Wednesday, March 31, 2010

you think you should be a priest...think again!

I would have been a writer and a professor of American Literature today if I hadn't let God get all enmeshed in my life. I was following a 'call' I tried valiantly to resist. I wanted to write, if not the 'great american novel', at least some stuff that would make lots of money!

If you think you should be a priest, run and hide from God.

You know why? It is the enmeshing part.

We had a staff member or two who thought 'becoming enmeshed' with the parish was a not too good a thing. Yet, I never figured out how to do what I do or be who I be without that. In fact, it seems to me that 'what I do and be' is precisely that--becoming entangled in the community, caught in the net we are all caught in, wrapped up in the complex of feelings, connections, wonderments, pains, sufferings, etc. of those who I work with and serve and minister with.

Kurt Vonnegut--my favorite novelist, the one I would have striven to be like had I not become a priest--once told the story of the only ordained person he ever admired. It was, bless him, an Episcopal priest on Martha's Vineyard who, Vonnegut said, would 'fall apart' every time someone in the parish died and the congregation would have to heal him and nurse him back to wholeness. "There is something creative," Vonnegut said, "in having to put a man of God back together...."

I know 'all will be well', but tomorrow is the first day of the last month I will be Rector of St. John's in Waterbury. The webs and nets and strings of entanglements and enmeshing are wearing my soul raw right now.

And, I think that is as it should be. Perhaps that is even what God had in mind when the Holy One somehow tugged me toward the priesthood. And, it is the only way I would know to do it...this thing I do...this way 'I be'.

I'd run from it if I were you--but let me tell you this, there is no sweeter pain, no more redemptive suffering, no more joy of connection available than doing what I do and being who I am....Just don't do it lightly....


I know others who look to the crocus or daffodils, but not me.

I never been accused of being terribly attentive, yet I notice it. But there is this--it seems to me that one day it isn't there and the next day it is.

I saw it today in the Close and on the way home and in Cheshire--which might be the New England capitol of it. Banks of it, fields of it, walls of it--exploding and wondrous.


Suddenly it spilled out, when I wasn't paying attention--waves of it, oceans of it....

It is when the Forsythia comes that I begin to believe there might be a spring this year after all. When the Forsythia appears I know for certain that Life itself is overcoming the darkness and the death.

It is back....Alleluia....

Tuesday, March 30, 2010



That's what is overwhelming around St. John's--we laugh about almost everything...well, 'everything' and stuff we shouldn't laugh about.

Nothing is sacred there. We laugh and laugh.

And that doesn't mean we aren't committed and competent and 'doing our jobs'.

It's just that in a place like St. John's, if you can't laugh and laugh a lot, you'd shrivel up, wither and blow away in the next breeze.

Things are different in a place like St. John's. We see more pain and suffering and irrational stuff than you'd see most places. And we 'deal' with it.

Then we laugh.

Not to laugh would be to die.

Plus, laughing is found fair and wondrous in the heart of God. Believe me....


My dear friend Malinda is coming to my last service at St. John's on April 25. I told her to vest, because she is much loved, having been a priest at St. John's for 5 years or so, but when I told her I told her I'd be doing the whole service, all by myself, my last dance....

Now I suddenly realize I asked her to come because I might not be able to make it through the prayer of consecration. I may have to be taken away by EMTs after that service.

People ask me, "how are you doing about retiring?" and being an Appalachian in my core, after nearly 30 years in New England, I say, "I'm doing 'fine'....or 'fair to middlin'' or 'passing fair'--all the things people from where I come would say. Truth is, I am already in deep and profound and almost paralysing grief.

Every day I have tears in my eyes. Today after the staff meeting--all of which are raucous, hysterical and full of laughter--I thought, "how can I leave this? what could replace it?"

I work with people who are so wondrous and funny and competent that 'being their leader' is a misnomer. I just stay out of their way and let them do their magic....

The one thing I promise them and don't believe I've ever, ever failed them about is this: "I'll take the blame for anything that goes wrong or gets criticism". When things 'work', as they almost always do, I give the staff the credit. And, I do believe I have kept my promise. Anything that goes wrong is always and ever "my fault". (There aren't many of those I assure you, I picked them well....)

After tomorrow I have a months to go being Rector of St. John's, being with this remarkable group of people who I work with and for. We have an understanding--the only one that would make sense to me when surrounded by such a Cloud of Witnesses.

