Thursday, February 24, 2011

Real Men Pee Outside

I had a classmate in seminary who, for some quirky reason, wouldn't go to the bathroom in someone else's house. So, I'd encounter him out in the bushes around the 'garden apartments' we all lived in around Alexandria. Once I watched him pee off a balcony.

For most of human history, there were no bathrooms inside. For much of the world, there still isn't.

Ponder, I'd encourage you, that by the accident of your birth, you have had indoor plumbing you're whole life when 99% of the people who have ever lived and probably 75% of the people alive today, don't.

I used to have to go to my grandmother's outhouse when I was there in Conklintown. It had two seats though I never shared it. And, yes, there were Sears catalogs there to, you know, do the paper work.

I've seen signs in bathrooms that said "The Business isn't finished until the paper work is done."

Ponder this: most of the people on the planet don't ordinarily use toilet paper. A big reason why many cultures find it vile if someone eats with their left hand. Oh, by the way, a lot of the people on the planet don't eat with forks and spoon and knives. They eat with their hands--or at least the right hand.

Steve Arbogast, a seminarian I worked with, spent several years in the bush in west Africa teaching. He told me the worst part of his reentry into American culture was when he went into a Super Stop and Shop and walked down the paper aisle. The shear amount of toilet tissue sent him out of the store to his car. For his time in Africa, toilet paper had been an instrument of barter better than American dollars or Euros.

In the winter, walking from my grandmother's house down to the 'two seater', you passed the strawberry patch, the chicken coop and the storage shed. You don't want an outhouse too close to your house after all. Cold nights the chickens and a couple of ducks would be all assembled around the edges of the outhouse. Decomposing human waste gives off heat, after all. So you'd have to shoo them away with your feet even to go into the outhouse.

It might be appropriate to give thanks for whatever bathrooms you have in your house and for toilet paper.

And, it is kind of manly to pee outside. I'd never pee off our deck...not me...never...don't even think for a moment...even in the dark.....

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

My Calendar and Me

Ok, it was like neverending joke around St. John's--I'd have something written on my calendar that made perfect sense to me (I assume) when I wrote it, and I'd have no idea what it meant when the day drew near. Harriet, the Parish Administrator, and Sue, the Secretary, became cryptograpraphers (Sorry, my spellcheck isn't working no matter how many times I click the ABC with a check on my page so I know I didn't spell that correctly--what it means is someone who can break codes) for me and my calendar.

But those days are over since I retired.

Well, I turned to March on my 'one month on a page' Episcopal Church Calendar' and read this on March 8: "Post 1st CaaOP" (all underlined; and below that) "83log" or "831og". It doesn't matter which it is, each, whether L or 1 before 'og', makes no f***ing sense to me.

I have as much knowledge of molecular biology (none!) as I do about what is written in my unmistakable hand writing on March 8, 2011.

I've pondered and pondered what on earth that collection of letters and numbers could possibly mean.

I have one idea. I think that maybe March 8 is the anniversary of my blogging and I was telling myself to "Post 1st COT on blog".

How in heaven's name did that become "Post 1st Caaop 83log"???

I'm betting that's what it means. But do I write that poorly or do my brain synapses fail so often.

Thanks for reading about me figuring that out. If I'm wrong, someone is going to be furious that I didn't "Post 1st Caaop" with them at "83log".

(I've always known I have a little number dyslectia {spell check still not working!}, but this makes me concerned for my learning disabilities in a new way....)

Wait, I just looked closely at what I wrote on March 7 again....The T of Tree, in my shorthand, looks like a P and what looks like '83 log' is really a 'B' that ended up looking like '83'.

Maybe it's not my disabilities, maybe it's my handwriting.

Thanks for helping me figure all that out and tune in on March 7 for a reprise of my first ever blog....

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

My Meyers/Briggs results

Ok, I was in Jungian analysis for 10 years so I believe in and have used the Meyers/Briggs Personality Inventory.

Here's what you need to know. I'm an ENFP--big surprise, huh, to those who know the M/B?

Since I retired I've gotten in touch with my Introvert as opposed to my Extrovert. I've always been near the middle on that and I realize I really enjoy being alone and pondering as much as I enjoy being with dozens of diverse people and hanging out with them.

I'm pretty much stuck with being a Feeling rather a Thinking person and being a Perceptive rather than a Judging person. I'm 2/3 to the FP side from the TJ side.

But I am off the scale completely Intuitive rather than, what is it? I can't even remember, oh, yeah, Sensate. I don't even score on the S scale of the N/F scale.

