Everybody faces tough times and difficult circumstances in life. For some, the pain seems deeper and more severe than for others, the episodes more frequent. But discouragement, disappointment, and pain—whether physical, financial, or emotional—visit us all at one time or another. Bad things happen to good people as well as to bad, the rain falls on both the just and the unjust, and the only constant in all of this is that nobody is immune.
After a lifetime relatively free of trauma, apart from periodic bouts of near-debilitating depression, things changed for me in 2007-08. The bottom fell out, and it was my turn to walk through some dark valleys. They were horrible, awful, painful years filled with one bit of bad news after another. Continue reading →
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 →
Well, it didn’t take long for me to break my self-imposed fast from Facebook and this blog, but I need to say something in response to some personal messages I have received lately (based on the assumption that if some people are voicing thoughts like this, at least a few more are probably thinking them without saying anything).
My daughter is a single mother with an active, healthy eight-year-old son who is in the third grade and doing very well in a challenging academic and social environment. She is employed full-time in a helping profession that requires her to travel extensively in the local area and to be on-call and available for emergencies even when she is off-duty. 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.
I had never heard of the term “epic fail” when I went through one in 1986.
At age 36, I was in my second year as pastor of a large Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg, VA. I had joined the church’s staff as an associate pastor in 1982 and was called, by unanimous vote of the congregation, to succeed my popular predecessor, who had served in that role for nearly twenty years, when he moved on to a church in Pennsylvania in 1984. Two years into my term, things were not going well. I was exhausted—physically, emotionally, and spiritually—and discouraged. In early January, I resigned, fairly sure that I lacked the gifts necessary for effective pastoral ministry and maybe for vocational ministry of any sort. Continue reading →
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 →
When I first pitched him the proposal that I should write a book encompassing the story of his life, Arthur Lough thought the whole idea was absurd. I know he felt this way because of something he said.
I believe his exact words were, “I think the whole idea is absurd. Who in his right mind would want to read the story of my life, unless possibly as a cure for insomnia?”
Leaving aside his implication that my writing style might put readers to sleep, I tried to counter his larger objection. “A lot of people care about you, Arthur. I think many of them would love to read the story of how you moved from Northern Ireland to the States and from fundamentalism to Anglicanism. Besides, our primary purpose would not be to write a bestseller.” Continue reading →
I have decided to take a break from blogging for a while.
Until I reach a place in my “relentless pursuit” where I can begin to see the purpose for the trek I have been taking, I believe it is best for this blog and my online voice to fall silent. After all, I did write a post, not that long ago, in which I told the story of the abbot who noted that the monks in his monastery agreed they would not speak unless, by speaking, they could improve on the silence. At the moment, it seems that what I have to say is no improvement on silence. It is time for me to heed the abbot’s counsel.
If and when I return to this medium, it will signify that I have begun to emerge from the darkness which has characterized my pilgrimage for so long. I surrendered my life to the service of the Kingdom of God more than forty-five years ago. I have wanted to finish strong. My only hope of accomplishing that is to impose the discipline of silence upon myself for a time.
Thanks for reading what I have written over the past 20 months. I have enjoyed the experience, and I hope I have been somewhat helpful to at least some of you who have been my loyal readers.