Monday, July 16, 2018

World Emoji Day

Lordy, Lordy, I'm not ready yet to write about the meeting between the Presidents of Russia and the USA. I fear my blood pressure would rise too high!

Besides, it's World Emoji Day, I just learned.

Who knew?

Who would want to know?

I read an article about Apple's new emojies  for World Emoji Day. (My spell check doesn't like "emojies". Maybe 'Emoji' is one of those words like Halibut, Knickers, Wood, Flour, Deer, Dice, Swine, Concrete, Grapefruit, Jeans, Tweezers and Squid that are both singular and plural. Most nouns have a plural form, but some don't,  like those above along with Sugar that have the same spelling and pronunciation whether there is one grain of Sugar or five pounds of Sugar. But all this is aging English Major pondering....Let it go, Jim....)

World F-ing Emoji Day--who in God's good Earth decided that?

I could not define 'emoji' for you beyond saying "some annoying cartoon thing that I have no Idea what it means and no idea at all how to create...."

And today the world celebrates emoji?

Trump is an emoji to me--something I have no idea what it means.

World Emoji Day reminds me of an Ogden Nash poem.

"I've never seen a purple cow,
I never hope to see one.
But I can tell you here and now,
I'd rather see than be one."

Change 'Purple cow" to 'Emoji" and you catch my drift.

While Rome is burning we are celebrating World Emoji Day!!!!!!!!!

(Imagine the !!!!'s stretching out to eternity.....)


Friday, July 13, 2018

"This is not normal...."

John Oliver, the British/American comedian recommends that we all get lots of post-it notes and write on them "This is not normal." and put them everywhere we look each day.

The problem is that our current President is imposing what could become 'a new normal' on us with his dangerous and unpredictable behavior.

Just take the last few days.

1) He insults and berates our NATO allies, then says he didn't.

2) He said awful things about Teresa May and then says he didn't.

3) He has 10 fact-check errors in his press conference but claims they're all true (China trade deficit over 30 billion high, American contribution to NATO 90%, on and on.)

4) He's started a trade war with China (and our best friends!!!) that will hurt people in states that supported him.

5) Even though 12 more Russians were indicted by a grand jury in DC today, he's still going to meet with Putin and has said more than once, he believes Putin that Russia did not interfere in our election.

THIS IS NOT NORMAL.

Get some post-it notes today and start writing.

We can't be lulled into Trump's 'new normal'.

It's not normal.

Not normal at all.....

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Maybe the most (or second most) dispicable thing

Nothing is worse than the Trump administrations separating kids from their parents into WWII American citizen Japanese style 'jails'--but something that happened the last few days is close.

The World Health Organization is sponsoring a "Nurse Now" campaign to encourage mothers, especially in 3rd world countries, to breast feed their babies.

Beast milk, it is know, gives babies the pro-biotics they need and prevents later allergies.

Breast feeding is simply--by all medical standards--the best thing for a baby.

(Bern breast fed our two kids until they could ask to nurse in complete sentences! And they've been remarkably healthy.)

The US tried to intimidate the country putting forth the proposal by threatening to deny them foreign aid. Probably because the companies who make infant formula--that does none of the positive things breast milk does for infants--gave them lots of campaign funds.

But then, get this, Russia made the proposal and the US backed off it's objections.

No collusion. No Russian connections. Nothing like that.

Oh, Mueller, finish your work soon.

Put post-it notes up all over your house that say "this is not normal' so we don't begin to think what this President is doing is in any way 'normal'.

Not normal at all. None of it.

Lord help us.


 

Monday, July 9, 2018

Wisdom and weakness

(I've used the quote that Louise Penny puts in the mouth of her character, Armand Gamache, in an earlier post and in a sermon at St. James, Higganum. I used it again this past Sunday at Emmanuel, Killingworth. I'll use it again at St. Ann's, Northford because it has caused me to ponder so much in life since I read it.)

