Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Have Collar, Will Travel 

I'm packing up to head back North for a week. Chicagoland, here I come! I'm excited to see old friends and familiar Chicago sites, hope to take in a Sox game, have a sailing venture planned, and, oh yeah, get to hear the Presiding Bishop speak at Seabury's Commencement. Should be a great trip!

Last weekend went well. Once I figured out that whatever awkwardness there would be didn't belong to me, I was fine! So, it turned out not to be awkward for me at all and I had a very nice time. If other people felt awkward, I decided that was their issue to own, not mine. (Oh, and Fr. Steve+, I laughed out loud for several minutes at your suggestions!)

I don't think I've mentioned this before on here, but I have been considering getting a dog since I moved to Tampa. Before this consideration began, I really didn't know a thing about dogs. But, I've bought a book, the ASPCA Complete Guide to Dogs, and have read up on them. I researched breeds and decided that I like boxers. So, I was all set to contact my local boxer rescue group when I met a dog that was staying with my Aunt. She was looking for a home for this stray they took in, and I said I might be able to provide one. Well, after some back and forth emails, it became too complicated for any number of reasons, so I am back to my original plan.

I've applied at the boxer rescue group for a particular dog I saw on the website and am anxiously awaiting their review of my application and an impending home visit. In the meantime, I have a lot to do to prepare both my home and myself for a dog, should I be chosen. Needless to say, I am excited, but I'm trying not to be too excited.

The Girlfriend offered some friendly encouragement - "You're a shoo-in!!! You're a priest!"


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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Busy Memorial Day Weekend 

There is a lot going on this weekend. Yesterday I played a round of golf with Anthony - I shot 106, which is considerably better than where I was last time I played. It is good to watch my score continue to drop. When I get into the low 90's I think I'll be happy. Today I am headed to Brooksville to celebrate birthdays and graduations (from kindergarten!) with my father's side of the family, so that should be good.

Tomorrow is church and baptisms galore. I'll have more to say on the subject of baptism later, as I've been doing some thinking about it. Then comes the dilemma. The Girlfriend's family is out on St. Pete Beach for the holiday and have invited me to come. I was all excited to go, but then I learned it's not just her family, it's her family and their entire social circle. Still, no problem. I mingle well. But, the social circle includes the family of the Ex-boyfriend, and likely, he'll be there. (The Ex-boyfriend, mind you, who, in the parlance of soap operas, she ditched for me.)

Now, this would no doubt be an awkward thing, as I've explained to the Girlfriend. And I think not just awkward for me, but awkward for her, for him, and for the families. She tells me I'm making too big of a deal about it. I don't know that I am. She tells me everyone is clamoring for me to show up. I think that's a bit much. She tells me, her parents think I'm being silly. Ok, now I think if I don't go, it makes me look like a...you said it Brennan...a coward. So, I'm stuck. I told her I'd consider, but not to get her hopes up.

So, why am I considering which bathing suit I'll take? Advice will be received but not necessarily taken.


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Friday, May 18, 2007


All the experts say that one of the key parts of "growing up" is passing through the day when you lose the notion of your own invincibility. I think, for me, the day that happened was the day my friend Andrew was killed in the car wreck.

But just because you lose your own notion of invincibility does not mean you lose the notion of invincibility for others. Allow me to explain what I mean.

I have a fraternity brother who is overseas, Baghdad specifically, serving the Bush Administraion in the Army. Generally, about once a week, he sends a lengthy email to those of us on his list describing what's been going on, what day-to-day life is like, combat situations he's been in or around, and what he likes to call "frontline humor." I have found these missals engaging and intriguing, a window into a world I hope never to have to know, but one for which he often longed as a college man.

Each week, I read some horrific tale of combat death and each week I think I try and push deep down the fact the dead one could have been my fraternity brother. This week's letter was especially poignant: carrying an arm load of military goods, he passed within ten feet of several transport vehicles where others were sitting and lounging. They saluted him, he responded. He moved on. Thirty seconds later, those vehicles were struck with a mortar attack, killing one, wounding the other five. 30 seconds. 10 feet.

