The priest stepped up to the pulpit, motioned to the congregation to sit down, looked around, paused, and then said something like,
“I’m sorry. I just want to tell you how happy I am to see everyone here today.”
What prompted this comment? Was it a prepared part of the sermon, illustrating the text for the day? Was it a spontaneous remark prompted by seeing several people we have been praying for or by seeing people returning with the school year after a long summer? It could have been any of these things. To me, it felt like the Holy Spirit coming and providing words that fit all of these and more.
"what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, `Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.' Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."
I am a writer and at times a photographer. I try to capture those little revealing moments that too often pass unobserved; the poem about something seen alongside the road, the candid photograph that captures the essence of the whole event. That little phrase at the beginning of the sermon seemed exactly like that.
I remember years ago learning about negative space, the space around an object. I learned about John Cage’s 4’33”, four minutes and thirty three seconds of listening to the sounds that take place around a musical performance.
“I’m sorry. I just want to tell you how happy I am to see everyone here today.” is part of that space around the Eucharist. The smiles shared between two people on the prayer list as they knelt at the altar waiting to receive communion is part of that space.
Like the friends of the woman who lost, and then found a silver coin, we were all invited to gather and celebrate. We call that celebration the Eucharist. To an outsider, the fair seems a bit meager; a small piece of bread and a sip of some wine. Yet to those of us close to the person throwing the party, it is the most precious gift we can receive, the body of Christ, the bread of heaven, the blood of Christ, the cup of salvation.
At the end of the celebration, we carry that spirit out into the world around us, reminded to tell those we meet, how happy we are to see them, a happiness given to us by God, a happiness reflecting God’s happiness at each person who stops, even for a moment, to experience even just a small amount of God’s love for us.
At Christmas time for the past couple years, I have been Santa to the children that come to the health center where I work. Some chlidren eagerly rush to see me. Others are shy and I beckon to them. I wave. I smile. When they approach, I tell them how happy I am to see them, how I have been waiting for them to come. Perhaps I am reflecting much more than Santa in these words. Perhaps I am reflecting the life of Saint Nicholas upon whom Santa is based. Perhaps I am sharing a little of the love from my Lord, from the Lord of St. Nicholas, and passing it on to the children that come.
As I sat in the pew, I was happy to be there. It had been a very long week for me and I expect the coming week to also be very long, but hopefully for different reasons. It was great to hear that someone was happy to see me, and I remember how much I need to remind people that I am happy to see them.
“I’m sorry. I just want to tell you how happy I am to see everyone here today.”
Earlier this week, my daughter Miranda wrote a reflection on 9/11. In it, she wrote,
I don’t know how I avoided it, but I’ve realized in the years since that I never saw the news footage from the tragedy, at least not directly. Despite living in Stamford, CT, a mere fifty miles from the city, the event was distant and removed. My parents, my friends, my teachers, they all knew people in New York that day, but no one I was close to had lost anyone.
It is interesting the read the reflections of someone who was eight years old when it happened, especially when you helped shape their experience. I promised her that I would write my own reflections, so here they are.
Her mother Amy and I had been divorced for a year or two when the attack happened. I had remarried and my new wife, Kim, was eight months pregnant. I had lost my full time job at a hedge fund and was doing various consulting on Wall Street. On September 11th, I was at home. I was reading things online and participating in a text based virtual world called LambdaMOO. There was a typical group of people hanging out in one of the chat rooms.
Kim had just finished her obstetrician’s appointment and was in the waiting room, making her next appointment and saw on the television in the waiting room the CNN coverage from when the first plane hit the twin towers. She called me up and told me to turn on the television. At the time, much of the commentary was about the size of the plane and questioning how this could have happened, some sort of accident or equipment malfunction. A similar discussion emerged in the chat room.
We stayed on the phone with one another, watching, as the second plane hit the twin towers. This time, it seemed clear that it was a commercial airliner and this was a deliberate attack. Online, people started talking about the Pentagon and about the military taking to the streets of Washington DC. There was a lot of fear and confusion. Kim came home and we watched the story unfold. We talked about what we should do.
I reached out to friends in New York to make sure they were alright. We all have those stories of friends who were running late for work or had an appointment elsewhere and were not at the twin towers when the attack happened. An old boss of mine was supposed to be there but he was chronically late for everything and so he was standing at the bus stop when the attack happened.
We received an email from the schools our daughters were at. They were continuing through the school day with a normal dismissal. They were not telling the children. They wanted to leave that discussion up to the parents. We spoke with my Amy. She taught at a school that went up through twelfth grade and there, the kids knew. Parents came throughout the day to pick up their kids. She agreed that she would pick up the kids and take them to my house, the hunting lodge. We would all talk about it then.
The email from the school had recommendations about how to minimize the trauma of 9/11 for the children. Remain as calm as possible. Reassure the children they are safe and loved. Limit their time watching the television. Amy would say something as reassuring as possible in explaining why we were all meeting at the hunting lodge, something like, something very important happened this morning and we need to all get together to talk about it.
It was agreed that I would do most of the talking, since I have years of experience of not showing emotions. The kids had questions. Had something happened to one of the pets? To someone in the family? Was this good news or bad news?
I started off talking about how as we get older, things happen that stick with us forever. People will ask, do you remember where you were when Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon? I wanted to set a positive tone to some of our memories. Or when JFK was shot? We talked a little bit about this and how today would be a day like that for them. Miranda’s post this week illustrates this. We then described the attack on the twin towers as neutrally as possible. It was a challenge to keep the language of television out of our discussion. We told them everything would be okay, even though we did not know, at the time how or lives would change as a result. We talked about it like this until they got bored and wanted to do other things.