How I always explained the difference between the two to groups I've used M/B with was this: "A sensate personality takes something that needs to be assembled, organizes the pieces and begins with the instructions (having read them once or twice) with step one. An intuitive personality dumps the pieces out, throws away the instructions and looks at the picture on the box." I am like that to the Nth (ironically enough) degree. I am so N I wouldn't know S if it bumped into me, took my money and left me for dead.

So, after tonight's adventure with Facebook, I've decided it must be a counter-intuitive thing and I would never ever be able to figure it out.

Here's how it started.

I got an email that my friend Jo had written something on my Wall. (Nevermind that in all the time I've tried to master Face Book I've never figured out what 'my wall' was. But I clicked on the connection embedded in the email.

I was told I had "New Answers" to unlock. On the right were endless vertical ads for stuff I didn't want and wasn't interested in.

Jo had answered a question about me so I clicked on the spot and went to a page where there were actually 2 questions about me, though I'd never asked them.

Did Jim ever lie in an interview?
Did Jim ever not pick up a tab?

By the way, FB said 'James' which shows how much FB knows about me....

I needed 50 coins (whatever they are) to open either answer and I had, not unsurprisingly, zero coins since I have no idea whatsoever what they are or how I would get them if I wanted them.

Trying to negotiate away, I was asked if I wanted to 'view my matches'. There were hearts floating out of that question which made me think it was some kind of dating service. The only options were YES or NEXT. I took NEXT.

That brought me to a page that said something or someone called "Are you interested?" wanted access to everything on my FB, whatever that is since I can't find my way around it and have no idea what might be there.

The choice was ALLOW/LEAVE APP

I took LEAVE APP and may have arrived at what may be my 'wall' with 55 things from people I know and don't know with pictures and short sentences that I don't know what to do with.

I clicked on someone I don't really know and got sent--I suspect--to the Universe they inhabit with photos of them in stages of undress. Maybe this is the "Are you Interested" world, I have no idea, but I was able to get back to what might be 'my wall' but isn't anymore since I decided at that point I wanted to unsubscribe to FB and simply give up trying to intuit what the hell it is all about since nothing about it makes any sense to me.

I discovered I had 401 'friends' waiting to be 'friended' or whatever the word is. I also discovered that someone I've never heard of had invited me to a performance of The Highwaymen this Friday.

When I asked "help" to help me cancel my FB membership I was directed to a group called "Cancel My FB Membership" that had 311 members and wanted to 'friend' me.

I finally got to a page with the 'most asked questions' of HELP on FB. The most frequently asked question was "How do I cancel my account?"

Clicking on that I was instructed to go to my account page.

Clicking on that I got pictures of people I really love, including my daughter, 'who will miss you' if you commit social network suicide and cancel your account.

Mimi's picture almost made me hit 'cancel'.

But I'm just sick of trying to understand something that I simply don't understand. I think I could understand how to speak Albanian before I could comprehend what the Reason For and Usefulness Of FB is.

Even from the underhanded attempt to dissuade me of showing me my darling baby girl's photo, it took 3 more clicks and pages to finally do the deed of ending my unfortunate relationship with FB. Plus I had to type in some really goofy semi-disguised words. (Could someone who knows about such thing tell me this: Is there anyone who can't type in the squiggly letters and number correctly, and, if not, why, for God's sake???)

The page that came up when I finally, after 25 minutes or so, committed the equivalent of 'social network suicide', was a page from FB inviting me to join.

At that point I went for the big red X at the right-hand top of my screen.

It is finished....

(I do apologize for my hyper-intuitive personality that was absolutely incapable of joining you in the wondrous--I'm sure--bliss of being Face Book 'friends'. I have 2 phone numbers, an email address and live in a non-virtual spot on the planet where mail arrives. Stay in touch, please. I love you. You ARE my non-virtual 'friends'. I just couldn't take feeling so stupid and incompetent any more....)

Jim Bradley's Face Book Page
RIP 2/22/2011
(All will be well and all will be well and all
manner of things will be well....)
All things considered, I'd rather
be in Philadelphia....

Monday, February 21, 2011

I can see my house from here...

While I was out walking the dog tonight, I ascertained what I already kinda knew--we are on the landing pattern from the Hartford Springfield Airport.

Several planes passed over from the south-west heading north east and coming down while Bela sniffed month old snow and considered passing water or other bodily waste.

So, when you flying into Bradley from most anywhere south of here, you could look down and see our house. Right now it's the one with 9 foot piles of snow near the driveway. In the spring it would be the one with a multitude of brightly colored flowers. In the summer, the flowers and shrubs will be in full bloom. In the fall, there is a red maple in the back yard and a barking Puli on the deck.

