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Showing posts from July, 2015

Your Second Life

I read an extended blog today that was fascinating.It was by Justine Musk whom I occasionally read, but do not know.She is one of those people I would like to meet and befriend, but likely will never happen.So I am content to know her through her writings.I say that about her because it means I know nothing about her politics, religion, etc.And at one level, it does not matter.We read people to get what we can get and that is sufficient.

Her blog opens with this intriguing idea.“There’s a quote by Tom Hiddleston: ‘We all have two lives. The second life starts when we realize that we only have one.’”I can’t help reading something like this and wondering, do I have lives?Part of me thinks not.But another part of me wonders how Tom Hiddleston knows!
I have read enough of Thomas Merton and other spiritual writers---contemporary and historical---to know this is not a strange idea.Merton frequently talked about the true and false self.I wonder whether this is what Hiddleston and Musk have in…

Fecundity of the Normal

Sometimes I know I am using a word that college students would not know.Fecundity is one such word.Rather than choosing not to use it because they don’t know what it means, I choose to use it and teach them what it means.I figure I am educating them!I am helping them build their vocabulary, thereby increasing the likelihood that they will be more attractive job candidates when they are out there in the “real world.”
Fecundity means fruitfulness.It is often used when speaking of plants.It always makes me think of harvest time.When it is applied to people, it could indicate a very productive or successful time.It could suggest the outcome of hard work.It might implicate a very talented individual who applied the talent to pull off significant outcomes.There have been times in my life, which were fecund.But it is not all the time.Growing up on a farm taught me that it is not always harvest season.Often there is a great deal of hard work and, even, waiting before you see the fecundity. Th…

Grateful Disposition

Every time David Brooks publishes something, I try to read it.I find him dealing with so many issues that attract my attention.And he thinks about them in a way that helps me form my own take on things.Most of what he thinks about is the stuff that would make the world a much better place to live and work, if we would just actualize his perspective.

He wrote a recent Op-Ed entitle, “The Structure of Gratitude.”It figures, so I thought.I have actually been doing some things with gratitude in some of the retreats and training sessions I do for groups and for businesses.What he offered was not novel for me.But it was reinforcing and refreshing to see how he framed the gratitude perspective and how he articulated its benefits.Let’s me share some of that with you.
Let’s start at the end, because if the end is not very good, then how he got there does not make much difference.That betrays the fact that I like where his article finishes.Brooks says, “people with grateful dispositions see t…

God Has Your Number

Occasionally I am aware that I have lived a pretty long, interesting life.I do not lament this.In fact, I celebrate it.I have been lucky.Many good things have happened to me that I could not have anticipated and surely not expected.Perhaps that is why one of my favorite words is serendipity.I cannot explain why I have been lucky.
That certainly does not mean life has been easy.Anyone who has lived as long as I have has had problems and setbacks.Some of them were handed to me for no known reasons.Other problems and setbacks were of my own making.Because of stupid choices or wrong decisions, I made life harder for myself.But overall, I have made it this far and I am very grateful.With some more luck and some decent self-care, I hope to have some significant time left. One of the amazing things in my lifetime that I like to think about are the technological advancements that I have witnessed.It sounds like I was born in the horse and buggy days!It’s not that dramatic, but when I think …

Sign of the Spirit

A theological assumption I hold is that God’s Spirit is everywhere at all times.This is easy to think and say, but it certainly is not evident all the time.Much of my life it would be an assumption with little evidence to show.Sometimes, however, I become aware that I have just seen a sign of the Spirit.Sometimes this happens in my own life and sometimes it is something I see or read about in someone else’s life.I just had one of the latter experiences.

Oddly enough, it came in an article in a newspaper I read on a daily basis, The New York Times.I don’t read everything every day; that is a big newspaper!But I do tend to run my eyes over most of the headlines and read some that seem pertinent or interesting.Recently, one such headline grabbed my attention.It stated: “Black South Carolina Trooper Explains He Helped a White Supremacist” by Dan Berry.I had to begin reading.
The scene was a white supremacist rally in front of the South Carolina Statehouse in Columbia. A black state troo…

Godspell as Transformative Experience

There are a few journals and things I routinely read.They inform me of things happening that I probably would not know about until much later.And they touch on subjects I likely would have said have no interest for me and I get interested!They alert me to things that I want to pursue---perhaps a book to read or a person to meet.These things are like regular friends to me.

