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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Still Waiting

Forty-six years ago, when I was a senior in high school, (I’m 63, in case you were doing the math) God and I entered into a pact, a covenant, if you will.  More accurately, God set some terms, and I agreed to them.  He told me that, if I would use my gifts, talents, and abilities to advance the Gospel of the Kingdom of God and to help Christians “grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,” then He would take care of me.  He didn’t speak to me in an audible voice, but the reality of God’s call on my life would not have been greater nor more certain if He had.

My pilgrimage has been (to borrow the title of a Beatles’ song) a “long and winding road.”  I have been exposed to and influenced by a number of Christian traditions.  Each step of my pilgrimage has required me to jettison some elements which I determined to be inconsistent with authentic faith, but I never abandoned my commitment to orthodox doctrine or salvation through faith in the work of Jesus on the cross.

Along the way, I have come through some periods of time, some circumstances, where I notion du temps Headman conceptcould not clearly see what step I was supposed to take next. At those times, in those circumstances, I had no choice but to wait on God.

I’ve never been good at waiting. I get restless and fidgety. During those times, my prayers have probably sounded a lot like the guy who prayed, “Lord, I need patience, and I need it NOW!”

Until fairly recently, the periods of waiting were measured in days or weeks, and only very rarely, in a few months. I’m in another period of waiting right now, and this one is already nearly five years long… and counting.

Five years ago I was in my fourteenth year of teaching at a small Bible college in the free church tradition. I loved my job, and if the testimony of my former students and colleagues can be believed, I was pretty good at it.

About five years before that, my soul had begun to hunger for something which my pilgrimage up to that point had not provided.  I began to read the early church fathers and to explore the character of Christian worship in the first centuries of church history.  I gained a new awareness of the place of mystery and reverence in worship.  I found meaning in the Daily Office (morning and evening prayers), and in the seasons of the church calendar.  I gained a fresh appreciation for the importance of the Eucharist in the church’s worship, and I began seeking an experience of more holistic spirituality.

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The Vision Abides

It has now been exactly one year since I set up shop in a small office on 1st Avenue in Grandview Heights, an urban community just west of downtown Columbus, OH. The locals call it simply Grandview, and it is a legal jurisdiction separate from Columbus. It has its own mayor but not its own identity so far as the Post Office is concerned—our mailing Grandview Officeaddress is Columbus, not Grandview; go figure. We chose the community as a potential location for a new church since it is not far from the south-most reaches of the main campus of The Ohio State University. (It also didn’t hurt that my favorite coffee house in all of Columbus is an easy walk down the street from my office.)

The office is simple, even spartan—just one room and a tiny bathroom—on the first floor of a two-story building. (In the picture shown, our office is in the southeast corner, just to the right of the entrance.) Our only neighbor downstairs is the office of the lawyer who owns the building. Upstairs are four small residential apartments. Nothing fancy, but altogether suitable as a place to work, to meet, to think, to change my shoes before walking through the neighborhood. It is a minuscule presence in the community, but it is a presence nonetheless.

The other day my landlord asked me how things were progressing toward our goal of establishing a church in the neighborhood. I told him things were going slow, but I was still there (in the office) and still hopeful. In an entire year, he had never said a word about the potential for St. Patrick’s Church becoming a reality. On this particular day, nearly a year after I moved in, he said, “I wish you well in your efforts, and I hope it really does happen.”

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I Heard The Voice Of God

Last Friday I published a blog post in which I announced that the Bishop of my diocese had granted my request to be released from my ordination vows. Although I remain, technically, a priest in God’s One, Holy, Catholic (i.e. “universal”), and Apostolic Church, I have been “laicized.” That is, I can no longer carry out sacramental duties—such as celebrating Eucharist—in any church which is part of the Anglican Church in North America.

I will, most likely, be saying more about the events and circumstances which produced this result, but not today. Today I want to share with you something of inestimable value which I came to appreciate more deeply as a result of this recent experience. God has blessed me with something so incredibly precious that I simply cannot keep it to myself.

I’m talking about friends, but not just any friends. Friends who know God and allow themselves to be the channel for a word from God to me. Friends through whom I hear the voice of God.

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Going Silent… For A While, Anyway

This is my 114th blog post. That comes out to more than ten posts per month since I started this blog last October. More than 150,000 words, which is about the same number as in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer combined. Before I started the blog, some friends had encouraged me to write a book, but I didn’t know if I had that much to say. I couldn’t believe that I could write that many words. Now I know that I can.

As I said, this is my 114th blog post. It is also my last… for a while, at least.

It isn’t that I have run out of something to say. Anybody who knows me well will tell you that I almost never run out of things to say. It isn’t that I am finding it difficult to put my thoughts into words. I haven’t developed a case of “writer’s block.” It also isn’t that I have fallen into a pit of despondency and am too depressed to write. I’ve written about my tendencies in that direction, what Abraham Lincoln called “a misfortune, not a fault.” Actually, writing this blog has helped me deal with dark days like that, and I almost always feel better after I have published a blog post.

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