Saturday, October 14, 2017

Here's all I want to say....

As frightened and depressed as I am by President He-Who-Will-Not-Be-Named and as upset as I am by all he is doing to drive wedges and create chaos in our nation and the world--here's all I want to say: I am an American and a patriot and I believe in the deep down goodness of this nation and this people.

I spite of it all.

I still have hope.

I still believe in America.

As much as I disagree with almost everything that's going on and as frightened as it makes me, there is This: I am an American. I have hope. I believe in the goodness and rightness of this country.

I pray that gives me the strength and power to speak out and do whatever I need to do to turn this dark corner into a brighter place.

My son wrote on Facebook (the only time I look is when Josh writes something!!!) that he's been considering whether he and his family should move abroad. Probably Canada or some other English speaking place. I'm not sure he was kidding.

I'm not there--not yet.

I still believe in America.

I still believe we can overcome this dismal time.

I still believe in each of you.

Stand up and speak. Believe. Hope.

If we do that....Well....just maybe....

Friday, October 13, 2017

Bela and the Yankees

I realized today, teaching the last class of the course I led at UConn in Waterbury on 'Reading the Gospels Side By Side" that the two things keeping me from being in despair about the President who shall not be named are my dog and the Yankees.

As horrible as things are in Washington and as inappropriate and unqualified the President is, I am distracted by one painful thing and  one exciting thing--Bela and the Yankees.

I'm doing much better as Bela's Man these days--understanding that my anger is grief and trying to make his life as good as possible. You don't spend 12 years with a dog and not be full of fear and anguish when he is in decline. Everything with him simply takes longer--much longer than it did before. So I get to work with patience and understanding--just as I hope those who care for me some day will do.

And the Yankees--two years ahead of schedule--are in the American League Championship--7 games from the World Series. Oh, my Lord, I didn't expect it and it feels so good.

Game One tonight in Houston. I can hardly wait though it makes me nervous and crazy at the same time.

Bela and the Yankees--keeping me in patience and excitement that in no way is inspired by what's going on in the country and the world.

Thank you both--little Puli Dog and the Baby Bombers--for some distraction and things to care about to keep me sane....

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Waiting for "The Voice"

I'm waiting for "The Voice" to come on. I love that show, everything about it--the coaches, the talent, the drama.

So, waiting for "The Voice" I thought I'd reflect on "The Life" I've had and have. Somehow that seemed right.

I came upon a 2016 Christmas letter I wrote to my first cousins. I'm an only child but I had 17 older first cousins--all but three on my mother's side of the family. Most of them lived very near or 'near' to me and I saw them a great deal growing up. Some of them helped raise me--like Mejol Perkins and Gail Pugh. Mejol went on vacation with my mom and dad and me for most of my childhood. When they thought they weren't going to have children they sort of adopted Mejol as their 'sort of' daughter. So she was my 'sort of' sister for years. Mejol and I drove together from Baltimore to Charleston for Aunt Elsie's funeral.

I had seen some of my cousins at my last aunt's funeral--four or five of them, I think--and some younger second cousins (or third, who knows) from my father's side of the family. The Jones' (my mom's) kept meticulous notice of the family tree ('2nd cousin once removed', like that). The Bradley's were very flexible about relationship. I called second cousins 'aunt' and 'uncle' for much of my childhood.

My first cousins--mostly from my mom's side--were omnipresent in my growing up. The Pugh's, the Perkin's and the Jones' were always there.

I was the youngest of all those until my Aunt Elsie and Uncle Harvey adopted Denise. She was younger than me and I hope she felt my presence as I felt all those cousins in my life.

I live serial lives. I 'move on'. My son still has dear friends from his high school years. I have only one. I move on. And in all that and by moving to New England, I left my cousins behind. I regret it, but it's the way I am. (I saw a woman who I knew very well from St. John's, Waterbury today. We hugged and talked. I didn't remember her husband's name. "How's Bob?" I asked. "Ray," she said. Like I said, I move on. I don't mean to, I just do. I live in the present.

Anyway, in my letter to my cousins, I said this: "we have been profoundly blessed over the years with health and joy and our little family."

And I have been. Profoundly blessed by my cousins and my my 'little family'.

Profoundly blessed.

That's what I've been pondering, waiting for "The Voice".

Ponder your life. Find the blessings. Embrace them and give thanks....

Sunday, October 8, 2017

dumber than kneeling

So Mike Pence went to Indianapolis today (on our dime, I assure you) just so he could walk out when players knelt during the national anthem. At least their symbolic kneeling is 'for something'--less police abuse of Black folks...Pence's was just so he could say he did it.

