Two Christmas Eves

Three shepherd yard decorations under the Star of David

Three shepherd yard decorations under the Star of David

This Christmas I went to two Christmas Eve services.

In two different cities.

In two different states.

Held by two different denominations.

On two different days!

I know…how could I attend two different Christmas Eve services on two different days?

The first service in Kansas City was held on Tuesday, December 23rd.  I attended with my daughter and grandchildren.

They worship at the downtown campus of the Church of the Resurrection—a  Leawood, Kansas Methodist Church.  Held in a large former bar, the crowd filled every available space on two floors.  So many people attend that they had to schedule Christmas Eve services on multiple days!

The service was led by the local campus pastor, staff, and musicians. It largely consisted of Scripture lessons and carols sung by the congregation. The sermon focused on the coming of the Light of Jesus into the world’s Darkness.

As one example of extending Christ’s light in today’s world, the pastor showed a clip from a recent CBS Sunday Morning program that told the story of a wealthy Kansas City Secret Santa who “deputized” the local sheriff’s department to assist him in distributing cash to unsuspecting recipients through random acts of kindness. Here was a true Christmas story! (To see this short, heart-warming clip, go to YouTube and search for Secret Santa Saves Christmas and CBS Sunday Morning.)

After church the four of us continued a family Christmas tradition by going to Starbucks and then driving around neighborhoods enjoying many houses decorated with Christmas lights.

It was great spending this time with Elizabeth, Katarina and Benjamin!

(Left to Right) Benjamin, Elizabeth, and Katarina at Resurrection Church, Kansas City, Missouri on Tuesday, December 23, 2014

(Left to Right) Benjamin, Elizabeth, and Katarina at Resurrection Church, Kansas City, Missouri on Tuesday, December 23, 2014

On Wednesday, December 24th—true Christmas Eve—I flew from Kansas City to Atlanta and then drove to Birmingham arriving in time to attend a service with Sheryl at her church—Vestavia Hills Baptist.

The service—filled with carols, Christmas meditations, communion, and music from the bell choir—included a homily by the pastor on how the Christmas season reminds us of the importance of using imagination. I recalled once again that the biblical story tells how utterly amazed the shepherds were when they received word of Jesus’ birth. The news they received that night was truly startling and life-changing. It could have only been received by people who imagined the possibility of a completely new future.

He reminded us of a verse of Scripture that Sheryl and I have cited many times along our journey. It states that God is “able to do far more than all we can ask for or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).

Like the night before in Kansas City, after the service Sheryl and I had our own “light date.”  She introduced me to one of her favorite yard decorations which depicts three shepherds viewing a lighted Star of David with a manger below. (See picture above.)  We recalled her pastor’s meditation on Ephesians 3:20 and the shepherd’s response.

It was wonderful spending the evening with Sheryl!

My hope is that your Christmas was filled

with light that comes

from familiar stories,

family traditions,

the love of family and friends,

and the hope of a new year filled with imagined possibilities.

Mine was.

Sheryl Churchill and Wally Buckner at Vestavia Hills Baptist Church, Birmingham, Alabama on Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Sheryl Churchill and Wally Buckner at Vestavia Hills Baptist Church, Birmingham, Alabama on Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Banking Family Memories

"Little Thrifty" Hummel Figurine

“Little Thrifty” Hummel Figurine

Many of you know that I’m an inveterate archiver of all kinds of family documents, photographs and memorabilia. I have my grandparents’ ration booklets from the 1940’s. I have photographs of more than one set of great-great-great-grandparents. I have toys my father played with in the 1920s.

All of these items are in folders filed in plastic bins in my garage.  My computer database helps me easily find an item’s location and retrieve it.

This weekend I discovered some family memorabilia I didn’t even know I had.

I spent some time moving my Hummel figurine collection. That’s when I picked up a Goebel bank called “Little Thrifty.”  When I moved it I heard a small rattle from inside. The rattle was too small to be coins so I turned the bank upside down and shook it.  That’s when a baby tooth fell out…and then another…and then another…until there was a total of four.  These were the first baby teeth that Elizabeth “lost.”  Lynda had ‘banked’ them away (i.e. archived them) in her own way by depositing them in “Little Thrifty.”

