Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Thoughts about...A process?

My office has serious mood swings.

Not me mind you but the office itself.

I go from reasonably orderly to disaster then back again. (Of course it does all this without any input from me naturally!) There are two primary problems for me when things get a total disaster. First I find it very depressing to try and get any work done. Second I know that I can't find everything that I have. In fact I'll be lucky if I remember everything I have because I haven't seen it in so long!

All of this comes up this time because the office is a disaster and I'm looking at being moved to a different office. Which means I have to pack and move. And I don't want to have to pack and move things that as I unpack them I'll think "This is junk, why did I keep this?". So I've been trying to bring some order.

Along the way I came across a piece I wrote at a seminar of some kind in the last year or so. I remember vaguely being asked to describe the process of my work. As I re-read it I realize that I haven't made much in the way of changes from then. It still rings true to me. And perhaps to you as well. So I'm sharing it here:

What is the process? More importantly am I looking for THE process or A process? In my heart I believe that it is A process, specifically MY process. My mind keeps casting for a definitive process, the surefire, can't miss way that will allow me to produce from moment one. Of course the ongoing search allows me to delay the beginning of any project. The question arises that if I allow myself to delay past the point of no return (defined as the point when I am no longer capable of beginning) can I live with the "what-ifs"? It strikes me that I begin too many things without finishing them, fiddle with too many things without discovering if I could master them. My life is already dominated by too many projects that didn't so much end as they just stopped. Too many ideas never explored. Too many opportunities never pursued.

So I think the question answers itself. I must begin a process, some process, perhaps even ANY process. Beyond that I think I need to focus that process on projects that already exist. There the process can be fine tuned on ideas that already have some form. This can help me succeed, grow confident and prepare me for the totally new future projects. The siren's song calling me to newer, more alluring concepts must be resisted. It is one thing to take notes in preparation for the "next" but it cannot seduce my attention away from the "now"."

I have projects that I began six years ago that aren't finished yet. I have projects sitting on my desk that need to be done now that languished while I wrote this post. I have notes from meetings going back several years that have ideas I wanted to remember lying in a pile of torn pages.

The work day is almost over. I have two more days this week to be constructive.

What is my process?

The day after I wrote this I found myself spending a fair bit of time on "new projects". I pulled up short, went back to my to do list (which is part of my process) and worked on some things that had been sitting there for a while. Those meeting notes? Sorted sifted and consolidated into usable form! Three items completely finished on the list and two more with serious dents in them! Hallelujah! Whoops, it's lent I'm not supposed to say that, lol.


Thoughts on Ash Wednesday

I'm walking around with whatever is left of my Ash Wednesday smudge. I went to the 12:05 service here at the church. I like the Ash Wednesday service because it's a good start for Lent for me. Gets my brain headed in the right direction.

But as I sat in the pew listening to the reading from Matthew I started to think about the smudge. There's a discussion in some circles about whether we should let our ash mark stay on our foreheads after we leave the service. Traditionally you leave it there till it washes (or wears) off. In fact it's considered rather bad form in some places to even accidentally erase it before the day is over.

On the other hand Jesus tells us NOT to make a show of our prayer and alms giving (Mother Susan pointed out the interesting "dispute" between the Gospel reading and the reading in Joel which call on us to sound the horn and make a public display of our fasting). Let's face it you stand out in a crowd these days if you have a smudge on your forehead, people notice. Then you have to explain. My favorites are the people who feel the need to clean it off for you. Hands to yourself, please.

So upon further consideration of the Gospel I've decided to keep my smudge and let it go it's own road. I haven't looked but in the two hours since the service it may already be gone. I'm keeping it as an intentional sign of this specific day. My goal is to always wear my faith invisibly. Not because I'm ashamed of it but in line with Christ's teaching in today's Gospel. If I'm living my life right my faith should be evident to those who know what to look for. I don't believe that a life in faith (or patriotism for that matter) require big showy demonstrations. If I carry the cross in my heart why do I need it on my lapel? I don't need to carry my smudge with me all the time. Today however is a special day. A day that deserves, in my opinion, a slightly different attitude.

Today I'll carry my outward and visible sign. Not because I want everyone to know how pious I am, or what a good Christian I am. I'll carry it to remind myself of the challenges I still face, the brokenness I still live with and the grace that is offered to me.

I hope you have a blessed Lent.


