My Encounter with Michael Morwood

My Encounter With Michael Morwood

I am very committed to increasing both religious and spiritual literacy. They are not the same.

Religious literacy has to do with what knowledge and information people know about various religions, including the one they profess. For example, many people cannot name the five largest religions in the world, the Five Pillars of Islam or the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism.

Spiritual literacy has to do with wisdom and understanding, with awareness of and growth in the values that unite us as humans, connect us to each other and to all of the earth. I am thinking of how we experience, grow in and express values like peace, love, joy, patience and humility.

Religious literacy is about opening up “head space.”

Spiritual literacy is about opening up “heart space.”

As a spiritual teacher I feel one of my moral obligations is to work diligently at keeping my “head space” open. I want to grow in knowledge and information about religion and religious matters. The major way that I do this is by reading and studying.

I rely on many, many resources to keep me informed. One of these is a website/newsletter put out by an organization called “Progressing Spirit.” This is the organization that, for years, sponsored sending out regular pieces written by Shelby Spong, someone many of you know. If you are interested in knowing more, click here.

I had gotten behind in my reading and used some of the Christmas holiday season to catch up. In doing this I read a series of three interviews with a former Roman Catholic priest who lives in Australia. I had never heard of him but what I read really energized me. If you would like to read or download these interviews, click here.

After reading these interviews, I wondered if he had written any books. I got on Amazon and found two: “In Memory of Jesus” and “It’s Time: Challenges to the Doctrine of the Faith.” I downloaded them and read them immediately. I found other books of his that aren’t in e-book format and got those as well: “Is Jesus God? Finding Our Faith” and “God is Near: Trusting Our Faith.”

All of this led me to be curious as to whether he had a website. He does. And, if I could contact him. I could.

We began to exchange e-mails and one thing led to another.

His schedule does not permit him to spend an extended weekend with us as earlier speakers have. He is stopping in Houston on his way from Phoenix to New York.

He has left the priesthood and now spends his time offering spiritual direction and leading retreats. The title he has given his time with us is “Reshaping Religious Imagination and Thinking.”

I encourage you to open your head space by reading the interviews. Then the books I would recommend are “In Memory of Jesus” and “It’s Time.”

By the way, the five largest religions in the world are Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Christianity and Buddhism.

The five pillars of Islam are: Faith in one God, alms giving, praying five times a day, fasting during Ramadan and making a pilgrimage to Mecca.

The Four Noble Truths are: the truth of suffering, the truth of the reason of suffering, the truth of freedom from suffering and the truth of the path to liberation.

Reclaiming Jesus

A few weeks ago, I'm writing this the middle of June, 2018, I was visiting a friend of mine in California. He gave me a copy of a statement of faith that had been issued by an impressive group of religious leaders in the United States. I quoted it at length in a talk that I gave in Ordinary Life on June 3. I invite you to go to the podcast menu and locate that talk. The talk is called "Developing Faith In a Time of Crisis."

We are in a crisis in this country. Divisive rhetoric abounds from both political and religious arenas. Those with the largest megaphones are those getting the attention. This statement of faith also deserves attention. I invite you to read it and, more important, pass it on to others. Use it for a discussion guide in small groups.

If you would like to download and print this out, click here.

Reclaiming Jesus.jpg

Shall The Fundamentalists Win?

Harry Emerson Fosdick

Harry Emerson Fosdick

In doing research and preparation for talks recently given in Ordinary Life, I was reminded of a sermon given by Harry Emerson Fosdick in May of 1922. Fosdick, through his writings, has had a profound influence on my life. His book, "On Being A Real Person," helped set the trajectory for my work in putting psychology and theology together.

Fosdick spoke at a time of great social change. The New York Times sent a reporter to the church where he preached and reported on the sermon the next day. Some  might say that in some ways our time is analogous to that. Fundamentalism in whatever religion or whatever sphere is damaging to the human community, to our globe. I thought you might be interested in reading this sermon. To do so, click here.

