Wednesday, March 30, 2005

36 Hour Day; Too Much Good Reading 

I am once again making a serious push for a 36 hour day. This will enable us to do so much more that needs to get done. Of course, there is a rider bill attached that stipulates we will still only require 8 hours of sleep (14 if your MacDaddy).

I'm preparing for a big service I'm MCing on Monday, April 4 for the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary and need to get the ordo finalized for printing. The whole thing is gonna be awesome and I'm so excited! Anglican Chant! Incense! Copes AND Chasubles! Deacon AND Sub-deacon! Oh, wow, it's gonna be something! So many thanks to all the people who are helping make it possible!

I'm working diligently on my Hebrew, which is steadily getting more complicated, the more grammatical points we add to our learning.

The EPF at Seabury is having a guest lecturer come speak to the student body tomorrow morning - Rabbi Dr. Gerald Meister, who helped establish the official diplomatic relations between Israel and the Vatican. I've worked with the Consulate General of Israel to the Midwest to arrange this speaker and am kinda pumped about it. Being the convener, I get to make the introductions tomorrow. Gonna be fun. Why? Because I get to speak publicly.

Yesterday's brief foray into Eco made me want to read the other essays in Serendipities, finish the essays I haven't read in How to Travel with a Salmon, and re-read both The Name of the Rose and Foucault's Pendulum (which reminds me I've got a history of the Knights Templar I want to get to as well!). Then a footnote in "The Force of Falsity" pointed be back to Borges, which made me want to dive into a few more of his insane stories! Plus I want to finish, with understanding, The Brothers Karamazov so that I can read the next few novels in my queue.

Folks, there just isn't enough time to do all this!! So, who is with me on the 36 hour day?


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Truth or Falsity, -or- The Truth in Falsity 

In Biblical Theology class today we read and discussed some articles about narrative, ethics, meaning making/receiving out of signs and symbols of language (a sort of semiotics), and how that corresponds to the power of storytelling. The discussion put me in mind of an essay Umberto Eco wrote that I read and didn't understand a long time ago, "The Force of Falsity". So, when I got home I thought I'd pull the book it's in off the shelf, re-read it, and not understand it all over again. (As much as I love Eco - I've read more of his fiction than non-fiction- I always leave him with the distinct feeling that while I think I got the gist of what he was saying, the particulars of it were so far above my head as to be inconceivable without aid.) The essay is largely about how falsities, or errors in the history of human thinking, have led to amazing progress and new discoveries (i.e. geocentricity/Brahe vs. heliocentricity/Copernicus).

So, what I want to know is this: which is more powerful, truth* of falsity?

A silly answer is proposed here.


*The word "truth" here is meant in the general sense and not in the sense where it is capitalized and conflated with "Way" and "Life".

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Tuesday, March 29, 2005

"And you'll call me Johnnie..." 

I was rather shocked to learn tonight of Attorney Johnnie Cochran's death. Just as in my reaction to Yasser Arafat's death, there is something about having met a person, having shaken their hand and talked with them, that personalizes an event like this a little more. Sure, Johnnie and I weren't best friends or even casual acquaintances, but I did meet him and did spend some time with him once. So, when I heard on the news tonight that he had died, it struck me a little harder than when other death's are reported of persons with whom I did not have a personal connection. The article eulogizing him by CNN is disappointing to me. Say what you want about the man or the various court cases in which he has been a part. A man is more than his most famous court case. The article cited above talks more about O.J. Simpson than it does about Johnnie Cochran and that makes me a little sad. In an effort to remedy that, let me tell you the story of when I met Johnnie, so that you might know him more not as the lawyer who successfully defend O.J., but as a human being.

In college I was an employee of WakeWorks, a business founded by two of my fraternity brothers that provided wait, bartending, and catering staff to local conference centers. As a member of their Elite Team and a Captain I was often given first opportunity at some of the better jobs and clients. So, when Oprah Winfrey announced she would be throwing Professor Maya Angelou (Prof. Angelou taught a class in Modern Poetry Performance at Wake) a 75th birthday party at the Graylyn Conference Center and that WakeWorks had received the bid for staffing the event, I was all over it. That night I worked a little as a bartender, but mostly my duties consisted of being a wine steward. Johnnie and his wife were seated at one of my tables and I poured a lot of wine for them over the course of the night. As is my custom, I referred to him as "sir" whenever occasion called for me to address him. After about the third such occasion, he turned to me and said, quite cordially if forcefully,

"What is your name?"
"Ryan, sir."
"Well, Ryan, my name is Johnnie. I'll call you Ryan and you'll call me Johnnie, and that's just how it's gonna be."
"Very good. May I pour you some more wine, Johnnie?"
"Yes, Ryan, thank you very much."

We had a lot of fun for the rest of the night calling each other by first names (or at least I did) and he thanked me very kindly at the end of the night. I experienced Johnnie as a man, as a human being, and not a CourtTV personality. For people in the news like he was, such is a rare treat for a college wine steward. Rest in peace this day, Johnnie, and may you rise in glory on the last.


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Monday, March 28, 2005

Technology Woes and Redemptions 

It was a sad week for technological/electrical items in my apartment. After 35 years, my coffee maker has finally given up the ghost. From its more nefarious days warming my mother's tomato soup when she was in college to its glory days actually making coffee for me when I was in college and 1.5 years of grad school, it has served the Whitley family well. It deserves its rest.

