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Showing posts from February, 2013

Friends Who Sing

I enjoy reading Thomas Merton.In many ways Merton’s life is so different than my life.And yet so much of what he says makes sense to me.And so often what he says helps me think about my own life and how I am trying to make sense out of my life.I suspect Merton speaks to so many people because he experienced so much in his life.Merton lived through both big wars of the 20th century and, then, was active through the Vietnam War.He was an unlikely person to join a rigorist monastery in the middle of Kentucky.But again, he made that experience something that spoke to people well beyond a Catholic monastery.And he still speaks to people long after his untimely death in 1968. In a very real sense I consider Merton a friend.I never met him, although I do know and am friends with people who did know him.I think the idea of friendship is a good way to enter the world of spirituality.Friendships are relationships that reveal so much about who we are, what we think, and to what we aspire. I am …

The Importance of Image

I try to follow various people I respect to see what kinds of things they are doing with regards to spirituality.  One of the people I respect is Richard Rohr.  While I don’t agree with everything he writes, I find his Franciscan spirit resonates with my Quaker spirit.  He and I are about the same age, so it makes it easy to understand some of his concerns and issues.  Neither one of us deals with teenage problems any more!

He has the ability to look at a common issue and see it in a way I might not ever look at it.  Perhaps some of that is due to our different backgrounds and experience.  I recall Rohr talks some about growing up in Kansas.  That might not be too different than growing up in rural Indiana.  But he also talks about his caring German, Roman Catholic family.  My family certainly was caring enough.  I have no complaints on that score.  But growing up a Quaker in pre-Vatican II world surely is quite different.  My family was fairly regular in church attendance on Sunday …

Just Pushing Rocks

I read an interesting recent article in an online newspaper.  It was written by Bill Keller, a regular writer for the New York Times.  Keller wrote about a book of poetry which was published.  Apparently the poetry is not all that good, but the story behind the poetry is wonderful.  Hence, it is really a story about John Borling.  Keller puts the story in its context when he says, “Borling’s poems were tapped out in code, letter by letter, on the walls of a wretched cell in Hanoi during his six and a half years as a prisoner of war.”

Maybe I am interested in this simply because the story comes from the period of my youth and concerns “my war.”  Sadly it seems, every American generation has “their war.”  My war happened to be the Vietnam War.  I never was sent to Vietnam, so I cannot talk first hand about the experience.  I certainly know quite a few people who went and I have shared vicariously some of their experiences.
I cannot imagine being in a prison camp anywhere for six years. …

Holy Curiosity

Even though I grew up on a farm in Indiana and spent a great deal of time outside, I would not say I am as attuned to nature as one might expect.In some ways it is a little disappointing to realize this and admit it.Of course when I was outside, I was surely aware of the weather.If it is raining, you don’t need a very high IQ to know it is raining!Awareness of the weather, however, does not mean you are generally aware of nature. Every time I come back to Annie Dillard’s great book, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, I am reminded of my off-and-on relationship with nature.I realize again how much I miss on a walk across campus.I lament at how unconscious I apparently am so much of the time.At one level, this is sad because it means I am capable of so much more.At another level, it is funny.It is funny because I sometimes think I am fairly aware and, then, realize perhaps I am not as aware as I think I am.Another good opportunity for some humility!Whenever I have the opportunity for some humili…

Path of Life

Last evening as I was doing the readings from the Benedictine lectionary for the Evening Prayer (called Compline), I was struck by one line.It comes at the end of Psalm 16.The Psalmist speaks to God, “You show me the path of life.” (16:11)I appreciate the matter-of-factness in these words to God.It is not a petition to God.The Psalmist is not asking God to be shown the path of life. When I read it closely, however, I see there are two possibilities.One way to read this passage is to understand the Psalmist saying, in effect, “You have shown me the path…thank you.”This would show me the Psalmist now knows the path and needs no more instruction or revelation.The job now is to get on with it.In some sense it now becomes an issue of obedience.I know the path and now I have to walk it! The other possible reading is more of a process.In this reading the Psalmist says something like, “You are showing me the path and you will continue showing me the path.”With this reading the Psalmist ackno…

From Connection to Communion

I have been intrigued by the idea of rebooting the mission.The idea may stem from the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and the chance for the Roman Church to elect a new Pope.But the idea of rebooting the mission is more comprehensive than the Catholic Church.I think it applies to all of us in the Christian tradition.And perhaps, it is even more widespread than that. As I have given it some thought, the first thing that came to my mind was the opportunity---maybe, the need---to repackage the message.This has been an ongoing obligation for spiritual leaders throughout the centuries.The heart of the gospel must be presented in lucid, understandable ways to the culture in which it is proclaimed.It does no good to proclaim a transforming message in fourth century language to a scientific, pluralistic, global 21st world.The message is affected by the medium. As I thought further, a sense of the process begin to emerge.Let’s assume the heart of the spiritual message is one of transformatio…

Repackaging the Mission

I recently ran into an interesting phrase used to think about the opportunity the Roman Catholic Church was presented when the Pope resigned.The phrase was “reboot the mission.”I liked that phrase.And when I pondered it, I realized this is not a Catholic opportunity alone.It is actually an opportunity for all Christians.And perhaps the same could be true for all the other major religious traditions, too.Since I personally hail from the Christian tradition, I will limit these thoughts to that tradition alone.If what I say applies more widely, then I am delighted. The idea of rebooting the mission leads me to think there is nothing wrong with the mission.Succinctly stated, the mission is to save souls.At least this was the take by the author I was reading.At one level, I would say this is accurate.It is easy to read the New Testament and conclude that is what Jesus came into the world to do: save souls.Of course, the tricky part is to determine precisely what that means.I know that thi…

Reboot the Mission

When I sit down daily to read the paper (and a few online papers) or delve into a book, I don’t go in thinking that I will find something about which to write an inspirational piece.But so often, that is the case.Something in an article or a point in a book becomes a focal point for some reflection.With some reflection comes a connection to an aspect of the Spirit’s presence and work in our world.Often this inspirational piece takes on a life of its own. When Pope Benedict XVI resigned, it was clear the Roman Catholic Church was heading into interesting times.I am one of the countless non-Catholics who are quite intrigued with what will happen.Of course, we all know that a new Pope will come along and the Church will move forward.I am Catholic enough (being a Benedictine oblate), I care deeply how the Church will respond to the leading of the Spirit. So I was nearly taken aback when I read an article online that was entitled, “Catholicism Inc.”The author, Bill Keller, has an underst…

Gift and Reception

I recently finished Richard Rohr’s book, Falling Upward.The subtitle of that book gives a sense of its focus: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life. Chronologically at least, I am in the second half of life.Mathematically there is no way I can live as long as I already have lived!But chronology does not guarantee much except physical maturity.We all know that people can be old, but emotionally immature.And that certainly goes for spiritual maturity as well. Rohr’s book has given me some good ideas for dealing emotionally and spiritually with the second half of life.Chronologically, I know I am heading to death.Emotionally and spiritually I would like to aim for life and to head in that direction.When I say that, I am not necessarily talking about eternal life---life after death.I am not opposed to that, but I am more concerned with real, true life before I die.I want to live today! I found a line in the last chapter of Rohr that excited me and, then, caused some trepidation. Matt…