July 9, 2018--Emmanuel, Killingworth

Today's gospel from Mark tells us about Jesus' visit to his home town. The people there were suspicious of his--'he's Joseph's son, isn't he? We know his brothers and sisters. Where does he come off with all this stuff?'

Jesus tells his disciples, "A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown, among his neighbors and his kin."

That's true, you know. To brag a bit, my son is the youngest partner in one of Baltimore's largest law firms and Cathy Chen, his wife, has just be named a judge. They are doing very well in their lives.

But their three daughters, my granddaughters, think of them as their goofy parents who don't have a clue.

And when I grew up in southern West Virginia, there was a college student home for the summer who ran and ran down the valleys and hollows. This was long before the running and jogging craze and the people who knew him thought he was a little crazy and unhinged though he was the town's doctor's son.

Later I learned he was a star on the Villenova University track team and almost made the Olympic team.

A prophet is not without honor except in his home town, among his people and his kin.

You've probably experienced something like that among 'your people and your kin'. Not without honor except....

Then Jesus sends his disciples out two by two to proclaim the 'good news' and to heal and restore.

That's what we are called to do as well--as Christ's Body in this world--proclaim the good news and heal and restore.

I remember once asking 175 people or so at St. John's, "who among you invited someone to church this week?" And no one raised their hand.

"In the last two weeks? the last month? the last two months?" I went on.

When I got to 'six months' a few people raised their hands.

I won't ask you that question. But I will ask, 'why not? Why not invite those you know and meet to be a part of God's Body here in this open, welcoming, embracing community? Why not?"

That's enough for Mark's Gospel. Now to the Gospel of Louise Penny.

Louise Penny is a Canadian mystery writer. Her primary character is Armand Gamache, a detective in Quebec. Gamache has something he tells every young policeman who works with him. He calls it 'the four things you need to learn to say and mean to lead to wisdom." (I've used this at St. James and will later this month at St. Andrew's because it has given me so much to ponder and wonder about.)

Gamache tells the young police officers, "Learn to say and mean this four things, 'I don't know.' 'I'm sorry.' 'I need your help.' And, 'I was wrong.'

That, Gamache tells them, is the road to wisdom.

Ponder that for just a moment. "I don't know." We all want to 'know' everything and even if we don't, we pretend we do. To admit you don't know is a weakness.

"I'm sorry." A genuine apology leads to a deepened relationship with the one you hurt, intentionally or unintentionally. But saying your sorry is hard to do and harder to mean. It seems like a weakness to us.

"I need your help" goes against all we're taught growing up about 'self-reliance' and 'pulling yourself up by  your bootstraps'. We want to be able to make it on our own. That's what we're suppose to do, right? Asking for help is a weakness.

"I was wrong" is the hardest of all to say and mean. Being wrong diminishes us in our own eyes and, we think, in the eyes of others. 'Being right' is what we want to be, against all evidence to the contrary.

The road to wisdom, it seems, leads through weakness.

But what did God say to Paul in today's Epistle? "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness."

And Paul reflects on that and writes, "So I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me."

Imagine that--power made perfect when we admit our weaknesses!

Imagine a world where we all--All of us--including our leaders, learned to say: I don't know. I'm sorry. I need your help. I was wrong.

Imagine how wisdom would flow among us and what a better world it would be where 'weakness' leads to power and wisdom and hope and wonder.....

Amen.

  

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Baltimore

The trip to Baltimore was wondrous.

The girls--Morgan, Emma and Tegan--are so grown up. Morgan and Emma are almost as tall as me and you can have really grown up conversations with them.

Tegan is still a little bit a little girl. Josh and Cathy's friend, John, brought some very mild fireworks to dinner and one of them that spun around and shot off lots of sparks, scared Tegan horribly. She cried and cried--something I haven't heard her do for a long time. By the end, she was holding sparklers and not freaking out.