Elizabeth's first baby teeth

Elizabeth’s first baby teeth

The apostle Paul wrote—When I was a child, I spoke like a child, thought like a child, and reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up my childish ways (1 Corinthians 13:11 NIV).

Elizabeth certainly outgrew her childhood and gave up her childish ways becoming a fine woman and mother. But Lynda knew that one day we would want to remember this part of Elizabeth’s childhood so she ‘banked’ these tiny memories away for the future.

On Monday I’m flying to Kansas City to spend a few days with Elizabeth and my grandchildren. “Little Thrifty” and it’s treasure will be traveling with me.

Merry Christmas and hoping you find some ‘banked’ treasures this season as we celebrate the birth of God’s Son!

A Memorium to Lynda at All Saints’

Lynda;s Memorial Flowers

Lynda;s Memorial Flowers December 14, 2014 at All Saints’ Episcopal Church

Today brings to a closure this season of special remembrance of Lynda.  Friday, December 12, 2014 was the first anniversary of her death.  This morning she was honored with flowers on the altar at our church, All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Atlanta.

For the past few blogs you have joined me in remembering her through photos and words about her life.  Her memory will live on through the relationships she had with our daughter, Elizabeth, each of our grandchildren, Katarina and Benjamin, her mother, Margie Whitaker, her brother, Rob Whitaker, her colleagues, and extended family and friends.

Thank you for your prayers during her bout with cancer and throughout this year.  I am grateful.

Now, as she would say to you, “Have a very merry Christmas!”

Lynda and Elizabeth

In recent days, I have posted essays and photos focusing on Lynda and her grandchildren…Katarina and Benjamin.  It’s time now, to focus on Lynda and our daughter, Elizabeth.

Elizabeth was born in our sixth year of marriage.  We, of course, were thrilled with her upcoming birth—as were our parents.

Here are three favorite photos of Elizabeth and her mother from different stages in Elizabeth’s life—as a young girl, as a near-teenager, and as a young adult.

Easter Sunday 1979

Easter Sunday 1979

This photo was taken at our home in Lubbock, Texas.  The glass basket of Easter eggs helps me date the photo (April 15, 1979).  I love Elizabeth’s quizzical expression and Lynda’s “teaching posture”…the holding of hands.  Though I don’t recall—because of the chocolate eggs—my guess is that Lynda is “explaining” the Easter bunny.  This is a special Buckner Family Photo…and I hope it’s special to you too.


On the Seattle Ferry

On the Seattle Ferry, March 1986

During spring break in 1986, Lynda, Elizabeth and I went to the Pacific Northwest.  We rode inter-tubes down Mount Rainier…we hiked in a rain forrest in the Olympic Mountains…we visited with friends…and we rode the ferry from Seattle to Victoria, Canada.  This photo is a favorite because of its composition.  Lynda and Elizabeth show the comfortable, relaxed fun we all were having.  It was a special moment on a very special trip.


At a Mary Kay Cosmetics Convention in Dallas, Texas

At a Mary Kay Cosmetics Convention in Dallas, Texas (July 2003)

In the summer of 2003, we joined Elizabeth and several of her team members at the Mary Kay Convention in Dallas.  Here you see our grown up daughter and her mother…both dressed up for a party banquet.  My recollection of the event was the enjoyment Lynda had being with Elizabeth and her friends.

There you have it…three slices of Elizabeth’s life with her mother.  She continues to make me quite proud.

We both miss Lynda (especially this week). There’ll be at least one more posting about Lynda in a few days.  On Sunday the flowers at our church in Atlanta will be placed upon the altar in her honor.  I’ll post a photo.

Thank you for your long time friendship, love, and prayers for all the Buckners (current and future).

A Pilgrimmage to Kenyon College

The Middle Path at Kenyon College (with my shadow!)

The Middle Path at Kenyon College (with my shadow!)

Thirty years ago I was an avid reader of the daily newspaper THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR.  In 1986, I read an interview with the phenomenal southern author Eudora Welty.  At the end of the interview, she was asked what she had been reading lately.  “I’m reading for a second time Peter Taylor’s new novel A Summons to Memphis,” she replied.

I thought that if Miss Welty would read this novel twice, I could at least read it once.

