Monday, November 29, 2010

ADVENT--the last time I promise

OK, here's the deal. What I typed was in the shape of an X.

The upper left arm said, reading downward, STOP
The upper right arm said, reading downward toward the middle, LOOK
The bottom left arm said, reading downward and outward AND
The bottom right arm said, reading downward and to the right LISTEN

The post was a miscarriage of all that. I don't know why. I can't fix it.

It is a sign of my commitment to sharing my ponderings to whoever the hell reads them that I do this at all, given the aggravation and annoyance it gives me!!!!

I hate the internet and all it contains. But since it exists in spite of my hatred, I'll keep writing. OK?

Advent (one more time...)

{OK, I'm going to try to recreate my earlier blog that I destroyed somehow. You'd think I'd know how to do this, given I've been doing it for several years. But I hit the wrong key sometimes and send stuff into 'the cloud', never to be heard from again. I also hit 'return' instead of 'tab' from time to time which posts blogs with only the title. Forgive....And, by the way, the time of posting on my blog has me in some time zone off the coast of California. I'm beginning this at 9:39 p.m. EST, so ignore what it says about when I wrote it.
Also, I decided to try to do this tonight instead of tomorrow since my short term memory has an expiration of about 15 hours. Ask me what I preached about on Sunday evening and I can reproduce it almost verbatim. But ask me on Monday and I'll say, "Uh, what were the lessons?"}

One thing I love about Advent is that it is about seeking the light in the gathering and deepening darkness. Days are getting shorter and shorter when Advent begins and we are called by the Prophets and the liturgy to 'look for the light'. That seems to me to be a lot like life--always looking for light in the darkness. Advent is quintessentially optimistic, just as I am. So, in loving it, I am affirming my own world view and philosophy.

I don't know how it works in the Southern Hemisphere since all the Church Year seasons would be reversed. Imagine Easter, not in Spring when all is coming to life, but in Autumn as things die. And Advent and Christmas would be in Spring moving toward summer in the Global South. The metaphors don't work south of the equator. Maybe that's one reason that Global South Anglicans and Anglicans in the Northern Hemisphere are always at odds. That's just a thought to ponder. Metaphor is important. Symbols matter. I can't conceive of Advent when it is getting lighter and lighter and warmer and warmer.

Christmas falls, in the Gregorian calendar, three of four days after the Winter Solstice. So, in fact, days are getting shorter and nights longer right up to the week of Christmas. But here's something to ponder: in the Julian Calendar--the one Julius Caesar commanded be observed--the solstice fell always on December 25. So the night of Christmas Eve was the longest night of the year and Christmas began the coming of the light.

It wasn't until Pope Gregory XIII changed the calendar of the western world in 1582 that the Solstice was backed up 3 or 4 days to correspond to the actual tilt of the earth. So, for 1581 of the 2010 years of the Common Era, Christians celebrated the birth of the baby Jesus on the solstice. Talk about metaphor and symbol and the lengthening of the Light!

Back where I come from, in a place more rural and mountainous than most people can imagine, railroad tracks were like kudzu, they were omnipresent, every where. Wherever there was a coal mine, their were railroad tracks for the coal trains to take it to Pittsburgh for steel or to Roanoke and Cincinnati for Electricity. And it is hard for even me to remember how narrow and twisted the valleys were between the mountains.

Where Bern, my wife, grew up, for example, this is what it looked like:

Try to picture that--two rows of houses, a pitifully narrow two lane road, two alleys and a stream pinched between two mountains. From one mountain to the other in Gary #9 (Filbert was the post office) was about 50 yards. Imagine living in a valley that narrow and deep.

So, because the valleys also curved around to accommodate the mountains, the railroad tracks crossed the road over and over. At every railroad crossing there was a sign in the shape of an X. On the four arms was written

      LOOK      AND

That was because the trains were going rather fast (to get the coal somewhere else asap) and the roads were so twisty and the mountains so intrusive that you really needed to stop, look as far as you could, and listen to hear the train whistle that was blown each time the tracks crossed a road.

You'd be amazed, I think, at how many cars got hit by trains, even with those warning signs.

Advent is like that X shaped sign for us.

STOP in the busiest time of the year to seek the Light.

LOOK for God in the hustle and bustle of the holiday time around you.

LISTEN for the Angel wings and Angel songs over the chaos and chatter and babble of the malls and the TV and the radio.

Advent is meant to 'slow us down' just when the culture is hurrying us up.

Advent is meant to have us more attentive just when the culture is most distracting.

Advent is meant to attune our senses to the presence of God in places unexpected, surprising, thought impossible.

That's what I like about Advent--it is so terribly counter-cultural. It's like standing on tip-toe, anticipating light in the deepest darkness of all.


OK, I spent about an hour writing a post about Advent. It was, I must say, well worth reading.

But something went wrong and it didn't post.

I promise you to try to recreate it tomorrow, but I can't tonight because I'm so disappointed, confused and pissed that it went wrong.

Did I ever tell you I HATE THE INTERNET?

Even as I use it, I hate it. I haven't added it up yet, but I think there is more wrong than right about the whole thing....

Maybe I'll write a post about that and find that somehow it got screwed up.....

A Promise

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Today is the first day of the Christian year--the first Sunday of Advent.

I went to St. Peter's today--my parish church. A very good service...the music is excellent, the preaching is above good. Since Advent is my favorite season of the year, that's important to me to have music and preaching. The sacrament...well, it just happens however it happens.

