Tuesday, April 29, 2014

What happens when money earns more than working does...

I'd be surprised if this is the first time you've heard the name Thomas Piketty. He is the rage because of his book Capital in the 21st Century, already #1 on Amazon. 700 pages of super-logical argument about economics.

Mike Carroll was talking about him today at our Clericus Group and when David and I got in the car, he was being interviewed on NPR.

The essence of his thesis is this: capitalism is, by default, weighted toward the upper, upper people of wealth and unfair to the working class. What he shows, in great detail, is that 'capital' makes more money than working folks do and so the wealthy will be wealthier and wealthier and those of us who 'work' for a living will have less and less access to economic mobility. Money earns more money than working does, in understandable language.

What is needed, according to Piketty, for democracy to remain viable is to redistribute the wealth through taxes/

Not surprisingly, the folks on the Right have started calling him a Marxist. But the interesting thing is, he has a harsh critique of liberals and progressives because he sees that they have no answers to the inevitable path of democratic capitalism either.

I consider myself an ultra-liberal Democrat. Truth is, after hearing and reading about Piketty, a French economist, (I've not read his book and may not!) I know that deep down, I am a socialist.

My entire life has been spent in economic comfort. My father was a manual laborer most of his life who veered off into being an insurance salesman later in his life. My mother was a school teacher before there were teaching unions. Both of them grew up on the economic edge but became a part of the 'American Dream' and lived comfortably without extravagance for most of their lives.

Bern and I were on food stamps for a short time back in the 70's, but, for the most part, even as students together, we have live a comfortable, but not extravagant life. Now, in retirement, we're really better off than we've ever been: my Church Pension Fund check, our two early social security payments and my little part time job support us better than we've ever lived--without extravagance....

And I don't see why, in the richest country ever on this earth, everyone can't live in comfort without extravagance. There is nothing special about Bern and me. Everyone should live as we do.

The problem is this:the ultra-rich have crippled the unions, taken most of the wealth and left most of us unable to 'move up' the way the American Dream meant us to be.

Work should make money--not money. It isn't right that more and more wealth is being absorbed by fewer and fewer people in our society while tax levels on the rich are the lowest they've ever been. Something is simply wrong and unfair about that.

Under FDR, not surprisingly, and Ike as well, the tax levels on the rich were at least 5 times what they are now. And the working class is making less, given inflation, than they did in 1950.

There's something wrong when money earns more than working does. Just wrong. Dead wrong.

Hopefully, Piketty will bring income inequality into even more light than President Obama has sought to do.

People should 'make money'--'money' shouldn't make more money than working does....

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Voice

OK, I love "The Voice" on TV. Blake and Usher and Shikeria and Adam are some of my favorite people. And the talent is so superior to what's on other talent shows--especially "American Idol".

Last Tuesday I was away after watching the talent on Monday. I had Bern call me to tell me which two had been voted out of the competition.

My popularity and respect will probably fall. I know all that. But, the truth is, I love the Voice....

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Something I found that I didn't know I had...

Looking through a file of old stuff, I found the sermon I preached on the first anniversary of my priesthood. I didn't know I had it. I preached it at St. James Church in Charleston. West Virginia on May 15, 1977,exactly a year after my ordination to the priesthood. Frankly, I don't remember it at all. It is typed (yes, typed!) on the back of bulletin covers that say, "you are my disciples if you have love for one another". I tore the 8 1/2 x 11 covers in two and the pages of the sermon are 8 1/2 inches by 5 1/2 inches, double spaced.

I've been a priest for 38 years since then, come May 15. And though I'd edit a few things about this sermon, by in large, I'd stand by it all these years later.

I thought I'd share it with you tonight.

May 15, 1977

What is a Priest?

     Woe is me! I am lost.
     For I am a man of unclean lips.
     And I dwell among a people of unclean lips.
     Yet, with these eyes, I have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts.

With those words, the prophet Isaiah proclaimed the irony of his call from God. He is not worthy to serve the Lord. He is a man on unclean lips. And yet with his eyes, he has seen God--he has been called.

Today is the anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood. I have been a priest one year.

A year ago today I stood before the bishop as he asked the question of you, the congregation: "IS HE WORTHY?"

You responded, loudly as I remember, it pleases me to say, "HE IS WORTHY! HE IS WORTHY!"

Today I remember your words and I must echo Isaiah's lament: "Woe is me! I am lost. For I am a man of unclean lips."

I want to share my thoughts and feelings with you about priesthood. I want to share what and who I think a priest must be. I want to say something about miy role in your midst.

There is no better place to begin than with Isaiah: I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell among a people of unclean lips.

As your priest, I am no better and no worse than the best and the worst in you. A priest is one of the people--a member of the community. There's nothing 'special' about a priest--nothing 'special' at all.

Although we are all to be priests and servants of God. Although, as priest, I am merely one of t he people, my ordination does 'set me apart'.

A priest is 'set apart'--not by virtue of goodness, not to be an example, not as someone admired--a priest is set apart to serve--to fill needs and fulfill roles for the community, the people of God.

In that sense, I am set apart in your midst--I must be a story teller, an enchanter, a dreamer and a lover.

A priest must be a story-teller, a teller of tales.

I must tell you tales as we sit by the fire, our eyes glowing. I must weave for you the fabric of a story.

I must tell my tale, to those who care to hear.

I am a madman in the market place, telling stories.

And always the story is the same. Always.

The words are different each time. I change the details, the embellishments, the subtleties...but never mind, the story is the same.

I tell it over and over and over again.

