Facebook faux pas

I had a Facebook friend request from my colleague in Australia. Normally my strict rule is no Facebook associations with current co-workers. But, I thought, after all he's in Australia, and I don't want to offend him. So I accepted the request.

Next thing I know I have a friend request from our new mutual manager in Houston. ARGH! The last thing I want is for my manager to know what I'm saying on Facebook! I've ignored that request.

The stupidity of my original decision hit me. Facebook knows nothing of geography, and I have no control over who my Facebook friends accept as friends.

But the damage was limited, and my Australia colleague is not a frequent Facebook denizen.

I was talking to my spiritual director about this. She said that for our generation, that was an entirely reasonable thing to do. It makes sense to be hospitable to a colleague, and in our minds Australia is very far away.  A younger generation might immediately appreciate the immediacy of the global internet community, but for us, no matter how tech-savvy we might be, that's not how we grew up understanding the world.

Feeling better, at least, that my initial response was not entirely irrational.

helping virtual friends

The Internet is all about community these days, what with Facebook and Twitter. But I find value in slower-moving communities as well. I love the Pressure Cooker email discussion group on Yahoo! groups. Folks there have helped me a lot. And I've been part of helping others.

One woman, a slow cooker veteran, posted an email saying that she was disappointed with all the recipes for her new pressure cooker that required browning. Several of us responded saying that browning was simply an option and not a requirement. We told her that if she liked her non-browned slow cooker recipes she could do much the same thing in the pressure cooker in much less time.

She appreciated the responses. It's nice when online community can be helpful and (at least comparatively) leisurely.

academic errors

I loved the Great Courses series on Cathedrals. It was fascinating and I learned a lot. But I was annoyed that the instructor didn't know the difference between a maze and a labyrinth. What is at Chartres is a labyrinth. There is a clear but convoluted path in and out. A maze has false directions and dead ends.

In the course Analysis and Critique, a series on writing, the professor said that the shelves at bookstores and libraries where "literally groaning" under the weight of books on management and leadership. I spent many years in the book business, several years as a store manager at B. Dalton. I was there when the store was closed and quiet, sometimes alone (in violation of company policy, but never mind that). Never once did I hear the shelves groan, even when we stocked Peter Drucker's heavy tome Management in the late 1970s.

It grates on me when academics who know better make such obvious errors.

seeing Lent

As I wrote here last week, this is my first Lent in the Episcopal Church since 1999. And it is, of course, my first Lent at St. John the Divine.

Different churches, even within the liturgical tradition, vary their practices in different ways for Lent. At St. John's the differences were primarily physical, and therefore visual. In the liturgy there was the addition of the Kyrie eleison, but otherwise it was what we've used since last autumn. Visually, however, things were decidedly different. There was a different cross, made of darker wood, heavier, with a rougher appearance. The candle holders on the altar were made of wood. The lectionary book's gold cover was hidden by purple cloth. The chalice was clay rather than silver.

And so the journey through Lent at St. John the Divine begins.


When I first logged in to work this morning, having not yet caught any news, as is usual for that time of the day, I had an instant message from a colleague on the East Coast asking me, “Have you headed for higher ground yet?” I had no clue as to what he meant, and before I could ask I had to head downstairs and grab some hot tea and toast so I could be coherent for an 8:00 am call.

I thought, perhaps, he was speaking metaphorically, that there had been a huge upheaval in the company and I needed to take cover. It turned out, of course, that he was speaking literally and referring to the devastating earthquake in Japan that resulted in the tsunami warning along the West Coast. The damage, as you know, varied from severe in Crescent City to moderate in Santa Cruz, to minor or none at many other places along the coast.

The events of today made me think of the South Asian tsunami in 2005, and then Episcopal Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold’s response to the question of “where was God in all this?” I can’t find the exact quote, but Griswold said, in effect, that we should not be confused by thinking that God is in the acts of nature, because God is not. Nature does what nature does, and that is not God.

Where God is, Griswold said, is in the response to the event.

And as with the 2005 event, so today, responses are already mobilized and aid is moving in quickly.

That’s where God is.

Lent reflections

There were some wonderful thoughts out there yesterday for Ash Wednesday.

I really appreciated Fr. Phil's suggestion at St. John the Divine that "Remember that you are dust and that to dust you shall return" is not a morbid focus on our mortality, but is to help us to remember to cherish our life in our bodies, here and now, today.

At All Saints' Pasadena, Susan Russell said that we are not to give up social justice for Lent. That it is not about "giving up twitter or Starbucks or Girl Scout Cookies. It's about giving up anything that gets in the way of our being aligned with God's love and God's justice and God's compassion."

Watch the whole sermon. It will be well worth your ten minutes.

A blessed and meaningful Lent to you.



Ash Wednesday

It's Ash Wednesday. Lent has arrived, as late as it is this year. This will be my first Lent in the Episcopal Church since 1999. Not that I expect anything unusual or different. I seek a Lent that is calm and, I hope, sprinkled with some insight. I look forward to a season free from angst. I say that because my spiritual crises seem to happen during Holy Week. That's when I realized that I couldn't keep commuting to All Saints', and that's when I realized that I couldn't stay at St. Stephen in-the-Field. My hope and expectation is for nothing like that this year.

For me, for this year, what's important is that I am back in the Episcopal Church and happy to be there.

produce stand marketing

OliveStsmall An Olive Street recollection.

I saw something somewhere recently where a merchant was deliberately misspelling the name of the item they were selling. I was going to share it with you here, but I've now forgotten what and where it was. Just reminds me that the owner of this middle-aged brain needs to make a note at the time and save it, and not assume that he is actually going to remember what he just saw or heard.

The incident, however, made me think of my Claremont cockroach days. I lived in Claremont and worked at B. Dalton Bookseller in Montclair Plaza. On the route from work to home was a produce stand that had signs proclaiming "Swit Corn" and "Strowberries." We patronized it frequently and called it the "Swit Corn Place."

It took our friend Ann to get to the heart of the matter. (That's Ann the willowy femme lesbian, not Anne, her sometime lover, the butch dyke.) She was the only one who was bold enough to ask about the signs. The woman at the cash register said, "Oh, yeah, that's my husband. He thinks that if we look like illiterate Mexican farmers it will help business"

With apologies to Ecclesiastes: "Marketing, marketing, all is marketing."

moving on

I realized the other day that I didn't get the March email newsletter from Good Shepherd. I'd been thinking for several months about having my name dropped my name from the list, but I didn't want to hurt feelings any more than they were hurt already. And I was interested reading about the progress in the move from the Missouri Synod to the ELCA.

But, really, I've moved on, and as one who has always identified as Episcopalian, I am delighted to be back in an Episcopal parish. I wish Good Shepherd all the best, and now it is time for me give my full attention to where I am, and not on where I've been.

happy to help

G&T A reflection from our Goose & Turrets Getaway — Presidents' Day Weekend 2011

When we were at the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve there was a young couple, obviously madly in love, looking out over the bluff in awe of the crashing waves. It had been stormy the past few days and it was high tide, so the ocean was really showing its power. We learned later that they were from upstate New York, and had only been out here for seven months. Given that I can appreciate their reaction. I'm a native Californian and still often feel that way by the ocean.

They asked Terry to take a picture of them, but she deferred to me, since she was busy with her new camera, and I was without that day. I took two shots with their pocket digital. They took the camera back and looked at them in the LCD display. The woman smiled and said, "Thanks. They're great!"

That by itself would have been enough to have made my day.