And they are all so beautiful. (I know I'm prejudiced, but the truth is, and Bern agrees, they all have the most beautiful skin you can imagine. Not a blemish or acne mark to be seen.) I love them profoundly.

Josh and Cathy are doing so well that I could weep with joy. Josh is the youngest partner in his large law firm (mostly because since he does a lot of bankruptcy and taxes his section kept the firm solvent during the recession.) And Cathy will be installed as a judge for Baltimore City in September. Her Taiwanese family is so proud that they are taking Josh and Cathy and the girls to Taiwan for Christmas to give offerings of thanks to the ancestors.

They live in the Mount Washington neighborhood of Baltimore--Baltimore is a city of distinct neighborhoods. (Two people I know who grew up in Baltimore both told me Mount Washington was their favorite neighborhood.) Mount Washington is the only hilly part of the city and looks like a Connecticut suburb. A very mixed neighborhood--million dollar houses next to simple ranch houses--and a fair amount of ethnic mix as well.

The 4th of July parade in Mount Washington came right by Josh and Cathy's house. It was four or five vintage cars, a woman on stilts dressed as Uncle Sam, a bagpiper and lots of the neighbors on foot on on bikes. A real neighborhood parade. We didn't even try to go see the fireworks over the harbor, knowing it would be a nightmare to park and walk.

They used to live in Canton, right on the harbor, and we once watched the fireworks over Fort McHenry from their upstairs windows.

The drive down was just over 5 hours with three stops. The drive back was a little longer because of the inexplicable slow downs of the Merritt Parkway. We once made the 280 miles in 4 hours and 15 minutes--but just once.


Friday, July 6, 2018

Something to pray about

I get so caught up in what's going on here in the US that I ignore most everything else.

But not the kids in that cave in Thailand.

It seems miraculous that they lived 9 days cut off from the world by water.

And even more miraculous that they were found and given food and water and light. (Imagine 9 days in darkness--what a miracle light would be.

But now, with the oxygen level in the air they are breathing nearing a dangerous low and one diver losing his life trying to take them oxygen and no way to drill down a mile to them and a jungle hiding any back entrance to the cave and the need to be underwater for a long time to escape--now, previous miracles aside, a major miracle is needed to keep the world (and their families) from watching them die.

Something to take my mind off the lies and nonsense from our president.

Something to make me pray about.

Hold those kids and their coach in you heart and soul.

Try to imagine--no, don't!!!--how he feels about leading them there.

A life and death drama on 24/7 TV.

Pray. And ponder the fragile nature of life....


Thursday, July 5, 2018

What I call Justice

Back from Baltimore--great 4th (more later)--wondrous Josh and Cathy--too amazing three growing girls.

The best news I've heard since getting home (besides Scott Pruitt's resignation) is that a group of poachers broke into a wild animal preserve in South Africa and were killed by lions.

The poachers were armed with all the things need to kill rhinos and take their horns. But a pride of lions had other ideas for them.

South African officials aren't quite sure how many poachers their were--they haven't be able to determine how many remains the lions left.

This is what I call the triumph of Nature over Assholes.

Bless you lions. Keep your eyes open and protect those rhinos always.

Justice prevails.

Please support all those trying to protect endangered species and animals in general.

It was their planet once--before us--we need to make sure they are safe.

We need to be lions bringing justice to the wildness of the earth.


Monday, July 2, 2018

Going to Baltimore

We're leaving in the morning for Baltimore to celebrate the 4th of July with Josh/Cathy and the growing up too fast Bradley girls.

Given Fort McHenry and all that, Baltimore probably goes all out for the 4th. I'll let you know.

Having Eleanor in our life makes me miss the 'little girls' we used to see on holidays and in Baltimore. Morgan and Emma are on the verge of puberty and Tegan is much bigger than I want her to be.

But they are wonders--each of them in different ways. Morgan is sly and insightful. Emma is ebullient and excited. Tegan is social and secretive at the same time.

