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Showing posts from June, 2013

Seasons of My River

I have a little river that flows right by my back deck at my house.Even with my baseball days long gone, I could still easily sit in my chair and throw a baseball and hit the river.It is that close.I like having that little river.In fact, most days I am not even sure it is a river.Much of the time, it is hardly more than a creek.
I am not even sure why I call it “my” little river.I don’t own any deed to the river.I don’t even think it is on my property.More than likely, it marks the boundary of what is “mine.”Even to use possessive language about land strikes me as a bit odd.Of course, I know about laws, property rights, deeds, etc.And of course, I really don’t want someone coming into ”my house” in the middle of the night to claim some space.I understand why I have locks on my doors.
And yet, a big part of me thinks all the property---all the land, creeks, rivers, mountains and everything else---is really God’s.For me to be part of nature is a gift.It is a good gift.I have been luck…

Internal Pawnshop

I have been reading a book by one of my favorite monks, Thomas Merton.As many would know, Merton has been around in my life for quite some time, even though he died in 1968.I never met Merton, although I feel like I know him.He wrote quite prolifically before his untimely death in his early 50s.One book I had never read is The Sign of Jonas.
In this book Merton used the Old Testament prophet, Jonah, as a kind of alter ego.Many of you will know Jonah as that prophet whom God chose to go to Nineveh, the capital of the Babylonian empire.Instead of obeying God, Jonah took off in the opposite direction!He climbed aboard a ship, which soon ran into bad weather.Feeling like he was to blame, Jonah was tossed into the sea, upon which he was swallowed by a giant fish.Symbolically, he keeps getting farther away from and deeper from God.This is an interesting comparison for Merton to be making.
I don’t want to focus on any particular content from the book.Instead I was struck again how felicitou…

Second Half Spirituality

The title of the reflective piece may suggest spirituality and sports.They may be related, but that is not my intention.Actually, the idea for this piece came in an extended article I found yesterday at cnn.com.Now that in and of itself is a little unusual.One typically does not find spirituality articles at CNN.Certainly, one usually does not find spirituality articles being highlighted on the home page.But that was the case with some extended thoughts from Richard Rohr.
My eyes lit up when I saw Rohr’s name.He is one of my favorite contemporary writers on spirituality.I routinely use a couple of his books in my classes.And he has been a provocative help to me in my own spiritual growth and development.Even so, I was not quite prepared for the title of the CNN article: “Priest pens spiritual survival guide for recession.”I learned soon, however, as I read into the article that it was a kind of announcement and commentary on Rohr’s new book, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two H…

Community Losses

I am sure I learned very young that community was important.I just didn’t have the language for it.When I was a pre-school kid, I recall my dad going into the little town close to our farm.A number of guys (I don’t remember any women) gathered each morning in the local drugstore to have coffee and discuss the hot topics of the night before and day to come.I was thrilled to be included, but I don’t recall talking.But I was present.
I am sure no one called that gathering a “community.”But that is exactly what it was.It was not a religious community, although I am sure most of the guys went to church somewhere in the little town.It was not political, although politics surely were central to the discussion.It was a “community community,” if that makes any sense.Sports, local news, farm economy and local business news were the fabric of the community.
I have been part of communities most of my adult life.It is fair to say they are important to me.It seems I need them, although I suppose I…

Stability

Recently I was invited to speak to some people who were on a four-day spiritual retreat.I welcome these kinds of invitations, because it guarantees that I am in the midst of folks who want to be there.They are people who know they are on a journey and they are open to have people like me come into their midst and try to offer a thought or two to aid that journey.I find it to be a humbling experience.
I am on my own spiritual journey.Sometimes, I think I have hardly made it out of kindergarten!Most of us know the ups and downs of spiritual journeys.They are anything but straight lines from beginning to perfection.My own journey tends to go in fits and starts.I make some progress and, then, fall back and need to start all over. I don’t think this is unusual.So I don’t get down about the pace of the process.After all, it is a lifetime journey.I’m in no hurry!
The good people who invited me to come into their midst were using some material from St. Benedict’s spiritual tradition to help …

Inclusiveness: Please Join Us

I was moving quickly from my last meeting to my plans for the evening---a sporting event on campus.So I decided to pop into one of my favorite local places in order to get something quickly to eat or drink.I knew the sporting event would be starting soon and all my life I have been the kind of person who is almost always on time.Often I will show up early to something, so I won’t be late.It seems that somehow was built into the fabric of my being.I do it automatically; hence, there is no need even to think about it.
So through the doors I went.Obviously, it was dinner hour and the place was pretty full of people and there was a rather loud buzz of noise as people at each table had to speak a little louder in order to be heard above the conversations of the tables nearby.But we all know that never works, because the noise level continues to go up, as if each table competes with neighbors!
I thought about slinking right back out of the doors, when I spotted a couple friends of mine sittin…

