Around Christmas time I usually get the question, “What do you want for Christmas?” My answer is usually something like, “I don’t need a thing.” I am then told by the recipient of my answer, that I’m not being helpful.


In the Benedictine way of thought, our needs should be very small, and our wants should never exceed what we truly need. It is said that a truly wealthy person is one who is satisfied with what he has. This lesson was driven home to me on my sabbatical, where I learned to be very satisfied with enough clothes to keep me warm, three meals a day, and perhaps a good book to read. What I wanted during my sabbatical wasn’t material. I wanted and needed the touch of my wife’s hand, a hug from one of my children, and a few words from a true friend.


It was good for me to be stripped and deprived of any other needs or wants. I sometime wonder if we don’t all need a second Lenten season. How well would we do if for forty days we deprived ourselves of all wants, and prayed and meditated instead?


The Benedictines teach that the material side of existence should be treated reverently, ownership of anything is always temporary and we are to be good stewards of the material things entrusted to our care. We must also be constantly on guard against making the material an end.


I was reading about routine and was reminded that two thirds of our day is devoted to work and rest, so it is in that remaining third we must pack in prayer, meals, companionship, and here’s the kicker, study.


The author recommends that at least one day a week be devoted to rest and study. We should set aside time to reflect and renew, and that all growth and healing is not conscious. We must give ourselves time to mend and germinate.


We spend so much of our early life going to school and hopefully learning, it is natural to think when school is over we don’t have to study anymore. But the author is right, study is an essential part of our being. I also think that as we grow older and hopefully wiser we find study an intense source of pleasure.


So as this week begins find time to incorporate some form of study into your weekly routine. It might be as rewarding as my four years of taking the EFM program offered by Sewanee to merely picking up a bible, trade publication, or a good book. But in some fashion incorporate study into your week and before you know it a whole new world will be open to you and will continue to be there all your days.




that it is our outlook

that confers values on our experiences,

and that nothing that occurs to us

is intrinsically good or bad.


The author of Always We Begin Again writes a lot about what he calls the twelve stages of humility. I commend it to you, but I won’t recite the whole thing. But one of the nuggets I found reminds me of the words of Frankel, in his work The Meaning of Life. It also is the message I try to give the people I counsel who are about to go to prison about attitude and how one can get so much out of the experience if you go into it with the right attitude.


I recognize it is hard and sometimes downright impossible to believe that “nothing that occurs to us is intrinsically good or bad” if you are facing serious illness or in the middle of what seems to be a tragedy. Yet, how many times have we come out of what seems to be an awful circumstance and told ourselves, “that wasn’t so bad” or “I learned a lot from that experience.”


I think the author hits the nail on the head when he uses the words “our outlook.” We are called to be content with what circumstances may place in our path, trusting in God, and looking for opportunity and value in both the good and the bad.



Followers of The Pew know what a big advocate I am for “silence.” The author of the Benedictine Way reminds me that in each day there must be time for silence. “There must be time within which we neither speak or listen, but simply are.”

This is harder than one might think.  Our days often begin with noise, whether it be an alarm clock, a dog needing to go outside, a child needing breakfast, I can go on and on, not to mention those earplugs that seem to be permanently affixed to everyone’s ears these days. But it is important each day to take stock, to just be, and just as a doctor says drink water throughout the day, our body, our mind, and our soul also need a time where we are alone with ourselves. You exist for a purpose and in the silence of your presence you find that reason.

Consider your work place. Who is often the wisest and securest person in the room. It is the person who listens to all, and speaks very little.