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Showing posts from August, 2013

Revelation: A Spider’s Web

There are always cool things to learn if we are open to learning.  And some of the stuff I learn, I am not quite sure what I will do with it.  Just this weekend I read an interesting article in the local newspaper about spiders.  I am neutral on spiders.  They are interesting creatures.  I am not scared of them.  They don’t bother me, but before reading the article I was not particularly fascinated by them either.

But now I am intrigued.  The title of the article is catchy: “Unraveling a spider’s secret miracle fiber.”  I think any time someone uses the word, “miracle,” intrigue is built into it.  And then you add the qualifier, “secret!”  Who can resist a “secret miracle?”

The article gets to the point when it describes the silk woven by the spider.  We read that “Spider silk is nature’s miracle fiber.  It’s ultra-strong, versatile, durable, replenishable, even edible.  Spiders can churn out 100 yards a day.”  “Wow,” I think, “100 yards!”  “And they can eat it!” I’m hooked on spiders…

Prayer: Making Connection

I hope this day is a prayerful day for you.  I realized at one point that I did not always know what people meant if they talked about prayer.  It was not so much that they did not know what they meant.  No doubt, I was the problem.  I became aware that I was not at all sure I knew what I meant by “prayer.”

I grew up in a church context.  I watched people pray.  I listened, but realize I really did not listen.  I think I heard words, but paid no attention.  There even were those times when I was supposed to pray.  Now I know that no one had taught me anything about prayer.  Then I only felt “put on the spot!” 

I have now learned a little more about prayer.  It is not easy.  But maybe it is, and I have just made it too difficult.  And then at one point I encountered the work of the wonderful Jewish theologian, Heschel.  I have been guided and assisted by this 20th century spiritual titan.  Abraham Joshua Heschel’s book, Quest for God, has inspired me and I like the sub-title: “studies…

Without Preaching the Gospel

Although the title for this inspirational reflection comes from inside the text of a small article I read online, it was the title of that online article that lured me into reading.  I routinely read quite a few religious and spiritual websites just so I can be more aware of what’s going on in the world.  And it is literally in the world.  Once upon a time, you were current if you knew what was going on in your city or state.  Really “with it” people had a good national awareness.  When I was growing up, I don’t think I knew anyone who had been abroad.  In those days on the Indiana farm, to go to New York City or DC was tantamount to going abroad!

With the internet things have changed.  The world is as near as the click of the mouse.  So I try to follow the global news, particularly in the spiritual sense.  If I am dealing with students in my class who may live till 2085, I need to help them live with an awareness of the shrinking world they inhabit.  I have to be careful of my own pe…

Insight: A Look Within

It was while I was reading a really interesting book that I had an insight.  The insight itself is not what I want to give focus.  Instead I became intrigued by the process of getting an insight.  What happened?  How did the process happen?  Was it a matter of luck or is there really something I could do to enhance my chances of getting insights?  Let’s pursue this idea, especially with respect to spiritual insight.

The word, insight, is fairly simple and straightforward.  It is a compound word, “in” and “sight.”  Literally it means to “see within” something.  It means looking “inside” something (it could even be a person).  In that sense we get an “inside look.”  But it also is a little trickier than this.

If we were standing outside a house and peered into a window, we would not say that we had “insight” into the house.  We merely would affirm that we had looked “inside.”  And if I open a drawer in my house, I would never say that I had “insight” when I looked inside.  I simply look…

Ears of God

I like reading a variety of things that help me on my daily spiritual trek through life.  Help comes from many and, sometimes, odd venues.  Daily newspapers, magazines, preparation for classes and even notes on the wall have provided inspiration over the years.  I am thankful for the myriad of revelational sources.  But among the lot, no doubt the biblical text still ranks right up there as very important.

I am not one who thinks every verse in the Christian Bible is significant.  I am ok thinking that the Bible, as a whole, is inspired.  But it is difficult for me to think every sentence or word is divinely inspired.  That would require an extensive discussion, of course, on what “inspiration” means, how it happens, etc.  I actually don’t have too much interest in that discussion and, certainly, have no interest in pursuing in here.  Suffice it here to acknowledge that inspiration means to help, encourage, to light up your life.  God certainly does that; but so do other people.

One o…


Sometimes my life can get too complex.  It may be because too much is going on.  Perhaps it is something like the beginning of a new school year or a holiday season.  Sometimes it is self-inflicted.  For those of us who have a hard time saying, “no,” life can become too demanding.  Busyness is always a sign that life is bordering on being too complex.