A couple of days later, I found myself in Elder’s Bookshop in Nashville talking with Mr. Elder’s grandson about Peter Taylor.  The grandson had heard a reading Taylor had given earlier at nearby Vanderbilt University.  “Would you like a first edition of Summons?” he asked.

I had never considered first editions…but that day started me on what has become a passion for collecting (often) signed first editions by largely southern authors.  Summons, in fact, won the 1986 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

Since then, I’ve collected all of Taylor’s work, met him once, and become familiar with his life.

Me at Kenyon College

Me at Kenyon College

Around 1940 he began teaching writing at his alma mater Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio before teaching at Ohio State University and the University of Virginia.  Kenyon is an outstanding liberal arts college of 1,600 students and 200 faculty.  It’s campus is beautiful.

This Thanksgiving I found myself in Ohio for only the second time in my life when Sheryl and I completed the third leg of our 2014 Friends and Family Tour.  This time we were visiting her brother’s family in Columbus.  Our visit was memorable and included a combined wedding shower and birthday party for Sheryl (given by Sheryl’s nieces), visits to Lewis and Clark sites in Louisville…and a pilgrimage to Kenyon College and the beautiful surrounding Amish countryside nearby.

On our trip I not only got to meet new family members but also got to remember Eudora Welty and Peter Taylor…and their stories!

Hope you had a good Thanksgiving.  I did.

Lynda Having Fun with Benjamin

"Here Comes the Ball"

“Here Comes the Ball”


During Spring Break in 2007, Lynda and I went to Kansas City to see “the kids.”

Her time with Benjamin that trip is memorable.

Lynda recognized that active play was what Benjamin would enjoy.  Her encouraging this kind of play surely helped him to explore how things work.  Today he enjoys his Legos and can create most anything in a short amount of time.

Drawing on the same skills she used in the classroom, she looked for available things with which to engage Benjamin in play. Her choice one day was a cardboard tube and a Whiffle ball.

The ball fit nicely into the tube. They played “where’s the ball” for a long time. She’d put the ball in one end of the tube and roll it down to Benjamin.

His expressions tell the tale. I’d love to be able to play the audio of this play session. His shrieks were marvelous!


"Here It Comes"

“Watch Out…Here It Comes Again!”


These are favorite pictures of mine. They conjure up good memories of the moments Lynda spent interacting with Ben.

Benjamin turns ten in January! He’s very special and I’m quite proud of him.


Ben in 2014

Ben in 2014

Teacher as Babysitter


Lynda and Katarina

Lynda and Katarina


In recent days, I have had the need and opportunity to review many of the thousands of digital photos I have on my computer. That’s when I ran across this one.

If a picture tells a thousand words, then this one tells several thousand.

Lynda was always a multi-tasker. She never sat down just to watch television. She preferred working on lesson plans, grading papers or crocheting a baby afghans while listening to the television.

In this photo, she’s also multi-tasking.

She’s grading math papers…and caring for our less-than-two-year-old granddaughter, Katarina. Even though we lived more than 800 miles apart, Lynda made certain that every minute counted…even enlisting Katarina’s help on grading papers.

Note the concentration both have on the student’s math paper.

The photo shows the care that Lynda gave to both her teaching responsibilities and her role as grandmother

I love looking at this photo…and hope you do too.

Here’s Katarina a couple of months ago.

Katarina (2014)

Katarina (2014)


Next:  Lynda and Benjamin

The Season is Upon Us!

The rear of the sanctuary at St. Philips Episcopal Church

The rear of the sanctuary at St. Philips Episcopal Church


On Saturday, I went to the bookstore at St. Philip’s Episcopal Cathedral to pick up a couple of items. The Cathedral was hosting some sort of fall festival…many vendors selling crafts, clothing, and food.

After doing my shopping, I made my way through the large crowd to the cathedral’s sanctuary where it was quiet and I could sit alone. I spent time reflecting on the things for which I am most thankful.

It’s time, you know, when many in our culture do this kind of reflection for part of one day before going out early the next day to “shop until they drop.” My quiet reflections served as an antidote for this kind of behavior of our larger culture.

Not surprisingly, my reflections focused on four subject groupings for which I am very grateful this year.