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

All right if I don't blog soon I'll never catch up

It's been a busy couple of weeks here and I'm very much behind. So let me bring a quick update version of what's been going on:

Snow Lots and lots. Not in the same league as the folks in Oswego NY (where they are well past the 100 inch mark over the last, oh three weeks or so. Yes, 100 inches. And most of it inside a week's time. That's SNOW, baby!). We've had a lot of snow, as in several feet of the bothersome white stuff. As in I've run out of places for my snowblower to blow it. Eventually the piles get so high it just hits the side and then slithers back down into the drive way. Add the fact that my snow blower had its fuel line freeze and decided to throw a drive belt. Over and over and over. Temps are finally warming up and we should see some meltage soon.

Electrical problems We live in an all electric house. So when a baseboard heater in the kitchen and the water heater go within hours of one another it's a problem. Through various obstacles it took something like 9 days to get the electrician in to fix it all. No hot water while you're going through an exceptionally cold spell is no fun at all. I showered at the YMCA. But all is well now.

My birthday I turned 49. I got bifocals. Need I say more?

Add in several visits for youth ministry (oh yeah, THAT stuff) a trip to see the daughter in a one act play (had to drive back through white outs. What is it with the weather and her shows?!?!?!?), oh and just plain old life (my lady wife whacked the sideview mirror on her car and left it hanging by its cable. Thank God for our wonderful mechanic) it's been busy.

My office is at my home parish, rather than at D House and they've decided it's time to do some juggling of office space. I will take whatever they choose to give me because this congregation has been a wonderful support system for my ministry. In the end I'll have to accept...a LARGER office! I'll have a sometime roomie but as she's one of my favorite deacons in the whole wide world (I even liked her BEFORE she ascended to the diaconate!) that's not a real hard pill to swallow. Plus she's virtually NEVER in the office. Perfect roommate. When everyone else got what they needed the last office left is at the other end of my hall and is easily twice the size of this one. How small is my office? My rector refers to it as "Jay's closet". I can certainly use the space. It will feel weird to be somewhere else after 6+ years.

So there you go. I'm caught up. Time to go eat some Pancakes on this Mardi Gras!


Thursday, February 15, 2007

Ok it's utterly pathetic that I would be gone this long and come back with this as my first post. Let me say that it's been a very busy time with lots of things I want to share but I'm completely overloaded and I saw this on Marko's blog. I've always liked Spidey so I'm cool with this. I also liked Green Lantern so even my #2 is cool. Yes I was a fairly major comics geek growing up. Fantastic Four, Spiderman, Batman, Iron Man and the like.

I promise more posts soon.

Your results:
You are Spider-Man

Green Lantern
Iron Man
The Flash
Wonder Woman
You are intelligent, witty,
a bit geeky and have great
power and responsibility.

Click here to take the "Which Superhero are you?" quiz...

Monday, February 05, 2007

Follow up

I went back this morning and looked at those comments again.

Dungy doesn't say that he and Smith were the "first" but it is said in context with comments about them being African American head coaches. They are the first two black head coaches to reach this level.

(edit : Here's the quote in full for clarity's sake: "I'm proud to be the first African-American coach to win this," Dungy said during the trophy ceremony. "But again, more than anything, Lovie Smith and I are not only African-American but also Christian coaches, showing you can do it the Lord's way. We're more proud of that."

But even without the use of the word first what is Dungy saying when he says that they showed that " can do it the Lord's way"? I think the implication is clear that this is something new for the Super Bowl, that no previous coach had done it the "Lord's way".

That smacks of a peculiar kind of arrogance. The arrogance of knowing the hearts of EVERY other head coach, nearly 80 men. The arrogance of saying that the Lord didn't bless any other way of coaching. God made Vince Lombardi. Who are we to say that Vince (a devout Catholic if memory serves) was not coaching as God intended him to coach? Would he not then be doing it the "Lord's way"?

I've never met Coach Dungy. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING I've heard about him speaks to his class, his humbleness and intelligence. So the assumption should probably be that the way I heard it was NOT the way he intended it.

Yet I feel the need to keep writing about it. Why? Because it bothers me that there is growing in our faith a need, it seems nearly to be an imperative, to flag wave our faith in everyone's face. Despite the fact that we are warned specifically AGAINST doing just that in the Gospels. Tony and Lovie's faith is well known. It's effect on their coaching styles (these two are pretty much the anti-Lombardis in coaching style) is also well known. Shouldn't that be enough? Live your life in faith, show the world how a person of faith lives, let them marvel at the peace and justice and mercy and love that characterize your life. Know that your reward is coming from God.

