Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday

I sandwiched in the Good Friday Liturgy at St. Andrew's in Northford between picking up my two children at Union Station in New Haven.

Mimi came at 2 p.m., Good Friday was at 7 and I picked up Josh at 9:40 p.m. Cathy and the three extremely beautiful, astonishingly smart granddaughters and Sumi, the dog, came while I was away reading the Passion from John in Northford. Tim comes on the train tomorrow, then all will be well.

On the way from St. Andrew's to Union Station to get Josh, two frightening things happened.

First, four cars careening through traffic passed me on I 91 about 20 miles faster than my 75. I actually thought they were racing each other. I told Josh about it and he said he'd heard of such races. Frightening.

More frightening though, was the guy parked in front of me near Union Station who put money in the meter using his smart phone. People racing on a public road, I can understand. Using a Smart Phone instead of coins, I can't. I also noticed, as I inserted quarters, that the meters down there would accept a credit card.

Maybe I've lived too long, too many Good Fridays. Put credit cards and smart phones in parking meters just aren't in my reality.

The trips back to Cheshire with Mimi and then Josh reminded me how wondrous it is to have actual. grown up adults as children.

And when Josh and I got home at 10 something, the girls were still up and still beautiful, smart and charming beyond belief....

Tomorrow a full day of children and grandchildren and significant others.

New life is what this time of year is about, right?

I'm doing good, riding high, loving it all, right now....a very GOOD Friday over all....

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Maundy Thursday...ok, I'm excited now....

We did the Maundy Thursday service in the parish hall of St. Andrew's, Northford. The Cluster Churches celebrate Maundy Thursday with an Agape meal. There is a program that consists of the gospel lessons for the day and food. There is no place in the service for a sermon. After the meal, the table is cleared and we do Eucharist around the table and then process to the church to strip the altar.

It's just as well that there's no place for a sermon since my Maundy Thursday sermons have traditionally be rambling remembrances of the wondrous meals of my life: driving to 'the country' before dawn for breakfast at my step-grandmother's house in Waiteville, WV; dinner on my maternal grandmother's birthday in Conklintown, up on the mountain with dozens of cousins and home-made ice-cream that gave you killer head-aches; feeding my mother after her stroke in her hospital room; the first Thanksgiving of our marriage in Cambridge, Mass, when the turkey was raw but the wine was plentiful; the awkward meals I'd bring my father to from the Nursing Home when we lived in New Haven....On and on I would go, describing dishes in great detail, talking about the people around the table, convinced that 'eating' is what tells us the most about the 'being' of human beings.

Tonight there were 10 of us and a meal of potato soup, spinach quiche, fruit and bread and cheese. Nobody washed anybody's feet. I've decided I really don't like the foot washing thing, but on the way home I remembered a Maundy Thursday past when Pauline, the shopping cart lady who came to St. John's, was at the Maundy Thursday service. She practically ran up to a chair to have her feet washed. I was there in my cassock and washed them in the warm water the altar guild had provided. It was terribly and profoundly humbling to do that for her. But what was truly transformational was when she jumped up and told me to sit down and gently, kindly, washed my feet. Maybe I just think it will never get better than that which makes me not like foot washing. Next year I will, just to give it another chance to humble and transform me.

I checked my file of sermons and found a Maundy Thursday sermon for 2008. I was shocked since I never thought I wrote any of them down. The reason I did was that some of the people who worked with me told me the Maundy Thursday ramblings were, well, too rambling. This is, to my knowledge the only Maundy Thursday sermon I ever wrote down. So, since I'm not getting excited about Holy Week because Mimi will come tomorrow and Cathy and the girls will arrive and Tim and Josh will come Saturday morning and I've been reminded of how much I love Holy Week and Easter.

Maundy Thursday 2008

Maundy Thursday is always my favorite holy day

And I always talk about eating.

And often I get too long winded and go on and on and people wonder when I’ll ever finish.
Something about ‘meals’ keeps me talking beyond what is necessary.

So, this year I wrote it down so it would be controlled and less than 10 minutes and you wouldn’t have to wonder if I’d wandered off into some crack in my brain and wouldn’t be back for a while!

Easter dinner is special in our home. We aren’t surrounded by ‘family’ so we have invented a ‘family’ for holidays. We have friends who come to share our table on Thanksgiving and Christmas and, most of all, for me, on Easter.
John will be there—a friend of mine since college who lives in New Haven and is a Warden at Christ Church. West Virginians through and through—John and I. We have a patois that is Mountain Talk that few can follow if they didn’t grow up in that lush and deserted place.

He’ll call me and say, “Hey, Jim….”

And I’ll answer, “Hey, John…” and we’re off and running about the dogs that won’t hunt and the crazy aunts and stuff no one else understands.

Jack and Sherry will be there—our friends who we met when we lived in New Haven. They are southerners—Virginia and South Carolina. They usually bring a country ham and dandelion risotto and a Green Salad (which is shredded vegetables and pecans in lime Jello for those not familiar with southern cuisine) for Easter dinner.

I know John and Jack and Sherry as well as I know myself. We rub against each other in ways that make life make sense.

And Mimi will be there. My ‘princess’, my love, my precious girl. She is nearing 30 but she is still my baby girl. An hour with Mimi is like an eternity in heaven for me. I love her so. She is so wondrous—did you know she has become a girl scout leader in Brooklyn for young girls from the projects? She raises money for the American Ballet Theater for a living, but she embraces young girls who need a mentor to make her life meaningful. She is so precious to me I can hardly speak of her without weeping. And she will be at the table.

This year, we will have ‘family’. Uncle Frankie and his son, Anthony—bern’s favorite cousin, and his daughter Francis and her life-partner Lisa will be at the table. They hale from West Virginia but all live in Rhode Island now. They will be there, bringing memories and stories that would otherwise not be there.

And that is what the meal is about, after all, the telling of stories to help us ‘remember’ and to give us hope to go on. And we will eat the ham and the onion pie and the deviled eggs and the salad and the scalloped potatoes and tell the stories and be present—so remarkably present—to what is alive and real and wondrous, even in the sad stories of Aunt Annie’s death and the fact that Josh and Cathy and our granddaughters, Morgan and Emma are in Taiwan this Easter and not with us. They will gather around other tables—not to celebrate the resurrection because they are either Buddhists or nothing at all—but they will gather around a table to eat and tell stories and love each other and be present—so present—to the heart of God.

