Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Into the eye of the storm

Last year we left the beach on Oak Island a day early since a hurricane was coming. It chased us up I-95 for hundreds of miles.

This year, It looks like we'll be driving through Earl (what a dumb name for a hurricane--of course, naming hurricanes is dumb in and of itself) to get there.

You really can't mess with Mother Nature, you know....

more than you want to know...really....

Someone emailed and asked why I've been neglecting my web.

The truth is, the last week has been a blur of pain, discomfort and narcotic relief.

The faint of heart should stop reading now!!!

Last Wed, unbeknownst to me, the urinary tract infection I didn't know I had blocked my (how to put this politely?) well...urinary tract.

Bern took me to the hospital where they discovered the infection and put in a Foley tube to relieve me. The tube didn't work and by the time we drove back home I told Bern I needed to go back.

It was on the second visit that I heard six of the most terrifying words I've ever heard: "You need a larger tube...." After misadventures galore, it was finally in place and we came home about 2 am.

By 5:30 I called an ambulance. I wasn't coming home this time until they fixed it. After about 35 minutes of savagery, they finally gave me an IV and a shot of some of the nicest stuff I've ever met and decided to wait for the urologist on call.

I got another IV hit of that wonderful stuff (I'm glad I don't remember what it was since I would probably be tempted to steal some) before the urologist arrived. He looked for all the world like Kurt Vonnegut and put in a tube with three separate openings in the end with a simple twist. I told him he was good at it and he said, "I do this for a living, afterall."

He sent me to the floor and they hung two bags about 3 liters each above my bed and started them running inwards to where liquid usually doesn't come from in that direction. So the rest of Thursday and Thursday night I absorbed enough saline to flood the lowlands and got several pills that we're as good as the injected stuff but good enough. The nurses on the floor were amazing--Florence Nightengales on each shift--but the urologist who came to check me out Friday afternoon (Kurt Vonnegut having left for the weekend) decided not to remove the tubes until after the weekend to give the antibiotics time to do their wonders.

I tried to protest but all he had to say is, "If I take it out now and you don't do well you have to come back through the ER."

Come Monday the infernal internal plumbing was removed and after nearly blacking out the first time two times I did what the tube had been doing, it settled down a bit. They had given me Oxycontin to take home. (I call it "hillbilly heroine" since people in Appalachia crush their grandmother's prescription up and inject it--a real problem in the mountains.)

All was almost well.

(I once visited a sometimes member of the parish in the hospital after surgery and asked when he could go home. "As soon as Mr. Poopy comes" he told me.

An elderly, distinguished man, waiting for 'Mr. Poopy". Which I had to do until today....)

Well, I warned you to stop but there you have it--why I haven't been writing on my blog....Just in case you wondered....

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Here's something I've noticed this week--any time I start to take the dog out, it starts raining, sometimes violently. So, I've been thinking, maybe I could hire myself out in drought plagued places and Bela and I could make it rain. I told Bern, thinking it was a good idea.

Bern told me it was ready to rain almost at any moment this week and the dog and I had nothing to do with it.

Another idea was to get advertisers to hire me to tell them if their commercials were a. lame,
b. misleading or c. trying to sell something people don't really need.

I shared this idea with Bern but she allowed that advertisers are, in no particular order, a. trying to distract you with something lame b. misleading or c. sell you something you don't really need.

So two ideas for my next career bottomed out in the same day.

There's always tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

That old unfamiliar feeling

Yesterday I went to the Open House at UConn/Wby for the Osher Lifetime Learning Institute (OLLI). The place was packed and the joint was jumping. The director of the program said that this year the number of students at OLLI might surpass the number of regular students at the branch. I'm teaching a 4 session class in Oct. on the Gospel of Mary of Magdala. The told me the class was closed---fully enrolled and asked if I would allow 5 more. I did and then asked for 2 more spaces for two friends who had been too late.

During the day walking around, listening to a fascinating physics lecture, talking with people, explaining what we'd be doing in the class, I got that old 'unfamiliar' feeling that receded deep inside me decades ago. I got in touch with what was my goal and passion in my 20's--to teach. I was going to go to either the U. of Virginia and get a Ph.D. in American Literature or go to Iowa's writers' workshop after my BA. Either way I would have gone I would have ended up spending my life in college classrooms. That was what I wanted to do with all my heart...