This is my story, simply put: Once upon a time, we dwelled with God --and now, though we are far from God, God comes to us--God dwells with us, we are God's own.

Over and over I must tell that story to those who care to hear.

A priest must also be an enchanter, a magician of sorts, an illusionist.

I must grab reality and turn it over in my hand and show it to you all new, changed, altered, transformed--somehow enchanted.

I must tale the craziness and sickness and pain of your life and hold them mean...so near that they become a part of me, so when I let them go, they are transformed. Oh, craziness is still crazy and sick is still sick and pain still hurts, be they are different--enchanted, bearable.

I must pick up dead things along our road and carry them in my pocket and pull them out, alive again.

You say that's madness?

It may well be.

It may be mad to take bread and wine--such common things--and hold them out as Christ's Body and his Blood.

I must take a life--a life like yours or mine--a life of unclean lips and unclean hearts and show how that life belongs to God. How you and I are children of the Lord.

You and I--flesh and blood and bone--you and I are priceless, eternal, loved by God.

It is all true--but our eyes must be enchanted if we would see the King.

A priest must be a dreamer.

I must dream dreams for you. I must dream dreams you dare not dream. Dreams bigger than you believe in.'

I must dream for you...not because I know more about dreaming than you do,but because I know more about you than you know.

As your priest I know you belong to God. I know you are truly beautiful. I know you are priceless and eternal. I know no dream, no matter how large, can be too large for you.

So I dream your dreams...drams of growth and hope and wonder, dreams worthy of you. Dreams fit for the Children of the King.

I dream dreams you may not want dreamed--dreams that may frighten you, or threaten you, or bring you pain. I dream dreams that may never come true--because I've learned something saddens and liberates me--I can only dream for you. You must chose to make them true or let them die.

I must dream them. As your priest, I must dream for you because I know who you are.

Finally, and most importantly: a priest must be a Lover.

I must love you. I must love you, no matter what. No matter how petty or mean or unlovable I think you are, I must love you.

And that doesn't mean I will protect and shield you. That doesn't mean I won't let you fail and fall. Some would have me be more directive, more controlling, sterner--some would have me make demands I won't make.

And I won't do that. My love isn't like that. The love of a priest, when it is at it's best--let's go...my love let's you go and lets you be yourself--free to fail and free to soar.

But then, I know who you are: Children of the King. I know you are eagles, you can soar. You are beautiful, priceless, eternal, God's own.

Woe is me! I am lost.

It sounds so much--too much to ask of anyone. Too much, certainly, for a man of unclean lips in the midst of a people of unclean lips. It is too much. To be a priest is too much to ask.

And yet, it is asked. It is required by God.

These eyes have seen the King.

Today is the anniversary of my ordination. I have made it one year--not because of my skills or my gifts (thought I am aware that I am blessed with skill and talent). I have made it this far because God has brought me to this place and you have given me your trust, your prayers, your kindness, your understanding and your love.

You have been patient with me. And kind. And gentle.

I do not live up to my own expectations. It is too much to ask.

And yet, with your help--together , we people of unclean lips can lift our eyes...and our hopes...and our hearts...and our priceless, eternal souls higher...for we have seen the King, you and I.

We are children of God.

Knowing that, nothing is too much to ask.

God can use us, unclean lips and all.

"See, this has touched your lips; your iniquity is removed and your sin is wiped away."

"Then I heard the Lord saying: who shall I send, who will go for me?"

God calls us all. God needs us as God's people, a nation of priests.

God calls us all. My prayer, my hope, my dream, is that with Isaiah we can answer:

"Here am I, send me.

Here am I, send ME." 



Saturday, April 26, 2014

Making a Difference

The workshop I helped lead Tues-Fri is called Making A Difference. It is based on the reality that people in ministry (lay and ordained) truly want to 'Make a Difference' and yet find it impossible to do so on a consistent or reliable basis. Making a Difference is often like bumping into the furniture in a dark room. The workshop is designed to turn on the light.

Here's an example of how I bumped into 'making a difference' once. About 7 months after I left the first parish I served and became Rector of St. Paul's in New Haven, I got a letter from Howell Browder, one of the parishioners of St. James, Charleston. In the letter, she told me (and I quote) 'how much a difference I had made' in her life and the life of her son.

Here's the problem: though I remembered Howell well, I had no idea what she was referring to and barely remembered that she had a son!

I had 'made a difference' but had no idea how or how to replicate it....

The workshop uses two tracks: a conversation about a series of 'distinctions' and Centering Prayer to give the participants a handle on what 'makes a difference' in ministry. It boils down to this: making a difference is ontological rather than functional, 'being' rather than 'doing', 'coming from' a stance or declaration rather trying to 'get to' a result.

My declaration in the workshop when I took it in the late 1980's was: "I am Priest". The amazing thing was that I went to the workshop to 'figure out' how to renounce my vows and do something else with my life. What the workshop gave me was my priesthood transformed, made new.

The workshop is about 'transformation', not 'change'. Changing things is arduous, frustrating and damn near impossible and ends up, most of the time, resembling rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. The ship goes down anyway.

Transformation is effortless, astonishing and created out of nothing just by 'saying so'. My declaration, so long ago, freed me from trying to 'do' the work of priesthood and gave my a place to come from out of 'being a priest'.

(That all may seem simplistic and a tad mysterious, but I swear it is ontologically accurate.)

Here are two things that happen in the workshop: near the beginning the participants introduce themselves by telling everyone their name, where and with whom they live, what their ministry is, whether they have special relationships with anyone else in the room and an optional statement.