I'm up too late and will write more tomorrow about Advent.

I plan to deal with the whole Winter Solstice thing and the images of Advent and my own metaphor for the season.

Tune in tomorrow after I get some rest.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Comfort Food

Every Thanksgiving Bern gives people who come to dinner little presents. This year she got most of it at the Consignment Shop, I think. Mine was great--the Velveeta Cookbook!

I'm not sure Bern has ever tasted Velveeta, having grown up in an ethnic family. But in my childhood, Velveeta qualified as a food group....

I read through the book thinking it must be from the 1950's but when I checked, it was published in 2001! People must still eat Velveeta somewhere.

Each and every recipe began with "Cut a pound of Velveeta into cubes...." A pound of it! Amazing!

My favorite recipe used, you guessed it, a pound of Velveeta. But it began with a pound of chicken breasts cut into strips ("cut the chicken while partially frozen and then return to the refrigerator to completely thawed....) This recipe also includes broccoli--frozen Broccoli but broccoli none the less. Sounds like a promisingly healthy recipe, right? But get this, you saute the chicken in a cup of Miracle Whip! Really, I wouldn't make this up.

Sauteed in Miracle Whip you add the frozen broccoli and cover to cook the broccoli. Then you add the cubes of Velveeta and stir until it melts. Serve the whole thing over egg noodles.

And that is the most healthy recipe in the whole book.

I'm trying to invent a recipe that combines Velveeta and sausage gravy over biscuits with home fries or grits on the side. That's comfort food with a capital COMFORT.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

fallacy of the undetermined result....

The three granddaughters are here along with Cathy, their mom. Josh is coming in on the 10:30 p.m. train from baltimore. Tomorrow Mimi and Tim arrive. The brood returning to the nest. O, Lord, I love Thanksgiving....

The plan, to avoid the great traffic problems, was for Josh and Cathy and the girls and the dog to come up today. But Josh had to work (lawyer stuff--who can comprehend such things? So Cathy was coming anyway with the dog and three girls (2 are 4 and one is, well, one). I thought that was crazy. I had all sorts of nightmares about scenario's on the New Jersey Turnpike, for example, of barfing dog, screaming baby, out of control twins and Cathy alone in some kind of Honda van with all that driving 75.

So I went down on the train yesterday to ride back to CT with them.

And here's the truth. The ride we had--dog, girls, the whole thing--Cathy could have done that alone, I must admit.

That's where the fallacy of the undetermined result comes in.

The Fallacy of the Undetermined Result make immediate sense in sporting events.

A runner is on first and the next batter hits into a double play. The next batter after that hits a home run and we think, "if that guy hadn't hit into a double play it would have been a three run home run."

Well, no. Everything would have been different if what happened hadn't happened.

Life is a series of accidents that are meaningful but not determinative. What 'didn't happen' doesn't determine 'what happens next'. What Happened contributes to what Happens Next.

So, the guy didn't hit into a double play but walked. First and second, no one out. The pitcher bears down and strikes out the guy who (in reality) hit the home run because everything is different because the player didn't hit into a double play. Think about it: "If we'd left a hour earlier we would have missed the traffic jam that backed us up for 90 minutes...."

Well, if you'd left an hour sooner, that tractor trailer might have crashed into you at exit 7 and you'd be dead.

The Fallacy of the undetermined result is a valuable thing to ponder.

What it eliminates, if you ponder hard enough, is all 'regret'. If you hadn't done the thing you 'regret' you imagine things would have turned out all different and all right. But, here's the Fallacy to that, if you hadn't done the thing you 'regret' something all together, never anticipated and totally different than what you imagine would have happened.

I want to write more about this but I've been in a car for 5 hours with 3 kids and in a house with 3 kids, two dogs and two women for 5 more hours. I can't cope.

AND, if that all hadn't happened, what I'd be doing now would be so enormously different from what I'm doing now that the "Fallacy of the Undetermined Result" must be true and needs to be pondered and pondered deeply.

Find a Castor Oil Tree and Ponder. OK?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

full moon

The moon is full and surrounded by fog.

I walked my dog a bit ago and he seemed hyper-alert, moving his head, stopping to stare, suddenly changing direction.

The full moon in Cheshire is one thing--in Waterbury it was another.

We could tell for several days that the moon was coming full. Folks who were on the edge were even edgier. Folks over the edge were outright lunatics.

Working in a city church convinced me forever and without a doubt that it isn't just the tides the moon pulls. It pulls emotions too, and mightily.

I actually miss the craziness of full moon at St. John's.

Now only my dog and me are looney....

good Sunday

I've gotten over my upset about the Anglican Covenant until the next time it comes up!

I went to Northford today to do church. It's a great little congregation, part of the Middlesex Cluster. There was a baptism. I love baptisms.

Afterwards someone said, "I liked how you told us what you were doing as you went along...."

I honestly didn't remember doing that but as I think back it was a kind of 'instructed baptism'.

The little girl was Emma, same name as one of my granddaughters, so I loved her already.

There was a need organist and we did "Amazing Grace" and "Shall we gather by the River". Couldn't get better than that.

There were 43 people there--looking back in the service book, that was a big crowd.

I worry about the church. Little churches like this are on the edge financially, even with the Cluster to hold them together. Actually, churches a tier or two higher than St. Andrew's are in trouble. I have a friend who is retiring because his parish wants a half-time priest.