That’s what this night is about. How being around a table, sharing food, telling stories, loving each other, hoping for the future, wondering what happens next….

That’s what this night’s about. A table set and full of food. Family and friends gathered. Passing the bread, sharing the wine….wondering what will happen next.

Because Jesus sat around that table so long ago and shared his body and his blood with those he loved and those he would never know.

Just sitting at a table, eating with those you love, is a holy thing. A holy thing. A holy thing. Remember that always. Remember that. Remember…

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

It's holy week, I should be excited...

But, instead, I just feel kinda blah. Half-way through the 10 day regimen of anti-biotics for my pneumonia, I still feel a bit punk.

Tomorrow is Maundy Thursday, my favorite holy day of the year. Maybe I'll click into 'holy week fever' tomorrow.

I talked to Bea today about hawks. If you drive down Rt. 9 toward the shoreline, you'll see dozens of hawks soaring above the highway. They seem to never flap their wings, just moving up and down on the air currents. Bea has a hawk on her property and she used to worry that one of them would snatch her little dog, Bela.

Once I was walking the labyrinth at St. James in Higganum and a hawk, who must consider the labyrinth part of his territory, sat in a low branch of a tree and watched me do the whole walk. It is hard to be focused on walking a labyrinth when a hawk is watching you. I know I'm lots bigger than a hawk, but they are intimidating birds.

A few days ago I watched a golden hawk, who considers our property as part of his territory, soar and dip for 20 minuets without once flapping his wings.

Imagine how amazing that kind of flight must be! Humans always long to fly, but I think flying like a hawk would be the ultimate experience of flight.

That's just what I imagine. I could be wrong since I feel so blah and punk and not quite right....

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

creature sleep

So, Luke, our cat, isn't allowed in our bedroom at night. He sleeps on our bed a lot of the day but if he's in there at night he'll walk on our faces and want out to get to his litter box and generally make the night unpleasant.

Bela, the dog, does sleep with us. He starts out between up with his head up by ours and at some point he moves down in the bed and then comes back. Somewhere in the night, he wraps himself around my head on my pillow and often I wake up with a Puli hat.

But when Bern gets up, almost always before me, she lets Luke in the bedroom. He makes a wondrous little sound as he runs in, something like 'berrrrraaa' and jumps on the bed. We three--the dog and cat and I sleep for a while, but Luke then wants water and goes into the bathroom and makes an awful noise until I get up and fill a glass with water and put it on the floor for him. He drinks for a while--we worry, since he is 11 or 12 and drinks a lot of water, that he's failing, but there is no evidence of that.

Then he goes down and Bern feeds him breakfast and then he comes back up and Bela and I are asleep and when we wake up, Luke is with us.

I can't express how much I enjoy sleeping the creature sleep with Bela and Luke. It's something that I just don't understand. Sometimes the two of them are laying on the bed, touching and I reach out to touch them both and then doze off again.

I wouldn't recommend finding a Puli and a Maine Coon Cat to see if you like this morning ritual. Once you have them, they are part of your life and you may not long for such a commitment and connection.

But this I know and know fair well, waking up with a Puli and a Coon Cat as the world turns toward Spring and morning comes earlier....well, for me, that's about as good as it gets....Really....

I'm almost ready to take my taxes to the tax lady

Taxes, for 'ministers of the gospel' are a little odd, so I'm glad Jane is there since she's seen me through them for a bunch of years now.

Here's the oddest part of taxes for 'ministers of the gospel'. We are, by law, allowed to not declare any income that we can demonstrate went to the cost of housing. The history of this IRS allowance goes back to the point where it applied to ministers, school teachers and members of the armed forces. Over the decades the other two groups lost the exemption, but the Church, for all its flaws and warts, still is a mighty lobby in Congress. So it is still true.

So, if I can verify it, I don't have to declare any income for utilities, mortgage, repairs, improvements even toilet paper, if I have the receipts. AND, get this, I can still deduct my mortgage interest! Talk about 'double dipping'. Amazing. And, as Conkrite used to say, 'that's the way it is...."

Every penny I get paid by the Middlesex Area Cluster Ministry is, on my W-2 form "housing". Not declared as income. And whatever beyond that is housing expenses I can deduct from my Church Pension Fund payments and not declare.

SS, of course, which both Bern and I get, is not taxed since the money I make working is 'housing' and not income though I make enough that if it were income I'd have to give $ back to SS. Go figure....

Here's the problem. We did some major stuff last year:
        new roof--$11,500
        paint house--$5,900
        new kitchen--$16,000

Add that $33,400 to the normal $24,000 in housing expenses and chances are, we'll pay no taxes this year and get a load of money back from both the Feds and the State.

My question for Jane is going to be this: can we spread this out a bit AND will this tax filing flag us for an audit?

I can pass the audit, it's just that I've been told it's a pain.

So, here's the thing: The Church Pension fund is a good reason to feel a call to priesthood in the Episcopal Church. We had more income this year than we ever had when I was working full time. Is that crazy?

And now my biggest worry is that I might be audited by the IRS. Is this life 'through the looking-glass or what?'

marriage equality

I took a poll on The Cheshire Patch website today but my response will never be counted since I declined to join said Cheshire Patch and receive updates about life in Cheshire each day. My life in "The Shire" is fine and I don't really need to know how it is for others in our town, which may seem a bit distant and withdrawn, but the reason I love Cheshire is that 'life in Cheshire' essentially has no peaks and valleys. It's just sort of peaceful and full of sameness.

The poll was asking about my opinion regarding marriage equality. I have, when you think about it, no particular wisdom on the subject but I do know that I define my life and who I am in a very few ways and one of them is being married to Bern. I just don't understand why the opportunity to define your life by your marriage and your spouse should be denied to anyone.

As a child and adolescent, I had a lesbian first cousin who was in a decades long committed relationship with another woman. They lived in Florida and both taught at the same High School. But they drove to work in separate cars and didn't socialize at school. They were faithful their whole adult lives to each other but had to keep that defining relationship of their lives secret. Maybe knowing Sarita and Eloise as I was growing up--they were always around at holidays and during the summer--seeped into me by psychological osmosis. I really loved them--they were so much more interesting and fun than most of the Bradley family.

What I  heard today from one of the lawyers for Proposition 8 before the Supreme Court about 'the purpose of marriage' was mindless and outrageous. He suggested the purpose of marriage was procreation. Justice Kegan got the biggest laugh of the day by saying people over 55 who were married weren't going to produce a lot of kids. Bern had her tubes tied when our daughter, Mimi was born. According to the logic of that argument, Bern and I had no business being married anymore since we would never produce off springs again. How ridiculous is that?