And Josh is flesh of my flesh and Cathy is the flesh they chose to share with each other.

Pinch myself every time I have to hear stories--deep and heart-breaking and profound--about children that have struggled, gone off the rails, been lost.

We lucked out in all that in a big way--and I mean 'luck' like "Grace" since I can't see how we deserved to have two such children and such great son and daughter in law and four granddaughters.

We didn't 'earn' it--they are, pure and simple, GIFTS.

And we get to see 5 of the 8 of them tomorrow.

Cahoo, Cahey!!!

I'll check in with you on Friday.

Shalom and Happy 4th!


Sunday, July 1, 2018

July 1 sermon--Emmanuel, Killingworth


Mark 5:21-43
5:21 When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea.

5:22 Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet

5:23 and begged him repeatedly, "My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live."

5:24 So he went with him. And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him.

5:25 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years.

5:26 She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse.

5:27 She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak,

5:28 for she said, "If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well."

5:29 Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.

5:30 Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, "Who touched my clothes?"

5:31 And his disciples said to him, "You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, 'Who touched me?'"

5:32 He looked all around to see who had done it.

5:33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth.

5:34 He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease."

5:35 While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader's house to say, "Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?"

5:36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, "Do not fear, only believe."

5:37 He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James.

5:38 When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly.

5:39 When he had entered, he said to them, "Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping."

5:40 And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child's father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was.

5:41 He took her by the hand and said to her, "Talitha cum," which means, "Little girl, get up!"

5:42 And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement.

5:43 He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.
 
Mark's gospel uses the word "immediately" more than it is found in the rest of the Bible. Mark's gospel is moving fast and furious. In fact, so fast that today there is a story inside a story.
 
The synagogue leader, Jarius, came to beg Jesus to heal his dying daughter.
 
The major story is about Jarius' daughter--but in the middle of the immediacy of that, a woman who has been  plagued by bleeding and lost everything--including her money to physicians--and she believed if she could only touch Jesus' cloak--only that---she would be healed.
 
And she did and she was.
 
And Jesus said "who touched me?" because he felt his power go out of him.
 
Of course, given the crowd, no one could know, but the woman came forward to confess it was her. Jesus told her that her faith made her whole and blessed her.

By then folks from Jarius' house told them his daughter had died and not to trouble the Teacher more. But Jesus takes his three most trusted disciples--Peter, James and John--and goes to Jarius' house.

He is met by people weeping and wailing and when he told them the girl was 'just sleeping', they laughed, as upset as they were.

Then Jesus went into the girl and said to her, "Talitha cum", Arimaic for "Little girl, get up", and the child did get up, dead as she had been.

(An aside, I wanted to name our daughter "Talitha" but Bern put the stop to that immediately!)

One of the things God confounds us with is that we believe dead things must stay dead.

But Jesus says, "no" and resurrects the little girl. In God's mind, dead things don't have to stay dead. Jesus resurrected only two other people in the gospels--the son of the widow of Nain and, of course, Lazarus.

But Jesus tells us dead things don't have to stay dead.

Dead relationships, dead thoughts, dead emotions, dead hopes, dead longings--they don't have to stay dead, God tells us.

I've felt the need for healing for a while--a long while. When children can be separated from their families and all interred  and a perfectly good family can be denied a meal in a restaurant, both remind us of horrible historic events--Japanese Americans interred during the Second World War and African-Americans being denied meals.

I heard someone say on radio, "Civility is dead". It seems that way. But, God tells us dead things don't have to stay dead.

We have become Tribal in this country. I know of families who can't eat together on holidays because of the political differences.

We need to find healing to our community. We must find a way to heal our differences and become "one nation" again. 

We need to be healed and touch each other in spite of our differences.

That's why as soon as I stop talking, I invite you to come forward for anointing and prayers for healing. Garnet will help me.

We must be healed so we might heal the divisions and pain in our nation and world.

