I have been taking a number of steps recently to become more electronically engaged. For a number of years, it has been my two computers (home and work) and my cell phone. Two years ago, I graduated to a smartphone that would allow me to keep up with office email. In March, I traded in my Treo smartphone and purchased a Blackberry smartphone. Now I can monitor both office and home email accounts and do several other tricks that speed up and simplify my ever expanding communication needs.
Within the past two months, I opened a Facebook account and began working with LinkedIn. I now also Twitter a bit. My Associate, Fr. John Spicer, and I also began blogging. Admittedly, my daily life is filled with enough real-time work that I don't spend a whole lot of time on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or my weblog. There are only so many hours in a day, and I am very guarded about time with my wife and being at home and "in the moment" -- especially with increasingly nice evenings sitting on the patio and soaking in the sounds of wildlife, children playing and the smells of late spring.
In beginning my preparations for what summer will bring, I began to look at the material I will have to lug with me to continue my research in the Black Hills (a week in June of continuing education) and to the General Convention of the Episcopal Church (being a deputy from our diocese....5 - 18 July). I'm getting old enough that hauling books, laptop and various other paraphernalia presents more of a challenge. So, I did it. I made another step into the 21st century.
I purchased a Kindle from Amazon.com!
Now, I need to admit that I was encouraged in this purchase by two colleagues who are senior to me in both years and "time in service." Both are at least nine years older than me and have been priests quite a bit longer than my 30+ years. Both of them travel a bit, are heavy readers and like to travel light. They both own a Kindle. Each of them has said to me on more than one occasion, "Fred, you have to get one of these....it is an essential tool in your arsenal of staying both current and light." I would smile, nod affirmingly and mumble something like, "Yeah, I'll look into it." Then, yesterday, the means were made available for me to make the purchase.
For stuff like this, it feels like coming to the edge of a precipice. Even with a parachute, why would one want to jump off perfectly good, solid ground? I love the feel of a good book -- turning pages, experiencing the binding, ink and thumbing the pages. Much of what I read, however, is not small. I read fast enough that it takes four or five books to cover being away a couple of weeks. That adds up quickly. Now airlines are getting cranky about weight and charging for luggage. So, I stood on the edge of the cliff and pondered the leap.
As my fingers sat poised on the keys of my computer, I thought about the product name, "Kindle." Meaning: ignite, set afire, arouse, inspire. Immediately, I thought about a prayer I have been saying for the better part of 30 years at the beginning of sermons. It includes the line, "...kindle in us the fire of your love...." The image of me as a senior in my final semester of undergraduate work at the University of Florida suddenly becoming aware that I might become a priest. No way!! No!! There was that precipice. I was 21, not 58 years old. That was my future ahead of me, not an electronic device. Yet, the issues of trust and possibility are not dissimilar. A leap is a leap. Life is a series of changes and transformations. Without these moments there is death. We cease to be in the dynamic flow. Just as I could have shut down my computer, I could have refused the call to vocation and gone on with my original, seemingly safe (and certainly more lucrative...potentially) life plans.
Taking the leap in 1972 was not without pain and sacrifice. It was costly in its own way. But what was kindled on that day was a kind of passion and love that has never left and has led in directions never dreamed possible. It led to a marriage that might not have otherwise happened; children that I adore; friends and colleagues that are faithful, challenging and engaging; places that have inspired and shaped me. What was kindled on the day I took the leap and said "yes" to this vocation was the fire of God's love...the fire spoken by the psalmist I quote each time I preach.
So, my fingers continued to move along the keyboard of my office laptop. Soon, the screen affirmed the purchase of a Kindle -- which will hold up to 1500 books, magazines and newspapers; will be only about a half inch thick and no larger than a standard sheet of paper folded in half. Will it renew my passion for reading -- heavily and widely. Possibly. It will certainly cut down on the weight of my briefcase and luggage.
Now, if only I could cut down on the weight of clothing needed for two weeks.....