Four more staff meetings. Four more Sundays. One more Vestry meeting. Four more Wedsday Eucharists....Jesus, I used to be writing about 13 more weeks....the days dwindle down to a precious few.....

I am almost choked with grief.

A friend of mine told me I needed to "disengage". OK. Right. Roger and out.

Easier said that done.....

Maybe I asked Malinda to vest so she could push my sobbing body aside and finish the Eucharist for me.....Oh, I'm sure she'd do that gladly.....God bless her....


My daughter found a parakeet on the streets of Manhattan one morning a couple of years ago. She was green and drenched by rain. So Mimi caught her and put her in her pocket and since you can buy anything at any time in Manhattan, found a cage and food and took her to her office.

She named her Rainy.

Eventually, as folks sometimes inherit things from their kids before the kids ever inherit things from their parents--good luck to Josh and Mimi finding anything we leave behind...we mean to burn the candle at both ends and leave this world with about as little as we joined it with....--we got Rainy and another bird Mimi bought to keep Rainy company.

Rainy and Maggie now live in our kitchen and sing/chatter/scream most of the time. You get used to it after a while and can still hear NPR above the din. The radio is by their cage and their cage is so high the bottom of it is at eye level because we have Luke the Cat.

I love their noise. How wonderful.

And it has rained for two days.

I wonder if Rainy, hearing the rain through the window, remembers when she was lost and then was found?

It really doesn't matter in the long run, but I wonder.

Then there was Stinky, the rat Mimi brought us from Indiana, for goodness sake, after a summer intern job....Another story all together.....

But bless her for bringing us creatures to love.....

slacking off....

Someone reminded me today that I haven't been blogging for a while. Truth is, I forget about it and need someone to remind me. So, I'm going to catch up with a series of really short blogs--very few words each.

Here's the first:

Life is so beautiful, it sometimes aches.
Take the deepest breath you can...really deep, until it almost hurts....
Then let it out as slowly as you can.
That is Life, flowing in and out each time we breathe.
Beautiful....sometimes it aches....keep breathing....

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Time to go....

I heard on the radio and read in a newspaper about a guy in Texas who killed his neighbor's buffalo herd. The buffaloes, 41 of them as I remember, broke through a fence and went onto another person's property. He shot them. Each of them and all of them. 41 of them. Shot them dead. Dead as 41 furry doornails.

Under Texas state law, as I understand it, the guy who slaughtered the buffaloes may have been within his rights in the so-called state of Texas.

I don't know about you, but I somehow think such an egregious act of violence against innocent animals deserves some legal punishment. Maybe I'm just a buffalo lover, I don't know--but it doesn't seem right to me that Texas would allow people to do such things. What if kids wander onto his property--41 kids on a field trip to see the buffaloes and discovered them dead--does he have the right to shoot the kids?

Well, it is Texas. Who knows?

I've decided it is time to expel Texas from the union. It was bad enough that Texas gave us George W. and cowboy hats, but allowing the massacre of buffaloes is the last straw.

I almost wish they'd lost that war with Mexico and none of us remembered the Alamo. Then they wouldn't have been around in the US to stink things up.

(I would have missed LBJ though....)

During the health care bill debate, a congressman from Texas yelled out "Baby Killer" to another congressman supporting the bill. He later apologized and said he meant "the bill" was a baby killer, not his colleague in the House of Representatives. Yeah, right....

Plus the Texas Board of Education is re-writing the history taught in Texas public schools. It is the only reason I can think of to support private schools exclusively.

Plus the governor of Texas actually suggested that Texas succeed from the Union. (You can look it up on is true....)

So I say, let them go and God bless them. 49 states are enough. Everyone I know who 'used to live in Texas' hates it. I was only there for a few days and I hated it. I had to rent a car to go somewhere from the Houston airport and the only models available were pick-up trucks and Cadillacs. I took a truck. Where is Santa Anna when we need him?

Besides, the Dallas Cowboys would be a soccer team and the San Antonio Spurs (the most hated sports team in my life--even more than Virginia Tech or Notre Dame!) wouldn't exist.

Phil Graham, a former US Senator from Texas, once said, on the floor of the Senate in a gun control debate, "I have more guns than I need, but not as many guns as I want...." Something in that makes me know Phil and I have very little in common.

