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Spirituality for all Seasons

Too often spirituality, and religion for that matter, is portrayed as the antidote to sadness, sickness and sundry other less than desirable aspects of life.  Of course, no one told me explicitly that was the case, but it is true this was the implication I took from my young days.  The implication was the truly religious or spiritual never would suffer from being sick, from being sad or other human maladies.  When I was young, I guess I thought religion was a kind of inoculation shot against human problems.

Now that I am older (but questionably wiser!), I don’t think this is true at all.  Religious and spiritual folks get sick just like normal people.  We have bouts of sadness just like all humans.  And we are not immune from any of the other maladies that afflict the human race.  In fact, I would argue to be human is to be a sitting duck for sadness, sickness and sundry other aspects of life.  That just seems to be the reality of the deal.  So what does this suggest about spiritualit…
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Occasionally you see something or hear something that is instantly funny.  Sometimes it is the context or lack of a context that causes the laugh.  One such thing happened to me today.  I was innocently heading into a building for my next stop of the day.  As I walked by a set of doors, I noticed a sign posted on the window.  As I read it, I immediately broke into laughter.

The sign read: “Insanity is cancelled; Resumes next week!  I suppose for those who know more than I do, the sign makes perfect sense.  It was clear to me that since I did not have the right context, the sign was simply funny.  I did not know that insanity went on in that building!  And if insanity were happening, why would they want to cancel it?  Clearly, I was missing something.

Of course, I know “insanity” means sick---usually mentally sick. In Latin sanus means health, soundness and sane.  The “in” on the front of sanus means just the opposite.  Since I had no context for the meaning of the sign, I concluded so…

When in doubt, we should wait

The title of this inspirational piece may seem odd.  When in doubt, we should wait.  That does not seem like the American way.  I think Americans tend to be more pushy.  When in doubt, push ahead.  Force things!  Make things happen!  You can do it!  There are many ways we express the fact that we should seldom wait---for anything.  We pride ourselves that we lived in a fast-paced fashion.  “Get yours while the getting is good,” is a phrase I heard all my life.  The implication was you had to be quick, perhaps a bit grabby, and certainly never dally.  Slow people are losing people.

There may be times the above-mentioned perspective serves us well as people and as a nation.  But spiritually speaking, that is usually not a good way to go.  However, I believe that we often carry our lives-as-normal into our spiritual lives.  That should not be surprising.  Why would we expect ourselves to be one way “in the real world” and a different way in our “spiritual lives?”  As I think about this, …

The Naming Game

My daughter recently had a baby.  In this case it is good news.  The baby is very lucky compared to other babies around the world who were born on the same day.  This baby is wanted.  Not all babies are.  This baby will get the advantage, not only of parents who care about it and will love him, but parents who have enough money to provide good food, shelter and all the rest.  Not all babies will have that deal.  My grandson will also be advantaged in that genetically he probably is above average intellectually and will have the additional advantage of good schools.  Effectively, the kid has it made and doesn’t know it!

But all this is not predestination.  My grandson can still blow it.  He can grow up and not take advantage of his advantages.  He can squander this treasure of possibility.  He can be irresponsible.  And his more disadvantaged counterparts may well rise above what you might have expected.  Many of them will find ways to excel, when we might have expected them to fail.  T…

Morning and Night

Recently I led a retreat which was focused on Thomas Merton’s magisterial poem, Hagia Sophia.  Hagia Sophia translates “holy wisdom.”  The whole poem is a look at the presence and function of Sophia---Wisdom.  In doing this Merton is dipping into an old aspect of the Christian tradition that is rooted in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament).  Wisdom is often characterized as the feminine aspect of God. 

When we become aware of Merton’s influences, one significant group of scholars he was reading in the 1950’s were Russian Orthodox writers.  Orthodoxy, more than Roman Catholicism and Protestants, valued the Wisdom tradition found within Christianity.  These Russian Christian scholars often found themselves living in turbulent times in the early 20th century when the Russian revolution brought to power an atheistic government.  Many were exiled or forced out of the country.  But they have provided a valuable way to view God, the Trinity and, especially, the incarnation. 

While there is far …

Appreciation: a Matter of Perspective

I stopped by one of my favorite places to get something to eat.  It was supposed to be a quick in and out, so that I could head home to do some work.  Sometimes I will go there for a little social time.  The people who hang out there are so very different from me.  At one level, we share almost no common interests, except perhaps an interest in sports.  While I like sports, they certainly are not a very high priority in my life. 

I know the owner of the place pretty well, although I would only call him a friend in a very loose sense of that word.  So I was sitting on a chair, waiting for some food to arrive.  The owner came to me and greeted me.  It was nice to see him, for it had been a pretty long time since we had seen each other.  I was genuinely glad to see and greet him.

I am sure he makes it a high priority to befriend all the people who come into his place.  In the business world that is called business development!  If I were to put it crassly, I was part of his business dev…

Don’t Stop Singing

​One of the most remarkable people within the history of the Christian church is a medieval woman, of whom most people never heard.  Hildegard of Bingen is her name.  Bingen is the place in Germany where she was a Benedictine nun.  Hildegard lived through most of the 12th century.  She was the abbess of her convent, among other things.  She was a mystic, a visionary, a scientist and the list goes on. 

​I would like to share a few lines from her writings to demonstrate how this woman is so remarkable.  I begin with one of my favorites.  Hildegard tells us, “Don’t let yourself forget that God’s grace rewards not only those who slip, but also those who bend and fall.  So sing!  The song of rejoicing softens hard hearts.  It makes tears of godly sorrow flow from them.  Singing summons the Holy Spirit.  Happy praises offered in simplicity and love lead the faithful to complete harmony, without discord.  Don’t stop singing.”  Perhaps you, like me, smile when I read these words. 

​In some wa…