Monday, May 22, 2017

away again....

I'm leaving in the morning for Holy Cross Monastery in West Park, New York (above the Hudson...a beautiful place!) for another Making a Difference Workshop. I'm really looking forward to it for many reasons, but mostly because Jamie and Rowena--two people I care deeply about--are going to be in it.

Rowena worked with me for a year in the Cluster ministry and Jamie is a member of one of the churches. I did the ceremony for her marriage to Jeri and they're now expecting.

For different reasons, I think the workshop could transform their lives.

Which is what it is designed to do. Truly remarkable. This workshop.

There will be one in DC in the autumn. Think about asking me about it....

See  you Friday on this spot.

Go read old posts while I'm gone. Over 1800 of them to choose from. Go back a few years....

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Come on Holy Spirit....

I'm still on this "God is not big enough" riff.

In today's gospel from John, Jesus promises to send the Holy Spirit--an Advocate--to his disciples.

It's like angels...people have so domesticated angels that we should give them an angel litter box and an angel dog bone. Household pets is what angels are these days. People scatter them around their homes, wear them as jewelry, send them on cards, all sorts of stuff we do to angels.

Yet search the scriptures and see what angels were depicted as.

I remember, as a child, thinking that whenever an angel showed up people bowed down to worship.

It wasn't that at all. Human beings simply got knocked off their feet when 'the Holy Ones' appeared. Angles were bad hombres (as our President has said about Mexicans!) and you got your face on the pavement when they showed up!

Back in my Pilgrim Holiness days as a child, I still remember the chorus to a hymn that went like this: "Come on, Holy Spirit...Come on, Holy Spirit...But don't stay long!!!"

Pilgrim Holiness folk were not folks who got 'slain in the Spirit' or spoke in tongues. They were out of the Methodist Church and out of the more theologically conservative Wesleyan Church that broke with the Methodists. But they hadn't gotten into glossolalia or any of that stuff.

Probably because they knew full well the power of the Holy Spirit and asked it to 'not stay long'.

I get really turned off when Christians say, "do you have The Spirit?"

YOU don't 'have the Spirit'--the Spirit would HAVE YOU and turn you upside down and inside out if it hung around too long....

We've put God and The Spirit into easily handled, conceptualized and explained boxes. Just like Angels.

(I remember the burial of a still born baby on a brutally cold day when the parents realized the florist has spelled 'angel' in 'our little angel' as 'angle'. Since they had know for several months their baby was dead, it was the first time they'd giggled in a long, long time.)

Angle indeed. God is too small. The Holy Spirit will fry you right up if you get too small.

We need to abandon our concepts about God and the Spirit and Angels and Holiness and realize that we need all that in ways we do not and can not understand!

We need Holiness that is truly HOLY and beyond our comprehension and wild beyond our ability to believe in 'wildness'.

Pentecost is in two weeks. The Spirit blew like a hurricane and burned like a volcano.

We need to simply acknowledge the incomprehensibility that is God....

That's what I need to ponder in these dark days. I invite you to as well....

Friday, May 19, 2017

Kitchen Maid

Diego Velazquez painted a black maid with the Emmaus dinner over her right shoulder. A remarkable painting. If I had the web where-with-all I would put a copy of it here. But go look it up. A remarkable work of art.

It's at the National Gallery of Ireland when I was in Ireland I bought a card that has the painting at the bottom and a wondrous poem by Denise Levertov above it. Denise's words to a gathering of poets and theologians years ago (what an idea--poets and theologians) have always inspired me. "The crisis of faith," she told the gathering, "is the crisis of the imagination. If we cannot 'imagine' walking on the water to Jesus, how can we meet him there?"

Here's this poem.

Kitchen Maid with the Supper at Emmaus

She breathes, listens,
       holding her breath.
Surely that voice is his--
       the one who had looked at  her, across the crowd
       as no one had ever looked? Had seen her?
       Had spoken as if to her?
Surely those hands were his.
Taking the platter of bread from hers just now?
Hands he's laid on the dying and made them well?
Surely that face - ?
The man they'd crucified for sedition and blasphemy.
The man whose body disappeared from the tomb.
The man it was rumoured now some women
Had seen this morning, alive?
Those who had brought this stranger home to their table
Didn't recognize yet with whom they sit.
But she is in the kitchen, absently touching
The winejug she is to take in.
A young black servant intently listening
Swings around and sees
The light around him
And is sure.

Beautiful words to ponder deeply.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

wonderful evening

Today's temperature was in the 80/s, though it never got past 70 on our back porch, surrounded by trees. I sat out in the dark for quite a while just enjoying the clear sky and pleasant breeze.

