• spirituality,  Uncategorized

    After Fat Tuesday Comes Fat Soul

    This Lent, go lean in the daily frills and food departments if you must, but give the soul plenty of nourishment.   After all, Lent is a time for soul expansion.   I think of it like this: After Fat Tuesday, it’s time for Fat Soul, that is, for expanding the soul to obscenely large proportions.  Go ahead and indulge!  You are probably starving for quality soul-time by now. As a companion in your soul-expanding adventure, I offer my new book Fat Soul: A Philosophy of S-I-Z-E, reflections on growing the soul.   This is a book not only for Christians who observe Lent, but for audaciously large souls of all faiths. Here is a bit…

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    Black Bean Brownies and Grace

    “I can resist everything but temptation.” –Oscar Wilde, Lady Windermere’s Fan Like most people, I strive to be reasonably fit.  I walk religiously, eat my vegetables, and sometimes even do yoga. But I have a serious weakness, a secret yearning for what can only be called the dark side. By dark, I am speaking literally, for I find that I can resist everything but chocolate.  In more youthful, disciplined days, I would nibble only on small pieces of severely dark chocolate so bitter that I felt rather saintly; but as I mellow with age, I find myself drawn back to the sweeter confections that I loved as child, before saintly self-denial set in.  I’m talking chocolate brownies, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate cake,…

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    The Two Most Dangerous Words

      Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.  We all know the folly of this childhood chant.  We know that words can hurt, divide, inflame, shame, and even bring about wars.  Dangerous words spill from the mouths of those who want attention, from those who feel threatened, and, these days, from politicians who seek to divide and conquer. But According to Brené Brown, celebrated researcher on shame and vulnerability, the two most perilous words on the planet are not often spoken aloud.  They are our little secret.  But they cause a great deal of mischief in our lives and in the world. . . .…

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    Grief Takes a Road Trip

    My mother died.  Those three words are hard to write, let alone process.  For me, the finality of never hearing my mother’s voice again or having the chance to talk over old issues or discover something new about her childhood—are all swallowed up in a black hole of mystery that is beyond me now.  Game’s up.  No more chances.  It feels kind of brutal and unfair. But she was elderly and ready to go and died peacefully in the night, the way we all wish to go.  So I did not anticipate any earth-shaking emotions.  How wrong I was!  A parent’s passing under any condition is never anything but earth-shaking.…

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    Beauty as a Spiritual Home 

    “Once we awaken to the Beauty which is God, there is a great sense of homecoming.” —John O’Donohue My religion is Beauty.  This may sound iconoclastic, but I don’t mean it that way.  As a former minister of two lovely congregations, I do believe in organized religion.  But I would stop short of saying Christianity is my religion.  Many expressions of Christianity are indeed beautiful and healing, but those which lean toward fundamentalism are, I believe, injurious to the soul and to the world at large—and even to the planet. The Dalai Lama is Buddhist, and yet what is his religion?  He famously says, “My religion is kindness.”  Maybe it…

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    The Beauty of the Open-Ended Life

    I live my life in widening circles That reach out across the world. I may not complete this last one But I give myself to it.   I circle around God, around the primordial tower. I’ve been circling for thousands of years And I still don’t know: am I a falcon, A storm, or a great song? —Rainer Maria Rilke, Book of Hours   Perhaps the spiritual life is not so much a linear journey, as it is a kind of unfinished spiral—an ever-broadening orbit around something greater than ourselves.  The poet Rilke seems to be saying that we grow larger by these ever-widening circles—and passionate and wiser, too; and most…

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    Transcending Fear Itself: A Journey from the Personal to the Political

     “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” –Franklin Delano Roosevelt   When I was a young seminarian, I suffered from anorexia nervosa.  I learned to starve myself for sake of unnatural thinness.  And this was long before eating disorders became a contagion on campuses around the world.  I suppose you could say I was on the cutting edge of a deadly neurosis, a pioneer in taking things to extremes. My absolutist-oriented anorexic mind was of the opinion that if you ate one cookie, it was like the Domino Theory of Vietnam:  “If Vietnam falls, so goes all of Southeast Asia!”  (We all know how well that worked…

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    An Antidote to the Ugliness of Trumpism

    “Beauty is a life saving plank in the midst of the ocean.” —St. Augustine, De Musica   “Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” —Rumi We live in ugly times.  That is, if you listen to the political rhetoric of the  2016 US presidential election.  Most particularly, I refer to that ugly cluster of racism, Islamophobia, misogamy, and xenophobia, i.e., the Trump campaign.  Like a medieval ball-and-chain flail with deadly spikes, this psychic weapon is whipped about carelessly by Donald Trump and his followers, threatening to rend the colorful and delicate tapestry that makes up our American…

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    Cropping Out All Green at Sixty

    I dreaded turning sixty.  I dreaded it so much that I tried out different responses to ward it off—like lipstick colors for the desperate:  red renunciation, violet veto, and ruby dark denial.  Nothing worked.  Sixty just kept on coming.  For months before my birthday, I imagined a fire-breathing dragon lurking around the corner, waiting to singe off my eyebrows at the entry way to the inexorable downhill slide into that last third of life—a descent accompanied by smirky demons bearing images of medicine bottles, hearing aids, cataracts, sagging skin, and embarrassing forgetfulness. But then I had an epiphany.  A few days after I passed the dreaded threshold of 60 (eyebrows…

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