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J. Mark Lawson
Liverpool, New York
Pastor, United Church of Christ in Bayberry, Adjunct Professor of Religious Studies, LeMoyne College
Interests: Hiking and photography in the Adirondack mountains, American history. The images in the banner are pictures I've taken while hiking.
Recent Activity
(See update at the end of this post. - JML) While attention is focused on the Senate healthcare debate and Don Jr.’s e-mails with Russians, a largely unnoticed bill is wending its way through the legislative process that needs some serious public vetting. It is scheduled for a vote in... Continue reading
Posted Jul 14, 2017 at Traveling in Place
The long Independence Day weekend has begun – with more rain. While the weather forecast is for a bright, sunny July 4, the cloudy, wet conditions seem more appropriate. As I’ve listened to parishioners talk about the state of the nation, I’ve noticed one emotion overtaking all others. Earlier in... Continue reading
Posted Jul 1, 2017 at Traveling in Place
The violence continues. Today, a disgruntled political activist committed an act of terrorism by opening fire on a baseball practice attended by several Republican members of Congress. Forty to fifty shots rang out. The incident could have been far worse. No one was killed. Five people were injured, one critically.... Continue reading
Posted Jun 14, 2017 at Traveling in Place
I never thought this would happen to me. I’ve become – wait for it – a “birder.” Spotting birds, identifying them by their plumage, and learning their calls has never held much interest for me until this year. Back in March, I posted about all the birds we were attracting... Continue reading
Posted Jun 9, 2017 at Traveling in Place
Last February, I gave a talk at the Spiritual Renewal Center in Syracuse entitled, “Human Suffering and the God of Love.” I told a friend that it was probably the most complete theological statement I have ever made in one evening (which will either reflect well or poorly on me).... Continue reading
Posted Jun 1, 2017 at Traveling in Place
As if we don’t have enough breaking news to keep up with, Montana Republican Congressional candidate Greg Gianforte has now been cited by the Gallatin County sheriff for misdemeanor assault against a reporter. An audio recording and eyewitness accounts confirm that, on Wednesday, Gianforte became angry with The Guardian reporter... Continue reading
Posted May 25, 2017 at Traveling in Place
Do you remember those “compare and contrast” essays you were assigned in school? Today’s news presents us with a subject that is crying out for just such an exercise. President Donald Trump meets Pope Francis. Both men are masters at using the media to their advantage. Both of them tend... Continue reading
Posted May 24, 2017 at Traveling in Place
The sound defeat of Marine Le Pen and the French National Front Party on Sunday was an important affirmation of the European Union and the 62-year-old Western effort to avert any more world wars. Belgium, Austria, and now France have all rejected the nationalist wave that has threatened to sweep... Continue reading
Posted May 9, 2017 at Traveling in Place
As a growing number of Americans drop out of organized religion (25% now say they do not affiliate with any form of it), American society becomes meaner and less civil. That shouldn’t surprise anybody, but in a roundabout way, it does. For a half century, our nation has been embroiled... Continue reading
Posted Apr 22, 2017 at Traveling in Place
It isn’t often that the timing of Easter and the coming of spring cooperate as nicely as they have this year (at least around here). Buds appeared on the trees a little earlier than usual, but waited until Easter week to pop out into leaves. Now, green is rapidly replacing... Continue reading
Posted Apr 19, 2017 at Traveling in Place
The Associated Press is reporting that the firearms industry is in sharp decline. Gun manufacturers are laying off factory employees as demand for guns at the retail level plummets. While an advocate of gun control was in the White House, gun sales increased 362 percent. Now that a strong supporter... Continue reading
Posted Apr 4, 2017 at Traveling in Place
President Trump just got some mail – a letter sent to him by 100 prominent Christian leaders. The signatories include Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Catholic archbishop of New York; Leith Anderson, president of the National Evangelical Association; Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity; Craig Barnes, President of Princeton Theological Seminary;... Continue reading
