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Showing posts from April, 2013

Tempo of Obedience

I have returned to reading some of Thomas Merton’s journals.As you may know, Merton is one of my favorites.He was a monk at a monastery in the middle of nowhere Kentucky.Oddly enough, he was in a monastic tradition that valued and practiced significant silence.He was a man of few words in the monastery and yet was a man of prolific words in writing!

There are seven big volumes that make up the journals of Merton.I find them fascinating.It is both a pleasure and profound to read the thoughts of this monk as he lives his life in a situation very different than mine.And yet, the themes of his life are amazingly similar to mine. His life was a quest for meaning and purpose.He desired deeply to learn to love.He knew (sometimes only opaquely) that life only finally mattered if God somehow were involved in his life.I share all theses themes.
As I was reading along yesterday, I hit upon a great phrase that stopped me in my tracks.The entry was December 22, 1964.By now Merton is living in his ow…

Spirituality and the Market

The title of this inspirational reflection suggests two different academic disciplines or departments.On my campus if we were to talk about spirituality and the market, we think Religion Department and the Business Division.In most cases the two would not be in conversation.In my own case, however, I have done a great deal of collaborative work with a colleague from the Business world.It has been productive work and surprising where our joint efforts have made a difference.
I have often said that it is only on college campuses that artificial divisions exist.Sometimes I think it is unfortunate that we make students choose majors.And too often, the students operate with the illusion that a particular major leads to specific kinds of jobs.Of course, there are times when that does seem to be the case.If a student is an accounting major, then it is true that he or she can probably find a job as an accountant after graduation.But that does not mean he or she will be an accountant the rest…

Spiritual Excellence

A good friend of mine sent a short article to me.I had to laugh when I saw the opening line, because it means she knows me fairly well.The first line goes like this: “Are you a perfectionist? Or do you strive for excellence?”I felt like someone just peeked into my soul!I am sure that once upon a time I would have answered “yes” to both questions.Yes, I am a perfectionist.And yes, I am striving for excellence.It caused me to stop and ponder, which I think, is a very spiritual way of going about things.

I made some spiritual progress in my early pilgrimage when I realized I was a perfectionist.Being a perfectionist is not an awful thing; it is just an impossible thing.Even people who are very good cannot pull off the perfectionist hope.We are all too human to be perfect.So I was better off when I gave up that dream…which was actually an illusion.Giving up being a perfectionist does not necessarily make life easier.But it does make life possible!
I read on in the article.The article states…

A New Friend

The theme of friendship has been important to me for a long time---at least two or three decades.And no doubt, friendship has been important to me most of my life.That is probably true for you, too.In saying that, I am not referring to the rather modern version of Facebook.I understand with Facebook, I could have hundreds of friends!But I don’t feel deprived by not being on Facebook.Some day maybe…

A couple times, I have actually taught a class on spiritual friendship.I have enjoyed tracing the idea of friendship from Aristotle through key medieval figures to our own contemporary world.In some ways I think the ancients understood friendship more deeply than we do in our age.It is too easy in our age to be superficial.It is too easy to claim a friendship with someone after barely meeting him or her.
However, I don’t want to dwell on the philosophical or historical levels.I want to stay with the everyday, real level where most of us live our lives most of the time.It was at this level yes…

God of Compassion

This morning when I was doing some devotional reading, I was struck by a line from the morning prayer selection from the lectionary I use.As usual, some of the Psalms appear.And it was there in the 86th Psalm that I read these words about God. “But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”

A different translation renders that first line, “And you, Lord, are a God of compassion.”I like this way of describing the nature of God.I trust it is true.There is a solace in not only believing in God, but also believing that God is a God of compassion.Another way to say it is to affirm that compassionate God is a merciful God.
I sincerely believe there are times and occasions where only compassion and mercy can rule the day.I am confident that God is and will be that compassionate and merciful Divine Being.I am not talking about death, judgment, and eternal life, although that often is the context for discussion of God’s compassio…

Sacred Gift

Recently I wrote a piece on what I called “sacred aging.”In that piece I wanted to point out the difference between what I called sacred aging and simply getting older.I believe everyone gets older.Unless you die, you are in the process of getting older.It is perhaps most stark in a retirement center or nursing home.In those places there is a constellation of old people.In many ways they have already gotten old---and are in the process of getting older.But they all still have a choice about sacred aging.

Almost in a blink of the eye, I was presented with a stark alternative to sacred aging.This new experience was easy to label as “sacred gift.”Since it has to do with gift, that means I had almost nothing to do to get the gift.All gifts plunk into our laps.Allow me to tell you about the sacred gift.
My sacred gift is a granddaughter.As with all kids, she was born a very little baby!Of course, babies rapidly grow.They turn into adolescents and then teenagers in what often seems like war…

Sacred Aging

Yesterday I had the opportunity to visit a retirement center.It was a very pleasant experience.The retirement center is affiliated with my own Quaker tradition, so in many ways I felt right at home.I was there to offer a few words about Quaker spirituality and I always enjoy doing that.It is fun to talk about yourself.Since I am a Quaker, to talk about Quaker spirituality is a chance to talk about myself.

Over the years I have visited countless retirement centers in my work.Typically, they are quite nice places.Although they are similar to nursing homes, they are not the same.Most people don’t go into nursing homes until they are sick or incapacitated.Nursing homes are often not quite as nice.Few people probably are willingly there.
Retirement centers, on the other hand, are normally populated by people who chose to be there.Of course, it means most of the folks are of such age that they know they need to be somewhere where they will receive life care.No one who is sixteen moves into …

The Seeds of Hope

Because I spend a great deal of time with people, I tend to be fairly aware of what is going on with them.Sometimes they tell me and others what’s happening and other times I simply pay attention and they may “talk” with body language or other means.I certainly don’t have any special gifts or skills in this.I think I just pay more attention than many people. One of the facets of being human that fascinates me is what people hope for.It seems that humans tend to be creatures of hope.I have no clue whether we are genetically wired that way or if our environment---especially our American culture---shapes us to be hopeful.And I can imagine my own perception is warped by the kind of particular culture in which I live and spend most of my time.For example, much of my time is spent in a university setting and that surely is a place of significant hopes.Compare that to a slum which is mired in poverty and, perhaps, infested with drug dealers and the scene of hope is likely different.But I do…

The Idea of Community

Probably most of my adult life I have valued the idea of community.I am not sure where or how that valuation happened.I do know the idea of community is generally important within Quaker spirituality.However, I think that would give me more credit than I deserve to suggest I got this at an early age!

Oddly enough, I suspect part of my attraction of the idea of community is related to sports.I played team sports and liked that aspect of the athletic life.I liked “being in it together” with other guys.When I was older, I played on mixed softball teams so enjoyed being in it together with other guys and gals.I found it much more fun to win when I was with others.And it certainly is easy to experience losing when you are in it with others.Nobody talks about this as community---but I think it is a form of community.
So for fifty years, I have valued the idea of community.I have actually been aware of and appreciative of this idea of community for quite some time---probably forty of those fif…