The kids of gay/lesbian relationships were on the heart of Justice Kennedy, who will probably be the vote that decides if the Supreme Court even addresses marriage equality on this go-around, commented that the children of same-sex relationships needed their parents to be legal and recognized. I never thought of that though I know a bunch of gay/lesbian couples who have children. In an era when so many children are born (as the old saying goes) 'without benefit of marriage', it just makes sense to provide the opportunity for as many as possible to have two parents. I never thought of that but it should be a position of the evangelicals who so object to children out of wedlock! How ironic would that be--the right-wing supporting same-sex marriage to make children 'legidimate'.

I'm the wrong one to ask. It just seems so unfair to keep people who want to be married from being married, period. I'm a great believer in marriage. Some of my colleagues in ministry used to call me "marryin' Sam" because I'd be a part of most any wedding since I thought if people wanted God somehow mixed up in their relationship, I ought to help them do that.

But that's just me, I guess. The winds of opinion have shifted greatly, but there are still many people who just don't get that love is love and commitment is commitment.

Gay and lesbian folks are often labeled promiscuous by straight folks. I wish I had kept count of how many straight men and women over the years of my ministry said to me: "if I WASN'T married" before telling me the affairs they would have had. I believe the vows of marriage have a "objective reality". Marriage, like other sacraments of the church, aren't simply 'symbols'.

Most Episcopalians who know me think I am hopelessly 'low church' since I went to Virginia Seminary and push informality to the limit. But the truth is, I truly, absolutely believe in the "objective reality" of the sacraments. Once, when St. John's in Waterbury was the site of the Downtown Co-operative ministry's Good Friday Service, an American Baptist was helping me give communion from the reserved sacrament (since Eucharist cannot be celebrated on Good Friday or Holy Saturday). I was administering the bread and he was passing the cup. I heard him say to someone at the altar rail, "this symbolizes the Blood of Christ". I went over to him and threatened to take the wine from him if he didn't tell the Truth as I believe it, "This IS the Blood of Christ".

The celebration and blessing of a marriage is a sacrament. It is (I know you know this....) The Outward and Visible Sign of an Inward and Spiritual TRUTH.

Sacraments matter ultimately to me. I've been a part of several same-sex marriages. Until this year, I was forbidden by the bishop of CT to hear the vows and pronounce the couple 'married'. I could 'bless' the union but not sign the marriage license. There had to be a JP or someone else who could sign the letters there. That's changed now with our new bishop. But I've not yet been involved in truly celebrating the sacrament--spiritual and legal--for a same sex couple.

I hope I get to do that sometime.

It will come. Marriage equality, love equality for gay/lesbian folks and straight folks will win the day at some point. And my granddaughter will not remember when that wasn't true. Perhaps not this time, though I hope and pray, but it is as inevitable as a tsunami. Just as it should be, I say.

Just as it should be....

Monday, March 25, 2013

pimento cheese

Pimento cheese was a food group where I grew up. I'd take pimento cheese sandwiches (along with potted meat sandwiches and fried Spam sandwiches) for lunch when I was in elementary school. I can eat it with a spoon (which I highly recommend!) And since we're good friends with the Ellis' in New Haven (Jack's from Roanoke, Virginia and Sherry is vaguely from North Carolina) I sometimes get the pimento cheese they make. "Very tasty," as Jack would say. "Not bad for food," Sherry would answer.

Then, a few weeks ago, perusing the hummus section of Stop and Shop, I happened up on containers of "Palmetto Cheese", the "pimento cheese with soul". It's from Pawley's Island, for goodness sake. "Real Cheese, Real Southern and Really Good" it says there on the container. The only mildly strange thing is that the label also says, with some pride "Wisconsin Cheese".

I mean, this stuff is great. There is a little heat and a little kick to the pimento cheese. There is another variety of Palmetto Cheese with jalapenos. I haven't tried that yet, but will.

So I brought it home so excited I opened it as I took it from the bag (which took me some time since I've reached a place where I can't seem to 'open' much of anything) and tried it on Saltines. Oh, my goodness! Heaven sent! I've since tried it on most pimento cheese delivery devices and it never ceases to amaze and delight.

He's what I haven't figured out: why didn't I know my wife, Bern, who I've been married to for almost 43 years and known since I was 17 and she was 14, loved pimento cheese almost as much, if not more, than I do?

I mean I'm an Appalachian, white-trash, potted meat and Spam eating guy. Bern is half Italian and half Hungarian--ethnic through and through. Where does pimento cheese enter into those two noble cuisines? I'd never seen her eat it before, not even each fall when we're in North Carolina and Sherry either makes some or we go to the Pimento Cheese section of Food Lion (they have about a dozen choices). Never once, in all these years, this life-time we've shared.

Who knew she liked pimento cheese?

Well, I can't seem to keep us in the stuff. She is a binge eater know to have consumed a whole bag of Twizzlers or Super-sized potato chips in a sitting. And her latest binge is pimento cheese....

So, whenever I'm interested in having a pimento cheese encounter, the container is almost empty.

I even bought 2 containers a week or so ago and put a B on one and a J on the other. Three days later, both were gone.

The problem with pimento cheese (and why I shouldn't have taken it in a sandwich to school) is refrigeration is strictly necessary. So, I can't hide my container in my sock drawer or anywhere.

There it sits, in the refrigerator that Bern opens as if she owned it, ignoring the J on the top of the container and--presto-changeo--pimento cheese is a memory.

She says she's cutting back but I noticed a bag of potato chips in the pantry--which is  her pimento cheese delivery system of choice--so I'm just not sure I can believe her.

Maybe I should bring home potted meat and Spam....Those, I'd bet you a lot, she's leave be....

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Everrit Street Redux

When we were much younger, we lived for 4 years or so on Everit Street in New Haven. Josh was 10, Mimi was 7 and Bern and I...ah, we were so much older then, we're younger than that now...(Thanks Robert Zimmerman).

Anyway, the people next door had four children, the people across the street had 4 children, the people down the street on our side had 3 children and down the street on the other side had two. All of them were within 4 or 5 years of each other. The Vandals were at the gate. The children were running wild. They prowled the street like wolverines, racing in and out of all the yards and houses, eating enough food in each to feed a third world nation, having plays in the backyard, careening up and down the street, coloring the sidewalks with pastel chalk art work, making up games and they ran, wild and out of control.

