Pastor Don's Journal
"Live from Nashville, broadcast now for 90 continuous years over WSM 650AM, it's the Grand Ole Opry...".
John Mark and Daniela flew in on Sunday for a visit-- her first time back to the US since November--and they are spending the week with us.
A tourist visiting our city confessed to me the confusion he experienced at the King Street Metro station.
This was the name of the column I regularly wrote for my high school newspaper many years ago.
Well, it's been 4 days and the sky hasn't fallen yet.
For a year now we have been operating with a reduced staff while looking for another pastor to come and join us in the work.
I learned a new word yesterday.
Sunday is obviously the busiest day of the week for a pastor. Not that we aren't hard at work the other days, I hasten to add, but this is the time when everything comes together. Or should. Ask any pastor, whenever you happen to see him, what he is doing and he will probably reply, "Getting ready for Sunday". It's also my favorite day of the week. That's because I love to worship with you here at First Baptist, Alexandria. The thrilling music, the energy, the warmth and welcome extended to all who join us. I love to preach, too, of course-- but I have been doing that for 45 years by now and can do it with joy just about anywhere. FBCA is so special, though. I really do not think there is a congregation anywhere quite like it. New babies every week, scores of children and teenagers, younger adults and the elderly, too-- all together in one place. But some of my favorite times are actually those moments just before, and just after, the worship services. When I am standing in the fr
Pepper Choplin took another bow as thunderous applause capped the evening's performance.
(Here's an old journal entry about a memorable day I had in August, 2002.)
The DMV is that sluggish government agency responsible for drivers licenses and their periodic renewal.
I have been battling allergies or a cold for the last few days. Surely all this springtime pollen is to blame for getting it started.
As thrilling as is the present at First Baptist, Alexandria--- and I think that these are momentous days indeed--- I am even more excited about our future!
"Oh they tell me, it's only a dream in Rio. Nothing could be as sweet as it seems on this very first day down." --James Taylor
When a New York newspaper mistakenly printed the obituary of the American humorist, Mark Twain, he responded with this classic line: "The report of my death was a great exaggeration."
What a soul-satisfying weekend we have just concluded at First Baptist! In our services and activities we experienced yet again the central story of the gospel--
I don't mean to burden you with my problems, especially as I know you probably have enough of your own.
"The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be."-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
This week is shaping up to be a fairly typical one for me.
Audrey and I spent some time this weekend having a serious talk about exactly what our commitment will be to the "Preparing The Way" capital campaign.
Almost every Sunday I have the great privilege of climbing down into our baptistery and immersing believers into church membership at First Baptist, and into the sacred life of the Spirit and all that it means to follow Jesus.
I love to ask children what they are reading.
The still pictures have haunted me all weekend --
"Hey, guys-- I heard some great news this week", I said to 3 year old Ben and his younger sister, Harper.
Sunday night's Super Bowl game proved to be just that -- super!
I am an early riser-- a “morning person". Occasionally I will sleep in, of course, but most days of the week I am up and out the door by 7:30.
The US Constitution requires the President to “from time to time" give information to the Congress concerning the state of the union-- and to make recommendations for legislation to improve it.
"Every mile is two in Winter." -- George Herbert
With growing concerns about lingering racism in America in the light of events in Ferguson and New York City, and debates over whether or not we have actually made much progress in race relations over the last half century, a movie has come out that I thought I ought to see.
This has been an incredible year for Audrey and me -- I really can't remember one more blessed...
This Christmas has been a little different from the usual ones we have known over the years.
The best part of my job as greeter and "host" for the Living Christmas Tree every year is the opportunity it gives me to meet people and hear immediate reactions to what they have just seen and heard.
"If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?"
My Florida pastor friend, Barry Howard, says: "Advent invites us to exit the fast-paced, high priced toll road, and to take a slower, more scenic route to Christmas." And I agree.
We have already had our Thanksgiving at the Davidsons.
Sunday was a big day for building at First Baptist Church! In the midst of, and flowing out of, wonderful worship services, our people began building for the glory of God and the advancement of His kingdom.
Today is Veteran's Day and I join with all Americans in saluting the men and women of our armed forces who have served, and who continue to serve, the cause of freedom in the world.
"Whether you're a brother or whether you're a mother You're stayin' alive, stayin' alive..." -- Barry Gibb
I made the comment to somebody just the other day that I enjoy attending business meetings in other people's churches--
While on a mission trip to Central Asia a couple of years ago Audrey and I discovered Jenga, the classic game of block stacking and tower building, marketed by Parker Brothers.
These last several days have gotten our attention with the clear word that Autumn is definitely here.
