Before You Were Born
by Daniel Griswold
I promised myself that I would record everything when my first son, Ransom, came into the world. I’ve become so wrapped up in the wonder, and immense life changes of fatherhood, however, and have not kept that promise and this is my moment to rectify, in a small way, that transgression against myself and my family. This blog will be more personal than previous blogs, and there are many people in here that I am incredibly thankful for. There are those I know I will forget (likely due to “Father’s brain” or some human frailty, but I am so thankful to you as well. So, so thankful. So Ransom, this is how I remember your genesis.
August 2013, Amanda (your mom), started acting a bit funny. I can’t say exactly what tipped me off, but I began to feel like something was up. Maybe she looked at me differently a few times. Then, one day she came down the stairs of our home on a sunny day and said, “Guess what?” She looked serious but smiley and expecting something from me. I think I responded, “Are…you…pregnant?” (Background information – Amanda had tricked me into believing a baby was on the way on a prior April Fool’s day, and it was not funny to me, so I didn’t think she’d do it a second time. Totally ruined that day for me.) This time it was different. She said, “I think so.” She had the test, and I was pretty excited about the whole prospect but also worried now. Could it be a mistake. So we tested a few more times and guess what – you were on the way!
The next few months are a blur, but here are a few details. You vacationed with us at Lake Junaleska in the Kilgore summer home. We walked around the lake and talked about our future with you and pondered how different life was going to be. We also worried a bit about money (births are expensive), but we kept having to lean in on God’s provision. If you were coming, God would give us a way to support you in the way you would need it. When we came back we got some loans out and paid for a midwife group in Savannah, GA that friends had mentioned was amazing. We wanted you to start out right and with lots of care. The birthing center did all your checkups, we took lessons on how to know when you were coming and what to do, Amanda’s mom came and spent a bit more than a month and a half with us as we prepared, and our church family at Saint Andrew By-The-Sea UMC in Hilton Head became more and more excited!
I’m not going to lie. I wanted you to be a boy, and my wish came true. I’ve wanted to name you Ransom since I was in High School. I met a young man in New York with that name, and I thought it was amazing. Your middle name Kelly, is my mom’s name, but I’d met guys who had it as their name, and I thought it was cool. It means Warrior. Ransom means to “Redeem”. You are a Redeeming Warrior in my book. I’m glad your mom liked it too. If you had been a girl you’d have been Gwenfair, but perhaps that’ll be next. I also prayed you would be good looking. I think that is a tradition my grandma passed on. I remember her telling me she prayed for that and it came true of all her kids and grandkids. Seems vain, but I thought – why not? Overall, though, I prayed that you would be a great man of God full of faith and wisdom and compassion and justice. I hope this comes true.
So what did we do waiting for you? We kept exercising until Amanda couldn’t. Running slowed and then you became so big that we had to chill a bit. That was okay because we bought lots of ice cream. I gained 15 lbs waiting for you (stress weight). I wanted you to be healthy, I wanted to meet you, and everyone we talked to asked how you were doing. As far as I could tell, you were doing good, and the doctors confirmed it. Our church launched a second campus, I played guitar a bit and helped lead up some new initiatives, but I slowly realized, as you were coming that I couldn’t do as much.
I let go of a few things in preparation to take care of you. Lots of hobbies, writing, and some things that felt good to drop for a while. I’d been doing some things for five years or more and it felt refreshing to reset for you. All I wanted to do was see you and hang out with you. The church was so loving and generous and we were blessed by their support as their gifts stocked you up on diapers, cute outfits and lots of gear we now use all the time. Oh, and toys…and books! So glad we can read to you all the amazing books full of rhymes, stories, and prayers. I hope you really like to read.
The time started coming, and it became harder to wait. Amanda’s mom was there so she helped out so much as it became harder for Amanda to move around the house and get around town. She kept both of you safe and kept you both company when I was working at the church. And as time came to your date, we prepared a kit to take down to Savannah (about 30 minutes from our house). We thought you would be born in late February, but you didn’t think you needed to yet. Each day we anticipated and thought, “Is this the day?” We visited the midwives and they thought we had more time. It wasn’t until March 16th (much later than we’d thought), and one day before we would have to have some help, at 42 weeks, you started to give signs you were ready.
