Skip to main content


Showing posts from July, 2017

Spirituality and the Market

The title of this inspirational reflection suggests two different academic disciplines or departments.  On my campus if we were to talk about spirituality and the market, we think Religion Department and the Business Division.  In most cases the two would not be in conversation.  In my own case, however, I have done a great deal of collaborative work with a colleague from the Business world.  It has been productive work and surprising where our joint efforts have made a difference.

I have often said that it is only on college campuses that artificial divisions exist.  Sometimes I think it is unfortunate that we make students choose majors.  And too often, the students operate with the illusion that a particular major leads to specific kinds of jobs.  Of course, there are times when that does seem to be the case.  If a student is an accounting major, then it is true that he or she can probably find a job as an accountant after graduation.  But that does not mean he or she will be an ac…

Outstanding Trumps Average

I recently read an article whose focus was higher education.  Since I am affiliated with a higher education institution, I was interested.  Since I am much closer to the end of my career rather than the beginning, bad news obviously should affect me less than others. While this is good for me, it is a lousy outlook and, I would argue, is hardly a spiritual way of looking at things.

The article focused on the increasing cost of higher education, i.e. a college education.  As any college student will tell you, or the parents helping pay for college costs will say, the cost of a college degree is steep and getting steeper.  The looming question is where and when will folks say, “enough?”  Of course, I don’t think colleges will go out of business (although some might), but the game may be changing.

As one who is interested and involved in innovation, the corollary question is how can college education be done differently?  Can we do the same thing at less cost?  Or is there a more radical…

The Pain I Feel Now

I had forgotten.  I had forgotten the great line from C.S. Lewis’, touching book, A Grief Observed.  Lewis wrote this book soon after the death of his wife, Joy.  I had forgotten that line because it has been so long ago that I read the book.  I ran across it in a recent reading of a periodical I regularly read.  The title of the article is “Happiness and Pain: That’s the Deal.”  The author, Amy Morris-Young does a nice job of reflecting on relationships and the death of those relationships. 

I like the way she opens the article.  She quips, “Let's get real.  Where the rubber meets the road for most of us in our relationship with God is when we are sick or hurt, or the people we love are.”  She probably is correct, even though many of us would say we have a deep and meaningful relationship with God long before tragedy.  Her line is a good reminder, however, of when the rubber does meet the road. 

She recognizes these times of death leads most of us to feel alone.  Humorously, she …

A Quiet Soul

The evening prayer in my lectionary last night had a selection from a very short Psalm near the end of the Psalter.  Because I don’t live with the Psalms with the same depth as my monk friends, I still feel like I have often encountered a particular Psalm for the very first time.  I know I have read Psalm 131 before, but it felt like I had engaged it for the very first time.

As I often do, I compared two different translations of the Psalm.  The Jerusalem Bible begins by the Psalmist saying, “Lord, I do not puff myself up or stare about…”  The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) puts it similarly; “O Lord, my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high…”  In this case I prefer the first option.  It seems to warn against feeling pride when it comes to spiritual things. 

It makes me think of the old sports’ adage to “keep your eye on the ball!”  Perhaps if I were to put it spiritually, I would suggest that much of the spiritual journey is simply paying attention.  If I pay at…

Host and Guest

Hosting and being a guest are two sides of the same coin.  I was first clued in to this fact when I learned Latin.  The Latin word, hospes, gives us the English words, hospital, hospice and related words.  In its Latin form, it can be translated “host,’ “guest” or “stranger.”  That is why I can say that hosting and being a guest are two sides of the same coin.  The Latin coin is hospes.  Let’s look at each side of the coin.

Probably most of us learn about being a guest before we learn about hosting.  I have early childhood memories of going with my dad into the town in early mornings.  For a kid growing up on the farm, this was a big deal.  Since I was the oldest kid, there could be an entire day when I would see no one except my two parents.  That was not bad.  But it was more fun to go to town and see some of my dad’s friends. 

Often we would stop at the local drugstore, which was really the epicenter of human interaction on an early morning in that small town.  There the guys woul…

Faithful to Being One People

I read widely in order to be informed and to let new, different information form me.  If we only read the stuff with which we agree and from people we know, we effectively put ourselves in a rut.  We develop what the psychologists call “confirmation bias.”  The more we read that agrees with how we think, the more we think we are right and that we have truth.  Of course, I don’t deny that some things I think are true.  I just want to be open and be humble.        

I especially like to read about people doing things I never did or, perhaps, that I don’t have the courage to do.  One category of people like this is the monastic crowd.  I like to read about what monks and nuns are up to.  Of course, I know a fair number of people who have taken a monastic vow.  As I first began to get to know them, I was surprised how “normal” they were!  Obviously, this says much more about me than about them.          