Audrey and I decided last Friday morning that we wanted to spend that evening in Old Town Alexandria...
It happened again on Sunday.
For the past 13 years John Copeland has been a key player on our pastoral staff.
It's great to be home and back into the exciting flow of things at First Baptist!
We are heading home today from Brazil, the last stop on our whirlwind itinerary and the last day my seven week (six Sunday) Sabbatical.
In Sao Paulo, Brazil, where we are spending this last week of my Sabbatical, Winter is slowly turning to Spring.
"Though there's grinning and mandolining in sunny Italy, / The beginning has just begun when the sun goes down".
"You may have the universe if I may have Italy"-- Giuseppe Verdi
We are in Austria this week, enjoying the mountains, edelweiss flowers, and music of this beautiful land....
This week my Sabbatical journey has taken me to New York City, the place Duke Ellington once called "the capital of everything"....
...We began our Sabbatical adventure yesterday by driving down to Eagle Eyrie...
Next Monday, July 21, I will begin my long-anticipated Sabbatical.
As "Stonewall" Jackson was on his deathbed after a battle wound led to an amputation which led to pneumonia, Robert E. Lee sent a message to him.
Alexandria has just been named the third "snobbiest city in America" by the Movoto Real Estate blog, as reported in The Huffington Post.
An annoying fly buzzes overhead. I think I just heard a cricket, too.
"Another summer day Has come and gone away…"
"Has anyone ever told you that you look just like Arsenio Hall?", I asked our waiter.
June is perhaps the most popular time for weddings...
Summer does not begin until later in June, but everyone knows that the season really comes in with Memorial Day weekend.
Every few years I devote my summer preaching to some of your and my favorite Psalms.
"I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read on the train." -- Oscar Wilde
You never know for sure how long it will take you to drive down to Richmond on I-95, so I left very early on Sunday morning.
The question was about taxes and the wealthiest Americans. She wanted to know if I thought that the rich were paying their fair share.
Spring time burst upon us suddenly last week.
Bruce Heilman is a living legend among Virginia Baptists, and one of the most successful university presidents in the nation.
This coming Sunday morning I will be preaching on the conversion of the Apostle Paul as recorded in Acts 9.
"At age 50, every man has the face he deserves." --George Orwell
St. Patrick's Day green was buried under a several inches thick blanket of snow here in the DC metro area yesterday.
Be careful! Researchers say that the Monday and Tuesday following the switch to Daylight Savings Time are two of the most dangerous days of the year.
"In the midst of winter...I found within myself an invincible summer." -- Albert Camus
Fasting is a spiritual discipline that is often mentioned in the Bible.
There's a dark cloud hanging over our family this week -- but one that has a silver lining attached to it out on it's edges.
Maybe it's a bit un-American to say this, but I want everybody to win GOLD at the Sochi Olympics.
It's friendship, friendship, just a perfect blendship.
We are seeing a little bit of everything this January -- all kinds of weather.
I didn't realize it because I am sitting on the front row with my back to the congregation, but Audrey occasionally helps to collect the church offering.
This has been an incredible year, filled with travel, unique opportunities to serve God, great accomplishments for our church, and a wonderful new blessing for our family.
The beautiful Advent season has led us to this day, to this moment.
I didn't see it coming during the “dress rehearsal” for our special needs friends on Wednesday night.
I told you in Sunday's sermon about the e-mail I received on Saturday from a girl I met briefly over forty years ago.
Thanksgiving comes twice in one week for our First Baptist, Alexandria family.
We have come thousands of miles and centuries back to old Europe, to a continent of castles with moats and high-placed fortresses, bisected by a River--the magnificent Rhine.
"But isn't a 'C' always a 'C' in music?”, I wondered.
I think about it every Sunday morning when the worship service begins, and I try to express it as I rise to greet the congregation.
It happened again yesterday afternoon.
I am in the foothills of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains today-- at Eagle Eyrie-- with a large group of our senior adults for a state wide retreat.
"Be yourself; everyone else is already taken." ---Oscar Wilde
The call came for a vote and the "ayes" had it
My fellow staff pastors and I are on "retreat" for the first three days of this week.
The greatest piece of advice I received as I began my ministry came from an older pastor.
Our church's Weekday Preschool Program opened up for another year yesterday.
“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move." -- Robert Louis Stevenson
Tomorrow is the 50th anniversary of the “March on Washington" that galvanized America's civil rights movement and brought home to everyone that this was an issue whose time had come and could no longer be denied.
I buried a dear friend yesterday
I have been living inside the New Testament book of James these last many days in preparation for my mission trip to Central Asia and teaching it there.