Pray for the church.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Real Instruments of Unity

I have a suggestion to the Anglican Covenant folks: Let's replace the Four Instruments of Unity (99.033% of which are bishops) with Four that make sense for a loosely confederated world wide Body like the Anglican Communion.

The first three have been around since Richard Hooker, the greatest Anglican theologian.

1. Scripture
2. Tradition
3. Reason

Those have always been the tools of unity in the Anglican Church. They bind us together in a way human beings cannot. Each one of the 'legs' of that 'three legged stool' contribute to and provide checks and balances to, not only the Communion as a whole, but to each Province within the church and each individual member of each Province.

Scripture is basic, read in the context of tradition and reasonableness. Tradition is priceless, so long as it is held up to the light of Scripture and the scrutiny of Reason. Reason allows for diversity--since 'reason' dictates different things in different contexts and cultures--so long as Reason does not leave behind the checks and balances of Scripture and Tradition. Each of the three is meant not only to 'check' the other two but to be formed in the insights and truths of the other two.

I'd add a fourth Instrument of Unity for Anglicans. I'd call it Experience/Imagination.

The forge of Experience should be held accountable to Scripture/Reason/Tradition, however, the experience of Anglicans in different cultures is different. So, what can be 'imagined' as possible within the disciplines of Tradition/Scripture/Reason might differ from culture to culture in greater and lesser ways.

Take, for example, the issue that provoked the Covenant process to begin with--Human Sexuality. The common understanding of the nature of human sexuality within the Western World and those Anglican churches solidly inside that culture, is much different that what that understanding might be in Nigeria or Columbia or South-east Asia. Just as, culturally, people of faith do not agree on the role of women in the church, there is even less agreement on the full inclusion of GLBT folks.

However, just as the experience and imagination of some Provinces of the Communion has allowed for the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate, the experience and imagination of other Provinces does not, at this time, allow for that step to be taken. In both cases, I would argue that either All People are fully Children of God or our experience and imagination has not yet allowed for that truth to be reasonable, in keeping with traditions and consistent with the reasonable understanding of scripture. But there is the reality that cultures are different and so are cultural experiences and the imagination possible in each culture.

So, we need instruments of unity that allow for vast diversity. Otherwise cultural situations where the full inclusion of women and GLBT folks in the life and governance of the church are held hostage to those cultures where such inclusion is not possible at this time. Jesus came to bring abundance of life not enforced restrictions on that abundance.

I'd settle for the first three as the official Instruments of Unity for Anglicans, but I'd lobby for the inclusion of the fourth.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Four Instruments of Anglican Unity

In the third section of the proposed Anglican Covenant that the 2012 General Convention of the Episcopal Church will debate and vote on the Four Instruments of Anglican Unity are listed. (I'm not sure if they are 'musical' instruments or 'surgical' instruments or instruments of mass destruction--it isn't clear.)

Here they are, in the order they are listed:

I. The Archbishop of Canterbury (first among equals) who presides over the other three, giving the AofC influence and parliamentary power of all the Instruments.

II. The Lambeth Conference--a meeting every decade to which ALL the bishops of the Communion are invited (Unless you are gay, and since the vast majority of Anglican churches do not ordain women as bishops, women are in coach while the men are in First Class).

III. The Anglican Consultative Council: made up of one Bishop, one Priest and one Lay Person from each of the 39 Provinces.

IV. The Primates' Meeting: the 39 Archbishops or Presiding Bishops (Boss Bishops) of the 39 Provinces.

Let's see how those Four Instruments represent the make up of the Anglican Communion.

AofC--1 bishop

Lambeth Conference--Since there are over 200 bishops in the American Church alone, lets estimate 1000 bishops (an underestimation, I assure you!)

Anglican Consultative Council--39 bishops, 39 priests, 39 lay folk

The Primates' Meeting--39 more bishops (boss bishops)

So, how does that add up? The 4 instruments of our unity as Anglicans is 1079 bishops, 39 priests and 39 lay people.

Huh, isn't that remarkable since there are a hundred times more priests than bishops and thousand of times more lay folk than priests.

In the Episcopal Church, their are just over 100 dioceses. CT has 3 bishops, most have only one. lets say 200 active bishops. There are 7-9,000 active Episcopal priests and, wow, about 2,000,000 lay folk. And what were those numbers for the instruments of unity again: 39 lay folks, 39 priests and 1079 bishops, at least. I guess that seems about right to adequately represent the make up of Anglicanism....Or, maybe not....

Maybe we Americans are just too conscious of democratic ideals. The fact that we elect Rectors and Bishops and the Presiding Bishop is just too backward and too liberated for the Anglican Communion.

I for one AM NOT fully represented in the Four Instruments of Unity. I would find it astonishing and profoundly hypocritical for the Episcopal Church to agree to live under Four Instruments that deny our polity so profoundly. One of the thing that most of the Communion's bishops just don't understand is why the American bishops can't just decide things. It is unthinkable in much of the Anglican Communion that bishops would be limited by having to have "agreement" from the House of Deputies (4 clergy and 4 lay from each Diocese) before something can be agreed to.

In my mind, because of our particular--and in the AC, "peculiar" polity--we are already on the edges of the AC.

But for this hyper-democratic church to give over control of unity to 4 Instruments that consign the % of representation for priests and laity to 0.067% while bishops make up 99.033% of the Instruments is truly unthinkable.

Who thinks that's a good idea besides the people who wrote the Covenant?

Beats me.

Monday, November 15, 2010

"pretend that...."