So, if you fly into Bradley International Airport from the south, look down and see our house.

The one time my father visited before I went to West Virginia and collected him to come live with us for a few weeks until he started wandering away and then he lived in a nursing home in Hamden: that one time he was a free man and visiting his only child and his daughter in law and his two grand children, the stewardess noticed his last name was "Bradley".

"You're going to 'your' airport," she told him. And she brought him a free bourbon on the rocks because his name was the name of the airport whose landing path is over our house in Cheshire.

He enjoyed that wondrously and talked about it until he began to only talk about things that happened before I was born, and probably you too.

Here's what to ponder under your Castor Oil Tree today: what could you say to a stranger that would mean so much to them they'd talk about it years later?

Welcoming strangers, the Christian (and Jewish and Muslim and Buddhist) sacred writings all tell us, is like welcoming Angels unaware.

Perhaps we should all speak to a stranger every day and try to say something that makes them remember it.

How would that alter the occurring of the universe for both the stranger and us?

Something to ponder, sitting there under your Castor Oil Tree. Like you....

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The End of Life as we know it

So it won't be the rebellion in the Muslim world--Egypt, Tunisia, Libya , Iran, Birayn, and all that.

It won't be the deeply divided Federal Government or the Tea Party that does it.

It won't be global warming or climate change.

It won't be the Stock Market or Health Care or the Entitlements in the budget.

No, no, no, and once more no.

The End of Life as we know it has happened on the Farmington Canal.

The old Canal path is paved for six miles or more through Cheshire and Hamden. It begins just down the hill from where we live. We take our dog there every day to walk for about two miles--the length from Cornwall Avenue to the nest road that interrupts the Canal.

Hundreds of dogs are walked on the Canal. And people are scrupulous about picking up their dogs' should I put it...? bodily waste.

But since the snows began, no one carries a plastic bag with them. There is even a little container for dog poop bags at the beginning of the Canal. But for a month now, no one seems to be picking up the poop--and you can't get to the container because of the snow.

It is the snow and ice that has done it--destroyed the social contract that holds the fabric of civil life together. People always picked up their dogs' bowel movements and deposited it in the huge trash can the town provides for just such waste. But no more.

Dogs seem to love to climb up on the snow banks and do their business. Ours does, I assure you, slip-sliding away, he does his toilet. And I don't pick it up and put it where it belongs in the big huge trash can. No one does.

Worn out by winter and ice and snow the people of Cheshire leave their dogs' poop where it falls. When the melt came, it became apparent that we have all abandoned the rules of the tribe that kept us all civilized. No poop picked up. Chaos and anarchy--this is CHESHIRE for God's sake--we are citizens beyond compare, we obey the rules, we keep the trust, we bear each others' burdens and make life safe, livable, and poop free....But no more....

It has been the winter that has broken the bonds on humanity. And dog poop is the evidence that the social contract, the general agreement, the tender tendrils that bind us together into a culture and a society have been violated.

What's next we might ponder if we dare?

The end of Unions in, of all places, Wisconsin?

The Roman Catholics accepting confessions on I-phone aps?

Clarence Thomas not recluseing himself on any Supreme Court ruling involving the Health Care Bill since his wife works for a company that makes lots of money lobbying against the Health Care Bill?

The Chicago Cubs winning the World Series?

How can we survive such thoughts and events?

People of Cheshire, pick up your dogs' poop. Only then can we live in peace and know contentment....The Social Contract is a fragile thing. Only we can maintain it.

Friday, February 18, 2011


For over a week I've been what my grandmother would call "do-less". I've written almost nothing, besides the out line of the first meeting of my Mary of Magdala class that begins in March--that was good--but no prose or poetry. "Do-less" is when you can't 'do' anything. It was a common ailment among the way-faring youth of southern West Virginia.

I've tried to blame it on the milder weather. Something like a preemptive Spring Fever. But that isn't true. I know myself from years of Jungian analysis and what myself is trying to do is avoid 'what is'. I play Hearts on my computer for a couple of hours a day. I spent an hour in Stop and Shop today when what I needed would have taken 15 minutes tops. I found myself, a day or so ago, driving about a dozen miles to get home from a 5 minute trip. I go look at things that don't interest me in the least. I spent an hour in Bob's Store and didn't buy anything.

I know the symptoms of 'do-less-ness'. I'm frightened, fearful, a tad depressed.

The only way I know to deal with that is to talk about it. Since my blog is easier and cheaper than therapy, I'm going to try this first.

About 6 months ago, my urologist in Greenwich suggested I might need another therapy for the cancer that started 6 years ago and for which I had surgery and radiation and then lived 6 years thinking I was a 'survivor'.