And it was great. I hope all those kids remember those years as fondly as I do. The parents, for their part, made trips to the grocery store for apple juice and grapes and cheese and made trips to the package store for wine and beer, which we drank, talking to each other across back yards, listening to the whoops of the banshees that were our children.

I'm so happy we could give our kids Everit Street for a few years, living as we did on the corner with East Park Road that led up the hill to woods where our kids would wander until darkness fell on summer nights.

That was my childhood, only in a rural place, and Bern's as well. Running free--no soccer or softball, no dance classes or music lessons--just wild abandon, just freedom, just safety, just 'being children'....

We have new neighbors next door to the east. They  have at least 3 kids and to the west our neighbors have 4 and 2. And in these last few days, I've come to believe we're back on Everit Street, only Cornwall Avenue now, as those kids have begun, as a blessed warming has begun, to run riot between the three houses.

What a joy to hear their screams and laughter and sounds of mindless play. They do have soccer practice and softball games and lots of other things that are now de rigor for a suburb like Cheshire. But they do have a few hours to maraud in a tribe, back and forth between their homes.

I heard a woman on radio today who writes for The Atlantic, saying that the screens and pads and tablets that our granddaughters are so drawn to are just like the last obsessive toy they had and they will leave them behind and seek the freedom and chaos of simply being children. I so pray she is right.

My childhood was so free of structure and organization and adults thinking they knew what children needed that I wish that for every child. I know it isn't possible because that kind of childhood requires the assumption of safety and most children live on unsafe streets, in dangerous places far from the freedom of Everit Street and Cornwall Avenue and southern West Virginia.

I know for a fact that I hate for my life to be too structured or organized or compartmentalized. That's why I'm so good at being retired. When people ask me if I'm bored with retirement I look at them as if they were a squirrel or a snail that somehow learned to ask a question in English. I LOVE being retired. I have more than enough to do and the rest of the time I have 'nothing' to do and do, well, mostly 'nothing'. I'm not even sure I know what 'being bored' would look like. Hey, I'm an only child who never knew the distraction of siblings and grew up wandering the woods for untold hours, just learning to appreciate my own company and being perfectly content to be alone.

"Boredom" is a concept like "light speed" to me. I simply have no idea what it means.

I listen to the banshees of Cornwall Avenue in the late afternoon and remember the Vandals of Everit Street 25 or more years ago and the endless varieties of green of the mountains where I grew up and spent those endless summer days.

I take a deep breath and remember all that and ponder how wondrous childhood should be...and seldom is....

Saturday, March 23, 2013


My aunt Georgia (we called her 'Georgie') was my mother's younger sister. Her husband, Jim, got 'shell shocked' in the Pacific during WWII. Today we would call it Traumatic Stress Syndrome and would, hopefully, have helped him reintegrate into civilian life. But Jim didn't. He had spells of amnesia and once was missing for a long time, turning up in San Diego, if I remember correctly. He had been in the Navy so that would make sense, that in his not-knowing-who-he was he would have found himself in a place where the Navy congregates.

Anyway, he spent most of the rest of his life in various veterans hospitals in WV and Virginia. I saw him occasionally when he was out of the V.A. system and remember visiting him in Radford once. He always called me 'Skeezics' for reasons I never understood nor questioned. Maybe he just couldn't remember my name, for all I know. But I liked him a lot. He was my favorite uncle on my mother's side, probably because he wasn't so terribly ordinary as the others. There was an edge to Uncle Jim that I enjoyed as a child. He taught me to shoot a rifle once up in an old corn field in late Autumn. Perhaps my parents should have been outraged that I was shooting a gun with a man who had spent time in mental hospitals. But we just shot at cans and bottles and since there were always gun shots around where I grew up, nobody thought anything about it. He was my uncle, after all.

Georgie was named, the family lore goes, after the doctor who delivered her, whose name was George. But my grandparents turned it into 'Georgia' from George. I guess it's lucky the doctor's name wasn't Stanislav or something like that. My maternal grandparents had some issues, it seems to me, coming up with names for their children. There was Juanette, Elsie, Cleo, Craham, Leon and Ernest (both died in adolescence) and, of course, "Georgia". You got to admit there aren't many Marys or Sues or Bobs or Richards in there.

Georgie and Jim were the parents of my two favorite first cousins: Mejol and Bradley Perkins. Mejol, again lore and legend, was named after a Native American character in a book my Aunt Georgie was reading while pregnant. I don't know about that, but I've never met another Mejol. Bradley, so the story goes, was supposedly named after my father, his uncle but my father's given name was 'Virgil Hoyt' so the last name had to do. (My youngest granddaughter is Tegan 'Hoyt', which gives me great joy....)

Any way, Mejol was always around, went on vacations with my parents and me to the Great Smokey Mountains. She once locked me in her bedroom with a copy of Catcher in the Rye  with an album by Bob Dylan ("Highway 61 Revisited", I think) on her record player. When I came out of that room, I was a different person and my life has never been the same since--only better than I imagined it could be.

But enough of all that. This is about Petie, Aunt Georgie's parakeet who could talk like a three year old child. "Pete's a pretty bird" was just the beginning. In his life with Aunt Georgie, he picked up lots of words and phrases, my favorite being "Aw Shit!" which he would say at the least suggestion that he should.

Petie lived in Aunt Georgie's trailer and was sometimes in a cage. He would sit on you finger, your shoulder, your head and talk you to death. Of course, I always encouraged "Aw Shit!" and Pete was  happy to oblige.

I've been thinking about people in my family a lot lately. I have only my nuclear family in my life (though do, from time to time, see Mejol and her two children and her grandchildren in Baltimore when we are there visiting Josh and Cathy and the girls)--my two kids and three granddaughters. When I grew up I was awash in family--almost a dozen aunts and uncles and the youngest of 15 first cousins until my cousin Denise was adopted by my Uncle Harvey and Aunt Elsie Ours when I was a teen.

Maybe it's the antibiotics I'm on (which are powerful, I can tell you from how they make me feel) but I've been lonely for family the last few days. Georgie was a wondrous aunt, a bit out-of-sync with the evangelical Christian ethos of our family. She smoked and had a drink from time to time, for goodness sake! That was my mother's family. My father's family were defined by tobacco, much of it chewed and alcohol, but, mostly, in moderation. I've been dwelling in those days when 'family' was a tsunami that ran over me again and again.

