Harry Stanhope’s Dream

September 2030.

Father Harold Stanhope removed the stole from around his neck—green, since September is Ordinary Time in the liturgical year—and laid it back on the shelf. Then he unfastened the rope cinch around his waist, took off his alb, and hung it on the rack next to the stole. After pouring himself a glass of cranberry juice over ice, he kicked off his shoes and settled into his favorite chair. It had been a good morning.

He had spent most of the past two hours standing—while preaching, celebrating Holy Communion, and greeting the people as they left the chapel following the service—and at age eighty-one, that was not as easy to do as it once was. Father Harry, as everybody called him, was tired, but he was also very happy. His ministry filled him with satisfaction and a deep sense of gratitude for the privilege of serving God in this place. Continue reading

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Between The Trapezes

One year ago my daughter and I were sitting at my kitchen table carving silly faces and other designs into pumpkins, which has become something of an annual ritual for our small family. As usual, our wide-ranging conversation touched on everything from health-care (she is a nurse) to religion (I am a recovering ex-clergyman).

At one point, the discussion centered on Cirque du Soleil. Some months earlier, thanks to a Christmas gift from our daughter, her mother and I had attended a concert by the Columbus Symphony Orchestra which featured a few members of the Cirque troupe performing their dazzling acts of aerial acrobatics while swinging from ropes and trapezes high above the stage. It was, to use an overworked word, breathtaking. Continue reading

How Do We Measure the Goodness of God?

Almost every day, one or more of my Facebook friends will post a status update reporting that something good that has happened to them—they got the job, or the test results came back negative, or a family member escaped injury in a serious accident. In most cases, these reports of good fortune include a reference to the goodness of God and an expression of thanks for the blessing of God’s favor.

I have to admit I am troubled by those posts. Oh, I’m happy for their good fortune. God knows there is too much bad news in the world. It’s always heartening to hear of conditions that are improving and circumstances that are not as serious as had been supposed. Good news is always welcome. Continue reading

The Arthur Book: Where Things Stand

The manuscript for the Arthur Lough biography—an autobiographical novel called The Long Road from Highland Springs: A Faith Odyssey—is complete and ready to be printed. I started writing last August and finished the first draft in January. In early February, I Writer at Work (1)submitted that draft to a professional editor for evaluation. Based on suggestions and recommendations from that evaluation, I spent two months revising and rewriting the manuscript. (The excerpts from chapter one that I published last winter as posts to this blog were drawn from the first draft and do not reflect the later re-write, which includes a prologue and new chapters not in the first draft.)

In May, I sent the unedited manuscript to five beta readers. All of them liked the book and encouraged me to publish it. In late May, I began exploring a variety of publishing options, most of which were companies that required me to pay for their services and assume all risks related to sales and marketing of the book. During that process, I consulted a well-known writer who has published several titles using a variety of methods (trade publishers, self-publishers, etc.). In the course of our communications, he advised me to hire a professional copyeditor no matter which method of publishing I ultimately chose. Continue reading

Reflections On A Barren Soul

Over the past couple of days, after I acknowledged how close I have come to being completely overwhelmed by my circumstances and called on my friends to voice a prayer in my behalf, many have responded with a brief word of assurance that they are doing just that. I am so grateful.

Some have offered words of counsel and a few have suggested a specific pattern of behavior designed, I assume, to encourage me to take proactive steps to extract myself from this “slough of despond.” I truly believe that all this counsel and all these suggestions emerge out of the purest of motives and are shared by people of integrity and compassion. Again, I am grateful. Continue reading

Help My Unbelief

I was twenty-eight, serving as pastor of a small, rural congregation in upstate New York, about 40 miles southeast of Buffalo. I had preached a dozen or more funerals by that time in my ministry, but I had never lost anyone really close to me. Then on a snowy Monday night in January, the phone rang, and I learned that one of the elders in my church, a man who, in less than a year, had become as dear to me as any member of my own family, had been killed in an automobile crash. It was the first time in my life I had ever felt the exquisite pain of grief so intense I could barely breathe. The anguish I felt was almost physical. My heart ached, but though my faith faltered, ultimately I did not lose hope. Continue reading

Forty Years And Counting

This coming Sunday, May 12, 2013, my wife and I will celebrate our fortieth wedding anniversary. If you were to ask me to identify the single most significant evidence of God’s unfailing care and concern for me as a Christ-follower and a minister of the gospel overFortieth Anniversary the past four decades, I would answer, without hesitation: “Three words—Shirley Lorraine Clairmont.”

That may not be the most romantic paragraph with which I could have begun a post in which I reflect on forty years of marriage, but it gets to the heart of the matter as pointedly as I know how. I have devoted my life to the service of Christ and His Kingdom. Forty years ago, Shirley joined me in that endeavor. It has been a team effort since then. She has been my greatest asset in all these years of ministry, and I am grateful to God for His faithfulness in bringing her into my life.

Continue reading