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Showing posts from April, 2014

When You Have a Bad Day

As many of you know, I like to try to follow a daily discipline of some devotional time.No doubt, the key word is discipline.It is so tempting to define spirituality and the spiritual journey in a way that excludes discipline.It is easy to make spirituality the same thing as religion.For many Christians religion is a matter of belief---of doctrine.Certainly no Jew would begin with doctrine, nor would a Buddhist.On the other hand, the Christian tends to begin a discussion on religion with some kind of “I believe” statement.

I am not against belief.It is clear to me that one cannot really be spiritual without having some kind of belief.For many it will be a belief in God.This is not where the Buddhist would begin. I certainly have my own beliefs and, hopefully, some kind of coherent belief system.For example, what I think about God should correlate with how I think about the world.
Belief systems do not necessarily have an element like discipline.I am convinced that spirituality has to …

Climbing to God

Again, it’s back to the basics.I know I have done this quite a bit.But it is always a good thing occasionally to go back to the basics.I like reading a range of material and I am always amazed how easy it is to find spiritual connections and lessons in a huge number of venues.It is true, I believe, to find the spiritual ebbing through almost all of our daily life.But there are always good reasons to go back to the basics.

Back to the basics for me means that I engage the daily lectionary that I use.Of course, most days I don’t use that to comment on life.But it is always present.It is the substratum of life for me.It is part of the day’s pulsating presence.I know it is always there, but I also know that sometimes I pay no attention.And then I wonder why life seems a bit shallow or maybe a little more aimless.God is always present and ready to speak to me, if I will but listen.
I know God does not speak in a normal human way.I don’t hear voices in my ears.I don’t get visible signs in the…

Sacrament of Ordinariness

Daily I read the newspaper.It is a life-long habit.I am one of the old-timers who actually like to hold the hard copy in my hand.Most of the paper I read early in the morning with a cup of coffee.Although too much of the news is stuff I may already know because I also check things on the internet or see them on television, nevertheless I like to read the paper.Neither of my kids would read a newspaper, if you handed it to them.I am confident the future of newspapers, as we know them, is in peril.

I often start with the sports page.That probably is a holdover from when I was a kid.Today I know sports is not the most important thing in the world.In fact, much of sports are not worth much.I especially don’t like professional sports.But I read about sports of all sorts as if I were an addict.
I almost never would expect to find anything spiritually uplifting in the sports section.I also do not really expect to read that section and be inspired or be given a neat idea.But recently I got on…

Where Your Treasure Is

Long-time readers of this inspirational reflection could have rightly concluded that music is not a big deal with me.Traditionally music was not important to Quakers.In fact, the first two centuries or more of our history, music was not used at all.And when I was growing up, music was not very present in my family.So I have not had much in my context that supports and values music.I am certainly not against it.

Being a product of the 1960s means I was very aware of the rock n’ roll music that blared from the radios.I recall how aghast the parental generation was when Elvis hit the scene.I liked the Beach Boys and would agree that overall the lyrics of the music in the ‘60s left something to be desired!By the time I was growing up, many Quakers were using music in their worship services, but it often was pretty mediocre.
One of the things that I most liked when I began visiting monasteries was the music.Very often, it would be the Gregorian chants that lured me into the feeling and the w…

Celebration: Understanding What It Is

Most days when I go to work, I realize how lucky I am.In fact, I resonate with the person who first understands that if you enjoy what you are doing, it does not feel like work.Most of why I like what I do is because it involves significant time with young adults---college students.It is an exciting time for so many of them as they are transitioning from being a child at home to a young adult testing out their independence and figuring out the kind of person they want to be.

It is a joy to be involved with so many of them as they engage some aspect of spirituality.Many of them sign up for a class with me, not so much because they want to focus on spirituality.Honestly, most of them take a class because it counts for some kind of requirement.In a sense they conclude I am the best of a bad thing!Or just as likely, they like the time of the day when the class is offered.
But that does not concern me.For decades now, I have seen my role in the form of ministry.Put theologically, I am tryi…

Work a Miracle

I was listening fairly closely as the priest was working his way through the liturgy.  It may seem odd that a Quaker participates so gladly in a much more liturgical worship than a silent form of worship which would be my normal fare.  Sometimes I joke and say I am spiritually ambidextrous!  That is not a bad comparison.  To be able to shoot a basketball with either hand was an asset when I played ball.  And to be able to participate and appreciate a highly structured worship approach or one rooted unstructured in silence feels enriching to me. 

The good news for me is I feel comfortable in either setting.  I have participated in liturgical worship situations fairly frequently, so I know what’s going on.  I can play my role as a participant in the group.  I like the fact that I will not be chosen to be up front and leading.  I like the music, the prayers and the sacrament.  But I also like those places in the liturgy where I won’t be able to guess what the priest might say or do.