Pointing out your faith, making comparisons of your faith to others smacks of spiritual jersey popping. By your fruits shall they know you. Make sure your actions speak loudly enough that it doesn't require words.


Sunday, February 04, 2007

Now back to real life...

Well it's over for another year.

The Super Bowl that is. Colts win. Peyton Manning can finally tell his critics to shut up.

I didn't really care which team won. So I could be happy either way.

Then the post game show rolled around. And Tony Dungy spoke. Tony, the former Pittsburgh Steeler. The quiet, classy, intelligent head coach of the Indianapolis Colts.

Did I really hear him say that he and Lovie Smith the Bear head coach were the first Christian head coaches at the Super Bowl?

Please tell me I heard him wrong. None of the previous coaches were Christians? Really?

Please tell me I heard him wrong.

This kind of thing always amazes me. Right along with the folks who are positive that God has favorites in sporting events. I believe that God gave as much support to the Bears as the Colts. Same for every other team in the league. He gave all those athletes and coaches talents and then expects them to use them. As long as they do the best they can with their talents I believe God is pleased.

I don't think God gives a hot patootie over who wins. Never has. Never will.

All too often we seem to miss the point of what God wants from us and what he wants to give us.

A theology that says God loves winners, God chooses winners, God blesses winners more than anyone else is one that is in direct contradiction of the Gospels. Jesus turned away the rich and powerful and raised up the poor and powerless. Not that He doesn't love the rich and powerful just that he expects more of them. And very often that doesn't match their plans.


Thursday, February 01, 2007

Stupidity as a lifestyle

"Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son." - Animal House 1978

It may be the greatest line from one of the ultimate American icon films. And yet no one seems to give it the tiniest bit of thought.

Fact is that here in these Yew-nited States we have made stupidity a lifestyle choice. Before you bury me in an avalanche of e-mails claiming that I don't love America please understand what I'm saying.

I am NOT saying that all or even most Americans are stupid, act stupid, think stupidly or have chosen to be stupid as a lifestyle.

We are however choosing to allow stupidity to become an accepted and acceptable way of going through life. Yes, we live in a free country and I will defend to my death the right for someone to choose to be stupid within the normal boundaries of our society.

I just don't see why we don't call being stupid, being stupid.

So what brings this to mind? Two items. One trivial the other serious.

First the trivial - Media day at the Super Bowl. This event now draws something around 5,000 "media" folks to interview the players, coaches and anyone else related to the Super Bowl teams. The vast majority of those folks are regular sports and culture reporters who are covering what is one of the central cultural events of our nation. Then there's the idiot who would ask the players if they knew the show "American Idol" and would they sing a song for him. This is part of who new range of "entertainers" who specialize in being stupid for a living. The only thing I find more disturbing than the existence of people who want to do this kind of stuff is the undeniable FACT that there are people who find this amusing.

If this is you think about this:

You like to laugh at stupid people. This is a form of entertainment for you.

Nice, very nice.

The second item is more serious.

Turner Broadcastings Cartoon Network put the entire city of Boston on edge yesterday by a really STUPID publicity stunt. (Story)

Quite simply they created 10 boxes,described as "...encased in dark plastic, consisted of blinking lights wired to an electronic circuit board..." and then left them on bridges and other public places.

To the surprise of only the idiots at Cartoon Network apparently, these set off traffic shutdowns and police mobilizations since people assumed they were bombs. Commuter trains were stopped, the Coast Guard shut down the Charles River, and the bomb squad had to be called in.

I want you to imagine the meeting where this was proposed and everyone there nodding their heads in agreement. "Great idea, we should do it". Black boxes with blinking lights left near medical centers, bridges and other public places.

Post 9/11.
During a war where IEDs, Improvised Explosive Devices, are a prominent feature. Boxes left on bridges and roadways or near buildings.

Stupid. No. STUPID.

Stupid is on the rise because we've come to believe that we're not responsible for the end result if that's not what we intended to happen. It doesn't matter how stupid we act or what stupidity rolls out of our mouths, as long as we were "just having fun". "I didn't mean to", "it was just a joke" "oh lighten up".

Sorry stupid is stupid. It shouldn't be encouraged. It should never have any appearance of acceptability. You ARE responsible for what you say and do. You are responsible for any reasonably expected outcome of those words or actions. You have every right to be stupid. I have every right to point that out and refuse to accept your stupidity.

Stupidity. Just say no.