What's wrong is my PSA. Most men over 45 know what that means. I have no idea what PSA stands for, what the real words are. But PSA shows up in blood tests for it. The gland that produces the PSA is the Prostate. Mine started producing too much 6 years ago and I had a biopsy and had Prostate Cancer. (I capitalize Cancer because where I come from, when I was a kid, before treatments became more sophisticated, people I knew called cancer, 'the Big C'. Like a capital letter and because they thought it would be a hex or something to say the word outloud....)

The prostate gland produces PSA. So when it is gone, there should be no PSA. Right? I had none right after the surgery. And for a couple of years I had PSA readings like 0.003 and 0.01. But in the past year (nine months actually) my PSA has doubled to something like 1.4 from 0.7. Minuscule if you're a healthy male under 50. (My PSA was 14.0 when I had the biopsy.) But when you don't have a prostate gland, 1.4 means there are prostate cancer cells living inside you and floating around.

Six months ago Dr. Stombakis, who did my surgery, suggested I might begin some what is called "hormone therapy". It is, in fact, "Anti-hormore therapy". You are given a drug that prevents the production of testosterone. I'd had bone scans and cat scans that showed nothing. He even said, 'the problem is, you have no cancer." I said, "whose problem is that?" His of course, since he didn't know what to do except start hormone treatment, which is what they do for the 1/3 of prostate cancer survivors whose PSA continues to rise when it shouldn't. I talked him into putting it off until my next blood test. Then Dr. Stombakis wasn't included in my insurance (though, God Bless them, the Episcopal Health people made my company pay him for almost a year. Being an Episcopalian has some perks!)

Plus I had a terrible urinary tract infection about 4 months ago and went to a hospital near me and was treated by a urologist who fixed the problem and looked like Kurt Vonnegut and WAS covered by my insurance. Well, after he got my many records and gave me a blood test, he said I needed to start the therapy.

Two doctors I trust profoundly said the same thing. Dr. Kurz said he'd not suggest it if I were 75. But I'm not 75 and would like to be some day 12 years from now. Prostate Cancer goes to the bone, not a cancer anyone wants.

So, a week from today, I'm starting the therapy and I am freaked out and 'do-less' because of it.

I just want to ask for your good thoughts and prayers, however you pray, that I'll be fine and the side-effects won't be too extreme and that I'll move through d0-less-ness and my fear and my depression and be ok until 75 and beyond.

Thank you in advance for that.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The 10 top reasons I'm joyful today

10. Linsey Lohan will not be on Letterman tonight.

9. I will not watch Letterman tonight, or ever.

8. It was warmer today and will, I'm told, be even warmer tomorrow.

7. I actually already planned the first session of my Mary of Magdala class at U Conn, Waterbury for March

6. I haven't had asthma all winter (knock on wood)

5. I'm married to Bern.

4. I have a bad Puli dog, the best cat in the Universe and two wonderful birds.

3. NPR is on all the time.

2. I'm not Lindsy Lohan OR David Letterman.

1. My President is smarter than I am (as it should be) plus my governor is too.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

My wife the Vet

OK, we've got this Puli. Pulik is really the singular but hey, it's Hungarian, so who knows.

Puli owners like to say, I don't have a dog, I have a Puli.

Being around one for any period of time will prove to you what that means. Bela is our second Puli. (Bela is a Hungarian man's name, whatever it means in other languages--Bartok, Lagose, Karola are three of the best known Bela's.) Our first Puli was Finney (the name of an actor named Albert--not Hungarian at all). They are independent to a fault. Extremely loyal to the Flock, but on their terms. Bela is a bit aggressive. He bit Hank Fotter once. One of the Mail Carriers on our route told Bern that Bela was the scariest dog she knew. Pat of that is that he looks so cuddly and, when the mail person comes, he throws himself against the door with abandon, snarling like crazy.

Well, this is about how Bern knows better than all the vets we've seen.

Bela had chronic ear infections. We're talking about 48 weeks a year when he would have black gook in his ear or ears, depending on whether one or both was infected at the moment. Our vets--we changed since we got him--kept giving us ear washes and drops that didn't seem to work at all unless you count making it worse as 'working'. He was also on dog Prozac because he could be aggressive. That, by the way, didn't work either.

Bern, in frustration started going on line and looking up Vet websites. She chatted with one vet who told her the ear deal was probably an allergy. I told our Vet that and she said the Doggie-Prozac was also an antihistamine so that should handle allergies.

Back to web Bern went: not only was the drug not an antihistamine, she discovered Bela should have been having twice a year blood tests since the drug could damage his liver.

