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The Meaning of Silence

One of the blessings of teaching is the chance to continue to read good books.  And often, it means the opportunity to re-read some of my favorite books.  In spite of our society’s penchant for the new and novel, I learned some time ago that there are classics that stand the test of time and continue to speak to humans in all walks of life.  Obviously there are classics in music, in architecture and in books. 

One of the classics I have had a chance to read again is Quest for God by the great 20th century Jewish rabbi and theologian, Abraham Joshua Heschel.  Heschel is one of the theological giants who came to this country as a result of the Nazi craziness of the 20th century.  Heschel was born in Poland in 1907.  He was educated in Berlin, Germany.  When he was lecturing in 1938 in Frankfort, Germany, he was arrested by the Nazis and deported to Poland.  He was encouraged to leave before he would be killed.  So he fled to London and in 1940 arrived in New York City.  He spent five y…
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Search for Certainty

I try to live life appreciatively.  One thing I do appreciate is seeing notes, reviews or announcements of books I did not know existed, but which I now want to read.  That just happened with a small review of a new book by Alan Lightman, entitled Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine.  Lightman is a professor at MIT, prolific astrophysicist and author.  As I read more about him, I discovered how fascinating he really is.  He is one of the few people who can write both for the scientist and the humanities person.  

Diane Scharper is the person who wrote the little review, which I saw.  I want to share a few tidbits from that review that hopefully might whet your appetite to pursue some of Lightman’s stuff.  Scharper’s opening line hooked me.  She writes, “Alan Lightman, professor and author of more than 15 books, including the best-selling novel Einstein's Dreams, says he is not a believer in God. But he wishes he were.”  I almost laughed out loud at that last description.  I…

Dynamic Evolving Cosmic Presence

There are many sources of information and inspiration for me.  I like to read things from other Christian traditions to supplement my own valued Quaker spirituality.  And I feel blessed by all the non-Christian friends I have.  And I appreciate chances to read some from their traditions, like Judaism, Islam and Buddhism.  Our multi-cultural society is so much different than the little, homogeneous world of rural Indiana of my growing up days. 

One of the groups within Christianity I appreciate are the nuns and religious sisters.  I have never been an official Roman Catholic, although I proudly admit to some crypto-Catholic tendencies.  I obviously have never been a monk or nun, but I have learned about their calling and way of life and highly value what the monastic life has taught me.  Recently, I had the honor of speaking to a fairly sizable gathering of Catholic sisters in the city where I live.  Their warmth, welcome and wisdom were palpable when I was with them.  I don’t know whe…

To Live is to Change

In reading a recent article in a periodical I regularly peruse, I came across an interesting quotation by the late Cardinal John Henry Newman.  I recall having come across this sentence before, but it has been some time since I saw it and thought about it.  Newman said, “To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.”  It fits Newman and it fits our own times.  Let’s first look at who Newman was and then look at the times in which we live.

One publication I consulted calls Newman “the 19th century most important English-speaking Roman Catholic theologian.”  I would not disagree.  Born in London at the turn of the 19th century (1801), Newman grew up an Anglican---the Church of England.  Newman was a studious boy and enrolled at Oxford by the time most Americans are still in high school.  It was evident he was a gifted student.  He graduated in 1821 and within a year was named a Fellow at Oriel College, arguably the premier college of the Oxford college system.

In 1824…

To Be in Relationship

When I was in graduate school, one of the things we joked about was all the big words we were learning.  Learning the big words was not a joke.  We all understood why we were doing it.  The big words gave us an ability to be more precise about what we were discussing.  Our conversations were often about deep things that were not capable of absolutely clear description.  God is the biggest example here.  We would joke that if anyone described God precisely, that person did not know God.  And we felt like the joke was true!

We joked about our big words knowing that we could never use these big words in many of our venues of ministry.  If we were preaching to a group of normal folks, we cannot use the big words.  They would not be understood and that is the point of speaking---to be understood.  And if we use big words when they hampered our cause, then we were the joke.

I thought about this when I recently read one of Richard Rohr’s daily meditations.  I will use only one sentence from th…

The Real Me

Who am I?  That is a question almost everyone entertains and, perhaps, spends a good deal of time in life figuring out the answer.  It is not unusual for us to come up with a few different answers in the process of living our lives.  I am confident I would have answered that question differently when I was ten years old than I would today as a relatively mature, older guy. 

I know there are some religious traditions that scoff at the idea there is even a real me.  For example, Buddhists question whether there can ever be a self or a real me.  Of course, we can pretend there is one; we can act as if there is one.  In my world of illusion I can have a self-illusion.  I am sure there are some psychologists who do not believe there is such a thing as a real me.  I am hoping they are not correct. 

As a Christian and Quaker, I am captivated by the early Genesis creation account that humans are created in the image and likeness of the Divine One.  I value that affirmation and hope in some …

Thoughts on Faith

I have thought about some topics for decades now.  But it is always wonderful to come across someone who can shed new light on an old subject.  One such topic I have pondered for years is faith.  Anyone who has engaged religion in any form probably has thought about faith.  I reckon I first thought about faith---what it is and how it works---as early as high school.  Perhaps I thought about it even earlier than that, but I can’t remember.  However, I am sure faith was involved in my life long before I thought about it! 

To be sure, faith is a word that is usually involved with religion and the religious journey.  I would even use it with respect to spirituality, assuming there is some difference between religion and spirituality.  But faith is not simply a word used in conjunction with religion.  And I would contend, it is not a religious word.  Rather, I might call it a human word.  If you are human, faith is part of your vocabulary and part of your life. 

My earliest forays into f…