Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Things People Do . . .

I just returned home from a great Sunday -- two beautiful services at St. Michael's in Studio City -- what a transformation that place has had! From the last time that I was there, it's had a "face lift" -- renovations and creative use of space. Confirmations, Receptions, Baptisms -- a beautiful day! The Very Rev. Dan Justin, ably assisted by the Rev. Stephanie Wilson, is doing a fine job there. Lots of good energy and the Spirit was moving!

Then I went over to the Cathedral Center for to listen to a re-reading of a sermon, given 150 years ago today on the death of Abraham Lincoln. The Episcopal Chorale was there, singing beautifully as always. The Lincoln High School Drum Line was also  there -- a wonderful addition to the day. It was a very moving service -- with a call to action in terms of all of us still needing to work together to make sure every human being has equal opportunities for employment, earnings, healthcare, etc. The work started by Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is not done yet. We need to carry on the work.

Then -- I returned home. To find this. Where my wreathes normally are hung, I found this hung on the nail where the wreathes go. At first I thought someone had stolen my wreath and replaced it with a note! It turns out that Steve had taken the wreath I had on there down and was going to ask me which one I wanted him to hang in its place.

Instead -- I found this. I initially folded it to throw it away, but then I decided to blog about it.


1. Do I know you?
2. Are you a neighbor I don't know about?
3. Do you know who I am and how I pray?
4. Do you think this is your attempt to "save" me -- how do you know the state of my soul?
5. Did you see me in my clerical collar and that offended you (it has happened).
6. While I applaud the zeal in which you want to proselytize, it would be helpful, if you are a member of a community of faith, for you to put the name and address, phone number and email address of said community on your flyer (there wasn't anything!). Are you remaining anonymous for a reason? Did you put your contact information on previous flyers and you were called and, well, in the vernacular, reamed a new one?

I find it offensive to have this posted on my wall in my doorway. I find it offensive because it is anonymous. I find it offensive because I have Buddhist, Jewish, Sikh, Hindu and Taoist neighbors. I take offense on their behalf. I would much rather engage in a conversation with someone than have them leave me a glossy, expensively printed piece of paper in my entryway that I can't even respond to.

So -- whoever did this, I am praying for you. I am praying for the community of faith you are part of. I'm praying.l

I'm glad my day had me centered and very prayerful -- that will come in handy when I take this late-afternoon intrusion in my day to my night prayers this evening.

I wonder if I will wander into the person who left this on my entryway wall -- and what kind of conversation he/she will have with me, if any?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Of Schedules, Planes and People

Many of you will no doubt know that I've been away at my sister's home in Florida for my annual post-Easter renewal. What you may not realize (but then again, you may) is that I have been travelling a lot this year, and this trend will continue through the end of the year. This is primarily due to:

1. Being a trustee of the Church Pension Fund (4 times a year I am gone to board meetings).
2. Being assistant Secretary to the House of Bishops -- this will take me to several meetings pre-General Convention outside of the diocese.
3. General Convention and the House of Bishops meetings.
4. The Episcopal Asiamerica Ministry Convocation in Seoul, followed immediately by: The annual retreat with my fellow Bishops Suffragan.
5. Vacation.

In case you are wondering, no, the diocese does NOT pay for all these trips. My work for the House of Bishops planning committee (as assistant secretary) and my work for the Church Pension Fund is paid for by TEC and the Pension Fund respectively. My personal travel I pay for.

The work of a Bishop is a very different work from being a parish priest -- I love what I do, but I do miss my family and all of you when I am away. Yet, I know the work I am doing is making a difference and having a great impact on the diocese and the church at large. The Diocese of Los Angeles has been enriched by this work, especially in area of Asian and Multicultural ministry. My work at the Pension Fund alone has been very rewarding and helpful to clergy and laity alike, and my unique voice and perspective is welcomed and needed at the Fund. And yes, when I return I often lose some days off trying to fit in time I'm missed out of the diocese.

So, I have been spending a lot of time on planes, and this will continue through the end of the year.

I've begun the study of how people behave on planes:
1. There are the people who sit at the bulkhead and insist on putting their big bags UNDER the seat, hence taking up the space I'm trying to put my bag in. When I point this out to them they argue and insist it is their space. Enter the flight attendant who has to explain to them that they need to put their bag up, not me. No apology to me -- they feel put out and glare at me. It just happened to me again on the flight I am currently on!