And yet I happily read his email, in the midst of other emails about much more mundane things, and I think - somehow I manage to actually believe this - that my fraternity brother was in no danger. But I know that is not true.

I just hope his weekly emails keep coming.

Pray for peace.


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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Ascension Day 

Ascension Day, which is really tomorrow, is transferred to today at St. Mark's so that we can celebrate it at our Wednesday Night service.

We'll be using material, for the first time, from the Church of England's Common Worship that I've been so excited about. Drawing on both the Common Worship: Eucharistic Texts, and Common Worship: Times and Seasons, the liturgy for this evening is going to be both fresh and familiar. As I've mentioned before, I really like the fact that there are clear roles delineated for both clergy and laity, and that both get a fair amount of "air time," if you will. The services are very responsory, which I hope will prove to be as engaging for others as I think they are. One of the other things I like, from the Times and Seasons resource, is the vast amount of liturgical options to mark, well, the times and the seasons. Included in those options is a way for the presider to introduce the holy day that gives the reason, in a concise fashion, for why we celebrate it. I like this because it does not presume that everyone knows the significance of the holy days and serves as liturgical education in a brief, precise, and non-threatening manner.

For example, the presider's introduction for Ascension Day, which is to preface the reading of the ascension from the Acts of the Apostles, goes like this:

"Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, for forty days we have been celebrating with joyful hearts the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, his bursting from the tomb and his defeat of the power of sin and death. He appeared to his disciples many times and told them about the kingdom of God.

Today we recall how he left this earth and returned to his Father, ascending into heaven to take his throne over all dominions and powers. Trusting in his reign over all creation, and submitting to his kingly yet loving rule, let us hear the story of his parting."

We will also be using Eucharistic Prayer E from Common Worship, (that's right, Prayer E) with the extended preface for Ascension Day. It strikes me as poetic, my favorite line being, "...send your Holy Spirit, that broken bread and wine outpoured may be for us..." This will be the first time at St. Mark's that we use these resources and I hope they will be at least half as well received by the congregation as I've received them, because that means people will like them. Personally, I'm pumped!


P.S. Every Ascension Day since I heard the Rev. Jim Lemler preach on it, I've always remembered his story from his seminary days; wherein he told that once, to celebrate Ascension Day, he and some of his colleagues strapped a statue of Jesus to a powerful bottle rocket. After they lit it, everyone got to watch as he "ascended." He went on to explain that their Dean was not amused.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Gump Loses on a Lie 


The worst part was how they won. In one of the middle innings, I came up to bat second with one out. I connect solidly and the ball flies hard and fast to right field, over the right center fielder's head. I round second and pull into third standing easily. A few moments pass, our next batter steps up to the plate. Then their first basewoman begins to complain. "But, he didn't touch first base!" The ump asks her if she's officially appealing, she says yes, and then he calls me out. "Bull*$&#!" I yell. I touched every bag! He said, "Sorry, she appealed," like that for some reason settled it. So I was out. Now, I never argue with umps because I don't feel like I know enough about the intricate rules of the game to really argue strongly, but this time, it was different. When we took the field, I trotted over to him and really let him know exactly what I thought of that call. He asked me if I wanted to appeal the appeal. I said, "I'm not taking it to court here buddy, but you know and I know that (a) I touched every bag and (b) you weren't even looking. You were watching the outfield like everyone else. How bout a bull*$&# call on them this inning!" He said to me I could appeal it at any time. I told him that I'd settle for him watching the game with two eyes.

The next time I came up to bat I got a single and when I got to first base I jumped on it, just to emphasize the point (a bit of an athletic temper-tantrum, I know...). Their first basewoman remarked snidely, "Careful, you'll break your ankle doing that." I looked at her and said angrily, "I don't break my own ankles." (Sorry, Ashley...)