"San Francisco has only one drawback-- 'tis hard to leave." --Rudyard Kipling
While Audrey is away a few days this mid-month I have been filling my off-duty time doing what I love the most-- reading.
Make a note to yourself not to automatically and casually dismiss that person standing by the side of the road with his thumb stuck out.
This is America's birthday week.
The largest, brightest full moon of the year was on display this weekend and I spent time both Saturday and Sunday nights gazing upward at it.
"If we've ourselves to know / we should get to know the sea." --Rod McKuen (1967)
This past Sunday after lunch, Audrey pulled out of the closet a large container of pictures from long ago.
I went to see the much anticipated film, "The Great Gatsby", this past Saturday.
Pastors are called upon to do many things and to give advice on just about every conceivable subject.
The Atlantic Monthly asked it’s readers the question, “What day most changed the course of history?"
Along with the responsibilities of my ministry in this church, there are other roles I am called upon to play from time to time in the larger Baptist community because I am pastor of First Baptist of Alexandria.
Last Sunday was a remarkably encouraging day for us at First Baptist as we celebrated, almost to the exact day, 210 years of vibrant ministry in our city.
What a surprise it was to wake up to yesterday's beautiful snow, a substantial wet blanket and still falling as the morning unfolded.
The message of the cross has never been popular, and is even less so in our generation it seems.
I find myself these last several days living in the story of Christ's Passion:
My thoughts were directed yesterday to Psalm 78: 72---
Audrey and I spent President's Day in New York City, and woke up this morning in the beautiful and historic Waldorf-Astoria Hotel at 301 Park Avenue.
Pope Benedict sent shock waves through the Roman Catholic world yesterday by announcing his resignation.
I had one. And if you are older than 45 you probably did, too.
With its mountains and mesas, cloudless skies and prickly desert cacti, Arizona was our location for several idyllic days last week.
Yesterday President Obama placed his hand on a Bible once used by Abraham Lincoln and swore on oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States".
This last week had just about an equal amount of high and low moments, as I evaluate it.
One of my favorite poets is former laureate Billy Collins. This is a poem I read in the current edition of The Atlantic....
I’ll start the new year with a confession: I think, feel, act and react differently on a mission trip than I do in the normal flow of things here in Alexandria day by day.
I have often said that worship attendance on Sundays helps to restore perspective and balance to our lives.
I was in line at the bank one day last week, waiting to cash a check.
Sunday was such an exciting day at our church. There was a good crowd (1,065) in worship, heart-warming music, lots of enthusiasm, 6 new members joining us--and a wonderful “March for Missions!”
Whether the first American Thanksgiving celebration was in New England, as the history books say, or right here in Virginia at Berkeley Plantation, as we all know to be the actual truth--it is a tradition as old as our country that we annually pause to give thanks to God for His grace and bounty.
For as long as I can remember I have used a little black book of wedding ceremonies...
There is a custom in Russia that when a couple is getting married, they go to a bridge for pictures and a rather unusual rite.
This year's presidential election will be decided in only a handful of states.
I am currently reading the new book, Listening In: The Secret White House Recordings of John F. Kennedy, selected and introduced by Ted Widmer (Hyperion, 2012).
I found myself on the program right after a comedian had finished his act.
These last several days have seen a series of "firsts" for me. At least for my time at First Baptist, Alexandria.
The first of the presidential debates is tomorrow night and, unless the Executive Church Council meeting that I chair runs longer than it ever has, I intend to be watching at 9PM.
"What do you want us to call you?", a recent new church member and his wife asked me on Sunday morning. It's a question I am often asked, and the answer is always the same, for adults and children, too.
My room at the Hilton Gardens Hotel in Suffolk overlooked a busy street and then, beyond that, the cemetery where both my parents are buried. I could see the spot from my fourth floor window...
Several years ago famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma jumped into a New York City taxicab at Central Park West for a twenty minute ride to an appointment.
Among the hundreds of thousands of words spoken at the Republican convention last week, one that we hardly heard at all was the word "lie", or "liar".
"The things we did last summer, I'll remember all winter long".
“The best thing one can do when it's raining is to let it rain." -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Audrey and I spent the first ten days of this month on the other side of the world, exploring the Orient for the first time in our lives.
One of the blessings of a church as strategically located as ours, and having a reputation around the country as warm-hearted and alive, is that we have new members to join us every Sunday.
We are out in beautiful San Diego for the last day of our Guidestone trustees summer meeting.
For just a little over 48 hours this past weekend Audrey and I were in Charlotte, North Carolina.