Kim, Amy, and I had agreed not to have the television on, except for the normal sort of stuff they would watch, like PBS kid’s shows, or video tapes. We didn’t get newspapers or magazines, so it was fairly easy to keep the gory details from the kids. Other parents were all agreeing to do the same thing.
It seemed like all of us had friends or co-workers that were killed in the attack. I’m not sure how many co-workers I lost. None of them were close friends and often, I only learned they had died weeks later, so I didn’t go to any memorial services. Some of the people in Miranda’s life lost very close friends. Yet we all kept it from our children.
There are a lot of other things that I can say about Miranda’s post, about the moment, about the weeks that followed, about how the history of the attack is being remember fifteen years later, about what it means to be an adult and parent when tragedy strikes, about privilege, about empathy, about what it means to say “Never Forget” about one event, but telling others to just get over traumatic events in their cultures, but these deserve other blog posts.
I never tire of the sound of the tires
grinding the gravel road
to the summer camp.
On those lovely evenings,
I’d loaf at the campsite
with a loaf of French bread
Or I’d head into town
for my sole meal
of stuffed sole
or perhaps scallops
Now, the autumn moon shines
on freshly picked apples
and I pine for the pines in the sands of the Cape
with their wind gnarled branches withstanding the storms,
their long winding roots traversing the path.
Mornings I’d trip on those roots on my trip
to the surf on a trail lined with beach plums.
The seaside solitude of early morning
was only marred
disowned by others:
by frenzied families,
the tools of the trade
on trawlers passing by;
I once saw a saw
of unknown origin
by the remains of a campfire
I thought to myself
I can help
and I picked up the cans
of an earlier party.
A little political humor from across the pond, sort of stuff Fiona likes.
U.S Immigration - Foil Arms and Hog. Another amusing piece from The Onion: Report: More American Fifth-Graders Taking Gap Year To Unwind Before Middle School. For church humor, there is the report in The Babylon Bee that Episcopalians May Still Exist
On my commute, I’ve been listening to a recording of the Interior Castle by St. Teresa of Avila. I just finished that and have been looking for something else to listen to. I tried to find something by our about Hildegard of Bingen on Librivox or Project Gutenberg, but with no luck. I ended up downloading three books by Saint Augustine of Hippo off of Librovox and have been listening to that.
Alan Watts - Why Your Life Is Not A Journey. It seems like Watts is relying a conflating journeys and destinations, thereby creating a false dichotomy. This makes me think of other quotes about journeys:
“Not all those who wander are lost” - JRR Tolkien
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
- TS Eliot
"Little do ye know your own blessedness; for to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive, and the true success is to labour." – Robert Louis Stevenson
"The journey is the reward." – Taoist saying.
Yet in spite of conflating journey with destination and creating a false dichotomy. The message is right and it makes me think of another quote
“If I can't dance I don't want to be in your revolution” – Emma Goldman
It is that time of year when we need to deal with Doctor’s notes again, which is especially problematic when you have a child with a chronic illness. I’ve always been interested in the Canadian response. In Nova Scotia Doctor’s charge employers that require medical notes and the Ontario Medical Association has spoken out against requiring notes from doctors.
At work, I recently wrote a post for the National Nurse Practitioner Residency and Fellowship Training Consortium, An Invitation to Digital Introverts
Random Other Stuff
May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
For the past year or so I have been seeking discernment within the Episcopal Church in Connecticut about how I can best serve God’s mission here in Connecticut. What skills and gifts can I offer? What do I desire? What does God desire of me? Is God calling me to become a priest? a deacon? a lay minister? something else?
How do I balance all of this out in terms of being a loving husband and father, in terms of supporting my family? How do I balance all of this as I seek to show God’s love to the people I meet in my daily life and work as I try to practice self-care as well so I don’t burn myself out? How do I bring God’s love into our current political climate?
All of these things I considered last May during the state legislative conventions. I had run for State Representative in 2012 and 2014. I knew that if I did not run again, there was a good chance that my opponent would run unopposed, that the people from my district would not be given a choice about who their State Representative would be.
Yet running a full campaign is a lot of work. It is stressful on the candidate. It is stressful on the candidate’s family. My wife said that I had done my part by running twice already. Someone else should run.
Here we are in September. No one else has agreed to run. The Working Family Party, hoping to maintain its ballot line has been looking for someone to run, and they spoke with my wife. She agreed that it would be okay if I ran, so today, I accepted the Working Family Party nomination for State Representative in the 114th Assembly District in Connecticut.
At this point, I am not expecting to form a candidate committee, appoint a treasurer, do fundraising, phone banking, door knocking, or many of the other things associated with campaigns today. However, if people step forward to do some of these campaign activities, I will support their efforts.
Given the opportunity, I will gladly speak, debate, write articles, press releases, and further the discourse in whatever ways possible.
My focus remains on how I can best serve God. My goal is to help return our public discourse to one based on respect for all candidates as being created in the image of God. My goal is to help return our public discourse to how God would have us treat the poor, the marginalized, the outsiders, no matter what their race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, or religion.
I ask for your help, your support, your prayers, and your involvement, in my own discernment in what God is calling me to, in our common discernment about how we can help our nation become more loving and compassion.