One such person I recently read about was Sister Patricia McCormick.  She joined the…

Love is not a Marketing Tool

I continue to read further in Ilia Delio’s wonderful book, The Unbearable Wholeness of Being.  This Franciscan Sister is trying to show how to start with evolution as the way to understand how our world and ourselves came to be.  She wants us to realize evolution is a process and the process is still unfolding.  Human beings are not over against or outside the natural world, but rather we are a part of it.  And finally, she wants us to know that God is a part of this whole process---whether we know it or not. 

I have learned so much from the book and am still trying to absorb the teachings and figure out how to incorporate it into my heretofore ways of understanding God, the world and myself.  Key to the whole enterprise is love.  That appeals to me.  I have always liked how the writer of John’s gospel and epistles said that God is love.  That appealed to me as a description of who God is and how God works in our world.  I think that it is true, even if I cannot fully understand or ar…

Love as Embrace

I continue to read Ilia Delio’s, The Unbearable Wholeness of Being.  Her subtitle is also instructive: “God, Evolution and the Power of Love.”  It has proven to be a remarkable book.  I have never met Delio.  I know about her.  She is a Franciscan Sister who is both a scientist and theologian.  That in itself is a rare combination.  It takes some real smarts and some significant time to be able to learn all you need to do in both science and religion arenas.  I know people who know her and they all talk about how sweet her spirit is.

Her book takes absolutely seriously all that science teaches.  Of course, it is always possible to find particular scientists who disagree with the prevailing truths, but for example, the consensus that evolution is the way the world and we came to be seems pretty solidly true.  Whatever I want to think about the Genesis creation accounts of the world and humanity, the truth of science has to be a factor in that interpretation.

And so I appreciate how Delio…

Faith and Belief

I sometimes wonder what would have been my journey if I had taken the other fork of the road?  I am not being flip.  I assume that we all have come to numerous forks in the road.  We have to choose and when we do choose, heading down one particular way, we know the other road at the fork that we did not choose is lost to us.  We will never know what life would have been like if we had chosen that other road.  I don’t lament lost choices.  I don’t regret any of my choices---although they certainly have not all been good choices!  But I do wonder.

One of the good choices I made was to continue being a reader.  Clearly there were choices in my life, where if I had made them, would effectively have meant that I would have quit reading.  Oh, that does not mean I never would have read anything.  There probably are many jobs that people do that entail no reading.  But most people working those jobs are literate.  They can read. 

They have to read to pass the driver’s test and get a license.…

Religion of Evolution

I have been working my way through Ilia Delio’s book, The Unbearable Wholeness of Being.  It is not an easy book and challenges the belief with which I grew up.  But it is very rewarding and pulls me into thinking about God, myself and the world in fresh ways.  Delio is a Franciscan Sister who is Senior Fellow in Science and Religion with the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University.  She is a trained scientist, a theologian and a Catholic Sister.  What a combination! Many people would simply not read her.  Too many folks I know still are simply religious, but give no truck to science.  In fact, they are not even interested in science.  Of course, I am sure they hope their personal physician paid attention to the science they were learning in order to make it through medical school!  People like this, I am afraid, do know understand the world in which they live. 
It is ok not to understand the world in which we live.  I am convinced I don’t understand that much.  But I thin…

Life is a Gamble

My friend, John Punshon, died some months ago.  I came to know John in the very early 1980s.  He had been appointed a Quaker Tutor at a Quaker college that is part of the University of Birmingham in England.  I spent a sabbatical year at that college and came to know John fairly well.  John helped me understand British Quakers and he taught me many other things as well.

John was a very bright guy.  He was educated at Oxford and enjoyed some of the privilege that goes with that.  But he was never arrogant and was able easily to relate to common people.  After all, John’s own family and upbringing were not wealthy, upper-crust kinds of folk.  With his upbringing and education, he was able to straddle two worlds. 

After coming to know him fairly well, John joined me throughout the 1990s and others on the faculty of the college I taught.  It was wonderful to have his collegiality and his friendship.  He was fun and funny.  He embodied the British humor that is different than our American h…

A Moment of Poignancy

Most of our lives are lived in the middle of routine.  That is certainly not bad.  In fact, my routine life is very good.  I cannot claim it is an emotional high---exciting day after exciting day.  I enjoy my life.  I have been given much more than I ever will give.  I have learned the meaning and lessons of grace.  Grace is gift.  I have learned to recognize small gifts, which come from people and from nature---things I see as gifts that others might not consider anything special.