The Inner Triangle and The Fall

I highly recommend the Enneagram as a spiritual tool

If you no experience with this powerful system for self-understanding I recommend "The Enneagram Made Easy" by Renee Baron and Elizabeth Wagele.

Recently I have been another book, "The Spiritual Dimension of the Enneagram: Nine Faces of the Soul" by Sandra Maitri. There is a chapter in this book that described how we get separated from our true self. I am encouraging all of my clients and people seeking spiritual direction.

I am putting a link to a pdf copy of this chapter. Here is the link to the chapter. I believe you will find it useful.

The Tree Of Contemplative Practice

In order to become proficient at anything in life, practice is required. This applies to the "spiritual life" as well. If we are going to grow in spiritual awareness and religious intelligence, it takes "practice."

This was amplified on in a recent talk in Ordinary Life, "Warning! Danger! Life Ahead!" In that talk I referred to a graphic of the "tree of contemplative practices." If you would like to see the graphic, click here. My suggestion is for you to print it out and keep it handy where you can not only see it but also consider adding items to what you are doing to assist your growth in "freedom and love."


Not In Order To But Because Of

I returned to the big annual conference put on by the Center for Action and Contemplation this year. The  main speakers were Sister Ilia Delio and Shane Claiborne. I have referred to both of them in talks I have done in Ordinary Life and you can either search this site for those talks or find these two amazing people on YouTube.

The conference opened with a clip by a rapper whose name is Prince Ea. I had never heard of him but I strongly recommend your watching this video. [Warning, it has the F-bomb in it several times.]

The point of the video is that self understanding, a grasping of one's true identity, is so crucial to the solution of the world's problems. You can watch the video by going to this YouTube link - click here

I suggest watching it more than once. Watch it with journal in hand and notice your reactions. Come back a few days later and watch it again. Read your reactions and make more.

One of my core teachings, and it is certainly not original with me, is that our identity, who we are, is who we are in relationship with "Sacred Mystery" - no more, no less!

Our culture teachings people to gain identity through power, possessions or prestige. That's not a way to gain but, ultimately, to lose.

I recently had an opportunity to give a homily at St. Paul's where this was the focus. We live values of loving-kindness and compassion not in order to gain our identity or secure security. We live our values because we are aware of an inherent identity that not only we have but so also does everyone else. You can read that homily by clicking here.

Always We Begin Again

A few weeks ago, in the talk "Being Seen, Heard, Cherished," I mentioned the book, "Always We Begin Again." This little book has been part of my life for nearly twenty years. You can read the full story of how it came into my life in that talk. I encourage you to do so.

Recently I purchased the revised edition, of this book.

I am mentioning it here because frequently people ask what they might have as a resource for daily reading. After I first got this book, I read a page or two of it every day for several years. Then, I got out of the habit - for whatever reason.

My recent repurchasing of it has gotten me back in the habit of reading a page or two of it every morning. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND that you consider doing this as well. The book comes in either paperback or e-book edition. I find that having it on my device insures that I am more likely to read it than not.

Suggestion: Why not get a copy and try reading in it every day for a month. My wager is that you will add it to your life and it will add life to you.

Books for the Journey

Marcus Borg and the Legacy He Leave Us

I mentioned in the talk I offered on January 25, 2015 the death of Marcus Borg and the incredibly influence he has had on me and my teaching. Borg wrote over twenty books and is considered one of the leading scholars on the "historical Jesus" of our time. It was quite by accident that I read the first book by him that I read: "Reading The Bible Again For The First Time." You can check our that talk by clicking here.

I have started this particular addition to this "resources" section because of requests I have received from people who want ideas for books to read to support and/or enhance their spiritual journey or as books to read as part of their daily practice.

I will begin with two suggestions.


First will be one of Borg's books. It is his most recent and is a "spiritual biography." The book is "Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most."