So, though LBJ would be a loss, along with Molly Imus, let's let Texas go and either become a sovereign nation or surrender to Mexico as they should have at the Alamo. Either way, I'll be happy....

so, here's what happened...

I was driving home and there is a group that gathers in front of the Cheshire Town Hall sometimes to wave signs and yell. The signs mostly say things about killing Chris Dodd and impeaching President Obama and getting rid of the government and excommunicating anyone who doesn't agree.

Most of the people are my age or older, but there are a few younger people. They want you to honk if you want government to disappear. I was stuck at the light and one of the younger ones (by that I mean 40+) crossed oncoming traffic and knocked on my window and when I rolled it down asked me why I hadn't honked.

I told him politely--or as politely as one can be in that situation--that I didn't agree with what they were saying, that I'd vote for Chris Dodd if he were running, I love our President, I believe that government is 'my friend' and that he should go home to his family.

He said, "You socialist!" and turned away.

I yelled, 'look out', because he was about to get hit by a truck. He survived and I wondered if he would have done the same for me.

This is why I wrote that tirade about socialism recently.

Just thought I'd explain.

I actually wish I lived in one of the European nations that has a political party called Christian Socialist. I'd join it.

Of course the younger man who owes me his life wishes I lived in a European country as well so there'd be one less of us to excommunicate from the Republic.

However, since a "republic" implies a government, he's probably against it....

And since I live in the US, I'll remain a democrat....

Friday, March 19, 2010

A Democratic/Socialist Manifesto

Every one's writing manifestos these days. The Tea-Party people have one. (Here's all I WILL say about the Tea Party Movement--Oh, Lordy, I have lots more to say, but will limit it to this--the Boston Tea Party was about the oppression of a foreign wasn't about "our government"....'our government' is what we've got, get used to it, I have, and work positively FOR it, not AGAINST it. It is the only government we've got.....)

So, someone said to me the other day, "Obama is a 'socialist'."

This is in the same genus and species of those who say "Obama wasn't born in the US" or "Obama is a Muslim". He was born in Hawaii--which, so far as I know, is still a state--the westernmost state until a 8.6 earthquake breaks of parts of California and they float over near Japan. And, he is a Baptist. I wish he were an Episcopalian--I think he'd be happier with us except for the singing. And he is a socialist is the same way that Bill Gates is a middle class citizen.

What I say to people who tell me "Obama is a 'socialist'" is two fold:
*he is actually a moderate Democrat, AND
*I wish he were a socialist.....

I am a Democratic Socialist. I am astounded by how many people are so upset about 'the government'--actually, they usually pronounce it 'the GUV-MENT'. All I can imagine about that is that they never studied Civics.

Civics used to be taught in junior high and high school. In college it is called "Political Science". Now, I'm told, they teach "Social Studies". Civics taught you to not only 'trust' the government, but to love it. Either people have forgotten that or they had 'social studies' instead of civics.

I love the government.

I told someone that the other day and they laughed. Then I found out he was on Social Security and Medicare and lived in a city with a government that did all sorts of things he could never do for himself. Imagine that--he'd give up all that because he hates the 'guv-ment'.

Like everyone else at this time of year, I complain about my taxes. I'd like to pay less, obviously, but in the last analysis, I'd be glad to pay 'more' for more services of things I can't do for myself.

The Government picks up my trash every Wednesday. I'd have no idea what to do with it. The Government also recycles my trash that can be recycled saving me countless hassles doing it myself.

The Government plows the street I live on. I couldn't do that for myself.

The Government educates children--God help me if I got sent a dozen kids to teach!!!

The Government protects me and my family and my country through the armed services. I don't even own a gun and have no idea what a terrorist might be. God bless the government for doing that for me. And God bless those who protect me and make me safe.

The Government runs libraries for me. I can't afford many books and don't own many, but my Government gives me a place to find them.

The Government builds roads and bridges--I'd never get across a stream, much less the East River or the Hudson or the CT river if I had to figure out how to do that on my own.

In a few months I'll begin getting checks from Social Security at 63. OK, the government did try to convince me to wait until I was 70, but I want my money back soon. Where would I get that money without the Government? I will also, in a few years, be eligible for Medicare. (I know I said I wouldn't say anything else about the Tea Party idiots, but I lied. What amazes me is that a lot of the people who hate socialism get Social Security and are on Medicare. Those are 'socialistic' programs without compare!!!)

