Saturday, December 31, 2011

2012's New Year's Resolutions

My News Year's resolutions are simple. I like my vocation so I'll continue. I like receiving spiritual direction so I'll continue. I like Member Care with mission families so I'll continue. I like teaching at the Seminary so I'll continue. I like going to the Abbey of Gethsemani every month as a Lay Cistercian so I'll continue. One time a retreatant asked Father Matthew Kelty why so many folks come to the Abbey for a retreat. He answered that it might be because at the Abbey there is nothing to do and you have all day to do it. Being at the Abbey for a few days each month helps to slow one's self so perspective can be regained. I like the idea of not being tied to a telephone so I'll continue not owning a cell phone. I like reading classic spirituality books so I'll continue reading these books. I'm thinking that most new books are basically a restating of what was written hundreds of years ago. I like living simply so I'll continue as best I can. For example, when I purchase one piece of clothing I give a comparable piece of clothing from my closet to the Church's clothing store. In this spiritual discipline I'm not adding to my wardrobe, just replacing. I like going to church so I'll continue. I like the results of keeping a spiritual journal which I review each month with my Spiritual Director so I'll continue. My spiritual journal is based on the Daily Examen with the question, "Where have I experienced God's presence in the past twenty-four hours?" In my Bible readings I've been with the "Sermon on the Mount" so I'll continue. Well, you get the idea of my New Year's resolutions. I know that there are a lot of things I need to change or do better, but I'm not much into New Year's resolutions.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Different Christmas perspective

It is early Christmas morning in our home. My wife and brother will be up soon. Our son, daughter-in-law and a friend will arrive soon. This morning I'm grateful for a warm house with indoor plumbing. That wasn't true for a home I visited a couple of years ago in Russia. We had to wear our coats in that house. Ice formed on the inside of the windows. The only heat was a small stove in the corner of the main room. Water was brought inside from a well. The toilet was outside. Nevertheless, the extended family had gathered for a simple meal, singing and Christmas. There were no gifts but the house was full of laughter and joy. In a couple of hours we will have our Christmas breakfast. We will have a table full of biscuits, eggs, cinnamon rolls, grits, ham, orange juice, etc. There will be a lot of food for our family and friends. I recall not very many years ago visiting an African bush-Church where the presiding elder prayed for generosity. He hoped their church would have a few coins so that they could buy a chicken. He wanted their children to have meat in their Christmas soup. In spite of their poverty and hunger, that church was full of joyful and grateful people as they looked forward to Christmas. My Christmas perspective has changed.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Draper Street Hill Fight

Family is important. I grew up surrounded by family and family friends. My uncle Charles and aunt Myrtle lived immediately behind us and the fence had been cut down so we could go back and forth. He owned a bakery and would have donuts in his truck. He never said anything if I took only a couple. My Granny, mother's mom, lived sorta across-the-street. You had to cut through Mrs. Snellings yard and then you were in Granny's side yard. They didn't have fences. Mrs. Snellings daughter was my mother's best friend all through grade school and high school. So, Mrs. Snellings was like Granny #2. Granny's husband died before I was born so Mrs. Romberg rented the side bedroom in Granny's house. Mrs Romberg was like Granny #3. Two houses down from Granny's lived another uncle and aunt. Hugh and Loren were Presbyterians which was unusual in the family because everyone was not only Baptist but members of the Immanuel Baptist Church. They had two kids with whom I played all of the time. In among all this neighborhood family, lived long-time friends who were like family. There are advantages and disadvantages of growing up surrounded by family and family friends. One of the advantages were the many bathrooms accessible whenever you needed to go. You just had to run in a house and yell your name. Also, in these many neighborhood kitchens, someone seemed always to be baking goodies that seemed always available for a hungry kid. A disadvantage was that everybody knew your business. One time David and I were on our way to school when we got into a pushing fight. David was my best friend and we always walked or ran to school together because school was only two blocks up the Draper street hill. In this fight, one of us fell into Mrs. O'Connell's bush and broke some of the limbs. We got out of the bush real fast and ran on to school. We thought we had made it because Mrs. O'Connell hadn't come out and yelled at us. She must have known all of the women in the neighborhood because they came to her back room and had the hair fixed every week. When David and I got to school, Mr. Sercey met us. He was the Principal. He asked if we had fought and broken Mrs. O'Connell bush. We couldn't lie, even though we really wanted to, because he was a Sunday School teacher in our Department at the Immanuel Baptist Church. We had to confess. He told us that Mrs. O'Connell had called him and he had called both of our Dad's who said that we should get a paddling. David and I leaned over Principal's Sercey's desk and he paddled us each one time with a wooden paddle. The hardest thing about being a boy in grade school and getting paddled is not to cry. Getting paddled was hard enough but years later when I was a college student at Oklahoma Baptist University, Mr. Sercey was one of my professors and he not only remembered but, also, told te class about the paddling. That's an example of a disadvantage of growing up surrounded by family and family friends.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Bobby and the penny