She started making all his food. No corn--most dog foods have lots of corn--no chicken, she discovered some dogs are allergic to chicken, no dairy except yogurt, which he would rip out your throat for. (Dairy--lots of whey in dog food--should have occurred to us since both our kids had horrible ear infections in Charleston WV. We took them off dairy and it got better but not completely since Charleston WV is surrounded by chemical factories and has the highest ratio of ENT doctors in the world! In fact, when we left Charleston, dairy wasn't a problem anymore.) So she cooks this stuff up, mostly lamb and turkey. She puts in celery, garlic, sometimes lentils, lots of stone cut oats, sometimes rice, carrots, parsley, sometimes peas. The lamb stuff I will probably try when no one is looking....He eats it like crazy. And in the 6 weeks she's been doing it, no black gook whatsoever and he is much calmer off the drug. Plus, he's lost weight and has more energy. Oh, what I forgot, she found out that Benadryl is recommended for dogs with allergies--one tablet like you would take twice a day just in the food.

I'm going to go interview a new vet and see if she knows this stuff about allergies and Prozac and blood tests and such. If she doesn't then we'll either keep looking or figure out how to get his rabies and kennel cough and Lyme disease vaccines on some New Haven street corner from a suspicious looking guy.

The difference in his ears and general well being is remarkable. My wife, the Vet.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Still one Christmas Tree to go....

We still have one Christmas Tree in the house. The long needle pine is gone, long ago, shortly before Epiphany, though I like them up until Epiphany. Long needle pines start to decompose rapidly after a week or two. So Bern drug it out the back door and cut off most of the branches and stood what was left up next to the recycle container. Here's how long ago that was--I put out the blue box for recycle stuff out the next Tuesday. It's now under three feet of ice. We'll see it in May or so.

The fir--we always have two Christmas Trees since 40 years of relationship accumulates more ornaments than one tree can bear--is still in the dining room. Still doing well, though I doubt it's been watered for a month almost. Tomorrow is February 13--a month and a week past Epiphany and another 12 days besides that past Christmas. And still that little fir sits in our dining room, not having shed a needle yet, still green and proud. I've gotten so used to it since it went up a couple of weeks before Christmas--two months ago now (we always put them up then and decorate them during Christmas week...we used to wait until our kids came home but have long ago admitted that the trees are 'our trees', Bern's and mine and the kids no longer want any part in them). Josh and Cathy had their own tree this year. Tim and Mimi haven't yet, I don't think. I still remember when Bern and I had our first tree--but being a priest and working on Christmas meant we didn't 'go home' to what was no longer 'home' for Christmas.

Christmas trees are magical things, mystical and marvelous. I spend hours each Christmas season looking at the ornaments, remembering where they came from if I can, when they joined our lives. Christmas trees are green memory devices.

I'm trying to imagine how long the fir will be there. Looks to me it could last until June or later. Firs are sturdy little trees. I'm thinking if we leave it until June it will have lived with us for half a year. Not a bad thing, I don't think. Maybe we should all have Christmas Trees up much of the year--not with ornaments or lights, but just there, a reminder of life beyond human life, something to share your home, a member of the family in a special way.

We have lots of plants. Bern cares for them, I hardly notice. Just like she is the yard and garden person and I enjoy the colors and the variety but seldom ponder how wondrous it is.

In the midst of this frozen, white winter, that little fir has reminded me there is a Spring to come and green things and new life.

I should spend some time with that tree--it was our 'flying thing tree' this year. Each Christmas one tree has only 'flying things' on it--angels, birds, some ornaments that are flying elephants or fairies or things with balloons or wings.

Perhaps I should ponder, in the midst of the dead time of winter, how things, how life, how imagination can fly, can soar....

Not a bad meditation. I'll do that tomorrow.

Something to ponder--flight and life and greenness in the midst of ice and chill.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Future Church III

Finally finishing Wesley Frendorff's vision for the Church

Let us dream of a a church...

In which discipline is a means, not to self-justification, but to discipleship, and law is know to be a good servant but a very poor master.

A church....

In which every congregation is in a process of becoming free--autonomous--self-reliant--interdependent.

None has special status: the distinction between parish and mission gone.

But each congregation is in mission and each Christian, gifted for ministry; a crew on a freighter, no passengers on a luxury liner.

Peacemakers and healers abhorring violence in all forms (maybe even football)
{JIM HERE IN AN ASIDE--THIS ABHORRING FOOTBALL DOESN'T WORK FOR ME....} as concerned with societal healing as with individual healing; with justice as with freedom, prophetically confronting the root causes of social, political and economic ills.

A community: an open, caring, sharing household of faith where all find embrace, acceptance and affirmation.

