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Showing posts from December, 2014

Another Year

I am not sure how old I was when it dawned on me (or someone told me) that Christmas and the New Year did not come at exactly the same time everywhere in the world.I am not sure how I felt when I learned the kids in Europe had opened their presents six hours before I did.And for sure, I do not think I could quite grasp the fact that Chinese kids had done their New Year’s party at noon my time.And by the time I watch an old year go out and welcomed a new one, the Chinese had just had their lunch!

Now I know fully that all this is due to the fact that our earth is round.It is a big ball.And it takes the ball twenty-four hours to spin around one time.I know this in my head, but honestly I have had very few experiences to convince me the earth is round!It still looks flat, except when you get in the mountains.But there is nothing even with the mountains that would tell us the earth is round.I don’t doubt the scientists, but I do have to take it on faith.
What really intrigues me is the wh…

Adventure of Friendship

“Friendship is an adventure and a journey that changes us over time.”That is the first line of a group paper the folks in my class on Spiritual Friendship are writing.It is an interesting project.They have been a good group, they are working hard and I respect that effort.So instead of the normal classroom assessment protocol, i.e. exams, we are in the process of writing together a paper defining and detailing what the students have learned about friendship.

The focus is on the nature of friendship.This is the simple question, what is friendship.Most people could offer an answer to that question, but I am confident the students could add some depth and breadth.They have centuries’ worth of thinking from other luminaries of the past.They can cite Aristotle and Augustine.They have read people like Cicero and a medieval monk that virtually no one has ever heard of, namely, Aelred of Rievaulx.Aelred wrote a magnificent little book called, Spiritual Friendship.
The students have thought a …

Do Not Fear

Yesterday I had the pleasure to participate in a memorial service.I have done that probably a thousand times.Many times I officiate the entire service.Sometimes, like yesterday, I only give guidance to portions of the service.I cannot remember a memorial service or funeral where I am not very conscious of the fact a human being died in order for us to be gathering in his or her memory.

The man being remembered and honored yesterday was a person I never met.I know his son and it was through this connection, I was asked to participate in the service.I was happy to do so.My feeling is we never know when an act of kindness or some ministry will bear fruit that is significant in some way.So I did my part in honor of a person whom I never met.
However, I never mind participating in a service like this, even if I don’t know the guy or gal.This guy was a real human being.He had lived for some eighty years.Since I know his son and, assume rightly or wrongly, that some of the deceased shows up …

Contemplative Living

I participate in some forms of social media, although I have not yet become a Facebook follower.That clearly means I am not all in!But I do think there is a role for social media.One of the roles I see for myself is social media provides one more outlet for me to share some spiritual nuggets that students, especially, would not get.That may sound arrogant, but there are quite a few folks from my university that read the thing just because I am writing it.The numbers are not huge, but Jesus only managed a few followers!I am in good company.

The other thing that participating in social media affords is a chance to keep thinking about life and how to make the most sense out of it.I grant that so much of the stuff that appears via social media---Facebook, Twitter and the rest---is not profound in any sense.Much of it is technological chitchat.I am not sure it is much different than what I heard my grandparents doing as they were sitting on the porch swing talking about the neighbors or sh…

Five Gifts

I realized some years ago that I actually receive many more gifts than I ever would have thought.I realized this when I changed the way I perceive gifts.As a young boy I certainly thought about gifts in materialistic terms.That is why birthdays and Christmas are such wonderful events.People are obligated to give you things!Of course, the reverse is also true.On those two occasions I am also obligated to give others some gifts.

Of course, material gifts count.I have had some fantastic gifts over the course of my life.A new baseball mitt that I received in my early youth was about the best gift a kid could have received.Like me, I am sure you have received many gifts during your life.Some were likely fairly expensive and others cost hardly any money.In fact, some of the most touching gifts I have received have come from natural resources and may not have cost any money.I think of flowers, for instance.
I am not sure at what age I began to change my view on gifts. I began to see that som…

Take Care

I would have no idea how many times I have told people, “take care.”And I am sure there are just as many people out there who have said the same thing to me: “take care.”It is very much like the phrase, “how’s it going?”Most of the time I hear someone ask me that question, I assume it is not a real question.It is a figure of speech---something we likely are to say to someone we know as we pass him or her on the street or in the hallway.