But there were two problems: one was a war in SE Asia and my draft # was something like 14! and I had applied, just to get my two favorite professors off my back about it, for a Rockefeller Foundation grant for a Trial Year in Seminary. I kept telling the people from the Foundation that I didn't want to go to seminary and they keep smiling and saying, that makes you perfect! They annoyed me so much I accepted it when offered--one year at Harvard (I didn't even apply--Rockefeller $ opened many doors...) and then back to my game plan...back to teaching young minds for the rest of my life, trying to ignite them with the love of words.

The second day I was in Cambridge, I got drafted. The letter really begins, "Greetings". After a lot of time on the phone with my college chaplain and then the Bishop of WV, I was a 'postulant for holy orders' and my draft notice was rescinded. Those were the days when Episcopal bishops could boss draft boards around! If I had gone to UVA or Iowa I would have been in the Army or in Canada. So, I took it as a sign that I should give theology a whirl. And several years later I was visited by an Archangel and became ordained. The rest is what my life has been.

But yesterday the smell of chalk--actually I didn't see any chalk--white boards and markers and big screens around the room have done away with black boards--so, it was walking around that building, seeing those classrooms and those active, older minds longing to be ignited that made me nostalgic for the boy I was at 21. "Professor Bradley", I thought it would be, not "Father Bradley". I don't regret in any way the direction I went...but it was exciting and inspiring to rediscover that old unfamiliar feeling. "Gladly would I learn and gladly teach...."

Sunday, August 15, 2010

on the road

I'm hard pressed not to think the economy is doing better than is reported after driving to Baltimore on Friday and back on Sunday. There was scarcely anywhere to park in any of the stops on the New Jersey Turnpike, Delaware Turnpike and I-95 in Maryland. Every time we stopped--and we stopped more than usual because I have been hydrating so much that I have to plan ahead for rest stops. 3 times down, 4 times back--7 different stops and the same mobs at all of them. Long lines for Starbucks and in some cases, the women's bathroom. People buying $3 bottles of water like water was going to disappear somewhere in New Jersey. The traffic wasn't terrible but the traffic reports were. On the way down Radio 880 kept saying the GW bridge was a minimal wait. We spent an hour getting across the Bronx and Manhattan. On the way back there was supposedly a 40 minute wait on the upper level and we took less than 10 minutes. Go figure.

The Delaware River Bridge has a message board above the 4 or 5 lanes in both directions that says--has said every time I crossed it--"IN CRISIS...CALL..and then a #". Bern thinks its for people who have anxiety about crossing bridges (since she does) and I thought it was to convince people not to pull their car over and jump (though I don't really think about jumping off high places...well, I do....). Most likely it is for people in these edgy time who are having trouble getting through the day, but making a cell phone call on the Delaware River Bridge seems risky at best.

It's truly amazing to me that there aren't 3 or 4 pileups every 50 miles on I 95. thousands of people, in heavy traffic, going 80+. Don't tell me human beings don't have really good fine motor skills. And a lot of luck.

We visited Josh and Cathy--well, actually Cathy and the girls (our 3 granddaughters) because Josh was in Peurto Rico for a bachelor's party. Then, in a couple of weeks, all 5 of them are flying to Germany for 4 days for a wedding. These wedding rituals are out of hand, it seems to me. My best man, Dan Kiger and my father had a couple of beers sitting at my parents' kitchen table the night before my wedding. And the reception had cake and punch--and liquor for Bern's family and a few of mine in the basement of the Gary Country Club. That was it. And that was 21 days short of 40 years ago. Bern and I started dating when I was a Senior and she was a Freshman in High School. We've known each other for 45 years. I'm not sure what the strain of a 3 day bachelor's party on an island or a wedding in a European Union country would have done.

It reminds me of Roger Rose, who I saw at a 10 year high school reunion. He said, "those were the best years of our lives, weren't they?" I replied, "Lord, I hope not!"

I noticed over the years the expanding tendency of 'front loading' the wedding process to such an extent that many people get divorced still owing money on the reception.

Lord, I'm becoming my father, complaining about how things have changed....

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Archangel Mariah

(Since I can't figure out how the copy a document to my blog, I decided to type in a chapter of what I'm working on about the church and being a parish priest.)

