Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Wearing a clerical collar....

(I just noticed someone read this 2009 post, so I read it and thought I'd share it again for all the people who notice I never wear a clerical collar but are too polite to ask 'why not?')

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

wearing a collar

Several months ago I bumped into a member of St. John's, the parish I serve, in a grocery store. I gave her a hug and she said, "I don't think I've ever seen you without a clerical collar."

That's one reason for not wearing clerical garb--the black shirt and wide, circular band of white collar--you don't have to...people see you in it anyway. The truth is I haven't worn a collar for five or six years now but there was no way I could convince that devoted member of the parish. "You wear one every Sunday," she said. And I believed that's what she saw every Sunday.

I didn't stop all at once. It was more like attrition. I lost all my collar buttons at some point and being naturally abscent minded, forgot to order more. Collar buttons come in several styles--most of which don't work. I always used the ones that went through the little holes in the black shirt and opened like a toggle switch to hold the collar in place. All the other styles--in my experience--find a way to edge through the hole in the shirt on the front or back or slip out of the "Clericool" collar. That's what the kind of collar I wore was called, believe it or not, since it was made of some material that doesn't exist in nature and probably never decomposes and had little holes in it to circulate air next to your skin. I kept wearing collars after I lost all my buttons by attaching them to my shirt with small paper clips, bobby pins or twist ties I'd take from loaves of bread. The twist ties worked best, but like they do when holding bread wrappers shut, they tended to get twisted the wrong way and I'd have to seek help getting them undone.

So, a second reason not to wear a collar is how hard it is to keep up with the buttons. When dropped on the floor they were designed to be invisible until you stepped on them with your bare feet, bruising the soles of your feet and making you walk funny for a day or two. I once was holding the button I was going to attach to the back--you have to attach the front one first unless you wear a collar 4 or 5 inches too large...which some priests do, I've noticed--and swallowed it by accident. Well, it was like an accident--certainly not on purpose--I laughed at something when I had it in my mouth and down it went. Since collar buttons are not cheap, I watched for it for a few days but decided that was sick. I hope it came out and isn't discovered in my next colonoscopy. That would be really embarrassing, it seems to me.

Finally, one of the twist ties I was using broke the hole in the collar because I had worn all the paper off it and the twist tie was like a scalpel at that point. That was my last collar and since I hadn't gotten around to ordering buttons I was equally negligent in ordering collars. After that I wore black shirts without collars for a while, pretending I had on a collar, but people would say, "did you forget your collar?" a lot and I got tired of making up humorous responses.

I could, I suppose, have worn those clergy shirts that have what's called a "Roman collar" or a "tab collar"--a little piece of plastic that looks like a tongue depressor--but I've noticed most priests who wear those carry the tab in their chest pocket, like a fountain pen, rather than wearing it. The collars I always wore are called "Anglican collars" and I really didn't want to be mistaken for a Roman Catholic priest. It was bad enough being mistaken for an Episcopal priest.

Another reason for not wearing a collar is that it is a 'fun stopper'. You can walk into a really great bar at Friday happy hour in a collar and practically close the place down. Everyone is suddenly siezed by childhood infused guilt, stops cursing, takes their hands off people they aren't married to and decides they've had enough to drink. I was once at a picnic on a hot August day and an acquaintence of mine who is also an Episcopal priest, showed up in a summer weight black suit and a collar. I said to him, "did you have a funeral this morning?" He seemed confused and went on to tell me he and his family were going horseback riding after the picnic. I'd never ride a horse with someone in a collar and I really didn't enjoy the picnic with him slinking around looking clerical.

I only rode an airplane once in a collar. Airplanes and collars do not mix since whoever you are sitting with either wants to confess sins you don't want to hear or turns out to be a religious nut. A friend of mine who I suspects has PJ's with a collar on them told me that he flew from LA to Chicago in his collar and had a sensible conversation with the stranger beside him until they were landing at O'Hare. Then the man said, "what do you Do?" My friend looked down at his black shirt and felt to make sure he still had on his collar (the buttons could have slipped out over Idaho and disappeared on the floor of the plane, after all). "I'm a priest," my friend said. The man replied, "oh, I know what you Are. I want to know what you Do...."