I invite you to come forward for a prayer of healing and anointment.

Now.




     

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Killing flies

I believe absolutely in the sanctity of all life. Believe absolutely.

From time to time, I struggle with the fact that I eat meat and fish. I remind myself that I could survive on shell-fish and scallops and other things that don't have faces...but I'm weak and love a good steak or cod loin.

But I can guarantee you if I had to kill the creature to eat it, I never would. I didn't eat chicken until I was an adult because I watched my grandmother twist their heads off and let them run around sprouting blood.

However, I contradict myself now--I am obsessed with killing flies.

I once said to Ross Collins Owens III, when he accused me in Divinity Hall at Harvard of 'contradicting myself'--"Do I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes."

Col was amazed. "That's great," he said.

"It's Walt Whitman," I replied.

"Who?" Col asked. He had a BA from Harvard. I had a BA from West Virginia University. Suddenly I no longer felt diminished in his presence....

I can't stand flies.

Bern can't either.

We have half-a-dozen fly swatters all over the house. Sometimes we spend half-an-hour prowling around downstairs with fly swatters with the commitment to slaughter as many flies as we can.

I would never hurt a spider unless I knew it was poisonous and was on one of my granddaughters.

I even put stink bugs outside when I find one inside.

But flies are different.

Even as I type this I hear Bern downstairs with a fly swatter. I pray for her accuracy.

My second cousin, Kim, was walking with me one day. She was 4 or so and I was a teen at least.

Suddenly she pulled her hand away and ran over to some ants on the sidewalk and started stomping on them.

When she finished, she came back, took my hand and said, "they were going to hurt Kimmy".

That's the way I feel about flies.

That, if nothing else, keeps me from being a Buddhist.



Thursday, June 28, 2018

Just when I thought...

Just when I thought, "things can't get much worse", Justice Kennedy retired.

This gives our President a chance to change a Supreme Court that was unpredictable into one that is predictably conservative.

Kennedy wasn't a liberal, by any means. He was pretty conservative about most things but was often the 'swing vote' on human rights issues.

He sided with the four liberal justices on abortion issues, voting rights issues, racial issues, GLBTQ issues--things that make the President's BASE crazy.

So, he will try to force through someone to please 33% of the populace 'all the time'. Kennedy often pleased conservatives but on some things that matter profoundly to me, he pleased me.

I do not believe for a moment that the President is hard-right on the issues I mentioned above. In fact, I  don't think he fits on the political spectrum at all--depends on what day it is.

But those hard-core voters that support him no matter what he does, they want abortion and gay marriage and immigration handled with an iron fist.

With this Supreme Court seat, the president can give them what they want.

And since the Senate blocked Obama from nominating a replacement for Justice Scalia, this opening, along with the first Supreme Court nomination will make "5-4" to the right a permanent thing.

Hopefully the 49 Democrats and Independents can hold the appointment off until November and win enough Senate seats to block anyone who isn't at least open-minded like Kennedy.

(It's a terrible place to be: "Well, things can't get much worse"--until they do....)




Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Eliza

(While I was looking for the last sermon I posted, I encountered this one. I didn't remember it and it moved me to post it as well.