Bobby is my younger brother who is developmentally disabled. During a recent colonoscopy a pre-cancerous polyp was found. It was in a bend so it was difficult to completely remove. Yesterday was the third effort to get all of it. If this failed the Physician was going to schedule him for major surgery in order to remove that part of his colon. After yesterday's procedure the Physician said, "I got clean tissue. So, I think we've avoided the major surgery." When Bobby began to wake up in the recovery room, his first thick-lipped comment was did I still have the penny he had found in the parking lot of Wal-Mart and would I put it in his bank account. Well, thanks-be-to-God I had a penny in my pocket. Therefore all is well. We are thankful that he has avoided major surgery.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Frost is on the Pumpkin

As they say, "The frost is on the pumpkin." In other words, a killing frost has hit Lexington. The plants are off the front porch after having been washed and sprayed with something to kill any bugs and bug eggs. They are back in the house. There are five plants, several of which are big, and they seem to take over our dining room. In the past we've put plants elsewhere in the house but they don't 'winter' very well. The light is best in the dining room. Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do. Some of our plants are not very pretty because they've become leggy that is, the leaves are on the top and the stem is bare. We don't want to throw them out because we hope they might begin to make new leaves on the stem. Even if the plant isn't a great looker, we keep it and nurture it along. We don't like artificial plants, even if they look real. We want plants that are alive. I recall a quote from Elton Trueblood who wrote somewhere that many churches are like cut-flowers. They look great but there is no life in them. He termed this "cut-flower religion." So, when we deal with our plants, we choose life and some nurturing. That seems more healthy and realistic to us.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Oh, The Titles We Wear

I recently talked with a gentleman who introduced himself as the Executive Director of an organization. Executive Director sounds impressive, and I noted that he used the title several times in our conversation. Later, I learned that the organization of which he is the Executive Director is comprised of himself, his son-in-law, who does sales, and a part-time secretary. He is not in a large organization, but, nevertheless, he wears an impressive title. Maybe titles mean more than they say. Perhaps titles have more to do with a person's need for prestige and self-image than they do with the actual work that is to be done. Perhaps titles are like clothes. Some folks wear clothes because of the name and prestige of the clothes designer and maker. There is some emblem on the shirt, blouse, pants, etc. Maybe those emblems are signs that the garment was made with special care and the extra stitch. I really don't know all that much about clothes. For some folks clothes are just that--clothing to cover the body and help keep one cool, warm, appropriate, etc. I have found it interesting to wonder why people 'wear' the various titles that they use.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

