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 →
During the month of October, I have taken up the challenge to publish a blog post every day. I have worked hard to avoid a negative or critical tone in what I have written. True, I did defend the role of the critic, especially when it is clear that the focus of criticism—as, for example, the church—is so clearly an object of the critic’s love and affection.
Still, knowing my tendency to embrace the critic’s task with excessive enthusiasm from time to time, I have tried to make my posts this month as positive and informative as possible. Only my readers can judge my success in that endeavor. Continue reading →
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 →
It’s probably too soon to know for sure, but it just may be that I have finally “turned the corner” with regard to the course of my pilgrimage over the past five and a half years. If that turns out to be the case, it will be, in large measure, thanks to Arthur Lough. More specifically, it will be thanks to the soul-restoration I have experienced through the process of writing Arthur’s story.
An interesting phrase, “turning the corner.” In a context like this it means to pass a critical point in a process. It suggests that conditions or circumstances have markedly improved after a period of great difficulty or pain. It means that the clouds have parted and the sun has once again begun to peek through the gloom. 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.
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 it?” 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.”
This coming Sunday, May 12, 2013, my wife and I will celebrate our fortieth wedding anniversary. If you were to ask me to identify the single most significant evidence of God’s unfailing care and concern for me as a Christ-follower and a minister of the gospel over the past four decades, I would answer, without hesitation: “Three words—Shirley Lorraine Clairmont.”
That may not be the most romantic paragraph with which I could have begun a post in which I reflect on forty years of marriage, but it gets to the heart of the matter as pointedly as I know how. I have devoted my life to the service of Christ and His Kingdom. Forty years ago, Shirley joined me in that endeavor. It has been a team effort since then. She has been my greatest asset in all these years of ministry, and I am grateful to God for His faithfulness in bringing her into my life.