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Showing posts from August, 2016

Choosing a God

I continue to use the lectionary every day.As I have said before, the lectionary is a selection of daily readings, usually for devotional purposes.Lectio in Latin simply means “reading.”If you like words, that Latin term gives us our English word, lectern, the stand upon which books are placed so someone can read the book or notes.A podium, one the other hand, is that upon which one stands---places your feet.So we stand on the podium and read from a lectern.Those words are often confused and used wrongly.

The daily lectionary I choose to use is the Benedictine one.The Benedictine monks around the world use the same lectionary.They have chosen some passages from the Old Testament and from the New Testament that are read at every one of their various worship times through the day.I try on a daily basis to read the morning selection and the evening one.I could choose my own, but for me it is nice to have someone else choose.My goal is to do some devotional reading, not simply to choose i…

What is Prayer?

What is prayer?This is not an everyday question, but I do think it is a real question for many.And for many more of us, it not an issue at all.There are two kinds of people for whom it is not an issue.There is the large group of atheists---the non-believers---who think prayer is something between a quaint idiosyncrasy and utter nonsense.And then, there is the other end of that spectrum which entails the believers who are very sure about prayer---both what it is and how one does it.

Many of us find ourselves somewhere in between.We are not as clear as the non-believer.We know there is some kind of God or “Other” in our world.Or we have a sense there is a Divinity, but we are not at all clear how to connect with this entity.
These thoughts were prompted recently when I read some comments in my graduate school alma mater’s newsletter.It is written by Susan Abraham, a young professor of Ministry Studies.In a lucid answer to the question, what is prayer, she offers these words.“It is a pra…

The Beauty of Silence

I suspect I have written about silence about a hundred times!It reminds me how often I have told congregations and classes of students that I probably only have about four major points in my outlook on life and the way I make sense of things.Certainly life is complex and my life feels that way some of the time.But I don’t think that necessarily means our philosophy or theology has to be complex.In fact I think simplicity is called for.
Simplicity does not mean that the complexity disappears.But simplicity becomes a way to understand the complexity---even if we don’t understand all the details of the complex.I know the universe if far too complex for my little mind to understand.Most of the time I assume astrophysicists, molecular biologist and neuroscientist understand the complexity of our world far better than I do.But I doubt that any of them could lean back in a chair and say, “There, I know it all!” I do know there are many, many words to describe the complexity of our world.I th…

Map of the Heart

When I stay at my daughter’s house, I am aware there is a rather large map on the wall by my bed.I like sleeping right next to the entire world!Obviously, I am old enough to have looked at maps a thousand times.I have traveled enough to know where most major countries and places in the world can be found.I know if you look at a map and locate China or Australia, you realize why it takes so many hours in a plane to get to those places.Maps give us a sense of place.

I have liked maps since I was a kid.Of course, I grew up in the pre-internet days, so maps were much more prevalent.Nearly everyone I knew had a map or two in their cars.I grew up in Indiana.I knew all the big and little towns in the vicinity.I was so provincial, I thought Indiana was a rather large place.I guess it beats Rhode Island, but it is one of the smaller states.And yet, there were so many places I could never locate until I checked the map.Maps seemed necessary to know where you were at in relation to every other p…

Spiritual Technology

I am enjoying my slow read through Krista Tippett’s recent book, Becoming Wise.She writes with insight and eloquence and that is refreshing in an age where there is so much superficiality and bad thinking.The other thing I very much like about her work is how significantly it is grounded in experience.Even though it is a book about spirituality with a dose of religion thrown in, it is not dogmatic or doctrinaire.To the contrary.Instead, it is about living---as she says in the book’s subtitle, “the art of living.”
By now I have lived many years, but I am still trying to be an artist---an artist of my own life.Who would not want his or her life to be a thing of beauty?It should not be a superficial beauty.Real beauty is deep and it is profound.I am not sure I have approximated either of those yet. Even though I have followed Tippett’s weekly interviews for the radio, I was not sure what I would get in the book.Certainly some things are fairly predictable.But other things surprise.An ear…

Beach Buddha

We all have heard the saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”  Most of the time when I hear that, I don’t even think about it.  It is so commonplace that it really does not pack the punch it originally must have done.  It feels worn out.  But I am in the middle of an experience that is making that old saying seem real.  I received a picture.

When I received the picture in an email, I immediately recognized the figure.  It was my little granddaughter sitting in the water.  They have been on vacation at the ocean.  So I knew the scene, although I have never been to that particular place.  She is sitting by herself in the water just off the shore.  The waves are gently coming toward her as you see more coming in the background.

