About Me

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A Moment of Poignancy

Most of our lives are lived in the middle of routine.  That is certainly not bad.  In fact, my routine life is very good.  I cannot claim it is an emotional high---exciting day after exciting day.  I enjoy my life.  I have been given much more than I ever will give.  I have learned the meaning and lessons of grace.  Grace is a gift.  I have learned to recognize small gifts, which come from people and from nature---things I see as gifts that others might not consider anything special.

Apparently in our day, the word “blessing” is not seen as a useful, preferred word.  I am not sure why.  I still find the word useful.  It seems to me there is no other way to describe what happens to me when I am gifted except to say I have been blessed.  I suppose I could bless myself, but essentially I see a blessing as something that comes from without.  God has blessed me; friends and strangers have blessed me; and nature certainly has been a blessing.

And so it was in the midst of routine that I received an email.  It was authored by a friend, whom I don’t see very often.  She is one of those people whom I would even call a good friend, although we don’t see each other very often.  But that does not seem to matter.  When we connect, it is good and fairly deep.  So I was glad to hear from her.

Sadly, her message was not good news.  The husband of a good friend of ours had died in the middle of the night.  The widow I know fairly well.  She used to be a colleague of mine and was part of a group I lead at my university.  The group meets for the entire year, so I was with her week after week for a few years.  I had heard countless stories of her husband.  And now he was dead.  And he leaves a twelve-year old daughter who probably wonders why her dad did not wake up?

When I got the email, naturally I was quite saddened.  I did not know the guy very well, but I was sad that my friend has been thrown a major curve ball in her life.  Last night was the time to go to the funeral home visitation.  I’ll spare you my mixed feelings about open caskets, etc.  What I contemplated, as I joined the long line which was a parade to the grieving widow, my friend, was what would I say?

Her job was not an easy one.  Person after person came to her and said how sorry they were.  Soon that would be me.  What do you say?  If it were not so sad, I would laugh.  I am one who basically deals all day long in words.  I am fairly articulate.  Yet, as I approached the widow, I know there were no adequate words.  What do you say?  “Sorry?”  That is a puny word for a profound occasion.  I could add an adverb: “very sorry.”  But that’s little help.

Fortunately, I knew the power of presence would outweigh any impotent words I might utter.  And she will never remember exact words, anyway.  I took solace in the fact that just being there was the best thing I could give.  Maybe I can be a momentary gift.  Perhaps in some unknown way I can even be a blessing.  Who knows, maybe God can use me as an instrument of an early stage of healing.  There is no pride here.  All I am called to do is to be me.  Who I am has a history with the widow.  So whoever I am to her, I become that---and more---in the moment.

As I neared the widow, I prepared myself.  I did not rehearse the words I would use.  I trust the words that would come out of my mouth.  What I prepared was how I would be present to her.  As we engaged each other, she simply called me by name and we embraced in a hug.  In fact no words were exchanged.  We embraced in what I would call a moment of poignancy.  Poignancy is an expressive word.  It means to be “deeply affected.”  Often it is linked to pain or sadness, so it was a good word for the situation.  Typically, poignancy is felt rather than thought.  It is a heart word.

In that moment of poignancy, there was no need for descriptive words.  But I was part of a parade of people and the moment of poignancy had to give way to the moving reality of folks behind me wanting to be with her, too.  So we shared some words and assurances that I would be there when the funeral was history and everyone in her life returned to their normal lives.

I think this was the guarantee of that moment of poignancy.  It is the residue of the power of presence.  I did not make promises and, I'm sure, she did not expect promises.  I doubt that verbal promises would be remembered anyway.  In one sense the only promise I made was friendship, which we already have.  I don’t know what specifically it means, nor does she.