Partially because we are approaching the anniversary of her death date, I thought about Lynda and our 43 years of marriage. I am grateful for her love, her hard work teaching school, and her creativity. I know I wouldn’t be a member of All Saints’ Episcopal Church without Lynda helping to lead the way. So as I sat in Atlanta’s Episcopal cathedral on Saturday. I thought of her.

I also reflected on our daughter. Elizabeth has thrilled me all of her life. Always a terrific student, she continues her excellence today in her seminary classes. Her professors send messages (that get passed on to me). I am proud! Read her blog at and you’ll see what I mean. She’s even better being a mother than she is as a student.

I’m also proud of my grandchildren. It’s hard to believe that in a couple of months, they will turn twelve (Katarina) and ten (Benjamin). Both are good students and outstanding citizens. I know you know many other proud grandparents. I want you to know that, when thinking of this grandfather, you can count me within this group.

I also thought of my parents (Wayne and LaVerne Buckner) and my grandparents (Wyman and Maude Buckner and Carl and Nina Lea Travis). They taught my parents about the values that I try to emulate in my family. I am fortunate to have known all four and spend much of my childhood, youth and young adulthood with them,

I am largely who I am today, because of this group of people. I am very grateful.


I’m convinced that there is no person that I know of that has a group of friends as terrific as I do.

My Atlanta group of school teachers, Home Mission Board colleagues, and All Saints’ members have kept me in their lives and hearts for many, many months.

Add to that a new group of friends residing in Birmingham and you can see why I am beaming. Sheryl and I have greatly enjoyed introducing each other to “our friends.” Both among her WMU colleagues and her church congregation (Vestavia Hills Baptist) I’ve listen to many friends congratulate her upon our upcoming wedding. But they don’t stop there. They continue to tell her how very much she is loved by them. It makes me very proud…and I concur with their assessment of her.


Since the middle of September, Sheryl and I have traveled more than 5,000 miles with trips to her sister in Texas and my daughter in Missouri.

We both have loved this fall season. The late-afternoon light on the color-filled trees has often left me speechless.

The Texas landscape…the Missouri farmland…and Kentucky’s Land Between the Lakes…all reflect a unique view of our natural world and taken my breath away.

I’m grateful to have visited so much of America’s Heartland this fall.


If you and I have talked about my own grief process since Lynda’s death, you would have heard me speak frequently about the role that great music played in helping me “cross to safety.”

My iPhone is filled with music that I listen to each night before going to sleep. Among favorites, are Il Trutina (a soprano solo in George Orff’s Carmina Burana) and Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto. If you haven’t heard these recently, treat yourself to these classics.

This fall I’ve also been deeply moved by concerts by the Alabama Symphony Chorus and the Birmingham Chamber Singers. The latter group sang Dan Forrest’s relatively new Requiem for the Living. (see earlier blog). This work has become my current “favorite choral work.” Look on YouTube for it being performed by the Raleigh. North Carolina group, Bel Canto. You’ll love it!

There’s something about great music (even when done by rock and roll performers!) that touch my heart…so today I give thanks for the creativity of all the composers and performers who have greatly helped me through this grief process.

There you have it…the four BIG things that I’m very thankful for this Thanksgiving. I know there are others, (including YOU, reader) but these came easily to my mind during my quiet reflection at St. Philip’s.

What are you especially thankful for this year?


I’m working on a blogs about Lynda and her grandchildren.

I have a terrific photo of the “teacher Lynda” with Katarina. Look for it and some comments later this week.

And if possible, I’ll also do another one later in the week that features Benjamin.

Travel is in the cards for next week as Sheryl and I travel to her brother’s in Columbus, Ohio where we will celebrate Thanksgiving Day with his family.

I’ll get to meet not only her brother and his wife, but also their three daughters and their families. I’m sure you’ll get a blog about some of the happenings.

Have a terrific day!


During Lynda’s teaching tenure at Pleasantdale Elementary, Lynda composed a weekly newsletter that her students took home to their parents.  It summarized the week’s activities and alerted the parents to upcoming events.

Here’s one from thirteen years ago!

You’ll be reminded of what a terrific teacher Lynda was…and how she loved her students.

Weekly Words Nov 2001 Pg 1

Weekly Words Nov 2001 Pg 1


Weekly Words Nov 2001

Weekly Words Nov 2001 Pg. 2