Innovation in Spiritual Things

In addition to being involved in the world of religion and spirituality, I also have been fairly involved in the world of innovation.  Much of this grew out of collegial work that I have done with a friend of mine.  I will admit that I never thought too much about innovation before he and I began doing some thinking and, then, some writing on the topic of innovation.  A couple things occurred to me in the process.

In the first place I realized that it did not matter too much whether I used the word, innovation.  In fact, I have been fairly innovative much of my life.  When I learned the meaning of the language of innovation and looked at my experience, I recognized there was a match.  Part of my misunderstanding was thinking that innovation was solely a business word.  I knew businesses needed to be innovative---especially in today’s climate.  And since I was not in business, the language of innovation did not apply to me.  I was wrong.

Secondly, I realized that innovation can be lear…

Four Kinds of Happiness

David Brooks is up to it again.  Regular readers of my inspirational reflections know I like the kinds of things Brooks offers.  Brooks is the kind of person with whom I would like to hang out with and talk about things.  I am sure his experience is quite different than mine, but we have come to focus on similar ideas.  In my language Brooks has been focused on the question, what’s the point of life?

In a recent editorial reflection entitled, “When Life Asks for Everything,” Brooks offers two kinds of models of human development.  Space does not allow me to pursue both, so I choose the one I am drawn to and the one Brooks prefers.  He calls this model the “Four Kinds of Happiness.”  When I read what Brooks proposed, it did not seem novel.  In fact, I think I have spent most of my adult life reading about and trying to choose this particular model of my human development.  I am a work in progress.  Few, if any people, on this path can feel like they have it made.  As my friend so often …

A Different Noah

The most famous Noah surely is the biblical Noah.  Noah is the biblical figure we meet in the early chapters of Genesis.  Because of the rampant sin around the world, God is ready to deal with the problem.  For some reason Noah found favor in God’s sight.  So Noah becomes the first savior of the world.  Most folks know the story about God telling Noah to build the ark.  Doubtlessly, this is one of the earliest stories we learn if we attended Sunday School.  I have seen countless little kids make some kind of ark.  Some of them do not look trustworthy on the high seas.  But Noah and his kin survive.  We know the story of the dove returning with the olive leaf, which is the sign that Noah can disembark from the ark and begin normal life.

In my lifetime Noah has not been a popular name.  I have only known a very few.  Growing up in school I don’t think I knew one kid named Noah.  When I lived in Indiana, I had an older friend named Noah.  That Noah would not have been one God would have c…

A Look at Belonging

I was looking at a recent journal for alums, which came from one of the institutions I attended.  This one was from Harvard Divinity School.  The Seminary was a very good next step for me when I was finished with my undergraduate degree.  Clearly it has world-class resources---more resources than I ever had have since being there.  One of the most amazing resources was the group of people with whom I associated.  Being an Indiana farm boy, that experience at Harvard was a growing, stretching time.  It helped me become the person I am. 

When I look at a journal from my alma mater---whether it be undergraduate or graduate institutions---I have some interest about what’s going on and what kind of work is being done.  Of course, it has been so long since I was in school, all the actors are different.  Some of them I know because I have met them along the way, but most of the faculty and staff are not people I know.  A person who fits this category is the Dean of Harvard’s Divinity School,…

Revisiting Noah Story

One of the people I regularly follow is Richard Rohr.  Rohr is a Franciscan brother who is an ordained Catholic priest.  He heads up an Institute for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, NM.  I use some of his books in classes I teach and I like to read the inspirational things he produces.  I have met Rohr, but cannot claim any relationship.  But I have a relationship with his ideas and his spiritual encouragement that comes through his writings. 

A recent reflection by Rohr on the familiar biblical story of Noah is one such piece I found very interesting.  I know all too well how hard it is to take a familiar story, like the story of Noah, and help folks get a new angle and appreciation for the familiar story.  Like most people, when I hear that someone is going to take a story like this, I say in my mind, “oh, I know everything about that story and I know how to interpret it.”  So I half read or listen and find I have a self-fulfilling prophecy: I learn nothing new!  And I am n…

Practice to Grow

I am always delighted to meet someone who has been spiritual for decades.  Perhaps it is because I spend a great deal of my time with younger folks.  Even if a college-age student has been religious for quite a while, that still pales in comparison with an eighty or ninety-year old person who has “been at it” for decades.  Most college-age students simply have not lived long enough to experience the serious ups and downs of life.  On the other hand, if you have lived eighty years, chances are you have seen a great deal.

I am intrigued to know how the old-timers manage to hang in there with their spiritual practices.  What sustains them over the years?  In my own Quaker tradition we talk about “dry places.”  These are the times of the life of the spirit when nothing seems to be happening.  We may spend time in prayer, but there seems to be no connection.  We may meditate regularly, but to no real avail.  We practice, but our spirits are so dry, there is no growth.

I long to know God’s …

A Beautiful Day

Yesterday was one of those days.  I woke up and was already feeling alive.  I went outside to get a cup of coffee and the newspaper and could tell the weather was going to be splendid.  It was one of those early autumn days…cool in the morning, but you knew as the day wore on, it would become pleasantly warm.  It was a beautiful day.  And the best part was that I had an awareness of this and was thankful.

I am afraid there have been many beautiful days and I was so unaware that I missed it.  I know there have been many beautiful days and I was upset and could not be thankful.  I am sure there have been countless beautiful days and I was so busy that I completely missed the opportunity to notice it and to be thankful.

Yesterday was one of those days.  I was busy, but I was able to be aware and to give thanks.  It was a beautiful day and I took steps to enjoy it.  Given my schedule, I was able to be outside on numerous occasions.  I know that everyone does not have the kind of situation…