The questions that drives people in seminary crazy is this: "Why do you want to be a priest?"

There are several reasons that question so bedevils those studying for holy orders. First of all, everyone and their cousin has asked you that ever since the first moment you imagined it might be a possibility--you being a priest and all. Parish priests, parish discernment committees, bishops, commissions on ministry, standing committees, admission committees, seminary professors, strangers you meet at cocktail parties--there is no end to the people wanting to know why you want to be a priest.

A second reason is that a call to be a priest is primarily that: a Call from God to you. It's a deeply personal and profoundly important event or series of events. There is, even in his era of 'tell all', some needs for privacy. If what God has to say to you in your heart of hearts isn't one of those things you have a right to keep to yourself, then what is?

But finally, the most prominent reason nobody in seminary wants to answer that question is that, on the deepest level, you don't have a clue! For most of the priests I know--not all, certainly, but most--the 'call to priesthood' was as complex as a jet engine. There are lots of parts to it, most of which can't be extricated or distinguished from the parts right next to them or at the other end of the whole contraption. I doubt that there are many people who can explain all the intricacies of a jet engine. The same is true, it seems to me, about a call to ordination.

I once witnessed one of my seminary classmates lose it when asked the question. We were at some reception or another at Virginia Seminary and a well-meaning, sincere woman was talking with him and asked, "Why do you want to be a priest?"

He took a gulp of sherry and said: "One night I was sleeping naked with my window open during a thunderstorm. (Being southern he said 'necked' instead of 'naked') "And lightening came in my window, struck me on the genitals and didn't kill me....It was either become a priest or move to Tibet."

I swear this really happened.

Once the woman recovered from apoplexy, she said, in a gentle Tidewater accent, "I imagine that doesn't happen often."

"Only once to me," my friend said, looking around for more sherry.

Another friend, Scott, when he was a seminarian at Yale working with me at St. Paul's, New Haven, told me he was about to lose this mind with the Standing Committee of the Diocese of West Virginia.

"No matter how many times I try to tell them," he said, "or how many different ways...they still ask me why I want to be a priest."

"Why don't you tell them you want to be magic ?" I asked.

Scott laughed. "Are you crazy?" he said.

"Who knows," I told him, "it might shut them up."

After I preached at his ordination, Scott gave e a wondrous pen and ink sketch he'd based on 'being magic'. It's on a shelf in this little office where I'm writing. I still love it, two decades later.

I don't have to resort to tales of lightening storms or to the very clever longing to be magic. I know why I decided to be a priest. The sky didn't open up. I didn't hear God's voice speaking to me out loud and in English. It was simpler and yet more marvelous than any of that.

I was visited by the Archangel Mariah.
Mariah was the only member of St. Gabrial's Mission, the campus ministry at West Virginia University back in the 60's and 70's, who was older than 35, besides our priest Snork Roberts. Mariah was 82.

St. Gabrial's had a ministry of hosting international students in the basement of Trinity Church on Friday nights for games and food and companionship. Mariah was the source of that ministry. That's one reason she came to St. Gabe's. The other reason is she wanted to be with young people. She couldn't stand stuffiness in any guise. The three-piece suits and women in hats at Trinity's services were to much for her. She preferred the company of college students and week-end hippies.

I strain to remember her over more than 35 years of memories. She was a tiny woman--no more than 5'2" and most likely weighed about 90 pounds fully-clothed and soaking wet. She had wild gray hair that she wore tied back as best she could. And there was her face: her eyes were an indescribable color--green, blue, gray in different lights--and practically lost in the most remarkable set of smile wrinkles I've ever seen. Mariah smiled and laughed so much that she tended to look a tad Asian--there were slits for her eyes to shine through. She had all her own teeth and showed them off smiling and laughing. Her face, in spite of her age, was actually 'girlish', elfin, like the face of a loris or lemur--some exotic animal whose name begins with an 'l'.