I was afraid we were having a "go straight to summer, do not pass Go, do not collect $200" spring in Connecticut, that happens more often than I like.

But I looked at the Weather Channel (God bless them!) and see that after tomorrow in the 80's again, the next 10 days have highs in the low 70's and high 60's and night lows in 60's and 50's. Just right.

Our house stays cooler than you would think just from the tree cover and fans will usually do us through June before Bern puts in the AC's. (She tells me I don't know how--which may be true....)

We put a giant one in my upstairs office off the kitchen and sitting room and close the upstairs door to the hallway and it keeps downstairs really comfortable all summer. TV room and bedrooms get their own AC.

I could live with low 70's to low 50's year 'round. Which means I wouldn't live in CT.

But I like the seasons.

When I was younger people would say 'hot enough for you?" And I'd reply, "no way! And more humidity too!!!"

When I was younger, I hated the cold--a result I imagine of having grown up in Southern West Virginia in a home with no central heat.

Now, I long for moderation and like the heat less and can bear the cold better.

Go figure.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

people to be 'mad' with....

I hate conference calls more than most other stuff. Truth is, besides our President, I don't hate a lot of things!

But I had two today that filled me up to overflowing.

The first was about the Making a Difference workshop next week at Holy Cross Monastery in West Park, New York.

The second was a completion call for the Making a Difference workshop last week in Ireland. I was the only person on both calls since I'm the only one helping lead both workshops.

Making A Difference changed my life completely. I was on the verge of renouncing my priestly vows. I was so burned out and messed up after 10 years of ministry I wanted to do something else. What the workshop gave me was my priesthood all new, transformed, full of possibility and wonder and mystery. And that's what the next 20 years and the years since then have been for me: a priesthood that gave me life and possibility and wonder and mystery and joy and commitment.

So, any time I'm around folks from that work, I'm inspired.

Paddy, a Roman priest who is a member of an Irish religious order for African missionaries was one of the assistants who support the leaders and participants, said in the second call, when we were asked what we needed to say to be 'complete' with the workshop: "you are great people to be 'MAD' with!"

(We insiders refer to the workshop as "MAD" but never say that to participants. And Paddy didn't mean 'angry', he meant 'crazy'! Which we all are, a bit, believing as we do in coming from  'being' rather than 'doing' or 'having' and knowing 'transformation' is far more powerful than 'change'.)

Good folks to be a tad 'mad' with....Even on conference calls....

Sunday, May 14, 2017

A God too small

Jack Parker was one of the most important mentors of my life. He was a dear, dear man, full of wisdom and humor.

Jack would tell horrible jokes that he never got to the punchline with because he'd start laughing so hard he couldn't speak. Luckily he told them over and over so the listener could finish the punch line for him! Gentle as a librarian (which he was!) and wide as a Sage (that too).

Once, after I invited Integrity (the Episcopal GLBTQ group and their friends--though the Q has been added more recently) to use St. John's as it's home there were a half-dozen older white men who threw a fit and made my life miserable for several months. Jack, who had been ministering to the gay community for years, became Integrity's chaplain and my soft-spoken defender. I noticed that the 6 men would lie about what I said if I met with them in private so Jack would sit in whenever I met with any of them. He even had a tee-shirt made for me that read: "I'm the Rector, that's why!" to remind me I had control of the use of the buildings of St. John's. The furor dissipated after I called a open parish meeting (as Jack suggested) where the gay members of St. John's and their numerous supporters made the argument for me. That wasn't the only time Jack pulled my feet out of the fire!

I thought of him this morning since the gospel lesson was from John--chapter 14 I think that begins, "In my father's house are many dwelling places" and includes Jesus' words: "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me."

That lesson is one suggested by the Prayer Book as the Gospel at a Burial Eucharist. Jack, when he retired from full time priesthood, he became a member of St. John's and would help me out with funerals from time to time. I noticed when he read that lesson from John, he would stop after "I am the way and the truth and the life." He never included the line about 'no one comes to the Father but by me.'

When I asked him why, he gave me a chuckle and said, "My God is too big to just have one door."

I've never forgotten that so every three years when this Gospel comes up, I use the opportunity to tell folks that our God is too small, to exclusive, too narrow.

I talked about Jack's God today--about a God so big and loving and expansive and inclusive that their are many 'doors' to God.

When scripture tells us we are created 'in the image and likeness of God' and 'just a little lower than the angels', it doesn't mean just 'some' of us--it means all of us.