I think I'll call my kids tonight and just check in. And, if they're interested, tell them about Pete the Parakeet who could say "Aw, Shit!" on cue....

Friday, March 22, 2013

it's not over, not by half....

When I was a child in McDowell County, West Virginia, half a century ago, all the black adults in Anawalt (and it was about 50/50 Black/White) called me "Mr. Jimmy". I swear to God that was true. People older than my parents called me "Mr. Jimmy" and I called them by their first names: "Gene and Lauretha and Marcus and Richard and Flo." As a kid, I called a 60 year old woman who worked for my Uncle Russell and Aunt Gladys, "Flo". And she called me, 13 or so at the time, "Mr. Jimmy."

It makes me want to puke. It was just the way it was but I should have realized a lot sooner than I did that it was wrong. Dead wrong. Damn wrong.

So, fast forward to today. Our President is Black. Most of the most wealthy entertainers and professional athletes are Black. Black is beautiful, right? "I want to be like Mike," (meaning Jordan) is the rule, not the exception.

Integration has worked, right?

When I was in college at WVU, I became friends with the first black friend I ever had. Truth was, Ron grew up 8 miles from me and we went to high school about 1/4 mile apart. But we never met. When Ron would introduce me to other black folks, he would say, "Jim and I went to separate high schools together." I thought we were on the cusp of something wondrous and magic. The culture was going to be ONE, finally.

And then I was the priest of an almost all-black church in Charleston, West Virginia. Ron's sister and brother and law and niece were members there. We were all middle-class and college educated. This was the wave we'd be waiting to break over us all. Right?

Today I talked to a young white man who has begun his practice teaching in an urban middle school in a major metropolitan area. The school is almost 100% Black and any relationship to Dodd Middle School in Cheshire is purely coincidental. Dodd is a great school, 99% white and Asian. My friend's school, he told me, in a nightmare. He said he'd been called "white boy" by dozens of students when, in his mind, being 'white', wasn't anything of interest.

Discipline and learning in his school is all but non-existent. Hope isn't even in the equation. Most of the teachers have given up and are just going through the motions. He was very depressed, though he had decided to resist depression and give it his all.

Republican state legislatures around the country are being creative in how to deny the vote to Black and Hispanic folks. Nobody--not our Black President or anyone else--talks about the poverty gap or the racial inequality these days.

I notice that most of the drivers pulled over in Cheshire, where I live, by the police, are people of color.

Where is Lyndon Johnson when we need him?

Why is no one talking about the racial divide that colors our culture? What happened to Martin Luther King's dream?

Does anyone care? That's the question that haunts me--does anyone care?

Pneumonia Winter...

My grandmother, bless her heart, used to tell me about the 'old days' when things were harder than I knew, harder than I could imagine.

One of the things she told me--my mother's mother, Lina Manona Sadler Jones--was about what she called "Pneumonia Winter". What she meant was the few warm days, late in winter, that were promises of days to come but were ephemeral, passing, and the cold would return. In February or March there would be almost a week of spring like weather and the old folks would think it was real and stop dressing warmly and generally act foolish and spring-like. And a few of them would catch pneumonia and die, back there in her childhood when antibiotics were not yet a reality.

Pneumonia, she would tell me, was God's way of culling the herd, of taking away the weakest and least fit and sending them home so when Spring really came, only those truly able to embrace it would be around to lean into the warmth.

One might think that a Grandmother shouldn't put such thoughts in a young boy's mind. Young boys, people might think, should be sheltered from the world and reality and have everything given to them sanitized and soft. But that wasn't Grammaw's way. "Reality", to 'Nonie', which is what people who weren't related called her, was simply that: reality and a young boy should learn about the world he lived in with open eyes.

I'm in my 60's. My grandmother was probably nearly that when she told me about 'pneumonia winter'. So, that's going back a century or so, to her girlhood in a time harsher than I have known or could imagine. To her--a Christian woman of the first order--Nature had it's ways to clear away the excess and make way for the New. People simply got sick and died from Pneumonia in those long ago days. It was natural and, in Nature's way, simply right.

Earlier this month there was almost a week of warm weather in March. I was delighted! The winter had grown old on me and I longed to lean into Spring. So, I didn't dress warmly those few days and generally acted foolish about the false Spring.

So, yesterday, I learned I have pneumonia. What used to be called 'walking pneumonia' since I don't need to take to my bed but walking up a flight of stairs reminds me to breathe. Unlike the old folks of my grandmother's childhood, their are antibiotics aplenty (perhaps too many) in my day, so I won't be culled from the herd. I'll be better each day until I'm well again.

But it reminded me of her. It really did. She is so long ago in my life that I don't do her the honor of memory enough. But 'pneumonia winter' brought her back near to me. I can almost hear her laugh and feel her arms around me, telling me 'it will be alright....'

So, for me, in pneumonia winter I will get the stuff together for our taxes and take it to the woman who puts it all together and sends it in.

One other thing my Mammaw used to say is this, "God will slow you down when you need to be slowed down."

Not bad wisdom. So, I'll rest up, take the antibiotic and get my taxes together....

Thanks, Mammaw. In spite of the impetus, being with you in my memory the last few days has meant the world to me. You were the best. I couldn't have asked for more....

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

I'm glad I remembered, even though late....

Something in the back of my brain had been muddling around, bumping into other things in the back of my brain. (I must confess that I probably have more stuff rattling around in the back of my brain than are accessible to me on a moment to moment basis. I would blame age, but it's always been that way, it seems to me. I have a very active storage room of a brain and not much up front neatly lined up on shelves.)

Anyway, I kept half-thinking (which isn't as good as thinking but a bit better than not thinking--I had a poster once with a picture of a chair and the words "Sometimes, I sits and thinks. And sometimes, I just sits."--though 'not thinking may be close to meditation and Zen and stuff....) I kept half-thinking I should go into my blog and notice when I wrote the first one. Since I'm lost in linear time, I did not think "It might have been March, 2009". I could not, for the life of me, have given a month or even a year to that first blog. But I checked and I'm only a couple of weeks late.

I'm glad I did that because today, checking the statistics of my blog space (I may be an anti-nerd but I've figured out how to do a few things by luck) I realized that for the first time ever, over 100 people viewed my blog yesterday. I'm kinda amazed since I'm not sure who would want to read the stuff I write here, but I'm also humbled that over a hundred people read something I wrote yesterday.