Contractions began around 8 PM on March 15th and we timed them. They were long and were becoming more regular. We called the midwife center at about 9:30 PM, and they told us to meet them at 11 PM there. Nancy was your midwife, and she was wonderful. All of us drove down a little road dividing a marsh leading from Bluffton, SC to Savannah, GA in the middle of the night. It was the day before Saint Patrick’s Day, so the roads were busy and it was dark. We were very careful that we protected both of you by driving safely. I remember worrying that the contractions would stop, and it would be a false alarm, but it wasn’t. Nancy took the readings and guess what, you were on your way! But it wasn’t easy.
Very soon, a strange heart issue appeared. It was minor, but after a contraction your heartbeat slowed when it should have sped up. Because of that Nancy made the call. We would have to go from the midwife center to the hospital. Nancy packed her stuff, and we packed ours and we drove over to Memorial Hospital about 8 minutes away. The next 20 hours were amazing.
Over the course of your birth, we had a two midwives (Nancy and Jill), a Doula named Erin, and several nurses. There was a lot of waiting, and your mom was incredible (if you’d been there, you would never ever disrespect your mom, and I think I’ll hold you to that in the future). at 8:08 PM on March 16th you were born with the help of nurses, Jill the midwife, Erin our doula, your grandma Frankie, and myself. I’ll never forget being with you when you were born. Again – respect your mom. Forever.
That night we were exhausted. We didn’t know what we were doing, but I was proud. I called your Grandma and Grandpa and Great Grandma and Great Grandma Griswold in New Hampshire and in Texas, respectively, to give them the news. A baby boy named Ransom (“Handsome Ransom” as per Jill Whitfield, our midwife) would sleep in the basinet we’d prepared for you next to our bed.
You were tiny, soft, and not as loud as I’d expected. Your eyes were dark blue, and you had little tufts of brown fine hair. Your hands were wrinkly, and you slept a lot (which we were thankful for). And after a doctor checked you over, we took you home (after a call to AAA to replace a flat tire – that’s another story).
Now you are almost 5 months, and you’re giggling and laughing and playing with a strong grip and I’m pretty sure you’re going to be somewhat athletic. You’re smart and like to see everything that’s going on, and you’re already an extravert. Ask anyone at the church that’s held you. You’re awesome and we love you incredibly. We feel this when we creep into your room and watch you sleep. We’re so glad you’re here.
I’ll try and keep you updated as you grow and we figure all this stuff out as your new parents. May God keep us all in His hands.
1 Samuel 1:27–28
“I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the LORD. For his whole life he will be given over to the LORD.”
Thomas Merton, a somewhat mystical Catholic monk I’ve been prone to read, has impressed me with his strong commitment to silence. In an age of action and commotion, is this a call worth heeding? Can we be quiet in the storms of life?
Like nervous electrons, we like to keep moving in constant circles, only thinking of our being in terms of action and what we have been doing recently. This constant motion and outside analysis cannot bring peace with one’s self, and we become distanced from what we truly are (whatever that might be). I love this quote in a book of his essential writings: “When we are quiet, not just for a few minutes, but for an hour or several hours, we may become uneasily aware of the presence within us of a disturbing stranger, the self that is both ‘I’ and someone else.” Merton’s concept of the stranger is an eerie ghost to most of us who have taken too little time to seek inward, into the center of our being, where silence is the only communication and the key to self-discovery.
This silence is not easy for a generation that has put action and outer self-satisfaction above all else. We prize our rewards for hard work as our homes fill with items of our conquests here and there. We’re not used to quiet stillness. It is scary, like a horror movie, we might accidentally reflect, accidentally be silent for a minute, and we become disturbed by the stirrings of what is within us, perhaps lying dormant until that time when we’re listening and processing what it might be.
