland.” It was an incredible trip on which we forged lifelong relationships, met the most incredible guide ever (to date), and were privileged to see the “Mother country.”

And now it’s time again. It’s almost takeoff time for Sacred Journey, a venture travelling through Greece and Turkey, stopping at sacred sites where the Apostle Paul started churches, accomplished great things for God, and cities (now archaeological sites) where some of the letters to the seven churches in the Revelation (that’s singular, Revelation, not plural, “Revelations”) were sent–as well as the island of Patmos, where John received the Revelation.

The intent here is to let this be a pilgrimage–the crowd that is going has spent a number of weeks reading, doing Bible study in the book of Acts and Paul’s letters (as well as the Revelation), so while we are going to see great sites (and not all biblical), we have done the hard work of preparing our souls to be shaped by God. Along the way, while on the trip, we’ll continue to read and discuss Scripture, and the impact we may experience being in the places where Paul preached, was stoned, jailed, worked miracles, wrote letters, and simply spent time with people.

So stay tuned to this site–Lord willing, I’ll be making posts along the way to let folks know where we are, what we have seen, and what we are up to!

And for the record, hopefully this “Sacred Journey” will continue in another year in Rome–where I have a friend who is a Priest in the Vatican!

I had the privilege of seeing an advance screening of Unbroken last week, the movie that will be released nationwide on Christmas Day, based on Laura Hillenbrand’s great book.

I might also add that our Church hosted Louie Zamperini, the subject of the book and movie, about two years ago. Lib and I were privileged not only to hear him, but to have lunch with him and a small group of others. Louie was a wonderful man, a delight to be around even at 96 years old, and his story is a marvelous inspiration.

The movie is, hands down, a great movie! I advise everyone planning to see it to go on a fluids fast for several hours in advance, because you do not want to make a bathroom break once it starts.

It’s gripping, it’s horrifying in the authentic demonstrations of the abuse Louie endured, it is inspiring in the relationships between Louie and other prisoners, and especially with his flight partner Phil.

For those in the Christian community, the highlight of the book is the amazing conversion experience that Louie had at a Billy Graham Crusade. Spoiler alert here, the movie does not cover that—not the way many would have preferred.

I will say that the movie has a profound prayer scene at the beginning, with Louie’s Mom. Another in wartime after a particularly harrowing landing on the base. And there is Louie’s promise to God in the life raft, that he will devote his life to God if the Lord will let him survive.

The movie ends—while trying not to give too much away—with the acknowledgement that Louie’s life changed dramatically after years of PTSD, and that Louie kept his promise to God. It reveals his reconciliation with his captors (with the sole exception of the Bird), and celebrates his running in Tokyo as a part of the Olympic relay.

In short, the movie deals with Louie’s war experiences, and his indomitable, unbroken spirit. To fully understand his life—particularly the years he tried to mask his anger and pain with alcohol, and kept his brokenness inside until God allowed him to release it, and be made Unbroken by His grace, you need to read the book.

But do go see the movie. It’s wonderful!

LIFE IS NOT ALWAYS LEVEL

October 8, 2014

Last week I finished another section on the Appalachian Trail, this time walking the section from Fontana Dam, NC, all the way through Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Davenport Gap (and beyond.) One of the things I have learned about the Trail is that it is not always level; sometimes the terrain has you walking a mostly level trail, but more often than not, you are walking downhill (to valleys, which are called “gaps”), and sometimes you are walking uphill (to mountaintops, which are often called “views.”

The Trail, while being well marked with white blazes spaced about every quarter mile or so apart, is still very much in wilderness, remote areas. What that translates into is few signs, which are not necessarily precise in terms of mileage.

One would think that walking uphill, with a 30-35 pound pack on your back, is hard, And it is. Breathing gets labored, your heart rate accelerates (you hear it in your ears!), your skin begins to leak, and it just gets difficult—especially when the terrain grows steep (as in the section called “Jacob’s Ladder” in North Carolina.)

And it stands to reason that if walking uphill is hard, then walking downhill is easy. Au contraire, mon chere. Last Thursday, after walking about ten miles, we hit a downhill section that was dropping like a rock in a bottle. After two miles of steep downhill, a solid hour of pounding, my ankles, calves, and quads were screaming for relief. It is as if with each step, you’re hitting the brakes, and trust me, the brake pads were begging for relief. By the grace of God, we hit a relatively flat section, and amazingly after about 100 yards, I was already feeling some recovery.

