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On Holy Ground

Recently I was at a gathering for worship and the congregation sang an opening hymn which I found moving.  It was soft and melodic.  I don’t always follow the words when the tune speaks deeply to me, but this time I sang along and let the words speak to me, too.  The music we used that morning did not indicate the source of the hymn.  I knew I wanted to write about it, but also knew I needed to give credit.  And so a little research yielded results.

The hymn is entitled, “We Are on Holy Ground.”  It is from an album published in 2009 with the title, “A Changed Heart,” by David Haas.  I did not know Haas, but a little more research unearthed some interesting information.  He was born in 1957 and writes contemporary Christian music, mostly for the Catholic liturgical communities.  He has studied both theology and music, which is revealed in the song I liked.  I have decided he is someone I hope to meet some day!

I would like to share the words from the refrain and some from the three stan…
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Power of Partnerships

Occasionally ideas simply pop into my head.  They come as gifts of the universe or God or some Giver of gifts.  When I write this, I have to laugh.  I laugh because it is true for me.  At the same time, I realize how the truth of this could tempt me to want to manipulate it.  I am tempted to think, why not have money pop into my hands instead of ideas popping into my mind!  I could immediately spend the money.  Ideas come, but they seldom have any value until I work with them, fashion them and put them into a larger whole.

This is what I am doing with this inspirational piece.  The phrase, “power of partnerships,” came into my mind.  It would have been the easiest thing in the world to ignore it.  On the surface, the phrase sounds true enough, but there is nothing special about it.  There is nothing that inherently attracted me to the phrase.  But I have learned to receive this kind of gift---even if I do not know what it might mean---and then begin to work with it until its value sta…

Peaceful, Happy and Strong

It is hard for me to imagine anyone seeing the three words that form the title of this reflection---peaceful, happy and strong---not wanting a share in all three.  Can you believe anyone would say, “Nah, I prefer war to peace.  I prefer conflict to peace!”  Can you imagine anyone saying, “I much rather prefer sadness and despair to happiness!”  And it is just as difficult to hear someone saying, “Heck, I’d much rather be weak and hurting than be strong.”  Anyone in his or her right mind wants to be peaceful, happy and strong.

The real question is not whether I prefer these attributes, but how do I get them?  Is there anything I or we can do to make them come true?  Or do we simply have to wait, sit back and hope to become peaceful, happy and strong?  The good news is, there are some things we can do to bring peace, happiness and strength to ourselves and to others.

I encountered these ideas recently when I was reading one of my favorite books which I use for a class.  The book is by T…

Community at Stake II

Yesterday I focused on an article written by Catholic Sister Christine Schenk.  Her title mentioned the Brazilian Liberation Theologian Leonardo Boff, whom I had read some three decades ago.  Boff was influenced by the charismatic movement that played a significant role in the Brazilian Church---Catholic and Protestant alike.  Schenk sees how Boff’s position challenges the clerical, hierarchical structure of the Catholic Church.  Because Quakers have a very different kind of organizational structure than Catholics, I don’t want to enter the fray of Catholic ways of understanding the historical, visible church.

I am intrigued by some of Schenk’s points and how those points help me think about community, which has been an important theme of my understanding of how humans gather in groups to worship God and try to live out together and individually.  Part of my foundational assumptions about humans and God is the relationship is not just one-on-one.  It is never just God and me.  I think…

Community at Stake

I have known for a long time that one of the key spiritual issues for me is community.  This was likely part of the formative process of growing up in rural Indiana where the word, community, was not used very much, but the reality of it was all around me.  I did not have the language of community in those early days, but I was learning how important it was for me.  Part of my formative process was to learn to value and appreciate community.  I still do to this day.

My need for and love of community was true through my college and graduate school days.  And it has always been an issue throughout my working life.  A significant factor in community for me has been the various Quaker congregations that allowed me to call home.  They have been a variety of Quaker groups---some with pastors, some more traditional theologically and some more liberal.  But through it all, the gathering of people who cared, served and struggled together has been a lifeline to me and my family. 

I have also bee…

Spiritual Support

Sometimes it seems those of us who strive to live some kind of spiritual life, try too hard.  Saying such does not mean I believe the spiritual journey is so demanding that we need to see it as a herculean effort that only strong folks can manage to do.  Actually, I think the journey may be fairly simple.  Theology can become quite complex, but the spiritual walk itself is relatively simple.  I think that is probably true in all the major religious traditions.  I am convinced it is for Christianity.  I suspect it is also true for my Jewish friends, my Buddhist colleagues, etc.

There are some basic components to the journey.  Faith is surely a beginning point.  Somehow we need enough trust to begin the walk.  There has to be some commitment to develop along the way or we would not continue.  Commitment is formed through a process of discipline.  Surely any journey that lasts for some time is going to require a modicum of discipline. For anyone who played sports or music, this is no sur…

A Day of Thankfulness

When I began teaching about contemplative spirituality, I was fortunate to find a book that has become key to the success of that venture.  The book, Essential Spirituality, by Roger Walsh helped me think about how I wanted to structure the class and, then, it offered a wealth of practice exercises to help students and me alike learn how to start to live contemplatively.  In that sense it is a very practical book.  Students routinely have told me that was one book they planned to keep.  Most of the time students unload books soon after a semester concludes!

I did not know about Walsh.  It turns out, he has an intriguing background.  He is Australian by birth and education, but now teaches at the University of California at Irvine.  He has a medical degree and a Ph.D.  Currently he is Professor of Psychiatry, Philosophy and Anthropology at Irvine.  I owe him a debt of gratitude for this helpful book.

The title of the book is given some more focus when we note the subtitle: The 7 Central …