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

Could It Happen Again?

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 2called, 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

Me? A Leader?

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

The Importance Of Perspective

I bumped into Arthur at Whole Foods yesterday. I was studying the label on a loaf of flax-meal bread when I heard his familiar voice. “It sure costs a lot to eat healthy, doesn’t breadit?” he asked, smiling.

“Yes,” I replied. “I have a buddy who refers to this place as ‘Whole Paycheck.'”

We both laughed, then Arthur said, still smiling, “That line would be a lot funnier if I actually had a paycheck.”

“I hear you,” I said. “Still, you look like you’re in a good mood.”

“I am,” he said. “I got a couple of emails yesterday that positively made my day.”

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Arthur: If I Had It To Do Over

Arthur called last week to ask if I would like to accompany him to a baseball game. Columbus is home to a pretty good minor league team, the Triple-A affiliate of the American League’s Cleveland franchise. A friend of his with season tickets was out of Baseball (1)town on business, so he had given Arthur his tickets for the game he would miss while he was traveling.

Arthur’s wife, Ellie, is an enthusiastic baseball fan, and ordinarily she would have used the second ticket. On this occasion, however, she was involved in some sort of work-related activity which she could not circumvent, and so Arthur offered her ticket to me. I was happy to accept.

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Some Questions And Answers

My recent blog post titled “It Still Makes Me Wince,” in which I reflected on circumstances related to and arising from my five years (and counting) of unemployment, prompted some specific questions by a few of my readers. I felt they were important enough to warrant a public response.Q & A

Question: How many résumés have you sent out; how many online job vacancies have you responded to? How broadly have you “cast your net” in an attempt to find a job?

Answer: In the first year or so after I lost my job, I sent out numerous résumés, filled out a lot of online applications, and responded to job opening ads wherever I found them. It was a new experience for me. Most of those contacts and inquiries did not even result in an acknowledgement of receipt. When I began preparing for Anglican Holy Orders, I essentially stopped looking elsewhere. I have sent out no résumés recently.

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It Still Makes Me Wince

wince: To make a facial or bodily expression of pain because of seeing or thinking of something unpleasant or embarrassing.

For some reason, I awoke last Friday morning with lines from the poem Invictus, by William Ernest Henley, running through my mind. Here is the full text of that poem, first published in 1875.

Out of the night that covers me,Invictus2
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

As I read those familiar stanzas on Good Friday morning, March 29, 2013, I could not help but respond: “What a load of hooey!”

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There Is Still No Plan B

Almost exactly one year ago, I wrote a blog post in which I affirmed my lifelong belief that God had called me to vocational Christian ministry and repeated my intention to fulfill that call for the remainder of my life. I called that post “There Is No Plan B.”

Yesterday I published a post in which I described my current circumstances in stark terms. I laid out both the scope of my current ministry as well as the financial realities which my wife and I are facing. A few of my readers wrote to assure me of their prayers and to offer other expressions of encouragement.

Early this morning, after a mostly sleepless night, I sensed God sayingStarry night that I should re-publish that post from last February as a way of declaring, once again, that I am in this for the duration. I have edited that post a bit, adding some elements toward the end that reflect the current situation more accurately, but it is essentially the same content that I originally wrote. I meant it then. I mean it now. There is still no Plan B.

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The Arthur Chronicles—No. 9

The clouds which had covered the city like a heavy, grey blanket all morning were beginning to dissipate by the time I arrived at Arthur’s office for our weekly chat. These Monday afternoon meetings were becoming a new routine and, in some respects, the high point of my week.

The little bell above the front entrance announced my arrival as I stepped into the foyer, and I expected the door to Arthur’s office, which was only a few steps down the hall on the right, to swing open in welcoming response. It did not, and as I approached, I could hear Arthur’s voice through the door.

“Well, it is certainly your decision to make,” I heard him say as I opened the door and stepped inside.

Worried-man-on-cell-phoneWith the phone at his ear, he motioned for me to come in and then pointed to one of the arm chairs in front of his desk. I removed my hat and coat, hung them on a hall tree which had appeared since our last meeting, and took a seat where Arthur had indicated.

“No, no, I understand completely,” he said to the person on the other end of the call. “Perhaps it will work out at a later date. Yes, that will be fine. And thank you for calling.” There was a brief pause.

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