Archive - 2015

December 31st

Continuous Partial Discernment

Sitting on the verge of 2016, I wonder what sort of year it will be. Friends are posting about the presidential election. They are reflecting on racial injustices that continue to this day. They are concerned about climate change. They are making plans for celebrations for this evening and resolutions for the coming year.

My resolution for the coming year is to seek a better understanding of what God is calling me to do. There is a specific process for this for those who believe God may be calling them to ordained priesthood in the Episcopal Church, the discernment process.

Starting in a couple weeks, I will begin meeting regularly with a small group of people who will pray with me, study scripture together, and help me seek a better understanding of what God is calling me to. I view this as a wonder gift to me, and I hope it will be a wonderful gift for them as well.

Some of my early thoughts about this have been to explore how much I can share this online as well. The Discernment Manual of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut talks about the importance of maintaining confidentiality. “What is said here stays here. It is not appropriate to tell someone else’s story.” It is extremely difficult to maintain confidentiality online, so I won’t be posting stories from my discernment committee meetings online, although I hope to share some of the insights I’ve gained and further explore these insights online.

Yet as I think about it, the discernment process I will be going through seems limited in several ways. It is focused on people seeking discernment about becoming ordained priests. Yet we all should be seeking discernment. It takes place for a couple hours every other week, over a period of several months. Yet it seems we should all be seeking discernment constantly; praying without ceasing.

How do we do this, as we also pay attention to what is going on around us, like paying attention to the cars around us as we drive? It seems the idea of continuous partial attention by Linda Stone.

To pay continuous partial attention is to pay partial attention — CONTINUOUSLY. It is motivated by a desire to be a LIVE node on the network. Another way of saying this is that we want to connect and be connected.

How do we connect with God, and God’s creatures around us? Is that what we are doing when we scan through our social media feeds? What do we do with our feelings of outrage, compassion, awe, or gratitude? Are we seeking to discern how best to react?

My daughter who is building a tiny house talks about her goal of reconnecting art to daily life. I think this is part of continuous partial discernment. We need to recognize, create, and share art, things that are beautiful, things that have meaning. We need to have outrage at injustice and oppression, and seek discernment on how we can best address such injustice and oppression. Is it enough to click like? To share a link? To donate to a cause? What are we called to do?

How do we seek continuous partial discernment in the twenty first century?

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December 29th

The Labyrinth

A cold rain blows
across the labyrinth
on a hill
on Block Island
as I kneel down
to touch the pebbles;
of hopes and dreams
of earlier

That he might see me.
That I might find the courage
to say, “Hi.”
For our life together.
That we might find a home.
For my job, my career.
For the life growing
inside my womb.
That he might conquer his addiction.
That she beats the cancer.
For a better world.
That my life
might have true meaning.
That her final days
might be peaceful,
and pain free.
For those that mourn.

I kneel down
and touch the pebbles,
as I search for my own hope
my own desires.

To help others
reach theirs.

December 27th

The Singularity

The folk of birds
flew in tight formation
as it they were one being
made of many
and I thought
the singularity
is already here
made of many.

The flock of Facebook,
Fox News,
has evolved
beyond comprehension
through the use
of new technologies,
while we
the nodes
have evolved

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December 26th

The Mangers of Our Lives

Earlier today, Kim asked me if I was writing my Christmas blog post. I’ve been struggling with whether to write such a blog post, and if I do, what I would write. Perhaps, I’ve already written my Christmas blog post at work, Nicholas and Isaac.

Kim always seems to want some sort of affirmative blog post around special days, talking about what a wonderful wife she is, what a great cook she is, and so on. She is all that and so much more. She especially looks for these posts at Christmas, a time which has always been magical for her, but difficult for me.

There are traditions about Christmas that are important to me. Cutting down a fir tree for Christmas with my daughters, preferable balsam, inspired by The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree, which I read to my daughters when they were little. A Christmas Goose, a tradition from my early days as a parent. Hanukkah Geld, a tradition from my childhood, that I’m not even sure how it started.

Unfortunately, the past few years have seen the tradition of the complicated Christmas with my older daughters off on their own. It has been further complicated by illness and car troubles making the shopping all the more difficult.

This year, Kim and Fiona picked a precut blue spruce on their own. We are having duck instead of goose, and there was no Hanukkah geld. It is the Christmas of transition. Fiona is hoping that next year, she will be coming home from school in a different state to join us for the holidays. I am expecting big changes as I explore more deeply religious aspects of my life.

Yet Christmas is for everyone. It isn’t just for those who had magical Christmases as children. It isn’t just for those who share our beliefs, be they political or religious beliefs. On one Facebook page, people discussed where a certain presidential candidate whose words and actions seem very far from their views about what Jesus is calling us to do, would be spending Christmas Eve.