The other book is something that is more "how to" and is one I wish I could persuade the whole world to read. It is Cindy Wigglesworth's book "SQ21: The Twenty-One Skills of Spiritual Intelligence."

I have know Cindy for years and have watched the work she has put into getting this book birthed.

SQ21 is a logical extension of Danial Goleman's work on "emotional intelligence." It is clear that there are many people in this world, especially those who wield might and power, who don't have a clue about the wake they live in the lives of other by their policies and practices.

This book offers tools to become more aware and change behavior.

I HIGHLY RECOMMEND both of these.



Continuing Spiritual Education

If you have heard me speak or read any of my posts, you are well aware that one of the things I mention on a regular basis is the importance of having a daily spiritual practice. My current definition of "spiritual practice" is anything that helps us deepen our awareness of and connection with "Sacred Mystery."

"Sacred Mystery" is the phrase I prefer to use rather than the word "God." For most people the word "God" calls up an image, more often than not, of a old white guy off sitting somewhere. The human brain is incapable of embracing a "definition" or "understanding" of God.

Ilia Delio, and you can look her up on YouTube and listen to some of her lectures, reminds us that the cosmos is 13.8 billion years old and that the radius of the known universe is 81 billion light years. You can't get your mind around that. But, we need a "god" big enough for it.

At any rate, people, frequently ask me how they might undertake having a spiritual practice. One suggestion I want to make in this post is that you check out the website of Spirituality and Practice. Here you will find a wealth of suggestions of growing in emotional and spiritual intelligence. I'm sure you will find something of value.


All About the Bible

* * *

Scripture is not history or science. Scripture is a hall of mirrors revealing angles of perception on the human condition impossible to amass in one lifetime. It is a mixture of terrible distortions, and astounding insights. Scripture is a ten thousand year old diary of the good, bad and ugly of a people. Scripture helps us know the stories we have been born into, for better and for worse. If scripture is read with fear, we will see threats all around us. If scripture is read with anger we will find scapegoats for our every misery. If scripture is read gullibly, we will see proof of our culture's worst lies. If scripture is read literally, we will find an inescapable maze of illusion. If scripture is read with curiosity, we will find amazing insights. If scripture is read with humor, we will laugh out loud. If scripture is read in community, we will find a vocabulary for sharing life's journey, If scripture is read with love, we will find illumination.

* * *

This was written by The Rev. Jim Rigby, a Presbyterian Minister in Austin, Texas.

What is meditation?

For years in my teaching I have stressed the importance of having a daily spiritual practice. I have not, in the recent past, talked much about what meditation is and how to have a "daily practice." This section of the Ordinary Life website is going to be devoted to this subject.

In short, meditation is learning how to relate in a wakeful, conscious, compassionate way to the whole of our lives.

In order to do this, we need a time and place. I recommend having a designated spot in the place where you live to do this. 

Below is a picture of the "altar" where I do my daily sitting. It has on it various items from various religious traditions that I have picked up in my travels - prayer beads, statues, etc. Having a place to sit regularly gets one in the frame of mind to do the sitting and doesn't offer as many opportunities for distraction.

My "altar"

As time passes I'll add here various "prayers" and sayings that you might useful during your daily practice.

Some time ago I came up with this: "The central truth of and for spiritual practice is 'paying attention' and developing the resources to be present to 'what is.' Central to this spiritual practice is growing in the capacity to be non-judgmental."

So, here is a suggestion. Make a commitment to sit fifteen minutes a day and simply pay attention to your breathing. Count your breaths if that helps. Notice how quickly your mind can drift off to another place. Don't judge yourself for not being "good" at this. Just notice.

Several years ago James Finley challenged me to come up with a prayer that would contain my entire "theology." No more than a dozen words. Here is what I came up with and it is what I begin and end my sitting with -

Holy God, me safe within You.

Holy God, You alive within me.

Feel free to use it.

Carl Jung was asked shortly before his death, "Will we make it?" His answer was, "If enough of us do our personal work." Having a daily spiritual practice is part of that work.