"I want to fly like an eagle/ to the sea"--Steve Miller
On Sunday nights at 5 o'clock in the chapel I am teaching my way through the Gospel of John.
I learned a new word this past weekend and you probably did, too. It's "derecho," and that is the name for the type of storm that hit our area on Friday night.
The Crescent City has been a favorite of mine ever since my first Southern Baptist Convention trip back in 1969, when I was 15 years old.
I received a very warm and affirming thank your note yesterday---one that will go in the "keeper" file to get out and read again and again when I need some encouragement.
We are just now at the beginning of summertime but already in the middle of busy and consequential days for our church.
The first thing that we learn about God from scripture is that He is a creator.
Abraham Maslow, the famous American psychologist and philosopher, suffered a heart attack that almost took his life.
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms--to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way. ------Viktor Frankl
The direct, in-your-face approach to witnessing is still effective for reaching some people.
The rhythm of my life is set by my Sundays.
Twitter has been around since 2006 but only a part of my world for about a month now.
He not busy being born is busy dying.--Bob Dylan
The central tenet in any religion that purports to be Christian must be the identity of Jesus Christ.
Fellow GuideStone trustee Michael Rochelle has drawn my attention to a familiar text of scripture, but with fresh insight.
Here are a few recommendations that you are free to take or leave. Over the long holiday weekend these came to mind----
“Now I understand why you say that you’d never want to go anywhere else,” OS Hawkins told me as we left the Worship Center on Sunday.
I was in the hospital a lot more than usual last week, as were all our pastoral staff.
Someone asked me yesterday about the process I use for preparing my sermons for each Sunday.
Politics and primary elections dominate the news right now, but the story that has gripped my attention more is the sinking of that Italian cruise ship, the Costa Concordia, ten days ago.
Audrey and I seldom sit together when we fly, even on long distance flights. We both prefer aisle seats, so across from each other is fine.
Yesterday's late afternoon gentle frosting of snow brightened up an otherwise very sad day for us.
In the election of 1960, Richard Nixon lost to John F. Kennedy in the closest of vote counts: only 118,574 ballots separated them.
"When you write down your life, every page should contain something no one has ever heard about." - Elias Canetti, Bulgarian novelist
Roman Catholic Cardinal John Foley died last week at age 76.
Well I'm sure in the mood now. Christmas - bring it on!
Every year Audrey and I go over to Washington and visit the National Christmas Tree in President's Park (the Ellipse) across from the White House.
"Christmas is for poets," someone has said. "For only the expansive, wondrous mind of a poet can begin to put words to it."
One of the most familiar, oft-quoted scriptures in the Bible is Psalm 121.
Tattoos and Snake Handlin' and Coincidences!
A Busy Week... Arlene Bauer's funeral service was held on Friday morning, but her burial is taking place at Arlington Cemetery this morning at 11 AM.
Audrey and I had a fun evening handing out candy to the trick-or-treaters, young and a bit too old, last night for Halloween.
If I had to choose just one day to last my whole life through it would surely be that Sunday the day that I met you. -George David Weiss & Joe Sherman
Martin Jones had been blind for more than a decade, having lost his vision after an explosion at work.
Red Square is a wide expanse with the Kremlin on one side and a large, ornate shopping mall on the other.
When I got home from church on Sunday I found that Audrey had invited an entire pew of first-time guests to join us for lunch.
I spent last Thursday evening with Jennifer O'Neill.
I pulled down from the shelf my 2001 journal and read through again my account of that awful Tuesday, ten years ago.
I really hate to see this month and this summer season come to an end.
A few years ago, in my former church in Danville, a little girl was sitting with her mother in the worship center waiting for the morning service to begin.
Susan Sparks is an unlikely Baptist pastor in New York City.
A couple of weeks ago Audrey and I were in Chicago for a Guidestone trustee meeting.
I discovered a hidden treasure this last week - a place I had driven past many times but somehow missed.
I am returning today from Chicago, where I spent the week-end attending the summer meeting of Guidestone's Board of Trustees
Summer might just be the perfect time to drop into First Baptist, Alexandria - if you want to get a real sense of our heart and passion.
This year's Vacation Bible School, NYC: "Big Apple Adventure", is in full swing and easily shaping up to be our biggest and best one ever.
"When in the course of human events..."
This Thursday our students and several adult leaders leave on this summer's mission trip to Dominica.
New York Yankees famous manager, Casey Stengel, once said that the secret to successful managing is "to keep the five players that hate you away from the four who are still undecided."
There's a whole other church out there!
