During the month of October, I have taken up the challenge to publish a blog post every day. I have worked hard to avoid a negative or critical tone in what I have written. True, I did defend the role of the critic, especially when it is clear that the focus of criticism—as, for example, the church—is so clearly an object of the critic’s love and affection.
Still, knowing my tendency to embrace the critic’s task with excessive enthusiasm from time to time, I have tried to make my posts this month as positive and informative as possible. Only my readers can judge my success in that endeavor. Continue reading →
Speaking of Reformation, what if pastors, priests, and other pastoral leaders,
instead of functioning like…
expounders of truth and wisdom
entrepreneurial spirits who view their role in the life of the church as CEO in a business enterprise
saw themselves as…
recipients of grace and mercy
chastened and teachable spirits who view their role as an example of those who have suffered loss because they had the courage to change, and through it all clung to faith, maintained hope, and lifted up Jesus.
In the spring of 2008, I experienced the onset of a disorder for which I was totally unprepared. The symptoms reached maximum severity during the first year. After that, the intensity subsided, but the symptoms have persisted. While uncomfortable and discouraging, they are not, so far, totally debilitating.
The disorder, which seems to be on the rise among people (especially men) of a certain age (55-64) is commonly known as IPR—Involuntary Premature Retirement. I have pursued several avenues of treatment, and while their effectiveness has varied, none has resulted in total eradication of my symptoms. With each passing month, the possibility of full remission becomes more and more unlikely. Continue reading →
Most people, including religious leaders, follow a course most suitable to their natural interests and inclinations. That is the path of least resistance where the surroundings are familiar and comfortable. A skilled leader can even make the pursuit of comfort, familiarity, and security sound noble while the path of suffering and sacrifice seems unreasonable, irresponsible, or possibly evil.
During his lifetime, Jesus was never popular with religious leaders. He was too honest, too self-sacrificing. He didn’t play the angles for his own benefit. And he loved being with people who could not enhance his social standing.
Instead of wringing our hands over the waning influence of religion in our culture, we should be looking for leaders like that. Show me a leader who cares more for the kingdom than for his or her personal interests and agenda, and I’ll show you fertile soil for religious renewal.
In the twilight of my life, I look for leaders whose principles have cost them something. I look for teachers and guides who have sacrificed comfort and security in the service of conscience and conviction. Not every leader suffers loss as a consequence of faithfulness. Only the great ones.
Four times over the past couple of weeks, someone responding to something I posted on Facebook referred to me as a leader. Each time the term was preceded by an adjective. Twice I was called a Christian leader, once a church leader, and once a spiritual leader. Three out of the four references commended me for my role and service as a leader. The fourth was more along the lines of “You call yourself a leader and still write the stuff you do?”. Continue reading →
Soren Kierkegaard once said that being subjected to verbal criticism on a regular basis—what he called the martyrdom of ridicule—is much like being trampled to death by geese. Nobody enjoys being skewered for what he or she believes. To avoid that consequence, it is often easier to dig in one’s heels and defend the status quo than to admit that experience has resulted in a change of mind or opinion.
And yet, the older I get, the more certain I become about one matter. Nothing is as simple as it seems. Everything is more complex, more nuanced, and composed of more layers of meaning than I had previously imagined. Continue reading →
Podcast No. 16 is now available. It is called “Where Renewal Begins,” and it is around 8 minutes long. To download it as an mp3 file, click here. To listen to the podcast now, click on the button below. This podcast is also archived on the “Podcasts” page of this blog. Thanks for listening.
Almost nobody would describe Arthur Lough as impulsive. Thoughtful, yes; careful, yes; sometimes almost maddeningly thorough. But surely not impulsive. Except, that is, for his mildly annoying propensity to act on impulse when it comes to placing a telephone call at the moment a noteworthy thought crosses his mind, irrespective of the time of day (or night).
If my phone rings at 6:00 a.m. or while I am eating dinner or at 11:00 p.m., it is usually Arthur, calling to share something he has just read or seen on TV which has provoked him or stirred up his thought processes. Most of the time, the subject matter proves interesting enough to overcome the mild irritation of being interrupted at an inconvenient moment.
And so it was that, last Monday night, just after I had sat down to dinner with my wife, the phone rang. It was, of course, Arthur. We had agreed to meet for lunch at his house on the following Wednesday, and his wife had just reminded him that that would be the first day of Lent, traditionally known as Ash Wednesday. Arthur follows the Anglican custom of observing Ash Wednesday (along with Good Friday) as a day for fasting. There would be no world-famous corned beef sandwiches at the Lough house on that day.