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Showing posts from June, 2014

The Sanctuary of Nature

I had occasion yesterday to spend some more significant time in nature than I usually do.That in itself is not so strange.Of course, we all live in some form of nature.Nature surrounds us; it holds us in its very being.However, I realize how easy it is to be pretty unaware of nature.I think this may especially be true for urban or, even, suburban dwellers.I now fit into that category.

It may be different for folks who spend most of their time “in nature.”Growing up on a farm fits that bill.I would think those folks who have to work outside also are more alert to nature than so many of us who work inside buildings or who are too old or sick to venture outside.And surely, many of us in the US live in sheltered surroundings.We move from house to air-conditioned cars to air-conditioned buildings.Or in the winter, it is from heated houses to heated cars to heated buildings.Nature can’t get us!
Yesterday I spent considerable time in rural areas.I walked in the woods.I noticed the sounds …

Hearing and Speaking

Recently I had the occasion to encounter one of my favorite healing stories in the New Testament.It is the healing of a man who could not hear and did not speak very well.It is not the first time I had encountered the healing story, but I do think this time some new insight came my way.I am always grateful when old things keep teaching me new things.

The healing story comes from the seventh chapter of Mark’s gospel.Jesus is ministering in the northern part of Palestine.Hence, he is a long way from the religious center of Jerusalem.In fact, the previous story narrates how Jesus heals the daughter of a Gentile woman, based on the Syrophoenician woman’s faith.Then we are told “they” brought a deaf man to Jesus.We are not told who “they” are, but we can assume they were some of the people who followed Jesus.In light of some of his ministry and earlier healing events, perhaps Jesus was attracting some more attention.And surely, he would be attracting some controversy since he was Jewish…

Service: Basic Care

Some days can be frustrating.On second thought, I don’t think the days themselves are frustrating.They are what they are.It is we who decide to be frustrated.Frustration is an interpretation of what’s going on.I suppose frustration is, in most cases, a reaction.Usually frustration boils to the emotional surface when things don’t go our way.I try not to spend much time in that emotional state.It changes nothing and it uses up valuable energy to no good end.

Nevertheless, recently I had one of those frustrating days.It all started with a water meter.Now I have no idea how to make a water meter into a spiritual lesson, so I won’t try that one.But the water meter precipitated what would turn out to be a spiritual lesson for me.For that I am grateful, in spite of some frustration in the process.
The story began a long time ago, it seems.Apparently I have a meter inside my house that is no longer acceptable to satisfy the company.I will confess for a couple times, I ignored their request t…

The Humble Saint

If you pay attention to titles in these inspirational pieces, you might have some guesses who the “humble saint” might be.Of course, I have made the attribution, so I obviously know whom I will name.But if I saw it cold, the first guess I would make is St. Francis, the venerable saint of poverty, nature and the animals.And that would have been so true.But the person I have so named, “the humble saint,” in this piece is St. John the Baptist.

John the Baptist actually has two saint days in the Catholic calendar.Both his birth and his death are celebrated on separate days in June and August.Only the parents of Jesus receive comparable honor in the Christian calendar.John the Baptist has intrigued me for a long time---almost as long as I have studied religion.In many ways, he is much easier to relate to than Jesus.Let’s look a bit closer at the man and his role within the faith tradition.
The Gospel of Luke gives the most detail about John the Baptist.The story of his conception and birt…

Grab the Cat's Tail

I had tried to resist imposing pictures and stories of my grandkids on people.I understand that no one cares about my grandkid in the same way as I and the other grandparents do.I have looked at countless pictures of others’ grandchildren and sat passively as they showed me pictures and all I could do was feign some interest and say something like, “That’s nice!”
These days of cell phones and instant pictures only make the assault worse.Instead of the hesitation we used to feel when we took pictures, had to develop and pay for them, the cell phone makes multiple, instant pictures seem totally free.Grandparents figure if one picture of the cute little bugger is good, ten pictures should be absolutely astonishing! It was easy to feel smugly superior to all grandparents---that is, before I had any grandkids.I was appalled at how insensitively folks would whip out a whole album of kids’ pictures and ask me to linger over each one!“Oh, another nice shot of her two-month old birthday par…

St. Romuald: Weird or Wise

I like learning about various saints.Most of the ones I come to know are saints within the Roman Catholic tradition.Since Quakers don’t really honor saints, I did not grow up learning about saints nor even thinking about them.Of course, there were a few legendary historical Quakers about whom all young Quakers learned.For example, I learned about people like John Woolman, the seventeenth century Quaker who was far ahead of his time in working to free slaves.But no one thought about him as a saint.And I know all the religious denominations and traditions have similar saintly people, but few of them are called saints.

In the Catholic lectionary I use, I noticed yesterday was the special day honoring St. Romuald.I like him.I learned about him a few years ago.I suspect even in Catholic circles, he is a pretty obscure saint.Romuald lived into the eleventh century in Italy in the Tuscany area just north of Rome.As a young man, he joined the Benedictine monastic group.
By nature Romuald w…

Creating a Legacy

I have no clue when I first heard about a legacy.I doubt I knew anything about it until college days or even later.It might have been one of those things I heard about, but it never registers.I doubt very many young folks pay any attention to those kinds of things.By the time I was teaching and, especially, doing some fund raising, I became very aware of the idea of legacy.Only recently and only occasionally have I given any thought to my own legacy.

The word, legacy, often is associated with wills that dead people leave and about which the survivors learn in a court session or with the lawyers.Often, legacies have to do with money and property.Of course, some people are quite wealthy and their legacies to their heirs are remarkable.My parents did not fit that category!They left me and my siblings almost no money or property.I did not care.I did not have them as parents to make me wealthy!
It would be wrong to limit legacies to money or property.Basically the idea of legacy is whatev…

Monica Two, Too

Sometimes I am surprised with what resonates with folks who read these inspirational messages.Each evening I sit down with my laptop and on good days an idea comes to me.Other days are more difficult and I have to go after an idea.Sometimes I think some ideas are inspired.Other times, I am sure than I concocted an idea and only can hope somehow God can bless it and use it.But getting an idea is not sufficient.
I have to shape the idea and give it form in writing.Often that is fairly easy.Other times it is like a trip to the dentist…a great deal of pulling!My ideas that are shaped and written become little gifts thrown out there to the world.But they are unconditional gifts.I have no control or demands on the gifts.If they are meaningful or help someone, I am humbled and grateful.Occasionally, I learn that some particular message has been meaningful and that makes me happy. One such message was yesterday’s piece on Monica.As I said, Monica---Saint Monica---was Augustine’s mother.Augus…