All I know is I gave the only gift I know to give in that moment.  It is to give myself.  Others have done it for me.  In a moment of poignancy the power of presence is the most amazing gift that can be offered.  And it is always a blessing.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Ark in Kentucky

I could not help it when I saw the headline, “”A Noah’s Ark in Kentucky, Dinosaurs Included.”  When I began reading Laurie Goodstein’s article, I was not sure what to expect.  But I figured it would be entertaining.  I assumed it was about the Noah’s ark story in Genesis and I was right.  I recently spent some time in Kentucky and saw signs to a Creation Museum in northern Kentucky and wondered whether it would somehow be about that.

It turns out to be related.  Creationism is a particular kind of Christian fundamentalism about which I know a little.  It believes in the literal truth of the Bible.  With respect to God’s creation, narrated in the earliest chapters of Genesis, the creationist believes that God literally created our world in six 24-hour days.  And our world is literally about 6,000 years old.  Of course, evolution is wrong.  This is a way of seeing our universe that does not square with my own theology.  I understand it, but don’t agree with it.

Ken Ham, originally from Australia, is the person behind the Creation Museum.  And now he has another project being built in Kentucky that is nearing completion.  The “Ark Encounter” is a chance for people of all walks of life to see first-hand what kind of ship Noah built at God’s behest to withstand the destruction of the Flood which Genesis says, wipes out the rest of the human race.

The story is well known.  Because of the moral degradation of humanity, God decides, in effect, to start all over.  Because of Noah’s uprightness, God chooses him to be a kind of “new Adam.”  Ham is concerned that humanity has not done much better than our ancestors who were killed in the Flood.  The story of Noah is effectively a story Ham uses to suggest we shape up or we will face the same destructive result.

Soon we will be able to visit the ark.  There will be the requisite animals on board, but they will be stuffed.  As one who grew up on a farm with animals, there is much to be said for stuffed animals.  It will cut down on the messes made!  Clearly, Ham sees this “encounter” as a chance to proselytize those who come to visit.  I am sure Ham sees his perspective as the truth and the Noah encounter will give him a chance to straighten out the large majority of folks---Christians and non-Christians alike---who believe some other version of the faith…or no version at all.

I think it is cool that there will be drawings on Noah and the seven family members who were on board the original ark.  This is certainly an exercise in imagination, since this is obviously long before there were iPhones to record the experience.  However, I do appreciate human imagination and what it can conjure.  So I look forward to visiting the Ark Encounter some time when again I am in Kentucky.

But before that happens, I would like to add a little spiritual commentary on this story.  If there is any inspiration in what I write today, it can only begin at this point.  The most obvious thing to state is to say that I have the same Christian Bible that Ken Ham has.  We both share the same Genesis text and the same creation story (well, actually two creation stories: see Genesis, chapters 1-2).  So the differences between Ham and myself come with interpretation of the same text.

Basically, Ken Ham is a literalist and I do not take all texts literally.  I think ancient writers used the same kinds of figures of speech as we do today.  For example, if I said someone ran so fast, it was a hundred miles-an-hour, no one would literally believe that.  Of course, I am not God, so that can be dismissed as a figure of speech.  I am indeed not God, but I think the biblical writers whom God did inspire also used figures of speech.

An example of this is my own belief that God “speaks” to people.  I feel like God has “spoken” many times to me.  I did not hear literal words.  The “voice” in my head was literally “real,” but figuratively it was as “real” as any literal voice I ever heard.  In fact, that voice was so real, I made major moves in my life’s path.  In effect, I bet my whole life on the truth of that reality.

I close with a story from Christian history with respect to Noah and the ark.  The Church used the ark as a symbol of salvation.  For many the ark symbolized the church.  To come to belief and to join the church is, effectively, to jump on the ark.  I like that kind of interpretation.  But it leaves open some interesting judgments to be made.  Let me suggest a couple.

Whoever gets on the ark of salvation depends on God.  I believe God is originally and ultimately a loving God who wants nothing more than loving relationships with all people.  And I think God is merciful God who will be patient enough and merciful enough to bring us all back into that loving relationship.  My beliefs here have implications.  It suggests I think finally everyone gets on the ark.  If so, it is going to have to be a much bigger ark than the one being built in Kentucky!

