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Showing posts from August, 2015

Generosity and Gratitude

I use the two words, generosity and gratitude purposely, because those two words were the focus of a recent blog I read by my friend, Parker Palmer.I have known Palmer for a long time, although we are not close friends.He has had an outstanding career as a teacher and speaker at major events---particularly in the educational and non-profit worlds.I once tried to lure him to the faculty when I was Dean.He was smart enough to tell me no!

One of the things I like to read with some regularity is Krista Tippet’s “On Being.”She routinely has people like Palmer offer short, pithy blogs.They are the kind of thought provoking pieces that I like to encounter.In some ways these kinds of things are soul food to me.Sometimes they are so good, I want to share them further.So it is here with Parker Palmer’s piece.
Palmer begins by saying, “Generosity does not require material abundance.”That is very true.He goes a little further to note that money does not come to mind when he thinks about people …

Real Soul Making

Some books I continue to return to in order to get a spiritual reminder or a spiritual boost.One of those books is my friend Alan Jones’ book, Soul Making.I find reading Jones a challenge, but always rewarding.However, I also know that when I assign that book in one of my spirituality classes, the students seldom like it!That usually makes me a little sad.It is as if the students reject a little part of me.

I think Jones’ book is so important to me because it came at a time when I was in a significant spiritual growth phase.Simultaneously, I was also trying to figure out whether I could teach spirituality and, if so, how I would do it.The idea of “soul making” was an eye-opener for me.Growing up in a fairly rural Quaker meeting (church), I had only heard that language that affirmed people “had” souls.Of course, at death the soul left the body and for many folks, the soul is what went to heaven.
I never thought much about that.When you hear stuff like that as a kid, you usually take …

The Importance of Interviewing

It may seem odd to be talking about interviewing in a spiritual reflection.I never thought about it until recently when I was asked to interview some students for a special program.It is funny that I never thought about this before, since I have interviewed students for many things over decades now.But it hit me and I realized interviewing can be a spiritual experience.

When I say it could be a spiritual experience, I don’t mean I was interviewing the student for some kind of religious job.We never talked about God nor religion.On the surface no one would get any kind of clue that it was about spirituality.Perhaps it was only in my mind.But let me unfold my understanding.
I was set to interview a young man and the appointment was made.From his name, I assumed he was Asian or, at least, Asian-American.As far as I was aware, I have never met him nor had I ever seen him.I asked him to tell me a bit about himself.
I know this is not an unusual request when you are in an interview proces…

Eye of the Soul

I recently read an interesting article.Part of the interest was how much my own experience overlapped with the author, Joni Woelfel.Although she has written a few books, I have never heard of Woelfel.Now she is someone I want to meet and get to know.Books have a way of bringing people together.So I now have a new hope---to meet Joni Woelfel.

Woelfel’s article is graciously entitled, “seeing the past with the grateful eye of the soul.”I was drawn in by those words.I loved the phrase, “eye of the soul,” which is why I entitled this inspirational piece with those words.And the overall theme of her essay is focused on the past and on memory.Memory is seen through the eye of the soul.That would be very good in and of itself.
What she writes about is her growing up on a Minnesota farm.Of course, mine was an Indiana farm---but close enough!Neither has anything in common with New York City or any other urban area.She talks about grandfathers and that brought warm memories of my own grandfat…

The Beginning of Day

I enjoy reading a range of things because of what they can teach me.Even though I feel like I already know quite a bit about what I am reading, many times I am offered a new angle or perspective to understand something.Recently I was reading a blog on spirituality.I ran into a little story from Hasidic Judaism.I know some things about that special Jewish group that tends toward the mystical.There is something about the Hasidic spirit that resonates with my own Quaker spirit.
The story is about a rabbi who is asking his students or disciples a question.“He asked, ‘How can we determine the hour of dawn, when the night ends and the day begins?’”In and of itself, this is not a spiritual question.It is an interesting question, but just not specifically a spiritual question.It is interesting because it is not easily answered.As an early morning person, I have often wondered that too.I am doubly intrigued because you can get reports that are very specific.We might hear, for example, that sun…

Precariat: New and Troubling Word

I was reading a favorite periodical when I spotted the headline with a word that I don’t think I had ever seen.The headline read: “The ‘Precariat:’ stressed out, insecure, alienated and angry.”I’m not sure I had ever seen “precariat.”I could guess what it meant.The opening line of the article assured me I knew its meaning.