However, to be without a functioning coffee maker simply would not do, so I went to Target to investigate what they had to offer. Believe you me when I say that over the past 35 years there have been substantial leaps made in coffee maker technology! From what I was used to, I did not even recognize what they were selling as coffee makers! I finally decided on an economical, but still proficient Mr. Coffee brand model. First, what you'll see is that this one comes with an on/off button. No more plugging and unplugging the maker to turn it on and off. The second thing you'll notice about my new coffee maker is that it has a 12 cup capacity, so that now when I have guests over, I don't have to make each guest their own, individual 4 cup pot. The third thing to catch your eye will likely be the glowing red L.C.D. clock. But whoa! It doesn't stop there! Not only does this thing tell time, but if you program it to do so by telling it what time you would like a pot and put in all the ingredients before hand, it'll make coffee all by itself!! Folks, this is incredible! I tried it out, a little skeptical, and set it for 7:15am. And I'll be damned if when I woke up the following morning there wasn't a fresh, piping hot pot of coffee greeting me in the kitchen! And I didn't have to do a thing! (Because I did all the work the previous night, and this was a new day, it doesn't count as work for today.) I'm in awe, faithful readers, sheer awe.

That episode did have its redeeming moments, though I was parted with a coffee maker that has been through hell and high water with me. The second woeful episode had a lesser redeeming moment, but still ok.

I spilled a Coke on my keyboard and it grew frustrated with me. Immediately I turned it over to drain it out and wiped it all down as best I could. Once the draining and wiping was complete, I tested all the keys and lo! they all still worked. A few were quite sticky, so I removed them individually and cleaned them with a Q-tip (which you’re not supposed to stick in your ears, but the warning label said nothing about computer keyboards). Now, we're typing at normal speed and all is well, but it was a scare. This is not the first time I've dumped a beverage on a computer. The last time involved a full glass of cranberry juice, a brand new laptop, and a fine, fine display of bullshitting. But, that's a story for another day for those of you readers not already privy.


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Sunday, March 27, 2005

Easter Sunday Reflections 

Alleluia! Christ is risen!!
The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!!

As is the Seabury custom, the service began this morning before the Lord himself had considered rising, just so we could be ready when it happened. At 5:15am the first notes of the Exultet were sounded and we began our rejoicing. I had the pleasure of reading a portion of the Exodus passage, paired with another excellent lector. All the readings were execellently extolled, as a matter of fact. From the Lounge, we processed to the Chapel where we assented to the baptism of a (very) young member of our community and then proceeded with the Easter Eucharist. The service concluded with that favorite hymn, "Jesus Christ is risen today!" and we all recessed to brunch...before the clock tolled 7:30am I might add.

When I got home, I undressed and before I got dressed again in more casual clothes I thought I'd lay down a spell. Not so much to go back to sleep as the just rest for a moment or two. 11:30am rolled around and I rolled out of bed...well, if unintentionally, rested.

Though I am isolated from family and many dear friends up here, I would not be separated form them on this day, and so made and received several phone calls bearing tidings of the joyous occasion. First I talked to my parents who informed me all went well at home and the home church for Easter. Then, later in the afternoon, Hudd called to do some much needed catching up. We made some further plans for our reunion this summer, which is simply going to be off the charts of awesome.

Then, this evening, I left a message for another friend, and spoke to Lucia and Brother Bloom online, wishing them Easter tidings.

Easter is a happy time. A time of renewal, of hope, of expectations, and of love. A time we, as a world, are in much need of. Happy Easter to you.


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Saturday, March 26, 2005

Holy Saturday Reflections 

It was not the sermon (though it was fine) that caught my attention the most this year at the Holy Saturday Liturgy, but the readings. All of the readings had been memorized by their presenters and they performed them, almost as monologues, from the aisle. In our community we have several very theatrically gifted persons, and so the committee for Holy Saturday decided to use that talent today. It was an evocative way to do the readings, and they stick in my head because of it.

On the phone with a friend this morning, he posed to me the following question that has been bothering him since childhood, which I now pose to you, because I didn't really know the best answer to give:

For how long was Jesus dead?


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Friday, March 25, 2005

Good Friday Reflections 

I'm not certain it snowed in Jerusalem on that day 2,000 years ago, but today's remembrance was inundated with it. I was blessed to share the Stations of the Cross and Good Friday Liturgy with a new friend; I sent out a mass email to all my friends in the Chicago area, informing them about and inviting them to all the Holy Week liturgies. These friends don't often see the formally religious or vocational side of me; my time with them is a way out of all that for me, a chance to practice my everyday faith and not focus on genuflection, Gloria Patri's, or when to sing the antiphon. I've always felt strongly called to share my faith, my everyday faith, with my friends in the simple manner that Jesus exemplified when he ate meals, walked, talked, laughed, and cried with his. But, I thought for Holy Week, I would extend the invitation to them so that they might, should they desire, not only get a chance to see just what it is I do and what I am about, but so that they might take in, soak up, and be blessed by these more formal remembrances and celebrations - that they might sanctify this time for themselves in an extra-ordinary way, because there was little ordinary about those three days in Palestine long ago. Many of them already had plans to travel home to be with families, but I did get positive responses from two friends, one who came to today's service, and one who is coming to Sunday's sunrise Vigil service. I feel so blessed to not only have these friends, but also to be able to share this time with them.