There are many things about being a pastor that I really, really like - and only a very few that I have to be paid to do.
Three day week-ends are hard for pastors to do much with, since Sunday comes right in the middle.
If the massive tornado that swept through Joplin, Missouri had instead hit Alexandria, and you saw your home and all your earthly possessions blown to bits - who would you be?
Judgment Day, the return of Christ and the end of the world is scheduled for this Saturday, May 21. We have been duly warned.
While on vacation last week I found myself sitting in the Barnes & Noble in Daytona Beach, reading through a book of poetry and sipping coffee.
I watched the royal wedding of Prince William and commoner (uncommonly beautiful) Kate Middleton Friday on the BBC - all the several hours of it, and loved every minute!
On Saturday afternoon Audrey and I saw the new movie about champion surfer Bethany Hamilton.
This is Holy Week - the most important time of the year for Christian believers.
Spring time really seemed to arrive on Sunday and then especially yesterday.
They say that if you want a true friend in Washington you have to get a dog.
Howard Mumma, a Methodist minister, was preaching at the American church in Paris one summer in the 1950's
Audrey and I spent an evening last week with students at Leland Seminary.
We have been watching television reports of Japan's tandem disasters with much more interest and prayer than most people.
In a church the size of ours there is always somebody, usually many somebodies, in crisis.
Saturday night Audrey and I attended a performance of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra at the beautiful Meyerson Symphony Hall.
After the smoke cleared Sunday morning our church found itself "debt free" for the first time in at least 15 years.
Well, I finally got around to seeing "Remember The Titans".
Dr. Diana Garland of Baylor University likes to point out that Jesus completely changed our understanding of the word "neighbor" when he told His Good Samaritan story (Luke 10).
A little "stream of consciousness" this morning, a sample of my thoughts today.
A pastor lives his life almost totally "on the record".
"I cannot live without books." - T. Jefferson
The horrific shooting incident in Tucson, Arizona, on Saturday has elicited universal outrage as it was, not only another in a long line of mass killings in our society, but an attack upon our government and democratic freedoms.
We began 2011 out in Nashville, TN, where we were attending the wedding of Max Meyers and Abby Stufflebam.
What an incredible year this has been! God blessed me with a multitude of opportunities and I tried to seize each one and live it to the hilt.
It's very cold outside this morning, and yesterday I awakened to a dusting of snow on the ground and my windshield to match it.
This past Sunday was a remarkable day at First Baptist, Alexandria, as our people gave a record offering for Kingdom causes locally and around the globe.
Martin Luther King used to say that whenever he passed a church on the street he would pause to look at the building and admire the architecture.
The most affordable and hassle-free way to go to New York City from here is by Megabus.
Sunday was a great day in almost every way! The weather was perfect, first of all.
My good friend, Joe McKeever, spent a night at our house this past week.
I began my first sermon as pastor here (Oct. 23, 2005) by recounting the hot air balloon ride that Audrey and I had taken the week before.
In our family we don't just celebrate a birthday - we celebrate birthday week. An entire 7 days of partying to honor the anniversary of the family member's birth.
In my interview with Dorothy Allport on Sunday (click on the sermon and you can hear it) she had very nice things to say about the pastoral staff at First Baptist.
Baku, the capital city of Azerbygian, is home to over 2 million people, almost all of them Muslim.
I often warn people about putting things in writing.
Later this week Dr. Frank Page will become the new President and Chief Executive Officer of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention.
I am reading Tony Blair's just-published memoir, A Journey: My Political Life (Random House, 2010), and thoroughly enjoying it.
While we were in Austria last month we toured many old churches dotting the mountainsides and villages of Carinthia.
Well, it's "Terrible Traffic Tuesday" in the DC metro area.
It has been a rather quiet summer for this pastor: preaching on Sundays and leading Bible studies on Wednesdays, hospital visits as necessary and folks in and out of the office or my home for encouragement.
If I don't have definite plans for how to spend a day off, I end up frittering it away and doing nothing memorable.
Mile per mile, Austria must be the most beautiful country in the world.
After two Sundays away on vacation it will be good to be back at church with you this coming weekend.
If Hollywood were to make a movie about your life, what songs would be included on the soundtrack?
The Pakistani religious leader, a Muslim, had a serious question.
Our son John Mark shocked us a couple of weeks ago when, over dinner together, he announced to Audrey and me that he was going to go sky-diving.
These are exciting days when our church is making an impact in the local community.
"But you're gonna have to serve somebody." - Bob Dylan
Last week-end I had several opportunities to spend time with friends, old and new, and came away from each encounter thankful to God for the moments He provided.