I am not against this act of cordiality.I just don’t assume it means much more than that---people being cordial to one another.It is an extended form of “hi.”It is not a negative thing and I am not complaining.In fact, I know the two phrases can become quite meaningful with the right kind of eye contact or voice inflection.If I actually stop, look someone in the eyes and ask, “how are you,” with the right kind of voice, I am sure there will be an honest answer.
And if I look at someone a bit more intently and say, “take care,” I am convinced that other…

Sacrificial Love

The story in the article began with an engaging interaction.“A parishioner walks up to her pastor and says, ‘I want to give you my kidney.’Pastor smiles and says, ‘OK.’Don't expect a punch line. It's no joke.”The story comes from an encounter in a Roman Catholic Church in West Simsbury, CT---St. Catherine of Sienna Parish.Father Michael Whyte arrived as parish priest in 2008.Due to diabetes and other complicating factors, he was in need of a new kidney.One day at Mass he let the parishioners know he was on a waiting list.

This is a sad story, but certainly not a unique story.Fr. Whyte has an advantage because he could assume people would care about him.We all know there are many people in the world in need of something and no one cares.That is always tragic.Fr. Whyte would not have been surprised that many within the church offered to get tested to see if they were a match.
The story gets interesting when Margaret Domashinski enters the picture.She belonged to St. Catherine an…

Life on the Treadmill

It was just an ordinary day.I like to exercise in the late afternoon.I think this probably goes back to my athletic days---maybe all the way back to high school.First one spent the day in classes.Then when school was out, we headed to practice.In the spring and summer it was baseball.In the winter we played basketball.I liked the rhythm of the day---work and then play.That still is a preferred rhythm for me today.

Certainly, my athletic days are over.I have good memories.Of course, my memories are probably evidence of my creative imagination!As I tell the stories today, I ran faster, threw harder and was much more unstoppable on the basketball floor than was actually the case.By now---as I remember it---I was nearly all-American in everything I did!
And so I headed to the treadmill.I don’t like doing the treadmill.I still prefer a run or walk outside.Or if I can’t do that, I still prefer running or walking on the track.But sometimes the treadmill is my only option.So I climb aboard.…

God is Not Santa Claus

As the Christmas season comes round, I am reminded of a one-liner I heard one day while listening to a lecture by Richard Rohr.Rohr is one of my favorites.He has a way of saying some very significant things, but often with a twist of humor.No doubt, this is what endears him to so many people.And it is also probably why some folks, particularly some Roman Catholics, find him troubling and wish he would quit speaking and writing.

The line I wrote down, as Rohr was speaking, went like this.“The operative image of God is Santa Claus!”Of course, this line is basically about God and not Santa Claus.Rohr is offering a theological look into his own mind.It is not a comment on Santa Claus.In this instance Santa is an image or a symbol.Let’s look more closely at Rohr’s theology to see if it makes sense in our own lives.
Clearly not everyone has the same idea with respect to Santa Claus.However when Rohr uses the Santa Claus image, he is making an assumption that there is a common cultural meaning…

Stream of Joy

A recent reading from the daily lectionary brought me to a familiar Psalm, Psalm 36.The familiar words come in the middle of that Psalm.The line I connected with is really a confessional, laudatory line.The Psalmist says to God, “How precious is your steadfast love, O God!”Since most of us do not have the ability to read the Psalms in their original Hebrew, perhaps the best we can do is read a couple English translations.A different translation of the passage just quoted goes like this: “How precious is your kindness, O God!”

Clearly the first passage uses the English phrase, steadfast love, to capture a Hebrew word.And the second passage uses the word, kindness.In both cases the Psalmist is praising a divine attribute that characterizes God and God’s action in the world.The Psalmist is confessing that this divine love or kindness is precious.For some reason I very much like the idea of precious.To be precious means something is extremely valuable.It is very dear.Precious can be somet…

Spiritual Excellence

A good friend of mine sent a short article to me.I had to laugh when I saw the opening line, because it means she knows me fairly well.The first line goes like this: “Are you a perfectionist? Or do you strive for excellence?”I felt like someone just peeked into my soul!I am sure that once upon a time I would have answered “yes” to both questions.Yes, I am a perfectionist.And yes, I am striving for excellence.It caused me to stop and ponder, which I think, is a very spiritual way of going about things.
I made some spiritual progress in my early pilgrimage when I realized I was a perfectionist.Being a perfectionist is not an awful thing; it is just an impossible thing.Even people who are very good cannot pull off the perfectionist hope.We are all too human to be perfect.So I was better off when I gave up that dream…which was actually an illusion.Giving up being a perfectionist does not necessarily make life easier.But it does make life possible! I read on in the article.The article states…