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Showing posts from October, 2014

Ordinariness into Sweetness

On its own the title for this inspirational journey makes no sense.Of course, the words are understandable.Everyone knows what ordinariness is.And sweetness is a no-brainer!But together, who knows?What is missing is a context.

Actually, context is more important than we usually think it is.So often, meaning is gained when we know the context.For this phrase, “ordinariness into sweetness” (the text), to mean anything, we need other surrounding words (providing the “con,” which means “with,” for the text!).Those surrounding words form a context.They would shape to how we are supposed to understand “ordinariness into sweetness.”
Let me build the context by making suggestions.The first suggestion is when I came up with the phrase, “ordinariness into sweetness,” I was thinking of Halloween.No doubt, now the “get” half of it!Halloween---candy---sweetness!And you are exactly right.Everyone thinks of candy when the Halloween season approaches.
In fact, you probably have enough of a context, you …

The Importance of Image

I try to follow various people I respect to see what kinds of things they are doing with regards to spirituality.One of the people I respect is Richard Rohr.While I don’t agree with everything he writes, I find his Franciscan spirit resonates with my Quaker spirit.He and I are about the same age, so it makes it easy to understand some of his concerns and issues.Neither one of us deals with teenage problems any more!

He has the ability to look at a common issue and see it in a way I might not ever look at it.Perhaps some of that is due to our different backgrounds and experience.I recall Rohr talks some about growing up in Kansas.That might not be too different than growing up in rural Indiana.But he also talks about his caring German, Roman Catholic family.My family certainly was caring enough.I have no complaints on that score.But growing up a Quaker in pre-Vatican II world surely is quite different.My family was fairly regular in church attendance on Sunday morning, but that was abo…

Holy Curiosity

Even though I grew up on a farm in Indiana and spent a great deal of time outside, I would not say I am as attuned to nature as one might expect.In some ways it is a little disappointing to realize this and admit it.Of course when I was outside, I was surely aware of the weather.If it is raining, you don’t need a very high IQ to know it is raining!Awareness of the weather, however, does not mean you are generally aware of nature.

Every time I come back to Annie Dillard’s great book, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, I am reminded of my off-and-on relationship with nature.I realize again how much I miss on a walk across campus.I lament at how unconscious I apparently am so much of the time.At one level, this is sad because it means I am capable of so much more.At another level, it is funny.It is funny because I sometimes think I am fairly aware and, then, realize perhaps I am not as aware as I think I am.Another good opportunity for some humility!Whenever I have the opportunity for some humil…

The Leaf: Icon of Life

Most of the time I am absolutely convinced spirituality is about learning the simple lessons the complexity of life has to teach us.I am also persuaded that our level of education has an indirect correlation to our capacity as students to learn these spiritual lessons.Since by worldly standards, I am pretty highly educated, I probably am the worst kind of student of life and spirituality.I am a slow learner, but I am trying.For the most part, I still find being in the school of life interesting and thought-provoking.

Since I have advanced degrees and am a professor, I usually don’t think about finding teachers to teach me things.That is my job!And that’s how my problems begin.I see myself as a teacher and in many ways I don’t know anything.Perhaps the first step in growing is to realize and accept truth as it is revealed to you.I had a little lesson recently.My little granddaughter became my teacher.Fortunately, I began to recognize I was her student, although I don’t recall enrolling…

When in Doubt, Wait

The title of this inspirational piece may seem odd.When in doubt, we should wait.That does not seem like the American way.I think Americans tend to be more pushy.When in doubt, push ahead.Force things!Make things happen!You can do it!There are many ways we express the fact that we should seldom wait---for anything.We pride ourselves that we lived in a fast-paced fashion.“Get yours while the getting is good,” is a phrase I heard all my life.The implication was you had to be quick, perhaps a bit grabby, and certainly never dally.Slow people are losing people.

There may be times the above-mentioned perspective serves us well as people and as a nation.But spiritually speaking, that is usually not a good way to go.However, I believe that we often carry our lives-as-normal into our spiritual lives.That should not be surprising.Why would we expect ourselves to be one way “in the real world” and a different way in our “spiritual lives?”As I think about this, I realize this is one place where …

Path of Life

Last evening as I was doing the readings from the Benedictine lectionary for the Evening Prayer (called Compline), I was struck by one line.It comes at the end of Psalm 16.The Psalmist speaks to God, “You show me the path of life.” (16:11)I appreciate the matter-of-factness in these words to God.It is not a petition to God.The Psalmist is not asking God to be shown the path of life.