Several years ago I read Jimmy Carter's memoir, An Hour Before Daylight (Simon & Schuster, 2001).
Last week it was our privilege to have JC Mitchell as our houseguest.
The church at Philadelphia (Rev. 3:7-13) was smaller than the others but Jesus found nothing about them to criticize.
Out near the far edge of our large, west parking lot, there is a wrought-iron fence enclosing what appears to be a very old rock or tomb stone.
If our eyes could've been opened, we would have seen them.
Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) was the founder of the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits.
"There is no frigate like a book / to take us lands away." - Emily Dickinson
One of the first things we teach our children about crossing the street on their own is to be sure to look both ways before they venture into the busy intersection
First Baptist, Alexandria, was very busy this past week-end.
It was a quick but wonderful visit to Turkey last week.
A positive mental attitude is an essential thing to have in today's world.
It must have looked strange to our neighbors.
Gina Welch wanted to understand the phenomenon known as evangelical Christianity.
Late Sunday afternoon I went with our youth choir, Roger and Jeff, to the Bon Air Baptist Church in Arlington to help them with a community outreach event.
The Lyceum is Alexandria's historic lecture hall.
Our First Baptist Family is grieving this week over the death of one of our dearest members.
Game-Changer: A force of circumstance (can be a person or thing) that brings a radical shift in momentum for the issue at hand.
I have been enjoying highlights from the Vancouver Olympics each evening before bed.
Leadership is my subject this week-end as I team-teach with Bryan Jones an intensive course for Leland Seminary.
Another day, another massive snow storm. We're still digging ourselves out of the last blizzard, and now here comes another.
If you are just counting nickels and noses, this past Sunday was not a very good day for our church.
Audrey and I wept when we got the news that First Baptist folk had reached and exceeded our goal for the Lottie Moon offering on Sunday.
Jesus' parables usually had one main point to make, and the characters in them are not always to be held up as models of ethical behavior.
Friday night I was seated in a circle of men, all but one strangers to me.
This is the week for getting started right in 2010.
"Every moment of one's existence one is growing into more or retreating into less. One is always living a little more or dying a little bit." - Norman Mailer
This is the week! In just three days we will have our Christmas Eve services and then the big day itself on Friday.
Oh, how I wish we could keep this year's Living Christmas Tree going for at least another week!
Literally - I have what "Dr. Phil" Zapanta tells me is a good case of Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo.
A couple of weeks ago I was telling the First Baptist story to some out-of-town friends, and our building superintendent, Archie Doering, was in on the conversation.
The quickest, surest way for a Christian to enter into the presence of God is by lifting up His praises and giving Him thanks.
"Me and my Shadow, strolling down the avenue...all alone and feeling Blue."
We make eye contact at least twice every day, and usually many more times than that.
I am in Dallas, TX the first part of this week, attending a trustee meeting for Guidestone – the Annuity Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
This coming week-end is time change Sunday – the day we move our clocks one hour back.
We are talking about spiritual warfare for the next several weeks in the Sunday morning sermons (click the right side of your screen to hear the first in the series, “Be A True Believer”).
This past Sunday I had the privilege of returning to a church I served 30 years ago and preaching for their Homecoming Day.
Every Sunday our church bulletin is loaded with announcements, for guests and members, about activities and opportunities coming up for spiritual growth, service and fellowship.
It was a long hot summer – politically, anyway – and the Fall seems to promise more of the same, as temperatures rise over health care reform, bail-outs and foreign policy changes coming from the Obama administration.
Only 1 out of 3 churches in America today considers itself to be spiritually vital and alive, according to a soon-to-be published study out of Hartford Seminary’s Institute of Religious Research.
I jumped all over the fax machine when it first appeared years ago, and was not the last to discover the internet and e-mail back in the 90’s.
With the passing of Labor Day we have now come to the end of summer in Alexandria. Schools are opening up this morning, congress is back in session, and vacations are fond but distant memories.
A dear young friend of mine preached a “trial sermon” on Sunday at a large church in the Atlanta area.
The poet Billy Collins tells of sitting in the quiet, waiting for a small flame to appear at the point of his pencil.
We had a good and refreshing time of worship on Sunday morning. It’s the height of vacation season and still we had large crowds.
We have now arrived at what Rose Marie Berger calls “the sweetspot of summer”.
"When I am in California, I am not in the west. I am west of the west." —Theodore Roosevelt
Often in our worship services, after I read the sermon text but before I start to preach, I will pray these words from Psalm 19:14 –
One of the great privileges we Christians have is the opportunity to bear witness of our faith in Jesus Christ.