Mariah's passion (what Joseph Campbell would have called her 'bliss') was the international students at WVU. Every Friday night you could find her in Trinity's undercroft playing cards and listening, playing backgammon and listening, playing some obscure board game and listening. Always playing. Always listening to the young people from faraway places with strange sounding names. WVU had a remarkable engineering program so their were hundreds of students from developing countries studying in the part of the middle of no where called Morgantown, West Virginia. One of the informal courses they all had to study was Culture Shock. In the late 1960's there were no ethnic enclaves in Morgantown, unless you considered Rednecks or Fraternity Brats ethnic groups. Those students from Africa, Asia, Central Europe and the Middle East had no contacts with their homelands besides each other. No internet back then and international calls were still ridiculously expensive. It wasn't like living in New York or DC. Morgantown was referred to by many of the students--many of whom, like me, were from the sticks to begin with--as 'MorganHole'.

At that time there wasn't much in Morgantown for anyone, much less people thousands of miles from home. And nobody much was interested in the well-being of those foreign students except Mariah. Mariah was interested in them with a vengence.

She welcomed them into Trinity's basement, into her home and into her vast, expansive heart. She got them to write home for recipes and tried to reproduce them as best she could from the local Kroger's selection of food and spices. She learned enough of each of their languages so she could greet each of them as they would be greeted at home. She matched them up with people at the University and in town--all of whom she seemed to know--who might have some faint connection or interest in Afghanistan or Bulgaria or Korea or where ever they were from. She was a one woman network of 'connections for those folks so far from home, those strangers in a strange land. t

There was something almost Biblical in her commitment to the strangers in our midst. She would welcome them all and do any and every thing possible to make them a little less anxious about finding themselves plunked down in such a place as Morgantown. Mariah was sometimes the victim of those she befriended. Being from a different culture and far from home doesn't make everyone trustworthy. If there is a lesson to be learned from working with any minority group--racial, cultural, economic, etc.--it is this: People, so far as I've been able to discern, are, in the end, 'just People'. We all share the same deep-down 'being of human beings'. The international students Mariah dedicated her energy to were no different than the outsiders and oddballs of the student body that Snork loved and cared for--some of them will rip you off big time!

The Lord only knows how much money Mariah parceled out to foreign students. And surely only the Lord knows how much of that money could have just as well been tossed off the bridge that crossed Cheat Lake outside of town. But she never fretted about it. That what she told me when I spoke to her after seeing $100 or so pass from her hand to the hand of a Nigerian I knew loved to gamble.

"Never mind," Mariah told me, "I'll just let God sort it all out...."

At one level that is ultimate foolishness. On another, deeper level, it may just be one of the best ways possible to live a life. And that, above all, was what Mariah was good at--living a wonderful life.

After I finished my MTS from Harvard Divinity School, I worked as a Social Worker. Bern and I lived on the third floor of a house down a charming brick street in Morgantown. During our time there, the home base for St. Gabrial's Wednesday evening Eucharists was the attic of that house, accessible only from our apartment We would gather up there--20 or 30 of us--and celebrate the holy mysteries seated on the unpainted floor. When we passed the peace there was always the danger of getting a concussion from smacking your noggin on the exposed joints and beams. It was a dimly lit, uncomfortable space, but it served quite nicely as the upper room of St. Gabe's.

It was after one of those outrageously informal communions that Mariah, who I had already determined was a saint (St. Mariah of the Nations) revealed herself as an Archangel, at least. After Mass--if I can dream of calling our attic worship that--we would all retreat down the stairs to the apartment where Bern and I lived. There was lots of food. People brought cookies and brownies (often with a special ingredient) cheese and bread, fruit both fresh and dried, nuts and seeds and we'd have some feasting. Plus there was always a lot of wine. Some of the St. Gabe's regulars would go down to the front porch to smoke a joint--not normal, I suppose, for most Episcopal coffee hours.

I was in the kitchen with Mariah. She'd managed to get me there alone by some miracle since people tended to clump around her wherever she was. There was something about how well she tended to listen to whatever nonsense you had to say that made her a people magnet. But we were alone in the kitchen when she said to me, balancing her wine glass and a handful of cheese with remarkable grace for somewhere her age, "When are you going back to seminary and getting ordained?"

I was three glasses of wine and a trip to the porch past whatever state of sober grace the Body and Blood of Christ had provided me up in the attic. I was then, as I am to some extent today, a 'smart ass'. Ironic and Sardonic were my two middle names in those days. I can still be depended upon to lower or deflate whatever serious conversation I come upon. "Nothing serious or sacred' has been my motto most of my life. I never realized how annoying that can be until my son demonstrated, in his teen years, a genetic predisposition to that same world view.

