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The pitfalls of belonging

(01/23/23 5:00am)

With the spring semester ramping up, students are joining, and reconnecting with, all kinds of groups—clubs, residence halls, study circles, classes, sports teams, religious groups, fraternities, sororities, and more. This has a good and natural foundation: We all long to belong. We desire community and connection. We want to be known and loved. The challenge we have as Dukies—or really as human beings—is how to belong but not divide. 




Thank You, Niko

(11/14/22 5:00am)

As we approach Thanksgiving, I am reminded of the old gospel song that says, “Every day is a day of thanksgiving!”, so today I want to give thanks to God for what I have learned from my dog Niko. I can’t believe that I’m actually writing this—the dean of Duke University Chapel is reflecting on not some theological or religious treatise but instead his dog!



Passing on

(10/17/22 4:00am)

When we hear the phrase “passing on,” we may think of someone’s death. This is certainly one meaning of the phrase, but there is another way of thinking of it. It has to do with life, learning, and legacy. That is, even if someone has “passed on” as in death, they may have also “passed on” something to those who are left behind. 



Changing your mind

(09/19/22 4:00am)

Coming through a pandemic, we should be used to change by now. We’ve adapted to mask-wearing, social-distancing, hand-sanitizing, and quarantining. We have experienced food-eating together and no food-eating together, gathering and no-gathering, preschool opening and preschool closing, fist-bumping and elbow-greeting. We have been flexible with remote-working, Zoom-private-chatting-in-a-meeting, work force declining, restaurants closing, and airlines canceling. 


Learning humbly

(09/05/22 4:00am)

There is an unsung virtue that is on life support in Duke Hospital, and we have to decide whether to pull the plug on it or not. We may think its best days are over and it’s no longer needed in the land of Blue Devils; it’s a virtue that I’m sure every Duke student did not emphasize to get accepted into Duke. And do you know what that virtue is? Humility.


The lost art of listening

(04/11/22 4:00am)

When people think of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., they may think of what he said—especially, “I have a dream.” Those famous words come from an unforgettable speech delivered before the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963, at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Dr. King was certainly a gifted orator rooted in the Black Church tradition, but what people sometimes overlook is that his prophetic speech had deep roots in an inconspicuous source: silence. 


Mattering

(03/28/22 4:00am)

Judging by the cherry blossoms outside of Duke Chapel, spring must be here. I welcome it. It’s a time many people decide to get their hands dirty tilling the soil, planting seeds, tending shoots and pruning branches–all so that the plants will bear their delicious fruit. With this natural turn to nature, I want to share a lesson from a Great Gardener: You are made of matter—the dust of the earth—and for that reason alone your life matters. 


Sports and the spiritual life

(03/14/22 4:00am)

Duke University is a top-level research and educational institution that aims to integrate a high level of academics with excellence in athletics. If you were paying attention at all recently, you would know the important role Duke men’s basketball plays at this university, especially during the 42-year tenure of Coach K. And now we are headed into March Madness, Even I know that, for some, the number one religious building on campus is not Duke Chapel; it’s Cameron Indoor Stadium.



Remembering Trayvon and Jesus

(02/14/22 5:00am)

Every day I’m reminded of human brokenness, particularly those whose bodies have been broken by hatred and violence. That’s because on my Duke Chapel office desk, sitting side-by-side, is a physical memorial: a communion cup and plate to remember Jesus Christ, and next to them a can of Arizona iced tea and a packet of Skittles to remember Trayvon Martin. When I look at these elements, I hear a faint cry, “Remember.” 


The calling to live your ‘why’

(01/31/22 5:00am)

There is what I call “a turn to the human” happening in academia. Universities across the nation, including Duke, have been altering their academic approaches by including in their curricular and co-curricular offerings themes related to the meaning and purpose of life. It is a trend that recognizes that students are more than heads on a pile of research papers, chemistry lab findings or the latest computer algorithms--they are whole human beings.



A coherent life

(11/29/21 5:00am)

When I was on the faculty at Princeton Theological Seminary, I used to teach a course called “Speech Communication in Ministry.” It was a class that helped first-year seminary students with public presentations. Students would work on vocal, eye and hand gestures while presenting various literary forms. I’d draw on the oral interpretation of literature in which the aim is congruency or matching what one says with how you say it. For instance, how could someone say, “I despise you” with a smile? In that case, the words and the embodiment of those words would not match and would break up the communicative event and perhaps cause confusion. 



Creation vocation

(11/01/21 4:00am)

Whether you’re 18 years old or the ripe age of 80, you have probably experienced loss in life, whether it is the end of a friendship, the loss of a parent or leaving a community. In the face of such emptiness, there is not a single answer for everyone but there is a response that all human beings can make. As creatures, we can create.