Those of you who know me, know that I am not big on remembering birthdays or anniversaries – I did not remember Judy and my anniversary for the first several years and few since. Family members have tried to help but that did not work. I am a rabid calendarizing and my Apple Calendar even alerts me, and I still fall way short.
This the Two Hundred Twentieth Year of the Lord – 2020. I remember years ago being around a lot of proclamation by government officials that often stated the date and the 24th day of December in the Two Hundred Twentieth Year of the Lord. That was so much fun to hear and read. Now do not blow up my email, I know that this is not the Two Hundredth and Twentieth Day of the Lord in terms of the calendar. Nonetheless, it still sounds awesome.
Back to my story. December 24, 2020 is a pretty significant milestone in the life of Mark W Douglas. For on this day in the distance past of 1960, a red-haired blue-eyed baby boy entered this world. Yep, December 24 is my 60th birthday. 60 years ago, Mary Jane Myers Douglas was at Charleston General Hospital in Charleston WV. I would love to say that Glenn Marshall Douglas was by her side but in those ancient days, things were much different in the delivery room. Into the able hands of Dr. Lovejoy did I arrive. Every time I read that name on my birth certificate, I can only think about those old radios DJ’s (real people in real time over the radio airways) with that deep dark slow radio voice in the middle of the night (much like Venus Flytrap – WKRP in Cincinnati or Wolfman Jack) in that voice introduce himself as DRRRRRRR LOOVVEEJJOOYY. As far as I know that deep dark radio voice pronounced to my parents a child is born and what shall you call him. So, on that day (the 24th day of December in the Two Hundred Twentieth Day of the Lord) 60 years ago I became known as Mark Warren Douglas.
The story goes that my mother wanted a red-haired blue-eyed baby boy born on Christmas Day. Well for those who know me one of my favorite sayings is “TO BE EARLY IS TO BE ON TIME, TO BE ON TIME IS TO BE LATE.” Yep, December 24, 1960 I decided to take heed the words that have become my life’s motto in terms of schedules. Much to my loving wife’s and my two loving daughter chagrin, I still live by that motto. Just ask them when we got ready to go somewhere! That is for another day.
Back to the present. Who would have thought that on December 24, 2020 most of us would spend our days in isolation and self-quarantine watching Netflix / Apple TV / Amazon Prime / Hulu or whatever Steaming service we use (notice I did not say TV – TV is so 1960).
For me December 24 holds significance for me. I am tired not of the last 60 years but the last 21- months. Judy and I packed up a house in Zanesville OH, shuttered a business (Mark W Douglas LLC), and headed for the Centennial State – COLORADO to answer the Lord’s call to pastor a church that had been hurt by the previous pastor. We knew it was going to be a challenge, but the Lord called us to Pueblo CO. As with any system that has been traumatized there are two things that will happen. Healing and growth after the trauma or so much pain and anguish that the system closes in on itself. The latter was what I ended up Pastoring into. The final pain of that trauma was the closing of the church in August 2020. Yep, in the middle of a pandemic the likes of which we have not seen before (reference is made to similarities with the Spanish Flu – but that was a different era). That closing was filled with angst by the remanent and me. We left the comfort of Ohio, what the heck did the Lord have in mind bringing me here, after all I am 60 years young.
As I write this I am reminded that my life has always been filled with living into challenging times and situations. I have been a traditional church pastor, a cell model church planter, a house church planter, a interim pastor who came into volatile church situations to steady the ship and lead to what is next. I started a business to provide for the family as I lived into the pastoral situations. I attended seminary and commuted from Columbus OH to Chicagoland once and sometimes twice a week. I offered words at the death of a sister, grandmother and a mother-in-law (and countless other souls). I faced shoulder surgery, back surgery, and emergency gall bladder surgery on an Easter morning.
These and so many other situations and challenges the Lord has led me into and through. 2020 is no different. By the way, I am in the company of those Saints of old – people like Moses, Abraham, Job, and there are many more. While they stand head and shoulders above me, nonetheless, I stand in their shadows.
So on the convergence of December 24 and December 25, I am tired, weary, and weak. But I am not defeated, I am not broken, I am not done. For December 25 is that day that reminds me and us of hope, love, joy, and peace. We remember that Jesus entered into the mess of this world. He has been with me in the mess of the last 60 years. He is leading us in the mess know as 2020 and beyond.
Do not grow weary, do not grow faint, stay the course. The Kingdom of God is here and now. Yes, this in the Two Hundred Twentieth year of the Lord. The beauty of my day of convergence is that the Lord has been with us from the moment the universe was breathed into existence to the moment that the new heaven and earth is made fully real. As Mary said, I am the Lord’s servant. I too, say those words with the same passion as Mary, I am the Lord’s Servant.
In the immortal words of the philosopher / theologian known to many as Jean-Luc Picard – “MAKE IT SO”.