A community: under judgment, seeking to live with its own proclamation, there fore truly love what the lord commands and desiring His promises.

And finally, let of dream of a people called....

to recognize all the absurdities in ourselves and in one another, including the absurdity that is LOVE,

serious about the call and the mission, but not, very much, about ourselves,

who, in the company of our Clown Redeemer can dance and sing and laugh and cry in worship, in ministry and even in conflict.

That's the whole thing. Remarkable. Painfully obvious and even more painfully distant from us.
I fear and mourn for the church in these days. We need a new paradigm, a new vision, a way to be transformed and be made new.

Bp. Frensdorff's words are a beginning, a challenge, something to lean into, to seek, to long for, to desire, to work toward.

It all seems so distant--his vision--and so different from the Church as it is....

But it is to be ponderer under your Castor Oil Tree...something to fuss with God about...something to dwell on.

More about the church later....

Love you all....

Future Church III

Thursday, February 10, 2011

the Future Church--2

I'm still writing out Leslie Frendorff's dream of the church.

Let us dream of a church...

so salty and so yeasty that it really would be missed if no longer around;

where there is wild sowing of seeds and much rejoicing when they take root, but little concern for success, comparative statistics, growth or even survival.

A church so evangelical that its worship, it quality of caring, its eagerness to reach out to those in need cannot be contained.

A church....

affirming life over death as much as life after death,

unafraid of change, able to recognize God's had in the revolutions, affirming the beauty of diversity, abhorring the imprisonment of uniformity,

as concerned about love in all relationships as it is about chastity and affirming the personal in all expressions of sexuality.

Let us dream of a church...

in which the sacraments, free from captivity by a professional elite, are available in every congregation regardless of size, culture, location or budget.

In which every congregation is free to call forth from its midst priests and deacons, sure in the knowledge that training and support services are available to back them up.

In which the Word is sacramental too, as dynamically presented as the bread and win; members, not dependent on professionals, know what's what and who's who in the Bible and all sheep share in the shepherding.

It will take one more post to finish Wesley's dream.

Ponder this part.

Notice how revolutionary and radical it is. Ponder what it would mean to 'The Church'--how the church would have to be transformed to be a part of this vision.

Ponder also, whether you would want to be a part of this dream, this vision, this Kind of church....

pain in the rear view mirror

So, I noticed Bern's truck had a very low tire and drove it down to the Mobil station to fill it up.

No sooner had I hit Rt. 10 than I glanced in the rear view mirror and saw a beautiful young woman in the passenger seat of the car behind me crying.

She wasn't sobbing or anything, simply wiping tears from her large, lovely eyes. The man driving the car was about the age the girl's father would be--she was probably in her early teens--and he seemed to be listening quietly to what she was saying as she wiped the tears away.

His face did not show upset or anger--it showed pain. Whatever the girl was crying about and whatever she was saying seemed to be bringing pain to her father as well.

I don't recommend driving down Rt. 10 paying more attention to the rear-view mirror than the view out the windshield, but that's what I did. The traffic was very slow, as it often is on Rt. 10 in Cheshire. I stopped two or three times before I could get through each of the half-dozen or so traffic lights between Cornwall Ave. and the Mobil station, so I wasn't being reckless as I watched the silent drama in the car behind me.

In the back seat of the car were two young boys, I'd say younger than the girl by a year or so. They were leaning forward, the one on the driver's side had his face between the two front seats and the one of the passenger side had his head up close to the beautiful, weeping girl's headrest.

If I would say what I saw on those two boys' faces, I would call it painful concern. They too were listening to the crying girl, speaking slowly, constantly wiping the tears from her eyes as if she were embarassed by them. They looked like her, not so beautiful by half, but handsome, dark-haired young people. So--and of course I'm making this up because I couldn't hear what the girl was saying--it seemed to be a father and three siblings, driving down Rt. 10 with the daughter talking and wiping tears away.

And the other three seemed to listening with compassionate concern to what the lovely young woman was saying.

I could be totally wrong about this, but I watched it for 15 minutes on what is usually a 5 minute drive, but I don't think her pain was because of them. Only once did I see anyone but her talking. At a stop, her father turned to her and said what was probably a sentence or two. She turned to look at him as he spoke, which people don't do if the person speaking is the cause of their distress--at least that's my experience with people who have distressed me or I have distressed. You don't look at the object of your distress.

She nodded, just as the light changed and we crept forward, and begin to speak again, wiping away yet more tears.