I’ve been reminded by Merton that the actions we must take before we help the world are the actions that are, as he says, “non-actions” and “the quiet of worship, the reverent peace of prayer, the adoration in which the entire ego-self silences and abases itself in the presence of the Invisible God,” this way we would receive “his one word of love.” And if we lived without this “one word,” we would be cursed to live within a life of illusion, like the electron, the ever-spinning slave promoting the goals of a world that is hell-bent on action, instead of the heavenward non-actions of contemplation and prayer.
So, as the world spins (and it does not stop for anyone), when will we make time to disengage and hear what heaven is really calling out to us? There is a real danger that even the best and most righteous follower of God, whose entire life has been devoted to doing good works, and whose energy has been poured outward, may find that the superhuman effort didn’t bring the rewards they’d hoped for — something was missing. If we just take the time listening, whispering, contemplating the word of God, and seeking the will of our creator, we may find ourselves rejuvenated and more alive.
Don’t let busyness take hold of you. Say “no” to some good things, say “no” to all evil things, and say “yes” to being enveloped by God’s love. Be continually transformed by the moments of grace and appreciate that God is everywhere; you are never alone. This moment is your moment: Close your eyes, be still, listen and know, “You are loved.”
Read more (here).
By DANIEL GRISWOLD — firstname.lastname@example.org
Published: June 21, 2013
The Bluffton Packet, supplement to The Island Packet
I’ve been thinking about what it means to be “mobile” as a person with a ministry.
I’ve found that so much of my time ministering to young people has been spent on the road in my little Toyota, on the various winding roads and highways around Hilton Head Island and Bluffton.
At the beginning of my ministry, I spent hours at a desk doing administrative work and getting little things done here and there, but the more I built relationships with the various communities our church serves, I cut down desktime and have learned to do much more on the road. My desk is sometimes replaced by rented tables paid for by my cup of coffee, or by spending a few moments at Saint Andrew’s new Bluffton Ministry Center near Dairy Queen — there is free Wifi there. Wherever my laptop sits, I become a hub of relationships, communications and learning.
A Google search for “Mobile Ministry” brings up articles about ministers preaching on circuits, trucker ministries and various other long-distance traveling ministries. The kind of ministry I’m talking about is not long distance. I am talking about the kind that develops around a “regional” church.
When people find a church they are willing to drive 35 minutes or so to reach, you have a “regional” church. These churches have families from wide and varying communities from urban to countryside, and so the ministers (lay and clergy) quickly learn to live beyond their own hamlet, and see the varying contexts interacting all over.
Here in our area, we have unique culture in each plantation and neighborhood. Our people have all sorts of ways of life and perspectives, so we become more creative to connect and serve, unify and challenge wisely. It would be easy to use the church as a hub and never leave it, because so many people come to this beacon set in the proverbial waters of the communities, like an academic who never leaves the seminary and finds oneself trapped in an ivory tower. The light on the outside of the church walls is just a fable to that person, and eventually the sermons and the advice of the one caring for the community makes little sense to those who live on the outside of the cave.
No, we must go out and be in the community.
Look at Jesus: He did not spend much time in one place, and it seems to have been a reality of the Jewish culture that his family traveled for various reasons. When Jesus was born, a census forced him to be born in a stable (Luke 2:7). After his birth, his family went to Egypt to escape Herod’s murderous attempt to stop the future claim to Kingship (Matthew 2:13). As a youth, he ended up at the temple asking questions of the teachers (Luke 2:46). After his ministry began, he then set out traveling, spanning the heights of Samaria to the depths of the Dead Sea toward the mountains around Jerusalem.
Jesus and his disciples were on the move, an urgency of mission moved them, and Paul and successive generations have moved with little time to remain static, and if so, only to teach for a time. So if Jesus was on the move, we as his followers must consider and act on the power and energy of that movement.