The Government keeps me from taking untested drugs, eating tainted food, having to control the environment all by myself and having to maintain national parks on my days off.

The Guv-ment also gives me police protection and does a great job of catching bad guys as well as white-collar bad guys. I couldn't do that for myself.

State Universities, by the way, are Guv-ment programs. I went to one along with lots of other people. I'm glad I didn't have to invent, build and fund a University just for me.....

I don't know a person who would say, with a straight face, "I LOVE my health insurance company". Most people I know hate their insurance company and feel over charged and under served. And many of those people get all crazy if someone suggests the Guv-ment is going to control their health care. The government ALREADY controls health care in a myriad of ways. What makes people think the government wouldn't do at least as 'awful' job as the private insurance companies (limited by 'guv-ment' already) that they hate? And those millions of people (is it 32 million, something like that?) who have no health care in the richest country the world has ever had...I don't hear them complaining about 'guv-ment' interference in their health care. In fact, they'd appreciate that and be healthier for it.

My neighbor told me that 'development' in Cheshire is pretty well done because of wet-land laws and other regulations. Hey, the 'guv-ment' did that and it is a good, by God, thing....

Every time I take the train to NYC to see Mimi or to Baltimore to see Josh/Cathy/the 3 girls, I need to thank the 'guv-ment' for subsidizing my journey. And every time I get on an airplane, trusting I am safe, I need to thank the government for that. Just like I know that baby aspirin I take at night and the toothpaste I use and the water I drink from my tap is safe--I couldn't do that for myself...the 'guv-ment' does that for me. God bless them.

I would gladly pay more taxes to have more Government assistance in the things I need and have to have for my connivance and safety. If there were no 'guv-ment', which many people seem to be suggesting their shouldn't be, it would be chaos, a nightmare, nature writ in tooth and claw.

I AM a Democrat--a 'yellow dog' one....I'd vote for a 'yellow dog' if it was on the Democratic line rather than Mother Teresa as a Republican.

AND, I am a socialist.

I became a socialist who loves and trusts the government with parents who were committed Republicans, by studying Civics.

I'd pay more taxes gladly to get Civics back into the public school curriculum.

This is my manifesto--everyone should have one....Ponder that, and write your own....

How can I say goodbye?

I dropped by the church this afternoon--Friday--though it is my day off...just to check in and say hi and be there. Just that.

I am confounded, befuddled, confused and bewildered by how I can possibly 'say good-bye' to this place and these people who have been a part of my life for so long, so fully and have healed me and made me whole in so many ways....

I'm down to 42 days and 6 Sundays and I'm terrified, frustrated, almost crazy with proleptic grief.

It has finally 'hit me' that this is for real--this isn't just another one of my schemes or ideas or plans. This is going to happen.

Maybe I'll drive down on Friday afternoon and sit in the parking lot of St. John's for a few months.

Maybe I'll just go crazy.

All will be well, I know that from the depths of my being.

Right now, I can't imagine that or deal with it.

How can I ever say 'good bye'?

one of those things to ponder....

So, I called a friend who is as big a WVU basketball fan as I am. ("Danger/danger" if you don't care about basketball skip to the last couple of paragraphs for this will be tedious for a while.)

Dashawn Butler is a basketball player for WVU. He is a wondrous athlete and a extremely good basketball player. In fact, in the over 100 years of WVU basketball, only 2 players have scored more points than him--Jerry West (the icon of West Virginia and the player who is depicted on the NBA logo) and Hot Rod Huntley, who not only played as a pro but was the only white man ever to be a team member of the Harlem Globetrotters! He was a 'hot rod' and became a well known basketball 'color' commentator. Jerry West (called 'Zeak from Cabin Creek" played basketball in high school for East Bank High School. After he led them to the state championship two years in a row, they renamed the town "West Bank" for a while.) I grew up trying to do the tricks Hot Rod did or be the cool customer Jerry West was. When Dashawn was asked about being third in scoring to the two of them, he said (historically accurately) "Both of them did it in 3 years in many fewer games. I'm just a guy who got to play a lot more. They are great, I'm lucky."

Quite a statement for a basketball star in 2010. After WVU won the Big East Tournament on a last second shot by Dashawn, his coach, Bob Huggins, told the interviewer that Dashawn is the most 'complete' player he's ever coached (this is a guy who has won more games as a college coach than any active coaches besides the coaches of Duke, Sryacuse and UConn) "but," he continued, a little teary--not like Bob at all!--"he is a much better person than he is a basketball player...."