When I read it closely, however, I see there are two possibilities.One way to read this passage is to understand the Psalmist saying, in effect, “You have shown me the path…thank you.”This would show me the Psalmist now knows the path and needs no more instruction or revelation.The job now is to get on with it.In some sense it now becomes an issue of obedience.I know the path and now I have to walk it!
The other possible reading is more of a process.In this reading the Psalmist says something like, “You are showing me the path and you will continue showing me the path.”With this reading the Psalmist acknow…

Divine Ambusher

The words in my title come from a little online meditation piece I read from one of my favorite authors, Richard Rohr.Rohr is a Franciscan who founded and runs a Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, NM.I have been reading Rohr for a long time and still use a couple of his books in my classes.He is a Catholic who has taught this Quaker a great deal over time.

Rohr always has a fresh way of putting things, even if I have thought about those things in my own way.He makes me twist my head---symbolic of twisting my mind---and pondering something in a different way.In a way the title of this little piece is evidence of that.I never thought about God as a Divine Ambusher!I don’t know that I would find that image for God in the Christian Bible, but I think the sense of the way God sometimes acts resonates with the title.Let’s look at how Rohr puts it.
Rohr draws in the reader with the following words.“I wonder if the only way that conversion, enlightenment, and transformation e…

Words and More Words

Most days I do not think too much about it.But yesterday I became very aware of how many words I use.That is not surprising, since I am still teaching.And certainly we know that teaching entrails speaking, even though I never lecture to the students.I could lecture, but that would prove nothing except that I could talk all the time.If I am talking all the time, how could I know whether they are learning anything?

I do not spend every waking hour talking.In fact I am essentially an introvert.So I enjoy time by myself.Solitude has never been a problem, especially since I have been an adult.As a teenager, I am sure too much time by myself caused some anxiety.But teenagers are anxious as a matter of course!So I was probably no crazier than any other teenager.
I am curious how many words I use in one day?I truly have no clue.It has to be in the thousands of words.I wish I had some kind of “word count” that I could check, much like I can check the word count on my computer to see how many w…

The Middle and the Marginal

Sometimes my ideas for an inspirational reflection come in odd ways.The idea for this piece originated in the classroom.We were discussing a section from Kathleen Norris’ book, The Cloister Walk, which is one of my favorite books.One of her paragraphs made reference to the French phrase, point vierge.Because I have read her book a number of times, I am familiar with the term.And I also know that Thomas Merton, my favorite monk used the phrase in a very significant way.

The French phrase is translated in various ways.Literally it means the “virginal point.”It suggests that time at dawn---the breaking of the new day---when the light is just beginning to appear.It is the point where night meets day.It was used by Merton to talk about “the still point.”All this I knew, but I was still curious about the phrase.So I chased my curiosity a little further.I turn to Google, which magically and efficiently makes so much information appear.
Many of the informational leads took me to something in …

Basic Human Questions

I recently read an interesting interview about a woman who has just written a book on the people who claim to be spiritual but not religious.Clearly this is a prevalent phenomenon in our world today.It often is associated with the young people, but I think it is a mistake to assume they are all this way and that older people are, by and large, still religious in the traditional sense.Things are much more up for grabs these days.

The person being interviewed, Linda Mercadante, teaches in a Methodist seminary.I found her interview both fascinating and insightful.No doubt that is partly true because a significant number of the students who are in my classrooms consistently claim they are spiritual but not religious.I have explored that theme, but not in the depth that Mercadante has.So let’s examine some of her findings.
There was one question that I thought was revealing.The interviewer commented to Mercadante that she had focused on four particular themes: “the sacred, human nature, comm…

Non-Verbal Spirituality

We live in an age of verbosity!Put in street language, this means we live in a wordy world.Maybe other people live in situations where there are not so many words.But my world is a wordy world.Just think about how the typical person goes through a day. It would not be unusual for a person to get out of bed and turn on the tv or the radio---words.If you have family around, there would be more words.If we are still working, it would be normal to be somewhere surrounded by words.Of course, in my college world, there are a million words.People who stare at computer screens are typically dealing in words.Often there is some kind of music in the background and the music comes with words.Meals, social occasions and more tv or computer work at night means a mountain of more words. As my students would attest, I love words.Words are an incredible human invention.We can literally “talk” to each other.I can tell you how I feel and what I think.That is marvelous.In fact, I can learn a foreign la…