So, in the last inning, the game would at least have been tied, if not ended in a Gump victory, but as it stood, we lost on a lie, to the team with the worst record. If that's how they want to win, that's their business. I at least slept with a clean conscience.


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Monday, May 14, 2007

Full as the Vicar 

There is an episode in that much beloved (by seminarians/clergy/anglicans in general, at least) BBC comedy The Vicar of Dibley in which the Vicar is invited to just about everyone's home for Christmas dinner and doesn't have the heart to turn anyone down. So she travels from home to home, eating 4 course (or more) meals at each locale. As you can imagine she winds up quite sick. While I am not that full, I do empathize with her character a bit. Yesterday, I was at The Girlfriend's parent's house for a Mother's Day brunch, that ended up not getting served until 3. Normally, no problem. But, with an invite to a parishioner's home at 7 for dinner, I was concerned. I told The Girlfriend that I was only going to eat light at her brunch; but it was a serve it yourself, buffet style setting, and by the time I made my way around the kitchen island, my plate was laden with food and she looked at me and said, "Light, huh?" I had no reply.

Then dinner at 7 was delicious. There were crackers, cheese, and sorpressata as an appetizer and then a main course of risotto with mushrooms and asparagus, plus the largest prawns I'd seen in a while broiled in a scampi sauce. I had 8. I couldn't help it. When I got home, I collapsed into the bed and when I woke up, I was still full. Ughh...but delicious.

NOW, on the reading front, I continue to be inspired by my buddy Griffin's blog, by the comments he recently got from our friend Taylor, and by the exchange going on here about Pullman's novels. I love talking about books and about reading, and doing so just spurs me on further. Ask Griffin or Pierre sometime about how we would sit around Barnes and Noble and talk about a book until we worked ourselves up into a dorky, literary frenzy. Ah, those were the days!

So, I'm almost finished with McCarthy's The Road, cause I can't put it down. It's amazing, and if his other books are anything like this one, I'll be sure to become a fan.

Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy is next on my agenda, so I'll be sure to let you all know what I think of it. As those close to me know, unlike some of my clerical colleagues, novels questioning the nature of God don't scare me. (A) They're novels. (B) God knows I question his nature all the time anyway.

To respond to Adam Jacob, yes I did read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, but was unimpressed. I never liked Jane Austen stories and just because Susanna Clarke added magic to what essentially is one, doesn't make me interested. That was 800 pages I'd rather have back.

And I spent some gift cards I had lying around left over from Christmas (sad, I know) and got three more pieces of fiction to add to the ever-growing, never-ending, queue:

1. The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, by: Umberto Eco
2. The Alchemist, by: Paul Coelho
3. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by: Michael Chabon


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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Forgot to Mention - Gump Won 

12-4. Even without Brennan, though his absence was noted. I was 2-3 with a run scored and 2 RBI's.


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Fairy Tale 

I just finished reading Tad Williams' The War of the Flowers, and it was a pretty good read for what it was. I picked it up after finishing my last book, Acts of Faith, which was very serious, because I wanted something light and frivilous. That was pretty much what I got. Flowers was a fast read and an engaging story about a young man who finds himself transported to a fairy tale world that is in the midst of political upheaval. Naturally, he's wrapped up in it and doesn't know. (My buddy Griffin, over at Beyond the Zero, always referred to these kinds of stories as "the one true guy with the one true sword" stories.) By and large, that's how this story plays out, but the young man, Theo, doesn't play a very good hero character. He's more the C3P0 type of hero - bumbling.

I've found Tad Williams to be distinctly hit or miss in the past. I could not work my way into his Otherland series at all - it had no plot and just wandered. This would be ok for a book of 200 pages, but at 900 pages plus for four volumes, it wasn't worth the effort. Now, his Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series was excellent. It had both plot and character development and was a compelling, if oft told, fantasy-quest type story. But, if you like that, as I do, there's nothing wrong with it, just nothing particularly innovative.

