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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
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 5 days ago at Traveling in Place
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
While I am thoroughly disgusted at the lewd, salacious, filthy remarks made by Donald Trump 11 years ago and now revealed in a damning video, I am not surprised. I doubt anyone else is, either. Some might be surprised that he was ever caught on tape actually saying these things,... Continue reading
Posted Oct 8, 2016 at Traveling in Place
If only I had known this 30 years earlier… I was flipping through one of the many monthly mailings that come to our church. It’s a magazine about worship filled mostly with advertisements for companies peddling all sorts of worship-related “equipment,” from soundboards to digital screens to new sanctuary architecture.... Continue reading
Posted Sep 29, 2016 at Traveling in Place
The fall equinox brings a chill to the air. The leaves on the deciduous trees are just beginning their annual colorfest before falling to the ground to nourish the soil. I welcome the change of seasons, not only because I love autumn, but also because I’m weary of the season... Continue reading
Posted Sep 21, 2016 at Traveling in Place
A car commercial currently airing on TV features the voice of inventor Arthur Clarke from a 1964 recording. Accompanied by soothing music and fast-moving digital images, Clarke expresses unbounded optimism about the future. Acknowledging that it is beyond our current ability to understand, he offers this rosy assessment: “The only... Continue reading
Posted Aug 31, 2016 at Traveling in Place
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McKenzie Mountain is not one of the Adirondack High Peaks (those over 4,000 feet), but it’s close. Spreading above the western shore of Lake Placid, it features multiple peaks, the highest rising to 3861 feet. I’ve been curious about the McKenzie trail for a while, but also reticent to try... Continue reading
Posted Aug 25, 2016 at Traveling in Place
We’re only a little more than halfway through this summer of discontent. I wish it was over. The high humidity is one thing. The sweltering heat is another. The lack of rain has stressed all forms of vegetation except the hardiest weeds and leaves the soul as thirsty as the... Continue reading
Posted Aug 13, 2016 at Traveling in Place
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Yesterday, before the current heat wave began, I decided to take a long walk. I drove to the Blue Mountain trailhead in the Adirondacks. Instead of going up, as I’ve done several times already, I hiked down through the woods, along the perimeter of an area marked for logging, and... Continue reading
Posted Jul 21, 2016 at Traveling in Place
It’s as old as the story of Cain and Abel. In Genesis 4, Abel brought an offering to God from the “fruit of the ground,” and his brother Cain brought his own offering from the “firstlings of their flock, the fat portions.” The Lord looked favorably upon the offering of... Continue reading
Posted Jul 9, 2016 at Traveling in Place