That part gives me goosebumps as a leader since it reveals how powerful the people in the room truly are and how remarkable their ministries are. And those powerful, remarkable people have come to a workshop that is not cheap to learn how to 'make a difference' more truly.

Then at the end--when they have done a lot of hard work and wrestled with their angels--they introduce themselves again as their declarations as 'who the BE in the matter of their ministries. Those introductions go beyond goose bumps to being near tears of joy because 'being' is so much more powerful than 'doing' or 'having'. Those introductions complete the following open ended statements: "Who I am I;....". "The actions you can count on my for are...." "I will enroll ________ in my possibility...." And, "The difference I now see I can make is...."

I swear to you that each person's visage is transformed by the end of the workshop! They look transformed and transfigured. And each introduction is met by cheers and applause from the people in the room. Truly. I kid you not.

I have two more workshops to help lead this year--one in Chicago and one in Ireland. And as much as I hate to leave home, being the homebody I am, I am convinced I will come back from each of them transformed and enlivened anew.

I just will.

(Want to know more? Google "The Mastery Foundation" and read about the programs the foundation presents. And if you'd like to do the workshop and  have September 12-14 available, I'll be with you in Chicago....)

Friday, April 25, 2014

Home again, home again, jiggidy jig....

God, I love doing the Making a Difference Workshops!

I got home today after helping Ann and Bill lead one at the Bishop Malloy Center in Jamaica, New York. The workshops enliven me as much as they do the participants--which is like a 'transformation' of life.

This one was a Top Five or Ten of all I've helped lead--must be up near 45 or 50 by now (though I have no idea, having no working relationship with linear time.) Remarkable people, lovely people, people who 'make a difference' and, I believe, will know how to "make a difference" even more now, after their workshop.

And I work with Ann and Bill, who I've known for three decades at least and who I love. Truly. They make my life more wondrous and full.

And, in spite of all that, I am so glad to be home!

I have become a consummate 'home-body', no kidding.

A day away from my house, my wife, my pets, my life is like a month. I long, every moment I'm away, to be back with Bern and Bela and Lukie and Maggie and just be here in this house that was built 193 years before I was born, nestled in the rooms I love, with the furniture and pictures and art work I love...just like that..."home".

I'll be away for two more workshops: the end of September in Ireland and mid-September in Chicago. And both will be wondrous and full of new life. And The end of August and early September we'll be on vacation on Oak Island with Mimi and Tim and our friends John and Sherrie and, most important of all, on Columbus Day weekend we'll be at Tim and Mimi's wedding in Brooklyn. And somewhere in all of that, we'll go to Baltimore to see the 'girls' and Josh and Cathy a time or two.

And here's the truth, the next to best thing of all those wonderful trips will be this: coming home, jiggidy, jig....

I've come to grips with it. I am happiest and most complete when I am here, at 95 Cornwall Avenue in 'the Shire', Cheshire, CT.

I am a home-body. Maybe I've always been. Now I know and embrace and  celebrate that I am.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Three days away

I'm leaving in a couple of hours for a Making a Difference Workshop in Jamaica, NY.  I'll be away until Friday and am not taking my laptop. The workshop is really intense and there's not much time to write. Besides, I really dislike lugging a laptop around....

So, I'll be back and posting on Friday evening.

Be well and stay well.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Holy Oil Laundry

So, Easter was great, surrounded (literally!) by granddaughters and Josh and Mimi and Cathy and Tim and our friends who go on vacation with us (John and Jack and Sherrie) it was great.

By this morning everyone was gone and I decided to do laundry.

I washed my alb with a bunch of other stuff, neglecting to check the pocket and the vial of healing oil came undone at some point so one whole load was washed in holy oil.

Now, what to do?

Should I take the shirts and pair of khakis and other things I washed with my alb to some hospital, hoping the patients could wear them and get some benefit?

Should I wear them myself and hope I would get the benefit?

Should I frame them as relic-like things and hang them around my home?

Should I just quit worrying about the theological significance of holy oil blessed clothing?

I'm not sure which would be best. But I know this, when I wear those pieces of clothing (as surely I will) I'll feel differently about them.

That I know.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The girls arrive

Later than we hoped, Morgan and Emma and Tegan arrived. Tegan asleep in Josh's arms and taken straight to bed. Morgan and Emma, obviously tired but endearing.

Tomorrow, Mimi comes. And Tim on Saturday morning from Brooklyn.

Then, for a couple of days, the whole clan will be assembled.


Eggs to color, walks to take, reading to hear from Emma and Morgan, Tegan like a spring breeze. Our two, Josh and Mimi, under the same roof with us again. Cathy and Tim, much loved partners, here with us.

And a resurrection to boot.

What could be better, I ask myself?

And the answer: not much....

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Such a wondrous ministry

Tonight was the monthly meeting of the Middlesex Area Cluster Ministry's Council. We had a presentation Marc-Yves Regis 1 about his remarkable ministry of holding a camp for 150 kids in Haiti and the Dominican Republic each summer for five summers. He is mostly funded by Episcopal churches but would accept money from anyone! Check out www.camphispaniola.org and marc@camphispaniola.org.  Marc was born and raised in Haiti but came to the US as an adolescent and is a professional photographer.

But what I really want to ponder is these three little rural churches--Emmanuel, St. James and St. Andrew's.

I'm trying to remember how long I've been their interim missioner, but, if you've read much of this blog you know I am awash in linear time. Maybe three years? Let's let it be that.

And I am an interim, which means there are time limits on my time with them. And I am, after all, 67 on Maundy Thursday and though I think I have all my faculties, that's just what I think....

So, in June we're going to begin the process that leads to 'what comes next'...like when there is a part-time missioner and not an 'interim'.