The sermon today, found here, was excellent and difficult to hear (even as I imagine it was challenging to preach). I think you would benefit from reading it. When he got to the part where he said, "Behold your truth!" chills ran down my spine (and not just the chills of the frigid chapel) and goosebumps rose along my arms. When we were given control over the Truth, we crucified Him. And yet it is still a daily struggle for most of us, a struggle to give up our control. St. Augustine said that the only freedom we have comes from bending the knee to Jesus. All else is just an illusion of freedom, a crucifying freedom, a freedom that has blood on its hands.

Father, forgive us, for we know not what we do.


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Maundy Thursday Reflections 

The other day at lunch I was talking with a friend and I said that suring CPE this past summer, I reflected on crying. I don't cry often, but when I do, it is often at odd times. Some movies make me cry, so I began to take note of when I cried in a movie and what was going on in the film that caused me to emote so. Two main categories occurred to me over the course of this experiment. Scenes with touching father-son moments often see tears on my face. I'm not sure why, really. Also, scenes that have strong Christian overtones involving redemption, renewal, or salvation cause my eyes to well up. Again, not sure what is actually going on inside me that makes me cry, but I am touched.

Tonight, after the conclusion of the Maundy Thursday service as I was watching the Stripping of the Altar, I found myself with a few tears upon my cheeks. I had to quietly chuckle as I thought about last summer's experiment and results. The categories seem to fit.


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Thursday, March 24, 2005


Tenebrae is long with a really cool ending.

Hebrew translation homework is long, tedious, and frustrating when you have to look up nigh on every single word becuase you haven't had them in your vocabulary lessons yet.

My foot is aggravating me.

I'm going to bed.


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Tuesday, March 22, 2005


I am really enjoying Dostoyevsky's "The Brothers Karamazov", though it is slow going. The quality of the writing only adds to its density, while, at the same time it can be very conversational and light-hearted. The mix of voices is genius and I imagine it will only get better. Here's two of my favorite quotes so far, the first, humorous, the second, thought-provoking: "Being at a loss to resolve these questions, I am resolved to leave them without any resolution," and, "A true realist, if he is not a believer, will always find in himself the strength and ability not to believe in miracles as well, and if a miracle stands before him as an irrefutable fact, he will sooner doubt his own senses than admit the fact. And even if he does admit it, he will admit it as a fact of nature that was previously unknown to him. In the realist, faith is not born from miracles, but miracles from faith. Once the realist comes to believe, then, precisely because of his realism, he must allow for miracles."

In reading the latest issue of Men's Health tonight, I came across a disturbing report: Dutch scientists have completed a study on the liturgical use of incense. They found that in an Amsterdam Basilica, where incense is used regularly, the air contained 20% more carcinogenic particles than over a busy highway. Well, Amsterdam, I think you've perhaps got more pressing sources for public health concern than incense in church!

Mouthy, MacDaddy, and Black-Eye are either going to make me a stronger person or drive me up the wall. Maybe both. In any event, they're fun conversation partners.

Two days until the Triduum...gentlemen (and women), start your engines.



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Monday, March 21, 2005

Familial Congratulations 

A pair of hearty congratulations are due to two deserving members of my family.

First, to my youngest brother Brennan, who pitched 6 innings to a 1-0 Bishop Verot Vikings win tonight that included no runs, eight strikeouts, only one walk, and only five hits. Well done, bro!! The team record is now 8-4, with Brennan having the lowest ERA on the Vikings' pitching staff.

Second, to my Father. Each year since 1991 the Southwest Florida Council of the Boy Scouts of America has held an awards banquet to honor that year's Distinguished Citizen award recipient. Men and women who have contributed much of their time and talents to SW Florida Scouting have been the honored recipients. Winners include James D. Newton, Jody Hendry, Wayne T. Miller, Steve and Lou Pontius and former Sen. Connie Mack. Over the years, our family has been involved in the production of the banquet, with both Trevor and I giving speeches on what Scouting means to us and, for several years in a row now, helping with the Opening Ceremony. Dad served the Council for three years as President and was an active member on Troop Committees, was a Den Leader in Cub Scouts, is a recipient of the coveted Silver Beaver Medal and has been on the board several times. It comes as no surprise to me, though it apparently did to him, when this year's recipient was announced as being Steven R. "Rusty" Whitley. Congratulations to Dad for being recognized in such a huge way for all his hard work and committment. More importantly to me, thanks to you, Dad, for getting me involved in Scouting and seeing me through splinters (major and minor), poison ivy, scorpion bites, merit badges, an Eagle project, and six ranks on my way to Eagle. Rusty Whitley - now a Distinguished Citizen, always a Distinguised Father.


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Hope Springs Eternal, New Classes 

Today is the first day of the new term and that means all new classes, new classrooms, new books, new professors. Oh, wait, I go to Seabury. Same classrooms, same professors, a couple of the classes are essentially the same. But, hey, new books!! On the docket: Liturgical Music II, Hebrew II, Preaching II, and Biblical Theology. Also, the seniors will be back from field ed and it will be very good to see them again. Here's to starting again! Here's to warmer weather! Here's to softball season almost here! Here's to renewal! Here's to new things! (And while the Lord is doling out new things, I should like two new legs for my uncle and a new left foot for myself. Thank you.)


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Sunday, March 20, 2005

Going Through the Motions 

I have been in a stupor for about the last 24 hours now, simply going through the motions of my daily activities, but taking no pleasure in that which once brought me joy. The past couple of days have brought a series of disappointments, not the least bitter of which was my team's unforeseen premature exit from the NCAA Tournament. Wake losing to West Virginia in 2OT left us all shaking our heads at the screen, too stupefied to even utter an oath. Whereas most others went home immediately following the buzzer, Erin, her three out of town guests, and I changed venues and had another drink, but even that could not rectify our daze. With no fun to be had, bought or given, we retired.

