The Meaning of Lent: An Ash Wednesday Rant

This year, more than any in the past, I have noticed a lot of nonsense about Lent.  The number of silly recommendations for its observance seems to have grown exponentially:Care for the poorGive up plastic bagsReduce your carbon footprint to zero Don’t misunderstand me.  I am not arguing that any of these things are not noble goals in and of themselves.  Caring for the poor is the obligation of any Christian, whether it is in political fashion or not (and not just in Lent) … [Read more...]

Spare Me….

     Spare me… The pink lightThe bald deceptionThe semblance of lifeThe undertaker’s brush Close the boxScatter the ashThrow the earthSay the words Ashes to ashesDust to dustIn sure and certain hope Requiescant in pace, David Mark Schmidt, M.D.October 17, 1955-January 21, 2013 … [Read more...]

Action Figures

Stick Figure Spirituality Volume One, Number Two ACTION FIGURES God loves you better than you love yourself. But the action figures are interchangeable. I am blessed with a wise friend or two and some weeks ago, one of them observed, “You know, God loves us, but the action figures are interchangeable.”  I’ve been thinking about that observation a lot of late and I think he’s right. The question is, how can God love us and seemingly care so little about the particular circumst … [Read more...]

Letting Go…

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The Simplicity of Intention

Discerning the will of God would be a simple matter, if life itself were simple --- “simple,” meaning uncomplicated, easily understood, consisting of one dimension.If the particulars of our lives were nothing more than a series of choices that arose out of circumstances orchestrated by God --- if the choices made were nothing more than a direct “yes” or “no” to the work of God in our lives --- then the task of discernment would not be nearly as difficult.The choices might not necessarily … [Read more...]

The Empathetic Spirit

A great deal has been written about empathy from a psychological point of view, particularly in the effort to distinguish it from sympathy.  Far less has been written about its spiritual dimension.On that score, arguably the etymology of the word remains an important clue to its spiritual significance.  From the Greek preposition en or “in” and the noun, pathos or passion, empathy refers to the capacity to “feel into” or even “suffer into” the experience of another.It becomes instantly cl … [Read more...]

Dog is what I do

I had a conversation with our dog the other day.  She was wandering off to another corner of the house and I asked her,“Hilda, what are you doing?”She responded with remarkable clarity, “Dog…dog is what I do.”It strikes me that dogs are utterly and completely at home in their dog-ness.  They aren’t redefined by any moment of activity.  They are what they are.But it isn’t nearly as simple for us human beings.We frequently let jobs and titles tell us who we are.  As a result, we … [Read more...]

The Spiritual Friend as Witness

Musician and singer Marc Cohn has me thinking this week about the spiritual value of friends who do more than “hang out” or spend time with us.  An important role in any spiritual friendship is the role of witness.  Someone who allows us to name our struggles, explore their interior, and testify to the efforts we have made to live with faith, courage, and integrity.That can be a lonely journey and it is easy to lose our way:We can be tempted to surrender to darker forces. We can lose t … [Read more...]