On Balancing the Federal Budget

Prominent in the news has been the issue of balancing the federal budget. I do think the federal budget needs some balancing. However, in doing so I’m not opposed to having some debt. Most families have some type of debt. For example, we’ve gone in debt to purchase a home and automobile. Too many have gone into debt to purchase things that are needed for their self-image rather than realistic living. Their self-image needs a certain size and location of house, make of automobile(s), children in certain schools and colleges, clothes, etc. Debt must be managed but, not by propping up an unrealistic self-image. Our nation's debt has been incurred because too many of us wanted more than we could realistically afford and there were systems that would loan us more debt than we could afford. In addition to being careful about the nature of debt we incur, I’m also concerned about how our national budget will be balanced. In Deuteronomy 10:17-19, we are taught that God carefully notices how a nation cares for the orphans, widows and strangers or foreigners living among us. In Matthew 25, Jesus clearly says that we are judged by how we treat the hungry, thirsty (those without clean drinking water), strangers, poorly clothed and incarcerated. These scriptures tell us that those who fail to take care of people in these situations have failed in being God’s people. If this is true, then how we encourage, pray and hope, not only for our elected officials, but also their decisions about balancing the budget may be a defining time in terms of national identity as a nation under God. I think we also need to recall that Jesus said to whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48.)

The Malaise of Violence

I’m finding less and less to watch on television or in the movie house. Even some music feels like as assault, yes, and even some church music. Violence is done to the earth in the seductive name of progress and a better life. I think violence is the malaise of our society and culture. Certainly I know that there is violence in our society. However, I suspect that with an attention to violence, we are helping to create the atmosphere in which it flourishes. In David Ford’s book, The Shape of Living, Spiritual Directions for Everyday Life, he writes, “The violence of our times is horrendous—physical violence, verbal violence, economic violence, institutional violence, spiritual violence. It is intensified by being vividly presented in the media, so that violence often dominates imaginations as well as behaviors.” (page 130.) The remedy for violence is a loving respect for all humanity as well as the created world. That is my prayer and hope.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Keeping Up Is Essential But Not Easy

I've just completed reading a book about being a pastor. It is an excellent book written by a well-known pastor-scholar. In a very honest reporting about being a pastor in the mid-1960s, he tells of a physician's advise to a young boy who had been sexually abused. That advise was "forget it." Maybe that is how mental health workers were trained to respond in the mid-1960s. However, to offer that advise today would probably begin a process resulting in having your license to practice revoked. Today, you call in the "authorities" who are trained not only to investigate but, also, to get an abuser away from children and, hopefully, to some help. Keeping up with how to do one's job is essential but not easy. There are always changes which require continual study and on-going supervision. In my mental health field, i.e., Marriage and Family Therapy, I'm required to have Board-approved 15 hours of continuing education each year. I usually fuss about that because the Board doesn't necessarily approve the seminars that I want to count. Nevertheless, I know that those continuing education units are essential. I wish ministers were required to have some continuing education units each year in order to keep our Ordination valid. I believe that keeping up is essential but not easy.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


I've been reading Eat Pray Love. This is an interesting travel journal by Elizabeth Gilbert and, nope, I haven't seen the movie. As a counselor, I think she may have one of the best descriptions of depression that I've read. Her writing is very honest or confessional. Her depression was brought on by her divorce. Some depressions seem to be brought on by such a situation or even an illness or disability. I've several clients whose depression seems to relate to working in a system that doesn't match their personality. One friend needs freedom to create, but his supervisor micro-manages. He is depressed by his work situation and is frustrated by the lack of other job possibilities. I've another friend with just the opposite situation. He needs a clear structure with expectations and weekly meetings with his supervisor. Unfortunately he is in a system where his supervisor only contacts him when something is wrong. Occasionally what looks like depression is actually spiritual desolation. 17 years ago I experienced what I thought was depression. I had been pastor of Lexington's Trinity Baptist Church for twenty-one years. The last year or so I seemed to have lost my energy. I didn't like going to church, preaching, visiting, meetings, etc. This is not good, especially if you are the Pastor. A psychiatrist friend said he didn't think it was depression, just looked and felt like it. He suggested that I check out spiritual desolation with my Spiritual Director. They both wondered if God might be moving me away from my comfort and secure level as Pastor. Eventually I resigned from the church with no place to go. No pulpit search committee contacted me. That was hard on the ego. Six months later (yes, I had no steady income for six months), Lexington's Calvary Baptist Church called and asked if I would help them begin a Pastoral Counseling Center. Didn't even know they were thinking about such a counseling ministry and, yet, they said that my name kept coming up in their planning. I've been at the Interfaith Counseling Center for sixteen years now, and it has been a wonderful match. It is a wonderful place to work. Work now energizes me. I'm eager to get there every day. When I was dealing with my depression and spiritual desolation, it was important that I had a sensitive Psychiatrist, Counselor and Spiritual Director who did more than just medicate the symptoms. I thank God regularly, not only for the help, but for the spiritual guidance I had on that portion of my life journey. It is always interesting to me how God guides our lives--never the same as someone else. Baron Fredrick von Hugel wrote that God doesn't use ditto marks. God always stays that mysterious presence in our lives.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


