Thursday, November 30, 2006

Nice Work 

I love movies - mostly because I love stories, narratives of most kinds. And so I really appreciate the blog that RC has going on at Strange Culture.

Recently, he published a post called Measuring the Intangibles of Success, and I believe it is really well said. So well said, in fact, that I'm pointing you to it. Take five and read.

Speaking of movies, I watched A Prairie Home Companion last night and it was pretty charming. Some very funny moments - Dusty and Leftie particularly. I also could not help but make the comparison in my mind between Garrison Keillor and T. Rankin Terry - for those who are familiar with both, you'll know what I'm talking about.


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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Some Musings on Music with Specific Reference to the Anglican Choral Tradition 

I have always been fond of music and in general awe of musicians because I have never been one, nor likely will ever be much accomplished in that art. But, nonetheless, I have been thinking about music some lately - largely because I have begun voice lessons with a parishioner in preparation for my ordination to the priesthood, after which, my congregation will expect me to sing the 10:15 liturgy when I preside. Now, over the years, several people have worked with me on voice and song. It all began with Mrs. Goff, my high school drama coach who took my singing part in Guys and Dolls and gave it to someone else. I practiced I've got the horse right here... every night for hours, and to have it taken away actually crushed me. (Thus began the decline in the relationship between Mrs. Goff and I, which was never recovered.)

In seminary, the first music director with whom I worked generally had no patience for non-singers, but the people next to whom I sat in chapel, strangely, continued to encourage me. We got a second music director who worked much better with me and for him I am eternally grateful. It was with him that I took the Use of the Voice class my senior year and he really helped me, was patient with me, and told me that if I wanted to, I could do this singing thing. I worked at St. Luke's as the seminarian intern, and as some of you know well, the musical tradition there is high and lofty, which is to say, quite excellent. The interim organist/choir master there also helped me some, giving me some tips and general encouragement.

Now, in my first position, I've begun training my voice with the aid of a parishioner who is a trained opera singer, a Dramatic Coloratura. She opens her mouth, and the walls collapse. Now, you would think this would be intimidating (and in a way it is), but she is so kind that you cannot help but feel comfortable. She acknowledged up front that she was good and she knows she's good, but that I was not to be afraid of singing in front of her. That was helpful. We practiced for about 45 minutes the other day and she said just in that short time span, I improved under her tutelage. She gave me exercises to work on and some hymns to practice (#420, #450). But, most importantly to me, she framed singing in a theological way which I've never heard before and I appreciated that greatly.

All this is to say that I've been thinking about music recently and in so doing, have been missing the music of the St. Luke's choirs - that traditional, harmonized, soaring Anglican sound, accompanied by the organ. This led me to search around on Rhapsody for something that I could listen to, but I didn't find anything (mostly, as I soon found out, because I didn't know how to look). So, I googled some stuff and came across this essay from someone in the prayer book society of Canada. Now I knew what to search for, and so found several things. Right now I am listening to the Psalms for the Soul, by the Choir of St. John's Church, Elora. I also found the record label Hyperion which has some wonderful collections that I hope to find.

Anyway, I'm listening to the sounds I love right now, my soul is singing with them even if my voice isn't. My spirit rejoices in God my Savior! When in our music God is glorified and adoration leaves no room for pride, it is as if the whole creation cried, Alleluia!


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Monday, November 27, 2006

Forrest Gump Championship Picture 

This is the one where they told us to look excited instead of demure.

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Saturday, November 25, 2006

Cigar Bar Homecoming 

My trip home to Fort Myers for Thanksgiving was lots of fun, as it always is. The food was great and it was good to spend time with family and friends. I had to leave around 6am this morning in order to make it back for the "Preparing for Advent" retreat that one of the other deacons and I designed for today. It was well attended and I believe people got good things out of it - lots of time for personal reflection, prayer, and meditation. I, however, found my mind wandering, as it is so often wont to do when presented with silence. I think the combination of the flurry of activities going on in my life right now, lack of sleep last night, and an unexpected encounter produced the anxiety which prevented me from fully engaging the spiritual dimensions of the half-day reteat.