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Spirit of Innovation

Recently I was at a conference on innovation.  In fact I had a hand in the conference even happening.  I have not been using the language of innovation and certainly not the language of entrepreneurship until the last few years of my life.  I would have guessed they were not relevant to what I was doing in my own career.  But to my surprise, when I began to think about it, I realized I have been fairly innovative in my time.  I just never called it that.
           
I have never started my own business and truly would not have thought about myself as entrepreneurial.  But I now know I could start my own business if I wanted to do so.  Likely, I never will, but I know I could.  And so I have this newfound interest in innovation that is really an old interest in new language.  I am intrigued by people who are creative and can figure out new things or figure out how to do old things in fresh, new ways.  I am sure we live in a time where more people need to be innovative.  I may not have too many more years to do this myself.  So I spend a great deal of time helping students and younger people learn about it.
           
One of the speakers talked about innovation in a way that made a great deal of sense to me---maybe it is because it echoes how I tend to describe innovation and innovative people.  As he spoke, I thought, “indeed, that is truly the spirit of innovation.”  In brief he described innovative people as curious, engaged and passionate.  Let’s look at each one of these.
           
I have to laugh when he began by saying innovative people are curious.  I continue to tell students they can be ahead of other people if they simply cultivate curiosity.  I know children are curious.  I had a couple kids of my own and know they were curious.  Of course, we all know that three-year olds are incessantly asking why!  I am sure all parents get really tired of answering that question.  We know an answer is merely a trap.  Once we try to explain why, another question is birthed from their curiosity.
           
Somewhere along the line, kids seem to lose that curiosity.  Schools often get a bum rap because they are blamed for destroying the innate curiosity.  I prefer to think maybe it is things like television and maybe the kids’ peer groups.  What I do know is people who are innovative are still curious.  They wonder about doing things differently.  They ask questions.  And they are hard to satisfy.  They are kids of the spirit of innovation.
           
The second point the speaker said characterized innovative people is engagement.  They don’t go through the motions.  They are engaged when they are with other people.  They are looking for ways to get better and to grow.  They read, meet other people and do many other things.  Engagement tends to create purpose and meaning.  They have fun.  And they may be satisfied with things, but they are discontent with the status quo.  They are children of the spirit of innovation.
           
Finally, the people of this spirit are also passionate.  They bring commitment and fire to the task.  No doubt, their passion fuels the engagement.  And the passion supplies the energy to keep going.  Passion can withstand failure and rebound from setbacks.  Their passion often is apparent in the persistence it takes to grow and succeed.  These kinds of folks are often contagious.  They are offspring of the spirit of innovation.
           
As I have been writing this description of innovative people, it began to occur to me that it also applies to people of the Spirit.  I capitalize Spirit to designate the Spirit of God.  I am convinced that the life of the Spirit is also an innovative life.  It is a creative life.  All three characteristics we have laid out also apply to people of the Spirit.  Let’s look quickly at this.
           
People of the Spirit are curious.  They are curious where they will be lead in their spiritual journey.  Becoming spiritual is not a well-scripted journey.  Everyone’s walk with the Spirit is different.  God does not call me to do your job.  Spiritually, I pursue my curiosity through prayer and other disciplines.  I feel my curiosity throughout a lifetime.  I am often creating new paths of life for myself.
            
People of the Spirit are engaged.  Of course, I can be Christian (or any other religion) and not be engaged.  I can go through the motions.  I can live a superficial, status quo kind of life.  But real disciples are engaged disciples.  We are willing to go for the gusto---to go the second mile, to go where called. 
           
