Friday, September 21, 2018

A dog, a dog....

This weekend we will most likely adopt a dog.

There are two events to go to so we can meet dogs.

All that matters is if she is good with kids (because of our granddaughters) and if we love her.

We've almost always had a dog. Finney, a Puli born in Budapest was our first. He was hit by a car when we were away on our pre-separation trip to the beach.

Then there was little Annie, Bern rescued from the streets of New Haven.

Then Sadie, another rescue who was half-lab and half-cockier spaniel. A wondrous dog who lived with us as our kids grew up,

Then, of course, Bela, another Puli who was our empty nest dog for 13 years.

He was put down in March and we think--at least we think--our mourning for him will let us have another dog in our family.

We shall see, this weekend, The dog has to be a girl and can't be a puppy. And must love kids.

We shall see.

I'll let you know.



Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Dark

I was grilling dinner near 7 p.m. and noted it was dark. Had the porch light not been on I couldn't have seen the grill.

It seems to have returned overnight--though I know it has been weeks and weeks in coming: but the Dark is back.

I'll have to notice if I have to get up tonight to go to the bathroom (which at my age I often do) if any light is coming or if the Dark is settled in. I happen to sleep so late that I always wake up to daylight, but I'll try to notice or ask Bern (an early riser) when the light returns.

I guess Daylight Savings Time must be coming though I never seem to know when. But that only changes things a little--an hour. The darkness is coming and there are almost 3 months left for it's falling.

I used to think I'd like to live near the equator where the light is rather constant, nothing like New England. But I've changed my mind about that--I actually now adore the darkness of autumn and winter. It is a reminder that we must endure the darkness to live in the light.

It's a metaphor this year for living with the President Who Will Not Be Named.

Dark times. Fearful times. Uncertain times that must be endured to lean toward the Light.

And the Light will come. I truly believe that. Looking at the country these days convinces me of that.

Endure the Darkness, beloved, and lean toward the Light....

It will come. Just as the earth tilts, it will come.


Sunday, September 16, 2018

Today's sermon



Who do you say that I am?

        Today we find ourselves in the city of Caesarea Philippi.
          Just a short aside about Caesarea Philippi because it is a fascinating place—it is north of the Sea of Galilee, near what is now the border between Israel and Lebanon. Prior to being named “Caesarea Philippi” by the Tetrarch of Galilee, Herod Philip (to honor Caesar Augustus and…oh, himself…) the city was known as Banias in Hebrew and “Paneas” in Greek. It was the site of a shrine to Pan, the god of mirth and drink and debauchery (God bless him!). But it didn’t stop there: there were shrines to Persian gods and Roman gods and to Caesar, who was worshipped as a god, and even shrines to the Pre-Greek gods of that region. Caesarea Philippi was a veritable panoply of worship and sacrifice. And besides all that, the water that flows through Banius from Mount Hermon is the headwaters of the River Jordan. So it was a terribly holy place for Jews as well.
          So, in this remarkably holy, sacred place, Jesus asked his disciples: “Who do you say that I am?”
          I want to go on record as saying that is one of the most audacious, outrageous, daring and vulnerable questions anyone can ask. Who in their right mind would ask it? What rational person would want to know the answer when it came?

          Think about it for a moment—WHO DO YOU SAY THAT I AM?
          Is that something you really, truly, honestly want to know? From an acquaintance? From a close friend? Even from someone who loves you? Do you really, truly, honestly want to know “who they say you are?”
          Let me talk about me for a moment….I’m not sure I want to risk the pain and disappointment and confusion that hearing “who someone else says I am” would cause me.
          Two examples, if I might.
          First of all, I’ve had any number of people who have come to know me and love me tell me that when they first met me they thought I was “arrogant”. That’s the word they’ve all used—arrogant.
          WHO DO YOU SAY THAT I AM? I could have asked them when they didn’t know me well.
          YOU ARE VERY ARROGANT, they would have answered.
          Of all the things I think about myself—about WHO I AM—about the last thing would be “arrogant”. I’m always using so much energy trying to please people and make them like me and show them how honorable I am, that I would never imagine they’d think I was arrogant. I’ve spent hours and hours trying to understand why people would think that’s “who I am….”
          And I would have been bereft, deeply pained, stung to the core.
          It is a very risky question to ask: WHO DO YOU SAY THAT I AM?
          Who would want to know? Who would be confident enough to hear the response?
          Secondly, I know myself better than anyone knows me. I know all my dark and secret places, all my aching places, all my shame and fear and brokenness. Why would I ask someone WHO DO YOU SAY THAT I AM? For fear of hearing the “truth” about what I know about me…..
          My greatest fear is that someone will “figure me out” and know what a phony, what a fake, what a hypocrite, what a sham I am.
          So why would I ever ask someone: WHO DO YOU SAY THAT I AM?

          Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Christian murdered by the Nazi’s at the end of WW II. One of his books was Letters and Papers from Prison and contained this poem. Listen. Listen carefully…. 
            
WHO AM I?
Who am I? They often tell me
I stepped from my cell’s confinement
Calmly, cheerfully, firmly,
Like a Squire from his country home.

Who am I? They often tell me
I used to speak to my wardens
Freely and friendly and clearly,
As though they were mine to command.

Who am I? they also tell me
I bore the days of misfortune
Equally, smilingly, proudly,
Like one accustomed to win.

Am I really all that which other men tell of?
Or am I only what I myself know of myself?
Restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
Struggling for breath, as though hands were
Compressing my throat,
Yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
Thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,
Tossing in expectation of great events,
Powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,
Weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,
Faint, and ready to say farewell to it all?

Who am I? This or the other?
Am I one person today and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others
And before myself a contemptable, woebegone weaking?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army,
Fleeing in distain from victory already achieved?

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am Thine.




We went to our daughter-in-law’s swearing in as a judge on Friday in Baltimore. Hearing what the speakers said about her, I told her, “don’t ever run yourself down to me again. I heard who they say you are.
There were many opinions about ‘who Jesus was’, but Peter nailed it—“you are the Messiah!”
Peter wasn’t happy with what Jesus then told them he had to do. But he had to. He just had to.
There are many voices, both inside our heads and from those around us that have an opinion about who you and I are.
But Bonhoeffer nailed it—whoever we are, we belong to God.
We are God’s beloved children. And what we need to do with that is to live in the world as the hands and hearts and voices and actions of Jesus. We are to be Christ’s Body to this darkling world.
We have to. We just have to.
We must…. We must….We must.   Amen.

Emmanuel Church, Killingworth (9/16/18)
Gospel Lesson for the day: Mark 8.27-38

       

Saturday, September 15, 2018

The ceremony

Cathy Chen was sworn in as a judge of the Maryland District Court--District One--Baltimore City--on Friday.

It was amazing. At least 15 judges in robes and the chief judge of the Maryland Court and the lawyer of the Governor (who used to be in Josh's law firm) and people from as far away as Taiwan in attendance.

It was great. The Episcopal Church is good at ceremonies but I've never seen anything like this.

The president of the Maryland Bar Association gave her a crystal gavel to remind her how precious the law is and how if you hammer too hard, justice breaks.

She is my daughter in law, mother of 3 of my 4 granddaughters. I love her greatly and admire her immensely.

At the two receptions I talked to more judges than I've ever imagined talking to. They all love Cathy and admire Josh, my son.

I had long conversations with 5 lawyers in Josh's firm--including one of the guys whose name is in the name of the firm. And I was wondrously reassured of what a great lawyer--and wondrous man--my son is.

Our daughter, Mimi, and 4th grand-daughter, Eleanor, were there with us.

Bern and I talked, on the ride back from Baltimore today, about how we should pinch ourselves and be lost in wonder about how our two children turned out.

We can't take the credit. Much of the time we had no idea what we were doing as they grew up and I'm sure made numerous mistakes in raising them.

But there they are.

A partner in a law firm married to a judge with three remarkable daughters.

Second in command at a magazine for a national group of architects, married to a high ranking member of Linked-In whose office is in the Empire State Building with the most lovely, sweet, smart and wondrous 2 year old daughter.

How did this happen?

How blessed are we?

It's almost enough to make me believe in God. (Which I should, since I'm an Episcopal priest. But some of the things in the world make that hard to do..)

But when I ponder my two children, Lordy, Lordy, I believe in God and mercy and love so, so much.



Wednesday, September 12, 2018

moths

I've been noticing moths these days.

These mostly tiny creatures who don't live long are, for the most part, beautiful and exquisite.

The designs on their wings are so detailed and delicate. Their little furry feet are so sweet. I used to be afraid of moths--I don't remember why--but now they fascinate me.

You have to admire Mother Nature for coming up with moths.

I think it was something about how erratic their flight is that used to freak me out.

But now I think that is probably a result of evolution. Moths that flit and dart around are harder for a predator to catch, so they survive and multiply and slow, even flying moths got knocked out of the evolutionary chain. That simple, I think.

We're leaving tomorrow to go see Cathy Chen,  our daughter-in-law and mother of Emma, Morgan and Tegan, get sworn in as a judge in Baltimore.