October 21, 2007

          Her name was Eliza. She was a tall and willowy and beautiful African American woman in her early thirties when I met her. She had three children then—a boy 12, a girl 10 and another girl 8. I never met their father, but I didn’t have to—they all looked just like Eliza, from their coffee with cream colored skin, their deep set brown eyes, their tall and angular bodies and their perpetual smiles.
          When I met Eliza she walked with an obviously painful limp and her fingers had lost much of their flexibility. By the time I left her—five short years later—she was confined to her bed and her body had started to curl back into itself. She had developed Progressive Relapsing Multiple Sclerosis—the most rare form of that debilitating disease, and the most difficult to treat.
          The first year or so of my time as Vicar of St. James in Charleston, West Virginia, Eliza was able to drive and she and the children were in church every Sunday that she didn’t have extreme weakness or pain that made it impossible for her to drive. Gradually, she moved from a limp to a walker to a wheel chair and finally, took to her bed. Her hospital bed was in the kitchen of their small house so she could direct food preparation by her children.
          Only once did I ask about her husband and what she told me was this, “he left after Tina was born and my MS was finally diagnosed. Tina was four or five by then, but Charles could see what the future held. He read up on my disease and then told me he had to leave. He just wasn’t ready to grow up the way his children have.”
          Then she smiled from her bed and said, “who could blame him? I’m not bitter….”
          And she wasn’t, not at all, not a bit, not even a tiny bit. Eliza wasn’t bitter.
          And her children had ‘grown up’ faster than any child should have to mature. They weren’t bitter either, though they could see what the future held for them. Charles, Jr. and Maggie, the older two, were committed to do whatever was necessary to care for their mother and stick around until Tina was old enough to care for herself.
          It sounds like a tragic, awful story, doesn’t it? A beautiful, young woman cut down in her prime; a marriage broken by pain and suffering; children having to grow up too soon?
          And it wasn’t that at all, not at all.
          In fact, when I was down and out, when I was depressed, when I was feeling sorry for myself—that’s when I’d visit Eliza and her children.
          And they would cheer me up.

          “How do you feel Eliza?” I’d ask.
          She would smile that 200-watt smile of hers and say, “Oh, places hurt I didn’t know I had places…and everything is alright…. If I could just get these babies to behave….”
          Then Charles, Jr. or Maggie or Tina would shake their heads and roll their eyes—which ever of them heard her say it—and reply, unleashing a smile as bright as Eliza’s, “oh, Mama, you’re the one who won’t behave….”

          Oh, don’t let me paint too pretty a picture about that little family. Life was hard for the children and for Eliza. Money was tight and the duties those kids had to serve their mother were demanding, odious, often heart-breaking. But when I was with them—no matter how self-centered and distracted I was—they actually cheered me up and sent me away a better person than the one who had knocked on their door.
          “I’m just like Jacob,” Eliza once told me, “but my Angel wasn’t satisfied with leaving me with just a limp….”

          Eliza read the Bible a lot and what she was referring to that day was the lesson we heard from Genesis this morning.
          Jacob is running away from his brother Esau, who Jacob had betrayed, when he encounters an Angel in the night and wrestles with that Angel until day-break. Jacob demands a blessing from the Angel—which he gets in the end, along with a new name—but the Angel also damaged Jacob’s hip so that he always, there after, walked with a limp.
          Encountering God in the dark spots of our lives, in the midnights of our existence, CAN result in being blessed and given a new name…but encountering God can also give us a limp.

          Someone—everyone argues about who really said it—someone once said, “that which does not kill us makes us stronger.”
          Our wounds, our pains, our sufferings do not ‘automatically’ make us stronger, but, in God’s grace, they CAN.

          That is the gift to us from Jacob and from Eliza—by ‘our wounds’ we can be healed. Our limps can make us walk with more determination, by God’s grace. Our brokenness can, through the love of God, make us “whole”.

          Life is most often not consistently “kind”. Bad hips and limps and brokenness are more often the norm of living. And there is this: IF CHRIST’S WOUNDS HEAL US, SO CAN OUR OWN.
          The choice God leaves us is between “bitterness” and “wholeness”.
          Jacob and Eliza chose “wholeness” as they limped through life.
          With God’s help, that is the choice we can make.

          So, I invite you—I sincerely, profoundly invite you—to bring your wounds, your brokenness, your limps to this Table today. Whether those pains are physical or emotional or spiritual—bring them to this Table today.
          There is a balm in Gilead…there truly is—that much, because I knew Eliza, I can promise you. Bring your pain and what may make you ‘bitter’ to the Table today.
          And chose “wholeness” to go with your limp.
                      

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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.