The following was given to me by a colleague, Dr. Jennifer Degler, at the Interfaith Counseling Center. I think it is worth hanging onto.

Patient Trust
By Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of progress
that it is made by passing through
some states of instability --
and that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you.
Your ideas mature gradually -- let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don't try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

Friday, July 1, 2011


Yesterday's Lexington newspaper carried the headlines of a man from a prominent Kentucky political family who plead guilty to murdering his girl friend. He plead guilty in order to avoid the possibility of receiving the death penalty from a jury and judge. Life in prison seems like a just consequence for his taking the life of another person. However, I wish there were no death penalties. I'm pro-life, which includes pro-birth, but means much more than just pro-birth for me. My pro-life belief is part of my theology. I believe life, which includes the capability of creating and caring for life, is part of the 'image of God' within every living thing. According to my interpretation of the Genesis account, God created life out of nothingness. God then shared that life-creating capability with all of God's creation. Human beings, animals, plants, etc. have the capability of creating life. I believe life, and the capability of creating and caring for life, is a divine gift. I believe that one of the meanings of having been created in the 'image of God,' is the capability of creating and caring for life. To create and care for life is one of the ways in which we share in God's life, i.e., the 'image of God.' That's why I'm pro-life. I do admit, however, that I'm not all that consistent with my theology because I eat meat and I, also, believe people have the right to defend themselves when attacked--defend; not retaliate.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Hurry and Gentleness don't go together

Judy and I have recently returned from supporting a friend who became an Associate Franciscan with the Sisters of Tiffin. As we were returning home, we talked about how gentle and hospitable the Sisters were to us. I reflected that my experiences with the Monks at the Abbey of Gethsemani had the same feel. What was it about these women and men who have given themselves to God that created such a wonderful feel about their relationships? Neither the Sisters of Tiffin nor the Monks at the Abbey were in a hurry. They talked slowly and without a lot of volume. When we talked with them, they looked into our eyes in order to understand what we were saying. When we walked with them, they were not in a hurry. They had an easy pace about their lives. I think I've learned again that I cannot be gentle with myself, the family or others when I'm in a hurry. Hurry and gentleness don't go together. I've a former student who prayed, "Lord, may I have the peace of Your pace."

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Memorial or Decoration Day

My Uncle Charles lived with his wife, Myrtle, immediately behind our home when I was a child in Shawnee, Oklahoma. Uncle Charles owned a bakery and on some occasions my parents would let me get up early in the morning so I could go with him on the deliveries. He delivered not only to grocery stores but, also, to some houses. I think this is why I'm drawn to bakeries and fresh baked goods. Uncle Charles had a heart attack and died. I recall the extended family gathering at their house. However, I do not have any memories of the funeral or burial. What I do recall, however, were Decoration Days or Memorial Days when the extended family gathered at the cemetery and decorated the graves of our family members, most of whom I never knew except for Uncle Charles. I recall that we, my cousins, my brother and I, would run and play among the tombstones while the adults placed flowers on the graves and trimmed the grass. We were repeatedly told that our activities weren't 'respectful' and we needed to stop. I guess we were too young to know what 'respectful' meant because after a brief pause we continued with our playing. After all these years, I think Uncle Charles liked the flowers and to have his grave grass trimmed but, I think he liked best to have his young nephews and nieces running and having a fun time around his grave. He was just that kind of person.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

How Did We Change?

