September 11 Remembrance

This post originally appeared on a blog I no longer maintain. Today is a day to remember.

(I posted this originally in 2007.)

wtc-9-11I remember it clearly. There was a staff meeting that day so I’d driven up to Buffalo (an hour and a half drive)for the 9 AM meeting. In fact I had turned off the radio just a few minutes after the first plane hit at 8:46 AM. We had just gotten settled into the meeting with the sliding doors closed when there came a banging. Two members of the office staff came in, one in tears. The only TV in the building was with us and they needed to check the news. Something had happened at the twin towers in NYC and they had a friend who worked there. So we turned on the TV…

You know what we saw. And you know how we felt. It is a shared moment for our nation. I remember thinking in those first few moments “It’s not an accident, it’s a terrorist attack”. For several years after college I’d been fascinated by terrorism and how we respond to it. What I saw and what little we knew at that time just screamed terrorism.

And then the second plane(9:03AM)

and the report that a plane has crashed into the Pentagon (9:37AM)

and the FAA grounds all planes (9:45AM)

and then the south tower collapsed(9:59AM)

and then another plane crashes in western Pennsylvania (10:03AM)

and then the north tower collapsed (10:28AM)

Sometime shortly after that we were sent home. We prayed for everything and everyone and Divine protection and went home in a state of shock.

The diocesan offices are not too far from the airport so you see a fair number of planes if you look. I remember driving home thinking that there had never been a day in my life like this one. When virtually NOTHING man made was in the air above me. It is one of the strangest and most enduring feelings from that day.

When I saw the photo Lee was using I knew I was going to steal it. We need to remember how horrible that day was. We must never forget. But not as just as a goad to our fear and self interest. We must remember as a call to all that is good in our nature. It must serve as a call to make the world a better place rather than only a safer place. A better place WILL BE a safer place. A safer place is not always a better place.

Today is a day to remember.

Peace

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The Mid-Year Review

Wherein, I rat myself out.

One of the great things about New Year’s resolutions is that, by this time of year, everyone has forgotten that you ever made any.

But I did make some (HERE), and the idea was to work towards them all.  So with half the year behind me, it’s time to see how I’m doing.

My goals for 2017 were:

Health Goals:

  • Lose the last 20 pounds (be The Guy)
  • Keep my blood glucose within ADA ranges and work toward the lower ranges
  • Maintain a minimum of 150 active minutes a week

UPDATE – I’m actually doing all right on these.  Weight continues down, blood glucose is going down and I’m averaging way above the active minutes.  WIN!

Creativity Goals:

  • Add six more songs to my guitar competence list
  • Finish a writing project
  • Create a minimum of one good photo a month

UPDATE – Ummm.  On the guitar front, I began the year with “frozen shoulder” which made holding the guitar painful.  I have begun to work my way back on that one.  Working on the writing projects.  The photo goal has been a bust.  NEEDS WORK

Activity Goals:

  • Bike the Cap2Cap from Richmond to Williamsburg
  • Explore the parks nearby
  • Log a minimum of 1000 miles on the bike

UPDATE – Some progress made on this one.  So for this point of the year – WIN

Fun Goals

  • Visit five more historical sites
  • Go to the beach at least twice
  • Visit 20 wineries

UPDATE –  No, no and no.  NEEDS WORK

Real Life Goals:

  • Find a new job
  • Find a new church home
  • Get involved with community group(s)

UPDATE – Not yet, YES!!!!, and not yet.  Call this one a PUSH

 

So it’s two wins, two needs works, and a push.  With lots of time to get things turned around.  Not where I had hoped to be, but I’m OK with it for the moment.  Where are you on yours for 2017?

2017 Goals

No resolutions this year, just simple definable goals.

2017goalsHealth Goals:

  • Lose the last 20 pounds (be The Guy)
  • Keep my blood glucose within ADA ranges and work toward the lower ranges
  • Maintain a minimum of 150 active minutes a week

Creativity Goals:

  • Add six more songs to my guitar competence list
  • Finish a writing project
  • Create a minimum of one good photo a month

Activity Goals:

  • Bike the Cap2Cap from Richmond to Williamsburg
  • Explore the parks nearby
  • Log a minimum of 1000 miles on the bike

Fun Goals

  • Visit five more historical sites
  • Go to the beach at least twice
  • Visit 20 wineries

Real Life Goals:

  • Find a new job
  • Find a new church home
  • Get involved with community group(s)

All of these are doable, one (the 1,000 miles) is a real challenge.  But it will be a very good year if I can hit all of them.  Let’s see how we do.

Hoping that the new year is what each of us desire.

The Lunch That Conquered Defeat

(A repost of some of my earlier blogging on other sites.  I am occasionally re-posting ones that I think are interesting.  Originally posted December 17, 2008)

When I woke up this morning I knew it wasn’t any better.

lunch_bagMy lady wife has been asking me for days if something was wrong and I kept telling her no, I was fine. I knew that wasn’t true but I couldn’t put my finger on what the problem was either. So there was no good answer.

I felt sad. I felt tired. Mentally, physically and especially spiritually. I felt defeated.

Yes, there, at last, was the word I’d searched for.