These three churches are so different, but one way they're not different is that they are all wondrous and remarkable centers of spirituality and faith. Each of them in a different way.

Emmanuel is, perhaps, the most 'traditional' Episcopal Church of the three. Highly educated, mostly affluent, lawyers and doctors and IT folks and  judges and such. But with a boat load of children...a youngish group on the whole. And profoundly committed to their community.

St. James is a middle class, hard working bundle of contradictions. Everyone has an opinion about everything and the interchanges are heart-felt, perilous and full of life. They do stuff you can't imagine they could do.

St. Andrew's is like a 'family' in the best sense. And they are, many of them, tied by blood in complicated ways. They don't recognize or imagine how wondrous they are. They feel like they are shrinking and fading away. Yet this year they have a 250th anniversary celebration that churches 10 times their size couldn't have pulled off.

It is so amazing to me to be with these astonishing people and serve them and love them.

It is time to look to the future. It is time to dream dreams and ponder possibilities. I look forward to that journey with them.

And I am so thankful to God that I was led to this place in this time to be with these astonishing people.

I only wish that they could see themselves as I see them--starlight and ashes, powerful. and limited, full of Promise, full of Wonder, full of Possibility....

Monday, April 14, 2014

Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday is my favorite holy day. Mostly because it's about eating and eating with those I love is about my most favorite thing ever. Also, my birthday will be on Maundy Thursday this year, that  makes it even sweeter. I almost never wrote down my Maundy Thursday sermons and I always talked about eating with those I loved. But I did write one down and I found it on my computer and want to share it with you. So here it is.

Maundy Thursday 2008

Maundy Thursday is always my favorite holy day

And I always talk about eating.

And often I get too long winded and go on and on and people wonder when I’ll ever finish.
Something about ‘meals’ keeps me talking beyond what is necessary.

So, this year I wrote it down so it would be controlled and less than 10 minutes and you wouldn’t have to wonder if I’d wandered off into some crack in my brain and wouldn’t be back for a while!

Easter dinner is special in our home. We aren’t surrounded by ‘family’ so we have invented a ‘family’ for holidays. We have friends who come to share our table on Thanksgiving and Christmas and, most of all, for me, on Easter.

John will be there—a friend of mine since college who lives in New Haven and is a Warden at Christ Church. West Virginians through and through—John and I. We have a patois that is Mountain Talk that few can follow if they didn’t grow up in that lush and deserted place.

He’ll call me and say, “Hey, Jem….”

And I’ll answer, “Hey, Jonn…” and we’re off and running about the dogs that won’t hunt and the crazy aunts and stuff no one else understands.

Jack and Sherry will be there—our friends who we met when we lived in New Haven. They are southerners—Virginia and South Carolina. They usually bring a country ham and dandelion risotto for Easter dinner. But they’ll be getting back from a trip to Italy and Greece and won’t have time to cook this year.

I know John and Jack and Sherry as well as I know myself. We rub against each other in ways that make life make sense.

And Mimi will be there. My ‘princess’, my love, my precious girl. She is nearing 30 but she is still my baby girl. An hour with Mimi is like an eternity in heaven for me. I love her so. She is so wondrous—did you know she has become a girl scout leader in Brooklyn for young girls from the projects? She raises money for the American Ballet Theater for a living, but she embraces young girls who need a mentor to make her life meaningful. She is so precious to me I can hardly speak of her without weeping. And she will be at the table.

This year, we will have ‘family’. Uncle Frankie and his son, Anthony—Bern’s favorite cousin, and his daughter Francis and her life-partner Lisa will be at the table. They hale from West Virginia but all live in Rhode Island now. They will be there, bringing memories and stories that would otherwise not be there.

And that is what the meal is about, after all, the telling of stories to help us ‘remember’ and to give us hope to go on. And we will eat the ham and the onion pie and the deviled eggs and the salad and the scalloped potatoes and tell the stories and be present—so remarkably present—to what is alive and real and wondrous, even in the sad stories of Aunt Annie’s death and the fact that Josh and Cathy and our granddaughters, Morgan and Emma are in Taiwan this Easter and not with us. They will gather around other tables—not to celebrate the resurrection because they are either Buddhists or nothing at all—but they will gather around a table to eat and tell stories and love each other and be present—so present—to the heart of God.

That’s what this night is about. How being around a table, sharing food, telling stories, loving each other, hoping for the future, wondering what happens next….

That’s what this night’s about. A table set and full of food. Family and friends gathered. Passing the bread, sharing the wine….wondering what will happen next.

Because Jesus sat around that table so long ago and shared his body and his blood with those he loved and those he would never know.

Just sitting at a table, eating with those you love, is a holy thing. A holy thing. A holy thing. Remember that always. Remember that. Remember…

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Palm Sunday

I don't preach on Palm Sunday since the Passion is read and what is there to say about the Passion.

But if I did, this year, this might be what I would have said.


