Writing Notes

It has been a difficult few weeks. There is so much I need to write about, and so little time. So, I’ll put down some of the thoughts here, and perhaps find time later to come back and explore them.

Recently, I downloaded the poetry of George Herbert, John Keats, Robert Browning, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow from Librivox onto a USB stick that I’ve been listening to during my commute. There is so much to write about there.

I should probably do a blog post just on the Herbert Poems. One of which is “Love Bade me Welcome”. For me it harkens back to the poetry conference at Yale Divinity School a little over a year ago, which was a very important event for me. It also makes me think of the hymn, “Oh love that will not let me go” which in many ways has been carrying me for the past few days.

Another poem by George Herbert I’ve been listening to is Mary Magdalene. It mixes together in my mind with “I don’t know how to love him” sung by the character of Mary Magdalene in Jesus Christ, Superstar. All of this set against the month of May and the celebration of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Queen of May.

Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday of last week were Ember Days, a time in which postulants to the priest hood write letters to their bishops talking about their spiritual journey. There’s a lot of blog material there as well.

Next week, the Ministry Networks of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut will be gathering at The Commons, and I have a blog post I need to get done for that as soon as possible.

Also, my ex-mother-in-law passed away the other night. One of my daughters wrote about the passing of her grandmother. I remember years ago taking a class in grief and talking about complex, ambiguous, and disenfranchised grief. There’s a lot to write about there as well.

Running through all of this is my own emotional state, how it relates to my faith, how it relates to my family, how it relates to people I try to care for and how it relates to people trying to care for me. And, there’s poetry that needs to be written.

There’s a lot to write about.

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Prioritizing Self-Care in a World of Continuous Partial Attention

The past several weeks have been especially challenging for me. I had two root canals. Fortunately, my kidney stone hasn’t been acting up. My wife started a new job. The pressures in my own job have been overwhelming and even working late hours, I haven’t been able to keep up with the demands. I’m told that if I would just prioritize, everything would be fine. Meanwhile, I try to tune out as much of the bad online news as I can, but it is still there, constantly.

I had to give up my efforts to write a poem a day. I’ve fallen hopelessly behind in an online class I’ve been taking and in a book study group. Another online class that I’ve been looking forward to has just started and I fear I won’t be able to participate at all. There are numerous important blog posts, at least important in my mind for me to write, that are languishing. All of this, as I try to figure out what happens next in my life.

I need to find some time to take care of myself. I find some of that in going to a poetry group I’m part of on Saturday mornings. I made it there this morning after having missed several gatherings. I find some of this in trying to help those around me, the homeless men I talk with, if I’m not in too much of a rush when I step out of my office. I’ve been wanting to help with a community dinner our church puts on, but have rarely gotten a chance to go to.

Last night, I wrapped up things at the office with enough time to only be about fifteen minutes late for the community dinner. My daughter was horseback riding and she and my wife would be home late, so it looked like a good opportunity to stop by and help. Between the dinner and meetings at work, I was offline for about six hours.

To some people, being offline for six hours might not sound like much, but my job is social media. I am always online, always connected. Linda Stone described it well in her 1998 paper, Continuous Partial Attention. She described it as being “a LIVE node on the network”. When a node on the network goes offline for any period of time it causes problems. A redundant or resilient network manages to find ways to adapt, but it causes stresses.

Last night multiple people were angry at me for being offline for being unavailable to them. They said hurtful things to me. In one case I lashed back and said hurtful things in response, which I’m sorry about.

So, I have gone offline again this afternoon. I am spending time praying, thinking, and writing. I may go back online briefly to post this, perhaps to post something about the event I’m supposed to go to this evening or about church in the morning, but I’m likely to remain offline as much as I can until my work calls me back online. I am trying to prioritize self-care in this age of continuous partial attention.

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Whom do you Worship?

to the General Conference
of the United Methodists
and following along
on social media
this week
before Trinity Sunday
I wonder
“Whom do you worship?”

the elephant in the room
is human sexuality
and like the elephant
described by blind men
it sounds very different
on which part of the body
they are touching.

What does our sexuality,
whatever our orientation
or identity may be,
separate us from?
Does it separate us
from God
from our church
from others
and is it our sexuality
or the reaction of others
that does the separating?