The nice thing about being mobile is that you become a central command for the community. Like a plant reaching out and connecting to new plots of soil and spreading life, you become the shoot that seeds love and hope in many different pots full of fertile soil.
After many years of being a “runner,” or a mobile minister, you begin to see the harvest come to bloom in various ways. God begins to bless the work, and you may see others becoming ministers to the community themselves. It truly is a blessing to see people you’ve cared about care for others and begin to bloom. Here’s to the hubs and nodes — keep connecting, keep moving and bring the Good News to your multicommunity community.
Read more here: http://www.islandpacket.com/2013/06/21/2550939/mobile-ministry-brings-word-of.html#storylink=cpy
A Few Words on Boston
A lot of people are having a hard time with the terrorist event at yesterday’s Boston Marathon. I know this because I see status after status asking “How could someone or group of people do something so evil?” I think that people are still in shock, especially considering that the victims look like us. They were wearing clothes that we wear. The streets of Boston look like ours and the people look just like our friends. Isn’t this only supposed to happen overseas? Shouldn’t these events be more distant? Boston is such a great city? Why would anyone want to hurt anyone else?
Like in 9/11, when people full of hate hit the twin towers in NY, we are once again faced with the evil, which in this case is really just another word for “sin”. It is our very human tendency to harm others rather than care for one another like Christ calls every person of the earth to make an ideal: “Love God, Love others” (ALL others – everyone on the face of the globe).
Some good news is that these terrorists have already lost and failed in all their goals. The second that the bombs blasted, emergency workers, police and ordinary citizens ran towards the destruction and were immediately proving that violence and evil are not the final word in our world. If there is something that I’m proud of in being American, is that we believe in the dignity of all people and the wellbeing of God’s creation. It didn’t matter what creed, religion, race, party or philosophy the hurt had – everyone came together to make things right.
Though there have been many injuries, and three people have lost their lives in a senseless act, those who have acted on behalf of others have shown us a parable of God’s deep concern for us. It was Jesus Christ who gave his life and died on the cross, and only weeks ago we remembered that dark day. The greatest news is that death ultimately does not win. The people of God and the good done in His name is victorious.
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever.”
Christ has already conquered evil in the long haul. Let’s wrap ourselves in His goodness and press onwards in faith. Though these moments test our resolve and can shake our foundations. Take some time to press into God with prayer for Boston; pray also for our world that continues to deal with the consequences of our Sinful Nature, and personally call out to God in repentance for what each one of us has done to harm others.
The Revolution of Mankind against evil and destruction continues. The inbreaking of God’s Kingdom continues onward. Let’s make sure that we are filled with the Light of God and can give hope to those who are just barely hanging on! Let’s make Love and even Forgiveness rule over our hearts so we do not harden and let chaos take any ground in this battle.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
God is always with us!
I saw this today and couldn’t help but pass it on. This woman made an EHarmony video, and couldn’t help but delve into the depths of her need to love, hug, and adopt every cat that has ever lived. Its soooo catchy it hurts, and the clips of cats with auto tune catchiness is impossible to walk away from. Enjoy this video and smile:
Ingredients to a Happy Marriage Might Include Bacon
It actually came up this morning as an affirmation of how fast time flies when you are having fun — and working hard.
In contrast to the fleeting nature of celebrity weddings and relationships, I recall the romance and love in the Scriptures: “How delightful is your love, my sister, my bride! How much more pleasing is your love than wine, and the fragrance of your perfume more than any spice!” (Song of Songs 4:10).
There is a deep appreciation for the “other” in the relationship and a delight that can last throughout the years. I see those who have been together 50 years or more as the heroes and heroines of marriage. Often they say that they had some “best years,” but there were also some very hard years. They continued to invest in their love through the years, though, and found deep happiness in each other’s presence. That is the everlasting love, a love we can emulate. It continues to ride strong through the storms of life and builds a stronger unity.
As a husband, I hope to live out the biblical ideal that Paul spoke of: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself” (Ephesians 5:25-28).
