Friday, August 31, 2007

Cubs Win!

I'm not ashamed to admit it--one the things that has excited me about moving back to the midwest is the proximity of Chicago in general and Wrigley Field in particular. I know my experience is in no way unique, but my connection to the place is veritably spiritual--perhaps because it captured my imagination when I was a child, and I have returned there steadily, though at odd intervals, through all the phases of my life to date. It symbolizes continuity and steadiness in a larger environment of flux.

So I jumped at the chance to attend last night's game when my former (Stockton) parishioner J.J. told me he would be flying in for the series; his son happens to be employed by the Milwaukee Brewers as an outfielder and left-handed power hitter. What a great night--it was fun to reconnect with J., to drink in the atmosphere, and to witness a fine game with a nail-biting ninth inning, with playoff implications abounding. (Sorry about the backlit photo--my Plutotian spouse is keeper of the digital camera and she wasn't there [Wrigley Field would be so wasted on her] to show me how to make the flash work.)

It meant, of course, that I had to sit in a section of Brewers fans, including many wives and girlfriends of players! That was bizarre. I've watched the Cubs play in other venues (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta) and always encountered a healthy number of Cubs fans. But I've never been surrounded by the opposition at Wrigley. I tried to behave circumspectly, particularly since the Cubs manage to avoid once again snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. (Ryan Dempster does get the job done, but he makes it a little to "interesting" en route.)

As you can see from the picture below, we had pretty good seats--about twenty rows up from home plate. This allowed an amazing view of Cubs reliever Carlos Marmol's curve balls, which are, from a hitter's perspective, beyond nasty. (Not Marmol in the picture--that's starter Ted Lilly.)

Living in Warsaw, yes, Chicago is accessible, but moreso for day trips than evening events. The time zone change really bites us when we leave the city late at night. I got home at 2:30 AM. But I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Friday, August 24, 2007

...and the "bureacracy run amok" award goes to...

... the Bureau of Motor Vehicles for the State of Indiana.

OK, so I'm trying to be a good citizen of my new home state and apply for an Indiana driver's license on a timely basis. (Plus, my California license expires in less than three weeks, so I have extra motivation.) I check out the BMV website and try to fulfill all righteousness. I study the manual online in preparation for my written test. I pay particular attention to the ID requirements:

  • One primary document -- have birth certificate with me.
  • One secondary document -- have valid U.S. passport with me.
  • Proof of Indiana residence -- have the latest issue of The Living Church with me, addressed to my Indiana residence
  • Proof of Social Security number

This last one flummoxes me at first. In the four decades since I was issued a Social Security card, not once have I been asked to produce it, and can't remember when or where I saw it last. But I pat myself on the back for being able to find the original stub, still stapled to the same piece of card stock to which the card itself was stapled, clearly bearing my number and my signature (as it appeared when I was 16; there has been some...uh...evolutionary refinement since).

I am one happy Hoosier, ready to take my test.


The authentic, clearly original stub of my SS card is not included on the list of acceptable proofs of Social Security number, which the BMV clerk who was...uh..."assisting" me (and who is younger than any of my children) promptly causes to appear in the output tray of her printer and hands to me, highlighting the relevant text in yellow.

I completely keep my cool, realizing that I am in clericals and this is a small town. What are my options, I ask? Whereupon she presses "Print" one more time and out comes Mapquest directions to the nearest Social Security office, which is in Elkhart, about an hour's drive away. I can either apply for a duplicate card (which will take many months, no doubt--well past the time when I have an expired driver's license) or ask them (Elkhart SS, that is) for a letter attesting to the accuracy of my Social Security number.

Need I even put into words how ridiculous this all is?

I didn't think so.

I mean...a Social Security card, at least one of the vintage of my own, is a pretty low-tech, easily forgeable document. That probably has something to do with why it says "Not for Identification" right on it. Oh, yes, I asked whether it would help if I brought in a Social Security statement of the sort they send you every year around your birthday--it would have my name and number on it and be plenty official.

No way.

So the Plutotian and I will no doubt journey to Elkhart on Monday next, en route to Chicago to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary, and apply for new SS cards. What ID will be need to produce? Just a driver's license! Then, if we're very nice, they'll give us a receipt that will somehow connect our names with our SS numbers, and be an official SS administration document.

Just like the stubs we both already have.

And if I continue to be very nice when I go back in, maybe they'll let me take the test. Stay tuned.

It's Miller time.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Anyone seen my voice lying around?

About a month ago, "normal" life suddenly came to a halt. I knew it was going to happen. I was complicit in allowing it to happen. I was, as the saying goes, "shocked but not surprised."

