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Showing posts from October, 2015

Gift of Availability

I was rolling down the interstate recently without giving much thought to anything.I was the passenger, as my friend was driving.I realized I seldom go anywhere when I am not driving.And we all know, when you are the driver, you need to be pretty attentive.Hence, I was enjoying the luxury of my semi-conscious state with my mind wandering here and there.Then at one point I noticed the van in front of us.

I am not sure what caught my attention, but when I saw the writing on the back of the van, I jumped to attention.With only a cursory look, it was easy to see the van was actually part of someone’s business.There I saw the name of the business, but that did not register with me.It could have been a plumbing or electrical business, but I have no clear memory.I do recall seeing a phone number to call, but now I cannot even remember the area code.In fact, there was only one detail that riveted my attention.
On the back of the van in the upper right hand side I read these words: “23 ½ hou…

The Servant Leader

Recently I was with a wonderful group of people who were thinking about servant leadership.It is a concept that has rich meaning to me.As I thought about it, I realized that I have probably been trying to be a leader since elementary school days.I don’t know that I started out to be a servant leader, but that idea came to be part of my leadership style fairly early in my career.

Part of what attracts me to the idea of being a servant leader is my own personality.As I think about it, I have always preferred being part of a group and helping a group along.I certainly have played the role of the lone ranger, but that is not as much fun for me as leading a group.I also think my own Quaker tradition values encourage a kind of servant leadership model.Quakers have always felt like the group is more important than any single individual.I agree with this and have tried to support the group’s progress and success.
As I anticipated being with this group of folks, I realized I had not thought …

Invitation

I was sitting at home one recent evening.I had no special plans, except to write my usual spiritual reflection piece.I like doing them in the evening, since that gives me a whole day to be aware, pay attention, and to see what comes my way.I know one of the reasons I still like writing these things is it encourages me to live with a level of awareness that I am not sure I would do if I weren’t somehow responsible for writing something.It is a wonderful discipline.

Out of the silence, my phone rang.The nice thing about cell phones is there are almost no junk phone calls as I recall in the good old days of the landline.If the phone rings, it almost is always for me.Someone is connecting.A very familiar voice greeted me.That was nice.But it provoked me to think.
At least in my world, no one calls without some intentionality.That means there is a reason for virtually every phone call I get.Even if someone calls simply to chat, that is a reason.I am not sure I ever thought of this.And the …

Miracle

Spending some time recently with a friend brought some new, interesting ideas for me to ponder.Some of what I want to share here is not original to me.The basic idea, in fact, he handed to me.Maybe he got the idea from someone, but it was not novel for me.The conversation came out of a conversation about the miracles of Jesus.For a long time, I have been intrigued by miracles.

I know many people swear by miracles.Jesus performed miracles and folks believe that the miracle occurred just as the New Testament recorded it.Other folks take a more liberal view.They do not actually think Jesus fed five thousand people with five loaves and two fish.They are confident the story of turning water into wine is embellished to make a good story.And then, there are many contemporary people who think all talk about miracles is so much hogwash---literally and metaphorically nonsense.
I certainly do not take everything in the New Testament or, even, the entire Christian Bible literally.So that means,…

Meaning Tied to Worth

I am attracted to things that talk about meaning.Maybe that is because I feel like I have spent much of my life thinking about meaning and testing to see if, indeed, I thought I was living a meaningful life.I remember very well a period of life when I did not think I had any meaning or, at best, was not sure what that was.Those were the years right after high school and the early college years.

In my case much of school and high school was fine.Maybe it is revisionist history, but I recall those days with some fondness.I was an above average athlete, so that was a plus.I was bright enough, so that also was a plus.I am the oldest one in my family, so there was no sibling competition---no reputation to live up to or even live down.Life was ok.
Then I was off to college and began to experience a period of not knowing.I began to have a nagging sense that what I was aiming for was not really what I wanted to do.I began to accept that I was doing what others wanted me to do.And when it ca…

A Psalm of Comfort

There are always good reasons for me to stay with the daily lectionary.The lectionary gives me readings from the Psalms, other readings and a chance to ponder the important things in my life.I do this because I realize that if I don’t do it, I will walk down an aimless, busy kind of life.It scares me to think how easy it is to live an unreflective life.I am sure this is what Socrates had in mind when he noted that “an unexamined life” is not worth living.

The lectionary reading for Compline (the closing time of worship in the Benedictine monastic day) was reassuring.I guess that is fitting that we be reassured as we close out the day and head to bed.It proves the lectionary has a reason to it!The time I spend with the lectionary matters to me because I know monks and other seriously engaged spiritual people are doing the same thing that I am doing.The point is not simply to read the same stuff I know they are reading.The point is to reflect on that material and let it massage my sou…

Sacred Stage of our Times

The title for this inspirational reflection comes from the end of the introductory chapter in a relatively new book, Grounded: Finding God in the World, by Diana Butler Bass.I do not know Bass personally, but I do like her writing and hope one day we might meet and get to know each other.This initial chapter was a very good read and I look forward to reading the entire book.

