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Open System – New Life

Sometimes I think I have this thing for monks and nuns!  I realize with all that’s going on in our world, that statement could get me in trouble!  Minimally, it sounds fishy.  But I mean it.  I am not sure exactly when it was that I met my first monk or nun.  I know it was not growing up through high school.  We barely had any Catholics in the rural area that I called home.  So it would be college time, at least.

There is not doubt my religious world expanded significantly in my college days.  I went to college in the south, so suddenly there were many Baptists in my life!  I also began to make friends with Episcopalians, Catholics and all their cousins who could teach this Quaker boy a thing or two about liturgy.  I made friends with Jews and knowingly made friends with Muslims.  My world was getting much bigger.

But I don’t remember meeting a monk or a nun.  However, I do remember reading about monks and, in fact, began reading some monks who wrote some important stuff in the early …
Recent posts

Hope and Memory

One of the benefits of having to prepare for new presentations is the chance to do new reading and thinking.  Of course, at this stage of the game, I do have some things that are true to me.  Those things are central to the way I see myself and my world.  It does not mean they are universally true, but they are true for me.  And I think they are true for many other people. I like to share these.  And I also like to keep reading and thinking to see how my own truths can be confirmed or challenged.  And I like to find new things that make sense and fit into the way I look at things.

Recently, I had the challenge of helping a group of church leaders think about the future---not only their own personal future, but the future of their congregations and organizations.  Sometimes this exercise is called strategic planning or long-range planning.  I am ok with this, but when it comes to spiritual organizations, it is not fully adequate.  I think God has a desire for each of us as individuals a…

On Listening

Although I have not mentioned it for a while, I continue to follow the lectionary.  This helps me with my own form of spiritual discipline.  Simply put, the lectionary is a series of readings picked out for each day.  I follow the lectionary I know Benedictine monks follow.  They observe multiple times daily when they worship.  During these periods, some Biblical material will be used.  At every one of these, some selection from one of the Psalms will be used.  Since I did not grow up using the Psalms, this continues to be part of my ongoing spiritual formation. 

The Psalms are not all fun.  Many of them talk about hard things in life.  They deal with people who have gone off the rails in terms of their faith.  Often the emotions being dealt with in particular Psalms are raw.  The God portrayed in the Psalms is not a God who is always easy going and dispensing happiness all the time.  This God is a demanding God who wants people to stay faithful to the covenant: I will be your God if…

Oddities of Faith

Folks who know me know that I am someone who acknowledges an appreciation for the writings of the late monk, Thomas Merton.  Even though Merton died in 1968, he has had a formative role in my spiritual faith and life.  I never met him, although I know a few people who knew Merton.  Part of the intrigue of Merton is his own pilgrimage from no faith to a life of faith. 

Had you known the early Merton---from his birth in 1915 through university years in the 1930s, you would never has guessed his life would take him where it did.  He became famous as a monk---an odd thing in itself.  Paradoxically, you could say he left the world only to have the world find him.  From an out of the way monastery in the hinterlands of Kentucky, Merton became a global spokesperson on a number of key issues in the 1950s and ‘60s.  For people like me, his words still have a relevance more than half a century later. 

Probably no one would have guessed a kind of cottage industry would emerge around Merton.  By …

Pentecost: the Church’s Birthday

Yesterday was the Christian Church’s birthday.  Maybe “birthday” is not a good descriptor, but it gives you the idea.  Pentecost is a Greek word meaning “fifty.”  Pentecost comes fifty days after Easter.  Since Easter was so late this year in the calendar, Pentecost also has come late.

Pentecost commemorates the post-Easter gift of the Holy Spirit on the early Christian disciples.  Essentially, the New Testament texts for this major Christian day are Acts 2 and John 20.  The gift of the Spirit is about the only thing the two texts have in common.  The more well known of the two biblical texts is Acts.  In that account the disciples are gathered in an Upper Room and the Spirit comes upon the believers like a fire and they speak in a variety of tongues (languages).

The Holy Spirit is the key to their beginning ministry in the world, just as it was for Jesus.  In one sense, the presence of the Spirit on one’s life is a way of understanding God to be present in one’s life.  With this Divin…

Happy Hour

Recently I went to a local restaurant, sports bar place with some friends.  It was late afternoon and the plan was to spend a little time together after work and in a different setting than the one in which we normally interact.  I enjoy these opportunities to be with some folks I like, but some of whom I barely know.  I especially appreciate the chance to get to know some people who work at the same place I do, but whom I never have the chance to see. 

I am always amazed to walk into one of these gatherings and see some faces and have no clue who they might be.  It’s a humbling experience, since I usually think I know most people who work at my institution.  Wrong!  I like the fact that getting to know and spend some time with people is the reason we are getting together.  Where we do it is not that important.  But I know food and drink often make the occasion more pleasant, so I am happy to participate.

When we go to this kind of place, it is usually Happy Hour.  For the most part,…

God's Will

In a couple months I have agreed to do a teaching series that I am excited about, but not ready to do.  I have agreed to compare some different Christian spiritualities.  The challenge is to talk about some things about which I don’t know too much.  The delight is the work I will do in order to be prepared.  For me it is a learning time.  I hope I am a model of the life-long learner we talk about with our college students.  I am not sure it means much to them at their age, but it means something to me.

In the first instance I want to do some comparisons between my own Quaker spirituality and Ignatian spirituality.  Ignatian spirituality is that tradition linked to Ignatius of Loyola, the sixteenth century Spanish Catholic priest and creative genius.  Ignatius founded the religious order known as the Society of Jesus---better known as the Jesuits.  The Jesuits are remarkably well-educated who have been teachers and mission workers all over the world.  Interestingly, the Jesuits are obed…