Birthing Babies and Lent

Lent is the get-ready season for Christians, in more ways than one. It’s a season for needed spiritual reflection about every facet of our lives. On this Wednesday “Hump Day” of the week I am reminded of just how important Lenten season is. I got to the office at a little after 6:30 am this morning and had a wonderful time of lectio divina praying the Scripture and listening to God, then… Well, let’s just say it’s been busy: a conference call with the Executive Committee of the General Commission on Religion and Race; the landline phone ringing while being on my cell; and vice versa with clergy wanting to put their name in the hat at the last second about moving, churches saying they want their pastor to stay in one instance and go in another. Another DS called and wanted a clarification about something in the Book of Discipline. Another just called about a Cabinet Policy about Clergy Housing. There were four or five unexpected drop-in people – all good, papers to sign, “How are you doing?” kind of stuff. A typical day in the life of a District Superintendent.

It is never boring! There were two instances of me trying to be the ringmaster of a three-ring circus trying to schedule important meetings with all the interested parties. There were two calls from pastors worried about some family issues so we prayed over the phone. A clergy friend called offering baseball tickets which I‘ve learned is something to ask Cindy about later. Anyway, you guessed it, my Quiet Time with the Lord ran out about 9:30 this morning, so here I am typing because there’s finally a lull, but second shift is coming. Some of you have asked how I can write a weekly blog. My answer is that I have to. It’s a part of my spiritual discipline, electronic journaling, if you will.

I need to use every means of grace there is to get ready for the unexpected, to handle the tyranny of the urgent with a Holy Spirit imbued calmness. I bet you do, too. There, of course, is the blessing of God-guided boundaries, and the knowledge that God doesn’t put on us more than we can bear. Even better is the blessed hope that God will give us strength for whatever befalls us each and every day. Therefore, all the more reason to spend a Holy Lent in preparation, not just for our day-to-day dilemmas, but also for the emotional barrage of Holy Week. Ready or not, here it comes!

I should know about getting ready. Some of you know the story of our children’s births, and some of you don’t. All three were born in the small but beautiful hamlet of Cheraw, South Carolina, and they were born in three different locations. That’s pretty hard to do in small-town South Carolina, but it happened. Cindy went into labor with Narcie and I called her doctor whose office was an hour away. We had taken the hospital tour, and done the child-birth classes in that fair city. He asked me if I had timed the contractions and I had. They were three minutes apart! He said that was mostly impossible with a first child so he suggested she might have indigestion or something like it. He said we could go to the local hospital so they could check her, and call him back if we needed to.

Well, the local hospital didn’t have a doctor on site. A local General Practitioner, Dr. Jim Thrailkill, was called in. Seventeen minutes after our arrival, and just a few minutes after Dr. Jim got there, we had a baby girl! Whew! The quick delivery was great for Cindy, but it didn’t go over that well with her mother. Her goal in life was to be present for her grandchildren’s birth, then she missed it. Two years later we were expecting our second child. We went back to Florence, SC for the pre-natal doctor’s visits and the hospital tour, but we took the childbirth classes at the tech school across from the parsonage in Cheraw.

After the midwife/instructor heard the story of Narcie’s quick birth, she decided that I should read an emergency childbirth book. I finished it a few weeks before the due date and the next day I came in from doing some pastoral visits. Narcie was two years old and asleep in her room. Cindy was in the bathroom and promptly said, “I think this is it!” It was February 25, 1982.

Good thing I finished reading that emergency childbirth book! I dutifully called the doctor an hour away, and the friend who was going to watch Narcie while we went to the hospital. The friend got there and, “Boom!” both the baby and the book kicked in and I got on the delivery end of things and the baby was already coming. Thank you, Jesus, for that book and what it said about turning and dipping a baby’s shoulders. Thank you, Jesus, for prompting me to finish reading it the night before! I delivered Josh wrapped him in a towel, suctioned out his nose and mouth with an ear bulb syringe that had been sitting in the medicine cabinet ever since Narcie’s birth. Josh cried. I called the Cheraw Rescue Squad and went outside and got thoroughly sick. They cut the cord on the bathroom floor, and Cindy’s mother got another phone call saying that she had missed another birth.

