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.
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.