I have basically a side-view look at her.  I can see her face, but not into face.  Her hair is pulled back into a ponytail, so her full face is exposed.  She sits with her legs apart and her arms dangling down between her legs with her hands in the water next…

In the Margins

I feel like some people are my friends, even though I have never met them nor talked to them.Some people in this category are very old---ancient, to be sure.One of them was St. Athanasius, as the Roman Catholic Church calls him.Athanasius was a fourth century bishop and theologian.He was the patriarch of Alexandria, that great classical city in Egypt which was the seat of learning and culture in the ancient age.Athanasius was archbishop of that city when the once unbelievable thing happened.The Roman emperor became a Christian.
This radical change from an empire that had persecuted Christians from the time of Jesus now joined the cause, as it were, and became an ally of the Christian Church.Many of us have questions whether this was a good thing, but nevertheless, Athanasius played a huge role in those times.And I came to know him so well because he was the focus of my doctoral dissertation.I felt like we became friends, but the only thing I had from his life were his writings. A livi…


Recently I heard a friend speak and one of the things he talked about was the idea of invitation.I don’t think I ever spent any time pondering that very common phenomenon.Of course, I have been invited to countless things over my lifetime.And I have invited multiple people for various things I have done.There are very standard invitations and, of course, special ones. Standard invitations would be to things like birthday parties, weddings, etc.Some invitations to these events are elaborate.I have seen wedding invitations that seem quite expensive to make. They are multi-colored, have ribbons and other fancy twists.At the other end of the spectrum are invitations that I get via email.There is nothing special about these in any way.They are very functional.They simply invite me to something, give me the time and place and that’s it. Generally, I see invitations as a good deal.To receive an invitation is to know that I am wanted at some event.Some invitations are business related, but …

Love of Learning

When I was a kid on the Indiana farm, occasionally I would run into something that I had forgotten about and it was like discovering the thing anew!  It was as if something that had been lost was found.  Sometimes, I laughed because I realized I had not missed the thing until I found it again.  And then I could not imagine not having it.  One of my favorite places of discovery was a corner of our barn where most of the stuff was the stuff my grandpa put there.

I have fond memories of days spent on that farm in the tow of my grandfather.  That was especially true when I was young---too young for the heavy work of the farm.  It never occurred to me not to be outside with him and my dad.  But I also did not wonder why they were lifting the eighty pounds bales of hay.  I was watching and that seemed appropriate.

No doubt, it was because my grandpa was beyond his prime in physical strength and I had not arrived to my prime that we were bound together at the margins of the active farm life…


I personally enjoy reunions.And I like watching other people enjoy reunions.When I was a young guy, occasionally there would be family reunions.It would be a time when I would see cousins whom I probably had not seen for a couple years.It was also a time when the adults would sit around and talk about “old times.”At that juncture in my life, I was sure I would never do that!It seemed utterly boring to me.I much preferred running off and playing ball.

When we finish our education, we typically belong to some class.And at some point, you are invited to the reunion of your high school class year.The same holds true for college reunions.I remember going to my first high school reunion---it was the 20th, I think.I was amazed how much so many people had changed.Even though I was married late in my college years, we went on to graduate school and kids came along later than usual.At my high school reunion, my classmates had kids and a couple even had grandkids!
Sometimes churches and other gr…

Art of Community

Recently I read something that contained the phrase, “the art of community.”I have no idea what it was that I was reading and I don’t remember anything about the context of the phrase nor any more points that were made in developing the idea.So I am hoping I am not committing plagiarism!I am using a phrase and would give credit if I had a clue where I read it.
I have had an ongoing interest in community for decades now.Maybe it has been a lifetime, but I probably did not have the language for it when I was a kid.Times were different when I was a kid.In those days people went to church because many believed, I am sure.But I am also sure folks went because it was the socially accepted thing to do.In those days there was far less diversity in my part of the world---or at least, I was unaware of the diversity.Of course, in a rural Indiana setting in the mid-20th century, there really was less diversity. I am sure the idea of community was important even then, but I don’t remember that ter…

Networks and Community

Sometimes I read something and want to respond with a “duh!”It is even funnier when some very smart, high-level people “discover” something that I was sure would be true.That happened to me recently when I was reading the alumni magazine from one of the institutions of higher education that granted me a degree.Arguably it is one of the most well known universities in the land.No one would deny some of the world’s smartest people teach there.So when they conduct research and report their findings, it is usually received with utmost respect.
I do not doubt or put down this perspective.In fact, I am delighted to be an alum of that university and read the magazine with regularity and appreciation.Very interesting learnings come from those pages.The recent short article that is referenced here is given the catchy title, “What Makes Teams Tick?”I have played sports and been part of a myriad of groups, so I was eager to jump into reading the little report. The article begins with something I…


One of the books I am reading is Jim Forest’s All is Grace: a Biography of Dorothy Day.I have read Day’s own autobiography and some other things she wrote.But I have never had a total look at this remarkable woman’s life.Dorothy Day is on the radar of Pope Francis.When he visited the United States, he was invited to speak to the US Congress.In that speech he singled out Day, along with three others, as models of American religious life.Some think at some point Dorothy Day will be made a saint.
Dorothy Day is best known for founding the Catholic Worker.In the beginning this was simply a newsletter.Later there were Catholic Worker houses of hospitality and other manifestations of Day’s spirituality.Dorothy Day lived a fascinating, bohemian life in the early 20th century.She was anything but a saint!It seemed like everything she did was life on the edge.Consistent through her life, however, was her writing.Her father was a journalist and it seemed that came through in the DNA. Although s…