Defeated.

Defeated in my life. Defeated in my ministry. Defeated in my marriage (through my failings no one else’s). Defeated in my career.

I work hard. I do good work. But it just wasn’t enough.

I wasn’t living anything close to the dreams I’d had. I wasn’t providing what I wanted to provide for my family. I wasn’t producing what I thought I should be able to produce in my work and ministry.

Defeated. Not incompetent just not competent enough. Not untalented just not talented enough. Not unintelligent just not intelligent enough.

I stopped by my rector’s office to follow up on some work and we chatted. I admitted that I was deeply into a bout of the (pardon the language) “I just don’t give a shit anymores”. Nice that I can say that to my rector. No other words would quite carry the emotional content as well. I just didn’t give a shit anymore.

Why bother? I’ve been the guy who says “Good enough, isn’t”. I’ve been the guy who said “The company has given us all the tools we need. If we can’t perform under these circumstances they ought to fire us”. I’ve been that idealistic, eyes shining as they gaze at the glorious future idiot. And what did it get me? Fired from my last job because I wouldn’t play those stupid office politics and focused on doing my job.

And my rector said, “Can I buy you lunch?”

So we went to lunch. And he never told me that I was wrong. In fact, he told me that I had a right to feel that way. Then he told me that I wasn’t seeing the whole picture.

We talked about a bunch of stuff and I remembered that I’ve done a lot of things of which I’m justifiably (I think) proud. I’ve made tough decisions and put myself second to care for my family. There’s not one of those decisions, looking back, that I regret. They were right. Then and now.

There are plenty of folks who would look at my life and see a steady stream of success. I’ve had jobs where I’ve made an honest to God difference in people’s lives. And yes people like me, they really, really like me. Some of them even respect me and pay attention to what I say.

I’ve made sacrifices. I’ve put my career on hold several times to make sure my family was OK. My life isn’t perfect but it’s still pretty darn good. The bad parts can still be worked on even at my “advanced age” (He really said that to me. Terrible thing to have a rector younger than yourself).

An hour, two chicken fajitas and some refried beans later and I no longer felt defeated. It’s at least the second time my rector has gotten me turned around when things seemed pretty dark. There are still things to work on but at least it’s not quite so dark in my heart anymore

He’s pretty sharp, my rector.

(The Rev. Eric Williams is no longer my rector.  Happily he is still my friend.  Everyone needs more friends like this)

Peace

Creativity and Faith

I’m not sure I have spent as much time on anything in my life as I have on the time topics in the title.  Once upon a time, the Christian church was one of the great supporters of artistic creation.  Today, I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that one of the great stumbling blocks facing the future of the institutional church is that it has largely turned away from creativity.

Some, I know, will instantly say that the sooner the institutional church dies, the better the faith (and the world) will be.  While I am often a vocal critic of the institution, its politics and inertia inspired blindness, I’m not quite ready to give up on it just yet.  We are called together in our life in faith.  When two or more are gathered together in one place, there had better be some kind of structure.  Otherwise, nothing gets done.

Some will also raise the cry that there’s plenty of creativity in the church, right now.  To that I’m afraid I have to say while there are pockets of creativity, I’m not seeing the creative being celebrated in large swathes of my faith.  Creativity does not thrive in places where absolute fidelity to tradition, history and “how it’s always been done” is paramount.

I love classic church architecture, far more than most of the modern church design I’ve seen.  There is a church not far from where I used to live that I thought was a warehouse for years, till they finally got the sign up on the highway side of the building.  Once buildings were built to symbolize the glory of God.  Today they could easily be movie theaters or warehouses.  There is lots of fine church music that has been around for years.  Too often it is treated like a museum piece, to be carefully preserved just the way it has always been.  There is some fine modern music as well, but there’s plenty that isn’t.  Being old doesn’t make something good, but neither does being new.

The classic example (one of many) can be found in my own tradition.  As Episcopalians, we are part of the Anglican tradition.  We are largely defined by our Book of Common Prayer.  It provides the pattern of our life in faith and worship.  And it is real easy for us to treat that book like Holy Writ, never to be changed, never to be interpreted in any way other than the way it was by our predecessors.  If we are not careful we will be permanently turned towards the past.  And there is now new creativity there.

Creativity is a matter of weaving together what has gone before with what is available now.  It’s not easy.  Being creative never is.  It’s trial and error.  It’s an ongoing process.  That makes people uncomfortable.  But that’s an important part of creativity as well.

Let me give you an example of what I see as a great  creative response to worship space.  It combines the traditional and the new.  If you ever get the chance to visit or worship at Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral.  It draws on the architecture of a fourth-century basilica with some amazing modern touches.

philadelphia-cathedral-600-587x0

The basic form is classic church architecture but without traditional pews.  This allows all kinds of unusual options for worship.  Note the raised chancel area in the back of the photo.  The curved benches can serve as choir or for a variety of other uses.  Note the high-tech lighting that creates an almost starfield effect.  I’ve been in some fabulous churches and cathedrals.  None have affected me the way this one did.