I went out last night with my friends Lauren and Sarah for a fun evening of hanging out and catching up. We met at the Cigar Bar, a local joint in downtown Fort Myers which seems to be a good place to gather. Often times I'll see people there I haven't seen in a while, and last night was no different. Lauren saw someone she knew from across the bar and called her over. When the young lady made introductions to me, I remembered her from high school days - I think she was a year ahead of me. Anyway, she, at one point, said, "I'm waiting here for my friends W and K to show up." Calling to mind the crowd with whom she ran in H.S., I asked, "W and K who?" She told me and I laughed, having gone to middle school and high school with these two, but not having seen them since. After a while, they showed up, we hugged and talked for a while, telling each other what we were all up to these days. It turns out W lives in NYC now and is an Assistant Editor for the Oprah magazine - no small shakes there! K is married, as of 7 months ago or so, and loving it. I met her husband and he seemed very nice. We laughed about some old times and then parted ways. I always find such meetings enjoyable - I think it is very interesting to discover what others are doing nowadays, where they are, what path they took in life, and so on. In high school, there was such a proliferation of petty b.s. that we so rarely got to know more than a handful of people to any degree of depth and I enjoy being able to put that kind of thing in the past, and moreover, I enjoy seeing the others do the same and taking delight in it. So, to W and K, and to all the rest of you out there that I haven't seen in ages and didn't really know all that well back in the day anyway, best of luck to you. To quote BrotherBeal, "I'm rooting for you."


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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

There is a Sound the Bat Makes... 

Game 1, Forrest Gump vs. The Predators

We had some first inning jitters and made some errors, allowing them a couple of extra outs resulting in 3 runs scoring. Our turn at bat came and went like lightning. It seemed Gump was out of sync with itself. Our defense straightened out, however, and held them the next several innings to a score of 3-0. But, the Gump bats just could not answer. We were getting out on pop flys and dribblers. There were very few hard hit balls. By the later innings, the score was 4-0. We were holding them, but that wasn't going to win the game for us. A couple of runs came in, but it wasn't going to be enough. 5th inning, Gump is down 4-2, then 5-2. Second to last inning our bats woke up, but were still groggy. We scored 2, making it 5-4. In the last inning, we got them out, three up, three down. We were home team so we had last at bats. Our first batter gets a single, but reaches second on a throwing error. No outs, runner in scoring position. I'm up. I'd been hitting ok most of the game; not great, but ok. First pitch goes by. Ball. Second pitch comes in looking like a beach ball. I swing. There is a sound the bat makes when it connects with the ball perfectly, right on the sweet spot. It's a solid sound, and it speaks for itself. You barely feel the ball leave the bat and you almost wonder if you even managed to hit it out of the infield. Then you see the outfielder backing up and looking up and over their shoulder. I ran hard. Our runner on second was slow, so I had to stop at second, she on third. I didn't see where my ball went, but later I was told over the center fielder's head, rolling into the fence. Still no outs, runners on second and third. Our next batter hits a dribbler to second. One out, no runners advance. The next batter hits a lazy pop fly to short. 2 outs, no runners advance. The next batter is one of our weakest batters. First pitch comes in and she's swinging. The ball goes up and over the head of the third baseman. Runner on third scores, making it a tie game. I score. Gump wins. Phew...

Game 2, Forrest Gump vs. Code Blue, The Championship

Code Blue is a solid team. They are well built and play hard, with a good grasp of the game. We'd beaten them twice in the regular season, but both were great games. The only thing they had going against them was their attitude, which stunk. We go back and forth with them all night. They score, we answer. We score, they answer. Both teams made some great plays in the field and both teams made some dumb plays in the field. Our bats had awoken fully by this point. Going into the last inning, we are up 15-14. We're home team again, giving us last at bats. They tie it up before we get three outs on them. 15-15, if we score, we win. It all. And they go home.

