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Showing posts from July, 2013

Inspiring Friendship

The concept of friendship has been an important one for quite a long time for me.And I am sure the phenomenon of friendship has been important to me since I was in the first grade, at least, and probably even before then.I have taught a few times a college class on spiritual friendship.Every time I have done that, it has been a special occasion.It seems that teaching a course on friendship creates a special opportunity for significant personal development among the students.And fortunately, I am the beneficiary of that experience, too.

I have studied the idea of friendship, so I probably know more about the history, the philosophy and theology of friendship than most people know.I have valued the way Aristotle talks about different kinds of friendships.I appreciate the way Cicero, right before the time of Jesus, developed some profound ways of understanding how friendships are formed and how they should be lived.Friendship came to be a very important idea in the history of Christian s…

The Coach, the Monk and the Truth

Somebody once said that we are known by the company we keep.To an extent, I think this is probably true.I would be happy to be known by the range of friends that I have.I have some very good people I call friends.To be associated with them is a privilege.But we can take this even further.

It might also be true that we are known by the people we read.No doubt, the folks that we read do inform us.And often, they form us.There is no question but what I have been influenced mightily by the various spiritual writers I have read over the decades.I think this is especially true in our younger years when we are being formed as people.But hopefully, we continue to grow even into our “silver years.”
I would call this a form of continuing revelation.Calling it such is not meant to take on the tricky issue of biblical authority.As I want to use the phrase, continuing revelation, I simply mean an ongoing relationship with authors, ideas and my own personal growth.I very much hope I can continue th…

Martha: Patron Saint for Non-Winners

Today is the feast day of Martha---known as St. Martha in the Roman Catholic tradition.Martha is a figure we met a couple times in the New Testament.Probably the more famous of the two accounts comes in John’s Gospel when we hear the story of the raising of Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha.Clearly, the important person in this story is Lazarus.

The other reference to Martha comes in Luke’s Gospel.This is a much shorter story and throughout history has been open to various interpretations.In this story Jesus comes to have a meal with the sisters.The sisters function in two different roles.And often one of these roles is seen as a “higher” or more important role.If this were a contest, Martha would become the patron saint for non-winners.Let’s get a bit of the background.
In this Gospel story from Luke we read that Jesus came to a village where the sisters lived.Right away we are told that Martha “welcomed him into her home.” (Lk 10:38)I very much like this opening of this story.…

Papal Insight

I like following the work of the Pope.Since I am not Roman Catholic, the Pope has no inherent spiritual authority over me, but he does exercise a kind of spiritual authority for all Christians.It would be absurd to say that since I am not Catholic, the Pope does not matter.After all, there are more than one billion Catholics in our world---that means about one out of every six human beings are Catholic!Those are impressive numbers.And to think that one human being has spiritual authority over that group is doubly impressive.

If we wanted a comparison, the best comparison would be the nation of China.That nation also has over one billion in population.And it, too, is governed by a single president, Xi Jinping.Even he does not have the kind of authority that the Pope has.But I am not really interested in the issue of authority---either religious or political.I am actually interested in the person who is elected to this kind of position and, therefore, acquires that kind of authority.

The Hope of Community

People who know me know that I have a love of community.But I am also quite aware of how superficial and shallow “community language” can be.Anyone can pronounce that any group is a community.I know that it is a slippery word.I don’t know too many people who are against community, but I suspect many of us don’t quite know exactly what community is nor how it is developed and sustained.Sometimes I am not sure myself.

So when I wanted to revisit this topic, I turned to one of my old friends, Parker Palmer.My relationship with Parker goes a long way back.We share quite a bit of ideas and commitments, but he has become famous (and probably rich).I have achieved neither!Palmer has been thinking about and writing about community for a long time.He has been actively involved in thinking about this from the perspective of the educational world.But I don’t think it is that much different from the world of churches, temples and mosques.
Let me share a basic definition of community, as Parker Palm…

No Music on Bad Days

Anyone who has lived a few years knows that there are times when life is not good.There are times when things don’t go very well.We are assaulted by things that are not to our liking.We can be sick, disappointed, or denied.We can watch others get what we thought was rightfully ours.We can try so hard, get so close and still lose.Some days life is just not much fun.