Ironic isn't it that more wars and more violence may have been fought and perpetrated in all of human history over religion than anything other than territory. I think more people might have died over religion than over anything else, when you get right down to it.

In the Making a Difference Workshop I  help lead, we contend that everything exists in each of three different domains: the domain of Being, the domain of Doing/Experiencing and the domain of Having/Concepts/Stories we tell.

Even if we have an 'experience' of God, we have to use words to describe it and God then becomes a story we tell or a concept we have. And our 'concept' of God...even our 'experience' of God...doesn't exhaust or tell the reality of God's Being.

Our God is often much too small.

We need a God as 'being' and 'possibility' and 'limitlessness': a God that cannot be put into one experience or conceptualized in any way. In fact, God is so vast that there a myriad of doors opening into the reality of the Holy.

We need a really BIG GOD these days. A REALLY BIG GOD.....

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Something you should never do....

At the gate in Hartford, waiting for the Aer Lingus flight to Dublin on Friday, the gate crew made several appeals for people to check their carry-on luggage so boarding would be better and people wouldn't be fussing over the overhead bins.

Being basically a co-operative person, I checked it. I've done it before. But never again.

In my experience, carry-ons checked at the gate are waiting for you in the walkway to the airport. But when I got off the plane in Dublin, no bags were there. And then, later, after customs in Ireland, it wasn't on the carousel either. So I had to spend time reporting it hadn't arrived. Never mind it was 5 a.m. in Ireland (midnight here in the states) and I was a tad groggy. A lot groggy really.

I don't have a smart phone so I didn't have a number where they could reach me when it came and bring it to me. But when I got to Trish's she called them and gave them her number and address. But when it didn't come before we went to Larne on Sunday, Mary, who was the workshop production manager took over and went on line and called to give her cell number and the number of the retreat center and the center's address. Mary checked a couple of times a day and no bag.

Finally, on Wednesday, they called her that the lost was found and gave her instructions for me for when I got to the airport. Numbers and stuff like that and how to contact baggage control from inside the airport.

Never mind I had some medication in the bag--I simply declared "I am Healthy" and didn't need it. The problem was, my car keys were in that bag!

When I got to Dublin Airport this morning I followed instructions and was told they had no record of it having been found! But they let me come back--going through security (which I did for Ireland and again for US Customs in Ireland before I got on my return flight!!!)--to the room where found/lost luggage was.

You know the phrase: "we are separated by a common language"? I had told them the bag was tan with 'black straps' but the woman this morning heard the American word 'straps' as the Irish word "stripes"--that's why she couldn't find it.

I found it right away, thank the baby Lord Jesus! And had my car keys to drive home from Hartford.

All's well than ends well, I suppose.

But something you should never do is check your carry-on at the gate.


Birds as a theme

I got back from Ireland today. Wonderful time and great workshop in a beautiful place called Larne, about 20 miles north of Belfast on the North Sea.

I'll have lots to write in the coming days about my time in Ireland, but what I want to ponder is how birds were a theme of it all.

Waiting to take off from my airport in Hartford (BRADLEY airport, get it?) a pigeon got it's foot caught on the outside of the walkway down to the plane. You could see it from the waiting area, laying backwards and upside down and struggling. And it's mate never left it alone. I was impressed with how many people were concerned. Dozens of us told the gate attendants and they promised to alert the ground crew to try to release the bird after we boarded. I only pray they did. I am haunted by the sight and the constant presence of the mate, fretting above the bird.

Then at Trish's house, a Presbyterian Minister and co-leader of Making a Difference, her cat Duffy killed two birds in the short time I was there in Trish's manse's extensive 'garden'--'back yard' to us.

I went to church with Trish Sunday morning--the first time I've even been in a Presbyterian church in my life, but low and behold, the preacher on a special ecumenical day for an Irish charity, was the former Archbishop (Church of Ireland, Anglican) of the Diocese of Armaugh. So my only time in a Presbyterian church I heard an Anglican preach!

But in the narthex (we Episcopalians would call it) the entry hall of the church, two swallows had gotten in and couldn't figure out how to get out! Large and beautiful birds, they were frantic before the service began but sitting on the rafters when it ended. Trish told me they left the doors open in hope that the birds would follow the outside lights when it became dark and find their way out.

At Larne there were hundreds of Magpies. I love Ireland for the Magpies. Remember Heckle and Jeckle, the cartoon magpies and their British accents? Almost as large as crows here but with brilliant patches of white on their chests and wings. Lovely and energetic birds. The resident cat at the retreat center had a magpie down when I came out a back door and the cat ran. The bird was gravely injured and I tried to catch it to end its suffering, but I couldn't catch it (though it couldn't fly) and am not sure I could have done what needed to be done had I caught it.

