making changes

I’ve been thinking  about this for a while, and last week I decided to make the change.

I’ve been seeing the same doctor at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s Los Altos clinic since about 1999. He was new then, and has matured along the way. Still, some qualities have remained unchanged. He does not have the most cordial exam room manner, but when it comes to stethescopeusing diet and exercise to manage cholesterol and blood pressure, there is no mistaking his viewpoint. That’s been good for me, and I have made lifestyle changes because of that. Still, he can be annoying when he brags about his own diet and exercise routine. While my company had its Silicon Valley campus that was fine, and it was easy to get over there from my office. But with that campus closed and my working from home in Gilroy exclusively, getting from home to the Los Altos campus becomes something of a major expedition. And we’re talking two trips — one for the blood work and one for the physical.

So last week I called up the clinic that was the easiest drive from home and set up a new primary care physician, who I will see for my physical the last week of August. I appreciate the discipline that my previous doctor helped to instill in me, but I won’t miss his telling me about what a pure and healthy life he lives.

wishing her the best

I wrote some weeks ago about my co-worker Jan, as I called her, who was moving off of the project we had worked on together. I was cleaning up my instant message contact list the other day, and noticed that her status was “presence unknown.” That invariably means that the person has left the company. Took me by surprise.

I tracked her down on LinkedIn, and we finally talked on the phone last week. She had been working remotely from a small town outside of Redding, CA for some time. Turns out that she was nervous about her perception of how getting ahead (or even surviving) in her business unit seemed to require a physical presence in that business unit’s new office tower in Silicon Valley. When early retirement was offered at this time last year she raised the issue with me, but we never discussed it thereafter. I assumed that she had considered the option and dropped it.

Turns out that was not the case. She applied and was accepted (as was everyone who applied), but had her departure date deferred by ten months. She had kept that all very quiet.

HawaiiBut here’s the thing that struck me. She had moved to the Redding area with her significant other some years ago when his job took him up there. She told me when we talked that they had been together since high school, and that they had recently split up. How disruptive and disorienting is that? She took these big changes in her life as an opportunity to make another big change and move to Hawaii, where her brother is. She’s looking for remote contract work.

Jan, as I’ve known her, has always been hard-shelled (biting the heads off of nails, as I used to say) and expressed minimal emotion, except, at times, maybe anger. I detected a slight crack in her voice as she was telling me about the breakup, but for the most part she remained stoic. Still, what a major, life-changing disruption this had to be for her. There must be some significant pain and emotion just under the surface.

I do wish her all the best. I wish her an orchestra with which to play. I wish her contracting success. And I wish her love, and the chance to emerge from that hard shell.

Emmaus in Summer

“Emmaus never happened. Emmaus always happens.”
— John Dominic Crossan, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography

I have written much about Emmaus, though I normally reserve my comments for Easter. However, as I’ve mentioned, I have been taking the online course Soelle in Summer focusing on the work of Dorothee Soelle and facilitated by the marvelous Jane Redmont. Jane posted a poem by Soelle on Emmaus, which I reproduce below. It triggered a strong response from me, as the Emmaus story usually does. Here are the comments I made on the post, slightly edited.

EmmausThe Emmaus story touches and moves me at more levels and in more ways than any other passage in the Bible. I have blogged about it many times. I’m always disappointed that it shows up in the Lectionary for Sunday morning only once in the 3-year cycle (Year A – Matthew, which is odd). Yes, I know it’s there for Easter evening every year.

So I was struck by Soelle’s taking that passage and interweaving it with images of social justice denied, and then suggesting that Cleopas and companion (probably his wife) were walking away from the “city of their hope” to where, as we might say today, the grass is (or rather, seems) greener. Yet they turn back to Jerusalem, their “city of their hope” when the meet the Christ.


I need to come back to this poem and spend some more time with it.