Posted Mar 17, 2017 at Traveling in Place
One day last month, my furnace needed some work. When I called to make an appointment for the repair, I was given a window of time when I could expect the service person to arrive, with a promise that he would call when he was on the way to my... Continue reading
Posted Feb 27, 2017 at Traveling in Place
Joel Tooley is pastor of First Church of the Nazarene in Melbourne, Florida, a mainstream conservative evangelical congregation thriving in a growing area of the Bible belt. Like most other evangelicals, he voted for Donald Trump. When he heard that Trump was flying in to his hometown for a political... Continue reading
Posted Feb 25, 2017 at Traveling in Place
Yesterday, I hiked in snowshoes for the first time in two years. Last year’s tepid winter never gave me a chance. Even in the Adirondack High Peaks, the snow never reached much depth, and in the few stretches when it did, warm air came to melt it away before I... Continue reading
Posted Feb 18, 2017 at Traveling in Place
When I heard about President Trump’s typically a-typical speech at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, I wondered how his audience of dignitaries and mostly conservative religious leaders received him. Did they think he was funny? Did they regard his unrehearsed, stream-of-consciousness ramblings as refreshing? Was anybody offended that he... Continue reading
Posted Feb 4, 2017 at Traveling in Place
During last Sunday’s sermon, I briefly related the story of Maria Skobtsova, a deeply committed Christian and political dissident who fled Russia soon after the Socialist Revolution. She eventually settled with her family in Paris, where she set up hospitality houses to aid the poor and give refuge to other... Continue reading
Posted Feb 1, 2017 at Traveling in Place
If Christian preaching is going to be effective, it has to be relevant. That is, it needs to connect to people’s lives so that it leads to greater self-awareness, spiritual enlightenment, a change in perspective, altered behavior, or even a resolve to take up new responsibility. But most preachers have... Continue reading
Posted Jan 14, 2017 at Traveling in Place
This week, I became reacquainted with a particular sadness – one that I had forgotten about until it presented itself again from my store of memories. I first felt it when I was a child, maybe ten years old. Tucked into bed and trying to get to sleep, I could... Continue reading
Posted Dec 30, 2016 at Traveling in Place
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may have just succeeded in distinguishing himself as the single most murderous thug alive. The complete and total destruction of Aleppo, a stronghold of rebel forces resisting Assad’s genocidal leadership, will go down as one of the darkest moments in the modern history of the Middle... Continue reading
Posted Dec 16, 2016 at Traveling in Place
Late last week, I visited a local shopping mall. I passed one of those places marked off with candy cane poles where kids sit on Santa’s lap, tell him what they want for Christmas, and then get their pictures made. A young mother and father had brought their toddler, who... Continue reading
Posted Dec 5, 2016 at Traveling in Place
Two weeks out from the election, it is painfully clear that we live in an age of acute anxiety. A historically polarizing presidential campaign has revealed divisions so deep it is hard to see how we are truly one nation – let alone one “under God.” In the last two... Continue reading
Posted Nov 22, 2016 at Traveling in Place
However you voted, you have to feel like you woke up in a different world this morning. A brash outsider who has never held political office is now the president-elect of the world’s oldest democracy. A real estate mogul who is currently engaged in over 300 lawsuits, many of which... Continue reading
Posted Nov 9, 2016 at Traveling in Place
I don’t remember whether I was watching a news program being broadcast outside in front of a crowd of people, or a sports show set on a college campus where a marquis football matchup was slated for later in the day. What I remember is a sign somebody was holding... Continue reading
Posted Oct 28, 2016 at Traveling in Place
A couple of weeks ago, I journeyed to Silver Bay on Lake George for a private spiritual retreat. It took me awhile to settle down and get into it. I was feeling restless and lonely. But then, through a serendipitous occurrence (that prefer to keep private), I was drawn to... Continue reading
Posted Oct 14, 2016 at Traveling in Place