Then driving home from the airport today I saw two golden eagles (I'm almost sure they were) soaring over I-91 South. Imagine that.

(I told some of the Irish folk that we don't have magpies here, at least on the East Coast and they offered to send some home with me...familiarity does breed contempt, I guess. But I told them the gift of Starlings hadn't worked out too well, so I'd pass on bringing magpies home....)

God, I love birds. And God does too. God knows if even a sparrow falls to the ground, I'm told....

Thursday, May 4, 2017

See you in a week

I leave tomorrow for Ireland, so this will be my last post until next Thursday or Friday when I'll tell you about my time in the Emerald Isle.

I'm one of the last people on the planet that only has a desk-top computer. No tablet or lap-top or smart phone. So I'll be out of touch with the Castor Oil Tree for that time. My phone won't work in Ireland so I'm dependent on  what I hope are flawless plans for pick up and everything else.

Be well while I'm away. And stay well, my friends.

There are just short of 1900 posts here, so if you want, go back and sample a few....

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Going to Ireland

Day after tomorrow I'm flying to Dublin and then going to Belfast for a Making A Difference Workshop.

I hate to fly, but joyfully Are Lingus now flies out of Hartford so I don't have to go to a NYC airport.

But I'm such a homebody, being away from my blog, my dog and the love of my life, Bern, for nearly a week is making me crazy already.

I'll be fine when I get there at 5:15 a.m. Ireland time (just past midnight for me). A six hour flight (seven back because of the Gulf Stream eastward air current) where I lose a bunch of hours--five I guess. Coming back I get those hours back.

And Ireland is beauty to behold. Makes me gasp from time to time. The place in Belfast, I remember, has Heckle and Jeckle birds we don't have here--magpies.

And the people of Ireland are wondrous too.

But I hate to fly and hate to be away from home.

What a crotchety old man I'm becoming.....

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

I'm an English major for God's sake...

But I'm not a good typist.

However, a post a few days ago about an risque content, I put in the title "at you're own risk".

Shame on me. Naughty, naughty English major.

Of course and always it should be "your own risk".

My apologies to you all and to every English teacher I ever had and to the English language itself.

I try not to be the grammar police except for myself.

Mea culpa. Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa.

And sorry on top of all that Latin....

Sunday, April 30, 2017

The road to Emmaus

Luke 24:13-35
24:13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem,

24:14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened.

24:15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them,

24:16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.

24:17 And he said to them, "What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?" They stood still, looking sad.

24:18 Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, "Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?"

24:19 He asked them, "What things?" They replied, "The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people,

24:20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him.

24:21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place.

24:22 Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning,

24:23 and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive.

24:24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him."

24:25 Then he said to them, "Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared!

24:26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?"

24:27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

24:28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on.

24:29 But they urged him strongly, saying, "Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over." So he went in to stay with them.

24:30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.

24:31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.

24:32 They said to each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?"

24:33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together.

24:34 They were saying, "The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!"

24:35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
This is my favorite passage from the Gospels. I love the story and what it tells us. I got to preach about it today at St. Andrew's in Northford.

I preached without notes so I can't recreate the sermon, but I can write about Emmaus.

Nobody knows where first century Emmaus was. Or if the '7 miles' is an accurate measurement. But it was a good hike from Jerusalem at any rate.

And we can't be sure why Cleopas and his companion (whoever that was) are going to Emmaus. Was it their home? Did they have business there? Were they just getting out of Jerusalem?

But here's the thing: a stranger joined them on their journey. Sure, we know it was Jesus, but they didn't. He was just a 'stranger' to them, a stranger who asked them what they were discussing and then, after they told him, the stranger told them about the scriptures.

Seven miles later, the stranger was going on but the two disciples asked him to stay with them. And when he blessed and broke the bread for their dinner, they recognized him and 'poof', he disappeared.

The most important thing about the whole story is how they realized that their 'hearts burned' when he was talking with them. Their hearts burned from the words of a stranger.

Scripture, both Hebrew and Christian, urge us  to 'welcome the stranger' and show hospitality to the one we do not know.

In today's culture, we are taught that the stranger is to be shunned, kept out, avoided, mistrusted.

That is upside down and inside out to what our Faith proclaims. It is the stranger that can warm our hearts and teach us something new, lead us to lean into a new possibility.

As I told you yesterday, God leads us to the edge and asks us to step off, trusting that either our foot will find something solid or God will teach us to fly.

Today, more than ever, we need to tread near that edge into the unknown and step off. That is the faith we are called to show--to embrace the stranger in our midst.

