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Showing posts from August, 2014

Awaiting Labor Day

We anticipate another Labor Day for yet another year.As holidays go, it is one of the least important for me.Maybe it is because I grew up on a dairy farm, so Labor Day was pointless; we still milked the cows twice that day just like any other day! But clearly, it is special in many ways for many people.And I am always intrigued by the history of a special day.

Labor Day was declared a national holiday in 1894 by President Grover Cleveland.The traditional day of celebration apparently was chosen by some unions in New York.Since I have spent some time abroad, I know the traditional global day of celebrating labor is May 1.Sometimes these international days of celebration can lead to political protest and disruptions.It seems President Cleveland was concerned about that, so he wanted to avoid that May date.So the first Monday in September was a safer alternative.
There are typical associations with Labor Day.When I was a kid, schools did not begin until after Labor Day. Typically, Labor D…

Augustine and Monica

Two saints!  The Roman Catholic Church has a ton of saints.  Of course, that is a statement by a Quaker, a tradition that typically does not talk about saints.  As I grew up in the Quaker environment, the only time I heard “saint language” was about some of the writers in the Bible.  I did hear people talk about St. John or St. Paul.  As a kid, if asked about saints, I would have assumed saints are “Bible guys.”  Since I never gave it any thought, I never thought about women saints. 

My own Quaker tradition has held the radical equality of men and women since the beginning of our seventeenth century.  That part of Quakerism rubbed off on me and I have been very happy about that.  I have always seen women as my equal.  In fact, I would usually assume women were, by and large, better saint candidates than men---myself included!  

I am glad that my provincialism has been crunched.  I am much more widely aware and appreciative than I was when I was a kid.  Much of my education came from f…

God’s Face

Most of the time I feel quite fortunate.The nature of my job requires that I read books and other things.Because I have the privilege of teaching, I have to assign various books.And then I have to read them and think about the material before I see students who interact with the material. Sometimes I know those same students groan about having to read the things.And I want to say, “Really?”“Would you like to have a boring job instead?”

As I was reading last night in preparation for a class, I ran across these words from the Qur’an (Koran) which was quoted by one of my textbooks.I don’t know the Qur’an very well, so I was glad to get unexpectedly something from it.The quotation was simple.It said, “Wherever you turn, there is the face of God.” (Walsh, 173)Having read it, I now get the opportunity to think about it.In many ways this is a spiritual discipline.
First of all, let me say I must have immediately thought I understood the passage, because immediately I thought that it was true…

Paradox of Religious Experience

A friend has given me a book.That is not the first time I have been given a book.I suspect that is due, in part, to my profession.Because I’m a college professor, I am sure that folks think I deal with books all day long.Sometimes that is close to the truth.Books are important to my work.It is not the books per se; it is the ideas in the books.Books are written because people have ideas and want to develop those ideas and share them.And so it is that I want to dive into my new book.

The book is by S. Brent Plate and is entitled, A History of Religion in 5 ½ Objects.I have only begun the book, but I know he talks about things like stones, which have historically played a key role in religious observance and life.It should be interesting and a challenge because my normal Quaker response is that I don’t care much about “religious things.”Of course, that is a provincial and warped perspective!At least I know it!
My friend probably gave me the book because he figures I should read it.And h…

Throw a Bucket of Cold Water

There is an idiomatic phrase in English that I have heard since I was a little boy.The phrase is “throw a bucket of cold water on it.”The phrase means, “to criticize or stop something that some people are enthusiastic about.” Sometimes I have heard that phrase being used when the act has already been done.For example, someone might quip, “I would have succeeded but someone threw a bucket of cold water on it.”Sometimes the phrase is used as a kind of warning or cautionary note.Someone might say, “Go ahead and try it, but you’ll find someone will come along and throw a bucket of cold water on it.”

I have heard the phrase describe the kind of “Debbie Downer” person who always takes a negative view of things.I associate the phrase with a kind of negativity.Because of the work I have done in innovation, it is a dreaded phrase.It usually means someone thinks I am nuts.“Nothing will work out,” they seem to be saying.It is a statement that seems to lack courage.The statement implies, “Why bot…

Hands of the Spirit

Recently I have been privileged to work on a project that focuses on hands.When I first was asked to do this work, I thought, “How hard could that be?”As with things that seem so deceptively simple, it was not so simple!I will spare you the details of the work.It was not inherently spiritual.But it did provoke some interesting and, I think, spiritual considerations for me personally.These I will share.