As we run back into the dugout to take our at bats, we notice, it's the same scenario as last game. Even the same people are up. Our third baseman steps into the batters box. She swings, she connects. Base hit. But she tries to stretch it into two, which is silly cause she's not that fast. Later she would say from where she was, she thought she had it. But she didn't. One out. I'm up. I step into the batters box and hear my brother call out from the stands, "Don't screw this up and ruin everything!" Wonderful encouragment, but it made me laugh and kept me loose. First pitch goes by. Ball. Second pitch goes by. Strike. (That's a 2-2 count in this league, which begins with a count of 1-1.) Third pitch. "There's a sound the bat makes..." I was very modest about this last night, but I honestly believed I had just hit a walk off home run to right field. It turns out I missed it by inches, the ball bouncing off the top of the fence and I pull into third with a stand up triple. (Earlier in the game, their pitcher got a single, and as she came into first, she threw an elbow to my left kidney. I didn't say anything at the time, determined not to let them get under my skin. If that's the way they want to play, that's their problem, not mine. I'm glad I didn't say anything either, because I answered her with my bat.) One out, I'm on third. Our center fielder comes to the bat and hits a hard hit ground ball. It gets out of the infield easy, right up the middle. I come around to score. Gump wins!!!! We got our picture taken (which I'll post as soon as I receive an e-copy of it), we got t-shirts declaring we're the league champs, and we then went out to celebrate. It was 1:00am when I finally got home. But luckily, the Boss Man had given me permission to come in a little late. :)

I've never been the champion of anything and may I be so bold to say, it feels good.


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League Champions 

Gump wins! Gump wins! Gump wins!

More later - but we are the champions!!!


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Monday, November 20, 2006

Win or Go Home 

Tonight is the night. Our softball semi-finals are at 8:30. If we win, (and we should win this game, having already beaten this team soundly, twice) we play immediately afterwards for the championship. Put up or shut-up time. Wish us luck.



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Friday, November 17, 2006

One Month Away 

God Willing and the People Consenting,
the Right Reverend John B. Lipscomb
Bishop of Southwest Florida
will ordain
Ryan Randolph Whitley
to the Sacred Order of Priests
on Sunday, December 17, 2006
at five o’clock in the afternoon
at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church
13312 Cain Rd.
Tampa, FL

Your prayers and presence are requested.

The Festal color is red.
Clergy: alb and red stole

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Thursday, November 16, 2006


I was awakened last night quite rudely around 4 in the morning by a sharp and severe pain in my left calf. I cried out and doubled over to grab my leg, gripping it at first and then massaging it as the pain slowly subsided. Today, it is still sore.

I looked it up and apparently, I had a "night leg cramp," which normally only happens to older people, but can occur in a leg of any age.

The funny thing is, I was only semi-conscious when it happened - you know, in that state of quasi-wakefulness when things don't often make sense. Well, it was storming outside and lightning was striking about every ten seconds.

In my state of quasi-wakefulness coupled with searing agony in my leg, I quickly deduced that I had, while asleep in my bed, in my house, been struck by lightning.


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Bishop Election Process Grows 

The deadline for nominations by petition to be the next Bishop of the Diocese of Southwest Florida was Nov.10 and it did not pass uneventfully. Four more names (all from within the diocese) have been added to the initial three submitted by the nominating committee. They are:

Yes, you read that right. The Boss Man is among those nominated by petition. With the electing convention only 3 weeks away, it is my prayer that this time be as non-anxious a time as possible and that the hearts of those nominated and those voting may be quieted in the presence of God and prepared for that which they are called to do.


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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

"Take Heed Lest Anyone Deceive You" 

I'm scheduled to preach this coming Sunday, so, as is my custom, I read through the lessons today in advance of the clergy bible study I attend at noon on Tuesdays.