Waking up this morning to gray skies that reflected my dour humor, I dressed for the Liturgy of the Palms. Given the popularity of the Feast, I had to park farther away from the church than normal, which aggravated my foot's condition (to be described next) and sunk me deeper into the mire of an ill mood. The service passed me by almost unnoticed, unfortunately, for I sought to raise my spirits in the heights of the nave. To no avail did I make this my goal. I retreated to my apartment and had to sweep up a broken bottle someone had carelessly tossed in my parking space, adding to the day's frustrations, before resting my legs and foot in the Orange Throne. There, I picked up my book, and, disgusted by it, returned it not only to the shelf, but to the back of the case where I would not have to gaze upon it further. More on that soon, but I promised a description of my foot first.

Last Thursday, while home in Florida, I went to the dermatologist to have him remove a plantar's wart from the bottom of my left foot. Applying liberal amounts of liquid nitrogen, he sought to gain a head start on its destruction by freezing it. I returned the following day to repeat the process, which compounded my locomotive hardships. Now, I cannot apply any pressure to it or else suffer shooting pain, but I am told this will subside in a day or two. So I hobble to and fro and that is most certainly growing weary emotionally as well as physically. Thus it was that, after returning to my afar parked car following the service, I hopped up my apartment's staircase to collapse in my chair not intending to arise again for several hours when to my greater disappointment I discovered the book I was 237 pages into was tripe as I had suspected since page 12, wherein a character is mysteriously time traveled (go with me and use it as a verb) back several centuries, met, fell in love with, married, consummated the union, impregnated his 13 year old bride, and is time traveled back to his original century all in the span of about ten hours just so the prophecy that the author had written as the backbone of her so-called novel could be fulfilled. If you can't come up with something more creative than that, your publisher should be shot in the knees, twice. It is a sore sign when, in a fantasy novel above all, the willing suspension of disbelief is unwilling.

Now, I am not one to put down a book midcourse; I believe in giving a novel its fair shake to the end and then rendering judgment. However, the conventions of this present author, Elizabeth Haydon, in her book, Rhapsody, had grated on my nerves long enough. Her writing style, trash; her story, uninteresting and full of holes which she fills in with amazing sets of happenstance and coincidence; her logic, flawed; her characters, flat and boring; her narrative, entirely predictable. Imagine the worst parts of all the fantasy stories you've read, combine them, weave them together as loosely as possible, and you have this poor excuse of a novel. The back cover compares her to Tolkien. Stop turning in your grave brother Tolkien, I have come to defend your honor and put a stop to such a crude metaphor. To correct and restore my belief that authorship is a valuable and noble pursuit, I picked up a classic I've been meaning to read for several months now. The title has come up in discussions, has been alluded to in other works, brought up in classes, and has generally planted itself in my face so as to be unavoidable. Without further ado I returned to my chair with Fyodor Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov.

So, it is to that seminal work that I now turn, having brightened up my day by employing flowery language to lambaste all my present anxieties and turn back my general malaise.


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Saturday, March 19, 2005

I Used to Open Her Diet Cokes 

As a child, I looked forward to every Wednesday lunch when I would be allowed to open Bernice's diet coke. Why this was such a pleasure, I've no idea, but I remember those lunches fondly, as I remember Bernice Lewis who passed away early this week and whose funeral is tomorrow. She was the woman who helped us keep our house clean and has been a friend of the family's since day one. Her kindness and her love will be remembered and celebrated tomorrow and my mother will be going to the service, though I will be there in spirit. May Bernice rest this day in peace and rise in glory on the last day.


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Tuesday, March 15, 2005

A Peaceful Morning; A Surpise Phone Call 

After breaking my fast this morning, I retired to the back porch to engage in that ancient pasttime of porch sittin'. I had the house to myself as my father is busy at work with tax season, brother one is at college, brother two is at high school, and mom went to a nail appointment. Since I finished the first book I brought down, I picked up the second, set up my chair, and settled in. Twenty or so pages into the book, I'm not overly impressed yet; it's kind of cheesy so far, but I'll give it some time. Nature was a buzz this morning and I watched the doings of the creatures who call my backyard home almost as much as I read. Squirrels bounded playfully from tree to tree, never missing a branch. Birds chirped and flited about. There were many robins, including several young ones just figuring out how their wings were suppossed to work and I enjoyed watching their trials. A male cardinal, majestically resplendant in his red coat, made an appearence, portending rain. He was quickly followed by the somewhat rarer sighting of a female companion with a beak of blazing orange. A wood duck showed up amid a flurry of beating wings and disturbed shrubbery. The lizards were as abundant as ever, going to and fro without a care for these silly birds. His majesty the monarch butterfly showed up to light upon a branch briefly. A wasp minded its own business for once. I went back to reading for a moment and then all grew suspiciously quiet. I looked up and the reverie had ended; the players disappeared. Odd, thought I, until a pair of dark shadows crossed the yard. Looking up I observed the pair of shadows belonged to a pair of red-shouldered hawks, predatorially gliding around, effectively ruining the play of the morning backyard companions. Ah well...eco-systems must abide I suppose. Then, the phone rang, bringing me back to my own world.