I'll resist as much as I can saying 'Here come the judge" when she enters a room. I can't guarantee I'll be successful in that.

Mimi and Eleanor will be there along with two of Bern's first cousins. We're all in the same hotel and that should be a hoot.

Be back Saturday to tell you all about it.

Meanwhile, ponder moths for me.


Timing is everything

My friend, Mike M., told me in a response to an earlier post that he's glad we're not on Oak Island now.

So am I, Mike.

Florence is coming to land right where Oak Island is, that place I love. I fear for the island we've visited for over 40 years.

I actually thought, earlier, that we would be there this week and was shocked when Bern told me when we'd be leaving. I thought it was the week after Labor Day, not the week of Labor Day.

It sounds like a monster of a storm.

My heart is with Wilmington and Oak Island and Southport--all in grave danger just now.


Tuesday, September 11, 2018

"by our love, by our love...."

I've now twice done the Liturgy from General Convention this summer that was the Integrity mass.

Integrity is GLBTQ Episcopalians and their friends. I was the chaplain to Integrity Connecticut for 5 or 6 years and they met for 10 years or more at St. John's, Waterbury while I was the Rector there. Integrity is close to my heart.

Howie from St. James found the liturgy on line and printed it out. It is wonderful!

And one of the wonderful things is the music they used. One of the hymns is "They will know we are Christians by our Love'.

It's been rattling around in my head for days now and causes me to ponder how the hell anyone would know we were Christians by our love?

Many of us Christians are not very 'loving'.

Many of us are in favor of the atrocity that is our immigration practises. Many of us do not trust 'the other' in our midst. Welcoming strangers is not our strong suit--many of us Christians.

Last Sunday's gospel was Jesus meeting the Syrophonecian woman who asks him to heal her daughter.

To the Jesus in Mark's gospel, that woman is the absolute 'other'.

In the first century even Jewish women did not talk to Jewish men in public. And she was a Gentile. She was 'the other'. For the 'other' to instigate conversation with a Jewish teacher/prophet was unheard of--abomination.

Jesus is cruel to her. He tells her the dogs should not eat the children's bread.

Calling someone a dog is a remarkable insult in any culture. But in first century Israel, it was even more so. Dogs were not 'pets' then--they were either workers or nearly wild. And calling a woman a 'dog'--especially a female dog--is even today a case for the 'Me Too' movement.

But the woman confounds him. She says, 'but even the dogs can eat the crumbs from the children's table'.

For the only time I can think of in the gospels, Jesus changes his mind.

The woman shows him she is not 'the other', she is one of God's beloved too. So he heals her daughter at a distance and she finds the girl well when she returns home.

"The Other" has much to teach us. We are a nation that has embraced wave after wave of 'others'--not always gracefully, but eventually.

"The Other" has much to teach us--most of all, how to love them. Then and only then will 'they know we are Christians by our love, by our love...."


Monday, September 10, 2018

When did I write this?

I was going through the full file box I have looking at stuff I wrote long ago when I happened across a poem called, either "Kasmir on Christianity" or "Kasmir's theology". I have both titles at the top of a hand written piece of yellow, lined 8 1/2 by 11 paper, much worn,

I think I probably wrote it in college, after becoming an Episcopalian and worrying about the Nicene Creed (which I still ponder and worry about, all these years later!)

At any rate, here it is in iambic octameter rhymed verses. (I was an English major after all!)



KASMIR'S THEOLOGY

"Now let me get this right," he said,
while sitting upright on his bed.
"Now what you tell me may be true,
I have this question to ask you."

Wise Kasmir smiled when 'ere I winced,
and with his argument commenced.

"This Jesus man you preach to me,
a god or man--which will he be?
For now you say he's son of Jove,
who once the devil's foot did clove.
Who did the earth create quite eased,
inventing creatures as he pleased.
To twice destroy them with his ire,
with water once, one day with fire.

And saved a remnant of the few
to give to them the name of Jew.
And this great god did trod the earth,
surcease of sorrow, not of mirth.
(Though Zeus, I hear, did oft dare fate
with fairest nymphs to copulate.) 

But I forget, he's not your ONE.
Your god is whole devoid of fun.

At any rate, he walked around
and legend holds passed farm and town.
And yet no footprints I can find
prove him to be of gait divine.

But at that point you change your thought
and say he's 'human' with no fault.
Such contradiction I once saw
and that was in your 'Golden Law'.

Born in a stable, old and rude,
carpenter's son and doubtless crude.
And still you praise his works of love
and hold him in your mind above
the sons of tailors and of priests
(sons of divines are not the least
in number of the sons of man...
deny that Christian, if you can.)