Ay, Dios mio!

It seems the lot has fallen to me to preach on Jesus' end times' scenarios and apocalypic preditions, as well as on the eschatological visions of Daniel. Intimidated at the outset, I set to thinking about the texts and what I may say about them. In my initial research via textweek.com, I came across this excellent bit by St. Thomas Aquinas, on Mark 13, from his Catena Aurea, which is worth perusing even if you don't have to preach this coming Sunday.

Then I poked around the internet, curious to see if I could find some sort of listing of all the false predictions that failed to come to pass. Such lists abound, believe it or not. For example, see this fairly comprehensive list, or perhaps this one. All of this made entertaining reading.

Then I came across a pastoral letter written by author Richard J. Foster (Celebration of Discipline; Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home) to the subscribers of his email group. I read it, and I re-read it. It was excellent and I want to duplicate it for my parishioners. Permission to do so is included in the letter, so long as credit is given to Foster. I encourage you to read it as well.

You may find it here.

Then I thought some more about the Gospel passage, and it came to me, as if by inspiration, that a way to begin this week's sermon would be to say:

"It is fitting that it is in the same week in which we hear Jesus say to us, "False messiahs and false prophets will appear and produce signs and omens, to lead astray, if possible, the elect," that we also hear advertisers announce to us the release on DVD this week of the film, "The DaVinci Code."


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I drove across town last night to attend a meeting that didn't happen. I should have called first.

The members of the youth group are getting consistently more excited about their dreams and learning how God may be speaking to them through their dreams.

Why is it that when you go to the Publix deli, you always have to repeat your order?
"Can I help you, sir?"
"Yes, I'd like a pound of hickory smoked turkey, sliced thin, please."
(slight pause as the person maneuvers to the meat slicer)
"You want hickory smoked turkey?"
"Yes, please."
"And you'd like a half pound?"
"No, a full pound?"
"How do you want it sliced?"
"Thin, please."
I'm considering walking up to the deli counter the next time and when they ask if they can help me, say something off the wall like, "My, your new lampshade looks wonderful in that corner!" That way I won't have to repeat myself.

I'm serving dinner for nine people tonight. I need to clean off my dining room table and then figure out where to put the other four people.

I had an excellent work out yesterday.


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Saturday, November 11, 2006


I'm wearing my Demon Deacons hat to church tomorrow.


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Friday, November 10, 2006

God is Always Here 

Both the vigil service last night and the funeral service today (at the Methodist church) for the Boss Man's mother were very nice. Last night the church was full, the lights were dimmed and there were a lot of candles around. It was very haunting and beautiful. The Paschal candle was lit and front and center along with the cremains. I ended up presiding over the service. The Boss Man had told me to find a Presider among the clergy who showed up, but amidst finding readers, prayers of the people people, and another deacon to read the Gospel, I forgot to get a presider. Noting that there was nothing particularly priestly about the service, I decided to step up to the plate and the Boss Man told me he appreciated that a lot.

The sermon went very well I thought, and judging from the remarks made after the service and from the elicited "Amen!"'s it received mid-stride, it went over well with the congregation also. I spoke about her and my experiences, albeit limited, of her. I spoke about how we all knew that she was with Jesus and her husband and her Mom and Dad and all those who preceded her because we believed in the words proclaimed, "I am Resurrection and I am Life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, shall live. Do you believe this?" I repeated the question until the congregation took the cue. Then I talked about how her body which was so wracked with pain and cancer is wiped away now, and she has received a new body, impervious to harm, injury, or disease. Impervious to cancer.

I ended by telling how, when I was last with her, though she was lying down in weakness, she was still very much being a Mom. She was taking roll, you see. "Ed's here, Carol's here, Audrey's here. Michael's here. Paul was here. Susan will be here. And God is always here." She repeated that last phrase over and over again. Though her body was in pain and weakness her proclamation rang strong and true: "God is always here."