In effect, Bass is working off some recent polls testing the religious affiliations of the American population.I am aware of some of these studies, such the recent Pew studies.If effect some of the reporting is giving us ways of understanding why an increasing number of Americans have given up on what they call “institutional religion.”Even though church membership is dropping, a growing number of people say they are “spiritual, but not religious.”This fits a significant number of students who are sitting in my classes.
I think most of them would claim to believe in God, but they don’t go to church nor do they e…

Ego and Self

The thing that amazes me the most in this discipline of writing some spiritual reflection is where I get the ideas.Sometimes I have to struggle to get an idea, but with some perseverance, I can get one.More often than not, something happens and, boom, the idea pops into my head.Such was the idea for this entry.The idea came immediately, but the title came only with some reflection.

Oddly enough, the idea came when a car turned the corner in front of me.I was out for a walk in the wonderful Metropark that is close to my campus.It is a tree-lined, fairly wide path that goes for miles.Where I join it, it passes a couple lakes.There is some traffic on the adjoining road, but for the runners, walkers and bikers, the cars are a secondary distraction.Most of us are enjoying the beauty of nature.
As I approached the corner where the Metropark leads me back to the street, I heard a car coming, so I stopped.Quickly this white car comes to the corner and turns almost recklessly on to the Metro…

Hush Little Soul

Recently I have become aware again of something I probably have known for a long time.Perhaps I have even known it my whole lifetime!It is not a dramatic knowing, but it is healthy and can be healing.What more can we ask?Put simply, I became aware again of what I would call the simple soulfulness of quiet and aloneness.I can put more fancy spiritual terminology to this, but the simplicity is sufficient for now.

I like to be engaged in my work.I like being with people.I know my life still borders on the too-busy end of the spectrum.Even though I am getting older, I wonder whether I am any wiser?I know more than I execute.Ignorance often is not the problem.I know enough to grow spiritually, but frequently my stupidity blunts the process.So I find myself in the same place year after year.It is not a disaster, but there is a mountain yet to climb.I still like the metaphor of mountain when thinking about spirituality.In many ways, I still am a flat-lander!
Most of what I do is good stuff…

Healing Power of Failure

The title of this inspirational piece was provided by a section header in a book I have enjoyed and which I still use in a class.The book, The Active Life, by my friend, Parker Palmer, helps with the basics of living the kind of life I want.The subtitle of the book is quite revealing: A Spirituality of Work, Creativity and Caring.I try to do all three things in my life.I still work.I hope to be creative.And I want to care.Let’s explore all three.

I was reading one of his chapters when I landed on the header of a section in that chapter.The header read: “The Healing Power of Failure.”I was immediately intrigued by the idea that somehow failure could be healing.I certainly have known enough about failure.Anyone my age has failed a few times.If he or she has not, that person is likely to be lying---or never tried anything!
I jumped into the section to see how Palmer was going to develop it.One of the things Palmer suggests is failure is not always a teacher.Many of us choose to ignore it…

Experience of Reverance

I have been slowly reading a recent book by Barbara Brown Taylor called, An Altar in the World.  She writes well and I am enjoying it.  In many ways it is a book about spirituality rather than religion---assuming we can differentiate those words.  When I say it is not so much about religion, I mean it has much less to do with the church as an institution and the typical religious practices we associate with church membership.  It is more focused on being spiritual in the normal running of our days.  The particular chapter I was reading had to do with paying attention.

I have been teaching spirituality long enough to know that paying attention is very important if we want to “be spiritual.”  That was nothing new for me.  But what did pique my interest in her chapter was a focus on reverence.  In some ways reverence is an old religious concept.  It is so classical that not many people I know think about reverence or talk about it.

In a sense the idea of reverence seems a bit stuffy to m…

Amazing Possessions

I was sitting in my chair at home and mindlessly looking around.Sometimes I have the television on and, while that focuses me, I am not sure it gives me much for my attention.It is like eating cotton candy at a county fair.The fluffy stuff looks good and sometimes even smells inviting.But then you take a big bite of it and suddenly there is almost nothing in your mouth.What seemed like so much turns out to be so little!

I am not one for many possessions.Quakers have a thing for simplicity.That always made sense to me.As a middle-class American, I know I cannot claim to be that simple.But as Americans go, I probably do live more simply than many.It always seemed to me that simplicity is a good corollary to poverty. I appreciate how the monks and friars, like the Franciscans, take vows to that end.Most of us “normal people” won’t take a vow of poverty.But most of us can live with less stuff than we actually have.That does include me, too.So I work on simplifying.
As I looked around my…