Here temporarily

Once, while the great Jewish sage, Honi, was walking along a road, he saw an old man planting a carob tree.  Honi asked him:  “How many years will it take for this tree to give forth its fruit?”  The man answered that it would require 70 years.  Honi asked:  “Are you so healthy a man that you expect to live that length of time and eat its fruit?”  The man answered:  “I found a fruitful world because my ancestors planted it for me.  So, too, will I plant for my children.”  (Babylonian Talmud, Ta’a … [Read more...]

Hiding in Plain Sight

In a recent blog, marketing expert Seth Godin made this observation in a piece called, “Lost in a digital world.”  Godin writes:Allison Miller, aged 14, sends and receives 27,000 text messages a month. Hey, that's only about sixty an hour, every hour she's awake. Some say that the problem of our age is that continuous partial attention, this never ending non-stop distraction, addles the brain and prevents us from being productive. Not quite. The danger is not distraction, the danger is the a … [Read more...]

Demon Possessed Politics

In the wake of yesterday’s tragic shooting of U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords no small number of commentators were quick to lay blame for the climate in which this kind of thing could happen at the doorstep of millions who differ with Ms. Giffords’s views.  I find that troubling --- not because I share those views --- but because it points to a general decline in thoughtful, judicious political conversation.The murderer who perpetrated these crimes is, by all accounts, criminally insa … [Read more...]

Spiritual Neuropathy

Physical symptoms offer useful analogies to the spiritual life.Neuropathy is a case in point.  Frequently when patients suffer from diabetes, neuropathy is one of the early signs of the disease’s presence.  The patient can lose feeling or experience a tingling sensation as nerve damage grows and spreads; and, left unattended, amputation may prove to be the only solution.  The condition is usually at its worst in patients who haven’t acknowledged the seriousness of their condition and modified t … [Read more...]

Words to live by

I love aphorisms --- short, pointed, insightful observations.It all started with writing speeches for the Optimist Club.  They once sponsored “oratorical contests” and I loved competing in them.  Each year they advertised a new topic and the assignment was to write, memorize, and deliver a speech of five to seven minutes in length.  The first year the topic was “Optimism, youth’s greatest asset.”It seems kind of corny now, but it prompted me to think, read, and build my vocabulary.  I don’t r … [Read more...]

Which New Year?

We’ve celebrated two new years now…one driven by the calendar, the other driven by the liturgical year.  The liturgical year, which you can think of as the year, structured by the Christian story began at Advent in the beginning of December and takes us imaginatively through the story of Jesus’ life and the lives of the early apostles.  Apart from other things, it is a cycle designed to remind the church of its responsibilities and, more importantly, the work of God in our lives.The two “new ye … [Read more...]

Rent-free in my head

Rent

This last semester one of the phrases that lingered from a student’s paper was the phrase, “living rent-free in my head.”It’s a great turn of phrase and underlines the power of unexamined, unchallenged assumptions that can linger, exercising unwelcome control over us….limiting and misshaping our daily existence.What are the ideas that are living rent-free in your head?How do they inhibit your own spiritual freedom?Your relationship with God?Your relationship with those you love?How wo … [Read more...]

Hitting a religious nerve

In a recent column written for the Washington Post, I commented on religious displays in public spaces.  As is the case with articles of that kind, the Post went for a title that would match other contributions to the symposium that they were featuring.  Their title for the article was “The Scandal of Atheist Campaigns against Christmas” and, predictably, it attracted a different audience.The change in title was a bit unfortunate, because I’m not sure that there is a campaign against Christm … [Read more...]

Something new for Christmas

One of my students recounted a story that, I’m told, is widely known in Roman Catholic circles.  So the story goes: A little girl was sitting with her mother in church and asked,“Mommy, where is Jesus?”Deeply formed by her faith, the little girl’s mother pointed to the Tabernacle where the reserve sacrament is kept.The little girl was silent for a moment and then declared,“When I grow up I’m going to buy him a bigger box.”This Christmas, consider getting something that cost you nothing, … [Read more...]

Gurus and Gods: On Spiritual Direction

My students often bring things to my attention that stick.  It’s one of the gifts of reading their papers.   One of the students in our spiritual direction program noted that some clergy are suspicious of spiritual direction.  She quotes one pastor who observes,“I fear that the gift of so-called spiritual director is just another guru-gimmick which sources spirituality in religious opinions, teachings, and practices that are utterly foreign to Holy Scripture, and such a source of spirituality w … [Read more...]


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