To fall deeper and deeper in love each and every day is not a fairy tale, but rather a choice, an honor and a great adventure. Christ gave himself for the church and gave it all, certainly, so we can emulate that great and sacrificial love that gives and gives and gives in our marriages.
A heart filled with the love of the spirit will always overflow.
Columnist Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Follow him at twitter.com/dannonhill. Read his blog at http://www.danielgriswold.wordpress.com.
A Day In The Life of a Gordon Conwell Seminarian
Probably the most stretching period of my life was while I was living on campus at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, working at Grace Chapel in Lexington, and taking Greek my freshman year. I remember sitting at my desk at 12:30 am, exhausted, and my mind literally stopped working. It just didn’t want to go any further. I had to juggle quite a bit to make ministry and seminary work simultaneously, all while keeping up with Amanda (which is hard to do!). Three and a half years later (total of four years), I graduated, and felt the cool satisfaction of a hard season of life, but which has rewarded me in every other area and aspect of my life. Check out this video, and pretty much paste my face onto the main dude:
I remember going on a field trip to Concord, NH to see the Orchestra. My eyes were not immediately opened to the beauty (I was in Middle School), but once I heard the Star Wars theme song, my heart opened up, and I felt a whole new world opening up. Sometimes there are barriers that even beauty has to build bridges to cross. A friend of mine just posted this brilliant Copenhagen Flash Mob, and I am transported to my seat, and my eyes are opened once again. I simply love this, and perhaps it will awaken you as well:
(Image is of Christ Church United Methodist )
After graduating seminary at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, I felt called to minister at Saint Andrew By-The-Sea United Methodist Church. The search committee was welcoming but discerning, the pastor was warm and incredibly intelligent, the congregants warm and welcoming, and the families were engaged. I knew that when I received the call, and was asked, “Would you come to Saint Andrew,” my answer was “Yes, I will.” God has greatly blessed me at this church the last three years, but I did have a bit of acclimation, particularly in the realm of Worship Style.
Very quickly, I discovered that SABTS worshipped by singing hymns, they said The Apostles Creed and prayed “Our Father” nearly every Sunday. A vigorous choir accompanies a talented organist – so the style is what some would call “Traditional” or “Liturgical”.
My background in the Pentecostal, Baptist and Non-Denominational churches would definitely be considered a “Contemporary” experience. Contemporary merely meaning that guitars, drums, bass and microphones are the main tools of worship. The songs have been written (mainly from the Psalms) by Contemporary Christian Musicians in the last 30 years or so. Hymns were more the exception, but were still sung from time to time. I had been used to the bright colors of lighting rigs, textured displays and projectors displaying the outlines of the talks. Pastor’s generally did not wear their suit jackets, and I had never been in a church where the pastor wore robes or a stole (a word I had never heard).
I had to ask myself if I was capable or worship in the new setting, so I began to write in my mind a list of priorities (values) that would guide me in this decision. In other words, what was most important to me about a worship service?
First, I had grown up in a tradition of good preaching. Pentecostal preachers are known for their passionate sermons, and Biblical Study is important to me. If I am inspired, I also need to learn something. Also, if I am not stretched as a person as a result of the preaching, I feel that there was no point. The application is as key as the main idea. And has the Gospel been faithfully represented? Is the preacher being faithful to God’s word. I checked SABTS’s website and listened to sermon audio recordings to get a feel for the head pastor’s preaching. I listened to three recent sermons and determined that this church had an excellent preacher who met all my expectations. Would I have come had the preaching not been so excellent? Perhaps. But it helps that our lead faithfully speaks the Gospel to us, and we are challenged each and every week.