People of the Spirit are also passionate.  Hopefully, we are inflamed with the Spirit.  The Spirit is often symbolized by fire.  This passion fuels a healthy zeal---not zealots who are crazy and dangerous.  But we have a zeal that sees us through the journey to the blessedness that comes as a fruit of the Spirit.  I hope I can be such a person of the Spirit.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Providence

Some who see the title for this inspirational piece might think I am writing something about the capital city of Rhode Island!  I could do that.  I lived in Boston for six years and was in Providence many times.  It is a fascinating city with a distinctive history of its own, even though it is a mere hour from Boston.  But this piece is not about Providence, RI.

Instead I want to share some thoughts about providence---a theological concept.  I know I usually don’t do too much with theology---at least, explicitly.  Basically, I am more interested in spirituality, but I recognize all spiritualities have some kind of theological expression.  This does not mean all spiritualities talk about God in some fashion.  Even Buddhism does not believe in a single, personal God the way many Jews, Christians and Muslims do.  But even those who don’t have a personal God have a sense of theology---an explanation of their fundamental principles.

Typically, the three Abrahamic faiths---Judaism, Christianity and Islam---do have some kind of God.  Of course, there are many ways to conceive of God, to describe God and to theologize about the Divine One.  When we talk about God, we necessarily are using symbols, metaphors, images, etc.  Even words themselves are symbols.  For example, we all agree to reference some feline animal when we use the three-letter word, cat.  Those three letters suggest a particular kind of animal.  No one thinks of an elephant when we hear “cat.”

This is a slow way of developing the context for the idea of providence.  Providence, as I want to use it, is a particular way of talking about how God is involved in the world---our world.  Of course, this assumes the God in whom I believe in somehow interested in and involved in the world.  Granted that it is theological assumption.  But spiritually speaking, I claim I have some experience that backs up that assumption---at least for me.

We get a good clue what providence means when we realize the verb is “provide.”  Providence is the result of someone providing.  When I see it this way, I realize that I, too, have been an agent of providence.  Every parent has been providential (the adjective).  You cannot bring a baby into your house without having to provide for the little one.  You feed her, change diapers and the list goes on and on!  We hear someone claim to be the “main provider.”  All this helps understand the meaning of providence.

With this we can now make a theological move.  We make what is called an analogy.  My role as a parent to my two daughters is an analogy to understand that is how God as Parent (Father or Mother) provides.  I think the metaphor of Father or Mother helps describe and understand the God in whom I believe.  To call these concepts metaphors does not mean I have to believe God literally is a Parent.  But God functions parentally---and that in a providential way.

I have a sense that God is somehow the creator of our world.  Personally, I am quite ok with understanding creation as evolution.  I don’t think God literally created our world in six days---six real days.  I also read the Genesis creation story metaphorically.  The writers of that text did not have the scientific sophistication we have today.  But those writers and I share the conviction that God is creative.  And I am the subject of that creativity.

What’s more, God is also providential.  God does not simply create, step back and say, “Good luck!”  The creative God is an involved, caring One.  God provides.  But like I know as an earthly parent, my kids did not always accept or appreciate my providing.  They had the freedom to say “no.”  Sometimes the look they gave me was “get lost!”  I suspect we do the same thing to the providential God.

And that is where the idea of providence is even more important to me.  I prefer that to the language of predestination.  God provides; God does not make or force.  God desires, allows, hopes that we do what is good and loving.  God wants the best for us, but too often we prefer our own egocentric, short-term goods and loves.  But God never gives up.  That is a theological assumption---but an important one for me.

Providence is always good news.  God never provides bad options or bad things for us---any more than a good parent would provide bad things.  This does not mean I won’t have some bad spots in life.  I can fail; I can be sad.  To be human is not to be perfect, but to be in process.  God honors that, but I am not sure God hopes for less than perfection.  And talking about perfection brings me to the last point.