We just got back from three days in Baltimore with our son and daughter-in-law, Josh and Cathy, and our three grandaughters--Morgan and Emma (4) and Tegan (1). For some 36 hours (while J and C went to a party at Josh's law firm and a wedding in New York overnight) it was just Bern and I with the 3 girls.

A reason people have children when they are young--they exhaust people my age!

But the time with the girls was wonderful, astonishing, without melt down or incident. Josh and Cathy don't quite believe, I don't think, how pacific the time was for us--our little tribe of 5 with a combined age of 132 (123 of those years being Bern and me).

(An unrelated but connected aside--whenever we leave our dog at the Kennel--Holiday Hills in Wallingford, I give it 5 stars, they tell us he is a great dog with no problems. But our experience of him is that he is a bad dog we love anyway. Same with the reports we got on Josh and Mimi from grandparents, teachers, their friends' parents--Who Are Those kids they told us about??? It's a rule of the universe that children, put into an unfamiliar situation, will behave in ways they never do with their parents. Go figure.)

Bern and I come at the girls from two very different world views and understandings. Bern was, for 14 years, the coordinator of The Childrens Day Care, a cooperative center in New Haven. The parents of the children were the care givers and Bern was the only paid staff. So she has met 4 year old children over and over and over. Her insights into the 4 year old behavior that befuddles and confuses me are remarkable. Bern knows kids.

Besides my own children, over 30 years ago, I've only had a passing acquaintance with 4 year olds or 1 year old kids.

So Bern interacts and plays and invents and engages. I mostly keep them safe and observe.

(I must admit how joyous I am that Tegan, who says only a handful of words, would yell 'Gan Pu' whenever I came back into the room and run and hug my knees. Heaven, that's what that was like....)

So, the point to all this is that I took Morgan and Emma to the top floor of Josh and Cathy's 4 story town house to play with their wondrous doll house and other things while Bern saw to Tegan and cooked. We were there for less than an hour and I mostly 'observed'.

What I observed was that for almost all that time either Morgan or Emma would say 'Pretend that....' (whatever), and they would play out what they pretended.

Their pretending was open and fluid and remarkably changeable. They play "pretend that I'm a baby and you're the Mommy" a lot and in an instant, introduced by one of them saying "Pretend That..." the roles can change.

When they disagreed on what to 'pretend that...." they found a third 'pretend that' which both could live into...'pretend into'?

They played seamlessly for maybe 45 minutes with a few props and the almost constant prompting of one of the other of them changing the flow of the game by saying "Pretend That..."

I was astonished and confounded and deeply moved.

Here's what I thought: why can't we grown up people be like Morgan and Emma and "pretend that..." and make that real just be agreeing to "pretend" it.

What if you and I would say:

"Pretend that everybody is God's child..." and lived out of that.

What if you and I would say:

"Pretend that those who are poor should be given what they need..." and lived out of that.

What if you and I would say:

"Pretend that people of different Faiths don't need to be enemies...." and lived out of that.

What if you and I would say:

"Pretend that someone's sexual orientation or gender identification doesn't matter, doesn't matter at all...." and lived out of that.

What if you and I would say:

"Pretend that those people who annoy and anger you are really part of your family and your friends..." and lived out of that.

I could keep doing "What if" and "Pretend that" for a long time.

But what if, you and I, would ponder the immense and extraordinary possibilities that "pretending" would create if we were only willing to play the game and "pretend".

(Kurt Vonnegut, my favorite writer, once wrote: "Be careful who you pretend to be because you might just turn out to be who you pretend to be...."

Ponder and imagine the power of 'pretending' to transform, not only our lives, but the world we live in.....

"Let's pretend...."


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

my hat

I have this hat that my brother in law gave me more than a year ago.

It's dominant color is between yellow and gold but it has ear flaps and tassels at the end that have that tawny color and brown and white. The same fringe goes around the top from ear to ear and their are two ears--brown--that make the hat look something or other like a young lion.

I love it. If I knew how I'd send you a picture of it with my words. But I don't know how to do that. I am, still, a computer novice.

But when I wear it people are smiley and kind and engage me in conversation.

I told Bern that I've met a lot of friendly people in the past few weeks.

"It's the hat," she said since I had it on inside, just as I am wearing it as I write this.

It looks a bit like a Sherpa hat but more like the hats they wear in Peru.

It was made in Peru, wherever my brother in law found it.

The tag says so.

The tag also says that it is 'Virgin Acrylic', which seems odd to me. Does that mean it is made from an artificial fabric that has never had sex?

But it does get smiles and comments and causes people to be friendlier than ordinary.

Maybe we should all wear strange hats. Perhaps it would make for a friendlier world. Imagine President Obama in a hat like mine talking to John Baynor who is wearing a hat that makes him look like a Giant Panda. Things might be better and get done.

Who knows, something to ponder.

Find a weird, whimsical hat and wear it for a while. I think you'll be convinced that what is missing from the world is odd hats.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Truth that dares not say its name...

Let's get this out of the way.

The whole Anglican Communion mess is a conflict between the mostly European Provinces of the Anglican Communion--the Episcopal Church, the Church of Canada, the Australian Church, the Church in Europe, the New Zealand Church and the majority of the Church of England VS the Churches of the Developing World--Africa, South American, Asia.

It is, in the bottom line of it all, a dispute between mostly white, European Anglicans and those people of color who are part of that culture, and the People of Color of the rest of the Anglican Communion.

Collective, white guilt makes those of us in the Developed World feel that we can no longer be Colonial about the poor, people of color that are the majority of the Anglican Communion in numbers.