If you were one of them and had any positive feelings about what you read--if it made you ponder or laugh or think--I'd be very appreciative if you'd email or text or tell friends of you to check it out. I love doing it and I don't think it's bad, I think it's pretty good and since I'm writing it anyway, no matter if anyone reads it, I'd like to have it shared.

I think ("think" only being an anti-nerd) that someone could access it by googling it at Or just googling "under the castor oil tree" and some link might come up. This is tearing me apart, asking for you to risk recommending people check out my blog. But once I saw over a hundred people viewed it yesterday, I got greedy!

I guess it's like the book, The Hundredth Monkey by Ken Keyes, Jr. He tells the story of the Japanese monkeys, Macacuca fuscata, that were on an island called Koshima in 1952. Scientists had been providing the monkeys with sweet potatoes since Koshima was still devastated by WW II and natural plants were not available to them. The monkeys liked the taste but the dirt where they were dropped was unpleasant.

An 18 month old female the scientists called Imo, discovered she could wash the potatoes in a nearby stream. She taught her mother and friends to do this. The scientists watched between 1952 and 1958 as all the young monkeys learned to wash the sweet potatoes. "Only the adults who imitated their children learned this social improvement. Other adults kept eating the dirty sweet potatoes."

In the fall of 1958, "a certain number of Koshima monkeys were washing sweet potatoes--the exact number is not known. Let us suppose that when the sun rose one morning, there were 99 monkeys on Koshima Island who had learned to wash their sweet potatoes. Let us further suppose that later that morning, the hundredth monkey learned to wash potatoes. THEN IT  HAPPENED! By that evening almost everyone in the tribe was washing sweet potatoes before eating them. The added energy of this hundredth monkey somehow created an ideological breakthrough!"

Keyes' book is a great book. It is not copyrighted on purpose so my sharing it with you is what Ken Keyes wanted.

There is, I believe, 'a critical mass' that shifts the paradigm of our lives. It happened painfully and over a long time and not completely in the Civil Rights movement. It happened, again painfully and over a long time and not completely in the Women's movement. But the hundredth monkey of the movement for GLBT rights has moved, as painfully, but a little faster and is not completed.

It's just that I saw my hundredth viewer in one day for the first time and began to imagine the whole tribe might begin to shift.

I apologize for asking. But, if you would, let people know about Under the Castor Oil Tree. Just invite them to wash their sweet potatoe.

I'll be watching the statistics to see if this works.....

And I thank you for considering the possibility of sharing this blog with others--with humility and gratefulness.



I missed the anniversary of my first blog. March 8, 2009

Here it is.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Sitting under the Castor Oil Tree

The character in the Bible I have always been drawn to in Jonah. I identify with his story. Like Jonah, I have experienced being taken where I didn't want to go by God and I've been disgruntled with the way things went. The belly of a big old fish isn't a pleasant means of travel either!

The story ends (in case you don't know it) with Jonah upset and complaining on a hillside over the city of Nineva, which God has saved through Jonah. Jonah didn't want to go there to start with--hence the ride in the fish stomach--and predicted that God would save the city though it should have been destroyed for its wickedness. "You dragged me half way around the world," he tells God, "and didn't destroy the city....I knew it would turn out this way. I'm angry, so angry I could die!"

God causes a tree to grow to shade Jonah from the sun (scholars think it might have been a castor oil tree--the impications are astonishing!). Then God sends a worm to kill the tree. Well, that sets Jonah off! "How dare you kill my tree?" he challanges the creator. "I'm so angry I could die...."

God simply reminds him that he is upset at the death of a tree he didn't plant or nurture and yet he doesn't see the value of saving all the people of the great city Ninivah...along with their cattle and beasts.

And the story ends. No resolution. Jonah simply left to ponder all that. There's no sequel either--no "Jonah II" or "Jonah: the next chapter", nothing like that. It's just Jonah, sitting under the bare branches of the dead tree, pondering.

What I want to do is use this blog to do simply that, ponder about things. I've been an Episcopal priest for over 30 years. I'm approaching a time to retire and I've got a lot of pondering left to do--about God, about the church, about religion, about life and death and everything involved in that. Before the big fish swallowed me up and carried me to my own Nineva (ordination in the Episcopal Church) I had intended a vastly different life. I was going to write "The Great American Novel" for starters and get a Ph.D. in American Literature and disappear into some small liberal arts college, most likely in the Mid-Atlantic states and teach people like me--rural people, Appalachians and southerners, simple people, deep thinkers though slow talkers...lovely for all that--to love words and write words themselves.

God (I suppose, though I even ponder that...) had other ideas and I ended up spending the lion's share of my priesthood in the wilds of two cities in Connecticut (of all places) among tribes so foreign to me I scarcly understood their language and whose customs confounded me. And I found myself often among people (The Episcopal Cult) who made me axious by their very being. Which is why I stuck to urban churches, I suppose--being a priest in Greenwich would have sent me into some form of I would have driven them to hypertension at the least.

I am one who 'ponders' quite a bit and hoped this might be a way to 'ponder in print' for anyone else who might be leaning in that direction to read.

Ever so often, someone calls my bluff when I go into my "I'm just a boy from the mountains of West Virginia" persona. And I know they're right. I've lived too long among the heathens of New England to be able to avoid absorbing some of their alien customs and ways of thinking. Plus, I've been involved in too much education to pretend to be a rube from the hills. But I do, from time to time, miss that boy who grew up in a part of the world as foreign as Albania to most people, where the lush and endless mountains pressed down so majestically that there were few places, where I lived, that were flat in an area wider than a football field. That boy knew secrets I am only beginning, having entered my sixth decade of the journey toward the Lover of Souls, to remember and cherish.

My maternal grandmother, who had as much influence on me as anyone I know, used to say--"Jimmy, don't get above your raisin'". I probably have done that, in more ways that I'm able to recognize, but I ponder that part of me--buried deeply below layer after layer of living (as the mountains were layer after layer of long-ago life).

Sometimes I get a fleeting glimpse of him, running madly into the woods that surrounded him on all sides, spending hours seeking paths through the deep tangles of forest, climbing upward, ever upward until he found a place to sit and look down on the little town where he lived--spread out like a toy village to him--so he could ponder, alone and undisturbed, for a while.