I also think this is true for the spiritual life.Anyone who has been involved in the spiritual journey for any length of time knows all days are not equal.It is not unusual for the early days of the spiritual pilgrimage to be pretty good.Often there is that initial burst of enthusiasm.Not surprisingly, God can seem to be right there in your corner.The spiritual tradition calls these graces of God “consolations.”Consolations are good.In fact, there are a bit like spiritual goodies.
The truth of the matter is, however, we should not be thinking we are entitled to these spiritual goodies.It is important to recognize they are g…

A Royal Baby

Understandably, there is much hoopla when a royal baby is born somewhere around the world.Since Americans don’t have a monarchy, we have nothing like a royal baby to celebrate.Fawning over a royal baby is both fun and funny.For Americans a royal baby creates an occasion for much fun.It is fun to join the world in speculating when the birth will come, what the name will be and so on.In some ways it is so much fun because we have nothing at stake.

And it is funny.It is funny because if we had any national stake in the birth of a royal baby, we would be in revolt.We took care of the king/queen issue back in the Revolutionary War.I know some people who think having a president is bad enough!A king or queen would be unthinkable.There will be no royal babies here.But somewhere else?That’s great; we’ll watch and participate with pleasure.
Having pondered royal babies, I have concluded it does not matter much at all to me.Of course, I am always happy the royal baby is safely born and, apparen…

Practice to Grow

I am always delighted to meet someone who has been spiritual for decades.Perhaps it is because I spend a great deal of my time with younger folks.Even if a college-age student has been religious for quite a while, that still pales in comparison with an eighty or ninety-year old person who has “been at it” for decades.Most college-age students simply have not lived long enough to experience the serious ups and downs of life.On the other hand, if you have lived eighty years, chances are you have seen a great deal.

I am intrigued to know how the old-timers manage to hang in there with their spiritual practices.What sustains them over the years?In my own Quaker tradition we talk about “dry places.”These are the times of the life of the spirit when nothing seems to be happening.We may spend time in prayer, but there seems to be no connection.We may meditate regularly, but to no real avail.We practice, but our spirits are so dry, there is no growth.
I long to know God’s Spirit so well that …

Case for Interconnectivity

Sometimes I read something simply because of the person who wrote the piece.It is typical for humans to have their preferences.Some people like specific musical groups.Others are drawn to particular artists.I am a person who likes specific authors.In fact, I have a number of favorite authors.There are the obvious favorites like the late monk, Thomas Merton.He is pretty famous, which means many people know him.Another favorite of mine is Paul Knitter.Knitter has just retired from Union Theological Seminary in New York City.He is a long-time professor and scholar who is not as famous as folks like Merton.But he has had a long, distinguished career shaping theways young folks think about life and their world.

Knitter was one of the earlier people involved in the ecumenical and interfaith conversations.When I say ecumenical, primarily I mean the interaction and dialogue among different Christian traditions.When I am involved ecumenically, it means I take my own Quaker perspective into con…

Significance of Signs

I was out for a leisurely walk yesterday afternoon.It was one of those glorious days that would be unfortunate to miss.It was an effort not so much focused on exercise and more focused on simply enjoying the day.I am not sure I do enough of that.Too often I am in the middle of something I think is important and I am too much in a hurry to get to wherever I am going.I think I do miss the roses sometimes!

I was trying to pay attention to the world around me and the cosmic beauty.But I was not particularly focused on anything special.I was not trying to see anything nor learn anything special.I was certainly not thinking about this reflection to be written tonight.But as usual, if one is open and attentive, things are revealed.Once again, I went for a walk and something spiritual occurred.
It was provoked by an older woman who was driving down a street.I did not even notice until she stopped and a young lad jumped out of the car and disappeared into one of the college buildings.There was n…

Key to Life

As I have mentioned so many times, when serendipity comes my way, I am delighted.I always feel so lucky when serendipity hits.I feel good when I recognize that serendipity has just graced my life.Sometimes I wonder how many times I miss something that is serendipitous, just because I failed to notice it?

This time serendipity came in the form of a John Lennon quotation.I like John Lennon and the Beatles, but I was never a huge fan.The quotation from Lennon did not even come from some music.Instead it came rather innocently in some regular mailings that I receive.Often I do not even read those things.For whatever reason, this time I read it and Lennon’s words leaped out at me.I am thankful.
I also am curious, so I did some research.It seems that it is pretty dubious that Lennon ever said the words I am about to quote.But I don’t care.It is not important to me that they be from him…or anyone else famous.I also find some folks online don’t like the sentiment in the quotation.But I don’t …