There is a story I've shared before but fits so well here I will share it once more.

A holy rabbi has taught his followers all night on the bank of a river. As dawn is breaking, he asks them, "When is there enough light to see?"

One replies, "when we can tell the palm trees from the date trees on the other side of the river--that is enough light to see."

The rabbi ponders and then says, "no, that is not enough light to see."

Another follower says, "there is enough light to see when we can tell the young sheep from the young goats on the other side of the river."

After a while, the rabbi says, "no that is not enough light to see."

They all fall silent and wait. Finally the rabbi says, "there is enough light to see when we can look into the face of any human being and see the Face of God."

May the light of this Easter season give us new eyes and enough light to see....

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Jeez, I missed the anniversary...

Bern would tell you how 'unfocused' I am. I need lists and a calendar to keep me afloat in what you call 'reality'. Otherwise, I'm in my head, somewhere, wondering or pondering or just relaxing. I had a poster once of a rocking chair and the words said, "Sometimes, I sits and thinks. And sometimes, I just sits...."

So, I missed the anniversary of this blog by over a month. But, as I've done before, I'll go back to the beginning. You decide if I'm still doing what I set out to do.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

My first post

Sitting under the Castor Oil Tree (March 7, 2009)

The character in the Bible I have always been drawn to in Jonah. I identify with his story. Like Jonah, I have experienced being taken where I didn't want to go by God and I've been disgruntled with the way things went. The belly of a big old fish isn't a pleasant means of travel either!

The story ends (in case you don't know it) with Jonah upset and complaining on a hillside over the city of Nineva, which God has saved through Jonah. Jonah didn't want to go there to start with--hence the ride in the fish stomach--and predicted that God would save the city though it should have been destroyed for its wickedness. "You dragged me half way around the world," he tells God, "and didn't destroy the city....I knew it would turn out this way. I'm angry, so angry I could die!"

God causes a tree to grow to shade Jonah from the sun (scholars think it might have been a castor oil tree--the impications are astonishing!). Then God sends a worm to kill the tree. Well, that sets Jonah off! "How dare you kill my tree?" he challanges the creator. "I'm so angry I could die...."

God simply reminds him that he is upset at the death of a tree he didn't plant or nurture and yet he doesn't see the value of saving all the people of the great city Ninivah...along with their cattle and beasts.

And the story ends. No resolution. Jonah simply left to ponder all that. There's no sequel either--no "Jonah II" or "Jonah: the next chapter", nothing like that. It's just Jonah, sitting under the bare branches of the dead tree, pondering.

What I want to do is use this blog to do simply that, ponder about things. I've been an Episcopal priest for over 30 years. I'm approaching a time to retire and I've got a lot of pondering left to do--about God, about the church, about religion, about life and death and everything involved in that. Before the big fish swallowed me up and carried me to my own Nineva (ordination in the Episcopal Church) I had intended a vastly different life. I was going to write "The Great American Novel" for starters and get a Ph.D. in American Literature and disappear into some small liberal arts college, most likely in the Mid-Atlantic states and teach people like me--rural people, Appalachians and southerners, simple people, deep thinkers though slow talkers...lovely for all that--to love words and write words themselves.

God (I suppose, though I even ponder that...) had other ideas and I ended up spending the lion's share of my priesthood in the wilds of two cities in Connecticut (of all places) among tribes so foreign to me I scarcly understood their language and whose customs confounded me. And I found myself often among people (The Episcopal Cult) who made me axious by their very being. Which is why I stuck to urban churches, I suppose--being a priest in Greenwich would have sent me into some form of I would have driven them to hypertension at the least.

I am one who 'ponders' quite a bit and hoped this might be a way to 'ponder in print' for anyone else who might be leaning in that direction to read.

Ever so often, someone calls my bluff when I go into my "I'm just a boy from the mountains of West Virginia" persona. And I know they're right. I've lived too long among the heathens of New England to be able to avoid absorbing some of their alien customs and ways of thinking. Plus, I've been involved in too much education to pretend to be a rube from the hills. But I do, from time to time, miss that boy who grew up in a part of the world as foreign as Albania to most people, where the lush and endless mountains pressed down so majestically that there were few places, where I lived, that were flat in an area wider than a football field. That boy knew secrets I am only beginning, having entered my sixth decade of the journey toward the Lover of Souls, to remember and cherish.

My maternal grandmother, who had as much influence on me as anyone I know, used to say--"Jimmy, don't get above your raisin'". I probably have done that, in more ways that I'm able to recognize, but I ponder that part of me--buried deeply below layer after layer of living (as the mountains were layer after layer of long-ago life).