I've used that story in several sermons at ordination services. I use it to tell the person being ordained that 'being a priest' is more about 'being' than 'doing' and you don't need a uniform.

Just last week I told the wife of a priest that I didn't own any clericals. She was somewhere between shocked and outraged. "But don't you ever want to 'be in uniform'?" she asked. I probably said I preferred being a 'plain clothes' priest, sort of an ecclesiastical detective. And the truth is, I've never much liked uniforms of any kind. People in uniform are proclaiming that they 'do' something--direct traffic, drive buses, conduct trains, fight wars, put out fires, etc. Uniforms are designed to separate out the people wearing them from everybody else. They announce for all the world to know, "I am DOING something here--give me room to do it". A priest, unless a religious service is going on--and we have these really hot 'uniforms' for those--isn't 'doing' much of anything that needs space and room to perform. So, no, I don't want to be in uniform.

Back when I was 'in uniform' I noticed that I could wander around hospitals with great impunity. I once found myself one door away from an operating theatre in what was surely a sterile area because I was lost and not one of the dozen hospital employees I'd passed since breaking through into a place I shouldn't have been had called me to account about why I didn't have on a mask and gloves and those neat little booties people wear in such places. That's really nuts, to have a guy soaked in germs wandering free in a supposedly germ free space because he had on a collar. I don't like the deference people give me when I'm 'in uniform'. I AM, after all, a priest and can inform anyone of that if they ask. But wearing the uniform forms a shield of invulnerability and provides a cloak of invisibility to a priest that I'm not sure is a good idea, especially not a step away from open heart surgery, or most anything.

(This next paragraph contains graphic language that most people thing people who wear...or could wear...collars should never write. I didn't say them, but I will write them. The faint of heart should scroll down quickly lest they be offended....)

I was coming back from lunch at a downtown restaurant a few years ago with a priest friend. He was in clericals and I had on jeans and a second-hand sports coat. I noticed how people separated to let us pass--good people, bad people, people of all shapes and sizes and colors...all except the little old Italian ladies who wanted to kiss his hand. (Not having strangers kiss my hand is another reason I don't wear a collar!) Then we met up with this crazy guy who I knew who always asked me for money. He knew I was a priest in my tee-shirt and said, drugged half-out of his mind, "Fa-der, give me two dol-lers." I said 'no', quietly and firmly and kept walking. Then he started yelling at me: "Fa-der, ya are a muther-fucker! Fad-er, Ya don't care if I go ta hell...." And kept yelling it louder and louder. I stepped a step or two away from my friend and all the people on the street looked at him like he was spitting on the cross for not helping that poor man. One of the little old Italian ladies screwed up her courage and said to my friend, "you're shameful..." I just walked along, smiling, out of uniform.

Finally, I am so liberated by not wearing a collar because of my neck. Or, more accurately, my 'no neck'. I am a man whose head rests on his shoulders. If I look up, you can see my neck, but it is really a 'no neck'. Clerical collars were designed for people with long, gazelle-like necks. They look fabulous on people with real necks. Angelina Jolee would look great in a collar. In fact she would look very seductive in clericals....Well, let's don't go there. Suffice it to say, collars were made for men and women with necks. They look like a kind of necklace on some people. On me, a collar looks like a hangman's noose and is about that comfortable.

A dear priest friend of mine had spent all morning laboriously boning the Thanksgiving turkey and was planning to come home after he did a noon Eucharist and stuff it in an elaborate way. As luck would have it, he was distracted and didn't get home until 3, after his wife had returned from work. He looked in the refrigerator and found his fully boned turkey (a feat of no mean merit!) gone. When he asked his wife where it was she told him something terrible had happened and the turkey had collapsed so she threw it out. My friend was so distraught (being naturally prone to histrionics) he began, in the good old Old Testament way, to 'rend his clothing'. He tore most all his clothes into shreds, his wife told me later, but his collar wouldn't come undone. He must have had toggle switch buttons or twist ties holding it on. So she left him writhing on the kitchen floor, choking himself with his Anglican collar.

That's a final reason not to wear one--it ruins such dramatics....

