Today’s Word from Pastor Tom…

When he died, I grieved. He was my favorite author. The genius of Pat Conroy as a storyteller was evident from the very beginning. One of his first books, “The Water is Wide,” was made into a movie, “Conrack,” starring John Voight. His training as a school teacher quickly gave way to his life as an author. A number of his literary works lent themselves to the big screen, “The Great Santini,” and “Prince of Tides,” are two of the more well known.

I suspect one of the reasons I was so taken by his writing was that everything he wrote was at least semi-autobiographical. Oh my goodness, talk about a dysfunctional family. It was shortly after I had finished my last graduate program (M.S. in Marriage and Family Therapy, 1987) that I became infatuated with his works. His family was a case study of how broken lives find a way to not only survive, but to carve out a place of meaning, maybe even purpose. For the record, “dysfunctional,” used to be an adjective to describe broken family systems. Now it is viewed as a synonym, i.e., if you have a family, it is in some way dysfunctional.

My appreciation for Conroy’s writing was occurring about the same time Brenda and I were experiencing a growing passion for the setting of much of his writing, the low country of South Carolina. The whole coastline, from Myrtle Beach in the north to Daufuskie Island (just north of Savannah, Georgia) in the south, held for us a growing affection which led to a number of trips. To this day Charleston, S.C., is our favorite city in the U.S. We always live with the hope that one day we will return. We once considered this area as a possible retirement site, but the barriers were too high.

The Family of Israel, as recorded in the scriptures, with a 2,000-year history, certainly meets the criteria for a dysfunctional family. OMG! Take for example the time of Moses and the post Egyptian wanderings in the wilderness. A scouting team is sent out by Moses to bring back a report of the land God had promised to Abraham and his descendants. (Numbers 13-14). A land of milk and honey was the report, great news! But then the nuclear deterrent for moving forward was dropped by some in the scouting party… “They are Nephilim, we are like grasshoppers!” That is, the occupants of the promised land were too tall. Nephilim was the name of a group of pre-history giants who were demigods, the offspring of sons of gods who married the daughters of men (see Genesis 6).

It did not matter that the two leaders of the scouting team, Caleb and Joshua, argued for proceeding, “We can do it! We can take the land!” The naysayers appealed to the basic fear we all have of “Too…” That is, it is too difficult, too challenging, too tall, too much money… the list goes on. God had it with Israel. They were sentenced to 40 years in the Wilderness because they refused to believe that God would be faithful and gift them with victory despite how tall their enemies. Only when the doubting generation dies off will God start again with granting victory to a new generation.

l am praying for our next generation to stand tall in the face of reported “Nephilim.” For example: another racist mass shooting in Buffalo; a very short Nephilim ordering an invading army into Ukraine; a growing polarization of our political system for solely the purpose of gaining and exercising power; a world seemingly blowing up with the realities of climate change… the list goes on and on. Sometimes I fear my generation has just acquiesced to this as our reality. The problems are too tall, too embedded into our culture, too overwhelming… just simply too much. I pray this isn’t true, but may God grant strength and vision to the next generation to move beyond the dominion of our fears.

Conroy’s “The River is Wide,” is about descendants of slaves who never left Daufuskie Island because they couldn’t swim and the water was too wide. Their teacher, Conroy, earned the trust of the parents and took their children, (the next generation), to the other side to experience another life. Such a metaphor. To reach for something new we must be willing to let go of something old.

Jesus has already taken us to the other side; we are already citizens of this new Kingdom of God. To love and forgive and generously share is how we make that Kingdom known. I am grateful to be about this new life with you. You remind me always of the hope we have in God’s promise revealed in Jesus. Nothing’s too tall.

In peace and love,
Pastor Tom