My ministry in a particular parish came to an end. My ministry in a particular (some would say peculiar) diocese came to an end. I got on a plane and flew to an exotic far-off land for about ten days and had a bunch of exotic experiences. Then I came home, packed up the house, and moved 2,200 miles to a land where it seems to do very little but rain. At home I'm still treading water in a sea of cardboard and packing paper. In my daily work, I'm trying to learn a whole new cast of dramatis personae. I'm trying to take my familiar patterns of prayer and adapt them to new surroundings. I'm trying to hobble through life without an outdoor grill because I surrendered my New Braunfels grill-BBQ-smoker to the greater good of the move and haven't been able to replace it yet.

And in the meantime, I seem to have misplaced my "voice" as a blogger. Part of it is simply a matter of time. With a house still in chaos, it seems a little decadent to be spinning out erudite commentary on the arcane agonies of a boutique church. Besides, having kept up with little more than the headlines in the Anglican universe while I was vacationing and moving, I still feel out of the loop, and have really nothing new to add that hasn't been said better already by someone else (most recently, as is usually the case, by the ACI, this time by Craig Uffman). Yep, I'm still what the Stand Firm folks call a "communion conservative," in league with Radner and his ilk, and more and more wary of the ACN (which I can truthfully say I helped found).

But my blogger's malaise runs deeper than that. For the moment, at least, the passion just isn't there. I can't work up a decent froth over anything. I've been slipped an ecclesiastical sedative. I'm pretty excited about my new parish work--I'm passionate about that. But so far I haven't had the drive to join in the drumbeat leading up to the next HOB get-together. One possibility is that I'm just burned out on it all and will simply pretend that normalcy exists even in the face of a mountain of evidence to the contrary.

Another possibility is that my lack of passion is tied to my changed position within the system. I'm no longer in a "hot" diocese, with my ecclesiastical "life, fortune, and sacred honor" riding on every breaking news story. I had speculated that my departure from San Joaquin would make me and my views less interesting to others. Quite possibly, however, my translocation has made me less interesting to myself!

In the meantime, I'm going to keep my eyes peeled, in the hope that my blogger's voice might come strolling by. If you see it, tie it up securely and give me a holler.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

My Sermon Blog

Realizing that there are those who appreciate the opportunity to read sermon texts, but that more, perhaps, do not, rather than loading this blog with my homiletical efforts, I have established a separate blog for that purpose.

Given the transitional nature of my life at present, it seemed appropriate to begin with the homily for my final Sunday at St John's on July 15, so that is the "bottom" post. The top post will always be my most recent sermon, presently my first sermon at St Anne's.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

...and we're back

After a month's hiatus from the blogsphere, life is showing signs of tilting toward the recovery of routine, which--for me, at least--is essential to, what shall I call it? What exactly is blogging, anyway? A "practice"? A "discpline"? The medium is still so new that one hardly knows what it actually is. It's sort of like writing a newspaper column, but the vast majority of bloggers don't get paid for what they produce, and there are no deadlines other than those that are self-imposed. It bears some resemblance to journaling, and there is an illusion of privacy about it (and the consequences of trusting that illusion can be devastating), yet it is in fact quite public.

Anyway, I'm writing late on a Saturday night from the back room of a (walkout) basement, which is shared by the household computer and my exercise machine (a Bowflex ). We've been in the place all of six days and are only now making significant progress in digging ourselves out from under an avalanche of cardboard and packing paper. Tonight I finally found the speakers and power supply to the entertainment center and spent about 90 minutes hooking it all up, only to find, at the moment of truth, that the amplifier has no power. It's plugged in, but pressing the power button produces no result. My Favorite Plutotian tells me she has the toll-free number of our moving company, and that one of the options is a number to press for Claims. I shall be exercising that option come Monday. In the meantime, I still can't play a CD or watch a DVD.

All the while, I've been in my new ministry for four days, and tomorrow is the big day--my first Sunday. The whole experience is at the same time immensely gratifying and immensely intimidating. Parishioners have been over-the-top kind to us (tomorrow will be the first dinner we are responsible for ourselves) and the staff has bent over backwards to help me get comfortably settled. But there's a delicate dance involved when a parish priest takes over the reins. People want a sure hand at the helm, a calm and steady voice. They are looking for me to provide a sense of momentum and new energy in the life of the church community. But they also had an identity and a history before my arrival--an identity and history that deserve to be honored. So it can be tricky to discern where that fine line is between leadership that is too weak because it doesn't challenge or open new windows, and leadership that is foolhardy because it tries to change too much too fast and doesn't sufficiently honor the recent past. I pray for the wisdom to walk this line effectively.

I also pray for our house it Stockton to sell, and sell soon, and I covet your prayers toward that same end!

More soon on the Brazil trip. I know some who read this blog enjoy travelogues.