The family was Asian, did I mention that? At least the father was, undeniably. Not Chinese or Japanese, further south or west of those. Thailand, perhaps, or Viet Nam--the father looked like he haled from those parts. The children were blended, not so obviously Asian. Perhaps their mother was Occidental (I know it's not politically correct to say 'Oriental' any more, but I've never been schooled to avoid Occidental.) Perhaps they were talking about the wife, the mother, or something that happened at school, or some deep and profound sadness in the family or the girl or simply life itself.

I wanted to keep driving ahead of them. I wanted to 'know the story' that caused this so lovely young woman with long black hair to be crying and talking. But I got to the Mobil station and pulled in. The tire had 10 lbs. per square inch of pressure. I ramped it up to 34 and drove back home wondering what happened in the car behind me, praying--actually praying--that young woman found relief, comfort, healing from her talking and her tears.

I know this, I will ponder this afternoon for a while.

(I went out at 5:30 to walk the dog and it was just twilight. A month ago--a few weeks ago--5:30 p.m. would have meant deep darkness. The Northern Hemisphere is, each day, tilting back toward the sun a bit. In the chill, surrounded by ice, today was the first day I realized the light is returning, Spring will, inexorably insinuate itself into life in New England. How wonderful is that. And, how wonderful--unless my interpretation is completely wrong {and Everything IS Interpretation, after all} of what the little drama was in that car behind me was about, people who love you being willing to listen to what you say and have concern for your tears: that too, is the Coming of the Light.)

If you pray...and however you pray...I would invite you to say a prayer for that family in my rear-view mirror....

pain in the rear view mirror

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Pondering "the Church"

The Castor Oil Tree is a place, like Jonah, to sit and ponder. One of the things I 'ponder' under my tree is the nature and the future of the Church. I have lots of concerns about the Church's future--economic pressures, the weight of hierarchy, how to live out the gospel in a multicultural world, how to be 'the Body of Christ' in a time when the Church is mostly irrelevant to the culture and and world as it is. Stuff like that.

I've been working lately on Sundays in the Middlesex Cluster--4 churches in Northford, Higganum, Killingworth and West Brook--that seek to live into and lean into the vision of a prophet named Roland Allen, who dreamed a dream of what he termed "total common ministry", which turns out to be a vision for the Church in our time.

Wesley Frensdorff was the Episcopal Bishop of Colorado back in the 70's or so and a disciple of Roland Allen. The just retired missioner of the Middlesex Cluster shared this with me and I want to share it with you. It was written during one of Bp Frensdoff's gatherings of like-minded folks.

Ponder it.

THE DREAM by Wesley Frensdorff

Let us dream of a church....

In which all members know surely and simply God's great love and each is certain that in the divine heart we are all known by name.

In which Jesus is very Word, our window into the Father's heart; the sign of God's hope and design for all humankind.

In which the Spirit is not a party symbol but wind and fire in everyone; gracing the church with a kaleidoscope of gifts and constant renewal for all.

A Church in which....

worship is lively and fun as well as reverent and holy; and we might be moved to dance and laugh; to be solemn, cry or beat the breast.

People know how to pray and enjoy it--frequently and regularly, privately and corporately, in silence and in word and in song.

The Eucharist is the center of life and servanthood, the center of mission; the servant Lord truly known in the breaking of bread. With service flowing from worship, and everyone understanding why a worship is called a service.

Let us dream of a church...

with radically renewed concept and practice of ministry and a primitive understanding of the ordained offices,

where there is no clerical status and no classed of Christians, but all together know themselves to be part of the laos--the holy people of God.

A ministering community rather than a community gathered around minister,

where ordained people, professional or not, employed or not, are present for the sake of ordering and signing the church's life and mission, not as signs of authority or dependency, nor of spiritual or intellectual superiority, but with Pauline patterns of 'ministry supporting church' instead of the common pattern of 'church supporting ministry',

where bishops are signs and animators of the church's unity, catholicity and apostolic mission,

where priests are signs and animators of her eucharistic life and the sacramental presence of her Great High Priest,

and deacons are signs and animators--living reminders--of the church's servanthood as the body of Christ who came as, and is, the servant slave of all God's beloved children.

As I've typed this I realize that is so dense and so profound that I can't do it all or ponder it all at once. So I'll stop there.

More to come, with some commentary. Two more posts at least....

Monday, February 7, 2011

a beautiful thing

I know what it is now. I stood outside in the rain tonight long enough to know it wasn't a miracle or a wonder or something beyond explanation. I can explain it.

And, it was a beautiful thing.

End of the evening stuff. I was out on the porch noticing that it was raining and our dog hates rain and I knew a walk down the street to the parking lot of the Congregational Church wouldn't be a good idea. And then I saw it.