Get over it! This isn't a conflict of 'colonialism'. It is a conflict of Culture. And it is obviously and painfully True that the minority "European" Anglican churches live and move and have their being in a drastically different culture than the rest of Anglicans in the Global South.

I am sick, almost to death, of having to acknowledge and respect the realities of the cultures of the Global South without having them return the favor and 'acknowledge and respect' the realities of the European based churches.

I acknowledge and respect the cultures of the parts of the Anglican Communion that abhor and exclude GLBT folks. I think they are wrong, but since I come from a different culture and paradigm, I do not judge them.

So, I simply ask Anglicans from other cultures and world views to return the favor--STOP JUDGING US.

Am I crazy to think that is the obvious way to relate to each other and be 'in communion'--not judging each other as we gather around the table and seek to live into the Mission of God?

Am I crazy or what?

the Anglican

At the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in 2012 in Indianapolis, the deputies and bishops will be asked to decide whether to sign the Anglican Covenant.

The Anglican Covenant is the result of further work after the Windsor Report, which came out after Gene Robinson was elected and consecrated as Bishop of New Hampshire. Wouldn't you know it, some place as isolated and, in the scheme of things, as insignificant as the Diocese of New Hampshire, would cause a tidal wave of concerns, anger and angst within the far-flung Anglican Communion.

Gene is a gay, partnered man. Gay Bishops are a dime a dozen in the Anglican Communion. But Gene was bold, honest and authentic enough to let it be known he was a gay man in a committed relationship. Sounds like the right thing to do, right?

But no. The Windsor Report and the resultant Anglican Covenant was all in response to the fair and democratic election of a great priest to be the bishop of New Hampshire. (Tiny things, in life, cause huge responses.)

Anyway, the Episcopal Church is faced with saying yes or no to this Anglican Covenant.

Honestly, 75 percent of the stuff in the first three sections of the covenant consists simply of stuff most every Anglican in the world agrees on--the Creeds, the Trinity, the Archbishop of Canterbury being 'first among equals', the autonomy of each of the 39 churches that make up the Communion, stuff about the Eucharist and independence of the various churches to make their own decisions.

So, if we all agree about that stuff already, WHY WRITE IT DOWN?

My wife and I agree on even more of life than that--90% or more. And it has never occurred to us to 'write down' what we agree on.

The rest, the stuff we don't agree on, 7% or so, is simply worked out day by day, week by week, year by year between us. Sometimes we reach a compromise. Sometimes we don't. Be we remain 'in communion' even when we don't agree at all.

The 4th section of the Anglican Covenant--look it up, you can Google it--is so dramatically Un-Anglican and non-democratic and anti-autonomous that it would be laughable if there wasn't a lobby that wanted it to be agreed to.

That 4th section violates with violence everything that comes before and sets up a process to deal with 'disagreements' between churches. (For 'disagreements' read 'how to deal with GLBT folks'--like not making them bishops.)

Gene Robinson, a duly elected, validly consecrated bishop of the Anglican Communion was not invited to the Lambeth Conference--the every 10 year meeting of all bishops in the Communion. I guess the Archbishop of Canterbury ran out of printed invitations. Something like that. Why else on earth would he neglect to invite a valid bishop of the clan?

Oh, because large and bullish members of the Communion in Africa and other parts of the developing world are frailty scared of gay folks who are honest about being gay folks since they are Biblical fundamentalist and don't think gay folks are 'children of God'. God help them.

The 4th section of the Anglican Covenant is a way to either discipline or exclude the American and Canadian Churches from the Communion since those two churches are dealing honestly and compassionately with Gay folks. (Not compassionately or honestly in CT to allow priests to follow civil law and sign the marriage licences of same sex couples who, legally, can marry in CT.)

It's all a nightmare. Goggle and read people more reasonable and logical that me.

The Anglican Covenant is neither 'Anglican' nor an honest, relational 'Covenant', so far as I can see.

Anglican Covenant, NO! Autonomy for the Episcopal Church, SI!

More about all this later....

Monday, November 8, 2010

mislabling and the Bible

I went to buy cranberry juice at the Stop and Shop. And, as I've done before, I bought a 'blend' that has apple juice, white grape juice and pomegranate juice as well as the cranberry juice I thought I was buying. It said, on the label, "100% juice" and in the small print happened to mention that the "100%" meant 'juice', not 'cranberry juice'. I'm taking it back tomorrow.

I'm a fanatic about cranberry juice since I had a urinary tract infection in September that nearly made me crazy. And it is almost impossible to distinguish between "100%" cranberry juice and lots of other kinds of juice that contains, in some amount, cranberry juice. I feel like an idiot but Bern has made the same mistake so I don't feel like an idiot since she certainly isn't.

Where the Bible comes in isn't about the cranberry juice, it's about dogs eating their own vomit.

That's somewhere in the Bible--the psalms, I think. You could google it: dogs eating vomit + the Bible.

Our dog Bela ate his breakfast and threw it up 10 minutes later in the dining room. Before I could clean it up, he ate it.

Then, an hour later, we were out on the porch having a cigarette, at least I was, Bela doesn't smoke so far as I know. He doesn't have a thumb to work a lighter or light a match or turn on the stove and the cigarettes are never where he could get to them. So, I think I'm safe in saying I was the one smoking a cigarette. Anyway, Bela was laying at my feet and jumped up and ran out into the back yard and threw up the vomit he had eaten of his breakfast. He did that crazy thing with his snout, covering up the vomit with snow and leaves. Then came back like nothing had happened.

