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Showing posts from September, 2014

The Identity Question

Occasionally I have reason to go back over some things that I have written.That can be a fun, rewarding experience.Certainly not everything I have written is worth preserving.Sometimes what we write is for the moment.Clearly this would be the case with many papers we write when we took classes in school.Many of us have jobs in which we have to write stuff for a specific moment.

Computers make saving stuff much easier.With computers we can create folders, organize all sorts of things and now store things “in the cloud,” whatever that means!I think it means whatever I write and store in the cloud will live longer than I do.Maybe that is a new version of life after death!
Obviously I have lived long enough to remember the days before computers.I recall the time when having an IBM electric typewriter was about as good as it got!Those came equipped with the built-in means to backspace and erase a mistake.That meant we could throw out the “white out” bottles!However, I can be a bit wistful …

Friendship Revisited

I very much enjoy it when I read someone I respect who is dealing with an issue or theme that I think is important.More often than not, these experiences are both confirming what I think and also tend to take my own thought further or deeper.Just such an experience happened recently as I turned to the daily newspaper.I still buy a hard copy of my local paper.I also read two or three online papers or news sources, too.I hit this article by David Brooks in my local newspaper.But since he is syndicated, it also appeared in the other online newspapers.

I was immediately drawn to the article by Brooks’ title.It read: “Startling Adult Friendships.”It also had an interesting subtitle: “There are Social and Political Benefits to Having Friends.”I have had a long interest in the topic of friendship.In fact, I teach a class called “Spiritual Friendship.”When I do that class, we begin with some Old Testament friendships, like David and Jonathan.We look at what Aristotle has to say about friendsh…

Idea of Destination

I really enjoy finding things when I was not looking for them!This may be true in much of life, if we would but just learn to live more spiritually attentive.That is one of the ways I would define contemplative spirituality.Too often, I think, people assume that something like contemplative spirituality is some esoteric, mystical kind of religious experience that normal people would never be given.

To the contrary, contemplative spirituality is little more than living one’s daily life with a significant level of awareness and with an attentive spirit.That way you can find things when we are not really looking for them.That certainly adds a dash of serendipity to life.And who is against serendipity?At least my understanding of serendipity is something that is always a good deal.Maybe that is a good definition of God: a serendipitous God.God is the Being who is always making a good deal with us!
So I was doing some reading for an event that I needed to attend.The event itself was a bit of…

Life: It’s Like a Ball

I like working on a college campus.Of course, it has some drawbacks, but for me personally the advantages far outweigh those drawbacks.Part of what I like so much is the range of things that go on.There is a huge range of things that students study. Some things I know quite a bit about and other things, I barely know what the subject means.And when you have this many people united in one enterprise called a college, there is an amazing diversity of abilities and talents.Music, art, clubs, work and so much more make the array of possible involvement feel almost limitless.

One thing I did not mention in the list was sports.I like sports.I played sports and I still like to watch sports.I would be the first to admit that sports in America are probably out of whack.There may well be too much time and money spent on a variety of games.This seems particularly true of professional sports.I am not too much into pro sports.I am convinced something happens when people start getting paid to play …

The Good Samaritan

Recently I found an interesting article on religion on the front page of CNN news online.Amy-Jill Levine, a New Testament and Jewish Studies professor, who teaches at Vanderbilt, offered a fresh look at four of the best-known New Testament parables.For example, she looks at the Parable of the Prodigal Son.Her point is the way we tend to interpret these parables today does not match how the original Jewish audience would have heard and interpreted them.

In this inspirational piece I want to look at how she deals with another very familiar parable, the Parable of the Good Samaritan.Many of us know this parable as a story about who will stop and help a person lying wounded---robbed and beaten---by the side of the road.In the biblical story, that person who offers helps is the Good Samaritan.Before that person appeared, two others had passed by the wounded person, namely, a priest and a Levite.Both of these persons were Jews.
And that is where Levine jumps in to begin her work.She says ab…