Here is the poem:

Song on the road to emmaus

So long we have been walking
away from the city of our hope
to a village where life is said to be better

   Hadn’t we thought
   we could overcome fear
   the fear of the old pieceworker
   that she’ll have to take sick leave
   the fear of the turkish girl
   that she’ll be deported
   the fear of the haunted neurotic
   that he’ll be committed

So long we have been walking
in the same wrong direction
away from the city of our hope
to the village where there’s supposed to be water

   Hadn’t we thought
   we were free and could liberate
   all those poor devils
   the working man’s child held back and punished
   in school
   the adolescent on his motorbike
   sent to the wrong work
   for life
   the deaf and dumb
   in the wrong country
   at the wrong time
   silenced by working
   a lifetime
   for bread alone

So long we have been walking
in the same direction
away from the city
where our hope is still buried

   Then we met someone
   who shared his bread with us
   who showed us the new water
   here in the city of our hope
   I am the water
   you are the water
   he is the water
   she is the water

Then we turned around and went
back to the city of our buried hope
up to jerusalem

   He who brought water is with us
   he who brought bread is with us
   we shall find the water
   we shall be the water

   I am the water of life
   you are the water of life
   we are the water of life
   we shall find the water
   we shall be the water

Dorothee Soelle
Revolutionary Patience (Orbis, 1977)
pp. 46-48

Sacred Music Friday: Distant Land redux

I shared “Distant Land” two years ago, and did so again this year on July 5th. According to my WordPress statistics it didn’t get very many views, I assume because it appeared right in the middle of the holiday weekend. It is such a beautiful melody and the words are so apt for our world full of conflict and pain, I wanted to try to give it more visibility.

The work is written by John Rutter, and this performance is by the State College Master Singers and Chamber Orchestra. It was written about the fall of the Berlin Wall, but it seems appropriate in so many contexts. Be sure to read the beautiful lyrics are below.

I see a distant land: it shines so clear.
Sometimes it seems so far, sometimes so near.
Come, join together, take the dusty road;
Help one another: share the heavy load.
The journey may be long: no end in sight:
There may be hills to climb, or giants to fight:
But if you’ll take my hand,
We’ll walk together toward the land
Of freedom, freedom, freedom.

I hear a distant song: it fills the air.
I hear it, deep and strong, rise up in prayer:
‘O Lord, we are many; help us to be one.
Heal our divisions: let thy will be done.’
I know the time will come when war must cease:
A time of truth and love, a time of peace.
The people cry, ‘How long?
Till all our world can join the song
Of freedom, freedom.’

I touch a distant hand and feel its glow,
The hand I hoped was there: at last I know.
Swords into ploughshares: can it all be true?
Friends out of strangers: start with me and you.
I see another time, another place
Where we can all be one, one human race.
The walls will melt away,
We’ll come together on the day
Of freedom, freedom, freedom.

looking deeply

Holy Molé is a relatively recent addition to the San Francisco Chronicle comics page. Sometimes I find it annoying, and sometimes it absolutely nails it. This strip says volumes about the human tendency to scan the horizon when what you’re looking for is right there in front of you. I know it’s a tendency that I have.

This is a good reminder about mindfulness and paying attention to what’s close by.


believing and belonging

The folks over at Episcopal Café had an item called “Do you have to believe to belong?” last month. The article didn’t actually go in the direction I had expected, but it did set me thinking.

elizabeth_iFor me there’s a lot of church doctrine in which I don’t believe. Take, for example, the bulk of the Nicene creed, which we say every Sunday. Fortunately, I am part of the tradition of the Episcopal Church where doctrine is not crucial.

That tradition goes back, of course, to Queen Elizabeth I, who, while she had no reservations about telling people how to worship, was not interested in what people believed. Tradition holds that she said:

I would not open windows into men’s souls.

(I quoted the statement as it has been preserved. There was, of course, no concept of gender-inclusive language in her time.)

It is a practice that most of the Anglican Communion has continued to honor. That’s nice, because I love being able to receive Communion without feeling that I need to subscribe to a particular doctrine.