We make it to be much more of a spectacle than it most likely was.
For us, nearly 2000 years later, Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is a time of triumph and celebration. Yet, at the time, it was a parade most likely hardly noticed.
It certainly wasn’t like the kind of parades we know—nothing like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, or local 4th of July parades, or the parades last month for St. Patrick, never mind the Rose Bowl Parade. It was most likely a tiny band of marchers—made up of those disciples who had been following him for months or years and the people who lived outside the city walls who had heard of this strange, charismatic teacher from Galilee.
Most of the people weren’t expecting him and most of the populace of Jerusalem never saw the procession of palms and cloaks and the country rabbi on a colt or a donkey—we’re not even sure which. No dignitaries came to greet him—none of the Pharisees or Sadducee's or occupying Romans. In fact, the whole thing was probably over so quickly that even if people inside the city walls heard of the rag-tag parade, they wouldn’t have had time to rush to the Gate of the City he entered to see him.
We don’t even know which of the Gates of the walled city he entered. The Jerusalem that Jesus knew is buried under a half-dozen destructions and rebuildings now. Jerusalem’s gates in the 1st century are not the ones in today’s city walls.
Most likely, since he was coming from Bethany, he came up from the Kiddron Valley to whatever gate was on the south side of the city. But we don’t know.
All we know about the event is what we have in the gospel stories—and even they are not consistent.

So, why is Palm Sunday such an important day in our lives as Christians?
Maybe it is important, not because what happened as Jesus approached the city of Jerusalem—which direction he came from, which gate he entered, how many people greeted him as the Messiah with Palms and Alleluias. Maybe Palm Sunday is important because of what happened after he got there.
The rest of the week is not so full of bravado and joy and excitement as the story of the procession. Things go sour right away—and five short days from now, seemingly all of Jerusalem is calling for Jesus’ death. Even his closest friends deny him and go into hiding.
It is not what happens “outside” the gate of the Holy City that we need to begin to consider, but what happens “inside” the city walls.
The Palm Sunday account actually leaves us still outside Jerusalem.
Perhaps the question we need to ask is not “will we welcome Jesus to the City?" Perhaps the question we need to ask is this: ‘WILL WE GO WITH HIM INTO JERUSALEM AND STAY WITH HIM OVER THE NEXT WEEK?’

For me, I guarantee you, the answer to that is not the answer I wish, in my weakness and fear and brokenness, that I could give. My answer falls far short of the one I long to give….
“YES, LORD,” I long to proclaim, “I’M WITH YOU TO THE END!”
And I know better. I too will betray and abandon and hide in fear. My answer falls far short.
But at least I’m asking the right question….

Saturday, April 12, 2014

bulk trash week

I was out on the back porch, smoking a cigarette (actually, I smoked two, we smokers need to be honest about our addiction and such a marvelous spring afternoon demanded a two cigarette break) and saw four pick up trucks with stuff in the back, cruising down Cornwall Avenue real slow.

It's bulk trash season in Cheshire, which brings out the bulk trash collectors in droves. Cheshire is, I suppose, a tad more upscale than I think of it, and some people's bulk trash is another person's treasure.

I'm going to clean out our basement tomorrow. There are at least half-a-dozen bikes from our children's history down there and two push mowers (Bern used her brother's Amazon gift card to get a new push mower--I'm so dim that I didn't know you could get anything but books from Amazon....) And lawn furniture to die for and at least three Webber grills and lots of other stuff that is 'trash' to us and my make another person's day.

I missed this morning's breakfast with the Cluster's officers to plan the Cluster Council meeting on Tuesday. I got up, walked the dog, had breakfast and then Jean called me on our land line (I had no idea where my cell phone was) to make sure I was ok. I felt like an idiot. It was on my calendar on my computer but I seldom turn my computer on before early afternoon and I plum forgot about the breakfast. What an idiot.

I could blame it on the Saturday being the wrong one since we put off the Cluster Council meeting a week to let people see the UConn women win it all. But that won't fly. The truth is, I am so good at being retired that I seldom know what day it is prior to lunch since most all days are mine to spend as I wish. I set my alarm on Monday night and Saturday night so I can go to my clericus meeting on Tuesday and make it to church on Sunday. Other than that, I sleep until I wake up and don't worry about what day it is at all.

If I had set my clock, I would have gone to Durham and been there, but, in the midst of a book I really loved, I forgot when I got into bed.

What an idiot of the first degree.

It's the second time I've forgotten about a 'officers' breakfast'. I have no excuse whatsoever. And, for today, I feel like a total and irredeemable idiot. The problem is, for me, that my ego is about the size of Montana and the two Dakotas combined and by tomorrow, I won't feel guilty anymore.

One of my mantras is this: "guilt goes away...."

I'm not sure that's true for many people, but it is for me. That capacity to simply let go of guilt may be a good thing for me in lots of ways. But I'm not sure it ultimately is good. Seems to me Jews and Roman Catholics are lots better than me at sustaining guilt....

I need to ponder guilt and why it is so easy for me to let it go. I apologize profusely and simply assume forgiveness. Maybe I should try to make myself get more deeply into the occasional guilt I feel (I really don't do much of anything I should feel guilty about--besides forgetting meetings) or perhaps I could do a cottage industry in teaching people how to let guilt go.

Give me some time to ponder all this.

And if you want some bikes that are basically sound but need new tires, or a push mower or two...cruise down Cornwall Avenue on Monday.....

Friday, April 11, 2014

"wilting greens"

Tonight I was sauteing baby spinach to eat with chicken cordon blu and roasted baby potatoes and I remembered how my mother, all through the spring and summer and well into the fall, would "wilt" the greens my father picked.

He would pick them in our yard and my Uncle Russel's yard and the lot where we played baseball and football and in the mountains all around us. And my mother would "wilt" them, what I use a fancy french term to describe. She would 'saute' them in a frying pan with a little butter and oil and salt and pepper (I add garlic, which wouldn't have been on her 'food radar') and we would eat them as a side to whatever else we were eating. Certainly not chicken cordon blu in the home of my childhood. We spoke and ate nothing French.

But what I thought about was those 'greens' that my father found in the wild. In my memory there was a trace of arugula in it all--that peppery taste--but 'arugula' would not have been spoken in my childhood.