And don't you claim your Jesus boy
thought of his god and not his toy?
And shunned all play in search of truth?
Is this your common human youth?"

Kasmir was warming to his task
and said, "come on, remove the mask,
make up your mind, don't trouble me,
of which one type can Jesus be?
Is he a mortal--call him such.
Could I be roasted by his touch?
Then he's a god and name him so.
And don't hang down your head so low--
 look in my eye, I want the facts!"

Reclining on his bed of tacks,
he boldly told me with a frown,
"your whole religion's upside down.
Now wait until I charm this snake,
I have another point to make."

Alas, his point he'll 'ner impart.
One of his nails slipped though his heart.
The cobra bit him on the toe
and I decided I should go.

Instead of watching Kasmir bleed,
I left his to his perfect creed.


 

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Trumplessness

A whole week with 7 adults who hate the not named president as much as I do--and a 2 year old we'll surely teach to hate him--what could be better than that?

This--a Trump-less week. No TV news, no radio, no newspapers.

For a whole week I experienced "trumplessness".

And it was heavenly.

In two more years, I pray and pray, 'trumplessness' can be all day every day.

I pray.

What joy that will be.


You Couldn't Make It Up

Our trip to Oak Island was so great you couldn't have made it up.

Close friends.

Perfect weather.

An ocean only a little more wavy than a lake.

Great food. "The Big Fish"--a stuffed Red Snapper as the highlight.

Wine and beer and bourbon for those interested.

Lots of books to read.

Mimi and Tim and most of all, 2 year old Eleanor.

Silence and laughter.

No watching TV news!!!

A kite that went so high it ran out all it's string--300 feet at most.

Pelicans every morning and evening.

Gulls and sand-pipers a plenty.

No bugs except sweet singing ones.

The sound of ocean all the time.

A wondrous house with fine A/C.

Nobody on the beach after Labor Day.

How good could it be?

So good you couldn't make it up....

Glad to be home but full of memories and these memories last....

Sweet Peas may take over the world

We got back from Oak Island last night. This morning, Bern told me, 'sweet-peas may take over the world'.

Before we left she had torn up a lot of the little blue plants because they had been taking over some other plants. She just tossed them on some dead brush in the area beside our deck which is, in essence, a pet cemetery. There are three dogs, four cats, a dozen or so guiena pigs, two birds and a rat buried in a ten foot by 16 foot area. She puts weeds she pulls there too, and cut grass. I toss corn husks down there and dead house flowers. I'd call it a compost area except the squirrels and chipmunks use it for Lord knows what.

When we got back, all the sweet-peas had found root again and are flourishing.

A hearty and spreading kind of plant.

The world could be taken over by worse things that those blue flowers.

Lots worse....


Thursday, August 30, 2018

While we're there

September  5th is our anniversary. It will come on Oak Island and we'll go out to eat to celebrate with Mimi/Tim/Eleanor and our friends.

It will be our 48th anniversary.

Lord Jesus Christ, how can that be? I'm still a young man and Bern's still the elfin seductress she's always been!

But wait, our son is 43 and our baby daughter is 40.

Oh, my Lord, it's been 48 years!!!

Some days it seems like we just met. Some days it seems like we're still young lovers. And yet the truth is clear--4 granddaughters...two of whom are near being young women--and we're still here, almost half a century later.

Who would have known?

How could we have known--14 and 17 when we met?

And here we are.

It's been a long ride and one I wish I could live again.

I love her so, and all she's given me. All of it.

Like any long ride, it's not always been smooth--but it has endured and endured and endured.

Thank God!!!

Truly, God, I thank you.....





Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Soon, so soon....

Bern is in Brooklyn, looking out for Eleanor for two days since her day care is closed for a week. She'll be back at the train station in New Haven around 5 tomorrow.

I miss her more than I can say/ After all this time, being away from her is painful, even though we can go through a day with less than a couple of conversations. Just being in the same house with her is soothing to me. Who knew love could last so long, so deep?

But soon, soon...Saturday in fact, we fly to Myrtle Beach and go in the rental car to Oak Island with John and Sherry and Jack. Mimi and Tim and Eleanor will fly to Raleigh and drive to Oak Island from there.

And a week on the ocean surround by friends and family and food...lots of food...and not a little 'drink' as well.

How great that will be.

I have two days to write some stuff to tide you over until we get back on September 8. I'll try.

But a week away from my computer is a gift in itself.....

I may turn my phone off as well. I don't get email on it, at least and no one ever calls me.

No devices for a week---heaven....


