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Showing posts from December, 2016

Live in Heaven Now

One of the things I do to keep myself on my spiritual toes is to read what other people write.I find it helpful to see whom other folks read and quote.I am intrigued by how others writers formulate and develop their thoughts. I am interested in other people’s perspective and, even, theology.One of the writers whom I most enjoy and find helpful is Richard Rohr, the Franciscan who works out of Albuquerque at the Center for Action and Contemplation.
Rohr writes a daily blog, which I find to be good nurture for my soul.I appreciate his creative, insightful approach to all things spiritual.I know some folks, particularly some Catholics, find him troublesome.But that usually indicates someone is working at some creative junctions between faith and life.I find Rohr seeks a faith that resonates with our world, but does not sell out to our world. A recent blog had a wonderful conclusion, which I would like to focus here.The blog was entitled, “The Communion of Saints.”This is a term that I cam…

Our Best Selves

I recently have finished Krista Tippett’s book, Becoming Wise: an Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living.It is a fine book.Much of what makes it such a good book are all the authors and sages Tippett interviews.The range of people she introduces us to is remarkable.The interviewees range from writers to prophets to paupers.In the process we learn that wisdom is not the same thing as knowledge.Of course, they can be related.It is hard to imagine a wise person who does not anything.But many people who are smart and know a great deal are not wise.
Because the people Tippett interview are so interesting, it is easy to overlook her own contribution to the book.She does more than simply string together stories.Sometimes it is her own interpretation that I find intriguing.Sometimes her insight is at least as profound as the person she interviews.She has a fair amount of knowledge.I know she has been to seminary---accumulating a good theological foundation for the kinds of life questions …

Hope in Chariots and Horses

Part of my personal spiritual discipline is trying daily to do the lectionary reading.  This means I follow a prescribed order of reading.  I have chose to follow the Roman Catholic lectionary.  I like the fact that I am doing the same thing millions around the world are doing.  I know I am following the readings being done in many monasteries.  It gives me a sense of connection.  I may be doing it on my own---but I am not the only one doing it.

As with any discipline, some days it goes very well and other days I wonder why am I doing it!  All this means is that it is important to know why we do discipline.  Typically discipline is a means to an end, and not the end itself.  I practice the piano in order to play better.  The goal is not practicing; the goal is to play better.  Practice is the means to get there.

So it is with a spiritual discipline.  For example, I don’t pray just to pray.  I pray in order to connect with the Divinity.  I pray in order to give God thanks or perhaps ev…

God is Not Santa Claus

As the Christmas season comes round, I am reminded of a one-liner I heard one day while listening to a lecture by Richard Rohr.  Rohr is one of my favorites.  He has a way of saying some very significant things, but often with a twist of humor.  No doubt, this is what endears him to so many people.  And it is also probably why some folks, particularly some Roman Catholics, find him troubling and wish he would quit speaking and writing. 

The line I wrote down, as Rohr was speaking, went like this.  “The operative image of God is Santa Claus!”  Of course, this line is basically about God and not Santa Claus.  Rohr is offering a theological look into his own mind.  It is not a comment on Santa Claus.  In this instance Santa is an image or a symbol.  Let’s look more closely at Rohr’s theology to see if it makes sense in our own lives. 

Clearly not everyone has the same idea with respect to Santa Claus.  However when Rohr uses the Santa Claus image, he is making an assumption that there …

For Joan Baez

I am not sure how many of my college-age friends would know who Joan Baez is. I suspect there are not many who do know her.In some ways this is not at all surprising.Joan Baez is now in her mid-70s.For an eighteen-year old that is an ancient woman!But people my generation---near her age and ourselves products of the Vietnam era---Joan Baez is very well known.I have been a fan of hers for decades.
For most of us who came of age during the 1960s, the Vietnam War was a defining moment.And if that were not enough, it was also the time of race riots and the emerging feminist movement.Some very good things came out of those times.We saw some significant civil rights legislature passed.Some major strides were taken by the women of this country.And Joan Baez was right in the middle of all of that.She was an inspirational leader. I ran into Joan Baez again in a recent article in a Catholic publication I regularly read.It was a great reminder.The article celebrated her appearance back in Washin…

Healthy Spiritual Growth

There are many fringe benefits associated with what I do in life, namely, the chance to teach and mentor college students.The money I make is certainly adequate and now that my own kids are gone and on their own, I have more than enough.The fringe benefits are not monetary and that’s fine by me.One of the best spiritual lessons I have learned is if I have enough money, more does not bring more happiness or joy.I am glad I learned this lesson relatively young in life.I did not waste my life chasing something that ultimately does not bring satisfaction. The best fringe benefit I get from teaching are the relationships that I develop.In fact I prefer to call the folks in my class friends, instead of students.Of course, there is nothing wrong with being a student.After all, I still feel like I am a student of life.I hope I can always be a life-long learner, as they talk about it in college and the real world.I value the friendships I develop with the younger ones in my classes.They often…