I know in Greek the word we often translate as “perfect” can also be translated “finished” or “complete.”  That is where I see providence taking us---to becoming a finished person---a complete person.  Somehow death is part of the deal.  So providence clearly includes death---but maybe even more.  I am not worried; God provides.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Grace of Age

I have become old enough that most people with whom I spend time would tell you I am “old!”  The only thing now I can do is not to act my age!  Seriously though, I am quite good with my age.  In fact, most of the time I choose to think about my age as a kind of grace.  Being born was not my choice and some day will be my death day and I won’t have any choice about that.  The life between these two events provides me with a myriad of choices.  I am grateful for that and feel privileged to have the choice to try to keep getting better and not be bitter.

I know the classical languages and, therefore, know that grace means, “gift.”  In one very real sense life itself is a grace---a gift.  And really, the only thing we can do in the face of a gift is say “thank you”---gracias.  I try to live with that grateful spirit each day.  Of course, some days I manage it fairly well and others days I fail miserably.  But I can try.

With some age comes perspective.  Thankfully, I have enough age to be able to see age as a grace.  When I watch my three-year old grandkid, I doubt that she has yet a sense of grace.  In fact, I think she is beginning to learn about it.  I don’t think she has much sense of having been born---that her life is a given, not a choice.  If she does have this sense, it is not evident in any normal way.  But she is beginning to learn.

One way I watch her begin to learn about grace is learning to say “thank you” when she is given a gift.  She is old enough to get Christmas and the gifts that come with that.  And birthdays have gifts that come with that.  And most of the time, the gifts come prettily wrapped.  I suspect in her mind gifts are always wrapped and, therefore, always a surprise.  You might guess what’s inside, but you never know for sure until you unwrap the thing.  Once you unwrap it, the surprise is gone.

And in a sense, the gift is also gone.  Once you receive a gift, it is now “yours.”  That’s why her parents and I are trying to teach her to say, “thank you.”   That’s about all you can do when you are given a gift.  But then, the gift is “yours.”  You don’t have to keep saying thanks.  What you have to do now that it is “yours” is to make something out of it.  If it is a toy, play with it.  If it is money, spend it in a reasonable way.  If it is love---yes love is a gift---embrace it appreciate it.

It’s nice to use my grandkid as my foil.  It has been a long time since I was three!  And that means I should have learned to say “thank you” when I realize I have been given a gift.  And it should mean that I have had a thousand or a million chances to be aware of the many gifts and to embrace them and appreciate them.  I know I have done this perfectly.  Sometimes I have done it well.  But there is still and upside and I am climbing the ladder of gratitude.  And I am thankful for every new chance.

As I think about the grace of age---at my age---I realize how deeply spiritual it can be.  The sad thing would be not to realize how spiritual it can be.  I know there are some really fancy, complicated definitions of spirituality.  But a simple definition for me is to see spirituality as how you make meaning in your life. For many of this, the definition includes God.  It does for me.  God is a key aspect of how I make meaning in my life.

Somehow God is woven into the fabric of the world and into me.  That is not to say I think the world is divine or that I am God.  I do think the world is the laboratory---or playground---of the Divinity.  And I do affirm that I am godly---or at least capable of being godly.  To be godly means that I live and act in a way that God would do it.  And as a Christian, I have Jesus as a model and friend.

By nature God is a giving, loving Being.  God has the best in mind for every one of us.  And that is where grace comes into the picture.  Every day I realize I have been gifted (graced) with another day.  That is what I call the grace of age.  Age is nothing more than a cumulative sum of the days I have been graced to live and spiritually figure out how to grow.

I appreciate all the days behind me.  But I hang out with mostly younger folks and they are not really interested in hearing about my history.  The have a big future and a present day setting up that future.  I try to join them in that mode.  I know I have the grace of age, but my spiritual job is to share a little wisdom if appropriate.  God is dealing with them at least as much as God is dealing with me.  If I want to be an instrument of God, then my role is to support God’s work in them.