I came of age in the 1960s while in college, graduate school and Seminary. I was greatly influenced by Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. President Kennedy's statement, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country" captured and influenced the spirit of those times. It has certainly been a significant part of my life's motivation. That spirit motivated our country to establish the Peace Corps, land a man on the moon and develop the war on poverty. Those movements were expensive but we joined together for their payment and involvement. I fear we have changed. As I listen to debates, read letters to the editors and hear about talk radio and television, I fear our attitude has changed. It seems to me that our attitude is "What can the country do for me?" I desire a leader who can help us frame a vision that unites all of us in causes that are larger than our specific interests. Surely such an attitude would lift us above our selfish interests.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Looks like racism to me

For the past several weeks a potential Presidential candidate has raised again the issue of President Obama’s birth. These folks are called “birthers.” They suspect that he is not a naturally born American citizen and, therefore, ineligible to be the President of these United States. This is an issue that continues to raise its ugly head repeatedly in many ways and in various places. I think this is racism. Yes, racism that still says every so subtly, “Go to the back of the bus and let us white folks sit up front.” If President Obama were a white person with a name like Smith or Jones, I doubt that this would ever have been an issue. Certainly, we have much more work to do regarding this issue of racial equality. Much of that work needs to be in our own hearts and behaviors as well as in the public arena. We didn’t eradicate racism with the legislation of the 1960s and 70s. It is still among us and it is primarily lodged in our hearts. It effects our relations with Afro-Americans, Asians, Native Americans, Hispanics, Gypsies, etc. I hope that not only others but, also, myself, will continually search our hearts so that we see the image God in every person, regardless of their culture, language, etc. and not fall into the thinking that because we're white Americans that somehow makes us better than others.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Silence as a Spiritual Discipline

In my Spiritual Formation class we will discuss silence as a spiritual discipline. I like the definition of silence that Dr. Wayne Oates penned in his 1979 book, Nurturing Silence in a Noisy Heart. He wrote, "Silence ... is not just not talking. Silence is a discipline of choosing what to say and what not to say. Nurturing silence, then, is the growth of the power of discernment as to what will be the focus of your attention, care, and commitment. If you limit what you say to what is true, if you limit yourself to what can be spoken in love, then you will have much less to say. What you do say, though, will have a hundred times more influence." (pg. 9-10) His definition sounds like Philippians 4:8 which says that we need to think on things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, excellent and worthy of praise. Many of us talk too much. I'm a Minister and we have a serious vocational malady--we are too fond of words, especially our own. I think most ministers talk too much, especially when we have a captive audience on Sundays. Not just Ministers but I've grown weary of our national leaders and their speeches, debates, talk shows, etc. In my opinion, they do a lot of talking that doesn't follow the Biblical principles in Philippians, even though a lot of their talking is defending the concept that we are a Christian nation. I wish our leaders, along with us Ministers, would practice the spiritual discipline of silence.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Being "nice" and dipping at the lake house

I recall when I first saw someone take a chip and dip it into something. My parents were with their friends at a lake house for the weekend. My brother, myself and their son were playing on the boat when everyone was called to supper. The folks had grilled some burgers and hot dogs. We came up to eat and on the table sat, among other things, a bowl of chips and a bowl of dip. I recognized the chips but I didn't know what they called "the dip" and I sure didn't know what to do with it. I watched as my friend took a chip, slid it through "the dip," popped it into his mouth and ate it. I did likewise. My mother leaned over to me and said very quietly, "That didn't look nice, put the dip on your plate." Nice was one of Mom's favorite words. So, I had dip on my plate even though my friend and his parents dipped into the bowl with their chips. That incident didn't seem like a big deal because we ate quickly in order to get back to the boat. The next day at lunch, however, I was shocked as Mom and Dad were both dipping out of the bowl with their chips. Mom said it was "Okay." I guess all of life is about learning new things, even figuring out what "nice" really means.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Spring is in the air

