Monday, June 30, 2008

The airline conspiracy

They won.

$300 in fees. Hours on the phone. Endless attempts at being patient with people who clearly could care less about any of it.

No trip to Newfoundland.

So, I finally get credit for our air miles. I transfered, at considerable non-refundable expense, some of my parent's miles so we would have enough for the flights to Canada. And then I call to make the reservations and there is exactly one flight to St. Johns available for the entire month of August, which flies out of Boston, via Toronto. We would land in St. Johns at 3am. But the single available return flight is 13 days later... which is impossible for us. In other words, Air Canada, United's nefarious demon-possessed partner in crime, has blacked out the entire summer for air miles users. And because Air Canada is run by the government, they don't have to play by any rules at all. They ARE the rules.

1 flight. For the entire month.

I give up.

I now have 100K miles which we are unable to use. I called my folks to tell them the bad news on Saturday.

Dad called me back this morning with a counter proposal. We think we are going to drive to Nova Scotia and hang out together at the halfway point for a week.

Airlines (all of them) be damned.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

It's grim out there

I was reading a article about what is going on in Zimbabwe. Things are deteriorating. Violence escalating.

And then, I got to this-

Video Watch people run in fear »

That is so bad it is almost funny.

I didn't watch. Instead, I wondered who came up with that tag for the video? And what kind of a world do we live in, anyway?

Lord, help me keep my eyes on you today.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The breaking point

was when I sat on the phone for over an hour this morning talking to a 'supervisor' in the United Airlines Mileage Plus call center in Manila, trying, for the 5th or 6th time, to get my air miles credited from our trip to Vietnam.

After 3 months of phone calls, letters, emails, more phone calls, I actually broke down and started crying on the phone.

We will not be able to fly to Canada this summer to see my parents if the miles don't get credited because we can't afford the $3200 it will cost to fly to Newfoundland. At this point, even if they DO credit the miles, it is looking unlikely that we will get them in time to get flights.

The worst thing is that the people they have manning the phones in Manila are like talking to a computer. Absolutely NO sense that you are dealing with a human being.

So there I was, an hour into the call, bawling my brains out, and the guy on the other end of the phone just kept repeating the same thing over and over again. 'We will send an email to Rapid City. No we can't call them. No we can't expedite this. No we have no record that you ever called."

I hate United Airlines.

edited to add:

I didn't work in call centers for 10 years for nothing. I found the back door toll number to the office in Rapid City, SD and called to speak to a nice woman who was able to fix the problem in less than 10 minutes. 3 months and 10 minutes later. Sigh.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

For Father's day

In tenth grade, when I was in the midst of a miserable year at public high school, I had to get up at 6:00 to catch a bus at 6:30.

Almost every morning my father made me breakfast. My favorite was a bagel with cream cheese and red onion and a cup of black coffee.

Thanks, Dad. I have never forgotten that.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

A vestige of my past life

During spiritual direction, I said that I somehow got the idea that the farther we are along our Christian path, the less likely we are to experience emotional pain and suffering. In other words, as we grow less attached to the world around us, and more attached to God, we should hurt less.

Where, dear reader, did I get this idea? There is nothing in the scriptures that promises that. In fact, it is basically the opposite. 'Pick up your cross daily' is not a promise that being a Christian will be a walk in the park.

And for me, it goes further. Somewhere in my head, I began to equate pain and suffering (especially emotional pain) with....sin.

I realize that when I am in pain, when I am suffering, I start looking around for a sin to blame. (And unlike Job, I usually can find something!) I have an underlying belief that I am inevitably the cause of my own suffering, through some sin or other. Not only that, I realize that I have a sense of shame around pain. I want to hide my pain because it is shameful.

Is this my past, new age, theology rearing it's ugly head? Is this the whole 'you draw this energy to yourself' stuff?