This is one of my favorite weeks of the years: Vacation Bible School at First Baptist.
Northern Virginia is the perfect place to live if you are somebody who loves history, government and politics. Like me.
That’s what was happening in Kentucky last week, as Southern Baptists converged on Louisville for our annual convention meeting.
The typical pastor is often a little “blue” on Monday – so much emotional and spiritual energy has been expended the day before that he feels drained and exhausted.
I was walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale”.
No week is really typical for me – every one is different. One of the things I love about my job is that my schedule is so unpredictable.
“You ask great questions,” she said. “You ought to be a professional interviewer.”
Dr. David Sloan was my eye doctor during the years in Danville. A deacon and substitute organist in our church, too. Plus a neighbor and friend.
Across two nights last week I read a very troubling book. Losing My Religion, by William Lobdell, is a memoir of one man’s journey from unbelief to faith in Christ, and then back to unbelief again.
Mother’s Day this year was beautiful and we had a really strong attendance, considering all the folks who were away visiting mom (At FBCA, people go home, they don’t come home).
Time magazine just arrived, and the current edition lists “The 100 Most Influential People” in today’s world.
I am in Newport News, VA., today preaching at the Spring meeting of the Peninsula Baptist Association.
I am still in a confessional mood coming off Sunday’s sermon and my comments about playing the board game, Monopoly.
Easter morning at First Baptist was all that we could’ve wanted it to be. A beautiful day, and a church alive with enthusiasm, joy and an air of Christ-centered celebration!
Last Thursday it was my privilege to speak to the faculty of the John Leland Center for Theological Studies – our local seminary.
On my nightstand right now is the new biography Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor by Brad Gooch.
One of the hundreds of things I love about our church is that we get to hear, sing and appreciate the entire gamut of Christian music.
Passion is a central ingredient in any successful activity, job or ministry.
Sunday morning as I was beginning a series of messages entitled “CSI”, a sister church one time zone away was becoming an actual crime scene.
The Houston Chronicle had these words on its obituary page –
We met Christina almost 25 years ago. We were young parents living in Orlando, and she was an au pair from Austria who worked for a wealthy family in neighboring Winter Park.
Just hours before we were to have voted last Sunday, John Copeland asked that his name be withdrawn from consideration to be our Pastor for Missions and Evangelism.
“Let us consider how we can spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” Hebrews 10:24
It was a super Sunday at First Baptist – more and more the typical sort of day for our church!
Announced by all the trumpets of the sky, Arrives the snow. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
It was our first-ever Inaugural Ball – the “Black Tie and Boots” Ball, held at the Gaylord Hotel at National Harbor on Monday – the night before the big day.
The inauguration of a new President next Tuesday has our city (and nation) caught up in a frenzy.
Exodus is the central story of the Old Testament. It’s all about the people of God being on a great journey.
It’s not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?
It is the most mystical and magical, wonderful time of the year: The day before “the night before Christmas”.
Last week’s Living Christmas Tree was everything we prayed that it would be, and more. “Awesome”, is how one of our young singles put it.
“This is a wonderful church for a child to grow up in”!
First Baptist Church of Alexandria has had a heart for missions ever since our founding back in 1803.
“Where are you going for Thanksgiving, Don”? has been the question I’ve been asked all week.
American voters spoke decisively two weeks ago and elected Barak Obama as the next President of the United States.
Whenever I am in Dallas, TX, I automatically start whistling the theme song from the 1980’s television drama set there.
I will be out of town next Tuesday and unable to go to the polls.
Catching my Breath These have been whirlwind days for me:
Last Saturday we were at Reagan Airport awaiting a flight on US Air. An announcement was made that within moments a plane would be arriving at the gate next to ours, bringing in World War II veterans, here to see the memorial.
Every day for a pastor is different from the one before. I never quite know when the morning dawns exactly what I’ll be doing before it’s all over, or where.
During our monthly deacons meetings this year, Chairman Ben Duffett has instituted an agenda item entitled “Five Minutes of Theology”,
JB and Lindsay are getting married in Texas in just a few weeks, and last night we had our final pre-marital counseling session – over dinner at our house.
Facebook is a social networking website that connects people within schools, communities and, increasingly, worldwide.
Well, it was a great kick-off to the new church year on Sunday! God gave us a beautiful day after Hanna’s remnants drenched our Saturday.
I have thoroughly enjoyed these “dog days” of summer, and especially the slower pace of August.
I went on a double date last night. The Schipper girls, Bonnie (age 10) and Erica (age 8) took me to the new Nationals stadium to see a ballgame.
