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 →
I recently happened upon the website of the Bible college from which I graduated forty-five years ago. I was particularly drawn to the audio recordings of presentations, mainly sermons, made in the school’s chapel services over the past few years. For nearly three hours, I listened to excerpts, ranging in length from two to twenty minutes each, from a dozen or more preachers. Many of the speakers were men I knew personally from my years as a student.
It’s hard to describe how the experience of listening to those voices from the past affected me. At first, I was nearly swept away on a wave of nostalgia, as their familiar speech patterns took me back to a time when life seemed simpler and the future was filled with promise. The longer I listened, however, the less positive I felt about the experience. Continue reading →
My soul is at peace. I haven’t written those words very many times in my life, because for most of my life, it simply was not true. But it is today, and I’ve experienced a growing awareness of that deep, inner peace for the past several weeks. (Oddly enough, the keenest awareness has developed and intensified since early March, just about the time we started the Gathering for Worship in the Liturgical Tradition.) 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 →
As I have set forth in my autobiographical novel called The Long Road from Highland Springs, when I began teaching at a small, Mennonite Bible college in Ohio in 1994, I never expected to make the classroom my career. My affection for teaching was hardly love-at-first-sight. My first efforts were uneven, at best, and my students could easily detect my discomfort and lack of confidence. To this day, when I cross paths with former students from that first year, I have to work hard to stifle an instinctive urge to blurt out, “I’m so sorry. Can you find it in your heart to forgive me?”
Eventually things got better, much better indeed. Reasonably good performance reviews turned in by my students each year served to bolster my confidence, and I became far more comfortable in the role of a teacher. Since I had not set my sights on an academic career from the get-go, however, I did not follow the common path of preparation for aspiring professors. Continue reading →
For sixty years, Christian faith of the conservative and evangelical variety was a foundational element and a formative influence in my life. More than that, and—practically speaking—more important than that, for nearly forty years, it was an essential factor in the way I made my living. As a pastor, a parachurch executive, and a Bible college instructor, one of my tasks was to defend and propagate a fairly specific set of beliefs and the system of biblical interpretation which produced them.
That is not to say that the character and content of that list of doctrines never varied over the years. It is only to say that I understood, if mainly subconsciously, that any significant variation could have consequences. Not least was the possibility that I could lose my job. Continue reading →