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Showing posts from October, 2013

Smell of the Spirit

Yesterday was a beautiful day.As usual, in the late afternoon I changed clothes and headed to the local Metroparks for my run or, sometimes, a run that slows to a walk.I love the Metroparks.It is a park system that circles my fair city…some 70 miles in total.On nice days one sees the runners, walkers, bikers, rollerbladers, women with baby carriages, and other sundry people.It is a wonderful venue for those of us urbanites and suburbanites.Nature is a short distance away.

Yesterday was one of those “slower than usual days.”In fact, it would be a lie to suggest that I went for a run. But it was beautiful and I did not care.I was outside; I was mobile; and I was enjoying myself.As I have commented so often, in such a state I think people are sitting ducks for spiritual experiences.
My spiritual experience was sneakily ordinary.But most of my spiritual experiences are so ordinary they could easily and summarily be dismissed by the most amateur atheist.In a debate I could not do a very good…

Walk the White Line

I was not very far into my run/walk yesterday, when I noticed them.It was a gorgeous fall day.It was warm, the sun shone brilliantly in the sky and the leaves are turning multiple colors.It was a good day to be alive and to be outside.Besides it was more fun than reading and grading papers!

I noticed ahead of me on the other side of the road a bunch of kids and two adults.They were just emerging from a yard and were coming toward me on the side of the road that has no sidewalk.It is not a hugely traveled road, but there are quite a few cars and the road is relatively narrow.From what I was guessing, there were two mothers and five kids as I differentiated the pack unfolding one person at a time.
Naturally, the kids bolted to the front, forming a single line to include the mothers at the tail of the line.I was not paying close attention as I loped along in my own little world.But then I heard these words from one of the kids: “Walk the white line.”Those words jolted me back into consciou…

Identity and Relationship

Recently I have been leading a group that is using the classic book, Gift from the Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh.Originally published in the mid-1950s, this book has stood well the test of time.It is dated in some ways.Reading it again makes me aware of how our American culture has changed.The role of women, of marriage and other things have undergone significant change since the mid-20th century.And yet so much of the book is timely and, even, timeless.There are still nuggets of wisdom and profundity that make me delighted to read it again.

At one point, the group focused on chapter IV, “Double-Sunrise.”I really don’t know much about shells, except to know that I like them and like to pick up shells when I am at the beach.But I have never been an “ocean person,” so am very much the novice.Lindbergh describes the double-sunrise shell in this fashion.“Both halves of this delicate bivalve are exactly matched.Each side, like the wing of a butterfly, is marked with the same pattern; trans…

Tradition and Convention

My favorite monk, Thomas Merton, makes an interesting distinction in his book, No Man Is an Island.Merton differentiates tradition and convention.Merton talks about tradition in very positive terms. I like the way Merton defines tradition.“Tradition is living and active…Tradition does not form us automatically: we have to work to understand it…Tradition really teaches us to live and shows us how to take full responsibility for our own lives.Thus tradition is often flatly opposed to what is ordinary, to what is mere routine.”I will unpack this lengthy quotation as we consider the meaning and impact of tradition in our spiritual lives.

But first let’s get a sense for how Merton uses the idea of convention.Then it will become clear how he differentiates convention and tradition.“Convention,” says Merton, “is passive and dead…Convention is accepted passively, as a matter of routine.Therefore convention easily becomes an evasion of reality.It offers us only pretended ways of solving the pr…

My Little River

I sit in my chair as I begin to write this inspirational piece, which will be read tomorrow.It is pitch dark outside.As we near the shortest day of the year, it always seems much later than it really is.I have some nice windows to look out, but because it is so dark, I cannot see a thing. But I can hear the roar in the background.If I were to invite you into my place tonight, you would swear we were at the ocean.With only a little imagination, we would be certain we could hear the waves crashing on shore.But I am twelve miles from one of the Great Lakes and at least 400 miles from the nearest ocean.So it is not the ocean we hear outside my little place.It is my little river. Why would I call it my little river?I call it that because most of the time that is exactly what it is: my little river.Right now it is pretty tumultuous.If you could wait with me till dawn begins to fragment the eastern night sky (and my window does look out to the east), we would see that my little river is quite …


Recently on my pilgrimage to the monastery, the students and I participated in one full twenty-four hour round of the Divine Office, as it is called.The first aspect of that is Vigils, which happens at 3:15 am.Vigils is a good name, coming from the Latin meaning, “to keep watch” or “vigilance.”At the other end of the cycle is Compline, which obviously has the sense of “completing.”

I loved Compline.Because of the time of the winter season when we were there, it was already dark outside when we entered the sanctuary for Compline.The darkness led to a more mysterious sense for us as we walked through the darkness in silence into the sanctuary.Because we had been up so early, it was easy to understand why the day did seem like it was nearly complete.It was easy to know that if we followed this schedule on a daily basis, as the monks do, we would have to head to bed fairly soon after Compline.No 11:00pm news and Jay Leno for monks!
One of the things I bring back with me from Gethsemani is t…