I just get misty writing this stuff. Dashawn is all that an more. A genuinely wonderful young man of 22 or so.

I've been worried that he might not play pro ball--not that it would ruin his life--but I hoped it for him. But I knew he reminded me of someone who had a long and productive professional career, but I couldn't remembe who.

Then I did: it was Michael Cooper, a 6'7 guard for the LA Lakers (my favorite pro team since Jerry West played for them and was their general manager for years....). Like Michael Cooper, Dashawn is a 6'7 guard who plays tenacious defense, rebounds, can shoot a 3 or drive the lane, is quicker than he is fast and, by pro standards, is quite thin. When I remembered that Dashawn was like Michael Cooper, I called my friend to tell him.

(OK, here's where non-basketball folks can come back....)

My friend answered the phone and I said, "Michael Cooper. That's who Dashawn is like. He CAN play pro ball...."

After a pause, my friend said, "do you know I almost broke my neck trying to get to the phone and all you have to say is 'Michael Cooper'?"

Well, that was pretty much the end of that. But here's what I've pondered since:
*all I did was make a phone call
*what I had to say, I thought, would be interesting to my friend here in the midst of March Madness--WVU won by 29 in the first round, by the way....
*I never told him he needed to almost break his neck to get to the phone--he has an answering service, let it pick up for goodness sake!

What I've pondered under my castor oil tree is this: how many times, in much more serious situations, do I blame others for my inconvenience, annoyance, near mishaps, etc., etc.....?

A lot I believe....and all they were trying to do was to be helpful or tell me something they thought I'd want to here or simply be a part of my life. And I blame them for my misery.

I should make a list and go apologize for all the times I can remember that I blamed someone else for my discomfort, confusion, pain, bad day.....

That might be worth pondering.....

Thursday, March 18, 2010

What I won't miss....

I spent a couple of hours today out on the back steps and in the church trying to think of what I won't miss when I leave St. John's.

I came up with almost nothing.

I think I won't miss messing with the diocese and bishops so much--but that's just me and my resentment of authority.

I think I won't miss the stuff about taking care of the buildings--but I don't do that anyway, other people handle that stuff.

I think I won't miss the requests I get to do something or the other because I'm Rector of the big down-town church. But since I ignore most of that anyway, how can I 'not miss it' too much?

Truth is there is nothing much I 'won't miss' about being Rector of St. John's. Almost everything about being Rector of St. John's is stuff I will miss and miss desperately.

So, 'poor me', I guess. I am going to miss all this...all damn much....

If you ever think "you know"--stop it...

You never know. That's my mantra and one that serves me well as the Rector of a remarkably diverse, outreach driven urban parish. You just never know.

A local choral group is singing as a benefit for the Soup Kitchen/Food Closet housed at St. John's. The director of the Soup Kitchen was inviting volunteers to consider coming and one of them, a woman who is probably late 40's early 50's (I hope I'm not too far off) who is a nursing student and volunteers several days a week told the director she's be glad to come and sing.

Barbara had to explain it was a concert that had singers but the woman did a little bit of a spiritual hymn for her so Barbara came to find me. It turns out this woman once was a vocalist for Count Basie's band. She did the first verse of "Swing Low" out in the hall of the church office and it made the hair stand up on the back of my neck.

"What do you do on Sunday morning?" I asked her.

"I go to church," she told me.

"How about coming here?" I responded.

I hadn't known she was working on a nursing degree and I certainly had no idea she could sing like an angel.

Most of the people I run into around here have something that shocks and surprises and delights me to share--and I never imagine that.

You just never know what's all around you, especially in a place like this....

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

there is a God...

At the 8 am eucharist last sunday, the day of beginning daylight savings time ("Spring forward, Fall back" I had to tell myself a dozen times or more before changing my alarm clock) I was very tired. I'd stayed up until 12:15 a.m. or so watching West Virginia University defeat Georgetown University for the Big East title (Go Mountaineers!!!) When I started to bed I realized it wasn't under 'spring forward' rules 12:15 a.m. at all--it was 1:15 a.m.

(Actually, according to the way we do it, you are supposed to wake up at 2 am and move your clock ahead to 3 am since that is 'really' when DST starts. Does anyone in the universe do that? I think not.)