When I was in high school, I wrote a regular colemn for the school newspaper call "The Outsider". As I ponder my life, I realize that has been a constant: I've always felt just beyond the fringe wherever I was. I've watched much more than I've participated. And I've pondered many things.

So, what I've decided to do is sit here on the hillside for a while, beneath the ruins of the castor oil tree and ponder somemore. And, if you wish, share my ponderings with you--whoever you are out there in cyber-Land.

Two caveates: I'm pretty much a Luddite when it comes to technology--probably smart enough to learn about it but never very interested, so this blog is an adventure for me. My friend Sandy is helping me so it shouldn't be too much of a mess. Secondly, I've realized writing this that there is no 'spell check' on the blog. Either I can get a dictionary or ask your forgiveness for my spelling. I'm a magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa ENGLISH major (WVU '69) who never could conquer spelling all the words I longed to write.

I supose I'll just ask your tolerance.
No comme

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Rape is a bad thing...period. Full Stop.

So, what's up in Ohio? Sunday the 2 young men in Stubenville convicted of rape were sentenced and today the crazy kid who killed and wounded 6 people in his high school was given three consecutive life sentences. He showed up for his sentencing in a tee-shirt that he'd written "Killer" on in magic marker and when given a chance to speak (with his lawyer begging him not to) he stuck up his middle finger to his family and the families of the victims and said "F*ck You!"

This is Ohio, for goodness sake, the Heartland of America, the symbol of what the Tea Party want's to bring back--the Real America.

Ohio bordered West Virginia, where I grew up (West Virginia, by the way, owns the Ohio River where it flows along the state line). We always thought of Ohio the way I think about Canada now. What bad could come from Ohio?

One of the jokes of my childhood was this: "how do you get 14 West Virginians in a VW bug? Tell them it's going to Cincinnati...."

Well, the point is, CNN started a fire-storm on the internet with their coverage of the rape trial of the two young men. You can look it up, but, in short, the CNN coverage was very biased toward the two young men--high school students with good grades and athletic abilities. One of the commentators, a woman, by the way, said something like: "I can barely stand to hear this verdict. The lives of two young men have been ruined...."

Something like that. The point is, whatever good those two high school students had going for them (one black one white) Rape is a really bad thing, no kidding, honestly. It is a crime of domination and power, having little to do with sex, mostly having to do with brutality and a caveman view of who is stronger and more powerful.

When are people going to get the truth: Rape is simply wrong, horrible, despicable and can, in no way, be explained away. It is evil.

There were at least 3 candidates in safe House and Senate seats who lost last November because they got odd and squishy about rape.

I just don't get it. If Francis of Assisi had raped St. Clare it would have been indefensible and evil, no matter how much good Francis had done before or after.

Look, I'm a left-wing nut. I am ambiguous about most everything. But this I know: Rape is purely wrong.

How difficult is that to understand?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Holy Week Meditations 2

(Read the passage slowly, twice, waiting to see something you haven't seen before in these familiar texts. Ponder them for 5-10 minutes in silence, read the meditation and conclude with the Collect for the Day. Listen in the silence....)


The thing I've noticed over 30+ years of Maunday Thursdays is how awkward it is for us 21st century westerners to wash each others' feet.

Feet, in our culture, are very private things. I am, like most people, embarrassed by my feet--my little toe toenails are stunted and odd looking while my big toe toenails are gnarly and thick. I love to get a pedicure but seldom do because I'm humiliated by having Asian women massage my feet--though it feels so good!

I've tried, over the years, to institute foot washing as part of the Maundy Thursday liturgy and it has never been comfortable and moving. Socks and pantyhose don't help--but one thing I believe is this: it is easier to wash someone's feet than to have someone wash yours.

Which brings us to Simon Peter and his protestations that Jesus shouldn't wash his feet, even though washing of feet in those days was as much of common hospitality as hanging up a coat and offering a drink to guests is our day. However, in spite of Peter's objections, Jesus wins him over.

Why is it so hard for us to be 'served'? Is it out culture's 'self-reliant' obsession? Is it the embarrassment of being made to feel 'special'? Why is it so difficult for us to let someone wash our feet?

Maundy Thursday is a day to ponder our inflated pride and privacy. It is a time to ponder the relationship of our fierce 'individualism' to the invitations of 'community'. It is a time to wonder how vulnerable we are willing to be in order to receive service and love.

COLLECT: Almighty Father, whose dear son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

GOOD FRIDAY John 18.1-40--19.1-37

A long reading today. Today is a long day, unrelenting in its sadness. Haven't you ever wondered why we don't call it Bad Friday instead?

John's gospel is the best for the detail and the gore, the agony and the suffering and the touching moments (giving his mother to John to be his mother; naming the slave whose ear was lost to Peter's sword--Malcus; the care of the soldiers for Jesus' cloak, things like that.)

So, the Passion, in all it's glory and all it's misery is lived out today. Over the years, I have presided many times over the traditions 3 hour liturgy of Good Friday, beginning at noon and ending at 3 p.m. It is wrenching and cleansing. When we most nearly got it right, nearly 2 hours of the the 3 were in silence with on occasional readings and prayers and the receiving of the reserved sacrament in silence as well.

My predisposition toward silence become highlighted and enhanced this week of the year. There is an old saying: "Do not speak unless  your speaking can improve on the silence."

Good advice this day or any day. We fill our lives with so much noise that it is often difficult to hear the still, small voice of God over the chaos.

Keep silence this day: honor it, adore it, listen to it, ponder it.

COLLECT: Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Sealing the tomb was a big deal. Jewish funeral practice involved going to anoint the body for two days before the tomb was sealed away. Part of that was honoring the dead but a big part was because medical science was practically non-existent and there were occasions when coma had been mistaken for death and there was a chance someone might 'wake up' who was thought to be dead. But in that climate of Palestine, by the third day, death was made obvious by the smell of decomposition and the tomb was sealed for good. (Remember the complaints of those Jesus asked to roll the stone from Lazareus' grave: in the wondrous King James Version it was, "Lord, he stinketh!"

The guards feared someone would steal his body and claim he was alive. So they sealed the tomb.

I sometimes ponder the things I haven't 'sealed the tomb' on in my life. There are resentments and anger and guilt and regrets that I have kept artifically alive long past their endings. I should have 'sealed the tomb' on those things and moved on with forgiveness and gratitude in my heart. But I haven't. I've kept the stink of those unreleased, unfinished emotions around for sometimes years, decades.