I was worried, as I always am about this awful Puli dog, that he had stomach cancer or something. But he ate his dinner and didn't throw up. So who knows. But, just like the Bible says, he does sometimes eat his vomit.

OK, this is pretty nasty to me. I asked Bern if she lost respect for Bela for eating his vomit. She said, 'no, it just reminds me he's a dog.' I was about to tell her that it was in the Bible when Bela wanted out--Bern and I were on the back porch smoking--so I let him out.

(Some people, I know, think smoking is the human equivalent of a dog eating vomit. But what do I care about such opinions?)

Bela ran down into the back yard, I thought to pee (a neighbor of ours once told me he hated having dogs 'urinate' on his yard. Since his yard is the side of the street where the sidewalk is, I thought he didn't understand dogs very well. They don't wait until the next Mobile station on the Parkway to "Urinate"...they 'pee' when the smell is right and the spirit moves them.)

But Bern went inside to watch "House"--the first new episode--while I waited for Bela to come back so he and I could join her. (Bela actually doesn't watch House, or anything on TV, but when both of us are in the TV room, he is there.)

He didn't come back and didn't come back and none of our flashlights work so I went down in the dark to drive him back.

I think he was eating the vomit he threw up from the vomit he ate from what he threw up after breakfast. With some leaves and snow and dirt as well.

Pretty amazing to me: he ate his vomit twice--the same vomit.

The second time he ate it, it must have been a bit frozen, like a vomit Italian Ice or something. "Give me one watermelon ice, one chocolate ice and one vomit ice...." I wonder what the folks down at the Italian Ice places on Wooster Street in New Haven would think of that order?

Twice eaten vomit isn't a new concept--think of refried beans or twice-baked potatoes.

Sort of a gourmet treat for dogs.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Memory Lane is a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there

I wrote a few days ago about all the ancient writings Bern found when she was rearranging one of the guest bedrooms. I've spent a lot of time reading that stuff since then.

It is remarkable to listen to my much younger self's words and consider what it was that I, back then, thought and pondered and wondered about.

I was much more intense and existential back then. And though I think of myself as terribly 'ironic' today, back then I was 'ironic' to the point of nihilism , it seems to me.

I wrote very long paragraphs and dozens of sonnets in strict iambic pentameter. The prose is interesting to me. The poems, I fear, are just awful--sentimental, inflated and nihilistic all at once. That combination, let me assure you, makes for a terrible poem.

There were some blank verse poems. Here's one written when I was a freshman in college (18 or 19 years old). It is about an actual event. I watched out my dorm window as a man fell to his death from the fifth or sixth floor of a construction site.

The falling man

A man fell yesterday, I saw him fall...
So sure of foot and balance that he came, he came,
too near
the edge.

And (it seems to me, watching from this very spot)
he watched as well--he watched a bird
that soared lightly, without steel beams to hold
him high.
As the bird was
flashing past his face,
the man leaned out
and seemed suspended
one short second--seeming to smile--
though I was so far away,
and fell.

The bare shoulders of the men
who rushed to him
glistened in the sun.
They seemed to be talking softly
so not to be heard
by the gathering crowd.

A girl I know passed by
with long and shimmering legs,
walking her dog, Natasha.

Today there is black crepe
hanging from that floor,
gently waving to the
passing birds.

It is too easy--the allegory we should avoid--
that he is just like all...
all of us....
Only he has fallen
and we,
we are creeping edgeward.


Rather dark and negative, it seems to me.

But there are nuggets among the sand of what the 'me' I was over 40 years ago wrote.

I'll seek some out to share...and ponder....

Creatures in the walls

There are some kind of creatures in some of our walls.

There used to be squirrels in the attic, but Bern got a machine whose purpose is to make a noise that apparently makes squirrels psychotic if they don't leave. So we don't hear squirrels skritching across the ceiling of our bedroom or TV room anymore.

But I hear something in the walls of the dining room. I would like to convince myself that it is a family of those Brownies (wasn't that the name?) that lived in the walls of a house in New York in books I used to read to our children. (I'm not sure, by the way, that convincing kids that little people live in the walls is a particularly good idea....)

But I know these aren't Brownies or Fairies or Elves. And I'm calling someone I found in the phone book to come next week and tell us what to do.

Someone came last year, when the squirrels were playing what sounded like soccer in our attic. He assured us there was no way for them to get in except through a window we kept open in the attic with a fan to blow out hot air in the summer. So we closed the windows and got the crazy making squirrel machine.

Mostly I hear them in the wall near the dining room fireplace that we never use. We don't use it because a chimney sweep (there are still such professionals, though they don't look like Dick Van Dyke) told us there were chinks in the bricks in that chimney. Fixing it would have been like a million dollars, or at least the equivalent of that in our budget. So we filled the grate area with about 70 candles. The chimney in the kitchen fireplace is fine, so we use that in the winter. (By the way, a fireplace in the kitchen is one of the best ideas I can think of.)

When the squirrels were holding parties in the attic, I also got one of those squirrel traps that are open at each end but close when a squirrel goes in. Not killing the squirrels was high on our list for possible solutions. Driving them crazy with noise seemed preferable somehow. The quality of life of a psychotic squirrel, though not intense, seemed better than that of a dead squirrel.