We are having rain, lots of rain. There are numerous flood watches and warnings throughout our Commonwealth of Kentucky. There are also every-so-slight evidences of spring. Our front yard Crabapple tree has the smallest green buds poking out of the bark. You have to get close to see them, but they are there. When the buds begin to appear, they push the last of the berries--those that somehow survived the winter--off the tree and onto the sidewalk. It is kinda messy but another sign that spring is close at hand. Sometimes our bad habits are like that Crabapple tree and its fruit. The fruit/habits survive our determined efforts, but then new and healthy habits push, the older ones away. Ash Wednesday is this week, and it is similar to those green buds--a sign that redemption/life has always been present, even if it didn't look like it, and First Fruits (First Fruits is the Biblical word for Easter) is coming. The other signs of spring are the beginning of basketball tournaments, and baseball has begun its spring training games. Go "Wildcats" and "Reds." Yes, spring is in the air with the promise of new life.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Labeling people doesn't seem very helpful

I'm not convinced that labeling people is helpful. If a person is a financial conservative does that mean he or she is always a financial conservative? I know folks who wouldn't spend a nickle on new clothes for themselves yet will give their family members hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. So, are they a financial conservative or liberal? Perhaps it is best to think of conservative to liberal on a continuum depending upon the question, situation, etc. I suspect most of us would fall all over such a continuum.

For example, the news stories of this week have my responses all over that continuum. I support unions but not in situations where they abuse their collective power. I really appreciated this week's PBS interview with the Governor of Montana who entered into a respectful negotiation with the Montana State Employees Union and together they developed a fair budget that involved some give and take. I support small business owners but not when employees aren't paid a fair salary. My parents were small business owners. On frequent occasions I heard my parents say that one of the reasons for their furniture store was to support the employee's families. We need large corporations. I think some corporate executives make too much money. However, some corporate executives aren't paid sufficiently for the large oversight and vision they must have. I support greater restrictions for mountain top coal removal and the need for Federal involvement. I support coal mining because it is a source of energy and jobs. I also support investing in renewable sources of energy. I think our Universities need to be doing research but, also, remember that their primary purpose is teaching. I could go further, especially in religious matters, but you can see my thoughts.

I'm all over this continuum of conservative to liberal. So, don't hang a single label on me because of one issue and I'll try not to do that to you. I wish our leaders would respect each other sufficiently so that they could enter into honest conversations and decision-making. Labeling seems neither respectful nor accurate.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Budget Priorities and Jesus

I'm reading about the House of Representatives efforts to reduce the Federal debt. I agree that the country's spending has increased significantly. I'm also aware that President Clinton left President Bush a surplus. This debt has therefore developed in the past ten years. The attack of 9/11 has significantly diminished our sense of security. We have been engaged in two pre-emptive wars against terriorism which continue to be incredibly expensive not only in terms of the national budget but, also, in the lives of our military men, women and families. Some adjustments certainly need to be made. However, I'm deeply concerned with some of the details of this first effort to reduce the Federal debt. For one thing, the House of Representatives didn't even discuss reducing their salaries or benefit packages. This seems similar to those folks who demand that changes be made but not in my back yard. Furthermore, I can't support efforts that seek to reduce or even eliminate health care to our citizens or diminish support of public education. Many of these families are "the least among us" to use a Biblical phrase. Therefore, these matters are moral or ethical issue for me and not primarily a financial or budgeting concern. In today's news there is a story about the Executive of JP Morgan, Mr. Dimon, who has been given a package of $17 million for this year. Our Congressional leaders refused to increase taxes for persons such as Mr. Dimon. This seems neither fair nor just. I recall Jesus saying that " whom much is given, much is required...even demanded." (Luke 12:48, NRSV.) I keep wondering what Jesus must be thinking of the manner in which our leaders, as well as many of us, are making decisions about spending priorities. We may be a nation where many families are in churches on Sunday but some of our priorities don't look much like Jesus to me. I'm concerned about the days ahead.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Father Kelty has died