On the other end was a voice from the past, an old dear friend who moved away first to Texas for college and then to Louisanna where his father took a new job as the rector of a parish bearing the same name as his former parish in Fort Myers. I've not seen or heard from Michael in years, so it was good talking to him. He was calling because he was on the road near Winston-Salem and wanted some advice on where he should take his lunch. Without hesitating I directed him to a Bojangles - that quintessestial fried chicken joint that I miss so much. We chatted then of many things, catching each other up on what we were doing and where we were headed. He was on his way to a job interview at a church in Colombia, SC for a youth minister position, his life's calling. It was a great and pleasant surprise to hear from him and it put me in mind of times gone by. He's the kind of guy, that, when I find myself in a church and want to get a great youth program going, should not be surprised to get a call from me. Michael does good work and is so grounded in the Lord and in His service that he stands testament to the faith for many people, not just the youth. I wish him luck.


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Monday, March 14, 2005

Commission Meeting - Check! 

Just returned from my C.O.M. meeting - many thanks to all of you out there who held it up in your prayers. It went very smoothly and was a very non-anxious meeting. All the C.O.M. members were friendly and inviting and the whole of the meeting was conversational rather than interrogative. We talked about all sorts of good and useful things and now I have a much clearer picture of how the next year and a half will proceed for me, academically, canonically, and vocationally. The result: The chair of the C.O.M. said that basically right now, I was doing all the things a Candidate does and should be doing, I lacked only the formal title which the Bishop grants. I was told to write a letter to the Bishop requesting Candidacy and to get a letter of support from my home parish. After that gets in, they'll make their recommendation and it'll happen. I am quite relieved after this meeting, given the stories many of my colleagues have told and some of the general rumors about "how C.O.M.'s are". I found mine to be very helpful, pastoral, and encouraging. Overall, it was a good experience. They also said there is no such thing as a silly diocesan requirement that I work Summer Camp this summer and that if need be, he'd put that in writing. Woo-hoo!!! I don't have to give up my last summer in Chi-town!! So, I'll be looking for a job for the summer somewhere in Chicago.

Everything on the home front is good. We got new carpet at the house and it is both attractive and comfortable to walk and roll around on. Church on Sunday was great! It's always good to come back home and worhip, but it's also interesting to note how I have changed since coming to seminary and how I am continually being changed and shaped. Very interesting stuff going on there. Tomorrow, I have an opportunity to plunder the back bay area with a spinnin' rod, so I look forward to that. The pool has been lovely so far and I am losing my Chicago pallor. In fact, I've renamed the pool the E.R.Z. - the Eskimo Recovery Zone - after my Mother informed me of my northern/winter skin tone. I believe I'll retire to a Lazy Boy now and finish off my book.

Again, thanks to all of you who held this meeting in prayer and continue to hold me in prayer. May God bless you!


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Saturday, March 12, 2005

Florida Bound 

I'm departing for parts South tomorrow morning and am looking forward to a relaxing week. Sure, I have to meet with the C.O.M., but they recently sent me an email outlining what our discussion will be, which allieviated a lot of the pressure. Sure, I have to have some weird medical procedure done on my foot. But, all that is ok, cause I'll be in warmer climes and won't have a daggum thing to do (other than a Hebrew lesson, but no biggie there). There are pools and beaches in my near future, and as such, I've got some good reading lined up. I'll plan on finishing Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age, maybe on the plane but definitley soon. Then, I packed Elizabeth Haydon's Rhapsody and its sequel just for fun. I got them for $0.50 each at a book sale last summer at the hospital, so even if they're cheesy and silly, at least they'll be fun and I've not wasted any money on them. And then, just to keep my mind engaged, I'll be taking (finally) Tom Beaudoin's Virtual Faith. This book was suggested in last year's Gospel Mission class and I bought it, but never got around to it. So, that should be plenty to keep me entertained in between my brother's baseball games, the latest of which they won tonight and he got the win as pitcher. It will be good to spend time with the family again.

My official comment on tonight's basketball travesty: I am blaming the results of tonight's game on two people. One, Chris Paul. You let your team and your fans down, man. Had you been in tonight's game, I'm confident we would have won. Your leadership on the court is unrivaled and our team needs you. Try to keep your hands to yourself from now on, bro. I know Hodge is a jerk and the people who were making fun of your Grandfather's death were real jackasses. Really, the latter is inexcusable. But, retaliation never accomplished anything. Be the bigger man. Also, I blame the other part of tonight's 81-65 loss on Tony Bethel, who really had an amazing game.



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Thursday, March 10, 2005


Phew!!! Ostensibly the hardest quarter of a Seabury education is over for my classmates and I. The New Testament II exam was this afternoon after which I forced myself to sit down and write out my last silly little History take-home quiz because I knew I would have no motivation to do it tomorrow before it was due at 2pm. And now, it's all done. Tomorrow morning I have Hebrew, but, it's after the final so no pressure at all. To celebrate, I got together with a select group of friends from Seabury and watched a movie, Rules of Engagement. I picked it because it went along with our discussion in Ethics the other day about just war and who qualifies as a combatant and how can you tell. We drank some beers, ate some popcorn, and just relaxed. How nice! On Saturday morning I fly home for the week so that I may meet with my C.O.M. on Monday afternoon, which should be a good meeting. They emailed me today with a list of suggested topics for our conversation and they all look like good, relevant topics which will bear fruitful discussion. I also hope to garner from this meeting some sense of direction for the next year and a half or so. I need to know where I am going and how I am suppossed to get there. So, hopefully, we'll be able to talk about that as well. All in all I look forward to the meeting. I'll update after the meeting to let you all know how it went. Then, when I return to Chicago, it'll be............SOFTBALL SEASON!!!!!!! WOOOOO!!!