“Inequality.Class fragmentation.Social and economic exclusion.”Those words paint an unfortunate picture.And that’s just the point.The author of the article, Vinnie Rotondaro, is writing about the world’s large and growing group of people living precarious lives right above the poverty line.This clearly does not include me; I have been very fortunate.But that only means that I need to know about this sad phenomenon and see it for the spiritual issue it is, alongside being an economic and political issue.
The author makes use of much of the scholarly work being done by Guy Standing, a British economist, who is Professor of Development Studies at the School of Orient…

Encounters at the Well

Recently I had reason to engage a biblical text that I have not read for a while.It is a very familiar story to me, so I was glad to hear it again. The story comes from John’s Gospel and it narrates an encounter between Jesus and a Samaritan woman at a well.Since I used to teach a seminar on John’s Gospel, I have thought about this rather long passage and read a fair number of commentaries to gain a deeper understanding.

The passage is far too long to give consideration to all its aspects.So we can pick off a few salient features that have something to do with our spiritual life today.In the first place, a little historical background might be useful.I almost always want to laugh when I begin to share some of the historical background.I laugh because Jesus really should not be at that well at that hour with that woman!
Going to the well to fetch water is a standard thing that must have happened in those ancient times.However, because of the heat of the day, the normal time to go wou…

Finite Resource

I had occasion recently to speak to our soccer teams.On my campus the women and men’s soccer teams do much together.I actually think that is a good idea.I believe it builds into their programs a brother-sister dynamic.Each team has a cadre of others who support and uphold them through a long season.Friendships develop that are healthy and, often, long-term friendships.
I appreciate my involvement in the life of so many athletes.I was once an athlete and, I suppose, in my mind always will be an athlete.No doubt, I inflate the stories about how good I was.Maybe that is the privilege of old age!I was very average in every sport I played.But I was able to play and to play is to learn.I learned so much during the growing up years when I played on teams. So the coach asked me to come and share some wisdom with the players.It is easy to agree to do this.But then, it hits me that I am not sure I have any wisdom to share.And if perchance I have some wisdom, I am not at all clear an eighteen or…

Making Music

So often I have talked about returning to the basics.  That is always a good idea for sports.  When a golfer goes through a tough stretch, it is important to go back to the basics.  That usually means going back to the fundamentals of the game.  When things are going well, there never seems to be any issue with fundamentals.  But the game has its ups and downs.  I am sure the same thing holds true for musicians and other professionals.  It is not easy to sustain high performance over a long period of time. And this is true for my spiritual life.  Sometimes it seems really easy.  I seem to be cruising along spiritually speaking.  Life seems rich and meaningful.  Things drop in your lap.  Good things happen almost without effort.  But then come other periods.  Quakers call these times “dry periods.” There seems to be no sense of God’s Presence.  I might feel spiritually cold or disconnected from things.  There is no vibrancy or bounce to my life.  As with sports, the arts and other hi…

Relationships are Key

Part of what I always loved about teaching on a college campus is the beginnings.  I really enjoyed those days before the beginning of a new semester in the Fall when students began drifting back to campus.  Usually the athletes descended in their respective sport droves.  Sometimes the marching band also gathered before the beginning of classes.  And as the years have evolved, there are more special interest groups that come back early for special pre-semester programs.  We see Honors’ programs and others in these days.

College campuses are changing these days.  There is so much being done online and with hybrid kinds of classes.  But for residential campuses, there still is something special about the days leading up to the beginning of classes.  As students drift back, the campus literally comes alive with energy and vibrancy.  It is like a collegiate springtime after the dormancy of winter---only these seasons are reversed, since a college’s dormant period is summer.

I enjoy this re…

Spiritual Medicine

I saw the title of a recent blog and knew I immediately would read it.  The title made a simple statement: “Doctors Fail to Address Patient’s Spiritual Needs.”  I suspected that was the case, but it is not a conversation I ever had with any physicians.  So I began to read with interest. The story begins with a doctor describing a young woman in her 20s he is treating for cancer.  She was not responding well to the treatments and he feared the worst for her future.  He begins to narrate some details.  He acknowledged that he noticed that she and her mother, who visited daily, wore tiny gold crosses.  She also had a picture of Jesus at her bedside.  Robert Klitzman, the doctor, set the story for its context.  But the next few sentences made the article significant. He said, “I wondered: Should I call a priest?  Should I ask her if she wanted to see one?  I wasn’t sure, and didn’t even know how to raise the topic.”  This confession touched me.  I have huge respect for physicians.  My da…

Love: The Ground of our Being

I have never met anyone who prefers the lack of love instead of love.I agree with many writers in multiple spiritual traditions that humans want to love and to be loved.I conclude that is a basic human desire.I am sure we could point to the occasional person for whom this might not be the case.But that person, I argue, is a person who has somehow become deformed or was malformed as he or she grew.I have never read in any spiritual tradition where we don’t come to love at some point.
I have read so much about love that I sometimes think I have forgotten more than I have remembered.I recognize how easy it is to think about love and even to write about love.To think about love and to write about it does not mean necessarily that I am very good at loving.In fact, most days I still feel like a kindergartner when I think about my capacity and execution of love.So I welcome one more time to ponder love and see if I can continue to learn and to grow. As I think about what I know about love,…