Grace of Age---Gift of Youth

I never thought about it too much.Age is what it is.Sometimes I am surprised by how old I am.But I can remember being so much younger and lamenting that I was not older.Obviously, it is easy to want to be something other than what we are.But that is a dead-end street.If I am forty, I am forty.I can act like a teenager, but that is pretty silly.Or I can act like an old guy and that is sad.Age is what it is.
However, age is surely more than chronology.Chronology measures quantity.If I am forty, I have lived “x” number of days.It does not say how well I have lived those days nor how meaningful they may have been.Chronology tells you nothing about the lows I experienced nor the mountaintop ecstasies I have had.Chronology clunks along day by day and year by year.Age is what it is.
We all know that life is not simply measured by number of days and birthdays.I dare say, a more important measurement of life is meaning and purpose.I would rather live a few years well than a long, lousy lifetime.…

Grace: a Gift for 4¢

My Quaker gang is not known for being ritualistic and, certainly, not liturgical.When it comes to religious tradition and worship, that is correct.Compared to a Roman Catholic or Orthodox service, a Quaker service would appear amazingly bland.But if we are talking about ritual in an ordinary, non-religious sense, I suppose Quakers can be as ritualistic as anyone else.I think I am fairly ritualistic.
Without going into a big definition of ritual, I am simply using it to mean something like routine.And I certainly am a pretty routine guy.I normally get up in the morning about the same time.I have all sorts of rituals that I go through during the course of a day.One thing is true about rituals of this sort; usually you don’t have to think about them.
For example, in the mornings I get up before anyone else in my house.I like the alone time.It is quiet.I get dressed and grab some money to head up a little hill to the same place every morning where I buy a cup of coffee and the local newspap…

Domina Voluntas: the Dominant Will

Because of some work I am doing, I am back into reading one of my favorite authors, Thomas Merton.Merton had such an interesting, intriguing life throughout the early and middle part of the 20th century.He was born in France, but spent most of his life in the United States.He was born during WW I, lived through the Depression, and through WW II.Of course, then came the Korean War and finally he was coping in the US involvement in the Vietnam War when he was tragically killed in an accident in 1968.
Merton’s life was a pilgrimage through an early phase of hedonism, Communism, and then conversion and baptism into the Roman Catholic Church.He was moved to join one of the most rigorist monastic traditions available, the Trappists.So this worldly, urbane guy settled for years in the monastery in the rolling hills of Kentucky.
But Merton was always a seeker.He was a writer who continued to chronicle his journey through journals and a variety of other written and spoken venues.As I was reading…

Home and Away

Most people I know have a home.I have a nice enough home.It is not luxurious, but it is more than adequate.If you were to visit me, you would know that my home has that “lived in” feeling.It is not the kind of place with dazzle and formality.I have been in those kinds of homes.I always feel slightly uncomfortable and on edge.I hesitate to sit down or touch anything.Even though I am fairly athletic, in those kinds of situations I temporarily become a klutz!
It is pretty commonsense to differentiate house and home.Many people know the experience of moving into a new house.In fact, we usually say it precisely that way.We can buy a house and move into it.But it takes a while to have the house become a “home.”That process is likely different for most people.And the process typically has no time frame.Some may know how to become “home-makers” much more quickly than the rest of us.I actually think I am a pretty slow homemaker.
There are intentional things people do to make a “home.”There ar…

Still Waiting

I am enjoying a new book that I am reading.It is from the pen of the now famous, Mitch Albom, entitled, Have a Little Faith.The book is about two of Albom’s friends from his childhood days, his rabbi, Albert, and his black friend, Henry.Albert Lewis was Albom’s rabbi of the Jewish congregation, Temple Beth Sholom, which was Albom’s childhood synagogue and the only one in his life.
The story begins in a humorous way with Albom being asked by the rabbi to do the eulogy at the rabbi’s funeral.Albom is not so sure.After all, he reckons, he is only a sports writer.But as I said, he has become famous.He is the author of the best seller, Tuesdays With Morrie.So he agrees to do the eulogy.And he figures, if he is going to do the eulogy, he better get to know the rabbi much better.Childhood memories would not suffice.
So as the book begins to unfold, Albom heads back to his home area in New Jersey to spend time with Albert.His first visit to the rabbi took place in the rabbi’s home.Albom begi…