Counsel from Shakespeare

As I read through one of my favorite sources of religious news, my eyes landed on this intriguing title: “Shakespeare for your spiritual direction.”  The reflection is by Robert Morneau, whom I do not know.  As I read his very short bio, I learned that Morneau is a priest, a poet and retired auxiliary bishop in Green Bay.  I laughed when I also read he is a Packers’ fan.  I would guess everyone in Green Bay, WI is a Packers’ fan. 

With some relish I jumped into the short article.  It begins with a good couple sentences.  “The spiritual journey is complex terrain, so many twists and turns, so many mountains and valleys, so many unknowns and thrills.  The wise person seeks a guide.”  This is very true.  I like the imagery for spiritual journey.  It is complex terrain.  Clearly, it is not a straight line from belief to sainthood.  There are twists and turns.  There are mountains and valleys.  Of course, much of the journey is dealing with the unknown.  Occasionally, there may be thrills.…

The Fullness of Life

There are many ways people would describe the point of their lives.  For many the list would entail their own kids and, maybe, grandkids.  Work is the source of meaning for many people.  It might be their churches, synagogues or mosques.  I am sure I cannot imagine some of the answers some folks might have to the question, what is the point of life?

Even if we have figured out the point of life for ourselves, it is not a given that we are living life in a way that makes it certain that we will achieve what we said was the point of life.  Sadly, there are too many people who can tell you what the point of life is and, yet, in the next sentence confess they are living far from being able to pull it off.  I felt this way when I was younger.

There are others who would simply not be sure what the point of their lives was.  They can give you canned answers or, perhaps, some kind of platitude.  But their heart really is not in it.  For example, it is easy to say the point of life is to be lo…

A Drop of Water

I have no idea where the image came from; I have never thought about this before this time.  Suddenly there popped into my head the curious question, what if I were a drop of water?  It was not raining outside.  I was nowhere near running water.  Perhaps it was God’s gift to me or I really am going crazy!  I prefer to think it was the former.  God gave me a question---albeit a curious question.  What if I were a drop of water?

There are always a couple ways of looking at something: being and doing.  If I were water, that takes care of the being aspect.  If I were water, then I am (be) water.  The “doing” aspect is more intriguing in this case.  If I were water, what would I do?  Of course, the obvious answer is I would get things wet!  So the question is, if I am a single drop of water, what do I want to get wet?  A single drop is not much water.

If I were a drop of water, what could I do to make a difference?  Maybe it is because I am a farm boy, but the answer came to me.  I would f…

When You Have a Bad Day

As many of you know, I like to try to follow a daily discipline of some devotional time.  No doubt, the key word is discipline.  It is so tempting to define spirituality and the spiritual journey in a way that excludes discipline.  It is easy to make spirituality the same thing as religion.  For many Christians religion is a matter of belief---of doctrine.  Certainly no Jew would begin with doctrine, nor would a Buddhist.  On the other hand, the Christian tends to begin a discussion on religion with some kind of “I believe” statement.

I am not against belief.  It is clear to me that one cannot really be spiritual without having some kind of belief.  For many it will be a belief in God.  This is not where the Buddhist would begin.  I certainly have my own beliefs and, hopefully, some kind of coherent belief system.  For example, what I think about God should correlate with how I think about the world.

Belief systems do not necessarily have an element like discipline.  I am convinced th…

With Gratefulness

I read an interesting little essay by Dana Greene about a new book out by the Benedictine monk, David Steindl-Rast.  I have never met this monk, but I know about him.  I have read some of his stuff and watched him on YouTube videos.  His new book, i am through you so i (with small letters in deference to e.e. cummings), is autobiographical in nature.  It is not a book I have read, but want to do so.  I know this monk is pretty old (b 1926).  He was born in Vienna, so has a fairly heavy accent even after these years in the USA.

Greene describes things I already know about Steindl-Rast.  He has studied Buddhism seriously and other non-Christian traditions.  He is probably best known for his focus on the theme of gratitude.  That theme is a rather “in thing” these days.  But it is a great theme, so I am fine with its popular status. I always liked his focus on this theme as a way to happiness.  As I see it, happiness is normally a by-product of something else.  It is hard to “be happy” as…

Generosity and Community

Those of us who go to college and graduate school make some friends that we track all through our careers.  Sometimes we don’t have much contact with them, but we watch their careers take off or take different kinds of turns.  Often we watch them through the books they publish.  Today we frequently track them through social media like Twitter.  If they are in our academic discipline, we might see them periodically at conferences.

One such person I have known for decades now is Parker Palmer.  Although we never were in school together, we have known each other since the earliest days of our careers.  In the earliest days he was not a Quaker, but he was at a Quaker institution and was flirting with Quakerism.  Because he was serious about his spiritual search, he became in many ways more Quaker than those of us who grew up as Quakers!

He figured out how to take the best from my own Quaker tradition and “package” it in teaching and leadership situations to become “somebody.”  It was fun …

Blessed Deprivation

On the surface the title for this inspirational reflection seems absurd.  You don’t have to have advanced college degrees to know what the word, deprivation, means.  It means something that is taken away from me or something that is withheld from me.  Normally, if someone says that they have been deprived, it is a complaint.  They often say something like, “I was ripped off!” 

I reckon that most of us would see deprivation as totally negative.  No one in their right mind would hope to be deprived of anything at any time.  So with this title, I suspect you think that I am up to no good.  Surely there is something fishy going on here!  So let me develop a little more the idea of blessed deprivation.

I am not sure what triggered the thoughts in my mind.  I was in the middle of a group that I offer some leadership.  We were focusing on a particular chapter in Gerald May’s book, The Awakened Heart.  In that chapter May addresses the idea of making space.  He talks some about emptiness.  B…