My Plans for This Blog

A couple of weeks ago, I announced that I would refrain from any further Facebook or blog posts while I focused on resolving the question of when, where, and in what capacity Shirley and I would reconnect with the church through identification with a new or existing local congregation or faith community. Exceptions to that communication blackout would be posts pertinent to that search.

My rationale for that decision was a growing perception that my critique of the church and the culture and my commentary about things religious, social, and political lacked an element of integrity apart from a foundation of experience in relating to a worshiping, serving, welcoming, loving community of mutually accountable fellow travelers. Continue reading

Introducing My October Journal

It scarcely seems possible that an entire year has passed since I undertook the publication of a new blog post every day during the month of October 2015. It was an arduous task, and one consequence was that I did not publish a single post in the october-2016-2following month of November. Still, the discipline was helpful, even if exhausting, for one who had never attempted anything close to a schedule that demanding in the four years (at that time) since I started the blog.

Like almost every other facet of my life in the past ten years, this blog, which I started in October 2011, has turned out far differently than I imagined. In the first place, it is still up and active. That surprises no one more than me. I assumed I would find the task so consumptive of time and mental energy that I would come up with some reason to abandon the effort within a year. That didn’t happen, and I’m glad it didn’t. Continue reading

The Consequence of Meeting God Again for the First Time

Look, if you want to point out how far I fall short of the qualities and traits I admire and write about, you’ll need to take a number. It’s a very long line, and I myself am at the head of it. If you would prefer that I not constantly draw unfavorable comparisons between the beliefs and convictions I used to hold and those I have come to embrace in recent years, again that’s a big club, and I’m actually a charter member.

It is possible, if you follow me on Facebook, that your finger has frequently been poised to press the “unfriend” button beside my name. So far, however, you have demurred because either you believe I will eventually self-destruct, or you still cherish some flickering hope that I will come to my senses and recant my ill-advised excursion to the dark side. Since neither is likely, our continued association may be short-lived. And again, that is an ever-expanding fraternity. Continue reading

Yes, I Am a Flawed Messenger. Then Again, Who Isn’t?

For a person with such strong opinions about, well, almost everything, I have an incredibly thin skin when it comes to criticism. I could have set that sentence in quotation marks, changed the “I” to a “you,” and attributed it to one of the scores of people who have said that to me over the years. I didn’t do that, because I want to make it clear I know it is true.

I can deal with certain kinds of criticism. (I won’t like it, but I can deal with it.) For example, people sometimes point out what they believe are logical inconsistencies or non sequiturs in my writing. I can deal with that because, most of the time, I can explain my thinking to show that the perceived gap in consistency was more misperception than reality. Moreover, when the critique is sound, and my logic really has been faulty, I can show genuine, if sometimes grudging, appreciation.

I have greater difficulty with the more subjective criticism of my character or my motives. In the first place, it is almost impossible to defend oneself against a critique that points up a flaw in character or motivation, whether or not the critique is true and accurate. In the second place, the critique is far too often both true and accurate. Continue reading

The Triumph of Hope Over Fear

Dear Mr. Lough:

I found your last letter both informative and encouraging. I also noticed something else as I was reading it, and I’d like to comment on that before we go further in this series.

In the past—and I base this comment on my experience as your student a few years ago—I think your responses to my questions would have been far more… well… for lack of a better word, academic. Frankly, that’s what I was expecting. Something like the lectures you used to give—carefully structured, logical, filled with scripture references to support your point. But that’s not really what you have been doing in your response to my questions, is it? Continue reading

I Don’t Want to Die Alone

Dear Mr. Lough:

Thank you so much for your last two letters in which you shared a thoughtful and heartfelt response to my question about how you would define the gospel. The more I have thought about what you wrote, the more I appreciate not only what you shared but also the courage it takes to change your mind about such important matters at this point in your career.

Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not suggesting that you are old or that your ministry is over. I only mean that it is unusual to observe such dramatic change in perception in anybody, much less someone who has spent a lifetime in pursuit of a very different vision. Continue reading

New Blog Series: An Introduction

In late 2012, I created a character called Arthur Lough and introduced him to readers in my final blog post for that year. At the time, I never dreamed Arthur would become the instrument through which I would tell my story to all who were interested in knowing more about my pilgrimage, but here we are, more than three years later, and Arthur is more important than ever to that enterprise.

In the fall of 2014, I published my first book, an autobiographical novel in which Arthur Lough becomes my alter ego and the subject of the narrative. I created a back story for Arthur so that I could think about him as a person distinct from myself throughout the process of writing the book, but that would be, as the philosophers say, a distinction without a difference. Arthur is mainly me, and his story is mainly my story. Continue reading

Letting Off Some Steam: An Unexpected and Very Personal Post

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

Resolving My Lenten Discipline Dilemma

I love dilemmas that resolve with a win-win outcome. For example, I decided that my Lenten discipline this year would have to do with my online presence and productivity. That, however, posed a dilemma for me. On the one hand, I sensed the need to take some time away from7 Facebook and my blog, as a way to de-tox from all the verbal clutter that has accumulated in my thought processes. So I considered just disappearing from social media for the duration of Lent. On the other hand, I could see how the discipline of publishing a blog post on each of the forty days of Lent could be beneficial, at least to me and maybe a few others. Continue reading

A Note to Former Students and Other Courageous People

This is my first blog post in more than six weeks. After I published a post every day during the month of October, I hit the wall, so to speak, and have found it difficult to generate the energy and enthusiasm required to sustain this endeavor.

I’ve been here before. Call it writer’s block or just apathy spawned by a sense of the futility that comes from trying to do something that so many others are doing, with most of them doing it better than me. In the past, one pervasive thought has provoked me to throw off my self-pity and get back to writing. I’m happy to say it has worked again, and that is what I’m sharing in this post. Continue reading