So, I went to bed at what passed as 1:15 (time being relative, after all) and got up at 6:25. I normally sleep at least 8 hours and more often 9 hours. I love to sleep, perchance to dream, and I do have lots and lots of dreams--many of which these days are 'anxiety' dreams since my life is going to change so radically in a month and a half. But, never mind, I love to sleep. I went through decades of not sleeping well and now I do. I can sometimes, on a Friday, not wake up until 10 am or so. God bless me.

So 5 hours of sleep is not enough, not enough, Great God Almighty, not enough. I was a mess at the 8 am service and just as I was breaking the bread I realized I had to go to the bathroom in the worst way. (Harriet told me never to share this, but I must because I have so few boundaries....)

So I told Fred to distribute the bread and then do the laying on of hands and Bob would do the wine and I'd be back as quickly as possible.

I rushed to the little bathroom off the vesting room, trying to free myself from robes and chasubles and all the accoutrement's of priesthood before I soiled myself.

And that was when I was given a 'proof' of the existence of God....A voice said to me, "TURN OFF YOUR MICROPHONE", and I did, sparing the folks receiving the sacrament from the sounds of my relieving myself of all my burdens.

God, I believe, told me to do that.

So, there is a God, in case you were wondering....God bless God.....

Thursday, March 11, 2010

church like it isn't most places

A couple of Tuesdays ago, St. John's shopping cart lady, who has been semi-adopted and mostly tamed by a couple in the church, happened in to our clericus Eucharist in the chapel. She called my "Jimmy Baby" and gave me a pineapple hard candy.

I told her we were having church and she could stay if she wanted. She did and did most of the responses of the people. We pass the elements at that small service, so I passed the plate with wafers to her, said, 'The Body of Christ" and told her to pass it on to David. Well, instead, she decided to carry the paten around the room. When she got to one priest, not used to such on the spot liturgical innovation, she said "Go on, Take one...."

I've decided the next revision of the Eucharist should change the words of distribution to:
Priest: "Go on, take one...."
Communicate: "Thank you, I will...."

Church like this happens at St. John's all the time. I'm not sure it happens in 99.5% of other Episcopal Churches. I wish it did, but I doubt it, woe be unto the church at large....

Go on, take one...taste and see how sweet the Lord can be....

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Looking at the Close

"Close" is one of those over fancy Episcopal words for which there are much more simple and understandable words. The "Close" is the 'yard' or 'courtyard' of the church. It is an expansive area en'closed' by a fence and the buildings--hence the term 'close' from 'enclosure'.

Hundreds and hundreds of people walk across it daily, so it is not pristine. There is a labyrinth we build 5 years ago or so which is assaulted by crab grass each year. There is a walk way around it that is quite old and though beautiful, it is made up of large slates that are not conducive to wheelchairs or, really, walking without tripping. And the drainage is terrible in the Close so there are water puddles when it rains that are really lovely, with concentric circles colliding and disappearing from the drops of rain. So, there are charming parts to the Close--not the least of which are the creatures I watch there.

Lots of squirrels, crows, pigeons, starlings, other birds and the occasional seagull some 15 miles, as the gull flies, to the sea. I enjoy watching them do whatever such creatures do. Do you ever, like me, wish you could be inside an animal for a short time--like how long it takes a squirrel run across the Close or a crow soaring up and away from a tree in the Close?

Not for long, of course. I don't want to be my dog or cat or parakeets for long either--but just a few moments.

I haven't seen the urban hawk that visits the Close for quite a while. I hope nothing happened to him 0ver the winter. He could land in a tree and clear the dozen squirrels, flock of crows, 25 other birds out of the area in about 35 seconds.

I'd like to be inside a hawk for more than a few moments, 'cept I might loose myself and just stay, scattering the lesser beings, high in a tree, ruling the roost and the ground, really soaring, with such inexplicable eyesight and such power....I might want to be a hawk for a long time....

Monday, March 8, 2010

"I know I told you this...but...."

An old friend who used to go to the parish I served in New Haven some 25 years ago showed up at the Eucharist on Sunday and after the service said "I remember what you said about 'the burning bush'...."

I was horrified! I'd said the same thing I'd said a quarter century ago about a passage from Exodus!!! Good grief, is there nothing new under the sun?

Truth is, I never look back at old sermons and since we're on a 3 year cycle of readings, most every reading has shown up for me 10 times by now. So, after I got over the shock of repeating myself, I realized there is a finite number of things to say about biblical passages, unless you are really crazy and start making things up.