I tried not to be judgmental and posted,

Praying for everyone who comes to church on this most holy evening, that they may have life changing experiences of our God Incarnate leading to amendment of life and showing forth God's love throughout the coming year.

For me, some of the important parts of Christmas Eve was chatting with some of my homeless friends who gather near my office at work. It was donating to an organization that helps refugees as my present to Kim.

At Church, our priest Amanda talked about the shepherds, about people not ready for the coming of God Incarnate. It seems like none of us are ever really ready for Christmas, but it happens anyway.

Kim was going to get me Leaving Church, by Barbara Brown Taylor, a book that it has almost become a cliché to give to people exploring the priesthood. She couldn’t easily get a copy and got me Learning to Walk in the Dark instead, also by Barbara Brown Taylor.

It starts with “Come inside now, it’s getting dark”. A phrase Barbara Brown Taylor often heard as a child, telegraphing concern about the dangers lurking in the darkness. I thought of my childhood, hearing a similar phase, and reluctantly leaving the magical time of dusk.

It makes me think of William Styron’s Darkness Visible about his struggles with depression. It makes me think of the Dark Night of the Soul. This whole process makes me think of what a friend posted on Facebook a few days ago

It's often frustrating to be a saint-in-process. Why does it take so long for maturity, for transformation, for developing more of the elusive fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, and the rest. Jeff Peabody has a helpful thought: Jesus becoming a baby automatically put God's seal of approval on a slow process. It was quite a while from birth to baptism to beginning his ministry. Something to ponder this Christmas season.

This struggle comes to mind as I read a couple Facebook posts from a friend whose baby died this summer. All of the happy pictures of families celebrating together was difficult and she posted about Jesus coming for the bereft and outcasts. Later, she apologized for her bitterness and anger, and everyone was quick to tell her no apologies were needed.

Jesus did come for the bereft and outcasts. He came for the presidential candidates making their show of going to church on Christmas Eve. He came for those who had magical childhood Christmases. He came for those who had disappointing childhood Christmases. He came for those posting happy family pictures on Facebook and for those at the homeless shelter on Christmas Eve. He came for those in the midst of deep grief. He came for those who waited in eager anticipation, for those keeping a Holy Advent, and for those completely unprepared.

The Christmas message from the Diocese had a line that particularly jumped out at me.

the good news is that God in Jesus, born again in the mangers of our lives, is the Messiah, the Lord.

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December 25th

The Rhizome - Perhaps 2016

As I work on my computer, I often leave tabs open of websites I’ve visited and want to come back to. Every few days, it grows to a large list of tabs and I save them all in various word documents with, perhaps a few words about why I had the tab open, and how it related to other tabs.

Earlier this year, I participated in a connectivist MOOC which resulted in me having more such windows open. Sometimes, I’d gather the materials into a blog post. Other times, they’d just remain in my notes. The links would be not just to some blog post or other website, but posts shared or written by people I was connecting with. Perhaps I was commenting on what they were writing, or they were commenting on what I was writing. I tried being more deliberative about this during Digital Writing Month, but didn’t manage to sustain it.

I also participated in various poetry classes offered through Harvard’s MOOC. It had a nice annotation tool for annotating a poem, tagging it various ways, and commenting. You could see what the other students were tagging and saying as well.

I’ve looked for some sort of bookmarking tool that could pull all of this together. Something that a group could share. Something that you could show the links, between the pages, the writers, and various ideas. Something that people could comment on parts of an article or story. I’ve kicked around various tools. None really seem to do what I want and I haven’t been able to build a community around any of the incomplete tools.

A recent post on Facebook made me think again about the search for a good tool like this. A friend shared’s annotations of the first part of Finnegan’s Wake. The annotations are full of links to Samuel Beckett, Vladimir Nabokov, and Kate Bush.

The Kate Bush music video reminded me of a game we play in our family called YouTube Riff Off. One person plays a music video and the next person then plays some other music video that they connect with the first video. It can create an interesting series of music videos. For example, Southern Man, by Neil Young, followed by Sweet Home Alabama, by Lynyrd Skynyrd, (Well, I hope Neil Young will remember A southern man don't need him around anyhow) to All Summer Long by Kid Rock (Singing Sweet home Alabama all summer long).

Perhaps I will share some of my collections of links, and comments on them here on my blog. Perhaps I’ll do something similar for sequences from our family YouTube Riff Offs. Perhaps, I’ll find a tool better suited for this. Perhaps I’ll get others to join in. Perhaps, it will tie into my journey for the coming year.


2016 comes with so much potential.

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