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.