Can anything separate us
from the Love of God
which is in Christ Jesus?

Today as I listen
to the General Conference
I wonder,
“What do the delegates worship?”
The past?
The future?
Parliamentary procedures?
Tweets or Facebook posts?

How do we understand
The Trinity?
The Three in One?
Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer?
How do we understand
all love divine
and the peace that passes
all understanding?

How do we show that love
to those we find incompatible
or that find us incompatible?



Yesterday was a long day, starting off with a root canal, followed by a busy day at work, and then stopping by at a Vestry meeting to talk about changes going on in the Episcopal Church in Connecticut. Underlying all of this was the ongoing drama of the United Methodist Church General Conference, where they are struggling with the role of LGBTQ people in the church. At the same time, I am preparing for my final discernment committee meeting where we will be talking about Obedience.

Recently, it has been a struggle to keep up on the various online classes I’m taking, get a poem written every day and find enough time for other writing, family time, prayer, sleep, and exercise. At different times, I have been needing to let one or another slip, and have sought to juggle things as best as I could, as obediently as I could.

In the discernment manual, the section on obedience starts off

The word obedience derives from the Latin word to “hear or listen deeply.” How are the words “obedience” and “listen” related in his or her life?

Who or what are you listening to? It feels like in much of the discussion around LGBTQ people in the Methodist Church, there is very little listening. If there is listening, it is to people with shared opinions, and not people with other opinions, and, I dare say, not to the Holy Spirit, or to the still small voice of God.

As I listen to the proceedings of the UMCGC online, and read the social media accounts, I wonder, where is God in all of this? There are times that one person or another talks about praying for General Conference and the United Methodist Church, but it sounds like an afterthought or an effort to rally supporters to one’s side. Instead, the focus seems to be on voting, and parliamentary procedures designed at getting one’s own way, and not seeking God’s way.

It feels like I am reading one of the Old Testament lessons where God says to a prophet, the people of Israel have abandoned my way, and a prophet is needed. Let me be clear, I am not talking about whether homosexuality is right or wrong, or even, really, about whether LGBTQ people should be allowed to marry or be ordained. I am talking about the underlying issues of praying and listening to God. I am talking about loving the Lord with one’s whole heart and one’s neighbor as oneself.

At vestry, we talked about the diocesan mission committee, about the regional convocations and the ministry network convocation, about ministry networks, and about how it feels like the process of selecting leaders is moving away from a worship of legislative procedures back to worshiping God and trying to listen to God.

I am excited about what is going on in the Episcopal Church in Connecticut. I am grieved by what is going at the United Methodist Church’s General Conference. As I keep praying about it, I think about the Great Awakenings. I think about them, not in terms of the fire and brimstone preaching, but in the social justice they brought. I think about people being drawn to God who had not been accepted as equals, about people of color and women.

What we need now is another great awakening, one that calls for repentance of the sin of not loving our neighbor as ourselves, one that brings in, instead of excludes, those whom the self-righteous think are incompatible with Christianity.

I think the seeds of such an awakening is there, are sprouting and starting to grow, and I pray the whole church, my Methodist friends, my Episcopal friends, my friends in other denominations, those who are different from me in their beliefs and lifestyles, whom I have not gotten to know, whom I have not listened to, who love God deeply in ways I do not yet understand.

Moral Decline

She longed for the days when
June Cleaver delivered moral lessons
to Beaver
when she wasn’t doing her needlepoint.

She knew that shopping was good for the economy
even though she didn’t like
the way her husband
paid attention
to some of the new car
with scantily dressed women.

She longed for the days when
the economy was strong
and the only threat
was the Godless Communists.

Now, it seemed, everything was Godless.

It was so much easier when
White boys in the suburbs would be boys
Black boys in the cities would be thugs,
and the girls who got in trouble
got what they deserved
and didn’t get abortions.

Now, it’s all mixed up
“Girls will be boys, and boys will be girls.”
and the President is black.

It was so much easier when
you could simply tell right from wrong.

Now, people are telling her
that she’s supposed to care
for people different from her.
What if someone
found her darkest secrets?

That’s not even safe,
is it?

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