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Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Yom Adonay 

Tomorrow is my Hebrew I final exam and I am going to bed early. Better to enter the test with confidence and alertness than to enter it with only slightly more confidence than I have now and be so tired that my hireq's and dagesh's swim around in my mind's eye or that my holem's and yod's confuse themselves. 'immadi el.


[3/9/05, 10:05am: Just came out of my exam. Served it up on a silver platter. Hell yeah!]

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Tuesday, March 08, 2005

The Revelation to John as a Visual Experience 

Today, in New Testament II class, we discussed the book of the Revelation (Apocalypse) to John, wherein at the outset, we agreed that the book was, above all, weird. If you can, for a moment, suspend all prior conceptions you may have about the book of Revelation, suspend all previous analogies or metaphorical allusions you may have or have received through various media, put away from your mind anything that you might think something like the following quote from the book may mean, and just read it, taking it at face value, we'll be on an even turf for what I want to suggest next.

Revelation 13:1-3 - "And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads; and on its horns were ten diadems; and on its heads were blasphemous names. And the beast that I saw was like a leopard, its feet were like a bear's, and its mouth was like a lion's mouth. And the dragon gave it his power and his throne and great authority. One of the heads seemed to have received a death-blow, but its mortal wound had been healed. In amazement the whole earth followed the beast."

What a strange and captivating sight this must have been! Ten horns, but only seven heads! What?! What's up with the leopard and the bear and the lion? A death-blow/mortal wound? Where did that come from? What does it all mean???

Forget it. Just forget that last question. It doesn't matter what it means. What matters is that St. John saw it. Think what that experience must have been like to see this vision.

What AKMA and I were talking about after class was the prospect of a movie that takes the Book of Revelation and depicts it as literally as possible, without added plot, character development or editorialization. The visuals for such a movie would need to be on par with the precision, imagination, and scope that Tarsem Singh accomplished in the dream and inner mind scenes of "The Cell", or better. AKMA suggested it being on par with something from the mind of Terry Gilliam, only with a theologically tuned mind. I mean, a well done, visually imaginative and stunning piece. I mean NO EDITORIALIZATION. What I want is something as close to the visual experience that John must have had. I don't want another person telling me what it means. How can I even begin to try to figure out what it means without first having the/a visual experience? How can anyone?

The thing is, if someone would front the money for this kind of project, it would make big numbers. Anyone willing to produce it? Who knows...but it's something I would love to see.

And now, to Evensong.


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Why I Exercise 

We read a book for History of Christian Life and Thought III class, that, while it wasn't very good, provoked some interesting discussion today. The book is by ethnographer R. Marie Griffith and is entitled Born Again Bodies. It does a nice job of bringing up the dangerous theologies of Christian diet and fitness sub-cultures, but where it falls short for me is in that it does not detail a positive outlook on healthy exercise, eating, and general wellness. So, in defense of that, I submit this, my story and opinion.

I cannot tell you why I said yes a little over four years ago when Fox knocked on my door and said, "Whitley! Let's go to the gym!" I was always intimidated by the gym and the people who went there, always afraid they'd look at my scrony self and wonder why I was wasting my time; why this disappeared with Fox, who was and is much bigger and stronger than I, I don't know. Perhaps because he is such a close friend. So, all that is to say, I went. And I haven't stopped going since. Over the years, Fox and I shared a lot of time together in the gym where we talked and laughed, had a good time and discussed serious matters. When he graduated and came back for a visit the next year, he and I found our refuge together lifting weights once again. He taught me everything I know about weightlifting and for that I am thankful. Once he graduated, I found it was not nearly as fun or entertaining to go to the gym by myself; it had then just become something I do, like lunch - a part of my day. I asked around and found another weightlifting partner, BrotherBeal, only this time the roles were reversed. I was the stronger one and the teacher. Our friendship grew in the gym much like Fox's and mine relationship did. Through those years, I gained two of my best friends (not just because of the gym, but that time together was certainly a part of it).

Throughout that time, I noticed some positive improvement to my body. I was getting stronger. I found I had more energy. When playing sports, I was no longer winded as easily by my asthma. I felt like I looked better and that made me feel better and more confident about myself. When he graduated and we worked out for the last time together on a regular basis, Fox gave me a great compliment - "Well, my work here is done. You don't have tube-sock arm anymore." I took that to heart. The funnier thing was when I went back to Fort Myers and ran into someone I hadn't seen in a few years. Their eyes said what I had wondered all along - my physique had changed, it was noticible, and it was a good change.