Now Williams has another series out, this one a two volume series I think, called Shadowmarch. I looked at it in the bookstore, and, after reading the back, decided it sounded all too familiar. It sounded to me as if he read George R.R. Martin, really liked the Wall sequences, and thought he'd write a whole book about that kind of thing. I dislike copycat writers. Williams is a good writer in his own right; he's got a good sense of style about him and he can create inspiring and believable characters. Just write your OWN story man!!

Speaking of George R.R. Martin, his books were the last Truly Amazing fantasy books I read (there are a ton of horrible fantasy stories out there, several mediocre ones, a few Truly Amazing ones, and only one Tolkien). I just wish the series were finished. Book 4 of 7 (we think) came out a couple of years ago and he swears he's almost done with 5. But I didn't read 4. I only started them because I thought it was the standard fantasy trilogy, but now, it seems despite speaking to the contrary, he is trying to become the next Robert Jordan. (I gave up on Jordan's books years ago.)

If anyone knows about any other Truly Amazing fantasy stories out there, I'd love to hear about them. But it seems 'til Martin is done writing, I'm stuck with mediocre stuff or no fantasy at all (which is more likely the route I'll take rather than read much more drivel, like Gene Wolfe's highly touted Shadow and Claw, which I put down in a rare move after the first 200 pages or so).

Anyway, on now to a little Cormac McCarthy as you can see from the sidebar.


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Monday, May 07, 2007

Abuse of Power? 

So, there I am, on the way home from the gym this afternoon, going down the winding residential street when I notice the always disturbing sight of police lights behind me. I pull over, a little confused, as I was only going about 40mph. The officer approaches, and when he gets close to the back of my car I notice him reading the window sticker I have that says, "Episcopal Clergy". When he gets to my window he asks for my license, registration, and insurance card. I produce all three and say to him, appropriately submissively but equally inquisitively, "I was only going 40 mph?" I legitimately thought it was a 40mph zone. He replies, "45 when I clocked you. And all this is a 30mph zone." I must have looked confused, cause he added, "It switches to a 40mph zone right there, " he said, pointing just ahead, "but in here it's 30." I nod and apologize. He says ok, and that he'd be right back after checking some things out. Then he returns to his car. I see him notice my sticker again. When he comes back he says politely, "All of this checks out, so how bout we just call it even for today and you promise me you'll be more careful in the future." I accept this plan readily, thank him, and drive off.

All the while I'm on the way home wondering if the only reason I didn't get a ticket was because I had a little sticker that said "clergy". It could be. Or, he could just have been having a good day. I'll never know, but it left me feeling a little bit weird.


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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

By the Skin of Our Teeth 

Forrest Gump eeked out a slim margin victory, 11-10, last night against the previously 2-0 team M.T. Pitchers.

We got ahead early by one run that proved to be the difference in the game. After a lead off pop out, I got walked for a BB, and because a female bats behind me, I advanced to second automatically. She hit an infield single, bringing me around to third, and I came home to score off a deep fly ball by Brennan. Until the last inning, that was the last lead we held. They battled back in the next inning scoring 3 runs. In the following inning, I hit a 2 RBI single to right field to tie the game, but we quickly lost the tie as they scored a couple more, making it 5-3.

Runs were traded back and forth for the next inning.

Going into the second to last inning they were ahead 10-5, but an offensive streak put us on top 11-10, including a 3 run HR by Aron, and another RBI single straight up the middle by yours truly, making me 2-2 for the night with a BB, 2 runs scored, and 3 RBI's. It was one of the better games I've had at the plate. As they were the home team they batted last, but we held them, letting them leave two runners stranded, for a final score of 11-10.

Everyone was asking where the cheerleaders were, and what sense does "bedtime on a schoolnight" make anyway, but I placated them by saying that since next week's game was the early one at 7:30, they might just put in an appearance.


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