But even when the trail is level, it’s not always easy. While sometimes it is—as here:23 a Good Trail

It isn’t always easy. It may be level, but the surface is fraught with potholes, ankle-biters, and traps; like this boulder field I crossed last year: 28 Boulder field trail

But it takes effort, whether up or down or level, to reach some spectacular views. And reaching some of those high points on a clear day, when it seems you can truly see forever, is worth the effort. You forget about the pain, and are often stopped dead in your tracks, in slack-jawed, forget-myself wonder at the beauty of creation the Lord made. 33 Cheoah Bald view 2

So the next time you are feeling down and low, like you’ve stumbled your way to the bottom of life; and/or are slogging your way up through problems and people, remember that the views are at the top—not along the way—and once you get there, it’s well worth a break to soak it all in.

OK, so this is not an exhaustive list by any stretch of the imagination; but in light of the fact that I have been (blissfully) happily married to the former Lib Upchurch 31 years as of today, I thought a moment to enumerate a few lessons would be appropriate. For a brief second I thought about coming up with 31 lessons, but then figured it would tax my brain and bore people. So, in no particular order, here are the top five things that came to my mind today:

1. She polishes my rough edges. Let’s face reality; I had a great childhood and youth, a pretty good experience growing up and getting through college and grad school, even landed my first “grown up” job before we married. But good grief, Lib took this sow’s ear and has excelled in making a silk purse out of me. She has taught me the right fork to use, what tie to wear with what suit (and which one NOT to wear), not to leave the house wrinkled, and that at the end of the day, social etiquette really does matter. Social etiquette is simply a way of telling other people that they matter, that they are important. And for the record, No, she is not through polishing me. I still have (and continue to add!) plenty of rough edges!
2. I’m not worthy. I don’t think I was when I popped the question 31+ years ago (of course, then I thought I was!), and I don’t believe I am worthy of this amazing woman today. She is one of the hardest working, most devoted teachers (in the thankless world of public education) there is, and comes home to keep a house straight, make sure healthy dinners are planned, prepared, and served (and cleaned up!), and does it all with a smile on her face. Me, I’m a preacher; I only work one day a week, and that’s only in the morning! But Lib is unquestionably the consummate Southern Lady. Grace, charm, looks, a deep faith in Jesus, and a devotion to her husband and family that does not end.
3. We weren’t ready. We reflected on this some years ago, and I still believe it. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into when we got engaged, and when we got married. We did have a solid foundation, in that both of us had parents who were married to one another. My parents were married 58 years before they died, and hers celebrated their 59th anniversary this year. We were both 24 when we married, were young, naive, idealistic, broke, but very much in love with one another. And somehow, by the grace of God, we made it work.
4. Marriage is an adventure. In 31 years we have lived in 4 cities in three different states. In another week, we will have lived in the home we live in now longer than any other home we have owned. We’ve made mistakes (the Pontiac Sunbird comes to mind), had amazingly few fights, disagreed on few things, most of which were simple, silly, and petty, have had seasons when we had to live on hot dogs and generic chips, but have raised two incredible daughters, pursued three advanced degrees between the two of us (four if we add Anne’s Master’s in there!), loved three faithful dogs for 14+ years each, taught each other more that I at least will talk about here, and started and ended every day with the assurance of our love for each other—even when we were mad at each other for whatever silly reason.
5. Marriage is the hardest—and best—job I’ll ever have. When you make the move from living by yourself—and sleeping by yourself—to sharing space with another person, there are adjustments to be made. Holidays, those most sacred and sacrosanct of institutions in family life, are celebrated differently. When you get irritated with the other person, if you are committed to them and the institution of marriage, you can’t run away. Maybe never living in the same town as any family was a good thing; it forced us to look each other in the eye, face our differences, and work them out. Making the move from “yours” and “mine” to “ours” is not a simple thing—there are no neat, easy, simple steps, and the path is fraught with landmines. Fortunately for us, none of them blew up on us, and we have found that when we had hard things to deal with, it just made celebrating the accomplishments that much better.

The joy of going home at the end of the day to someone who loves me, wants the best for me, believes in me, and will accept nothing but the best for me, has made the last 31 years absolutely the best years of my life.
I’m a VERY lucky man.

