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Showing posts from March, 2013

Holy Week and Easter…Again

Even if you are a Christian, I have concluded it depends on where you are---what is your context---how aware of Holy Week and the impending Easter you are.If you are a Christian and work in a mainly secular environment, you may be relatively unaware of Holy Week.For many it does not dawn on them until at least Thursday.And of course, in the secular world there is absolutely nothing special about Thursday.
But even in the secular world, Friday often assumes special connotations.It might be a holiday---a day off.It is at my College.So I suppose it is the one day Jews, Muslims, atheists, and other non-Christians are thankful for their Christian brothers and sisters!But for the Christian, Friday---Good Friday---is an interesting one.
I suspect that for many Christians Friday is simply skipped.They see Easter a very special and nothing else really matters.The resurrection is key for them.Why bother with anything less.Let’s skip sadness and depression and go straight for the joy and jubila…

Planning for Serendipity

There are some words I just really like.Serendipity is one of those words.It is fun to say.Especially the last part of the word, the “dipity,” is fun to pronounce.It seems more poetic than prose, more musical than mere speech.And I like the meaning of the word, serendipity, too.Serendipity means finding something very good or nice---something that you were not really looking for or had any reason to expect to find.Serendipity is always a surprise---a good surprise.Nobody can be against serendipity. If serendipity is something that we find that we could not have expected, it seems like the story might end at that point.The point would be that we should appreciate serendipity when it happens.And that would be the end of the story.But I am not so sure.I wonder if there is not a more creative approach to serendipity? I pondered the question and concluded that it is possible to plan for serendipity.I know that might sound like a contradiction.If serendipity is unexpected and totally a gif…

Spirituality: Stress Buster

We all know about stress.Some of us live with a great deal of it.“Relax,” they say.“I wish I could,” is often my reply!There are so many stress inducers in our contemporary life.Our jobs are often good at inducing stress.Traffic sometimes does it while we are trying to get to our jobs.Health concerns have to be one of the major stress inducers.And of course, relationship issues are guaranteed stress inducers.

There are a few people who seem to me never have to worry about stress.Maybe that is because they never have to worry.Or they chose (somehow) not to worry.I don’t know how they do it.Perhaps, it is genetics.Maybe some folks are bred to have no stress inducers.No matter what happens, they are unflappable.But I am not like that.
Certainly, I think the kind of environment one grows up in has a great deal to do with stress.No doubt parents teach us a great deal.I do think they teach us how to stress out.When I ponder my own home environment, I think my parents were pretty good at teach…

Spiritual Engagement

Engagement is an “in” word now in the business world.I have read countless reports on engagement or the lack thereof in both for-profit and not-for-profit contexts.The argument usually is making the point that engaged workers are more productive people.And more productive people make the company reduce expenses and are more productive.This normally goes to the bottom line and makes the company more profitable.All that makes sense to me.

I suspect there is a similar truth in my own work place, the university.It probably is true not only for the faculty and staff, but also for the students.In fact, I wonder if there is not some correlation to engagement in the classroom and student learning?I would b surprised if there is not some correlation.

Engagement is an interesting concept.At one level, I feel like I know quite a bit about it.I have written and spoken about it for a few years.In fact, I feel like I was talking about engagement before it became a media hit topic.I have followed so…

The Best of My Tradition

Occasionally, it is important for me and, probably for all of us, to return to our roots and revel in that.Tradition is another word for roots.In my case that is the Quaker tradition.All of us grow up with some kind of tradition---or with the lack of a tradition.Not all traditions are religious.But we grow up with tradition.However, at some point we usually have to decide whether that tradition is for us.As an adult, do I still want to claim and be claimed by that tradition?

In my case, the answer has been affirmative.As a boy, I did not learn that much about my own Quaker tradition.Or what is more likely, I heard a good bit about it, but did not pay much attention!But as I grew older, I came to appreciate more and more that tradition into which I was born.There are some really good things about that tradition.
However, I do find that tradition challenging.Sometimes, I am convinced Quakers of old---those founders of the tradition---were so much better at being spiritual than I am and, p…

Engage and Engaging

The Psalms are effective because of their language.The language of the Psalm is rich, powerful.It is dynamic; it moves and ebbs.It flows.Psalm language uses metaphors and symbols.

The Psalms understand God as the One who engages and is engaging.God has a will for us and seeks us.We have a will.The question is, will we seek God?The life of the spirit is one of seeking and finding.
Everyone is seeking.The question is whether we find anything…or anyone?Our movement through the day is seeking.We have a job, but often are seeking another one.We might have a job, but does it matter.If we pay attention, there are questions all over the place.And usually questions are a form of seeking.For example, once upon a time, I had to take chemotherapy.As I would go into the hospital to get the treatment, I wondered whether I would get sick?Back in the day when I had kids, we wondered whether we would have a girl or a boy?
The language of the Psalms helps us realize that all life is a religious pilgrim…