Tuesday, August 28, 2018

MACK-dowell County

It's spelled McDowell, but how you tell if someone is from the southern most county of West Virginia is how they pronounce it. "MC-Dowell" isn't native. We natives say "MACK-dowell" and mean it. It's the "Mack" that matters to us. I don't know why. It just does.

McDowell County is where I grew up. It is 535 square miles. Rhode Island is 1214 square miles.. Nearly half the size of the smallest state--McDowell County, if you flattened it out, pushing all the mountains down, would be the size of Connecticut!

And it was where I grew up until 18 and off to college. And I loved it. So lush and green in the summer, so full of snow in the winter. So amazing in the 4 month spring and four month autumn--Winter and Summer were two months only. McDowell was farther south that Richmond, Virginia, but up in the 2000 foot mountains, so the seasons were much different.

But now...now, the county that had a population of 98,000 when I was three years old now has a population of 18,000, Try to imagine that.

And 39% of the people still left are below the poverty line.

And McDowell County, of all the 17,321 counties in the USA has the highest percentage of deaths from drug overdose.

Anawalt, where I grew up, had 1383 residents when I was 3. Today, it has 202.

Try to imagine the empty houses and boarded up houses and burned out houses left there,

Where I grew up, the building is gone. Like so many others.

This is where I grew up. I remember wondrous nature, incredible people, a perfect place to be a child.

And now....?

And now?

Coal died--and no matter what the President says, coal is not coming back, not deep mining, which is what fueled and fed McDowell County. Those mountains were full of coal--deep down. And deep mining is gone forever.

And the place where I loved to grow up is a shadow--a dim shadow--of that place.

(It is also the county in the 48 contiguous states with the highest average age and the lowest life expectancy. Ponder what that means....Only old people are there and they die  younger than most people in the US. Astonishing. Deeply painful for me.)

That spot on the earth--all 535 square miles of it--was heaven for me as a child.

And now.....Lordy, the pain to know what it has become....


Sunday, August 26, 2018

Jusr beween us

I met Bern when she was a Freshman in High School and I was a Senior.

On September 5, we'll have been married 48 years.

Josh met Cathy in law school in Brooklyn.

Mimi met Tim at Bennington College though they didn't become a couple until a few years later in Brooklyn.

The thing that brings all this together is meeting in school.

Kind of interesting, just between us.




Saturday, August 25, 2018

junkos

(I've checked and I've never, seemingly, shared this--though I can't check over 2300 posts! It's a poem I wrote for my granddaughters when there were only 3 instead of 4.)




When I tell my granddaughters about Junkos

“Let me tell you about these little birds,”
I'll say, “that I saw in Seattle....”

(There will be lots of questions then:
“Where's Seattle?” “Is it far?”
“Can we go there?” “How'd you go?”
They move along a story
the way they pump the swings
in the park down from their house--
quickly, rising higher, full of wonder.)

Then I'll tell them how the cook
in the conference center where I was,
saw me watching the little birds.
He was smoking a cigarette,
watching me watch the birds
while I smoked as well.
(I'll leave out the part about cigarettes.
Let their parents deal with that someday....)

“They're called Junkos,” he called to me.
“The little birds?” I asked.
He nodded and blew smoke.
I jerked my head as one flew by,
almost skimming the grass.

He told me there were two kinds.
The ones with gray heads were just Junkos
and the ones with black heads were called
'hooded Junkos' with their black hoods.

Junkos are small and quick.
Swallow like, with long splashes of white
on their wings when they fly.

Curious birds, a couple hopped
into the meeting room we used,
craning their necks and watching us
for a while, wondering about us,
I suppose, then hopped back out
the door we left open
because of the heat.

I told the cook about Junko visits
and he replied they came in the kitchen
from time to time,
then left.

I imagine Junkos
live in the East, as well,
and my granddaughters
could see them some day
in Baltimore.

I could look it up
before I tell them
in the green bird book
my friend John loaned me,
mostly forever, because
I love birds.

I could show the girls
the color plates of birds--
a multitude of them--
which I sometimes just
look at without reading the names.

But I don't think I'll research Junkos
before I see the girls.
I'd rather just wonder if I'll
ever see one here, in the East,
or if they live only on the Pacific
side of this wide land.

I like to wonder about stuff like that--
even stuff I could Google and know.

So I'll just tell them how much
I loved watching the Junkos
and leave it at that.

Let them wonder about the birds.

It's always good, I believe,
to wonder about things.

I pray those little girls,
wondering-machines,
will never stop wondering.
That is what I pray.

JGB 7/11/11

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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.