paying attention

When I first started attending the Episcopal Church it was all new to me, and I paid attention to the words of the liturgy. Now that I have been around liturgical worship for a while, my mind tends to wander. This is not great, because there are things I need to hear, such as in the confession:

Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.

And there are things I love to hear:

The Gifts of God for the People of God.
Take them in remembrance that Christ died for
you, and feed on him in your hearts by faith,
with thanksgiving.

And there are things I need to be reminded of:

Eternal God, heavenly Father,
you have graciously accepted us as living members
of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ,

So it's my intent to pay attention and listen.

what I’m doing

So what am I doing to keep my middle-aged brain active?

A few things.

When I do my walking I listen to lectures from The Great Courses. Now it's easy to slip into something comfortable in the area of history or religion, but right now I'm stretching my mind by listening to a history of science in the twentieth century. And it does stretch my mind because the first part, at least, focuses heavily on physics.

Then I've started doing crosswords again. HP recently lowered the price of its TouchPad, and for those of us early adopters who paid full price, they gave us a $50 app credit. Happy to take that! Normally I wouldn't spend $9.99 for an app, but under the circumstances I downloaded a crossword app which provides new crosswords from various sources every day. Cool! One wouldn't think there's be such a variation in difficulty from one author to another, but that is definitely the case.

And I've gone pack to Pogo and revisited Word Whomp, where you whack gophers holding different letters in order to spell words. I've added a bookmark to the Web Browser on my TouchPad.

All little things to keep those synapses firing.

the middle-aged brain

I had a birthday yesterday, and I really can't believe that I turned mfnty-pgfzt. I have to say, though, that I feel that I am doing well. I am exercising regularly and we are doing a good job with respect to what we eat.

Like most people my age, however, I do have those brain lapses. I'll confidently walk into a room to get something and then totally forget what it was I walked into the room to get.

So it is with interest that I am reading The Secret Life of the Grown-up Brain: The Surprising Talents of the Middle-Aged Mind by Barbara Strauch. It turns out that as we get older, our brains can still do great things.

First Strauch tells a story on herself and a friend.

  My own most recent worst case was when I tried—really tried—to get a book for a book club I’m in. I
went online and carefully ordered The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Then, a week later, I had a free
moment at work and I thought, Oh, I should order that book club book. I went online and carefully typed
in an order for The Alchemist—again. Then a few days later, jogging in the park, a faint bell went off
in my head and I thought, I think I ordered the wrong book. At home, I checked my e-mail and, sure
enough, we were supposed to read The Archivist by Martha Cooley. I’d ordered the wrong book—twice.
And that wasn’t the end of it. Later that week, I was talking with a fellow book club member,
a neurologist, who, after hearing my embarrassing story, started to laugh. It turned out that she’d gone
to the library to get the book club book and had just as carefully come home with a copy of The Alienist,
by Caleb Carr. So there you go. Two middle-aged brains, three wrong books.

But then she goes on to say:

  For the first time, researchers are pulling apart such qualities as judgment and wisdom and finding out
how and why they develop. Neuroscientists are pinpointing how our neurons—and even the genes that
govern them—adapt and even improve with age. “I’d have to say from what we know now,” says Laura
Carstensen, director of the Stanford Center on Longevity at Stanford University and a leader of the
new research, “that the middle-aged brain is downright formidable.” A friend who is a poet told me
recently that she does not think that she could have written the poetry she does until she had
reached her mid-fifties—until her brain had reached its formidable age. “It feels like all the
pieces needed to come together,” she said. “It’s only now that my brain feels ready. It can see
how the world fits together—and make poetry out of it.”

I'm really enjoying the book. If you're in roughly the same age demographic as I am, you might find it engaging as well.

Sacred Music Friday: Look at the World

Look at the World by John Rutter, performed by The Cambridge Singers


chameleon cable networks

Cable networks diverging from their original purpose is nothing new. It's been years since MTV broadcast music videos. Still, when you tune to a channel, you'd like to see the expected programming.

I watch very little TV, but I was surfing the other day. I tuned to BBC America and saw listed bunch of episodes of Star Trek: Next Generation. Yes, Patrick Stewart is British and I love Star Trek, but on BBC America?

So I switched to Planet Green and the schedule showed an afternoon of BBQ Master shows. Say what?

I know it's all about money and getting the most viewers, but it's just one more reason why I watch so little television.

more on trade-offs

I don't watch much television at all, except for the morning news at breakfast. When I do turn on the TV for some reason (perhaps while eating a meal when Terry isn't around), I like to watch cooking shows. But I like real cooking shows, not the competition programs that dominate the Food Network these days. I really liked Food Network's sister network, The Cooking Channel, which pretty much shows straight cooking shows. The problem is that we lost that when we switched from DirecTV to cable.

What I'm realizing is that I just need to do a little planning ahead. Food Network still has Marcela Valladolid of Mexican Made Easy, Rachael Ray, and the gorgeous Giada De Laurentiis. I simply need to record a few shows and have them on hand when I want to watch something.

I don't have access to Nigella Lawson, and I do enjoy her somewhat sexy, sultry style. But I don't really like her dishes all that much. What can you say about someone who says that corn and flour tortillas are interchangeable and that it's OK to use instant mashed potatoes? Please! I can get by without Nigella.

All-in-all it's a more than fair trade-off for the much faster internet access we now have.

let it be

Following up on yesterday's reflection, it occurred to me that one way to practice looking for God’s presence is to "let it be."

A few years ago I mentioned here how Anne Lamott wrote that she would wear a pendant of the Virgin Mary, even though she is a Protestant who attends a predominately African-American Presbyterian church. Doing so reminds her to "let it be."

If you know the music of the Beatles you understand how she gets from point A to point B. (Yes, I know Paul McCartney was really referring to his own mother who was named Mary, but that's not the association that's made in popular culture.)

I'm glad I saw Rose is Rose on Sunday to remind me of this. Something I can really use right now. Remembering to let it be.



I was talking to my spiritual director about the level of stress and aggravation at work. After our session she emailed me her sermon from a couple of Sundays earlier. Right in the middle of the sermon was exactly what it was I needed.

How do we remember that God is with us when things get rough? How do we hold onto courage to keep
seeking the treasure when we can only see the rocks in the field? The answer is simple. We practice.
In the small changes of life, we practice looking for God’s presence.

Thank you, Linda!

Sacred Music Friday: My Song Is Love Unknown

Courtesy of Unapologetically Episcopalian.


the Church is in the business of redefinition

This was written in the wake of the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York, but I think that Rev. Hopkins' words fit into the much larger context of social justice in general. This, to me, is the church at its best.

  The church's job, in "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the
communion of the Holy Spirit," is constantly to be the agent of the new thing the
prophets taught us God is always doing. That means "redefinition" is in our portfolio.
It's the business we are in.
I am reminded of something the then Lutheran Bishop of the Washington Metro Area
said to our Diocesan Convention in Washington many years ago.
"Progressives in the Church need to remember that God never changes;
traditionalists need to remember that God is always doing a new thing."
I think this paradox is true today. In terms of marriage,
it has, in fact, not changed, and we have, in fact, done a new thing.

The Very Rev Michael W Hopkins, courtesy of Susan Russell