Sometimes I get a fleeting glimpse of him, running madly into the woods that surrounded him on all sides, spending hours seeking paths through the deep tangles of forest, climbing upward, ever upward until he found a place to sit and look down on the little town where he lived--spread out like a toy village to him--so he could ponder, alone and undisturbed, for a while.

When I was in high school, I wrote a regular colemn for the school newspaper call "The Outsider". As I ponder my life, I realize that has been a constant: I've always felt just beyond the fringe wherever I was. I've watched much more than I've participated. And I've pondered many things.

So, what I've decided to do is sit here on the hillside for a while, beneath the ruins of the castor oil tree and ponder somemore. And, if you wish, share my ponderings with you--whoever you are out there in cyber-Land.

Two caveates: I'm pretty much a Luddite when it comes to technology--probably smart enough to learn about it but never very interested, so this blog is an adventure for me. My friend Sandy is helping me so it shouldn't be too much of a mess. Secondly, I've realized writing this that there is no 'spell check' on the blog. Either I can get a dictionary or ask your forgiveness for my spelling. I'm a magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa ENGLISH major (WVU '69) who never could conquer spelling all the words I longed to write.

I supose I'll just ask your tolerance.

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walking on the edge

Every once in a while I come across something I want to share. This is from the monthly  column I wrote for the St. John's, Waterbury newsletter. The newsletter was called "The Outrider" because in it's early history priests from St. John's would 'ride out' to smaller parishes (on horses first, I'm sure) to do Sunday services. My column was "The View from above the Close" because my office windows looked out on the Close ('enclosure'--Episcopal-speak again!) that was the yard of the church. And beyond that the Waterbury Green. I am a dedicated window gazer and would look out those windows a lot....Any way, just came across this and think it stands the test of time--15 years or so....


                                    Walking to the edge, then walking off…

            In my sermon on September 9, I used a quote Jennifer Hornbeck, St. John’s seminarian in 2000-2001 wrote to me.  Jen neglected to tell me who said or wrote the quote—though I intend to ask her the next time she calls—but so many people asked me about it I felt I should include it in this month’s VIEW.

                                    “When we walk on the edge
                                        of all the light we have
                                     and step off into the unknown,
                                      we must believe that one
                                        of two things will happen:
                                    There will be something solid
                                         for us to stand on
                                      we will be taught to fly.”

            Walking on the edge is an apt metaphor for the life of faith.  We are called by God out to the margins both to touch and be touched by those ‘on the margins’  of life and to risk walking off into what is unknown.
             I used to have a poster on the wall of my office in my first parish. The poster was a beautiful picture of sailboats at anchor in a harbor surrounded by beautiful hillsides. The water was glassy still. The sailboats were new, well built, shining in the sun.  The words on the poster said: SHIPS IN A HARBOR ARE SAFE, BUT THAT’S NOT WHAT SHIPS ARE FOR….
            The Life of Faith calls us to the open seas, to unknown waters, to encounter storms and risk the wrath of the winds.  But what we want—deep down—is to rest at anchor. What we want is to “be safe….”  Stepping off the edge requires courage and trust and faith.

            I have come more and more lately to believe that God is calling each of us as Christians to "walk on the edge…then walking off” in our lives. To be Jesus People we must live with risk and commitment and adventure. The tricky part of it all is that we aren’t all called to the same edge.  You may be called to a vastly different “edge” of your life than the person sitting beside you on Sunday morning. You may be called to take your moral stand into the political realm—fighting for some noble cause.  Or you may be called to endure with patience and courage some illness in your life or the life of someone you love.  Or you may be called to stand up against racism or discrimination in your workplace. Or you may be called to sacrifice higher pay and a more prestigious job in order to spend enough time with your children. Or you may be called to befriend someone who needs your support even though it is costly to you in terms of time and energy. Or you may be called to make a change in your personal habits in order to enhance the lives of those who love you.  Or you may be called to resist gain that you could achieve by “bending the rules”.  Or you may be called to give more generously—even sacrificially—to help those in need.

            I could go on and on. Each of us must discover the edge God is calling us as a person to walk off of into the unknown. But I know this in a powerful and profound way—each of us is being called, in some important way, to ‘take a risk’ for God.  It is simply the nature of the Christian life.
            Every Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. and Wednesday at noon, the Eucharist is celebrated in the Chapel of St. James next to the north wall of the church.  The readings we use come from a remarkable little book called Lesser Feasts and Fasts. Week after week, year after year, we recall those who are on the Calendar of Saints of the Episcopal Church.  All those folks walked to the edge and then off into the unknown. Many of them gave up their freedom, their security, even their lives for their faith.  Not all of us are called to be martyrs—in fact, only a scant few of all Christians are called to that ultimate risk.  But we are all called to the ‘edge’.  And we must all believe that when we finally accept that call, one of two things will happen. Either there will be “something solid” to stand on or “we will be taught to fly….”