After all, the truth of be given the grace of age is to know and accept it is not about you!  If God is love, then we also should become God’s lovers of all others and the world.  If we do that, then we have figured out how to be gracious instruments of the grace given to us.  That’s my commitment and hope.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Rudy

I don’t watch movies and I’m not sure why that is the case.  I am certainly not against watching them, but somehow I never want to do it enough to take the time.  I always feel out of place and culturally illiterate on this count.  As nearly as I can tell, most students whom I know are avid movie watchers.  And most of my colleagues are, too.  It is not unusual for someone from either group to cite a movie to make a point.  That is always lost on me!

Recently, I was going through some channels on the TV and spotted the movie, Rudy.  I actually took the time to watch it---even though I have seen it before.  I wondered how old the movie was, so the Internet makes that kind of search easy.  The movie came out in 1983.  It is based on the true-life story of Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger, who did play football at Notre Dame.  The real Rudy was from Joliet, IL and always harbored the hope to attend Notre Dame and play football.  But he had a couple problems.

The first problem was he did not seem academically capable of getting into Notre Dame.  And the second problem was his physical stature.  He was way to small to play at the level of Notre Dame football.  That level of collegiate football is for the athletically elite.  Rudy did not belong.  So the story could have ended there.

But it didn’t.  Rudy began his college career at Holy Cross, a Junior College located across the street from Notre Dame in South Bend, IN.  So even though Rudy was not in Notre Dame, he felt like he was at Notre Dame.  He vowed to work hard so he could be admitted in Notre Dame.  That hope was more possible when he was diagnosed with dyslexia.  After three rejections from his dream school, he was finally admitted in the fall, 1974.  That could be the end of a good story.

Rudy would get his college degree.  But he wanted more.  He wanted to play football.  In this case there would be no lucky break, like discovering his dyslexia had been for rectifying some academic issues.  As a football player, he would always be too slow, too small and too mediocre to play big-time ball.  But that did not deter him.  That same fall, he walked on to the football team.  Again, that could have been the end of the story.

But it wasn’t.  Rudi worked hard---as hard as anyone.  In the language of the football world, as a practice player he became cannon fodder.  That militaristic metaphor says it all.  He played with heart, energy and enthusiasm.  He has a dream, but realistically he knows he has no prayer of playing---and that in a place where prayer was part of every game!  He should have quit, but he didn’t.

In the spring of his Junior year, the coach, Ara Parseghian, promised Rudy that he would dress him for one game in the 1975 season.  But Ara left Notre Dame as coach and was replaced by Dan Devine, who obviously had not made that promise.  However, under some pressure by all the players, Coach Devine agreed to let Rudy dress for the last game of that season and the last one of Rudy’s career.

With few seconds remaining in that last game, Devine relents and puts Rudy into the game.  Rudy makes one play---tackling the opponent.  Of course, the place is crazy and Rudy is carried off on the shoulders of his football buddies.  That is the scene where all the big, tough guys watching the movie are crying.  In one sense everybody watching the movie can identify with Rudy.

Rudy is the ordinary person---nice enough, but not talented enough ever to play big time in life.  Rudy is you and me---capable of dreaming but with virtually no hope of the big dreams coming true.  I would like to take it one step further.  I would like to suggest Rudy has a parallel in the spiritual world.  The parallel again may be you or me.  I am on a spiritual pilgrimage though life, but it is a most ordinary pilgrimage.

My spiritual journey is remarkably ordinary.  There are no spiritual magical moments.  I have been to no mountaintops---no miracles, but many mistakes!  I am not complaining.  And neither did Rudy.  I like the movie because I see lessons there for my own spiritual pilgrimage.

Rudy was committed.  He worked hard and prepared exceptionally well.  He knew what his role would be and was ok with that.  He was a great teammate.  He worked hard to make the team better.  Rudy was a humble guy---no sense of entitlement.  He had a dream.  So do I.