On that subject--death--I heard today that four deceased people were on ballots around the country during the mid-term elections. They died after the ballots were printed and before the election. One of them won. Imagine being defeated by a dead guy....If 'brain dead' was the same as 'dead dead' I would suggest that quite a number of dead people won in that election....Oh well, I'll have to get over it. My next door neighbor, Mark, said today what Mark Twain once said, (I don't know if Mark knew he was quoting Twain...) "If you don't like the Congress, wait two years..."

Anyway, whatever is in the walls I no longer object to killing. There's just something a little eerie about having creatures in your walls....

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Treasure Trove

Bern was working on the bed room that the new bed from (starts with "I" ends with "A" and sounds a bit like 'Idea'--the place I dare not speak its name, when she emptied out a large, two drawer storage thing and found a treasure of stuff not unlike the Dead Sea Scrolls to me.

It was stuff I'd written years ago, some of it 30 or 40 years old that I thought was gone forever!

In it was the novel I wrote as a teenager called "The Old Gods Go". It was, in my teen mind, to be a trilogy whose titles would be based on a short poem by Carl Sandburg.

Day by day
and hour by hour,
the old gods go
and the new gods come.
Today, I worship the hammer.

I read a few pages and remember it not! What an adventure it is going to be to read it from such a distance and try to figure out who I was when I wrote it and why, by the way, I thought it had to be down on paper.

There were also a bunch of short stories I had not forgotten but thought were lost forever. Some of the titles are: 'Once softly, October', 'Being a Man', 'The Pepperoni Cure-all', 'Blackberry Winter', 'Gladys Spinnet is Dying', 'The Old Folks', and several other. I studied creative writing in college and some of them go back that far. Others were pre-1989, before we moved to Cheshire. Most of this stuff was probably in the two drawer chest when the movers moved it from New Haven! There were also a lot of sonnets I wrote to Bern when we were not much more than children, trying to woo her. (I'll have to read them to see if they are any good at all, but the 'wooing' part must have worked.

I'm so excited by this home archaeological discovery. I'll probably spend the weekend reading this stuff.

Also, among the flotsam and jetsam of half or more a lifetime ago, there were 12 pieces of stiff paper (40 weight or so) that were all about 12 inches long and 3 inches wide. They have sayings on them in my writing. I have no frigging idea where they came from or what I used them for or why I saved them or how they fit into my life. I kind of like them though. So I'll share them with you. They are each worth pondering as we sit under our castor oil trees. But I have no idea whatsoever what context they belong in.

Here they are, in no particular order, since I can't imagine there would be an order to them:













What a mystery to me among the treasures. I have no idea why I cut that paper--obviously I cut it into 3 inch pieces--or why I wrote those sayings on it or what it all means.

I know the memory and the knees are the first to go....but why don't I know what all that means? I actually like it and, in a weird way, like no knowing what it means.

It's like a message --or 12 messages--to me from a younger me. It must be a message I need to ponder. You are welcome to ponder it as well.

After all, "It's all a game--PLAY HARD...."

Thursday, November 4, 2010

To the 8th ring of hell...

I wanted to write about all this yesterday, when it happened, but I knew I had to calm my nerves and steel myself to face a keyboard. I didn't have even a single glass of wine last night, knowing any alcohol at all would send me spinning into memories and thoughts I didn't want to revisit or have.

No, I'm not talking about the elections nationwide--that was only the 4th ring of hell (being a liberal, I actually feel more comfortable when I know I'm in the minority and that the Conservatives have to bumble around pretending to govern and will look goofy by the 2012 elections....)

Yesterday morning, I was eating breakfast, licking my Tea Party inflicted wounds, when Bern innocently asked, "what do you have planned for this morning?"

I actually had nothing planned, preferring to mope around and feel sorry for myself in a world where John Bayner is Speaker of the House. So I told her I was free.

"Good," she said, "I want to go to Ikea...."

My blood pressure plummeted and I dropped my cereal spoon in the remaining milk. I felt cold fingers pressing on my temples and spine. Oh No, Not Ikea!

I know lots of people love, simply love Ikea. But I fear it like the Plague. The store in New Haven is huge--I can't even picture how huge it is because of the way they've made both floors into Labyrinths worthy of Greek mythology. But I know a store that has walk ways called things like "Short Cut to Lighting" is enormous.

But as large as it is, and as tasteful, I feel claustrophobic inside it, as if I'm locked in a bright, well designed closet or an attractive, well-lit coffin. I've tried to analyse my reaction to Ikea to no avail. In fact, if each department were in a separate building--like lots of small shops in a large strip mall--I would objectively like it. I like the stuff, marvel at its ingenuity and how cheaply the Swedes can make quality stuff. But put together in a building about the size of the Sistine Chapel, with too many walls and walkways and maps that are impossible to make sense of and 'short cut to bedding' signs, I can't cope.

We went to buy a bed and mattress for one of the guest rooms that was an old bed left to me by my Uncle Russell with three futon pads piled one on top of the other rather than a real mattress. And, being from the 1940's or 50's, you sleep a yard or so above the floor. I believe you could get nosebleed being in that bed. Short people need to take a run to get onto it. So the need was real and serious, but why not Sears, why oh why Ikea, building of anxiety and nightmares.