The other night I watched a re-broadcast of Saturday’s political forum hosted by Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church, featuring presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama.
People who hear me preach on Sundays might assume that I am an expert on every issue that I address, and that I have completely mastered their practice.
Jack Kerouac wrote the classic testament to the “Beat Generation” with his book, On the Road (1957).
“As soon as you finish eating, Don, I want to take you to an historic spot you’ve heard of all your life – and you have no idea how close you are to it.”
We rejoice at all the good things happening at First Baptist right now.
We are in the midst of a great week of Vacation Bible School!
When Dr. Flamming was with us last month he reminded me of one of my favorite scriptures, Psalm 16:6
This week we celebrate American independence and give thanks to God for all the liberties that we enjoy as citizens of this nation.
I spent Saturday criss-crossing the city, dropping in on and catching our church people having great times of fun.
It was a thrilling and amazing Sunday that no one who was present will ever forget.
James T. Davidson, my father, died just six months after Audrey and I were married.
My schedule is really no busier than anyone else’s – our church is loaded with “type A’s” with lots to do.
Audrey and I have both been sick these last several days with bronchitis.
Our indoor church picnic was a huge success this past Sunday.
When someone asks me, “Are you ready”?, I reply: “I stay ready, so I don’t have to get that way.”
It has been a sad morning around First Baptist today, as word spreads about the death of 86 year old Doris Pittard.
It’s Spring in Alexandria, and once again I am enjoying the great outdoors.
Standing in the well of the cavernous Senate chamber, just below and to the side of the dais, I drank in the history of the place.
There’s a beautiful spot on the map where four states meet – Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania.
The Olympic torch is slowly winding its way through the city streets of the world, enroute to China for the summer games.
Over this past weekend it was my privilege to assist in a wedding at the beautiful Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in DC.
This Easter came earlier than any I have ever known or will ever see again, and it was the biggest and best one that I have ever experienced.
It is an act of humility and vulnerability for both of you. The one whose feet are being washed and the one doing the washing, too
My friend Joe McKeever sent me the most recent edition of the Ohio Baptist Messenger yesterday, with an attached note telling me to look at page 8.
I have always loved maps and world globes. Just come into my office and you’ll see.
In the spring of 1987, seven million American children suddenly vanished overnight!
Timothy Corder has served our church faithfully for the last 6 years. His life and ministry have left a lasting imprint on so many lives.
Today is the much anticipated “Potomac Primary” – the first time I can remember when Virginians have a real opportunity to have a voice in the nominating process.
Sunday really did turn out to be a super Sunday! We had our largest Bible Fellowship attendance (971) and AM worship attendance (1,074) of the new year – with a great spirit and attentiveness to God to match.
Things were a little “frosty” at our home over the weekend. And that’s not because of one-too-many shopping references to my wife in Sunday’s sermon.
Again this year I am trying to call each of our church members on their birthday. Just a greeting, a word of cheer, best wishes and a prayer for the days ahead.
Over the holidays a family in our church gave us a book as a present. Before we could get our Christmas decorations down and put away they started asking if we had read it and what did we think.
Yesterday was “D-Day” in Great Britain, according to an article in The Washington Post.
The year before us is going to be a challenging and exciting one. Faith-stretching, too.
The year 2007 was certainly one of the greatest of my life. Re-reading my journal this week, I am staggered by all the experiences and people that have been a part of my journey.
We criss-crossed the city yesterday afternoon and early evening, trying to attend as many Christmas parties as we could (we didn’t make them all).
Well, I am in the Christmas spirit now – how about you?
We had a wonderful Sunday and a fine beginning to our Lottie Moon Offering for International Missions.
If you want to see the passion of our church and feel it’s heartbeat, you must be present this coming Sunday, Dec. 2, for our “March for Missions” and parade of flags.
Every year, at the various awards shows on television, the recipients of Oscar, Grammy or Emmy rush to the platform to recite long lists of thanks.
Do yourself a favor and listen to Doug Carver’s sermon from Sunday night of Veteran’s Day.
The most interesting people in the world are regularly walking through our doors at First Baptist Church.
There is a fresh breeze blowing through our church during these days: an increasing harmony and deepening fellowship is part of it, spiritual renewal is most of it.
In his remarkable collection of thoughts, Markings, the late Dag Hammarskjold had this to say about the passing of time:
I love the Autumn Season – and this is one of my favorite weeks of all. The cooler air, the colored leaves. It was at this time of year that Audrey and I first met...
The sheep’s head staring up at me from my plate was presented to me as the Oxycal, or “gray beard”, the oldest person of honor at the table...