When Caleb was born fifteen months later we decided to skip going to Florence. We hadn’t made it yet anyway! Cindy simply looked funny one afternoon so we headed to the new hospital. The old one had been turned into a nursing home. Dr. Essman was waiting on us, and Caleb took a whole hour! Since Cindy’s folks lived an hour and a half away, they still didn’t make it! All three of our children were born in little Cheraw, SC – one in the old hospital/nursing home, one in the parsonage bathroom, and one in Chesterfield General, one baby each for my three churches where they were each baptized in descending order of size. I was glad I had three churches instead of four!

The moral of the story: Just like Lent, it’s good to be prepared! I’ll be spending some extra time with the Lord in the morning! I won’t be birthing babies, but I’ll be preparing for New Birth!

Birthing Babies and Celebrating the God Who is Present


I had the ecstatic pleasure and fearsome opportunity 28 to years ago deliver my son, Josh. Narcie had been born two years earlier, in 17 minutes in the wrong hospital. Cindy is quick on delivery! We wouldn’t make it to the hospital 40 miles away so Narcie was born in the old Chesterfield General Hospital in Cheraw, SC – no OB doctor there, they had to call in a local General Practitioner. I was in a gown before he was. Then two years later, the day after I had finished reading an emergency child birth book, I came in from visiting church members and Cindy said, “I think this is it!”
Narcie was asleep in her room. I called the designated friend who was going to watch her while we went the needed 40 miles. But once again we didn’t make it. We didn’t even get out of the bathroom. The friend helped ease Cindy up, and I got on the business end. Then Josh, Mr. Torpedo Head, started crowning. Thank God for the book and having been raised in an agricultural context ( won’t say any more), I prayed, yelled, panicked, but did what I really supposed to do: turn him, ease him out, then grabbed an ear-bulb syringe from the medicine cabinet and suctioned Josh’s nose and mouth and he started breathing and crying. Whew! It was also a good thing I had just finished painting the bathroom just a few days before, not having any idea it was going to become a delivery room! God is sooooo… Good! Then I called the Rescue Squad. They came and cut the cord, and I went outside and tossed my cookies. Cindy was great and the rest is almost history.
I say “almost” because now the circle comes back around. Josh’s dear wife, Karen, turned 26 today, February 23 and Josh turns 28 this Friday, February 25, and, guess what, she’s pregnant, expecting a granddaughter at the end of March. I hope all goes well for her and the precious K.L.M. Baby Girl they are going to have. We have no idea what the initials stand for, but that’s better than okay.  Karen is such a wonderful person! She just finished up her second undergraduate degree – this one a B.S.N and she passed the NCLEX exam last week so now she’s a R.N., registered nurse. Most of you know that Josh, like his sister is United Methodist Clergy. He gets ordained an Elder, like his sister, this summer at Annual Conference. Anyway, best wishes to Josh and Karen on their birthdays, and K.L.M. as her arrival looms.
I am so thankful for all 3 of our children: Narcie, Josh, and Caleb. Caleb, by the way, was born at the new Cheraw hospital. It’s hard to imagine in a small 1500 population like Cheraw, SC that all 3 of our children were born there and in 3 different places! God bless Cheraw and all of our dear church members there. We ended up moving away from my initial 3-point charge and spent 9 years in 26-miles-away-Hartsville, SC, but then we were sent back to First UMC, Cheraw for a four-year-stint. The doctor who delivered Narcie, Dr. Jim Thrailkill, was a wonderful parishioner, God rest his soul.
The point of all this isn’t to do a weird Birthday Greeting to our kids and soon-to-be-born granddaughter. I’m just reminded on this day between Josh and Karen’s birthdays that God’s providence and love are an ever present help no matter the situation. There’s plenty of junk to go around in this sin-marred world. I am thankful to God for the goodness that’s left and how Jesus redeems it all if we let Him. So, in the midst of the continuation of Narcie’s brain tumor saga, and all the other stuff that makes every day a challenge – today I am grateful for the personal epiphanies that I have seen with my own eyes: 3 children, 2 great children-in-law, 2 grandchildren and #3 on the way, a wonderfully patient wife, and a host of people who day in-day out reflect a real relationship with Jesus Christ, the Hope of Glory. Yes, indeed, I have beheld His glory.