Skip to main content


Showing posts from September, 2015

Creating a Legacy

I have no clue when I first heard about a legacy.I doubt I knew anything about it until college days or even later.It might have been one of those things I heard about, but it never registers.I doubt very many young folks pay any attention to those kinds of things.By the time I was teaching and, especially, doing some fund raising, I became very aware of the idea of legacy.Only recently and only occasionally have I given any thought to my own legacy.

The word, legacy, often is associated with wills that dead people leave and about which the survivors learn in a court session or with the lawyers.Often, legacies have to do with money and property.Of course, some people are quite wealthy and their legacies to their heirs are remarkable.My parents did not fit that category!They left me and my siblings almost no money or property.I did not care.I did not have them as parents to make me wealthy!
It would be wrong to limit legacies to money or property.Basically the idea of legacy is whate…

A Simple Heart

Yesterday I attended a lecture at my university.The guy who was talking is an old friend whom I have known for a dozen years.It is always nice to have him come to campus and speak to our students.He has such an interesting and, in some ways, inspiring life that it is good to have every new group of students hear his story.I have heard his story many times, so it is not novel.But it is always interesting and inspiring even for me.

Part of his inspiration is the fact that he has failed three or four times in his life.Somehow he bounces back and the next chapter seems even better than what he was doing before he failed.When I talk about his failures, I am mostly talking about business or career failures.It is not some moral failure.His story is one of failure, innovation, and reworking what he is capable of doing.
Many people would probably fail like he does and be done.They would not only be wiped out financially, but personally.He talks about being down for a while and, perhaps, even…


Probably it is because I am educated as a theologian, I look for things perhaps other people do not see.When people talk about God or Jesus, I listen fairly carefully.When I read things where people are describing what God is up to, again I read fairly carefully.I have faith in God.I have faith that God is at work in the world.But I also know there is no way I can tell you exactly who God is or exactly how God works in this world.

The job of a theologian is to try to describe this God who works in the world.And the job is to describe to the best of our ability how that God works in the world.I have learned that theology is not the same thing as God.God exists and works in the world whether or not theologians try to describe this work.
I also know that theologians are not all professional.Not all theologians are at work as priests or teaching in some kind of college religion program.Of course, there are theologians doing both of those jobs.But there are countless other theologians out …

Four Saints

He did not call them saints, but I am going to bless them as saints.I am not Roman Catholic, so I can take all their saints and add some.And I think in his heart of hearts, Pope Francis would agree with me.In his recent speech to the US Congress the Pope referenced these four people for very specific reasons.I found the speech inspiring and his framing of the speech around these four people a clever move to speak to the American people.

Pope Francis used each of the four saints to make a particular point.I was pleased with the four people he chose.His four saints include Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton.Two of the four would be universally known in the United States.Three of the four have lived during some part of my own lifetime.We all know when Lincoln was assassinated.Both King and Merton died in 1968 and Dorothy Day died in 1980.
In a paragraph near the end of the address to the US Congress, Pope Francis gives his reason for choosing these fo…

The Importance of Vision

It is pretty common to find some kind of vision statement in a business or even non-profit.It is even typical for these organizations to revisit occasionally the vision statement to see if it still matches what the organization sees as a reason for its being.I think this is quite healthy.This should be the case for spiritual communities, too.

It is not unusual for people to know the phrase, “where there is no vision, the people perish.”What many folks probably do not know is that phrase comes from the Old Testament.It can be found in Proverbs 29:18.If we were going to do the passage justice, we would have to look at it in its context.That should help us know what it likely meant at the time it was written.But for our purpose here, the focus is on vision.And the argument I would make is the people will, indeed, perish without vision.I think this is the typical organizational perspective, too.
The first question might be the basic question, namely, what is a vision?I am sure there are…

The Divine Ear

While I try to stay up on the news and even novel things that are happening in various corners of the knowledge world, I also try to stay grounded in my own Christian tradition.That tradition is a resource.It is like soul food.I need a healthy balanced diet of soul food to stay healthy.It is like the food balance we need to be healthy and physically well.