I remember when my friend Steve died of a drug overdose several years ago. I was devastated. But I knew that he was with God... off to a better place. I felt like I wasn't 'spiritual' enough if I was experiencing this much pain over his death. Thank God for the priest at the funeral, who preached on Jesus crying with Mary and Martha at Lazarus' grave. I suddenly felt permission to cry, to grieve.

I sometimes try to connect my suffering to that of Jesus, but if I have this underlying idea that I don't have the right to feel pain, it becomes a hollow gesture.

After rereading Job, I realize that I may never understand suffering, but that is ok, too. In the end, Job realized that he would never get it, either.

I need to pray about this.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Acts 5

Regular readers know that for the last couple of years, I have been facilitating a Lectio Divina group at my church on Sundays before the service.

I tell you, it has been an incredible gift. Every week we get together and read the gospel lesson for the day, and then prayerfully invite God to speak to us through it. And every week something extraordinary happens. The Holy Spirit shows up and we all more or less sit in awe and thanksgiving at the miracle of God's love.

I am finding that Lectio has impacted me in other ways... specifically in my ability to grapple with difficult passages in the bible.

Today, for example, at bible study, we were reading Acts 5. This is a brutal chapter about Ananias and his wife Sapphira dropping dead when it is discovered that they withheld on their donation to the Christian community. (I joked that this should be our Stewardship scripture passage this year... but my priest said no, darn it.)

It is a challenging passage, to be sure. But after a couple of years of regular Lectio, I have learned to resist the temptation to judge a scripture, and instead, let it speak to me. Engage with it. Grapple with it, yes, but in an open minded way. When I do this, crazy stuff can happen.

I always approach bible stories from the perspective that God is Love. That means that in stories where God appears to behave badly, I assume that I am not getting the whole picture. In the case of Ananias, though, it doesn't ever say that God struck him down. Nor does it say that Peter cursed him and he died. It simply states that when Ananias was confronted with the fact that he was holding back from God, he died.

I can put myself in his place. I know that there have been moments in my life when I was confronted with the contrast between Jesus' sacrifice and my own shittiness. Last year on Good Friday I spent the whole three hour service in such a state of distress that by the time I got to the confession with my parish priest, I was beside myself.

Let's imagine that Ananias and his wife were actually around when Jesus got executed. Let's imagine that they truly loved God... that they understood the power of Jesus' death and resurrection. But somehow, in the midst of their lives, they lost their connection to God just long enough to let petty fear get into their hearts. Fear of economic loss. Fear of the instability that happens when you give up everything. And that fear caused them to hold back on their donation, just as it does for me, sometimes.

When Peter confronts Ananias, in the blazing moment of realization, I can imagine being so grief stricken as to simply


The Jews believed that when you encountered God, the energy was so great you couldn't survive it. You were annihilated on the spot. Is it possible that Ananias and Sapphira saw God in that moment? That, perhaps, it was not only the moment of their deaths, but also the moment of their redemption? I pray for his and Sapphira's souls that that was true.

In Lectio Divina, we invite God to speak to us through the scriptures. We open ourselves to how the scripture relates to our own lives. Today, I began to think about ways that I have been letting fear creep in and distract me from God.

Maybe this story speaks something totally different for you. That is the beauty of this living word, this gift from God.

Act 5:1

Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property.

Act 5:2

With his wife's full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles' feet.

Act 5:3

Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?

Act 5:4

Didn't it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn't the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.”

Act 5:5

When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened.

Act 5:6

Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.

Act 5:7

About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.

Act 5:8

Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?”

“Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”

Act 5:9

Peter said to her, “How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”

Act 5:10

At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband.

Thursday, June 05, 2008


Things are changing. My folks left. My kids will be out of school next week. I am planning to put the beach bag together with spf 8000 and an umbrella to go with my sand chair.

I have been feeling a little like I am standing on shifting sand. Nothing seems very stable, even though everything really IS pretty stable.

Do you ever find yourself having a hard time getting things done?

And you know what? My eyesight is getting worse and I think it gave me a stomach ache while I was trying to do some paperwork today. Is that possible?

Cold and gray and shifty.