            Listen for God’s call. Seek out the ‘edge’ of life God is calling you to. And have faith—your foot will hit something solid or God will teach you to fly….



Friday, April 28, 2017

This post is X rated (read at you're own risk!!!!)

I was talking to someone the other day about being 70 (which unfortunately, I am).

Well, not 'unfortunately' as I ponder it. Better being 70 than dying before then....

Anyway, he said there are three unbreakable rules about being this age for a male.

1) Never waste an erection.

2) Never get in a car without peeing first.

3) Never imagine it's just a fart you feel.

Stuff below the waist takes on new meaning for a man of a certain age.

The brain functioning may still be fine at 70, but stuff "down there" is getting iffy....

How true. How true.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

some people read this

I get stats on what people are reading on my blog and inexplicably four people looked at this yesterday from four years ago.

Thought I'd share it again.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Jimmy Bradley--FBI agent

OK, so I found my ID card from first grade from the Anawalt City Schools. About 480 people lived in Anawalt, so it was hardly a 'city'. But students were drawn from other areas so there were about 20 kids in each of the classes.

I have a crew cut in the picture (imagine me with a crew cut!) and a tee shirt that is so busy and silly my parents should have been ashamed to dress me in it for a school picture. And my eyes look weirdly out of focus because, the truth be known, I couldn't see worth a damn. I had 250/20 vision in one eye and 270/20 vision in the other. I don't remember which was which, but it didn't matter, in some way I was almost legally blind and no one knew until I went to school and couldn't see the black board (and they were 'black' back then) and I thought I wasn't cut out for school and my parents took me to an optometrist who was amazed I hadn't walked in front of a car or something--though there weren't that many cars in Anawalt back then. (The same thing happened to our son, Josh, though Bern {who was blind as me as a child} and I figured out he couldn't see shit and had him tested by the time he was five.)

It's from 1953-54, those wondrous Eisenhower years when not much happened to threaten us and the Interstates were beginning to be built. God bless Ike, wherever he is. He's part of that small cadre of Republicans, mostly from his era, that I have warm feelings about. Everitt Dirkson, Margaret Chase Smith, Ed Brooke, folks like that. Good folks. God bless them all.

I wrote my name on the name line in first grade cursive as 'Jimmy Bradley' though the 'l-e-y' ran over onto my picture. On the 'Issued by" line (about as mysterious a term as calling Anawalt a 'city') I wrote in capital letters ".F.B.I." with that odd period before the F.

I stare at that picture and that torturous cursive writing (though it is at least as good as my handwriting today thought I never write in cursive--Zaner/Blosser you were never kind to me!) and wonder how I was ever that young. And how I got so old.

I'm 66 years old. I've outlived my mother by 3 years though I still have 17 to go to catch my father. I have a son who is 38 and a daughter who is 35. I have three granddaughters 7, 7 and 4: what the hell happened between that budding FBI agent and me today.

Maybe I should get a crew cut--which would be solid white--and some gel and try to get in touch with my FBI inner child.

Who knew I'd live this long. Oh, I'm glad I have and look forward to catching and passing my father. Seeing those girls graduate from college or get married or even have me a great-grand-child. I feel about 37, I think. But when I look in the mirror I simply am astonished.

"Who is this old guy in my body?" I wonder.

Yet I love who I am right now. I wouldn't trade it for any of the years before.

But I sit and ponder all the 'me's' I've been and know I love the 'me' I am right now better than any of the previous 'me's'.

That's good, right?

I think so. And I rejoice every day I wake up into the 'me' I am right now.....

Hope you do as well.....

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Sleeping in

I slept in this morning, Wednesday, until 11 a.m. I often sleep until 9 or 9:30 since I retired. I heard a discussion of sleep on NPR the other day and I am a champ--9 hours or more.

But last night our Puli, Bela, was having problems. He hadn't had an afternoon poop, for one thing. because he hates the rain. Another thing is Bern found some shredded aluminum wraps from chocolates on the floor of the kitchen. We have no idea how he got to them unless some fell off the table.

He was endlessly restless and anxious all night. Bern even went about midnight to sleep in another room. I stayed up until 3 am or so because he wouldn't go to sleep. Then at 6:30 Bern fed him and took him out and he came back to bed until 11.