So, in my cups, you might say, I replied in a typical smart-ass way.

"My dear Mariah," I said, "I'll go back to seminary and get ordained when I get a personal message from God Almighty."

She smiled that smile that made her eyes almost disappear and, after a healthy drink of what I assure you was bad wine--we drank only that vintage in those days--said words that changed my life forever.

"Jim," she said, "who the hell do you think sent me and told me what to say?"

Never, before or after, did such a word as 'hell' pass through Mariah's sainted lips. She was never even mildly profane. I stared at her, suddenly as sober as a Morman or a Muslim--or both at the same time.

She finished her cheese, put her wine glass in the sink and embraced me. I held her like a fragile bird. She kissed my cheek and whispered in my ear, "Well, you've gotten your message...."

She left me alone in my kitchen with dry ice in my veins and some large mammal's paw clutching my heart. I found it hard to breathe. Two trips to the porch and a full juice glass of the Wild Turkey I kept hidden under the sink on Wednesday nights changed nothing.

I called the bishop the next morning. Only after I had an appointment scheduled with him could I tell Bern what had happened and breathe naturally again.
When Mariah died a few months later, I was one of her pallbearers. She was light as air for us to carry--three international students and three members of St. Gabe's. Archangels don't weigh much. The are mostly feathers and Spirit. She was buried from Trinity Church. Snork did the service and did her prould in his homily of thanksgiving for so rare a soul. I was registered for seminary by then. Bern was up in New York acting in an off Broadway show. We would meet up in Alexandria in September. Mariah's granddaughter, Clara, who was a member of St. Gabe's as well, embraced me at the reception following the funeral. It was in the basement of Trinity where Mariah had spent so many Friday nights. Many of the foreign students brought ethnic food. Clara told me Mariah asked about me on the day she died. She wanted to know if Clara knew anything about me and seminary. I'd left my admission letter with Snork and he showed it to Clara. I tried to call Mariah but she was too ill to speak on the phone, but Clara told her the news.

Clara told me Mariah smiled they eye disappearing smile when she heard. She smiled through great pain.

"You tell Jim I told him so," she said to Clara and Clara passed that on to me.

Her last words to me: "I told you so."

That works. That will do nicely.

(Ok, that took a long time. Can't anyone out there tell me how to copy a word document into a blog???)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

big world/small church

So I was at St. John's, Bristol, for the second Sunday--had conversations with two people who grew up at St. John's, Waterbury. One sang in the choir when Rev. Ayres was there. The other was married there, as were his parents and his son.

Before the service, I was in the entry way talking with people and Elizabeth Santora, who had been a member for several years at St. John's Waterbury but moved to Bristol came in.

She was astonished to see me. "Small world," she said, after we awkwardly hugged since she has a torn rotator cuff, her arm in a sling, needing surgery.

"No," I told her, "it's a Big world but a small church....

I'm really enjoying these sunday supply gigs. I'm booked through August--hope it isn't just summer but that I start getting calls for the fall. It's so different from being in a place I'd been in for over two decades, but kinda wonderful. Great people are Episcopalians, sweet, hospitable and dear. Too bad we can't make that known more widely because folks are dying to find that kind of community in this weird, techno/virtual age.

Two more 'proofs' for the existence of God that St. Thomas Aquinas left out:
*whenever the Yankees and Red Sox play

Friday, August 6, 2010

Crickets (2)

I was just out with the crickets again and now the crickets are inside my head instead of outside.

I've been pondering a metaphor that isn't quite finished but starts like this: things inside your head can interfere with things outside your head--that stuff we call 'reality'.

Like this: inside my head I think "Joe is a jerk". So when I encounter Joe out in what we call 'reality', he shows up to me like a jerk. It takes lots of evidence to the contrary to overcome the stuff inside my head even though Joe, out there, might be a kind, gentle, sweet soul.