Jesus, the Rabbi

Maybe it is because I am a college professor---a teacher---that I have always been drawn to the title of rabbi for Jesus.I call it a title because “rabbi” is not part of his name.That is also true of the title, “Christ.”When I was a kid, I assumed “Christ” was his last name!To the contrary, rabbi and Christ are titles that describe something about the function of Jesus. To call Jesus “the Christ” is to describe him as “the anointed one.”And to describe Jesus as “rabbi” is to say he is a teacher.That aspect of Jesus I can relate to and appreciate. After so many years teaching, I feel like I know a thing or two about the process.And I am confident enough about what I have learned teaching that I suspect some of the same things apply to Jesus, the rabbi.Let’s explore a couple of these learnings. One of the key learnings I picked up was crucial and humbling.Simply put, just because I say something does not mean the other person (student) learned it.If I say something, the only fact is th…

The Spiritual Art of Counting

I am still one of the people who read a variety of news accounts every day.  I even buy a hard copy of my local newspaper, but I may be the last generation doing that.  Neither of my kids ever buys a newspaper and I seldom see a student reading a hard copy paper.  I also read a fair amount of news online.  Obviously that is more planet-friendly.  And it gives me a wide variety of sources to consult.  Clearly, that is a huge upside of our electronic age.  In the early days of my life, I would never had read the London Times or an English version of a Chinese paper.  Now it is very easy. I was surprised when I went online yesterday to see a story with an arresting title: 4 Teachings From Jesus That Everybody Gets Wrong.  It should not be surprising that I immediately clicked that site.  I was interested that the opinion was by a well-known New Testament scholar, Amy-Jill Levine.  She and I are not friends, but I do know about her.  She teaches at Vanderbilt University, where she is Uni…

The Call

When some people see this title, they probably assume I am going to talk about some special call to the ministry.For sure, this is often the language of priests and others who do feel a special call into some form of ministry.I don’t minimize that, but I have a different kind of call in mind.I have in mind something as simple as a phone call.

Although people may not talk on the phone as much as a few years ago, there is still a great deal of conversation that goes over the phone waves.Email and texting have not totally replaced actually hearing a human voice on the other end of the phone call.As I pondered the matter, I quickly realized not all phone calls are equal.And I have created a little way to distinguish between two different kinds of phone calls.
In order to distinguish two different kinds, I appeal to the grammatical part of speech called an article.I had a good English teacher who actually enabled me to appreciate language.One thing she taught me was the form of speech call…

Called by God

I have heard the language of “call” since I was fairly young.It was not unusual to hear people in my religious tradition talk about people being “called into ministry.”Although I knew sometimes God was the One who did the calling, I also suspected that God always was the One behind that call.And if I am to be honest, I really hoped that God would never do that to me!

At the time I did not know anything about the Quaker tradition.I did not know that Quakers think God calls everyone!The question is not whether one is called; the question is to what is God calling us to do.I realized I had a great deal to learn about this “calling business!”
Often it would be funny, if it were not pathetic.I did not want any call on my life because I had bigger and better plans.Talk about delusional!Without ever saying it, I am sure I felt like I was better at planning my life’s outcomes than God.I did not realize how shortsighted I was!Thank goodness for some education and maturity.So many folks assume …

Solace for the Day

I like the word, solace.If I were to use it in a college classroom, I am not sure how many students would know exactly what the word means.I don’t think this is one of those places where I lament how much the younger generation does not know that I would claim my older generation knew at their age.I am not sure that is true.I do know that I learned so much along the way in life.One great thing that college taught me was how little I knew!Learning new words and being more articulate was an important learning, but it was one of many.

I know solace means offering comfort to those who are sad or somehow grieved.Solace also means offering cheer and making folks cheerful.It comes from the Latin word, solacium, which means to console.A significant element of the ministry I have done throughout my life has been to offer solace.I have been with folks in their heartaches---through deaths, misfortunes and other setbacks.Offering solace is nothing more than offering some comfort.
In many cases …

Spiritual Education

No one reading this inspirational piece has avoided education.Without education you could not be reading these words.It has been so long since I could not read, I cannot even remember those days.And I don’t even remember the slow process of learning how to read.I am grateful for all those early educators who must have had immense patience to hang in there with me.

My memory tells me I was an above-average student when I was learning to read.I was not the brightest one in my reading and English classes.Girls always seemed smarter than the guys!I don’t even know when I began using the language of “education” to describe my learning process.When I was young, the whole educational enterprise was articulated as “going to school.”At school, I “learned things.”I was ok with that because there apparently was no choice.
I did not grow up in a house where there was much talk about education.It was assumed the kids went to school and implicitly assumed some learning was taking place.My parents w…