On the Road Again

Yesterday I spent a good part of the day on the road.Periodically, I take trips to see people.If it is a distant trip, that means a plane ticket and flight.But if it is less than five hundred miles, I prefer to drive.Flying used to be fun, but that is not the word I use to describe it any more.Driving may not be fun either, but is does seem more sane to me.At least, I am in control of my schedule and I feel more free.

I am not naïve that taking a car trip is profound.At one level, there certainly is nothing spiritual about it.The intent was to hop in the car and travel from one point to the other.The trip can be measured in miles or in time.Sometimes we say, “the trip was about four hundred miles.”Other times we will say something like, “the trip took six hours.”Finally, all that really matters is that we make the trip and arrive at our destination.
My trip yesterday was not spectacular in any way.Fortunately, it was uneventful.There were no mishaps---no near wrecks.Sometimes, I am am…

Life and Grace

May this day bring you a taste of grace---grace without which everything in life begins to dull or maybe even become overwhelming.  Life and grace is what the whole Easter season has been about.  I emphasize life and grace.

If we look at the calendar, we know that Easter is over.  Spiritually the challenge now is not to get over Easter!  In saying this, I have in mind more than just the Christians in our world.  I want to include all humans.  Chronologically, Easter is history, but this should not mean we lose its mystery.  Not to lose its mystery is to continue asking God to touch those parts of our lives, which have become deadened.  It means realizing some days we feel like we have been deposited in the tomb.  We may feel deadened.  We require that angelic visit to proclaim life again.

We need to keep our eyes open to the awe, wonder and meaning daily around us.  We can put our hands to the task of creating meaning to these lives of ours.  We bend forward with ears to hear the quie…

Holy Week and Easter…Again

Even if you are a Christian, I have concluded it depends on where you are---what is your context---how aware of Holy Week and the impending Easter you are.If you are a Christian and work in a mainly secular environment, you may be relatively unaware of Holy Week.For many it does not dawn on them until at least Thursday.And of course, in the secular world there is absolutely nothing special about Thursday.

But even in the secular world, Friday often assumes special connotations.It might be a holiday---a day off.It is at my University.So I suppose it is the one day Jews, Muslims, atheists, and other non-Christians are thankful for their Christian brothers and sisters!But for the Christian, Friday---Good Friday---is an interesting one.
I suspect that for many Christians Friday is simply skipped.They see Easter as very special and nothing else really matters.The resurrection is key for them.Why bother with anything less?Let’s skip sadness and depression and go straight for the joy and jub…

The Reality of Reality

We live in it at all times.It surrounds us, penetrates us and yet is probably separate from us.It is independent and dependent at the same time.It is mysterious and, yet, completely transparent and knowable.It’s reality.

Of course, there are different philosophical and theological perspectives on just what reality is.I am sure there must be scientific versions, as well.Psychologists might tell is reality is a matter of perspective.I suppose some extremists are confident there is no such thing as reality.Maybe I am in illusion, but it seems to me pretty clear there is such a thing a reality.The good news is, I do not intend to explore its philosophical and scientific roots.I am going to take reality for granted. For me, it is.Let’s think about the reality of reality.
What prompted these beginning thoughts was a random sentence in an article I was reading.The article was not very good, but it did have a great sentence from one of my favorite authors, Richard Rohr.It comes from his book, T…

A Tea Party With Some Friends

The title of this inspirational reflection was the title of an email my daughter recently sent to me.I noticed there was a photo attached.I did not have a clue what the email subject line, a tea party with some friends, might mean.I know some of my daughter’s friends, so it could be that she met with someone I know and who wanted to wish me well.Her friends are thoughtful that way.Of course, it could be about either of her own two kids, my own grandkids.However, I had no clue what they knew about tea parties!

The text of the email was short, but it set the context.The text went something like, “things were a little quiet in the basement, so I popped down to find…”Those words obviously were meant to lead me to the photo, which would connect to the subject line of the email.
So I had to open the photo.And there she was: my two-year old granddaughter.She was in her pajamas, sitting on the bottom step of the stairs, which led to the basement.Right next to her was a good-sized Pooh Bear, h…

God’s Doing a New Thing

For many people around the world this week is Holy Week.  I know enough Christian theology and I am liturgically aware enough to know what this means.  But to say that I know what it means is not to say I know what it means for any specific person.  For some it probably has been a deeply moving week, as we head into Good Friday.  For others likely it has been pretty superficial, at best.  

I ponder how it might continue to have possibilities of being a “holy week” for you and me.  One necessary ingredient I would be pretty sure is needed for it to be “holy” is that we take time.  This reminds me of the old hymn I heard so many times: “Take Time to be Holy.” I know as a kid when I sang it, I paid little attention to the words and probably even less to what the hymn meant.  Maybe now is to take some time and reflect…to be holy.

Another practical guide for learning the art of the holy is to “pay attention.”  Increasingly, it seems, we live in a world that pays little or no attention to …