I'm sure many of you (4 or 5 of the dozen or so people who read this--why don't you tell all your friends about it?) have been to Ikea. It is, after all, an icon of our culture. And, even I, Ikea-phobic as I am, must admit the stuff is neat and...well, cheap. But you have to wander around endlessly to find what your looking for--the maps are a waste of time though there are maps everywhere, along with huge yellow bags and 'shopping lists' with golf pencils. Then, when you find the department you want you have about a gazillion choices of the same item. There were at least 50 different bed frames and even more styles of mattresses. Then you have to write down the name of the item, the price, the Bin and row #'s and a 15 character 'item number' on your shopping list. Then it takes what seems like hours to find the place where you get a huge cart and gather your stuff from the bins and rows. Then you have to check out and I've never been there when there were enough lanes open. Even the self-serve lane gets backed up because most people can't figure out how to use the little bar code reader. (Most instructions in Ikea are literal translations, it seems to me, of what it would be in Swedish and Swedish, it seems to me, has a much different syntax that English. So you get instructions that are the equivalent of "Throw Papa, down the stairs, his hat" kind of syntax.)

When we finally got to the check out I realized one of the boxes of bed didn't have a bar code and had to retrace my anxious steps to find the proper bin and row again (to give you a taste of the scale of the Ikea store, the bins and aisles of compulsively neat merchandise takes up as much space as your normal Wall Mart, just the Bins and Rows, never mind the tastefully displayed areas of merchandise with short cuts to other tastefully displayed areas of merchandise) and get another box of bed parts. While looking for the bar code in the first place, back up in the check out line, I hit my head on a shelf that had about 50 Christmas Ornaments (unbreakable at that) for $8.99. How do they sell stuff so cheaply?

I was shaking and wishing for psycho-therapeutic drugs by the time we got home. It had only been a couple of hours but I felt I had made a three day trek through various small, enclosed spaces and spent some time in a Chilean mine (though a tasteful, well-lit mine, full of interesting and attractive stuff if it hadn't been in a mine....)

All that, at least, took my mind off the debacle of the election....

Monday, November 1, 2010

the meaning of humility

Ok, all of yesterday and today, I've been rearranging and changing my office. My office is an L-shaped landing at the top of the back stairs that looks like this:

l stairs

Maybe 10 x 14 with a staircase taking up a piece of it all.

I've worked, probably 14 hours. It's now finished. I like it a lot.

I would have never done this if bern hadn't told me a few weeks ago: "If you'd let me, I would rearrange your office....."

By blood ran cold. I started sweating. My blood pressure plummeted (stress makes my blood pressure go down) and I felt both faint and disembodied.


(ok, I know I've built my life--my career and personal life--around being the most flexible and change-friendly person you could find. AND I AM....Until it comes to MY OFFICE! MY SPACE! MY LIFE!)

Bern moves and rearranges things endlessly. The table my computer rests on has been in three rooms in our house. There are chairs and end tables and bookshelves that have been in four or five rooms--and we only have eight rooms! Our bed is a futon and it has been in three rooms and once it became our bed it has been in three different places in that room. When I used to go to work and leave bern at home I would steel myself for what changes might greet me when I returned. Now I'm mostly here and when I see that "I want to move s*** around" look on her face--I know that look intimately--I go to the library or the grocery store or a movie and steel myself.....

So, to stop her moving my stuff around, I did it.

I made a list with 17 items that laid out my plan. It involved moving a bookcase within the office, moving a bookcase from outside the office to the office, cleaning out a file cabinet and throwing that away, putting together a table stashed under a guest room bed, moving my computer's printer, restructuring the use of the printer piece of furniture, getting rid of a small desk and a bamboo table that hid the office's air conditioner, moving the air conditioner until next summer, taking down two built in shelves and moving some stuff on the walls.

It sounds like a lot, but this is a 120 square foot area with a stairway taking up 20 square feet of that. How hard could that be???

Friggin' Hard--that's how hard. 14 hours of work hard.

And every step of the way I was reminded how inept I am at anything requiring manual dexterity, the use of tools and brute strength.

Humbling. For 14 hours I was humbled.

(Perhaps that is good for the Soul--but it's a bitch on the Ego.)

Fourteen hours later, after moving some papers and boxes and stuff at least a dozen times just to make room to work in such a small space, after an hour long trip to Hines Hardware store to find the right missing hardware for the table I was assembling (looking through an immensity of little drawers with screws and bolts and a dozen things I don't have names for), after several vacuumings of floor that hasn't seen the light of day because stuff was on it for the last two decades plus (I could move into a furnished apartment and never move the furniture for as long as I was there--I've known Bern to move furniture in a Motel room we'd be in one night...go figure how we've been married 40 years....), after taking books out and putting them back and moving them again, after what seemed like the 6th ring of hell for 14 hours because of my previously mentioned (and humility inspiring) ineptitude for any of what I did for 14 hours, it was finished.

And I love it. I have the table for my computer and a larger table in an L where I can read and do other things without moving my keyboard. And I have two huge bookcases and a small storage case on wheels and stuff on the wall in places it should be and I am a happy camper.

(I had to ask Bern to help me with manual things more than I hoped--like screwing things and assembling things, MANly things I'm no good at). But when I thanked her for helping me, she had the good sense and the knowledge of the depths of my humiliation to say, "I didn't help that much...." Bless her. Maybe it's not amazing we've been married 40 years, as different as we are...)

{I just looked around for a minute or two. My space is more usable and seems larger. Maybe 14 hours isn't as long as it seemed to me. Maybe humiliation is good for the Soul....and the Ego, in an odd way, as well.}

I look upon my work (with Bern's help) and can say: "It is Good".

[Maybe I need a little more humility since I'm quoting Yahweh's observation about Creation....]

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About Me

some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.