Over the years, lifting weights has become a spiritual discipline for me. I take seriously the words of St. Paul in 1 Cor 6 where he says, "Do you not know that your bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit?" I want my temple to be a strong, solid, and well built one, physically, mentally, and spiritually. The words of the ole Boy Scout Oath come to mind, "...to keep my self physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight." Lifting is a way for me to de-stress and release tension and anger in a healthy and constructive way. Not that I have a lot of anger, but when I do, it really helps to lift. I find I make friendships in the gym that are unique. Now, I am training someone else in lifting and enjoying that growing friendship even as I am enjoying watching him increase his strength and tone his muscles, knowing my instruction had something to do with that. I don't think he can really see it yet, but he will soon. I exercise because it makes me stronger; it gives me more energy (MacDaddy always wants to know where I get the energy to do all the things I do); it relieves my stress; it helps be build relationships; it is one of my spiritual disciplines; and it makes me look and feel good about myself. I will never deny the self-serving aspect of it, but I will also highlight how I can put all of this to good use in situations that have not yet presented themselves. Maybe by my strength I'll save a life one day, or, just in the ordinary course of things, be able to help someone out who needs it. I enjoy exercising and feel no shame about it. I felt like the book was trying to say, to a certain extent, that we should be happy with the bodies God gave us and not worry about them. Well, that's true. I am. I also like to keep it in shape and improve it's capacities within its natural limitations. I have not, nor ever will, use performance enhancing drugs. I might not have the chiseled abs or ridiculously defined biceps of steroid or other performance enhancing supplement users - but that's not what its about for me. It's about looking and feeling good, and knowing that I did it, myself. I don't think God wants to take that away from me. I don't even think God cares that much about it to tell you the truth. As my Mother always says, "Leave God out of things that He never intended to be in, in the first place." God loves me whether I work out or veg on the couch. And God loves you too, no matter what you do. God's love is not dependant upon our health and wellbeing. Our health and wellbeing, so that we might better serve God, is dependant in large part upon us.

That is why I exercise.


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Sunday, March 06, 2005

Are You Kidding? 

Yeah, I'd say that's the theme of the day. With the entire day full of basketball upsets (Florida over Kentucky, Ohio St. over Illinois (!!!!), Mizzou over Kansas) and one respectable win, even if it pissed me off (UNC over Duke - had Duke won, Wake would have been the ACC Champs), I was nervous enough going into tonight's regular season closer against NC State, a bubble team. By the beginning of the second half, we were looking like we fell out of the ugly-and-can't-play basketball-tree, hitting every branch on the way down. Good Lord, was it awful! We went 8 scoreless minutes to take us to the final minute and a half behind by three. Then we score, down by one, they score, down by three, Gray hits an amazing three-pointer to tie it up, they shoot and miss, it goes out of bounds on them. Seconds left. Paul checks the ball in down court, dashes up and gets the pass, takes it to outside the paint and in an incredible display of pure athleticism, jumps and fades away tossing the ball up with one hand as the buzzer goes off, sinking it for the 55-53 win. Heart, start beating again please. Thankfully, we came away with the W, but we need to look ALOT better by Friday.

Now, the second half of the "are you kidding?" motif involved where we watched the game and why. Originally, the game was scheduled to be watched at Kate's new apartment. When I arrive, meeting Julia downstairs, Kate informs us her cable company has blocked out that game for some reason (maybe they were pissed the Illnini lost and so cancelled everyone's bball enjoyment for the day?). We didn't know what to do. Caroline called - she was downstairs with a friend who had graduated WFU our year but had just moved to Chicago this week from Atlanta with her job (I could listen to her all night - that sweet sweet Southern accent I miss so much up here...). We met them downstairs and said we have to go to a bar, the first bar we find, cause otherwise we'll miss the game. We start walking and come to a bar shortly. Going inside we ask if they get the channel - they do - we cheer, and sit down. Ordering a round of drinks, we watch the first few minutes. The bartender seemed interested in the game but didn't know who to cheer for - we informed her. Soon, the game was on both TV's and the whole bar was cheering for the Deacons, well, all 6 patrons, and the bartender bought us a round of drinks. It was only then we began to hear the background music - Madonna. Madonna in a local dive bar? Then Kate casually reminded us that her move did, in fact, place her firmly into Lakeview, better known as Boy's Town. I laughed my head off thinking, "They'll get a kick out this at school!" So, here we were, a group of 20-somethings from a small conservative Southern school invading a local gay dive bar called "The Closet" to watch the game because we couldn't get the channel. The bartender says if we wanted to order a pizza we could; so, we did. It was a sight to see - the six of us sitting firmly in the middle of the floor on stools of this bar, eating pizza, and educating the other patrons on who to root for. One guy walks in and he had the look about him of the kind of man who has come to this bar, every day, for the last 37 years. He walked past us to the restroom utterly befuddled. It was hilarious. When the last shot went up and the buzzer sounded, we erupted into loud cheering and screaming much to the amusement of the other clientele. We walked out thanking them for letting us invade for the night and cheer on our team - it was a blast. Like, I said - "Are you kidding?" No, no I'm not.


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Friday, March 04, 2005

Before You Buy 

You've started seeing it in the stores. You've wondered, "Hmm...should I give it a try, or is it better to leave well enough alone?" Well, before you buy the new Coca-Cola with Lime, read BrotherBeal's expert analysis. This is a man who takes soda drinking and connoisseurship to level previously unheard of except by wine and scotch enthusiasts. And I trust his opinion in this matter above my own. So, give it a gander, and do stop back by his new blog again.



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Came and Preached I Did. 