Bob Corker, retiring Senator, was attacked in tweets by Trump (I'm glad I don't know how to tweet or read them!) for not running again and saying it was because Trump wouldn't endorse him. Which, in case you wondered, was called untrue by several sources. People in Corker's group in fact said that Trump had called the Senator last week to talk him into running again and promising his endorsement.

Corker (bless his heart!) tweeted in reply, "it's a shame the White House has turned into Adult Daycare Center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning."

Love you, Bob Corker.....

Saturday, October 7, 2017

my two chipmunks

Bern is an outlandish tennis fan. When the Australian, French, Wimbledon and America tennis tourneys are on, nothing else is on TV in our house.

Since she learned to like baseball for me, I've learned to love tennis for her.

And my favorite player, from the beginning and always, has been Simona Halep from Roumania. I love Simona because she looks like a chipmunk--wonderful cheeks and eyes that sparkle.

Simona just got to the finals of the China Open and is now ranked NUMBER ONE in the world for women players! Bless her. She's so cute. I adore her.

And my other chipmunk is Tegan Bradley. my granddaughter who is 8 tomorrow. We sent her a gift already and will talk with her tomorrow on the phone.

She looks like Simona to me. Lots of cheeks and a feisty little attitude to boot.

Simona and my Tegan--both winners and #1 in my heart..

I wore my 'pajamas' all day long

Well, I don't really wear 'pajamas'--I sleep in the sports shorts that people use to exercise and in winter in sweat pants with a tee shirt or sweat shirt.

But I almost always change out of them in the morning.

Today I didn't. It's almost 8 p.m. and I'm still wearing what I slept in. I've been out--to the store for dinner stuff. But no one would think I had on 'pajamas'.

It's just that since Hugh Heffner died, I learned he spent most of his waking life in real pajamas--silk and expensive I'm told.

So did I today--except they aren't really 'pajamas' like Hugh would have had. That's probably the only thing that Hugh and I have in common.

I wonder if he was buried in pajamas and if not, why not?

RIP, Mr. Heffner. Hope you're in pajamas....

Friday, October 6, 2017

'Wearing a Collar" redux

I notice several people have looked at this lately and thought I'd re-post it.

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....)

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

kneeling shows respect

I talked with a dear, dear friend today who was offended by the NFL players who knelt during the National Anthem. She thought it showed 'disrespect' for the flag and the country.

I told my friend that Colin Capernick and all the others who have knelt were, in my opinion, showing 'respect' while protesting the racial violence that has plagued our nation.

In fact, Colin started his protest by 'sitting' on the bench during the National Anthem. It was a teammate who was a armed forces vet who served in the Middle East who suggest to him that 'sitting' was disrespectful but kneeling would show 'respect' for the anthem and flag while also demonstrating his protest.

People kneel out of respect. We kneel to pray. People who live where there are royal families, kneel before them. I've seen people kneeling at the Viet Nam Memorial. People genuflect to the altar. I knelt when I met my granddaughters. People 'bow' for the cross passing in church. We nod to show respect to people and things.

I think kneeling to protest is the best way to do it--it shows 'respect' for what is happening but indicates that something is missing, something needs to be corrected, not everything is as it should be.

I won't even go into that I think the flag and the Anthem (which wasn't the 'anthem' until the 1940's) are 'symbols' for the Real Thing and not the Real Thing itself. Don't get me going down that rabbit trail.

I think the players' protest by kneeling is respectful, honorable, peaceable, non-violent, dramatic and poignant.

I may take a knee the next time I'm somewhere when the National Anthem is played.

It honors and respects the flag and the anthem but suggests all is not as it should be so long as Americans of Color are victims.

That's as clear a way to show both respect and hope as I can imagine.

Monday, October 2, 2017

How long and how many, Oh Lord?

Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Orlando, San Beradino, and now Los long and how many until we finally admit 'guns kill people'--especially the kind of guns used in those events.

When does a law abiding hunter need 2000 rounds of ammunition for an automatic rifle or sub-machine gun?

These deaths and the ones before are, for my money, on the heads and souls of the NRA and Republicans.

No civilian would ever need the weapons Steven Paddock had in that 38th floor room. None should ever have them.

Forgive me if I disrespect the second Amendment--I do, since when it was passed their were little more than single shot guns available and it applies to "militias" needed to protect the country not to civilians like Steven Paddock.

For once I will, however, say something positive about the President Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named: he was 'the Comforter in Chief' for a change in his words today. Gracious and measured and concerned. Thank whoever muzzled him!

How many must die before we as a society come to our senses about guns?

Probably a lot more, if we ever come to our senses....

Pray for the dead and grieving and forlorn of Los Vegas....

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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.