Friday was a sad day at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky. Father Matthew Kelty passed away. For many years he gave talks to the retreatants after the Compline service. I was often on retreat at the Abbey and privileged to hear many of his Compline talks. Those talks were not only something that gave me a lot to think about but, they were a work of art delivered in a relaxed and conversational style. He was one of the most gifted spiritual speakers that I've heard. He always gave me a lot to think and pray about. I think one of his favorite phrases was to look into the eyes of the retreatants and with a gentle smile and long pause say something like, "Go deeper." I'm grateful that I had the privilege of knowing him. You may want to check out his reading of Thomas Merton's famous prayer on YouTube. At the Abbey, the monks will take turns for 24 hours beginning Sunday late afternoon praying the Psalms beside his body after which he will be buried in his monk's robe, directly into the earth beside the Abbey church. I'll miss him.

At the Lay Cistercians meeting today, Saturday, we discussed the spiritual discipline of acesticism. Acesticism is the discipline of intentional sacrifices so that we might have more room in our lives for the presence of God. It was a sobering discussion with Father Kelty's death hovering around the monastery. Father Kelty owned nothing--not even his clothes. He lived the challenge I've hear him give to others, "Go deeper."

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Non-violence triumphs again

I've been greatly interested in the revolution in Egypt. I find it extremely fascinating that it was accomplished primarily with non-violence. I'm glad the protesters didn't bring guns with them to Tahrir Square and the military chose not to shoot at the protesters. Non-violence wins again. I could only hope that this might be a lesson to the military-industrial complex and the NRA. After the assassination of President Sadat, Mubarak may have been something of a hero in all of the confusion that followed. He imposed state of emergency plans which may have been necessary at that time. However, the plans he put in place 30 years ago to keep the country stable after Sadat's death, he never revoked or changed. Because he was unwilling to change with the times, the people ousted him with this non-violent revolution. They wanted him gone, along with his ideas and plans. What was important 30 years ago is now no longer acceptable. He didn't realize that the crisis had passed and, therefore, he created his own crisis.

I fear that too many leaders, as well as us regular folks, are unwilling to have ideas and plans critiqued and altered as the times change. We hang on to what worked in the past, not realizing that the past no longer exists. I've some friends who talk about how the church and religious organizations and institutions operated 10, 20 and/or 30 years ago. They are saying that if it was good for them at that time, it must still be good. I think it is crucial for growth that we allow our ideas and plans to be critiqued and altered. Do you remember Kenny Rogers' song about knowing when to hold them and when to fold them? I wonder if Mubarak ever hear the song. If so, I bet that now he wishes he had understood it better.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


I attended a meeting recently where the discussion was on obedience. Most of my colleagues in that meeting were strong on obedience, particularly obedience to the church. I shared with them that obedience is not an easy spiritual discipline for me. Discernment must come before obedience because I need to know that I'm being obedient to the presence of Christ as I understand that. I'm not as trusting of a "system"--even a religious system as my colleagues seem to be. My grandparents were "churched" (1930's) for selling tobacco in their grocery store and my parents were asked (early 1950's) not to bring my mentally handicapped brother to Sunday School because the "church" didn't know what to do with him. I grew up with these 'stories' of church so I'm not so quick to give obedience to the 'church' or any religious system. I have learned that understanding the presence of Christ certainly means hearing what my "community" has said and is saying about a particular behavior, option and/or direction. It seems to me that discernment must involve listening and patience. Listening to those who are not in the "power structure" is absolutely crucial in my thoughts.