My father, only one generation removed from me, was a 'hunter-gatherer'. We had rabbit and squirrel as well as wild greens. And I am incapable of any of that. The 'hunter-gatherer' has disappeared from our line. The only 'green' I remember a name for was what my father called "English Plankton". There were at least a half-dozen other wild plants that went into our 'wilted greens' but I have no memory of their names. Even then, when I'd accompany  him in his gathering, all they looked like were weeds to me. Dandelion too, how could I have forgotten that? The greens from those little yellow flowers that turned to wisps of seeds borne by fluffy white that we blew away each summer. Dandelions and English Plankton. What else, I wonder, went into the 'wilted greens' that were a staple of our diet?

At least I remember the gathering my father would do. My children have no memory of eating out of the yard and my granddaughters, I think, believe greens of any kind were grown in a supermarket.

Does anyone out there still gather greens from the wild? What are some of the names? Email me at Padrejgb@aol.com if you have names. I only look at blog comments every few months.

They were good--those 'wilted greens', as I remember. I love 'greens' (sauteed or 'wilted') from collards to beet greens to arugula to spinach. I've become especially fond of root vegetables (parsnips, beets, turnips, like that) and greens as I age.

I wish I could go gather them in the wild.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

What I really wanted to do....

I'm sure I've written this before in some shape or size, but, it's MY blog, so I can write what I want to....

All I ever wanted to do since, I don't know, Junior High School, was to teach. I came from two families of teachers--my mother and two of her sisters and my favorite first cousin on that side and an aunt and several 1st cousins on my father's side. Teachers: that's who we were. I was an English major, for Christ's sake--what else can they do other than teach or work at McDonald's?

In my senior year of college I had already been accepted into several Ph.D. programs, including the University of Virginia, which would have been my choice, when two professors of mine nominated me for a Rockefeller "Trial year in seminary" award. I kept telling people I didn't want to go to seminary and got it. So, for reasons I'm not yet sure about, I went to Harvard Divinity School. The rest is history.

Well, not so fast sweet-lips, tomorrow my latest class at the UConn branch in Waterbury starts. Since I retired I've been teaching every other semester in the Osher Life-long Learning Institute. It's not freshman English or Hemingway's Novels, but it is in a college and there are people who want to be there (over 50) on the edge of their seats, wanting to learn.

So, after all these years, in a real sense, I'm getting to do what I really always wanted to do.

Don't tell me life isn't full of Irony...and wonder...and completion....

Thank goodness and the Good Lord....

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

"The times they are (really not) achangin'...."

We spent the evening, Bern and I, with Mike and Mary Miano. We tried to remember the last time we'd seen each other. I was no help whatsoever since I am lost and awash in linear time for the most part. Mike had some suggestions, though my vagueness about time didn't even let me remember the years he thought of.

This I know, we went to high school together--Mike and Bern and I, though he was a year ahead of me and Bern three behind me. But we all knew each other. It was impossible in a school that graduated under a hundred a year not to know almost everyone.

And Mike and I were college roommates for a year and knew each other and saw each other many times during the other years at WVU.

Suffice it to say, it's been decades...maybe almost 40 years...since we've all been in a room together.

And tonight we were.

I was a tad anxious about their coming by--they live near Bristol, Virginia, in south-western Virginia are driving around the East Coast and the New England states. Just driving around, no destination, looking for historic stuff to do with Presidents. They've been on the road for over a week and plan to be (if 'plan' is a word to apply to their agenda!) for up to another week. (I have real difficulty identifying with this kind of vacation...I want to go somewhere and stare out at the ocean for as long as I can...but when they describe it, it seems almost like fun.)

I was a tad anxious because so many years have passed and people, as people do, tend to change. Mike and I were very close friends for many years in our teens and 20's. But we aren't in our teens and 20's anymore. I wondered if there would be enough connective tissue left from so long ago a relationship to enable us to move together.

I shouldn't have worried. It was remarkable how quickly the decades slipped away and the 4 of us were (not 'young again', God knows!) but still the same people, only more so, that we had been back then.

Mike isn't 'crazy' anymore. And he was one of the 'craziest' people I've ever known. But then, again, neither am I. There are more than a couple of things we did back then that neither of us would want any of you to know about! (Actually, if I'm honest, Mike was a good degree 'crazier' than I was. But I tend to attract 'crazy' and really resonate to it.) But, incredibly, in 4+ hours in our kitchen and a local restaurant, the decades didn't matter, didn't matter at all. The connective tissue survived the time. We are, remarkably, much the same people who liked each other so much so long ago. What a gift!

Bern and I will be married 44 years in September. Mike and Mary will be married 44 years in April 2014. Two old married couples separated for decades, both with a boy child and girl child--never having met each others' children, I think--both with three grandchildren (all boys for Mike and Mary, all girls for Bern and I). Lots in common, but most of our lives 'since then', very different. Mike was a mining engineer. I was a priest. Mike and Mary mostly lived below the Mason Dixon Line and Bern and I lived mostly in Connecticut.

And, as far as I'm concerned, all the twists and turns our lives had taken over the last 3 or 4 decades were dissolved in 3 or 4 hours tonight. Friendship, perhaps, endures in ways we don't automatically imagine are possible. That, if nothing else, gives a sweetness and value to life that should be unconcealed and celebrated. Really.