God, we love this awful dog! He is awful. He only trusts about 20 people on the face of the earth. He would bite you if you came to our front door. Our hospitality had been limited for 12 years by his protectiveness.

And we love him so, so, so much.

Bern, I think, loves him because he's bad. I love him because I know few people could. That may be, under scrutiny, the same love.

He's been fine today, so no Vet intervention. He's 12, upper edge of life span for a Puli. But deeply, deeply loved ( I think I told you that already).

The day seemed sort of short. Bela's afternoon walk came quickly after lunch with a dear friend. And his evening pee just happened and it's bed time and I've only been awake 11 and a half hours!

But last night was so full of drama, I'm ready for bed. And he is too, I'm sure.

Lordy, Lordy, we love this dog....

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Gray daze

I know there's been some sun in there recently, but the last couple of weeks in Connecticut have been a haze of gray and mist and fog and drizzle and rain (and if the weather reports are right, maybe even thunder storms tonight.....)

The average annual rainfall in cities around Connecticut is between 47 and 54 inches, less inland and more on the coast. I just looked up the average rainfall in Seattle, Washington--known far and wide for rain--and it is 37.9 inches. It just rains on more days out there than back here. And this year they are already above the average annual amount.

But the truth is this: on average more rain falls on me than on the home of Coffee.

I don't resent the rain. Bern's yard is beyond belief with more flowers than I ever remember in 28 years here! But I do long for the sun. I long for it greatly.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Easter II

The second Sunday of Easter sometimes (every 3 years) brings the reading of Thomas both doubting and believing. I love that lesson from John.

Today I preached about Thomas, how he is so much like us--doubting and believing at the same time--and how he, of all the people Jesus encountered, acknowledged who he was when he said, "My Lord and my GOD!"

I was going to try to recreate that sermon here but instead found one I did 8 years ago to share instead. Today I did talk about how intimate and lovely it was that 'Jesus breathed on them'.

Here it is.


          OK, let’s get this straight—the doors were locked and Jesus just showed up. That’s weird enough, nevermind that he had been dead and wasn’t dead anymore. Already we have two confounding facts that have to make us re-think what we are convinced ‘reality’ is about.
          That’s what the season of Easter is for, afterall—to make us reconsider the nature of ‘reality’.

          But let’s leave the ‘reality’ bending and altering events for another time. Let’s concentrate on what Jesus ‘did’ in that far-away, long-ago upper room.
          He breathed on them.
          That’s what John tells us and what we are left to wrestle with—after showing up unexpectedly in a locked room, this man who everyone knew was dead, “breathed on them”.

          Let’s do an experiment. Let’s notice, for a few moments, that we are breathing……
          Try counting your breaths—up to four and then count up to four again….

          Astonishing, isn’t it? We just breathe—or, perhaps more accurately, breath breathes us….We don’t have to think about it most of the time, it just happens—when you’re not paying attention, when you sleep, always—your breath breathes you.
          And Jesus ‘breathed’ on them….Just like that….He must have leaned in close and let them feel his breath. What an intimate moment.  How often do we get to ‘feel’ the breath of another on our skin? We feel it with babies and small children, certainly, holding them near; with lovers and partners from time to time; with people in hospital beds, straining for breath when we lean in close to kiss them and say good-bye, that we’re going home for the night or that we know their last breath is near.

          My God…I mean that literally, “My God, what a gift to have that polite distance between us at all times violated so we might feel the breath, the very ‘life’ of another on our faces.
          I toyed with the idea of having you ‘breathe on’ the person beside you or near you…but that would be so uncomfortable, so awkward, so embarrassing to us because we value the space between us and other people. That’s really ok. I pull back when people get in my personal space.

And, there is this: there is no “personal” space with God. God is right against us, all around us, ever close to us. Breathing on us….Breathing on us….Breathing on us….

There is a hymn that invites that holy and astonishing intimacy with God.
      Hymn 508….”Breathe on me breath of God,/fill me with Life anew/
          That I might love what thou dost love,/and do what thou wouldst do.
          Breathe on me breath of God/until my heart is pure,
          Until with thee I will one will, to do or to endure.
          Breathe on my breath of God/until I am wholly thine/
          Until this earthly part of me/breathes with thy fire divine.
          Breathe on me breath of God,/so shall I never die,’
          But live with thee the perfect life/of thy eternity.”        

That is our legacy, our inheritance, our indescribable intimacy with God. That is what we give to these children today. Marked as Christ’s own forever.

When you breathe, remember this, God is breathing on you as well…..  

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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.