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 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

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.

Creativity – Stay On the Bus!

It’s an interesting question.  If everything has been done before, if there are no new ideas, then why should I keep trying to create something?  I don’t believe that I am fated or gifted to be “the greatest of all time” as a writer or photographer or cook or whatever.  So if my work will always be less than the best, why bother?

creativity-illo-2I would say this is a very American way of thinking.  We are the land of “Second place is first loser”.  That may sound tough and dedicated and success oriented.  In fact, I would contend that it’s asinine.  Because at it’s best it’s an argument for active mediocrity (why bother trying to be good?) and at worst, it’s an excuse to simply quit (why bother?).

Creativity isn’t a competition, with  a single exception.  If you want to be creative so you can be the greatest of all time the odds say you are going to fail.  Which means you will gain no joy from what you are doing.  Creativity dies in the absence of joy.  So do what brings you joy.  The only competition is with yourself.  Are you growing in your creative endeavors?  Are you using your gifts to their fullest?  That’s winning when it comes to creativity.

With that in mind, I really liked this post by James Clear, “Stay on the Bus – The Proven Path to Unique and Meaningful Work“.  Clear writes an e-mail with tips on the habits and methods of successful people in many areas of interest.  What really struck me is the 2004 commencement speech by Arno Rafael Minkkinen.  The Finnish photographer spoke about his “Helsinki Bus Station Theory”.  In short he says to simply keep doing what you want to do.  Look for opportunities along the way, rather than looping back to search for that something “special” that only you can do.  Clear makes some additional good points afterward, especially about the “10,000 hour rule”, which is often misunderstood.  The post isn’t long and well worth the read.

Creativity leads your forward, not backwards.  Forward to the best you that you can be.  Forward to the fullest expression of your gifts.  Forward to the simple joy of creativity.

Create what brings you joy.

My Hugging Dilemma

(A repost of some of my earlier blogging on other sites.  I am occassionally re-posting ones that I think are interesting.  Originally posted February 6, 2009)

(I still struggle with this – 2015)

Today is National Hug an Episcopalian Day.

Having hugged my favorite Episcopalian, my lady wife, I feel I have filled my quota.

Of course there is that other thing.

HugIt’s really rather embarrassing.

But here goes…

I’m not a natural hugger.

Which is NOT to say I’m some kind of UN-natural hugger.

Oh dear, this does get complicated doesn’t it?

Let me try again.

I am a relatively shy person who grew up in a house where we were not real physically demonstrative. So hugging doesn’t come easily for me.

Now at this point some of you are thinking “Well then great googly moogly son just don’t hug! It’s not like there’s a law requiring it. Heck, some of us would prefer that all this hugging nonsense toned itself down anyway”

But you see you miss the point.

I LIKE hugs.

The problem you get into is the whole “Do I know you well enough?” and “Are you one of those anti-hug people?” and “Oh my God,I’m going to mess this all up!” and “Is this too long a hug, is this too short a hug, am I offending them?” stuff.

Maybe you don’t want to be hugged cause you don’t like hugging.

Maybe you don’t want to be hugged cause you don’t like ME.

Maybe you would love to have a hug but wonder why I seem to be rather reluctant and what does THAT mean?

(Bet you never knew that hugging was so complicated, did you?)

I envy folks who can just hug the stuffing out of life.

I’ve gotten better over the years. Most of my best friends, male and female, seem to be into giving me (and getting) a big hug. My brothers still hug a little awkwardly but we hug. My youth are big huggers. I don’t have to do much, just wait for it from them. My bishop is a BIG hugger. You meet my bish, you’re gonna get hugged.

There was a great moment late last year in my hugging history. A male adult leader that I was just getting to know better was at a meeting with me (and a bunch of other folks). At the end I was caught in my hugging dilemma and stuck out my hand to shake hands as we left. He looked right at me and said:

“I prefer a hug”

Now I know exactly where I stand with him.

And that’s SO cool!

So I’m willing to practice my hugging with willing partners. (I’ll shake hands with anyone else. Heck, I’m easy) Just let me know.

(((HUG)))

Peace

What Would You Do?

 Courtesy of the Virginia Lottery

Courtesy of the Virginia Lottery

We all know it’s a fantasy.  I mean look at those odds.  But eventually someone (or more) IS going to win.  With a little bit of luck it could be me.  Or you.  Heck with this much money, I’ll share.  Just did some quick math and it appears that if I divided it up with every member of my high school graduating class we would each get about 4.7 million each (before taxes).  I’m thinking we would all accept that.

The Richland class of 1976 shouldn’t be counting on me being that generous.  Just saying.  Buy your own.  🙂

None of that stops us from dreaming.

What would you do?

This has been a pastime of many years in my family.  We’ve got a plan.

  • Pay off debts.  Not going to wait.  Fix that problem first.
  • A couple new cars.
  • Line up a trustworthy investment counselor.  And a good attorney.
  • Get an unlisted phone number.  Or maybe just drop that phone all together.
  • Start looking for a house.

After that we have some organizations and charities that would get checks.  Just in case, I think I’ll keep that list to myself.  At the top of the list are organizations with which we have some personal connection.  Quietly help family and friends who are need (knowing that we need to tread softly here).

Then we get the money working for us.  And we travel.  Sure, there are some toys we’d buy.  Computers, cameras, new bicycle, things like that.  The reality is that we are not solid gold faucet types of people.  I have no desire to own a Ferrari or Lamborghini.  If I want to drive one I can fly to Las Vegas and rent one for a couple of hours.  So the list of toys wouldn’t even dent this kind of money.

The reality is that there will be a hundred issues we haven’t even considered.  But I’m willing to deal with those as they come.

We would have to take a look at continuing to work.  I like my job so I’m not in a big hurry.  It would be nice not to have to worry about the day-to-day financial kind of issue.

In the meantime, I’ll keep doing my stuff.

But why not dream?