So, I tried to record my sermon on the Audio Blogger thing, but it appears there's a time limit on it that is something less that about seven and half minutes. With an appreciative nod towards Hope (see first comment), the following is a rendering of the sermon I preached at tonight's service:

Who we want is Yoda.
As I look at the lesson from Jeremiah tonight, I am reminded of one of my favorite movies - The Empire Strikes Back, the second in the original Star Wars Trilogy. In it, the hero, Luke Skywalker, crashes his X-Wing (his space jet) into a swamp on the planet Dagobah, where he has gone in search of the great Jedi master, Yoda. Over the next few weeks, as the X-Wing sinks farther and farther down into the swap, he undergoes a period if intense physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual training with Yoda to learn the ways of the Force. During that time, he calls upon his newfound ability to harness the Force and in a dramatic moment attempts to raise the X-Wing...and fails. Yoda just shook his head and was probably thinking the same thing that Jeremiah writes about. You didn't listen, you didn't pay attention, you missed the meaning behind the message. Jeremiah writes that the Lord said, "I sent you prophet after prophet after prophet, and you didn't listen to any of them. Not only did you not listen to them, you ignored them and hardened your heart against them. And you wonder why you're in the fix that you're in now?"

Fast forward 1400 years to the Gospel lesson and it seems not much has changed. We get a picture of Jesus casting out demons to the people's amazement. Because they didn't pay attention to the prophets that the Lord had sent time and time again, they were unprepared to accept Jesus' message, his miracles and works, his very person. And so, they themselves cast about for other explanations for what they saw. "You're casting out demons by the power of Beelzulbul!" When all else fails, blame it on the devil, right? Others called for a "real" sign, as if casting out demons was not sign enough. But, like Jeremiah, Jesus just shook his head. he said to them, "If I'm doing what I say I'm doing, then the Kingdom of God has come among you, right here and right now!"

Are we ready for that?
Are we ready to believe Jesus, not just believe in Jesus, but actually to believe Jesus is doing what he says he's doing?

Jesus said we should come and gather with him, and to stop scattering, which is what the demons among us are doing.

Are we ready for that?
Are we ready to stop scattering the faithful and help Jesus gather them back in?

This is why the Primate's meeting was and is so hard, and shouldn't be dismissed out of hand. They are trying to gather in what is right now a very scattered flock. And just as I believe that the Holy Spirit was at work at General Convention 2003 (and on some days, that's harder for me than on others), but just as I believe that, I believe that the Holy Spirit was at work at the Primate's meeting. And I believe that the Holy Spirit will be at work at the ACC meeting in June. And I believe that the Holy Spirit will be at work at the next Lambeth Conference in 2008. I have to believe that!

So, who we want is Yoda, so that he can raise our X-Wing for us out of this swamp in which we find ourselves so deeply mired. But, but, who we need is Jesus, who not only tells us to stop scattering the faithful, but invites us to work with him on gathering them back in. Let us commit ourselves to prayer over the next months on how best we can do that. The X-Wing was big and heavy and the swamp was deep. But, let us remember that in the end, size and weight and depth didn't matter. If we are willing to accept Jesus' invitation to help him gather, size and weight and depth of our swamp won't matter, because he will be with us, even to the end. Amen.


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Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Raising the X-Wing 

On top of everything else I've done this week - Ethics II paper, NT II Research Probe, Hebrew, and planning an Episcopal Peace Fellowship Meeting - I've also had to work on the sermon I'll preach tomorrow night at Community Eucharist.

Whatever else I might happen to say tomorrow, Yoda will definitely be involved.


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Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Lots of News Today About Murder 

What an upper, right? This morning, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that the death penalty is unconstitutional for criminals who are minors when they commit the crime. For those of us who are opposed to the death penalty, this was a good day. A former death row defense attorney, now a seminarian classmate of mine, gave a moving testimonial at lunch today. He stood up and said with an heartfelt tremor in his voice that for him, and for the family of one of his former clients who was 17, the decision was an answer to prayer. At Seabury, we pray for all persons who are about to be executed the week of their execution date, as well as for their families, the families of their victims, and the people of the state in whose name they will be killed. (When the death certificate is filled out for a person executed by the state, the cause of death is listed as homicide.) For us too, then, this was a step forward.

In Chicago tonight, a District court judge returned home from work to find her husband and mother both slain; they were shot to death in their home. Apparently, the judge was once targeted for assassination by a white supremacist group, but the police have yet to establish a connection to this dual homicide. While this is a terrible crime, and certainly frightening for civil servants everywhere, I do not agree with Chicago Chief of Detectives when he says that they're going to work extra hard on this one. They should work extra hard on all murder cases, regardless of the who the victims or victim's family's are. What does this kind of statement say to the family of a young man murdered randomly last year in Ravenswood, shot at point blank range for apparently no reason? That his death isn't as important? That because he wasn't a judge or other public figure, the police don't have to work as hard? I hope not. Reality, apparently, begs to differ.

To end on a lighter note, my hometown girl (she's from Fort Myers) Vonzell Solomon performed well tonight on American Idol. I think she has the talent to go far in this competition, but she is up against some wonderful singers and marvelously fun performers. I wish her my best! Bring it home to FM Baby-V!


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Well, I heard today about the internship to which I applied for over the summer. I did not get selected to be one of the two Caux Scholar Interns. But, I figure if they're gonna pick only 2 people out of the entire world, I can't be two upset. But, I am disappointed as I was really looking forward to an opportunity to return to Caux (I was a Scholar in 2002).

In good news, I finally heard back from my COM people. I have a meeting set up for over Spring Break, so I get to go home to sunny Florida for a week and meet with these good people finally. I don't know if this is my actual Candidacy interview or not, but I suppose I'll find out. I hope to find a host of things out...like everything they want me to do between now and ordination. I am just glad we finally got this meeting date squared away.


P.S. No lie, there was a man at the gym today who benched 1 rep at 525 lbs. Unreal...

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