There really is no moral to this story. I wore collars faithfully for over 25 years, in spite of the discomfort and how no one really 'looks' at you on the street and how collars make some people nervous and brings out the neurosis in normal folks on airplanes. It was simply fortunate for me that I swallowed that collar button (this is the first time I've revealed that event, by the way) and cut my last collar with a twist tie. I just never got around to ordering new ones and everyone who knows me knows I'm a priest and I am perfectly happy that those who don't know me don't know that about me. And I'm lots more comfortable. Besides, I don't think the woman in the super market is the only one who sees it when it's not there!

(Just so you don't believe I am ultimately frivolous about this, two stories.
Years ago I was at a meeting with a bishop from Africa who came from a nation where Christians were being horribly persecuted. When some asked, "Bishop, what can we give you to help?" he thought a moment and said, "clerical collars so that when the people are being dragged away to prison and torture they can see their priests are being dragged away as well...."
Back after 9/11, I went several times with a group from St. John's to Ground Zero to work at St. Paul's church, serving food, praying with rescue workers, just listening to people. We clergy were asked to wear collars so people could recognize that we were there for more than giving them lunch and a bottle of water. In that case I was humbled to wear a collar.
Should such needs arise, I would put a collar on even if I had to use duct tape to hold it on....)

Memorial Day, long ago

When I was a kid, we used to go to Waiteville, West Virginia, my father's birthplace, every memorial day. There was a huge dinner served to support the town cemetery's upkeep. More food than you could imagine. So much food you'd be sick if you could imagine it. Wondrous country cooking and a time, after eating, to walk around the graveyard.

One year my crazy great-aunt Arbana put confederate flags on on the Bradley graves and my Uncle Russel chased them all down and took them off, cursing as he did.

My father's name was Virgil Hoyt and his father's name was Filbert. And I still remember, as a kid of 8 or so, wandering around the graveyard and coming upon two stones to James Gordon Bradley and James Gordon Bradley, Jr.

That is my full name and I was freaked out and went running, breathless, to my mother who told me she thought I knew I was named after my great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather. But I sure didn't remember being told.

That was a memorial day I remember clearly  over 60 years later.

At least my name isn't Virgil Filbert Bradley--sounds like an ancient poet and a nut.

Well, putting it that way, it wouldn't be so bad....

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Third time: lightening bugs, fireflies, all that

This is the third time I've posted most of what is below. It's no longer the 4th most viewed post, but the 9th.

And the bugs aren't here yet--it's 48 degrees on our back porch--much too cool. But I've been thinking of them. Waiting for them. Anxious to welcome them.  


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Yes, Virginia, there are lightening bugs in Connecticut

I've just been watching Lightening Bugs--fire flies--in our neighbor's yard. So I decided to reprise the fourth most viewed post of mine ever.

They are blinking, blinking, blinking.

They're out there tonight--the fireflies--in the mulberry tree just beyond our fence where the groundhogs come in the late summer to eat mulberries that have fermented and make them drunk. A drunk groundhog is a wonder to behold!

And the lightening bugs are in our yard as well. I sat and watched them blink for 20 minutes tonight.

My dear friend, Harriet, wrote me an email about lightening bugs after my blog about them. If I'm more adroit at technology than I think I am, I'm going to put that email here.
Jim, I just read your blog and have my own firefly story. Before we   went to Maine,
before 6/20, one of those nights of powerful   thunderstorms, I was awakened at 10PM
and then again at 2AM by flashes   of lightning followed by cracks of thunder - the
 kind that make me   shoot out of bed - and pounding rain. And then at 4:30AM there
was   just lightning, silent. The silence and light was profound. I kept   waiting
for sound. I couldn't quite believe in heat lightning in June,   so I got out of bed
and looked out the window. There I could see the   sky, filled with silent lightning
 bursts. And under it, our meadow,   filled with lightning bugs (as we call them) or
 fireflies, flashing in   response. I've never seen anything like it. I can't remember
 the last   time I saw a lightning bug. And then your blog. Is this, too, part of
 global warming? Are you and   I being transported back to the warmer climes of
 our youth, West   Virginia and Texas? Well, if it means lightning bugs, the future
 won't   be all bad.
I did do it, by gum....

So the lightening bugs are blinking, as we are, you and I.