Mike had in his pocket tonight a pocket cross that I left in his couch or somewhere the last time I saw him. In emails and occasional communications over all these years, I have inquired about my pocket cross. And he has told me, over and again, he would give it to me only in person. As I was writing this, my phone rang. It was Mike, leaving a message that he would put the cross in an envelope and send it to me. I called him back and told him that 'possession in 9/10ths of the law and he had had it much, much longer than I ever did and it was meant to be his. Then he told me about a silver money clip I gave him when he and Mary got married (did I remember that? No!) and so he had two silver things from me.

That is as it should be. Mike deserves silver from me (gold, actually, but I'm not there to give it).

I don't know if you, reading this, can begin to imagine how finding a friend over the tides and times and flotsam and jetsam of all those years can be so precious, so rare, so very fragrant and sweet...something to ponder as years speed by and life grows shorter each year.

What a wondrous gift this day has been....Really....

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Early post--G of T

I have to write early today because Game of Thrones, season 4 starts tonight and I'm a total "Thrones Junkie."

I even watched about 20 minutes of a U-Tube show called 'Screen Junkies' to review the plots (at least some of them) of the first three seasons.

It was my son, Josh, who got me into the books. Ten pages and I was hooked. I've read them all and the TV show is actually, so far, remarkably faithful to the stories. The one piece of advice Josh gave me was this: "don't get too attached to any of the characters...."

George R. R. Martin, the inventor of the series, subtitled "A song of ice and fire", tends to kill off key characters at an alarming rate.

If you're not at all familiar with Game of Thrones, it is a fantasy series set in an imaginary world that, in terms of development, is roughly in what we would call the 'dark ages' of our own history. The 'iron throne' of the 7 Kingdoms is in King's Landing. There is a North and South and then lands across the sea to the east. It is bloody and moody and full of violence from beginning to end. The fifth book came out in 2011 and the sixth is due, Lord help us, soon I hope....I'm like a Thrones addict that needs another hit.

Anyway, it's on HBO tonight and I'll be glued to it with a copy of A Dance with Dragons, book Five, because Martin has a list of characters at the end of the novels so I can remind myself who is who. (The list of characters takes up pages 995-1016, so you can understand how one might get confused from time to time!) Plus, Bern loves the show but never read the books--all of which are about 1000 pages long and I have to be able to give her some clue about what's going on.

My favorite surviving characters are Daenerys Targaryen, 'the mother of dragons', who has three and wants the Throne her father once held before being murdered. Tyrion Lannister, the only 'good' Lannister, a dwarf with a claim to the throne as well, whose awful nephew, Joeffrey, sits on it now. And Arya Stark, an 11 year old who is wandering the Kingdoms with a character called 'the Hound' trying to avenge her father's murder by Joeffrey.

According to the books thus far, those three will still be around at the end of season 4. I sincerely hope and pray so.

Watch it--it will confuse the hell out of you if you've not read the books or seen the first three seasons, but it is gloriously entertaining....

Saturday, April 5, 2014

"Well, bless your heart...."

OK, this is a first--a requested post!

Ray Anderson, a wonderful, funny man who happens to play scratch golf and is an Episcopal priest (formerly the Missioner to the Deaf Community of Connecticut) emailed me to ask me to write a blog about the expression, "well, bless your heart...."

He'd heard it often traveling in the south and wondered what my take on it was.

Since I'm an Appalachian and not a Southerner, my take won't be 'the whole story', but I've known enough true Southerners to have a clue...and I heard the saying several times a day growing up. People down below the Mason Dixon line tend to say "well, bless your heart..." the way folks up here say 'have a nice day...." Like that.

Tennessee  Ernie Ford, anyone remember him? used to say, at the end of his radio and then his TV show, "Bless your pea-pickin' hearts". That was a Tennessee thing, apparently, since I've never picked a pea in my life.

Ray suggested that there was a lot of variety to the use of the phrase, and he is SO right.

First question: do they mean your actual, physical organ called 'the heart' or something metaphorical and nuanced? Both actually.

When it's a child--almost always said lovingly and with great affection--'well, bless your little heart...', I think refers to the rapidly beating, adult fist sized pumping machine in the middle of their chest that is keeping them alive and being charming and lovable.

When it's someone in distress or pain, no matter what age, it's a metaphorical, symbolic reference to the 'life-force' that might sustain them through their suffering.

Sometimes, it seems to me, it also refers to mental functions--like with someone working through a psychological issue. "Well, bless your heart...", then can mean, 'keep up your spirits', or 'don't let the bastards get you down' or even, 'I know this is going to be your ruin, but I'm hoping for you to get through it....'

But 'bless your heart' can, from time to time, turn malignant and ironic.

Like: 'I just got accepted to Harvard!' 'Well, bless your heart...(you're getting above your raising, aren't you smart ass?')

Or: 'I'm moving to New York City!' 'Well bless your heart...(where you grew up isn't good enough for you is it?')

Or: 'I'm marrying my Chinese sweetheart!' 'Well, bless your heart...(you're children won't have a chance in hell 'round here.')

Or: "Grandma, I need to tell you, I'm coming out as a lesbian.' 'Well bless your heart...(you just broke mine, you pervert...!')

Stuff like that.

It's a 'fits all situations' kind of phrase.

Have a good day....

Friday, April 4, 2014

A Modest Proposal

OK, I'm an English major so I know Jonathon Swift used that title first--a suggestion to eat Irish babies to solve the problems of the British Isles. But my 'modest proposal' will be seen as just as ludicrous by most people so I don't feel guilty about borrowing.

I have a proposal that would go a long way to deal with several pressing political problems in the United States, to whit (English major to the core, am I...): income inequality, the remarkable advantage held by incumbent members of the House and Senate (and anywhere else for that matter), and the horrible fact that money elects people, not ideas.