Second, I asked myself about music style, “If things are going to change, what are the non-negotiables?” In other words, could I worship if I never heard a guitar again? I thought about this a lot, not just for myself, but my wife Amanda also prefers the more contemporary sound. I discussed this with her, and I communicated that I felt that so long as we were glorifying God in music, that I would be able to step into the context of my church (like a missionary would on another continent) and respect the styles of worship honored in the community where I would serve. I made a conscious decision to respect the community and allow myself to be transformed by their valued music. In the last three years, I have come to love certain hymns for their messages and their tunes. I don’t pretend to understand the notes in the hymnal (though I do try to look to see whether to go up or down in voice), but this congregation sings these hymns with vigor and reverence. They sing about God’s love, Repentance, Hope, Christ’s Sacrifice, Challenge and Tribulation, Happiness in Spirit and it all points towards the work of Jesus Christ. I cannot argue that we should never worship like this, in fact, those who refuse to worship this way are missing out on a way of communicating God’s love that is deep, rich, and full of passion. Americans are in love with what is “New” but we easily forget that hymns were once the “New” music as well. Concerning music, perhaps one day I’ll worship with guitars again (I am learning to play myself), but I am content to sing this way for the rest of my life. It is a good thing, regardless of my preferences.
Lastly, concerning prayer, I had been used to an extemporaneous style of praying in past churches. Pastors full of the Holy Spirit would call out to God, and the people of the congregation would pray out loud together. It was sometimes cacophonous, and I think it would scare some folks who are more used to order. I had seen at a non-denominational church where I had served, people praying from written notes during services, and it had fascinated me, but some were from notes and others weren’t. Here at SABTS, each portion of the service was carefully prepared, pulled from liturgy, and steeped in tradition pulled from the Church Fathers, Liturgies of the church carefully written, and from John Wesley’s (the founder of Methodism) hands himself at times. I discovered the Methodist “Book of Worship” and amazing prayers for every occasion, and found a deep wellspring of spirituality in the faith of saints long gone. They had written their lives with God down on paper, and their communities of saints spoke to us today. It was deep, and as spirit filled as the extemporaneous prayers of my upbringing. God opened my eyes, though I felt at home, considering how much I love to write and read. This became a new avenue I had never considered. The liturgy was also freeing to me, because in those times when I did not know how to pray, there were words that could express my spirit even when I could not. I saw the hand of the Holy Spirit across the millennia recorded for the future. I am likely to have a prayer book the rest of my life regardless of where I minister, and I am thankful for this liturgical experience. If simply to have the “Doxology” memorized and to sing it when I am thankful is such a treasure. Again, my eyes have been open.
The apostle Paul, walking on a line between the traditional Jewish faith, and the new and developing traditions of the Gentile believers in the Roman Empire, always held onto the roots of his Jewish heritage, while simultaneously celebrating the new work among the new people who were coming to faith in Christ. He said in a trial that, “I admit that I worship the God of our ancestors as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets, and I have the same hope in God as these men themselves have, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man” (The Book of Acts). He is part of the Way, which is a new thing in Christ, as many Jews believed in Jesus as the culmination of their messianic heritage, yet he held to the Law and its teachings simultaneously.
I feel like I am walking a line as well, between the music of my peers (which has its own pros and cons) and the worship of Christian tradition, which has been proved in the past to encourage believers in faith. I honestly find myself comfortable in both settings, and can see services where both are used wisely for the edification of believers and for promoting God’s glory. The fact is, God is amazing, and there are not enough styles of worship that can completely capture that glory for us. We have to continue to innovate while preserving the past for future believers. If we only worship in the style in which we are comfortable, we are becoming less Christian, because these values – diversity, unity, and even perseverance through discomfort for the “other”, must be lived out if we are to believe that Jesus calls us to be “one” in His body.
We are a diverse people across a globe with many people, with various liturgies and forms of worship, but if a church preaches Christ, challenges us to action in our faith, and stretches us beyond our comfort and leads us to love others, we have found a good place. I encourage you, if you have a qualm with the style of worship (either way), to try to re-engage in a spirit of unity, putting Christ and the promotion of His Good News and His Good Kingdom above our own personal preferences. I believe that this is something all Christians can and one day will have to do. The world is getting smaller, and our divisions blur the vision for the future of the church. Let’s put on the heart of the optimist. Christ has already won. Let’s live out the values of the Kingdom today.