Blinking and flashing and living. You and I.

Here's the thing, I've been thinking about a poem I wrote 4 years
ago or so. I used to leave St. John's and go visit folks in the hospital or nursing home or their own home
on my way to my home. Somehow the blinking of the fireflies has reminded me of that. So, I'll try, once more
to be more media savvy than I think I am and share it with you.
I drive home through pain, through suffering,
through death itself.
I drive home through Cat-scans and blood tests
and X-rays and Pet-scans (whatever they are)
and through consultations of surgeons and oncologists
and even more exotic flora with medical degrees.
I drive home through hospitals and houses
and the wondrous work of hospice nurses
and the confusion of dozens more educated than me.
Dressed in green scrubs and Transfiguration white coats,
they discuss the life or death of people I love.
And they hate, more than anything, to lose the hand
to the greatest Poker Player ever, the one with all the chips.
And, here’s the joke, they always lose in the end—
the River Card turns it all bad and Death wins.
So, while they consult and add artificial poison
to the Poison of Death—shots and pills and IV’s
of poison—I drive home and stop in vacant rooms
and wondrous houses full of memories
and dispense my meager, medieval medicine
of bread and wine and oil.
Sometimes I think…sometimes I think…
I should not drive home at all
since I stop in hospitals and houses to bring my pitiful offering
to those one step, one banana peel beneath their foot,
from meeting the Lover of Souls.
I do not hate Death. I hate dying, but not Death.
But it is often too much for me, stopping on the way home
to press the wafer into their quaking hands;
to lift the tiny, pewter cup of bad port wine to their trembling lips;
and to smear their foreheads with fragrant oil
while mumbling much rehearsed words and wishing them
whole and well and eternal.
I believe in God only around the edges.
But when I drive home, visiting the dying,
I’m the best they’ll get of all that.
And when they hold my hand with tears in their eyes
and thank me so profoundly, so solemnly, with such sweet terror
in their voices, then I know.
Driving home and stopping there is what I’m meant to do.
A little bread, a little wine and some sweet smelling oil
may be—if not enough—just what was missing.
I’m driving home, driving home, stopping to touch the hand of Death.
Perhaps that is all I can do.
I tell myself that, driving home, blinded by pain and tears,
having been with Holy Ones.
8/2007 jgb
Someone once told me, "We're all dying, you know. It's just a matter of timing...."
Fireflies, more the pity, live only a fraction of a second to the time that we humans live. They will be gone from the mulberry tree and my back yard in a few weeks, never to be seen again. But the years and years we live are, in a profound way, only a few blinks, a few flares, a few flashes in the economy of the universe. We should live them well and appreciate each moment. Really.

One of the unexpected blessings of having been a priest for so long is the moments, the flashes, I've gotten to spend with 'the holy ones', those about to pass on from this life.

Hey, if you woke up this morning you're ahead of a lot of folks. Don't waste the moment.

(I told Harriet and she agreed, that we would have been blessed beyond measure to have walked down in that meadow while the silent lightening lit the sky to be with the fire-flies, to have them hover around us, light on our arms, in our hair, on our clothes, be one with them....flashing, blinking, sharing their flares of light. Magic.)

Saturday, May 27, 2017


It took 90 minutes or so to get to Holy Cross on Tuesday morning.

It took about 3 hours to get back on Friday of Memorial Day weekend! Bumper to bumper from New York state through Danbury to the Cheshire exit from I 84.

A great workshop up beside the Hudson. Lots of transformation going on.

But 'home' is where my heart is.

My wife. My dog. My house.

So good to be embraced by them all.

I really am a home-body. I love to be among what is familiar and day to day. Travel no longer engages me. I want my bed, my love, my books, my deck, my back yard, my town of Cheshire.

There was some engaging conversation with folks at the Making a Difference workshop about extrovert/introvert stuff.

My career and role as a priest has called out my extrovert side. On the Meyers/Briggs scale my E and my I are close together. As I grow older, only child that I am, the introvert in me is winning out. I love to be home, knowing Bern and Bela are in the same house, but not having to be with them all the time!

I slept so well last night. Not bad at the monastery, but oh so well in my own bed.


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....

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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.