|The best lesson I learned at Sounion, Greece? To look young and slim, stand by something really big and old.
I hesitate to include biographical material on this site, but I often get questions about my life: who I am, what I do, and, most importantly, how I got to God. People frequently tell me that they feel they know me because the "holy ordinary" things I describe in meditations sound so familiar and resonate deeply with them. So here's "my story."
I grew up in Clinton, Illinois, a farm town in the center of the state. My family was Roman Catholic; I even went to a tiny parochial school for the first six years of my education.
I drifted out of the church, then periodically back into it. I have always considered myself a spiritual person, but I cast around for years looking for a way to express and develop my spirituality. I attended Catholic churches sporadically, and while I loved the time at the services, I didn’t connect to God there in a deep way.
I came to Mississippi when Mississippi University for Women offered me a scholarship. I had procrastinated sending in my paperwork to the University of Illinois and wasn’t able to get in the freshman class, so I came South to school. It was a blessing, because I love living in Mississippi.
In 1998, I thought I "had the world by the tail," but learned later that the world had me. I had a great job, a wonderful family, lots of fun and energizing hobbies, tons of friends. And then, on May 9, 1998, just a month after moving and taking a hot new job, I received one of those phone calls we all fear. I found out that my 52-year-old sister Marsha had died of a heart attack. Three and a half months later, I received another phone call, one that told me that my father, who had been living with Marsha, had died of congestive heart failure. To this day, I believe that he died because his heart was broken. Three weeks after we said goodbye to Dad, I lost my dream job. Within a seven-month period, I changed jobs twice, moved twice, lost two members of my immediate family, and lost any sense of my self.
As I have told people before, those phone calls might just as well have been about me, because I felt absolutely dead. Everything–and everyone– I had ever used to define myself was gone. I returned to Jackson, Mississippi, where I have many friends and connections, feeling absolutely broken and lifeless.
A few months later, after an interesting spiritual discussion with a friend, she said offhandedly, "I think you’d like my little church." So I put on the pumps and pearls and showed up, without warning her, one Sunday morning. And she was exactly right–I loved her little church: St. Peter’s by-the-Lake Episcopal Church in Brandon, Mississippi. I only went through the motions for a few months, but before long I was in love with the Episcopal Church, with St. Peter’s and its people. Much more importantly, I was beginning to see glimmers of God.
I had always read a great deal about spirituality and philosophy, and tried to "study my way" to God. My head was filled with facts. I knew about God, but that hunger in me was to know God. I believed at that time that some great lightning-bolt of a signal would come from God to let me know He was ready for me. So I sat around waiting, going to church, getting hungrier and hungrier but thinking I was waiting on God.
Then a friend told me a story that changed my life. A strong Christian, she had been discussing God with me in depth for a week or so. One night, she said she felt as if she were facing me, and that I had my back to the most beautiful sunset in the world. She kept telling me that I needed to turn around because it was beautiful, and I kept telling her, "Prove it." She said, "If you just turn around, it will prove itself."
The story didn’t sink in that night, but the next morning, it did. I was walking through the parking garage at work when the story’s meaning occurred to me: God is ready for me, and He is simply waiting for me to turn around. My friend was right; the view did prove itself. From that moment on, I have developed a powerful and passionate relationship with God. It’s no longer enough to just see the sunset, I want to be part of its fire.
About eight months after "turning around," I began writing short meditations on Scripture, in hopes that I might get them published in monthly devotional publications. Ultimately, I did end up with two published in "The Upper Room," but the practice writing I did became a ministry all its own (or all His own....). I have been writing daily devotional pieces since August of 2000, and a compilation of them was published in a book called Holy Ordinary. A second meditation book called Practically Holy appeared in the fall of 2008. Both are available through this website. I also wrote a Lenten devotional book, Disciples on the Way, for the Forward Movement, and it is available through them and through Church Publishing.
I worked for the State of Mississippi for 28 years, and retired in August of 2006 to attend seminary at Yale Divinity School in New Haven, Connecticut. In May, 2009, I completed seminary at Yale and returned to Mississippi. I was ordained to the priesthood on December 2nd, 2009. I served until December of 2013 as Episcopal chaplain to Mississippi State University, and as assisting priest at the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection in Starkville, Mississippi. I now serve as rector at St. Peter's by-the-Lake Episcopal Church in Brandon, Mississippi, the place where my deep encounter with God began.
In my free time, I love to play golf. I played "tournament golf" for years, but have recently fallen in love all over again with the game itself. It is an intricate and engaging game, never the same two days, or even two shots, in a row.
My brother Michael lives in Santa Barbara, California. My sister’s three sons, Kevin, Jeff, and Chris, and their families, still live in Illinois. They are all treasures, and I love them very much.