Apparently in our day, the word “blessing” is not seen as a useful, preferred word.  I am not sure why.  I still find the word useful.  It seems to me there is no other way to describe what happens to me when I am gifted except to say I have been blessed.  I suppose I could bless myself, but essentially I see a blessing as something that comes from without.  God has blessed me; friends and strangers have blessed me; and nature certainly has been a blessing.

And so it was in the midst of routine that I receive…

Improvisation Meets Serendipity

A friend of mine sent me an interesting article on improvisation.  I know what improvisation means, but I admit I never thought too much about it.  Probably like you, when I do think of improvisation, I think of nightclubs and television.  Those are the usual venues where actors of some sort entertain people by “winging it.”  That is probably the street definition of improvisation: the ability to wing it.

That is a decent beginning understanding of improvisation, as I begin to think about it more.  The article that I read gives this street definition a little more clarity and development.  Kip Kelly, the author of the article, begins his definition in this fashion.  “In essence, improv, short for improvisation, is performing without a script; it is spontaneous invention…that is often needed to create something entirely new and unique.  Improvisation is often thought of as ‘off the cuff’ activity, with little or no preparation or forethought…”  That made a great deal of sense to me.  S…

Tools of the Spiritual Craft

The Rule of St. Benedict is a classic spiritual text.  It was written by the founder of the Benedictine monastic tradition, Benedict.  He was an Italian who lived in the late fifth and early sixth century.  The Rule is usually dated somewhere around 529 CE.  The era of Benedict was a chaotic time in what is modern day Italy.  The glory of the Roman Empire was long over.  The identifiable nations of modern Europe were far from being formed and developed.  It was the period known as the early Middle Ages.  When I was in my early years of education, this period was known as the Dark Ages.

Christianity was now part of the fabric of the land.  But Christianity had lost some of its original spirit and fervor when it became so much a part of the social culture.  Since it was no longer illegal to be a Christian, it was easy---some would argue, too easy---to be Christian.  People like Benedict wanted more.  They wanted a life of the Spirit that would approximate how Jesus lived and that charac…

Life Stressors

I recently received an email from someone I know, but who probably cannot be considered a good friend.  I was a part of a small group who received this, so I knew it was not specifically meant for my eyes only.  Sharing some from this very moving email will not threaten her anonymity, so here goes. 

I first met her at conference-type occasion.  She was young, engaging, dynamic and even more.  She probably is about the age of my daughters, so I was impressed with her in the same kind of way my own kids impress me.  She was the kind of person who obviously grabbed the world by the tail and make her world deliver whatever she wanted.  She seemed to have everything going for her.  She was young---probably looked younger than she actually was.  She was good looking and attractive in almost any way you could name.  She was not arrogant, but she was highly confident. 

We lived far from each other, so I only followed her sporadically and from a distance.  She was not in my world and fortunate…

Bear One Another’s Burden

Little did I know as a kid when I was learning to read how valuable that skill would be.  Because I grew up on an Indiana farm, I never went to kindergarten.  I guess the kids in the town near where I grew up went to kindergarten, but I hardly knew any of them, so I never asked.  I’m not sure what good it would have done.  I was not going to kindergarten anyway.  So I began school in the first grade.  So did everyone else I knew because it was a rural school.  Times were different then.

All this is to say, I’m not sure when I actually began to read.  Of course, my two daughters were reading before they went to kindergarten and the same is true for my grandkids.  Times are different now.  All I know is reading has been such a gift and wonderful skill.  I cannot imagine not being able to read.  Probably most of the knowledge I have comes from things I read.  Of course, wisdom comes from experience, but if you don’t know anything, you won’t get very wise.

And so I read widely.  I actually …

In Consideration of Commitments

I read everything David Brooks publishes.  I appreciate his way of seeing things and how he articulates his thoughts.  I use him as a backdrop for a number of these spiritual reflections because much of what he chooses to address is spiritual in nature.  Reading and thinking along with him helps me to understand the world and figure out what I want to do with it. 

Recently he had a piece entitled, “The Golden Age of Bailing.”  I was not sure what issue he was taking on in this one.  But as I got into the piece, I realized how much I wanted to get his analysis of this issue.  His first sentence was engaging, but I still did not know where he was going.  “It’s clear we’re living in a golden age of bailing.”  Soon it became clear Brooks was using the language of “bailing,” to describe what I might more typically describe as “commitment.”

His second paragraph is very clear and a graphic indictment of our contemporary culture.  It made me sit up and take notice.  For example, it cannot be m…