The Other Side of Something

I sat down this morning to write something.  I always hope it is somehow inspirational for the folks who read this.  I know there are different ways to be inspired.  Sometimes inspiration is simply gaining some knowledge.  Sometimes inspiration is more motivational.  It can move someone to be or to do something.  Sometimes inspiration is assurance.  There’s a lot to be said spiritually speaking to be assured.  I know how easy it is to feel unsure---to experience doubt.  After all, spirituality does not deal in certainties.  It is more about faith and less about certainty.
So I sat down to write something spiritual---something inspirational.  Often something immediately comes and I am like a vessel of the Spirit.  Words spill out of my fingers stroking the computer keys.  It is as if I am inspired and that same inspiration literally is transferred to the screen.  Other times, it is more deliberate, but it is nevertheless inspirational.  I have an idea and it is developed---more slowly,…

St. Cyril of Jerusalem

Part of my spiritual discipline is to follow the Catholic, Benedictine litany.As I have confessed before, when I was younger, I had no clue what a litany was.Essentially the litany is daily planned readings.It includes Bible readings, always involving multiple Psalms and other short readings.I like the litany because it gives me a plan.It engages me and I can “do it” without having to think about things.It is both an effective and efficient way for me to practice some spiritual discipline. Why I also like using this litany is the fact that the various saint days are indicated.Again when I was younger, I did not do saints.Quakers never talked about saints, except maybe for someone like St. Paul.But he wrote some parts of the New Testament, so obviously he was special.Other saints were unknown to me. I began my saint learning in college and graduate school.When I took my first church history class, I encountered some of the biggies---saints like Augustine, Thomas, and others.Moving on …

A Spiritual Challenge

I don’t usually pick up the newspaper and expect to be spiritually challenged.I expect to read the sports pages, check out the news (which is normally a repeat of what I already know from the internet) and look at the obituary section to see who has left us.Almost never am I spiritually challenged.Even if there is some religion in the news, it is not often spiritually challenging. So I was unaware of what was coming when I innocently began to read an article in the “Arts” section!The article focused on the writer, Ann Pratchett.She is a fairly famous contemporary writer, although I do know that much about her.But that did not affect how challenging the article about her was going to be. I should have known something challenging was coming when the article began with these words.“Ann Pratchett does not Tweet.She does not post on Facebook.She does not text, or even talk on her cellphone…”Normally if you were describing this kind of person, you would be describing an old monk or a very …

Night Wisdom

I find it helpful to have a rhythm in my spiritual discipline.  For one thing that helps me from getting stale in my practice.  This was a major question of mine when I began taking the spiritual journey seriously in my college days.  I wondered how people could “be at it” their entire lives.  This was even before I knew anything about monks and the monastic life.  For sure, I would have known how they could possibly do it. Probably my wondering was rooted in an already too Americanized version of what it takes to have an interesting life.  In the beginning it seemed like I was facing a choice: an interesting life vs. a spiritual life!  If the choice is posed that way, it is not difficult to understand why most people would choose an interesting life!  Or it is easy to understand why most of us would choose an interesting life until we are old or sick.  And then we naturally shift to the spiritual life!  Nothing like a move of desperation to drive us to God! Of course this is a false…

Habemus Papam Franciscum

It is always risky to use a Latin title.  On one hand, it looks stupid because no one today understands or uses Latin except for a bunch of old Catholic guys in obscure places like Catholic seminaries, monasteries and in Rome.  On the other hand, it could look pompous to suggest that I know Latin and, therefore, know something special.  Certainly this is not the case. I do know some Latin, although the older I get, the more rusty it becomes!  I like knowing some foreign languages.  By and large, Americans tend not to know foreign languages—which can be our own form of arrogance.  I like Latin because it is a universal language.  It is the universal language of the Roman Catholic Church---all 1.2 billion of those Catholics!  Obviously not all the billion+ Catholics know Latin.  But they are part of an amazingly large group who do have a “common language” known as Roman Catholicism. I am not Catholic, although I do consider myself one who lives at the fringe of the Catholic Church.  I …

My Granddaughter---My Teacher

It is with considerable trepidation that I write about my granddaughter.  Certainly it is not that she embarrasses me.  To the contrary, I am very proud of her.  That is one of the roles of grandparents, as I have learned from others.  Of course, she is cute, smart, and about the most amazing young kid of this century!  And of course, that is totally biased and ungrounded, but that is my prejudice. Actually writing about my grandkid is something like pulling out too many photos of her and subjecting a friend with more photos than the one picture he or she probably is willing to look at.  I know it takes longer to read this than it would take to look at one picture and say something like, “that’s nice!” I have begun to realize that my granddaughter is becoming my teacher.  That is probably not surprising to Christians and other faithful people who actually know their Bible and have a deep sense of the spiritual life.  Jesus was pretty clear about the role and function of kids.  Maybe …

My Friends and Merton’s Friends

I am preparing for some lectures that will come soon enough.  The main focus is on Thomas Merton, the very well known Trappist monk who died very tragically in 1968.  As I have proclaimed before, I think it could be argued that Merton was the most famous Roman Catholic of last century.  I am sure some would argue that Pope John Paul II would edge out Merton as the most famous one.  That would be an interesting discussion since John Paul had such a long and distinguished tenure as Pope (1978-2005).  And of course, so many people today still fondly remember him.  Since Merton died nearly a half century ago, not that many people remember him.

I never met Merton.  But I do know a couple of the older monks at the Abbey of Gethsemani, where Merton was a monk, who joined the monastery when Merton was the novice master.  Since they knew the Merton of the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, this was the Thomas Merton who had grown so much spiritually and in so many other ways.

The later Merton was a man…