Here’s a slightly different view, note the rectangular box on the right.  That’s a baptismal font.  One that the person being baptized can kneel in the water.  Next to it, and if memory serves, with the water able to flow from the traditional basin font into the larger font.  Again, the intersection of the ancient and the new.

CATHEDRALEVENTPHOTOS20102011a027_lg

 

Imagine if we took the same approach to our music, our worship, our liturgy, our teaching, and preaching.  Creativity is a gift of God.  Might be nice if we shared it with Him occasionally.

Just a thought.

 

A Little Heart

(A repost of some of my earlier blogging on other sites.  I am occasionally re-posting ones that I think are interesting)

I thought I’d share this story. Some folks have heard me tell it before. It began with “one of those days”. The kind of day when everything seems to go wrong. When it doesn’t matter how hard you try it stills comes out wrong in the end. I had spent the day struggling with a couple of projects that simply did not want to cooperate. None of them were complicated all were things that I had done before but they just wouldn’t play. With each passing minute, I grew more and more frustrated.Thanksgivingw I knew I could do this stuff but somehow I kept dropping the ball. The final straw was a printing job that kept getting lost in my computer. I couldn’t take it anymore! The computer was stupid. I was stupid. The world was stupid. I was incompetent. God was obviously ticked off at me and my Momma probably didn’t love me anymore too. Suddenly my printer whirred into life. This was a little startling because I hadn’t asked it to print anything! Great! Stupid piece of technological (dirty words, dirty words, dirty words) won’t work when I need it and does when I don’t! When I turned to look at the page it spat out it looked like it was blank. Looking again I realized it had printed a single symbol in the upper corner of the page.

A single heart.

I just sat there staring at it, almost afraid to touch it. It was like a direct answer to my thoughts at that moment. Of all the random symbols the printer might have kicked out it was that one. I had to laugh. I also had to say a little prayer of thanks.

Today that piece of paper still sits in my printer tray. If you dig down under all the pages that sit on the output tray you’ll find it there. It’s a reminder that God (and Mom) love me. Even on the days when I can’t get the machines to work for me. Even on the days when I think, I’m stupid and incompetent. Even on my worst days.

It’s kinda nice to have the reminder sometimes.

Peace

(Sadly that piece of paper was lost in one of our moves)

I Hope You Fail

(I am bringing back some posts from a previous blog I no longer maintain.  They are pieces that I am proud of and that I believe still have value.  This was first published in March of 2006)

It goes against everything we seem to hear about how to deal with you these days. We’re supposed to enable you and validate you and set you up to succeed. And the more I think about it the more I think you, my young brothers and sisters, are being set up for a failure of monumental proportions. I think we need to make sure that you’re given every opportunity to fall flat on your face. To auger in, to crash and burn, to have the wheels come off. In short to fail. Maybe even spectacularly.

I know, you thought I was your friend. I really am.

That’s why I want you to fail. Actually, I want you to be given the opportunity to fail. The real problem is that adults spend a lot of time and energy trying to make sure that you are given opportunities to succeed. When you were little the “circle of protection” needed to be very tight around you. Little kids don’t have any idea what can be real trouble for them so their parents and families and teachers need to watch over them pretty closely. Trouble is that a lot of adults are continuing that same process even as you grow older. While you don’t want to hear this either there is still a need for some adult supervision even for 14,15,16,17 and 18 -year-olds. If we’re really trying to prepare you to become adults capable of going out and surviving on your own we need to let you fail. And we need to let you figure your own way out of a goodly portion of those failures too. Because it’s not enough just to try and fail. You need to know that you can work your way out of it, figure out the solution and make it work.

FailwDon’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of success. I won’t kid you either, failing really stinks. It hurts and it can hurt for a long time. But it’s necessary so that you know that it’s survivable. You know what can be the strongest part of a bone? The place where it was once broken. The time is coming very quickly for you when you won’t be able to rely on Mommy or Daddy or whoever to pull you out of every problem. You’re going to find yourself out there on your own, there won’t be a convenient adult to step in and “fix” things. Yes, I know the general consensus among youth is that all these “meddling” adults are a pain and you wish they’d go away. But let’s be honest, that’s really only when things are going well, right? It’s kinda nice to have them around to take charge (and responsibility) when things go whacko, isn’t it? There have been plenty of times when I’d LOVE to have someone step in and fix up a few details for me. Trust me it doesn’t happen. The success that comes easily doesn’t feel nearly as good as the success that you know you’ve really earned.

For my fellow parents, teachers, youth ministers I need to acknowledge that we have the hardest part in all of this. We have to be willing to step back a little farther, NOT run in at the first (or second, or maybe even third) sign of trouble. Worst of all we’ll have to deal with their pain after the failure. And that is really hard. In the end, we need to remember that we really are preparing them to thrive on their own. It’s no surprise to us that it can be a cold, hard world out there. What we can do is make sure that we’re always there to help our youth figure out what went wrong, to ensure that failures don’t become too calamitous and to let them know that failure is not the end of the world. We can’t (and shouldn’t try to) prevent them from falling. We can make sure that they always have a safe place to fall. In the long run, I believe that we’ll see them succeed more often, growing more confident and able to deal with anything that life can throw at them.

So let the opportunity to fail begin.