One of the pieces I read on a regular basis is the National Catholic Reporter.I know its reputation as a liberal Catholic periodical, but that does not bother me.I am not reading it for the particular political perspective.I read it because it helps me stay in touch with people and things in the Catholic world.The Catholic world is personally interesting to me.And I figure, any group with over one billion people is worth charting.I keep up with China and India, too!
Recently, I was drawn to an article entitled, “Author traces lives touched by ‘Godspell,’” by Retta Blaney.I never heard of Blaney (and she probably neve…

Mary Magdalene: Common Saint

Following the Roman Catholic calendar of saints allowed me to know that yesterday was the saint day for Mary Magdalene.I like to follow the Catholic Liturgy of the Hours, as the daily readings are called.Special days for the various Catholic saints are recognized as part of the daily notice.It is good for me, since my own Quaker tradition does not have anything similar.Our Quaker tradition does hold some folks to have been more “weighty” than others---a term that allows at one level we are all equal, while acknowledging that at another level some really had a larger impact on the world.

With this kind of language, we can say that Mary Magdalene was a “weighty spiritual woman” in her own time.And that continues to this day.The Catholic Church canonized her and now she is St. Mary.I am fine with that.It does not mean she is only for Catholics and the rest of us can only look from afar.Hardly, since Mary Magdalene plays a primary role in the New Testament and, thus, belongs to all of u…

Crucible of the Spirit

I try to make sure I spend a little time each day outside.It was easy when I was growing up on a farm.Much of that life was spent outside.In those days even the time on the tractor was outside---exposed to nature.I know that is probably not good, given the health issues.I can appreciate modern tractors and combines with their cabs, radios, etc.As a boy, I leaned to “read nature.”

I learned things like prevailing winds and the clouds that would bring rain and clouds that did not.I learned to smell the rain and deal with the snow.I appreciated the seasons.In an odd way I liked learning from the tough times that nature could deliver---wet springs, dry summers, cold winters.Extreme and excess can teach us a great deal.Life is easy when things are going well and there are no hardships.
As life unfolded for me, I chose things that kept me inside much of the time.That continues even to this day.There are rare occasions that call for me to do my profession outside.Most of my time is spent i…

Creation and Incarnation

There are some writers who are so clear in what they say, we always come away edified.One such writer for me is Richard Rohr, the Franciscan priest who directs a Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I have read a number of Rohr’s books and use a couple in my classes.However, I have only heard him speak one time.That was a series of three lectures and they were quite instructive.

One line he used at that time I still remember.Rohr said, “The incarnation happened at the Big Bang!Jesus just personalized the incarnation.”When he said that, immediately I wrote it down, which is why I can recall it today.At the time I also remember how much that one-liner resonated with me.It resonated in my gut as a true feeling.And it resonated in my head as a good expression of the theology I would espouse.Let me unpack the one-liner.
The first thing to be noticed is how the one-liner ties together the twin ideas of creation and incarnation.For those who might not know what the…

Friends on Earth

Recently I had a speaking opportunity with an organization I have known for decades.It is a Quaker group that gathers annually.Typically, there are a couple speakers and that was the role to which I had been invited.Earlier in my career, this was a group I would have visited every year they gather.On most of those occasions, I would not have been the speaker, but I did get to know many of the folks.

Of course, over time many of the ones I would have known have moved or died.And over time many new faces have moved into the area or simply have joined that Quaker gang.So there were more faces I did not know that I could claim I knew.That is a good thing!But I also was more than happy to be back where some old friendships were rekindled, if only for a short period of time.It led me to think about friendship, one of my favorite themes.
I have thought a great deal about friendship and have read much over the years.And anyone my age clearly has had many friends.Unfortunately, the term, “frie…

Recreation Centers and Laboratories

Sometimes I get inspired in the oddest places.I was in the middle of some exercise in the Recreation Center (or Rec Center, as it is affectionately labeled), when it hit me: this is it!Well, this was not totally it; actually this was half of it.So far, this should be making no sense!Bear with me.
I was exercising in the Rec Center.The days are long gone when I exercised vigorously.In the old days I would have been going so hard, I would not have been thinking at all.In those days I never was inspired, nor did I ever have a mystical experience, while exercising.But these days, the exercise is more leisurely, shall we say.I was inspired, but it was a slow, revealing kind of inspiration. What hit me was the name of the building in which I was exercising: Recreation Center.Of course, that is hardly novel.Every college or university of any description has a Recreation Center of some kind.There are plush ones, Spartan ones…but they all serve the same purpose.I was not focused on the name …

The Ear of Your Heart

One of the documents of western Christian history that has had a significant role is the early medieval monastic Rule from St. Benedict.This Rule was written in the early third of the 6th century.It was the cornerstone of the most important and populous monastic group, the Benedictine monks.This monastic group has endured more than sixteen centuries!One can still find and visit Benedictine monasteries across this country and abroad.
But Benedict’s Rule never had the narrow role of guiding the life of a group of monks.The Rule played a larger role in the life of the Church and, in some ways, the life of various universities through the ages.The Benedictines always have played a central educational role.Hence countless students---religious and non-religious alike---have been exposed to the spirit of Benedict’s Rule.Indeed much of the Rule is a simple guide for Christian or, perhaps even, spiritual living. Of course, the Rule presupposed there is a God.The Rule assumes God has a partic…