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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.

October 15: Creating Hope

Third in a series.

I remember the first (and only) time I attended a University of Alabama home football game.Thinking how lop-sided the game was supposed be, I wondered what I might tell the other team before the game to give them hope.  I thought about it for a while and  concluded, “I’ve got nothing.”

Choosing to believe in hope at game time has a “faith in the foxhole” quality about it: it’s superficial and expedient, neither of which are qualities of genuine hope (or faith). Continue reading

October 8: Stealing Hope

Second in a series.

When I was growing up, I wanted to write the great American novel. (Still do)  So, when I had a short story I thought worthy of a writing contest, I was excited—until I told my mother. Like many parents, she didn’t want to see me get hurt. “A lot of people participate in these contests. I don’t want you to get your hopes up and then be disappointed,” she said. I didn’t enter the contest.

Very often, what deprives us of hope is a combination of upbringing, culture, values, and family dynamics. Learning to be hopeful—and hope is something that can be learned—requires rooting out that inner critic planted in our brains by nurture and nature. Continue reading

October 1: About Hope

First in a series.

To say that hope is expecting something to happen is like waiting at the baggage carousel for luggage.  You just stand there, waiting for it to happen, expecting (or hoping) to pick up your bag when it comes around. In real life,  many people wait for a winning lottery ticket, a call from out-of-the-blue with a great job offer, or the arrival of Prince or Princess Charming. That’s not hope, however, that’s just wishful thinking.

Hope is relative to despair. One cannot know one without the other. The ancient Hebrews knew something of both, and the stories they have passed down to us through their sacred scriptures may inform our faith as well.  That’s especially true in the Exodus story. Continue reading

September 24: Love Never Ends

Love never ends. 1 Cor. 13:8  (NSRV)

Few things trigger a crisis in faith more than the experience of a love that has ended.  It may be the end of a long-term relationship, perhaps a marriage or partnership. It may come when we look at our parents or as parents we look at our children and feel . . . hate.  Some of the greatest stresses in our lives occur when we can’t feel what we’re supposed to feel. To feel that we no longer love someone we once loved or are supposed to love contradicts our cultural and religious values about love and family–and it breaks our hearts.  Of course, when it’s another person who feels that way about us, it’s even more devastating.

To understand this verse, we must start with the language. The Apostle Paul wrote his letters in Greek, which had at least three words for love: eros for passion and romance, philia for brotherly and sisterly love, and agape for divine or universal or unconditional love.  In this chapter of this letter, Paul used agape. Let’s go to the other end of the verse.  What gets translated as “never ends” is translated in other versions as “will last forever,” “never fails,” “can not be defeated” and “abides forever.” When you put those two thoughts together you get something that I would describe as transcendent, something greater than ourselves, a spiritual source from which humans may draw but which humans neither create nor destroy. Continue reading

September 17: Love and Envy

I spend a lot time engaged in envy, so much so that you’d think I enjoyed it. I don’t. I lose precious hours of happiness wishing I had someone’s physique or appearance, wishing my retirement was secure, wishing that I could be the kind of husband/step-father/brother/friend that I see in others who seem so good in their respective roles.

The Apostle Paul wrote that love does not envy. (1 Cor.13:4) Well, that was easy for him to write. He was single. In fact, he discouraged others from getting married. Yet, his lack of a committed love partner does not mean he is wrong. Continue reading

September 10: Love Does Not Insist

I had a friend named Bob who lamented one day that what his marriage needed was another Bob. If his wife could just be more like him, he said, they wouldn’t have any problems.  He laughed to make sure I knew he was just joking. To this day, I’m still not sure if he was. In either case, his remarks illustrate the Apostle Paul’s writing that “love does not insist on its own way.”

When I first read that verse, I thought of all kinds of things love ought to insist upon: fidelity, respect, and trust to name three. Yet, I’ve come to realize that if you must insist upon it, it’s not love. Love is about giving and receiving, not demanding or taking. Continue reading

PB is AFK

I’ll be “away from keyboard” this weekend to enjoy the long, holiday weekend. My blog will resume next week, September 10, with another of my series on the Apostle Paul’s letter about love.

August 27 Love and Kindness

Love is kind, according to the Apostle Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians. He is right, but not for the reasons that may first come to mind.

On a superficial level, kindness simply is helping others, being generous, showing concern, and so forth. This is kindness as courtesy, and no one could reasonably argue that we can’t use more courtesy in this world. The context for today’s blog, though, is love as kindness, and that strikes me as something much deeper and more meaningful than courtesy. Continue reading

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