So, maybe my friend just remembered me mentioning the 'burning bush'--and why wouldn't I mention it since it was in the readings--or else I said it before, what I said yesterday. Who knows?

My wife is always telling me I told her something before already. About 2/3 of the time I suppose I acknowledge she is right. But 1/3 of the time, I know I haven't. KNOW IT, know what I mean? But maybe she's right and I am like a stuck record or an audio tape on an endless loop. Who knows?

The Truth, as I see it, is this--there aren't an infinite number of things to say in sermons about most everything about the tradition and scripture and message of the Christian Faith. There just aren't.

A friend of mine, when he retired, was asked what he had preached about most. "Hope", he said. For me it would be "Love", but Hope would be in there, along with Listening and Imagining and Caring and taking a Journey and something about Strangers.

A dear friend says that there are really only two plots to all of literature (I've probably told you this before...why not?) and those two plots are these:
*a Stranger comes to Town; and
*Someone leaves on a Journey.

She's not too far from wrong.

So, if my friend remembers a sermon 25 years ago about The Burning Bush, I should thank God that she remembers. It is the images and metaphors and symbols of faith that give the meat to the bone, the fruit to the tree, the context to life, the ways of seeing what we should be seeing through the fog of living.

So, I repeat myself. Repetition might be the way to learn and remember the richness and wonder of God's sacred story. Just maybe. At least something to ponder....

Did I tell you about the bush that burned and spoke to Moses lately? Here's how that story goes and what it means to us......

Sunday, March 7, 2010

all the porn that fits, we print

Did you ever watch a porn movie? Be honest don't have to tell me but admit it to yourselves.

I've often been in hotels by myself at conferences and such and when you turn on the TV one of the options is "Adult Films"--well, we all know that doesn't mean something so intellectual only college graduates would be interested in it. It means body parts and lots of them, in close-up with no plot to slow things down.

And porn is, if nothing else, 'soulless', brutal instead of romantic. The most lovely and erotic scenes I've ever seen on film usually have both people involved fully clothed. The 'old hollywood' practice of going to black when Doris Day and her co-star were kissing and moving toward the bed was much more romantic and erotic than modern films and in a different universe than porn.

I'm not as big an expert on porn as I might seem, at this point--but I have spent a LOT of nights in hotels alone....

Here's what I'm writing about: the back page of the NEW YORK TIMES Book Review this week has a full page ad for porn. It is framed very nicely as a way for people of all ages to improve their sex life with their life companion. It is presented as "demonstrating' sexual technique that might spice up your relationship. And the photo, which takes up a third of the page, is of a couple you would not quite imagine as the stars of porn movies. But they are both attractive, if a little older than you would expect, and their pose is suggestive enough.

Here's part of the text: "You'll see explicit demonstrations of imaginative sensual foeplay and positions to try...experimenting with 'forbidden' fun...secrets of the Karma Sutra...."

I don't know about you, but the "erotic fantasy" mentioned later in the ad, sounds a lot to me like dressing up as a French Maid or a nurse in half-unbuttoned uniform or a cheerleader...something like that.

I am not a prude--God knows (and so do you) I'm not a prude. And I don't think there should be any limits on porn when the actors are of age and consenting. I don't even think badly of people who like to watch pornography....(you spend a lot of nights alone in hotel rooms and see....).

My problem is that this ad is on the back of the NEW YORK TIMES Book Review! Great God Almighty, is there not a shred of journalistic standards left? The Gray Lady with an ad for the two bonus DVDs called "Oral Loving" and "Art of Sexual Positions". When is enough enough?

And the Book Review section....that's the unkindest cut of all. Is nothing sacred?

(By the way, once your outrage is over, you can get all 6 DVD for only $29.90 plus six dollars shipping and 'handling'....get it....handling?)

Hey, it's your life--but I am disappointed in the New York Times. A little....

Thursday, March 4, 2010

the internet sucks

OK, I am a troglodyte when it comes to computers. And just in the last few days I've realized two things: 1. my email privileges should be suspended indefinitely and 2. that wouldn't be a bad thing.