Lib & Chuck on the Springer Mtn summit

Lib & Chuck on the Springer Mtn summit

The Cross I Wear

July 30, 2014

A number of people have been asking me about the cross I have been wearing in worship and at weddings, and my response has been, “It’s a long story.” I finally decided to put the story and explanation here so folks can understand it, and what it means to me.
There are a couple of starting points to the cross. One is August 1, 1995, when I started work as the Pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Pascagoula, MS. I decided that I would wear a large cross over my robe (or suit, if I was not robed) whenever I was involved in worship. I bought one, and used it for a few years, before purchasing a larger one, and wearing it for the remainder of my ministry there.
When we moved back to Atlanta and I returned to the Peachtree staff, for whatever reason, I did not wear the cross. The more time passed, the less I thought about it, and it sat in a box in my office.
The other starting point is July 24, 1945. Yes, that’s the correct date; it is the date that my parents were married, six weeks after Dad returned from ten months as a prisoner of the Germans (after being shot in France). Mom and Dad were engaged when he went overseas, and after his liberation Mom kicked plans into action. Like with many couples, they received a good bit of silver as wedding presents. Among those were some silver candlesticks.
Then in February, 1983, Mom and Dad’s home was broken into. The thieves got candlesticks, flatware, and some of Mom’s jewelry. Most all of it was retrieved by the Police, but there were two candlesticks that were in the process of being beaten down and broken up for melting and sale when the thieves were apprehended. Mom never had them repaired, but kept them in a pacific cloth sack.
In the summer of 2003, Dad died suddenly and unexpectedly, and Mom followed him ten weeks later. “She didn’t die of a broken heart,” their Pastor said, “She died of a full heart.” In the sifting, sorting, and selecting of their property, I chose to take the mangled candlesticks; I thought that one day I would have them made into a cross to wear.
So some time after we returned to Atlanta and Peachtree, I took them to H.G. Robertson Fine Silver, and talked with them about my idea. They said that they could do it, but that more silver would be needed. I was encouraged to browse flea markets and estate sales, looking for odd pieces of flatware. Flea markets and estate sales and I don’t see one another much. I left the candlesticks with them, and returned every so often (like every couple of years?) to talk with them about it. The shop even moved, but they kept track of them! “Look into silver” remained on my weekend to-do list for many years.
Segue to Friday, May 2, 2014, and Bald Head Island, NC, where Lib and I had gone so I could officiate at the wedding ceremony of our good friends Glenn Harvin and Kelly Johnson. AT the wedding rehearsal, Glenn said to me, “When we get back to the house, Kelly and I have something to give you.”
We got back to “party central” after the rehearsal, and at some point, someone told me that Glenn wanted me in the house. Lib and I walked in, and Glenn was standing there with Kelly, grinning from ear to ear, holding a white gift sack. As we approached, Glenn’s sister Laura and her boyfriend Grey Campbell started to walk away. Glenn stopped them, saying, “You guys had a role in this.” He handed me the bag.
I took it, thanked him, and lifted the tissue paper from the opening. I looked in, and realized what was in it. I said, “Oh, my word.” I recognized the black box that the cross I’d worn in Mississippi was stored in, and next to it was a white HG Robertson box.
Lifting the white box out, I opened it, and there was the cross that I’d always thought about, that I had dreamed of having made. Glenn asked, “Will you wear that tomorrow for the wedding?”
I replied, “Not only tomorrow, but from here on out, every Sunday.” And so I have—on Sundays, at weddings, and memorial services, and any other service.
It seems that Glenn and Kelly were out to dinner with Laura and Grey one evening, and the wedding came up, and somehow the fact that I was going to officiate surfaced. Grey, who used to be a member at Peachtree, and we’ve known one another for many years, and also does some work at HG Robertson’s, apparently said. “Let me tell you about a project Chuck has at the shop.”
And Glenn—incredible guy, generous soul, great friend that he is—said, “I want to finish that for him.” And so he did.
Shortly before his wedding, I handed it to Glenn, and asked him to place the cross on me. That was the first time it was used, but it’s been used frequently since then. And I intend it to be used for many years, and on many occasions, to come.
And that is the cross that I wear on Sundays. It is a reminder of my parents, a testimony to redemptive grace following tragedy, and the presence of good friends with me. It’s a gift that spans close to 70 years, and is quite likely the greatest gift I have ever received.

The Cross made from my parent's candlesticks

The Cross made from my parent’s candlesticks