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About This Blog

public witness 2011In November, 2014, I left parish ministry and, over the next several months, created Shenandoah Spirituality, a new, personal ministry focused on spirituality, healing, and wholeness. In this space, I’ll be posting writings that might have been used in a sermon or a newsletter column–but with a far wider range of topics. New entires will be posted at least once a week.

August 20: Love is Patient

The Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Cor. 13, that love is “patient.” He’s right. I know this because of all the times I’ve waited in the car for my wife to finish getting ready for some event or to finish shopping or to inspect my apparel before making a public appearance. Of course, I never would test my wife’s patience. (That’s a joke.) Are these the kinds of things Paul was talking about when he wrote his famous epistle on love? I doubt it.

Patience most often is associated with enduring something or waiting for an outcome. That’s true. Yet, today I want to focus on another quality of patience related to those definitions: acceptance. Continue reading

August 13: I’ve Got A New Job!

Fewer than two weeks ago, I contentedly was waiting to return to my job as a teacher’s aide (which I enjoyed), resigned to the likely fact that I never would be a teacher, convinced that whatever barriers I faced this year would not be different next year. Then, while drinking tea at McDonald’s and working on my blog, I got a call that changed my life.

I’ve just been hired to teach at Page County High School. This semester, I’ll teach two sections of Virginia and U.S. history and one of sociology. Next semester, I’ll teach history and humanities. Each class is 86 minutes long and meets every day. In Frederick County, block classes meet on alternate A or B day schedules, and I’m a little daunted by filling up what essentially is an hour and half class each day, five days a week. I have little time to prepare before students return on August 28, which is a minor blessing. Many other area school divisions already have started.

The football field, from the home team side. Those are the Blue Ridge mountains in the background.

Page County H.S., main entrance.

Continue reading

August 6: Speaking of Love

In his essay titled “Love,” Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “all the world loves a lover.” As my Quaker friends say, Emerson speaks my mind. I confess that I’m in love with love. I tear up during romantic comedies when the couple inevitably and finally gets together, and I often include love poems in worship services.

I’ve also spent a fair amount of time learning how the world’s great religions write about love, and that’s my topic for today. My favorite passage is also the most well-known. It was written by my namesake, the Apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 13: 1-8 (NSRV) Continue reading

July 30: You are loved!

    One of my very first sermons, dating back to my seminary days, is called “The Pearl of Great Price.” Although I continue to update and revise that sermon, I always end it the same way: you are loved, you are worthy of being loved, and you are holy.

    Though there’s nothing original in that thought, it’s become something of a signature line for me that has made its way into many of my sermons. The pearl sermon reflects on the passage in Matthew in which Jesus asks whether his listeners would give all that they had for one pearl of great price. It’s another way of asking, “what would you be willing to do for the life you want?” Continue reading

July 23: My prayers for John McCain

Many of us are praying for John McCain, including me. Yes, I do pray, and on another occasion, I may write about my approach to prayer. For today, though, I’m not praying for McCain’s recovery nor am I giving up on him. Rather, I am praying for his spiritual wellness.

Someone must be among the 10% of those who survive the type of cancer he has. If I were a loved one speaking to him, though, it would be wrong for me to insist that I know he will be one those 10 per centers, that I know he will be just fine.

That is not optimism. That is magical thinking. The magical thinker is convinced that it won’t rain on the picnic next Saturday. The optimist is convinced she will have a good time regardless of the weather. Put another way, optimism is a perspective, not a predication, and it is rooted in reality. Continue reading

July 9: John Roberts’s Best Speech

Chief Justice John Roberts

     It’s not often I write in praise of Chief Justice John Roberts, so I wasn’t expecting much when a July 2, 2017 Washington Post article by Robert Barnes caught my eye with this headline: “The best thing Chief Justice Roberts wrote this term wasn’t a Supreme Court opinion.” It turns out that just a few weeks earlier, Roberts delivered a largely unnoticed commencement address at his son’s ninth-grade graduation from Cardigan Mountain School, a prestigious boarding school for boys in the sixth through ninth grades.

     No transcript has been published. The school posted a video of the speech on YouTube. The Post reporter wrote that his readers kept sending him links to the speech urging him to give it wider coverage, which is just what he did. I read his article and then watched the 12-minute speech (which is linked in the article). Oh my! Those readers were right. This speech deserves more attention. Barnes is right, too. It probably is the best thing he wrote in the past year. Read the article here. Continue reading

July 2: A Brutal Past

Note: this post contains a graphic image of a lynching.  

 The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) published new data this week that ought to temper this week’s celebration of our nation’s birth.  The data document over 300 racial terror lynchings in the North (my emphasis) between 1877 and 1950 and supplements a 2015 report documenting over 4000 racial terror lynchings in 12 southern states during that same time. Read more about the new data here.

    I don’t know if the EJI timed the report in anticipation of the Independence Day festivities this weekend and next week, and I debated whether I should have saved this response for another time. Yet, this quote from the report  compelled me to write now:

“History, despite its wrenching pain,

Cannot be unlived, but if faced

With courage, need not be lived again.”

Maya Angelou, On the Pulse of Morning.

It is precisely at moments such as these when we celebrate all that is good about America that we should remind ourselves that it came at a price–one we continue to pay in the form of a culture still steeped in the legacy of white supremacy. Continue reading

June 25: A Hole In The Wind

Finally, an informative yet entertaining and accessible book about climate change has been published that allows lay readers like me to understand how climate change is affecting the real lives of people across the United States. It’s called “A Hole in the Wind” by David Goodrich. You can buy a copy here.

A disclaimer: David is a friend of mine. He also spent over 25 years studying this subject for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, including career-capping stints as the head of the U.S. Global Change Research Project in Washington, D.C., and as the director of the UN Global Climate Observing System office at the World Meteorological Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. He knows his subject. Continue reading

June 18: Father’s Day

Happy Father’s Day to all for whom this is a happy day. That’s not the case for everyone, and for those for whom this is a difficult day for any of a number of reasons, I pray for your comfort and healing.

I’m one of those for whom it is a mixed day. My father died more than 20 years ago. We had our difficulties at times, but I loved him and I knew that he loved me. I think about him often, and on this day, all my memories are good ones.

My dad, Rev. Tipton L. Britner, as a young man.

Rather than writing a full-length blog, I’m adding a sermon under the sermons tab that I first delivered a few years ago about Biblical fathers.  It’s not about my father, but I did include an anecdote I’ll share with my readers today and invite you to read the rest of the sermon here.

      “Perhaps because we were both political junkies, my dad always was impressed that I was a lawyer in Washington, D.C. When I visited him, he would introduce me to others by saying, “This is my boy; he’s a Washington lawyer!” He was a man like any other man with many flaws. Yet I’m not romanticizing his memory when I say that every day of my life, even in all these days since his death, I have felt his blessing.”

     In the sermon, I spend a lot of time describing the Biblical version of a father’s blessing, and I share how we might adapt that tradition to our contemporary understanding of gender roles and diverse families. As I often write, we are holy, we are loved, and we deserve to be loved. That’s the kind of blessing I got from my father, and it’s the kind of blessing I wish for everyone. For those who did not have a father who gave them such a blessing, take mine. The great thing about blessings, like love, is that you can keep giving it away without diminishing one’s own.

For my father and all the men who ever have mentored me and blessed me with their love, encouragement, and wisdom, permit me to take this occasion to say, “Thank you!”