In the workshop I lead we call the stuff inside your head "listenings". It does damage to the way we normally use the word 'listening', but the workshop is designed to play havoc with your assumptions. We say "listening isn't something you DO, it's something you ARE." We talk about the already, always listenings that we are. We don't condemn our listenings that we are--in fact, we are quite neutral about them and don't even care "where" you got a "listening" about young black men or strong, aggressive women or gay people or old people or people who don't seem as smart as you are. It doesn't matter to me as a leader of the Making A Difference workshop where you 'listenings' come from. You might find that interesting to inquire about, but I don't care. All I want you to do is 'notice' your 'listenings' and how they may be limiting the possibilities you have in what you do and who you can be. I don't think you can ever get rid of them but there is this: if you notice them, "you HAVE them". If you don't notice them "your listenings HAVE you." The difference between those two states of being is remarkable.

We tend to think of ourselves as some sort of 'recording device', taking in what is happening around us. I would contend that we are, instead, 'projection devices' and what we think of as "the reality OUT THERE" is what we have projected upon it in large measure. So, what happens 'outside our heads' is dominated and formed by what happens 'inside our head'. We need external 'crickets' so we can see the crickets in our heads are simply that--IN OUR HEADS--and not what's out there at all.

Is this making sense? I'm asking you to ponder that much of what you think you are 'observing' about life is what you are actually 'projecting' on life.

That request and that pondering can be a source of freedom and possibility if we can acknowledge and notice it.

Recognition is the beginning of ownership.

crickets (2)


I've taken to ending the day sitting out on the deck in the dark. Bern came out one night and asked me what I was doing. I honestly didn't know so I said, 'just sittin' (that's from an old poster I used to have that said, "Sometimes I sits and thinks and sometimes I just sits")

But I now know why I am drawn to the deck in the dark. It's the crickets. What I realize is that when I'm listening to the crickets they take away the ringing in my ears. It isn't actually 'ringing' that I have, it's crickets. I hear crickets in my head most of the time but when I h ear them outside my head the ones inside shut up.

Tinnitus is odd. When I'm really focused I am not aware of it until I listen.

Whenever they tuned the organ at st john's I'd go sit in the sanctuary though most people found the prolonged squeals and squeaks annoying. Those sounds too took my Tinnitus away.

So, if I could figure out how to have a sustained reed sound or a cricket always with me, I wouldn't hear the internal crickets any more.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

passing along information--OK?

So I was listening to a program about words that is on late at night on Sunday on National Public Radio. I love it, but it is on late and you really can't have that show as background noise...you have to listen.

They explained the phrase "O.K.'.

I was telling Bern about the explanation and told her, "you know how people say 'naught' to mean nothing?"

She told me I was the only person she knew who ever said "naught' to mean 'nothing'. I was rather proud of that--being unique and all. I do say 'naught' and will say it more often now.

Any how, back in the 18th century spoken English had an antonym to 'naught' (meaning nothing) that was 'aught' (meaning 'everything'). And a saying came into being to indicated 'everything is alright'. It was "aught correct". However (and here's the rub) spelling wasn't regularized at the time and legitimate and acceptable spellings of 'aught' and 'correct' were 'ought' and 'korrect'.

Get it? "Ought Korrect" become OK.

This is just a corrective (korrective?) to the spelling police. If there hadn't been some give and take about spelling the saying we would have to indicate that all was placid and fine would be "AC", which would cause no end of problems since people would be thinking you were talking about electrical current or air conditioning instead of everything being OK.

OK? or, if you prefer, AC?

Monday, August 2, 2010

the hysterical district

Five years ago, much against my better judgment, I voted to become part of the Historic District of Cheshire. Then I forgot about it, ignored all meetings of the neighbors, etc.

Sunday, Paul and Allison down the street had a meeting to discuss the problems. One of the neighbors who is unhappy with the whole thing actually works for the Town Council. What I didn't realize is that after the vote--the two churches in the district, 1st Cong and St. Peter's Epis voted no, having some idea of the mischief that could occur--the Town Council passed an ordinance establishing the district and appointing the people who had done the preparation and vote taking to the Commission. That group--some of which didn't live in the district--has simply perpetuated itself for the past 5 years. Now only one member lives in the district and she is the self appointed Historic Police.