I have a soon to be new bishop. I've known him for years and asked him to come spend the better part of day with me so I could show him St. John's and enroll him in putting in his 2 cents worth about the future of the parish after I leave. That won't be a hard sell. There are few parishes anywhere that have such a rich, diverse and visionary ministry. I wanted him to visit our clericus group (where I get much inspiration) see the Soup Kitchen and other ministries in action, attend a staff that.

Then I got an email from his secretary that said, simply, "We've had to change I.'s schedule, would -----" (another date) "work for you....?"

I replied it would be 'fine' if that's what my soon to be bishop wanted, I'd make it work. Then I decided to be funny, whimsical, facetious and a tad ironic. I forgot what I've been told dozens of times, such things do not work in email--they require face-to-face or at least a phone to give the nuance and tone of voice that lets people know you're just fooling around.

Any way, I went on for a while about "we" and was that the royal we or the papal we or simply someone with a tapeworm.....I advised my bishop to be not to let 'we' take over his schedule and told him he was beginning to slip into that nether-world where wondrous priests go when they become bishops....Stuff, like that, you get the drift....

When I turned on my phone the next day I already had a message from my bishop to be, plus a message at the church and an email--which I didn't read until the afternoon. I apologized to his secretary and to his 'soon to be Grace' and tried to straighten it out as best I could.

Don't try to be funny in an email, or mocking, or sardonic or even chiding. Email does not convey such subtleties.

I really have to behave myself better in email.

And then there is AOL. I kept getting emails from my provider, the way I get onto the web because it was the way I began the first time I had a computer and I've never changed because 'better the devil you actually know' and like that.

The emails were threatening to cancel my service and consign me to what could only be virtual purgatory for all time. Only pay $4.95 a month for the service and couldn't figure out how my account could be so in arrears that they were going to excise me from the Internet. But every time I clicked on the link they gave me in the email to settle things and make them right, I got a warning straight out of Homeland Security--OPEN THIS IF YOU WANT TO CAUSE THE END OF THE WORLD...something like that.

So, after 25 minutes trying to find a real person by calling AOL, I finally spoke to a young woman in New Delhi or someone where who told me someone had sent those emails to lots of AOL folks and AOL nerds had figured out how to add the warning but not how to stop the emails and had I ignored the Armageddon like warning, I would have handed over my credit card #, my SS number, my bank account #, the name of my pet and my mother's maiden name to someone--NOT AOL--who would have wrecked havoc on my life.

When I asked her why AOL had not sent me an email telling me of this dire threat, she said "AOL will never send you an email. We use pop ups." When I asked why they didn't drop me a card or give me a call she told me "AOL doesn't use that form of there are millions of AOL customers getting these false emails...."

So I asked her how the weather was in Bombay and hung up. She was so nice a friendly and Indian-sub-continent like I even told her my one Indian-sub-continent joke--the one about what someone from the I-s-c does when he cannot get his car radio to work...."Bang-le-dash".

She didn't laugh but tried to sell me some new service from AOL that, as far as I could tell, had nothing to do from protecting me from AOL emails that aren't really AOL emails....Like that....

So, all in all--between alienating my soon to be bishop and his secretary and almost forfeiting my net worth to someone that seemed to be AOL--I've decided the internet sucks....Just me talkin', you can ponder it all....

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A mess to clean up....

Ok, so apparently I didn't post the 'post' I intended to yesterday. I thought I had, but I must have left it undone and left on the computer I was using. It was a mess, in a way.

Never mind, that post was too self-righteous by half.

Mrs. J came to noon prayers yesterday and participated in a great way. I knew her accent was southern and thought it would be central NC. Today she came back and read again and I asked her and she is from Gatesville, NC, near Raleigh.

But on Monday, her great grandson came in and yelled at her in the middle of our noon prayers about where she had parked. (Now, she had parked in a bad place and her great-grandson got grief because he was around the car...but, even that and much more is no reason to yell at your great-grandmother.) So, what I wrote yesterday was about the damage I wished to do to her great-grandson and how awful he was. I told him to sit down and pray or leave...and, with a shake of his head, he left.

With a 24 hour period to 'ponder' all that, I realize it isn't about Mrs. J and her GGson, it's about me and how many times and in how many ways I never respected my elders.

Maybe it's just me, but, if not, I would invite you to ponder how often you have shown disrespect, impatience and anger toward one of your ancestors.

If you can't find any--I'm finding a lot!--God bless you.

But if you do, reflect on that--those times you were not respectful to your elders--and ponder what it might mean.

Just a thought.

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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.