Saltwater, Electricity and Me

A simple GFCI outlet saved me from taking 120v and 15A last night. I’d installed it five days before for the fish tank, thinking that the only thing worse than water and electricity is saltwater and electricity, given its superior conductivity.

All the while installing it, I kept thinking, “I’m doing this really for Marjorie.” She’s the one who has nightmares about the house burning down around her children. Did I really need it? I mean, it may be on a GFCI protected circuit anyway, right? Don’t I have a circuit breaker to take care of big problems? I installed it anyway and didn’t think much about it anymore.

…Until last night when I was turning on an auxiliary pump and things went wrong. A PVC connection gave out (long story) and saltwater went spraying out of the tank at 1000 gallons/hour, drenching me, the wall, the lights above the tank, the two power strips mounted on the wall right in front of me and the floor. I quickly unplugged the pump but didn’t realize the GFCI had tripped for a few minutes, since I was crawling around with towels on the wood laminate floor.

I dried everything off and tried to reset the GFCI. It wouldn’t work. Eventually I turned off the circuit and removed the outlet and my heart skipped a beat as saltwater began dripping out of the outlet. Yep.

Did I mention that when it tripped I had water and electricity flowing everywhere? I’m think that was a great way to spend $17 and I would do it again in a heartbeat, now that I still have one.


Church Personalities

Some members visited a Consumerist-Entertaino Church this weekend with their granddaughter. They were surprised and impressed with the sermon, which they said clearly proclaimed the Gospel, but were disappointed in how “unfriendly” the congregation was. They put them to the test, sitting themselves in the lounge, drinking coffee, watching all the people walk past and into Sunday School rooms, waiting to be spoken to, waiting to be invited. Finally, right at the moment all the doors were closing the classes were getting started, a nice young lady greeted them and took them to one of the classes. But they were still disappointed.

It didn’t surprise me at all. This parish is exceptionally friendly. Sometimes too friendly, if you know what I mean. Another Lutheran church I know is not as friendly. They are larger too. And often, the two go together, and it makes perfect sense: Like attracts like. Some people want a friendly church and seek them out. Others want to go in and out and blend in. Larger congregations suit them better, as the crowd is bigger. Really big churches allow for lots of anonymity, if that is your desire.

And all this is okay. It’s okay to have a friendly church, or even a “too friendly” church. While some people may not like this, others do. And it is certainly okay to have an “unfriendly church” too. It really is. Because some people want that, some people are more introverted and are uncomfortable with excessive welcoming. It is okay. There is no value judgements here.

You can’t be something that you are not. Now certainly, the friendly church can recognize that not all people want to best friends or members after the first visit. We must remember to tone it down at times. And certainly the unfriendly church can recognize the value of saying hi and not flat-out ignoring folks. But this is truly a case of moderation, of embracing your gifts, of knowing who you are and being that person, er, church. Repenting of the errors, to be sure, but also knowing your strengths, your identity, your place, your vocation.

I am writing about a church or a person? An individual or a body? Yes. Both. Parishes have personality. Congregations have character. The Body is One, and Christ is the head.

More than We Desire or Deserve

Almighty and everlasting God, who art always more ready to hear than we are to pray, and art wont to give more than we desire or deserve: Pour down upon us the abundance of thy mercy; forgiving us those things whereof our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things which we are not worthy to ask, but through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for the Eleventh Sunday after Trinity

This is the perfect collect, or prayer of the day. It is perfect as it praises God for His generosity and love beyond measure, beyond what we ask and desire. It draws our minds away from materialism, for while God gives temporal blessings, the riches of heaven are those things more than we desire, or can desire, nor are we worthy to ask for them. At all times this prayer places us as the beneficiaries of the goodness of God and reminds us of not only our need for humility, but also the impossibility of pride before God, as the greatest we can desire is nothing compared to the riches He gives us in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Pop Culture Religion

As if getting teeth cleaned weren’t bad enough, the dental office had to have Ellen DeGeneres on the TV, talking with Lady Gaga. But as I lay there with jaw unhinged, I heard the Gaga say, “Pop culture is religion.” I tried to listen around the scraping and the poking and the flossing, but didn’t hear much more, so I got back to the office and did some searches and found the Gaga saying the same–even that she claims it as her own (

I think she’s right. Pop Culture is a Culture, a Cultus of its own. I’ve been there and bowed down to the altar of Pop. I’ve been there with the Rolling Stone, the Entertainment Weekly, the Daily Shows, and Late Nights, knowing what band was singing which song and who was married and getting divorced and what was in and out and moving up and moving down, getting the snarky references and, above all, being tuned in to what the Grammys and the Oscars and the TV told me to be and know and like.

What’s even weirder is the anti-pop pop culture you run into sometimes. The punk scene was always about rejecting the pop religion–but all they did was substitute their own, based on unpopularity. Once your secret band became famous and “everyone” liked them, you had to go out and find something even more obscure to worship. It’s the Mystery Religion equivalent.

And I see my own girls sipping from that same well, which is hard to take. I know its common. A phase. I know that like most, they will enter adulthood and their faith will strengthen as their vocations of career and parenthood drive them away and back to the culture of life and Christ, but I wish somehow I can keep them from going headlong down that well, down that pit, because it’s a long, long climb out back into the clear day.

Repenting and Not Repenting and Still Repenting

Photo by antibarbarie

On this coming Sunday of the Pharisee and the Publican (in the One Year lectionary), I ran across the following and had to share:

But if repentance is too much for you, and you sin out of habit even when you do not want to, show humility like the publican ( cf. Luke 18:13): that is enough to ensure your salvation. For he who sins without repenting, yet does not despair, must out of necessity regard himself as the lowest of creatures, and will not dare to judge or censure anyone. Rather, he will marvel at God’s compassion, and will be full of gratitude towards his Benefactor, and so may receive many other blessings as well.”

– St. Peter of Damaskos in The Philokalia – The Complete Text, Volume Three, pg. 160

In conversation with someone the other day, we talked about repentance. We talked about how to do it, as this person said she was having a hard time. “It is the easiest thing to do…and the hardest thing to do,” I said, in an uninspired moment. It is turning your back on the former ways–easy, but even St. Sisoe of the Desert (renown in his day for his ascetic life–think Mother Teresa), said, “I have not yet begun to repent.” And St. Paul said that he was “chief of sinners.”

It is too much for us. We cannot do it. Even the simple command, the first word of our Lord in the Gospel of Mark is too much for us to bear, to do. And I’m not talking about some kind of perfect repentance, either. Not perfect, but just the start, the basics. And as St. Peter notes (ironically), even acknowledging you cannot is, well, a sign of repentance.

As Rush once sang, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”