A theology of place: 7-16-10
Death's stark reality: 7-19-10

A Celtic view of death: 7-17/18-10

ABIQUIU, N.M. -- The sky here at Ghost Ranch the other night was plastered with stars that looked touchable through the clear air of the high desert.


My wife and I were sitting on a veranda with J. Philip Newell  (pictured here) and his wife, Ali, catching up on our far-flung lives but also talking about death.

Philip is a pastor (as is Ali), an author and something of an international expert on Celtic spirituality. So I wanted to share some of Celtic  spirituality's insights about death with the writing class I've been teaching this week, a class I call "Death and Its Mysteries: Writing About the Journey."

Philip's own teaching time and mine conflicted, so I couldn't arrange for him to come in person to my class to talk about this. I did the next best thing -- I taped a bit of our conversation. In fact, now I think that was the best thing to do because I can share what he had to say with you, too.

To hear Philip and Ali talk about death, click on this link: Download JPNewell The clip is just under 13 minutes and begins with a few meaningless words of chitchat before my first question to him.

Philip is a wonderful and challenging thinker. At times my first instinct is to disagree with him on some point, but as often as not when I think it through I find he's onto something that I hadn't considered.

But just so you know, these are the kinds of serious conversations that -- along with lots of fun -- go on all the time at Ghost Ranch and at other faith-based retreat and conference centers. If you haven't been here or to another such center, don't cheat yourself out of the experience.

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Speaking of death, that's all that seems to result from revenge exacted by violent groups who describe themselves as motivated by religious purposes. The latest example in Iran shows nearly 30 more people dead. How is this helping anything? What does such violence prove, other than the perpetrators seem not to understand the first thing about what religion -- in this case Islam -- is really all about? How sad.


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