But I am aware that complex lives cannot simply be equated with busy lives.  For some people, it is the opposite extreme, namely, boredom.  I know some people who, in their own words, “are bored to death.”  Obviously they are not literally dead.  But their boredom is a form of being dead---a kind of pre-mortem deadness.  They are as good as dead. 

When I sense complexity is becoming a pressing life issue for me, I know it is time to entertain its opposite: simplicity.  Simplicity has a hallowed history in my own Quaker tradition.  I know I have been “for it” all my life.  When you are younger, simplicity is easier to manage.  But as you…

Depending on Your Participation

I very much enjoy reading things that make me think.  When I hit one of these pieces of literature, I realize how much my own routine imprisons my creativity and imagination.  I certainly do not think routine is bad.  I like my routine.  It makes me feel quite comfortable.  By nature routine is predictable and knowable.  There is usually a sense of security with our routines.  That is fine with me.

But I also know there is another facet of life that is just as intriguing.  The other facet of life points to the imaginative---the creative and innovative.  It is the side of life that is not routine.  It may be moments of serendipity.  It involves the unexpected and, even, the unanticipated.  Surprise is the dominant feature of this side of life.  I am drawn to this part of life, but I also confess it makes me somewhat uneasy and a little nervous.  It makes me feel more vulnerable than secure.

I have been reading some words of the Franciscan Sister, Ilia Delio.  I have never met her, but …

God’s Love Affair

One of the reasons I enjoy reading a variety of things is because of new ideas that come my way.  Of course, I read quite a bit of religious and spiritual material.  But I like a range of other things, too.  I actually enjoy reading about contemporary science discoveries.  And the whole psychological world fascinates me, mostly because all human beings are psychological beings.  I read a piece recently that combined most of these different areas.

The article was written by a Franciscan Sister, Sr. Ilio Delio, and it contained the gist of her comments to a gathering of religious women.  On the surface this seems like a boring read.  In fact, I found it fascinating.  In the first place, I was quite intrigued by the theology inherent in the text.  By theology I mean her view of God and how God works in our world.  Clearly, she is well versed in the scientific way of viewing our world---our cosmos.  I am always inspired by someone who has a deep faith in God and a mature, contemporary und…

Amazing Grace

Probably like many of you, I first learned about these words, “amazing grace,” from the old hymn by that title.  “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound” goes the first phrase and that one I know by heart.  One of the things about me and music of any sort---hymns or popular music---is that the melody somehow takes my mind to a different place and I can seem to pay attention to words.  I can even begin a song with the intended purpose to listen to the words, to pay close attention…and that melody does it again.  At some point, I realize the song or hymn is nearly finished and I have not paid attention!

This happens to me even when I “know” the hymn and have sung it countless times.  But I also confess, this is not always bad.  It actually does enable me to sing and enjoy some hymns that I might not really like or feel comfortable with the theology.  And in some cases, the theology of the hymn, Amazing Grace, is not to my liking.

For example, the phrase after the opening one which I just qu…

Insecurity's Gift

This odd title is an altered form of an intriguing article I just read.It is by Eric G. Wilson and his title is “The Gift of Financial Insecurity.”Often I am looking in some unlikely places of ordinariness to find the spiritual gems.Much of what Wilson discusses is insightful.He certainly does not discount the problems that our current economy has brought…and probably yet will bring.There are layoffs, cutbacks, and other misfortunes.

But there are “gifts” in these lousy circumstances.I particularly like one of his lines because it rings true to my own experience.Wilson says that these times can cause us to question the way we have been living.He continues with the comment that, “Doing so, we pull within, explore ourselves, and discover what is really important to us, what we most require to make our lives valuable.” I actually smiled when I read that last phrase, “to make our lives valuable.”
A flip remark crossed my mind: “oh, so valuables don’t always make life valuable!”Indeed, a…

Spirituality: More Than Flipping a Switch

Sometimes when I stop to think about something, my reaction is to be stunned.Occasionally, I become aware that something I routinely do is really amazing.This experience occurred today.I walked into a room in my home, flipped on light switch and, no surprise, immediately the lights glowed.Instantly, I had transformed darkness into light.Instead of groping in the dark, I go directly in the light.As we would say, I could “see.”This may not be miraculous, but it still is amazing to me.

Of course, I know the technology of our times makes things like this possible.Once upon a time, I would come into my home, find the matches, light a lamp, and have some dim light to find my way.Before modern technology, this would have seemed perfectly normal.And it would have been better than no light at all.I suppose once upon a time when night came, that was it.Go to bed and wait for another day to dawn.
But today we artificially alter the way we have to live.If I want to come home and stay up till midnig…