If you have two hands---which most people have---you probably are like me in the sense that I don’t pay too much attention to my hands.Since I have had hands all my life, they seem to be there as a given.They are a normal, natural part of the human anatomy.I know they allow me to do a myriad of things.And many of the things I can do are actually pretty astonishing.But I must say, I think most of the time I am not aware of my hands.
My hands are simply there---doing things at a subconscious level.It is probably only in these times when my hands fail me, that the awareness of them jumps i…

Here We Go Again

In an academic world where I live, every year I get to watch the campus come alive.  Traditionally American campuses are quieter during the summer months.  Even if there is summer school and the normal spate of camps, etc., summer is not the same.  So I always am eager to see things begin to change.  It is almost as predictable as the changing of the leaves during autumn.

Like the changing of the leaves on the tree, I am never sure which day I will notice the change.  Yesterday it happened.  I arrived fairly early on campus and there is the usual calm.  I am one of the earlier ones to arrive on campus, so it is still very quiet.  I can park almost anywhere I want.  Sometimes the door to my building is still locked, so I fumble for my key.  Since I am in an old building---one more than a hundred years old---I am greeted with some creaks and familiar sounds that I never hear when it hums with students.

Later in the morning, I had to go out.  That’s when I first noticed it.  Some student…

The Joy of Reunion

Recently I have had a couple occasions of reunion.They both brought some joy to my life and I truly appreciated the opportunities.In my mind, reunions are a good thing.They have positive connotations.I can’t imagine saying that we are going to a reunion and we hope to have a really bad time!So for me, a reunion is always a good deal.

I know there are family reunions.Some families do reunions on a regular basis.That would not be true of my family.Family reunions are rather rare in my tribe.I am not sure of all the reasons, but that is the way it is.There are class reunions in schools and colleges.There are other kinds of reunions in clubs and other organizations.Again, I am assuming these reunions also are meant to be fun and to bring some joy.
There are formal reunions, such as the family reunion that is planned months in advance.Everybody is invited to a specific place at a specific time.This kind of reunion has the advantage of being able to make plans.In this case, expectations can…

The Servant Leader

Recently I was with a wonderful group of people who were thinking about servant leadership.It is a concept that has rich meaning to me.As I thought about it, I realized that I have probably been trying to be a leader since elementary school days.I don’t know that I started out to be a servant leader, but that idea came to be part of my leadership style fairly early in my career.

Part of what attracts me to the idea of being a servant leader is my own personality.As I think about it, I have always preferred being part of a group and helping a group along.I certainly have played the role of the lone ranger, but that is not as much fun for me as leading a group.I also think my own Quaker tradition values encourage a kind of servant leadership model.Quakers have always felt like the group is more important than any single individual.I agree with this and have tried to support the group’s progress and success.
As I anticipated being with this group of folks, I realized I had not thought de…

Healing the Hurt

I learned a long time ago (as most adults do), that life inevitably hurts us from time to time.Even though we know this will happen, it always is a tough and lousy situation when it happens.Even though we know we will make it through, the “making it through” is not a fun experience.I know the old saying assures us that “time heals,” but it often takes a lot of time!
Recently, there have been a number of people I know and hold dear that have been hurt.Unfortunately the hurting was not of their own making.This can make the hurt even more biting.It is one thing to hurt ourselves; it is another to have the hurt inflicted upon us.Finally, it perhaps does not matter how the hurt happens, but in the beginning it is tougher when the hurt is inflicted upon us. Hurts come in various forms.Probably the initial and the basic hurt is the physical.I remember very well going to the doctor’s office when I was quite young and getting that shot.I am sure I was given shots before I was old enough to kn…

Being In It Together

No doubt we have all heard the phrase, “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.”Probably, many of us have used it…or, at least, thought it.Seldom does the phrase come to mind in good times.It comes when we feel like we are losing.Or we watch someone else prosper in ways we think we could or should.Uttering that phrase often comes in a fit of anger or a wistful lament.

As a form of speech, I believe it is a proverb.That form of speech is a popular adage or bit of wisdom.Proverbs express what most folks would consider true or to be good advice.But in this case, our proverb, “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence,” carries the implication that life is the opposite of what we are saying.The proverb implies, in fact, the grass is not greener on the other side.We just think it is.
So if the grass is not really greener on the other side, what are our options?First, the only real option is to deal with life---with our situation---in the context in whi…

Happy Hour and the Spirit

Yesterday I went to Happy Hour.This is a periodic gathering of some people from my college community.It is a pleasant occasion, which I am always delighted to attend.There are almost no faculty who go to this kind of thing.It is a nice group of people from various spectrums across our campus.It gives me a chance to be with people I seldom or never would have any reason to greet and spend time in conversation.
It is pleasant to be in a context where there is no agenda---and especially no hidden agenda.When I am there, I am not looking for anything, I am not asking someone for something and there are no expectations.The conversation can be engaging or rather aimless and it does not matter to me. As I drove away, I began thinking about the Happy Hour phenomenon.I know Happy Hour is a familiar idea.I know many pubs and some restaurants sponsor a daily Happy Hour.I know these are designed to get people into the place before the dinner hour.Sometimes they are designed to get people in the …