I haven't been left-wing nutty for a while, so it's time for my modest proposal.

Remove all limits to political candidates, parties or PAC's of any kind. Anyone, individuals, corporations or special interest groups can give unlimited amounts of money to political campaigns; however, those contributions would be taxed  @ 100%.

So, you give 20 dollars to your local town council members campaign and you also give $20 to the Federal Government. You give $1000 to your member of the House of Delegates and the same amount to the Federal Government. You give $2500 to your member of Congress and....well, you see how it works.

The Koch brothers can give a billion dollars to whatever Right Wing Nonsense they want as long as they write an identical check to the US Treasury.

And those dollars would be earmarked in the following way: 99% to social programs to help the poor and 1% to give public financing to candidates without deep pocket supporters.

Here's how that would shake out, I think.

Political Action Money would dry up immediately since most people who give to PACs don't like the government and wouldn't want to support it.

Contributions from individuals would eventually dry up because the tax would discourage them.

Until those two things happen, more money would be available for social programs.

Eventually, people would have to run for office on the basis of their ideas rather than the size of their campaign fund and we would elect people with good ideas about income inequality instead of people who are well funded.

Public financing of elections would be true in a matter of a few years.

This idea came to me while smoking a cigarette on the back porch. I know smoking is a BAD, BAD THING....but I get good ideas while committing suicide by cigarette....

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Maundy Thursday

On Maundy Thursday of this year, I will turn 67 years old. Such an event has never occurred to me as a possibility.

*When I was in my teens I imagined dying in my 20's from an automobile crash or a criminal event.'

*When I was in my 20's, a horrible hypochondriac,  I imagined dying in my 30's from some dread disease with inexorable suffering.

*When I was in my 30's, I imagined dying in my 50's from a heart attack.

*When I was in my 40's....well, since, in my opinion, that's the best decade of all, except for the ones to come, but you don't know that then, I didn't think about dying at all.

*When I was in my 50's, since men often die in their 50's, I was in denial about dying.

*Once I hit 60, I was in such alien territory, having never imagined reaching such an age, I sort of forgot about the dying part, as obvious as 'the dying part' is.

And in Holy Week I'll turn 67.

I've outlived my mother by 3 years now. But not my Dad. He lived to be 83 and his brothers all lived into the late 80's too. So, maybe I've another 15 or 16 years or so, long enough to go to my older granddaughters' college graduation, maybe. Or see my son hit 60. Or have the Yankees win another World Series. Some of that, at least.

What a trip to grow old. I read a novel yesterday called Dead Man's Time by Peter James and remember this line from it. A 95 year old man is thinking about life and thinks: "The older you get, the less you care."

I love that. And I'm discovering it is true. I don't 'care' anymore about what people think of me. I don't 'care' anymore about how I look. I don't 'care' anymore about what time I get up or go to bed. I don't 'care' anymore about fashion or political correctness or being 'liked'.

Like me or don't, I don't care anymore.

I just care about waking up (whenever I do) and getting out of bed and doing whatever the hell I decide to do that day and then going to bed. I'll eat. I'll ponder stuff. I'll walk around. I'll read and think. I'll imagine what comes next (like the next few minutes!) and I'll love every minute of being alive far beyond I ever imagined being alive.

What a gift being 66--almost 67 is--every day is a gift that for most of my life, I never imagined receiving.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Happy Spring!

Today is April Fool's Day, apparently, unless I'm mistaken, coming from the advent of the Gregorian calendar, which moved the beginning of the year from somewhere in late March or early April to January 1st. Those Christians who continued to celebrate the new year in April were labeled by the Church as "April Fools". Wouldn't it be just like the church to label 'fools' even though it makes much more sense to begin the year with Spring instead of in Winter. Goes to show, I guess.

I made it through the whole day without one April Fool's joke or prank. I gave them up long ago when, while I was Rector of St. Paul's in New Haven, there was a baptism in late March. The Bishop of Arkansas, of all places, flew out to do it because it was his grandchild.

The Bishop and a wonderful, extremely active member of the parish, who happened to be an African-American woman, and I were in the sacristy, getting vested and talking about March Madness of that year.

The finals were coming up and Georgetown University was one of the teams in the running. Carol said, when Georgetown came up, "I hate Georgetown's team."

At the time, Georgetown was an all black team with a black coach, John Thompson. I was astonished when Carol said that and quipped, much to my later regret, "Carol, you must be a racist...."

The bishop and Carol and I laughed.

We did the baptism and the Bishop's grandchild filled his diaper and soiled his satin baptismal suit just as his grandfather poured the water and made the child a Christian. Irony not lost on either the Bishop or me.

A few weeks later, the church secretary brought a letter into my office from Carol. Marge was visibly shaken when she handed it to me. "Remember what day it is," she told me.

"It's Tuesday," I said. "I know that."

The letter explained that Carol was leaving the parish and filing a discrimination law suit against me because I had called her a 'racist' about Georgetown's basketball team.

I went ballistic, leaped out of my chair and ran into Marge's office screaming, 'GET CAROL ON THE PHONE....MY LIFE AS I KNOW IT IS OVER....'

Marge looked at me, obviously concerned for my mental health, and said, calmly, 'remember what day it is...."


"OK, enough," Marge told me. "I regret agreeing to this," she said, handing me another envelope.

I opened it and in Carol's handwriting, the page said only  this:

April Fool, love Carol

It took me several hours to get over my anxiety and recover my equilibrium.

Since that day, 25 or more years ago, I've sworn off April Fool pranks.

Carol got me as good as a liberal can be got.....What an April Fool I was....

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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.