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Waiting it out & waiting on God: (John 11)

I learned these lyrics when I sang in a Barbershop Quartet years ago: “I’m dreaming dreams, I’m scheming schemes, I’m building castles high... I’m forever blowing bubbles, pretty bubbles in air. They fly so high, nearly reach the sky. Then like my dreams, they fade and die. Fortune’s always hiding, hiding. I’ve looked everywhere. I’m forever blowing bubbles, pretty bubbles in the air.”
Disillusionment is a tough shell to crack. And after it’s run its course, you often end up a different person than before. Your faith has been tested, from the frying pan to the fire. You have perhaps matured and deepened as a person. You know God as much in the wonder and mystery than in finely chiseled creeds of almost two thousand years ago. 
It can be disappointing to look back and realize that things were not what they seemed. In any given situation, and with any person, we see only the tip of the iceberg at best. Now we know “in part,” whether that knowledge is about ourselves, others, the Church, o…

Thomas Keating on Success

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Jesus sent his disciples out two by two to work miracles and to preach the gospel before they were remotely prepared to do so; they were even less prepared to handle the success they achieved. When they arrived back from their journeys, they exultantly proclaimed, "The demons are subject to us in your name!" Luke 10:17). They expected to be patted on the back. On the contrary, Jesus said, "Do not get excited about that kind of success. Anybody can work miracles with a little psychic energy and the divine assistance. What you should rejoice over is that your names are written in heaven.' That is to say, "You have the destiny to enter the kingdom of God and to transmit the values of the kingdom to the people you love and to whom I am sending you." Thomas Keating, Invitation to Love, p.129 Thoughts about Success and FaithOn different ocassions, Jesus “strictly” told those who followed him not to tell anyone what miracle they had seen or witnessed (Mark 5:43)�…

Wisdom Looking Back

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The right words are not always appropriate. Ecclesiastes 3 indicates "a time for every matter under heaven... a time to keep silence and a time to speak." In John's Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples,  "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now." There are some things we're incapable of understanding when we first hear them. Our life experience may be so thin, or we may be so preoccupied, that we don't know hard-won wisdom when we see it. 

Which brings me to the wisdom of my Mother, who often advised me, "Don't take yourself so seriously." That advice was not easy to hear when I was younger and taking on life-changing responsibilities: finishing education while pastoring a church, becoming a husband and parent, caring for elders, growing as a minister, buying and maintaining a house, etc.! 
Through God's gift of memory, I can now appreciate the counsel to be less solemn and serious. It's taken years, but I&#…

On the Ignatian Way: A Pilgrimage in the Footsteps of Saint Ignatius of Loyola (2018)

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Where to start, then? With this extraordinary pilgrimage, which was at once unbearable, delightful, challenging, painful, desperate, liberating, enlightening, sad, desolate, enriching, peaceful, agitating, tumultuous, and occasionally chaotic, but on which I learned inevitably to open myself and accept the love and the forgiveness of God and to give love in return. I experienced the freedom that comes with the simplest of human knowledge, which is to feel loved, even in our insignificance, by the greatest of all forces and loves..." --Gilliam McIlwain in Iriberri and Lowney, On the Ignatian Way:A Pilgrimage in the Footsteps of Saint Ignatius Loyola.
This edition is a fascinating compilation of the accounts of contemporary pilgrims on the Ignatian Way, roughly a 250 mile journey from Loyola to Manresa, Spain. It captured my attention even from the bookstore shelf. Of course the attraction of such a volume is to read about the fruit of a pilgrimage without having to walk it. A deep…

Talking to Strangers: A Review

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This volume by the popular storyteller, Malcom Gladwell (2019) is not the stuff of his earlier books, such as Outliers or David and Goliath. They entertain and engage readers with fascinating, hidden and overlooked stories of success (Outliers) and survival (David and Goliath).
Talking to Strangers is mostly an unsettling journey, exposing the human afflictions of deceit, gullibility, and hubris. We don't know how to interpret strangers very well, and much less than we think we do.
Why question the conventional wisdom and accepted institutional practices?? Because they often fail us to really know a stranger. One example: a computer can do a better job determining whether a perpetrator will repeat a crime than the judge, who relies on looking the offender square in the eye. 
Some "misunderstandings" lead to more tragic consequences than others. Many of the stories Gladwell tells have  terrible, hopeless endings. Even for the sake of his argument, the volume lacks appropr…

Monkey Brain or Mindfulness?

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It was a quiet and crisp November day in rural Pennsylvania. Our retreat leader, Tony D’Souza,S.J., invited the group to try a  mindfulness practice. We were asked to be fully present to wherever we walked on the grounds, to be aware of what is, without judgment, assessment, or evaluation. 
I probably failed this exercise. I gazed at the autumnal sunset. My thoughts turned to other sunsets I had seen. No longer fully present to my immediate surroundings, I  began ranking the best sunsets I had seen across the years. Monkey brain: my mind was everywhere- except where I was standing.


A great lesson though. My default is to make evaluations and comparisons about others, myself, the world, and even what my life with God should be. Knowing this can equip me to wait out a bad day, knowing it will pass. Mindfulness can soften my quick and harsh judgments of myself and others.And practicing mindfulness can help me to experience God- without conditions or qualifications. 


Post-Truth: A Review

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For its rigorous dissection, Post-Truth by Lee McIntyre, is the best book I’ve read in the last year. This volume offers so much in an economy of words.

Post- Truth is defined as the contention that "feelings are more accurate than facts" and this is used to subordinate reality for political end. p.174  "False equivalence" is the idea that there are always "two sides of an issue even when there are not two credible sides."
Included are discussions of the dangers and human costs of post-truth: the "yellow journalism" of the 1890's (The Spanish-American War), Big Tobacco's decades-long deceit, vaccines (2015), and the continuing climate crisis.

McIntyre's study is accompanied by meticulous footnotes, a bibliography, a glossary, and suggestions for further reading. I've long awaited a scholarly treatment of this subject. I recommend this book to those in search of mental clarity.

Softening the harsh realities

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“If it be so, O listener, dear to him in all his visions, try to bear in mind the stern realities from which these shadows come; and in your own sphere- none is too wide, and none too limited for such an end- endeavor to correct, improve, and soften them. So may each year be happier than the last, and not the meanest of our brethren and sisterhood debarred their rightful share in what our Great Creator formed them to enjoy.” The Chimes: A Goblin Story, Dickens                                                                                 A Christmas Carol and The Chimes are Dickens' masterful Holiday works. The Chimes is lesser known and darker, set on the eve of a New Year. Like A Christmas Carol, The Chimes challenges the societal  neglect of the hard and shortened lives of the poor. In Dickens’ England, poor houses and debtors prisons were the social answers to hunger, sickness, poverty and injustice. 

The call to "soften" is a well chosen word because, while there is …