2. Then there is the lady or gentleman who have put on WAY TOO MUCH cologne or perfume. Or they are heavy smokers and reek of cigarettes. Or they have, well, poor personal hygiene. I've gotten stuck next to one or more of these in the past few months, and I can tell you -- my eyes water and my nose and throat burn. One time I thought I was going to throw up mid-flight.

3. My personal favorites are the people that push the button to either put their seat back or put it in the upright position with all the force they can muster, sending my coffee and water flying all over me. I sincerely believe there is NOT a special place in heaven for them.

4. I've sat next to families who have no control over their children, and their children NEED to be told to stop kicking the back of the seat in front of them (where I'm sitting!) or to not touch the nice lady sitting next to them's things, especially my iPad. My favorite was on a long flight, a child threw a tantrum that lasted, on and off, the entire flight while the parents drank beer and watched a movie.

5. People who put their bags in the overhead bin by you and then walk back 20 rows to their seat, taking up the space that you were trying to get your bag into. One man literally, watching me pick up my bag to put in the bin that was above my seat, stood behind me and slid his bag in the spot I was about to take -- and then walked to the back of the plane. Thankfully the flight attendant saw him, pulled out his bag and brought it back to him. He wasn't happy.

6. People who want to talk with me on long flights, causing my neck to cramp from turning sideways to speak with them.

7. People who find out what I do for a living by asking me "what's your line of work", and then when they find out they have to tell me:
a. why they can't stand organized religion.
b. why I can't minister to men.
c. their life story. 
d. ....and my favorite, the ones who turn and stop speaking to me and are silent the rest of the trip, even when I try to engage them in casual conversation.

8. The person who insists they love the window seat but has to get up every half an hour to go to the restroom.

9. And while we are on the subject of restrooms, there is the person who leaves a ginormous mess and doesn't bother to clean up after himself or herself.

10. Then there are the people who talk so loudly the whole plane knows their business.

11. A big pet peeve of mine are the people who continue talking on their cell phone or keep their phones or tablets connected (not on airplane mode) after the door has been closed on the plane and after the flight attendants ask them politely to turn it off. One man waved the flight attendant away, telling her he'd be done in a minute. She stood there and told him to turn it off, and wouldn't budge. He finally got off the phone and told her she was rude. SHE was rude. Ugh!

12. And, when I'm unlucky enough to be in the center seat, I am almost always sandwiched between two large individuals who insist on "spreading out" into my seat, and always take up the arm rest -- and part of my seat!

So, my brothers and sisters in Christ, I want to let you know that I pray for these people. I pray for them on the flight, I sometimes think of them afterwards and say a prayer for them. I also try to be a polite traveler, always saying please and thank you to the flight attendants. If I am sitting next to a first-time or nervous passenger, I try to assuage their fears (especially taking off from Orange County where the pattern is to rev the engine, take off the brake, go like a bat out of hell down the runway, steep ascent and then -- cut the engine -- I've been next to more than one passenger who about lost breakfast over that maneuver). And yes, I always say a prayer before takeoff and landing.

Please know I take myself lightly on these flights -- literally and figuratively. I carry only my purse and a small carry-on. When Steve and I went to Spain 2 years ago we traveled with a backpack and a carry on each -- for a 10 day trip. It's a reminder to me to take myself and the trip lightly. Not to get angry, but to pray for those around me. Not to be overly annoyed, but to try to be the face of Christ to all I meet. To arrive at my destination with a smile and a light heart, ready to do the work that God has given me to do.

When you see (via Facebook) that I am on one of these journeys out of the diocese, please pray for me.  Pray for the crew of the aircraft, pray for easy connections and on-time arrivals. Pray for the people that God brings into my care and concern as I fly the friendly skies. 

I will blog throughout these various travels -- just as I am writing this blog entry on the flight from Houston to Orange County. I love the "disconnectedness" of flying -- no emails, no cell phone for a few hours -- so I typically read and write.  Please also know that even though I may be away, I am never far (except on the plane) from email and cell phone. Please do, if you need me, call me or email me. As a reminder, if you don't hear back from me within 24 hours it means I didn't receive your message -- please try again. Although I may be away, I'm never far in my heart from you. 

I wonder what new things I will discover as I wander around the church -- what new learnings I will glean, and what God in Christ has in store for me and for the diocese in these months to come.