Yet another reason I love being an Episcopalian.

maintaining perspective

I’ve written before about Margaret, who writes the marvelous blog Leave it Lay where Jesus Flang it. She is an Episcopal priest in Eagle Butte, South Dakota on the Cheyenne River Reservation. She writes about the challenges of her work, and they are many.

She serves nine active congregations. Nine. She deals with all of those issues you would expect on a reservation: alcoholism, drug abuse, poverty, crime and on. There were twenty-six funerals on her watch through June. Twenty-six. That’s one a week. One of the funerals was for an eighteen month old girl. For which the authorities would not let her mother out of jail to attend.

That’s the world that Margaret lives in.

In my blog reading, which I do using my RSS news reader, Leave It Lay is followed by Penny’s blog. She is an Episcopal priest on the East Coast serving a generally upper middle class congregation, or so it appears to me. The issues she deals with seem so trivial and inane by comparison with what Margaret faces.

But I have to stop myself when I have those thoughts. Because if Penny’s issues are trivial and inane, then so are mine.

latteOn West Coast Live a couple of weeks ago, the host, Sedge Thomson, interviewed Marianne Elliott, author of Zen Under Fire, which is her account of her time as an aid worker in Afghanistan. Sedge quoted an Afghani who said that it was not wrong that we had our quiet lives, our cafés, and our lattes. What was wrong was that those in Afghanistan didn’t have them.

A point worth reflecting on. Perhaps a reminder not to be too hard on ourselves in appreciating what we have. Especially if we choose to use some of that abundance to help those who have less.

doing what’s important

A couple of years ago on the first Sunday of Advent, St. John’s rearranged its Sunday services. The 8:00 a.m. Rite I Holy Eucharist was waferdiscontinued, the 10:30 a.m. Rite II Choral Eucharist moved to 9:00, and the 9:00 family service moved to 10:30. It’s much easier to get responsible adults without children to show up at 9:00 than it is to corral the kids and get them out of the house and into the car for church at that hour. I’m sure I’ve groused about that change here before. When previously I could sleep in on Sunday and attend the Choral Eucharist, I now have to choose. But really, if doing what is important means a little inconvenience, well what do I have to complain about?

Even in the summer when we don’t have the choir and the procession isn’t much of a procession, the Holy Communion portion of the service is unchanged. And you know how important Communion is to me.

My friend Fran posted this on Facebook this quite some time ago:

People often ask me why I go to church. There are many reasons, but let me tell you this – I can go to confession all I want, I can “wash my hands” all I want – I still show up kind and typically I am kind of a mess. It would seem that God asks us to show up, with open hearts, open hands. I pray to be willing. Sometimes I am, sometimes not so much. I keep trying… lather rinse repeat. If I think I can clean myself up for God, I am kidding myself. God does all the heavy lifting, all the major clean up. And if we can’t go and be a part of it, because so much of it happens when we are all together, then what? Then what?

Fran is Catholic. I am Episcopalian. Yet we share many values in common, and we both value Communion greatly.

It doesn’t hurt me to get up a little bit early on a Sunday.

Sacred Music Friday: Holy, Holy, Holy

Mormon Tabernacle Choir

when you stand beside the ocean (or the power of associative memory)

I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean,
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens,
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.

—Lee Ann Womack, “I Hope You Dance”

One of the blogs I have in my RSS newsreader is Velveteen Rabbi, written by Rachel Barenblat. Last week she had a blog about the mikvah, which is NewBrightona pool or body of water used in the Jewish ritual of purification. That made me think of my days in Oklahoma City in the early 1980’s, when I was attending Friday even Shabbat services at the reform synagogue there. One service included a conversion ritual for a young man who, the rabbi said, had begun at the mikvah in Tulsa. That caused me to remember that the thing I disliked most about being on Oklahoma was having no access to the ocean. It made me think about how deeply grateful I am that Terry and I are less than an hour from the ocean here in Gilroy.

We don’t get there enough, I know, but it is there. And I can be there, feel the salt air, see and hear the crashing breakers, and yes, feel small, but know that there is much goodness and beauty in my life.