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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

For the Public Record 

I hate this God-forsaken war.


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The Preaching Challenge 

The Boss Man's mother passed away. The vigil service is tomorrow night. In all likelihood, he said, the Bishop will be in attendance.

And the Boss Man as given me the honor of preaching.

Do honor and terror rhyme?

It's actually not that I am that fearful of the propisition, it's just that, well, what does one say?


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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

More On the Game 

The game will go down in history as the world's first ever defensive slow pitch softball game. I mean, really, who's ever heard of such a thing? Both teams are highly competitive and played as such. It was all on the line in this game: first place for the season, number one seed in the playoffs (and thus, a bye in the first round), pride, everything. There were no errors. Every ball that got out of the infield deserved to get out of the infield. The pitching on both teams was excellent and considered (thoughtful even!). Tensions ran high and flared on several occasions. I myself was once told to go perform fantastic feats of sexual gymnastics on myself. The other team tried to play dirty on a couple of plays, and we did it once, to be fair. But in the end, we won fair and square, 8-4. Neither team gave up homeruns; each run was manufactured.

We celebrated afterwards with some pitchers of beer and camraderie. When trying to decide to go to the celebration or not, one player looked at me and said, "Well, if he has to go to church tomorrow and he's going, I guess I'll go too."

I replied, "Hey! That's enough out of you!" (Not the first "church" comment out of this one...)

She fired back, "What does that mean?!"

"One day you'll thank me, that's all," I retorted.

"Oh yeah? For what?"

"For going to church on your behalf."

And it's true: I keep my softball teammates in my prayers, just as I do my sailing teammates. I don't know why. Just feel led to pray for them.


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Monday, November 06, 2006

Gump Wins! Gump Wins! Gump Wins!!! 

(you've gotta say that in a Skip Carey voice...)

More on the details of the game later, but suffice it to say that we won tonight, 8-4, beating the other contender for first place (for a second time...) and making us the sole first place team of the regular season with a record of 6-1. Playoffs begin in two weeks.

I'm excited!!!


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Sunday, November 05, 2006


The Vocare weekend was wonderful, but perhaps not in the ways in which it was designed to be wonderful. For me, at least. The fear, the irrational fear I was mentioning last post was indeed irrational. I think the Ref's comment was right - I was afraid of how we would relate to one another as adults and that it would not be as good as I remember the so called "glory" days being.

My friends and I related fine, and as adults. First there was some astonishment when we saw each other. Hugs were had. The necessary questions were asked. Stunned looks were passed (I've lost my hair and gained significant, but good, bulk since the last time we saw each other). But then, we began making new memories after reliving the old one for only a short while. Most importantly, we praised God together with a new song, in a new way, on a new day. And that was what we did best all along anyway. I once wrote that I hoped I was far from finished making memories at DaySpring and this weekend helped me understand that I can and will make new and wonderful memories there. I don't know why I was so afraid I wouldn't. So, in that way, the Vocare weekend was wonderful for me. It was also wonderful to be able to experience a renewal weekend where both my brother and I were participants at the same time. That was special.

The weekend did not help me to figure out what my calling was in life. Parts of the weekend reinforced what I've already gathered to be my calling (and a good thing that is, too!), but there were no big revelations. So, I engaged the weekend on a different level. And I forced myself to make new friends and to not spend all my time with my old ones. And I did make new ones. I met some awesome people. I did spend some time with my old friends, too, though, yet in a new way. Like, I held my friend Lyndsey's 4 month old. The baby and I danced, and sang, and praised together - it was fun, and I'm sure it was cute. I talked with my friend Brad about his job and how he's buying a house. They talked with me about ordination.