I can be committed, work hard and prepare well.  I can be important in my own spiritual community and be humble about what gifts I might offer.  And the most important lesson of all Rudy teaches me, but that point the movie did not portray.  Rudy would have been ok even if he had not played.  The game is not the key.  Belonging and making a difference were keys.  So it is with discipleship.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Conversions

I recently read an interesting and, admittedly, challenging article.  It was written by Charles Curran, a moral theologian who is very respected by me and others.  He is a Catholic theologian who teaches at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.  He is my age or older, so has been around for some time as a challenger of the Roman Catholic sometimes narrow interpretations of things.  But he challenges not only his fellow Catholics.  He confronts the narrowness of all of us who are not Catholic.  I have appreciated him for this.  He has helped me grow.

I was caught by the title of his essay before I even realized it was by Curran.  The title jumped out at me: “Facing up to privilege requires conversion.”  The focus of the article is on white privilege.  I understand this is an issue that is receiving a great deal of attention, but also realize it is a very old issue.  In effect, white privilege is what I have simply because I am a white person.  There is nothing I did in my life to deserve it.  It is simply how I was born.

However, in this inspirational piece I don’t want to focus on the idea of white privilege---even though it deserves a long and studied reflection.  Instead, I want to focus on the other major idea in Curran’s essay, namely, conversion.  Conversion is something I have thought about for a long time.  But Curran’s treatment added some new thinking to my way of seeing conversion.

Curran identifies three “types of conversion,’ as he calls them.  These three are personal, intellectual and spiritual.  He applies these to how he is dealing with his own sense of white privilege.  I think this is admirable and I plan to learn from what he is doing.  But I also think that these types of conversion apply more broadly than solely to white privilege.  I would like to look at each one to get a fuller sense of what conversion means.

Literally, conversion means turning away from something (or someone) and turning toward another thing (or person).  In some ways to convert is to pledge allegiance to that the one to which you convert.  Many of us have used the term to claim a conversion to God.  This is probably the easiest place to understand the first type of conversion---the personal.  When I use conversion in this sense, I don’t necessarily mean an altar-call type of conversion.  I recognize this characterizes the way it happens for some folks and I respect that.  But it was not that way for me.

Instead my experience has been slow, gradual and sometimes hit-or-miss conversion.  My experience has been this kind of slow pledging allegiance to the creative, sustaining God of the Universe (however that God is conceived).  It is personal because it causes me to be and do things on account of this commitment to and relationship with God.  In some ways I am sure this conversion process will go on as long as I live.  I continue to need to convert the remaining parts of my personal life.  Conversion is not a “one and done” deal.

The second type of conversion Curran identified is intellectual.  This makes much sense to me.  Intellectual conversion involves becoming conscious---conscious of who I am, my own historical and cultural situation, etc.  This is a big piece of being aware of my white privilege.  But in the context of my conversion to God, the intellectual aspect of conversion means leaning to see myself in a new way and trying to live out of that newness.

For example, conversion to God in my own Christian way means intellectually I am now a part of the body of Christ.  And that body of Christ includes many, many people who aren’t like me, except that they are Christians, too.  My commitment means I need to care and share with everyone---even the ones I might not really like.  Intellectual conversion means seeing this new way and, then, having the spiritual guts to go for it.

And that brings in the third type of conversion---the spiritual.  In some ways this spiritual conversion drives the other two.  If I can put it simply, if intellectual conversion is a conversion of the head, the spiritual conversion is a matter of the heart.  Only if my conversion includes the heart can I put “my whole heart into it.”  My heart is nothing other than the “real me” or the “deeper me.”  There are many superficial “me’s,” but they don’t convert.  Conversion only deals with the “deep me.”

Admittedly, it is easy to write this stuff.  I can put words on the computer screen and you can read them and, in effect, we both can claim, “that’s finished.”  If I have said anything true, conversion is not finished---at least, until I die.  And the beauty of Curran’s analysis is conversion is not just one thing.  That is why I used the plural, conversions, in the title.

My hope is I can not only remember all this, but I can be practicing it.  Each new day I want to embrace the conversions in my life and see myself growing personally, intellectually and spiritually into the person God dreams I can become.  I want to be God’s dream come true.