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Showing posts from February, 2014

Recreating Through Us

The title for today’s inspirational reflection comes from a sentence from my favorite Quaker saint, Thomas Kelly.Oh, Quakers don’t actually have saints in the traditional Catholic sense.But if we did, Kelly would be sanctified.Clearly he was no more perfect than any other human being.He was a man with some significant flaws, but who among us does not have significant flaws?

Kelly died in 1948 at a relatively young age.He had aspirations to be a world-class scholar.In some ways he was on the path to achieve some of that dream.And in other ways, he failed and suffered depression and other maladies because of that.He taught at a couple Quaker colleges and wanted more.He struggled to get a Harvard degree, but that did not bring him the success he sought.He also was spending time in pre-war Germany in the 1930s.There he saw the rise of Nazism and the horrors that would become WWII.
Finally toward the end of the 1930s, Kelly seemed to turn a spiritual corner.His priorities began to realign an…

Human Development---Spiritual Development

Even though I read quite a bit, there is always more to read.In fact, I am sure I am losing ground on all the new stuff out there.That is probably true even in the world of religion and spirituality.I am sure there is more being published---in print and on line---than any one person can read.Rather than get discouraged, I simply hope to get my hands on some of the good ones.

My memory may be faulty, but I recollect that some person at Harvard in the early 1700s was the last person who had read all the books in Harvard’s library.I know first-hand the library system there is amazing.It is (I believe) the third largest in this country, after the Library of Congress and the New York Public Library.Even when I think about my little college, I realize there is no way I could read all the volumes.
However, I occasionally come across a book that I say, “I must read that one.”This happened just recently when I was reading a review of a new book.The book is by Edward O. Wilson.I know Wilson’s nam…

Doing the Impossible

On the surface the title of this inspirational reflection makes little sense.Why would any person with brains want to do the impossible?Most of us know that sometimes doing the possible is hard enough!Why would you try to do the impossible?And likely fail?I think I would have agreed with this until I read an interesting little account in a book by my friend, Parker Palmer.

I have been using one of Palmer’s books, The Active Life, in one of my classes.The subtitle of the book gives you a good sense of its focus: A Spirituality of Work, Creativity and Caring.It is not his best book, but the content matches something I try to help students and adults think about in their normal lives.Many of us think monks and nuns can live a spiritual life.They have made special arrangements in life so that being spiritual becomes their full-time job.But the rest of us in the “real” world have it much harder.Routine life gets in the way of being spiritual.
Palmer helps me and others think about how to p…

Let It Snow!

I arose early this morning---long before the first glimmer of light appeared in the eastern sky.  With my first step out the door, I was aware of how cold it was again going to be today.  I could feel it on my exposed cheeks and the sound of the snow’s crunch underfoot told me that sub 32-degree weather still engulfed us.

Having a hot cup of coffee and sitting inside a warm room means all is well---for me.  But I know that people will complain about the cold weather, and the snow will be condemned as a nuisance or a problem.

As I think about this negative view of the winter months, I wonder what would happen if we looked at the snow as this season’s blessing from nature.  The snow is white---for centuries this has been the religious color of purity.  Let us look at the snow as God’s natural way of purifying this part of the world.  I want to be able to see my “white world” this day and appreciate the beauty of its purity.

It is so true of our world and those of us who live here that…

Polycarp: Model of Perseverance

One of the things I like about hanging out with Catholics is the fact that I am continually sharing parts of that particular Christian tradition that my own Quaker tradition does not emphasize.One of the things is their use of the saints of the Church.I like that so many days of the year are dedicated to particular saints.In my own mind there is no necessary connection of a day and the saint associated with that day.But it is always a good occasion to focus on a special person of the Church.

Recently one of the saint days that I welcomed was the day celebrating Polycarp.I used to spend some time with that old saint, but since I don’t teach more specialized courses in Christian history, I seldom have occasion to think about Polycarp.So to share his saint day was like a reunion with an old friend.
I am sure that I never heard of Polycarp during my growing up days as a Quaker.But I learned about him in my first serious Christian history when I went to college. I was fascinated by his lif…

Fecundity of the Normal

Sometimes I know I am using a word that college students would not know.Fecundity is one such word.Rather than choosing not to use it because they don’t know what it means, I choose to use it and teach them what it means.I figure I am educating them!I am helping them build their vocabulary, thereby increasing the likelihood that they will be more attractive job candidates when they are out there in the “real world.”

Fecundity means fruitfulness.It is often used when speaking of plants.It always makes me think of harvest time.When it is applied to people, it could indicate a very productive or successful time.It could suggest the outcome of hard work.It might implicate a very talented individual who applied the talent to pull off significant outcomes.There have been times in my life, which were fecund.But it is not all the time.Growing up on a farm taught me that it is not always harvest season.Often there is a great deal of hard work and, even, waiting before you see the fecundity.

Hospitality: Making Friends from Strangers

I am a Benedictine oblate.When I was a Quaker kid growing up in rural Indiana, I would not have known what either of those words means.I am sure I never heard about “Benedictine.”I would not have known they were monks.If someone had told me that Benedictines were monks, I am not sure I would have really known what a monk was…or did!

After too many years of school and a great deal of experience in the ecumenical and interfaith worlds, I know much about Benedictines and about monasteries.Benedictines are monks (men and women) who follow the Rule of St. Benedict.Benedict was an Italian Christian who lived in the late 5th and early 6th century.It was a time of turmoil in the so-called “barbaric” period of the early middle ages.The Roman Empire had fallen a century earlier.All of Europe was politically, economically, and socially a mess.Benedict wanted to find a way to practice his faith in a serious fashion.He found many local churches wanting.In many cases they were merely Christian inst…

God Has Your Number

Occasionally I am aware that I have lived a pretty long, interesting life.  I do not lament this.  In fact, I celebrate it.  I have been lucky.  Many good things have happened to me that I could not have anticipated and surely not expected.  Perhaps that is why one of my favorite words is serendipity.  I cannot explain why I have been lucky. That certainly does not mean life has been easy.  Anyone who has lived as long as I have has had problems and setbacks.  Some of them were handed to me for no known reasons.  Other problems and setbacks were of my own making.  Because of stupid choices or wrong decisions, I made life harder for myself.  But overall, I have made it this far and I am very grateful.  With some more luck and some decent self-care, I hope to have some significant time left. One of the amazing things in my lifetime that I like to think about are the technological advancements that I have witnessed.  It sounds like I was born in the horse and buggy days!  It’s not that …

A Merciful God

What a good deal, I thought: a merciful God.This idea comes from the opening line of one of the Psalms used in today’s lectionary reading.Actually, it is the opening line to one of my favorite Psalms, namely, Psalm 51.The main reason I have liked that Psalm is the Psalmist’s petition that God create in him a clean heart.I love that image---a clean heart.

Certainly one of the ways our spiritual tradition has talked about sin---or going wrongly---is as “dirt” or “dirty.”To sin is to soil oneself.It soils the purity of the heart created by God and the pure heart in relationship with God.But the sinner is the one who leaves this pure relationship to go out and play in the mud of the world.Maybe I always resonated with this image because I grew up on a farm.I was always close to the earth.And I knew what it was like to get dirty.
However, I think I was often too quick to get to that passage in the middle of the Psalm that I never lingered long enough at the beginning of the 51st Psalm.In fac…