Speaking of ordination, I had another mini one this weekend. At the end of the closing eucharist, the priest said, "Now we want to do something very special. One of our number is talking a significant step in his spiritual journey with God next month. In December, Ryan will be ordained to the priesthood and we want to pray for him. So will everyone come up and lay hands on him as we pray." And they did. It was incredibly powerful, moving, and a total God moment. I knew deep down, I guess, that I could not escape a DaySpring weekend without shedding a tear or four. They say that part of the ordination process is being lifted up, called out, by your peers. Never before have I felt that as strongly as I did this morning. That sense of support from my peers. It was amazing. Thank you, God.

The verse from the weekend was Psalm 16:8, and I'll end this post with it:

"I keep the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved."

I shall not be moved. I shall not be shaken. Because the LORD is always before me.


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Friday, November 03, 2006

Irrational Worry 

I am attending Vocare (spiritual renewal retreat for young adults) this weekend, which will begin in just over five hours, at DaySpring, and many of the people there will be old friends who I haven't seen in a long time - old Happening friends, not to mention my brother, too.

I should be elated. But I am not. I find I am worried and I don't exactly know why.

Is it because much has changed in all of our lives since last we gathered in the happy days of yore? All of our roles in life have changed. We are no longer care-free high-schoolers, but responsible young adults. Matt and Lyndsey are married with a child. Trevor is a wealth manager. Brad is a mortgage banker. I am an ordained transitional deacon. All of this seems like a time warp in some ways. Am I worried that it will not be like I remember it being so many years ago? I think that's part of it. But, why should I expect it to be the same? It is going to be a totally different experience? Right?

Is it because I am afraid all that I have learned intellectually in college and seminary will somehow be a roadblock for the full depth and breadth of the spiritual experience? Will I find the weekend shallow? Worse, will I find my friends shallow? God, I hope not.

I think I need to get off my high horse. I think I need to follow the advice I wrote to my high schoolers just a short time ago when they attended Happening, and to those of my friends years ago when we all attended and staffed Happening weekends.

Let go, and let God.

This is God's weekend. Let it be.


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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Episcopal Election 

Exciting times in the Diocese of SW FL. Yesterday morning the slate of 3 final candidates for the fifth bishop of my diocese was announced: Robert S. Dannals, Jacob W. Owensby, and Dabney T. Smith. I remember vaguely when our current Bishop was elected, but I was too young to really care then. As I read their bios and some selections from their essays, I began to reflect on what "bishop" meant to me.

For as long as I have cared, the only Bishop I have ever known was and is John Lipscomb. For better or for worse, when I think of "bishop," I think of John. He has been an excellent bishop to me and, I believe, for our diocese. He was my shepherd when I needed one the most: in the beginning stages of my ordination process. In a diocese that had no idea how to handle an 18 year old who stated emphatically that he was called to ordained ministry, Bp. John took me under his wing. He sheltered me from nay-sayers; he protected me from processes that didn't understand how to deal with a college student aspirant; he prayed for me; he greeted me whenever I saw him and I got the sense that he knew me; best of all, in the business world of southwest Florida, where I was and am known as Rusty Whitley's son, someone recommended my father to him for some financial work and he said, "Is that Ryan's father?" So, when I think of Bishop, I think of John. He heard my call as clearly as I did and he has and will ordain me.

I don't know what the future holds for my conception of "bishop" or for this diocese. God knows. God has already called the next bishop - now the work remains for us to together discern that call. I've spent some time in the blogosphere reading what others have said about the candidates, their experiences of them, both personally and impersonally, and I would welcome your input, if you know or have experiences with them. If you do, or if you do not, would you pray with us for the gift of discernment of the Holy Spirit as we consider the episcopacy of our diocese?

Almighty God, giver of every good gift: Look graciously on our Church, and so guide the minds of those who shall choose a bishop coadjutor for this Diocese that we may receive a faithful pastor, who will care for your people and equip us for our ministries. Go before us, Lord, in all our doings with your most gracious favor and further us with your continual help; that in all our works begun, continued and ended in you, we may glorify your holy Name now and always, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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