I guess obedience is a growing spiritual edge for me. First of all, I'm from Oklahoma--you know the "don't fence me in" attitude. Secondly, somewhere in my Seminary education process, someone said that I have a strong "rebellious child" part that acted out frequently. That's probably true. In the end, I'll probably obey, if I think it is the right thing, but just give me time and don't push. O yes, once I'm "on board," I tend to stay for the long haul.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Fussin',whinin' and complaining

My parents owned a furniture store in Norman, Oklahoma. I grew up having to deal with furniture which was either in the store or on the delivery truck. After school I always had to go down to the store and work for the rest of the day. The store closed at 6 PM unless someone was in the store or coming into the store and then we waited. If I wasn't delivering something, I was either putting something together, sweeping the aisles, dusting, washing the front windows, washing the delivery truck or something. You can learn a lot delivering furniture. For example, I learned not to grab the side of a television where the knobs were placed because that would be the heavy side. I also learned to tie things into the bed of the truck and close the tailgate--you know, finish the job. One time my cousin Steve and I were delivering some roll-away beds and when we took off from a stop light those beds rolled out the back end of the truck and crashed onto Main Street. It was embarrassing to have traffic stopped while we ran around gathering up several roll-away beds and returning them to the truck bed. This time we made certain they were tied down and we had closed the tail gate. I usually delivered with my Dad especially if he needed an extra hand and the delivery could wait until I was out of school. I can remember several times delivering with my Dad when I would be fussing, whining and complaining about something. Dad would listen politely after which he always replied, "Richard, we could have had this in the house in the time you were complaining. Now, if your finished, we still have to carry this furniture into the house."

Saturday, January 29, 2011

One Day At A Time

It seems like we're in the nursing home ministry for a few days--well, we hope it is for a few days. My brother, Bobby, who is mentally handicapped, has been five days in the hospital with the flu. A few days before catching the flu, he slipped on some ice and has a small crack in his hip--the same hip he broke several years ago which is now full of metal. So, he doesn't get around very well. He was dismissed from the hospital yesterday but still suffers from nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. He is too weak to get around by himself, and his insides are still "out-of-control." So, he is at our house. We're sleeping lightly; helping him to the bathroom at a moment's notice and usually cleaning him, the floor, etc. Our washing machine and dryer seem to be running constantly. I had planned to use this weekend to get ready for my two classes at the Baptist Seminary of Kentucky, which begins Monday. However, I'm learning again that life is what actually happens, not what you had planned to happen. So, it is as it is. The good news is that we only have to do this one day at a time.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A 2011 Resolution

2011 will begin with my involvement in an on-line class with the Lexington Theological Seminary. I will be teaching a course entitled, "Loss and Grief in a Congregational Setting." The class is full with twelve students from several states. I've never taught an on-line class, and it has been a steep learning curve for me and the required technology. The on-line component is far more than I had originally imagined. I'm impressed with what can be done with technology and education. I'm also discovering that I need a lot of tutoring from Ben, a young adult, who can make my old laptop do things that I didn't even know new and powerful laptops could do.

Time magazine's Person of the Year is Marc Zuckerberg. He is a 26-year old, freckle-faced young man who invented Facebook. Fackbook is the means for 550 million people from all over the world to relate with each other via technology. Judy is on Facebook for both of us, and she has connected with old friends from High School as well as keeps in regular communication with a whole host of friends.

Our God-daughter, Elizabeth, is a Ph.D. candidate in mathematics at Southern Illinois University. She is in her mid-20s. Her research is in the field of typology mathematics. This seems to have something to do with at least four dimensions of mathematics. She is becoming competent in a field that is beyond my imagination.

My 2011 resolution is to pay more attention to young adults. They obviously have a great deal to teach an older person such as myself, and I want to learn. Their 'world' is our future. I certainly bring some wisdom, maturity and perspective. However, I want to pay attention to our young adults because I want to stay close to the future.