They Eat the Mystery

There is a poignant story that gives rise to the strange title of this inspirational piece.The story and these title words come from the first chapter of Ann Voskamp’s best selling book, One Thousand Gifts.Voskamp is a Mennonite, Canadian farmer’s wife.She is a keen observer of human experience and an articulate writer interpreting that experience.The book was a gift to me.And Voskamp’s words are profound gifts that are so welcome in my life of the Spirit. Voskamp gives her first chapter an intriguing title: “an emptier, fuller life.”It is a paradoxical tease into the profundity of the spiritual journey she invites us to travel.The second half of the chapter centers around the death experience of the five-month old nephew of hers.The brother of her husband appears in her doorway and announces that Dietrich’s lungs are failing.Dietrich was doomed to follow into death an earlier brother’s death, Austin, at age four-months. This was too much for Ann Voskamp.She narrates her encounter wi…

Purpose of Human Life

I have often said that religion is one way of making meaning in life.  And I do believe that.  Religion offers a perspective on the world and on life that paints a picture to show how we understand ourselves in that world.  Of course not everyone has a religion or shares a religious perspective.  It is very easy and quite acceptable today for someone to be an atheist.  Atheism also is a way of making meaning in life.

Sometimes that bothers a few of my religious friends.  They do not think atheism is a way to make meaning in life.  Simply because they are religious, they cannot imagine any other way to do it.  With this perspective, religion is the only way to make meaning.  I understand that perspective; I don’t share it.  I don’t share it, in part, because I do not think I can be the one who defines what counts as meaning.  For example, if I am to assume that you have to be religious to have meaning, then I am going to tell an atheist that he or she cannot possibly have meaning---eve…

A Pain is not a Pain

A rose may be a rose, but a pain is not a pain.  Maybe somebody has said that before, but I have never heard it.  So I am assuming (for the moment) I made it up.  Of course, most of us have heard that line, “a rose is a rose.”  I don’t know who said it first or if I should give it a footnote, but I do know that I did not create that line.  Furthermore, we all could explain what the phrase, a rose is a rose, means.

However, if I say, “a pain is not a pain,” the reader may not be too sure what I mean by that.  And if the reader is unsure, he or she does not know whether to agree with me or say balderdash!  So let me explain it by some development.

For sure, every adult knows what pain means.  It is difficult to imagine living into adulthood and not experiencing some kind of pain.  There is physical pain; we all know this.  There is emotional pain----a pain many people know all too well…and others may barely know.  There may be something like spiritual pain, but this one is tricky.  Not …

Second Simplicity

There are some people I would make every effort to hear if they were in my area of the USA.Richard Rohr is one of those folks.And some people write things that I want to read---whether it is a new book, an article or a blog.Again, Richard Rohr is one of those people.Rohr is a Franciscan who lives in Albuquerque and runs a Center for Action and Contemplation.I have met him, but we are not friends.I have many of his books and I like to read his daily blog.
In a recent blog he talked about human development.Of course for him, human development includes spiritual development.Rohr would not consider someone fully human unless that person were also fully developed spiritually.The blog was aptly called, “Growing into Belonging.”Suffice it to say here, no one is fully human and spiritual all by himself or herself.The end game is unity, not individuality.Let’s use a couple of his thoughts to develop this idea. When I read Rohr, I move along through the text fairly quickly.I have read enough to…

Called to be a Disciple

Recently I had the opportunity to return to some work I did a couple decades ago.In my younger years, I was fascinated with the concept of “discipleship.”People who belong to the Christian tradition typically are called disciples.And I know that earlier philosophers also had disciples.The term is not inherently religious, much less Christian.One can even say the Buddha had disciples.So what is a disciple or how does one become a disciple? In order to keep it focused, I will stick with the process of someone becoming a Christian disciple.I don’t think it would be much different for other traditions.But before pursing the Christian process, a word can be said about the term, disciple.It is from Latin and literally means a “student” or a “learner.”Clearly, the English word, discipline, is related to being a disciple.In effect, then a disciple is a student or learner who is willing to exercise a certain amount of discipline to pursue the path. Jesus set about to call disciples very early…

Life With Hope

Sometimes I wonder if people give up on religion because they cannot figure out how to do it day by day?  This seems probable to me because I am not sure most of us common people are quite sure how to define religion.  By saying that, I do not mean those of us who went to church or to synagogue are complete idiots when it comes to religion and what it means. 

When you know something, it is always difficult to remember when you did not know anything.  Now that I have a Ph.D. in religion, it likely is impossible to remember accurately those Indiana farm days when I did not know beans about religion.  But let me guess nevertheless!

I suspect that most Christians, at least, would define religion along the lines of doctrine.  For example, I would assume if you ask the person on the street to define religion, he or she would begin by saying something about believing in God.  Doctrine has to do with believing.  If one is a Christian, it is likely that Jesus enters the picture in some form. …

Soul Holes

My friend gave me a new book.I am not sure what prompted the gift, but that is why it is so special.A gift means being given something you did not earn and do not necessarily deserve.That surely is the case in the gift of my new book.In fact I am glad I don’t know why he gave it to me.It surely is special.The gift is special and that makes the book special---even before I read the first page. I was eager to jump into the book.The author, Ann Voskamp, is a Mennonite farmer along with her husband in Canada.That helps me appreciate it.I like the Mennonites.I see them as cousins to Quakers, but I sense they usually are more serious and more deeply spiritual than many of us Quakers, so I have deep respect for Ann Voskamp for this reason.I don’t know why I have not heard about her or read her. The book, One Thousand Gifts, has sold over a million copies!So unless she has given a great deal of money away, Ann Voskamp is one rich Mennonite.But I can’t imagine this would mess up her faith.In …