One thing I do is follow the daily lectionary.Because of my association with the monastic tradition, I follow the daily lectionary provided for Benedictine monks.Many years ago I became a Benedictine oblate.That means I am affiliated with a local Benedictine monastery and am something like a lay member there.I find that way of life to offer a sane choice of living within an often-insane world.
Of course one of the things I quickly learned when I began hanging out with the monks is they can be as crazy as those of us who don’t live in the monastery.Monks have taken vows to try as hard as they can to live a life of the Spirit.They see …

Saving Me Now

I lead a weekly group on my campus.Actually to say I lead it is a little too bold.I certainly arrange the meetings.And they let me pretend to be the leader.The group begins early in the Fall semester and we continue through the school year until things are over in May.I have been doing this for nearly two decades.One woman has been in it every year we have done it.

When I first met her, she was working in one of the coffee shops on campus.I like to get to know people like her.My faculty colleagues are under the impression that we are the most important folks on campus.That’s not true!It is people like Suzanne who are the most important.Faculty don’t see people like her and the powerful, often invisible, ministry they do.Students see it and make use of her empathy and compassion.And sometimes she simply told them to knock it off and they complied.
She is now retired, but is eager to keep learning and loving.So she shows up every week.She joins others and me as we begin to read some c…

Talking Signs

When I go for a run, I often turn the run into a walk.Of course, that is a sign that I am getting older.But I don’t mind.I am still moving, and moving gives me a chance to see and enjoy life.I am thankful.I have become aware when I turn the run into a walk, I begin to notice more things.That is not surprising, since I am going more slowly with less effort expended.It is like having eyes than can focus on things.

I am not sure how it happened, but I began to notice the various signs along the way.There were the inevitable signs of the road.I saw stop signs, speed limit signs and signs that told me of impending road intersections.Of course, I have seen millions of these in my lifetime.Nothing I saw was novel.But what was new is that I began to ponder what I was seeing.And this led to a sense for the process of knowing.
As I thought about it, I realized the signs were talking.Of course, there was no discernable sound.When I approached the stop sign, I heard no voice saying, “Stop please.…

The Drawbridge of Differences

Any time I see something new written by Sister Joan Chittister, Benedictine nun from Erie, PA, I immediately want to read it.Chittister has been a prophetic voice in the Catholic Church and for Christianity for decades.While I have spent some time in her monastery in Erie and even was invited to speak there in the recent past, I count it the highest privilege to be in the same place she is.

Sr. Joan Chittister is one of those rare human beings whose faith seems so deep that she is given a different set of eyes to see things than most of us.It is as if we only see things.She sees into things.She has a kind of penetrating gaze into the reality of life that give her the capacity to articulate things so that it comes to us as a form of revelation.I am left with a sense that “I have seen that, but I have not seen THAT!”
And so it was when I began reading a Catholic journal that I regularly read.Chittister is a frequent contributor to that journal, so I know I am going to get her gems on …

The Art of Focus

The title for this inspirational piece is a straight steal from the editorial in the New York Times by David Brooks.Although I don’t always agree with Brooks, I find him a thoughtful, relevant writer.Much of what he says is so open to spiritual interpretation and development.Perhaps that is why I enjoy his challenges and contributions.So when I read his title, “the Art of Focus,” I ploughed into the editorial.I was not disappointed.

His opening sentence captivated me.He confesses, “Like everyone else, I am losing the attention war.”While Brooks is a bit younger than I am, he can remember the pre-social media days.He knows life before Facebook, Twitter, email, etc.Without putting a value judgment on these versions of social media, Brooks knows, as I do, that life was different then.I certainly don’t look back to those times as “the good old days.”In fact, I like the immediacy of interacting on Face Time with my distant kids.But with Brooks, I realize there are claims on my attention …

When You Get What You Want

The phrase, which became the title of this inspirational piece, came to me during a recent conversation.The person with whom I was conversing periodically was talking about wishing for this or for that.As I listened to her, I realized that wishing for certain things was a way she expressed hope.For example, I am sure at one point she must have said something like, “I wish I can have some kids.”Translated that would have meant that she planned to have kids…and did have them. In many ways I can relate to that.I suspect I am not unusual in saying that I have spent a lifetime wanting certain things.When I was a kid, I wanted to play sports and, of course, wanted to be good.I did get to play sports, but I was average at best.I would have to confess I wanted to date certain girls and sometimes got what I wanted.Other times I got a flat “No!”That was disappointing, but it didn’t kill me.I suppose most of us realize we don’t get everything we want.“That’s life,” goes the saying. The next rea…