At first I didn't believe what I was seeing. It couldn't be there, not there, and not the way it was. But it didn't go away and I watched it long enough to get myself rather wet.

I went inside to get the dog and make him go out back. We've kept digging away at the snow to make him a labyrinth of a run in the back yard--not near enough to any of the fences, almost topped by snow, that he might decide to jump the fence and make a run for it.

I wrote a poem once about him maybe running away. If I can find it, I'll put it at the end of this thing about the beautiful thing.

I watched the beautiful thing while he went out to do the business he needed to do. We went in and I gave him a treat and started up the back steps. But I passed Luke's litter box and turned on a light to check. Yep, it needed some cleaning. So I scooped and poured into a Stop and Shop plastic bag and took Luke's 'business' out to put in the trash can on the back porch. And the beautiful thing was still there.

Here's what it looked like: a sliver of golden light hanging in the air between two big evergreens, about 3 feet off the ground. And it was beautiful, reflecting off the snow--a golden sliver in a darkened, white world.

I know it was just an icicle hanging off a limb of a sapling, reflecting light from one of those golden street lights over a hundred yards away, down on Route 10. And I stared it some more, simply appreciating how mysterious (though explainable) that little sliver of light was to me.

Beautiful. A beautiful thing. Between dog's waste and cat's waste, in the rain on a cold winter's night---something to stand in the rain and ponder and marvel about....

(I couldn't find the poem I was looking for just now, but here's another winter poem about our dog)

The Difference Between a Puli and a Man

It is just about 3 degrees Fahrenheit
according to the thermometer on my back porch.
And the wind is blowing, O, I'd say,
about 15 miles an hour.
The ice has iced over a couple of times
and everything wood and metal creaks
from the cold.

Puli dogs were built for weather like this.
When Attila left the steppes of Mongolia
to cross the known world,
conquering everything in his path
(raping and pillaging along the way)
he already had dogs
that had survived cold that killed horses,
camels, oxen and men.

Hungary, in the deepest winter of those years
we think of as long, long, long ago,
was like moving from Connecticut to Florida
for the Hun's dogs.
Their tangled, cording hair--black as midnight,
or 2 a.m.--kept them warm,
made them think Budapest was tropical
compared to the gales in winter
off the steppes.

That is the difference between a Puli dog,
like mine,
and an aging white man like me.
In the back yard, he runs in circles,
pausing only to eat ice and snow,
guarding sheep that are not there
from wolves that don't exist.
He finds a mound of ice
and splays himself on it,
feeling the genetic connection,
the DNA link, the marrow deep instinct of his breeding.
Then he grabs a stick and runs to the edge of the yard,
stopping to bark at me to come chase him.

And I, wrapped in clothes that will take five minutes
to rid myself of back inside,
call to him to return
to what aging, white men love:
central heat, fireplaces, hot coffee.

Eventually, he will return--even if that means
I have to go and get him,
playing 'catch me if you can'
all the way back to the porch.
But he could fall asleep, nestled in ice and snow,
while I would simply die of hypothermia.

That, if nothing else (and there is much else indeed!)
distinguishes me from my Puli...
Or, more accurately,
distinguishes the Puli
from his man.

jgb 2/5/07

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Still trying and about to give up

My shoulders are very sore from throwing snow and ice up over 8 or 9 foot barriers--all of which is the snow I've shoveled before--just to clear the driveway.

The snow plow has deposited about a foot and a half of solid ice between my walkway to the road and the road. I'm still trying but about to give up on that.

Here's the other thing (listen up all you Facebook Fanatics) Debbie, who I've known since she was 18 and that was a lot of years and kids ago, found me on facebook and asked to be my 'friend'. Well, since she is over 25 years or so, I let her do that and then was confronted with a bunch of people wanting to put me on their calendar for my birthday. So I clicked the first one and discovered I couldn't tell her my birthday, I had to sign up for some Calendar deal, which I rejected, and rejected, and rejected, and rejected, and rejected, and rejected and rejected. Yes, beloved, I said no seven times before it let me alone and it took me seven more various clicks to get off of Facebook.

My birthday is April 17, okay.

I don't want to sign up for anything else so don't go on Facebook and ask to know my birthday because I can't tell you unless I sign up for something I don't want and even then I have to reject seven times before Calendar believes me.

I think Facebook is the 'un-social' network because it won't take 'no' for an answer.

Is there a guide book to face book, not on line, please!!!, but on paper somewhere so some luddite like me could have a f**king clue about what in the hell it is for.

Sorry, Marian and all other FB lovers. It is a nightmare. Email me, call me, lets have coffee.

No Mas Face Book.....

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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.