The depths of the problems were outrageous to hear about. One guy, who built his own house just before the district (and it is geographic) has had to appear before the commission several times and his house is only 5 years old....People can't get approval to put in those double paned windows that save so much in heating and air conditioning costs unless they have them covered with plastic so they resemble single pane windows in the way they reflect light. First Cong added a porch to one of the houses it owns on the green and it was all approved. Six months later they wanted to add the same porch to another house--same design, builder, materials--and were turned down! It was a hysterical crowd and each story was more ridiculous than the next. Certain kinds of paint are forbidden and Peter, a home builder, said those forbidden were the highest quality. The Historical commission thinks those paints are too thick. Window air conditioners--much to my surprise--are forbidden though we have four!

I suggested we have a sit-down demonstration at the town council--back to the tactics of the 60's, I say. But after over an hour of moaning and complaints, the group decided to begin with a petition to repeal the ordinance establishing the district. Obviously, the people at the meeting were in favor of repeal, but each told of 'others' who would join the effort. This is the kind of thing you can get involved in if you are retired. A chance to stick it to The Man! I'm already thinking of making a placard. Maybe the Tea Party folks who demonstrate in front of Town Hall would join us since 'all government is bad government' in their minds.

On a different note: One of the Proofs of the Existence of God that St. Thomas Aquinas neglected--Hummingbirds....

Sunday, August 1, 2010

next time call me before you do the study....

Ok, tonight, while fixing dinner, I listened to an excited researcher on some medical show on Public Radio explain how his study had ascertained that people who got normal amounts of sleep were more able to perform their jobs than people who had been allowed to sleep only 3 hours a night.

Well, I'm stunned, I don't know about you.

It was like a study I heard about a few years ago that concluded that homeless people had more podiatry problems than the general population. Duh! My father, after 4 years of 'living outside" during WWII came home with a zillion more foot problems that I've ever had, since I've had almost none....

And gosh, isn't it a shocker to know that children who aren't read to and don't grow up with books test lower on reading tests than children who have bedtime books and grow up surrounded by books. Geez, what am I missing here?

Here is the open invitation to all funders of research to call me before paying someone to undertake a costly study to determine if people who take crack cocaine regularly are less likely to be on the Supreme Court than those who don't. I'll take half the grant and tell you what's so....

I'm a PBS junkie, but some of the reports I hear about what people spent money to prove--people who keep their weight down, eat well and exercise regularly live longer, for example--drive me to distraction.

Next time, just call me with you research questions....

sometimes the dog eats the couch....

I just read on line that the Jonas brothers visited the White House to sing.

My problem is, I have no idea who the Jonas brothers are. Life is passing me by and leaving me behind in the dust....

Years and years ago, before some of you were born, Bern and I lived in Morgantown WV on the 3rd floor of this great house on a brick street. We were on the 3rd floor and had the attic at our disposal. That's where St. Gabrial's Mission--a house church--met. About 30 people, all under 30 except for Snork, the priest and Mariah who was 82 and just liked young people better than the 3 piece suits and ladies in hats at Trinity Parish.

We met on Wed. nights, up in the attic. If your birthday fell in that week, Snork let you celebrate communion--no kidding. He did what he called the "manual acts" and told us it was fine. We had no idea how against the rules it was. Five of the undergraduates at St. Gabe's went on to be priests, if you can believe it. Snork letting us celebrate is what hooked us.

(I have the sneaking suspicion that I've written about that before--if so, chalk it up to my slipping mind.)

At any rate, the people on the bottom floor had a big black lab names Bysshe, after Percy B. Shelly. Everyone we knew were students and had secondhand furniture. One day Bysshe's owners came home and the dog had eaten the couch. They were just about to kill him when they noticed that underneath the upholstry was a piece of furniture that looked older than they thought. It was an antique and worth $4000. They kept bringing home secondhand furniture hoping Bysshe would do it again, but he never did.

What I was pondering is what if the way God works sometimes is like the dog eating the couch--like something that is initially a problem verging on a disaster 'unconceals' God in the moment.

Or when something that is so outside the lines, at first glance--like Snork letting people celebrate communion--turns out to give the church 5 very good, out-side-the-line coloring priests.

Stuff like that. I guess we can't replicate such events--Bysshe never ate another piece of furniture after all--and if I invited people up to try out celebrating I'd be defrocked by days end because someone would turn me in. (I bet only Mariah knew Snork was breaking about 14 hundred canons, but she wasn't squealing.)

They can't be replicated, but maybe we should keep our eyes wide open all the time in case some metaphorical dog starts eating the couch. Take a deep breath and look for God....

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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.