Ponder what emotions, thoughts, feelings, regrets and resentments you need to 'seal the tomb' on and move on, forgiven and refreshed and renewed. Ponder that on this day when we remember Jesus was dead and the tomb was sealed. Who knows how those painful things we seal in their tombs might be transformed on the Third Day....

COLLECT: O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


The Emmaus Story is my favorite passage of all scripture! I love it not just as gospel truth but as a paradigm for life.

Often we flee from the pains of life and try to go to another place. Often, if we are open to possibility, it is a 'stranger' we meet on the road that will teach us and reveal truth to us. Often, hospitality to the stranger results in remarkable and wondrous insight into the burning in our hearts. Often, most often, we find that if we return to the place of suffering and pain, it is there we will be healed and made new.

On this day, I urge you to simply rejoice and be glad and party! And, as the darkness of Easter night closes in, ponder in your heart how insights come in strange ways, how returning to the place of pain brings healing, how hospitality and welcome is the gift most needed for us to give and receive.

And then say the collect and close by proclaiming once more: "Alleluia! Alleluia!! Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed, Alleluia! Alleluia!"

Collect: O God, who for our redemption gave your only begotten Son to death of the cross, and by his glorious resurrection delivered us from the powers of our enemy: Grant us so to die daily to sin, that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

(Dear Friends, have a profound and wondrous Holy Week and Easter. Let this week be for cleansing and healing and new life. Feel free to share these reflections with friends and family and acquaintances. Share the journey of this week with others and 'let them see Jesus' in you love and compassion and gentleness and silence and hospitality. Shalom, jim)

Jim Bradley

Holy Week Meditations

Thought I'd share the Holy Week Meditations I wrote for the Middlesex Area Cluster Ministry churches: St. James, Higganum; Emmanual, Killingworth; St. Andrew's, Northford.

(If you would like, read the gospel passage twice then ponder it for ten minutes or so, then read my meditation and close with the collect for the day. A good discipline for Holy Week. jim)

PALM SUNDAY Luke 19.28-40

Just before things go wrong, they sometimes go oh so good. Jesus is welcomed by the cheering crowds, throwing palm fronds and their clothing in his way as he enters Jerusalem on a donkey. A strange parade at best. But strangely moving and powerful. A humble prophet welcomed into the city that murders its prophets on a regular basis. They welcomed a King on a donkey who would, in short time, become a criminal executed and dead. When you're on top, there's a long way to fall.

Ponder the 'good times' of your life and the 'bad times'. Notice the chronology of it all and ponder that. When the 'highs' are really 'high', sometimes the 'lows' are really 'low'. So it goes. Know that it all holds meaning....

Jesus has 'come home' in triumph to die. The "Hosannas!!" the crowds cry out will morph into "Crucify him!" in less than a week.

Life has a way of treating all of us to ups and downs. It is a roller coaster ride of sorts. But for Jesus (and for us!) as bad as it's going to get, the best is yet to come....

COLLECT: Almighty and everlasting God, in your tender love for the human race you have sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and the suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

HOLY MONDAY John 12.1-11

The English word 'anoint' derives from the Latin ungure--which means, 'to smear'.

The Greek word for 'anoint' is chrio and the noun Christos--'Christ' is English--means 'the anointed one'.

So, a few days before he dies, Jesus is 'anointed' by Mary for his burial.

And 'the poor' are always with us. Perhaps the most 'true' of all the sayings of Jesus is that: "the poor are always with us."

Spend today noticing what you eat and how full you are. When I say, "I'm hungry" there is no relationship between my hunger and the hunger of half the planet, including millions (mostly children) in this, the richest country in the world.

As Jesus is anointed for his burial by Mary, we need to remember those who will die from starvation or malnutrition on this day. Just hold those countless ones in your heart today. As we fill ourselves, we should always remember those who hunger and we should pray for them and pray that we may, day by day, hunger more and more for God.

COLLECT: Almighty God, whose most dear Son went up not to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

HOLY TUESDAY John 12.20-36

Notice how difficult it is to hear the Voice of God? Some of them thought it was thunder while others heard it correctly as an angel speaking.

It was only when the Greeks, non-Jews came to him that Jesus announced that 'his hour had come". For a moment he wavers ("Father, save me from this hour...") then he embraces his destiny ("No, it is for this reason I have come to this hour.") The Greeks--non-Jews--were the key. Notice they came to Philip, who had a Greek name. And what they said was this: "Sir, we wish to see Jesus."

One of the interns, then deacons who worked with me was Michael Spencer, who was then chaplain to Taft School and is not chaplain at St. Paul's school in New Hampshire. When an Episcopal Chaplain dies and goes to heaven, it looks a lot like St. Paul's school!

At some point in his several years at St. John's in Waterbury, Michael taped a typed out piece of paper to the pulpit that said, "Sir, we would see Jesus." I don't think I ever used the pulpit after the first time I saw that little note. And I never removed it. He and the note were both right, when anyone preaches it should be so people could 'see Jesus'. But the request was too daunting to me. I simply couldn't live up to it Sunday after Sunday. But it did inspire me and humble me and give me hope that someday, somehow, someway I might say something that would allow someone to 'see Jesus'.

But for Jesus, he somehow knew that since even the Gentiles were asking for him, the hour had come for him to be 'lifted up'. His mission to 'all the world' was finished. Now it was time to die.

Ponder, if you will, how you would like to help people to 'see Jesus'. Don't be, as I often am, to embarrassed to imagine showing Jesus to others. You can, through simple acts of kindness, through just being there, through a hug and love and support. Ponder how you might help people 'see Jesus' through your life....Give it a go, really....

COLLECT: O God, by the passion of your blessed Son you made an instrument of of shameful death to be for us the means of life: Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ, that we may gladly suffer shame and loss for the sake of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with  you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

John 13.21-32

This reading is out of time, out of space. Out of sync. Tomorrow we will read the 13th chapter of John from the beginning and hear this passage again. So we jump ahead 'proleptically' (one of my favorite words!) to a time before the time that we are yet to come to. 

But on this day we need to ponder the betrayal of Judas.

. What a bee's nest of problems that is. I ponder the betrayals of my life--and they are many, a multitude of betrayals.

When I was silent when protest was called for. When I misspoke in anger or confusion or to make myself look good at the cost to others. When I betrayed those who loved me out of self-serving instincts or desires. When I didn't flinch at a racial or ethic or gender demeaning joke.

Judas is my brother.

Your might, in this holy week, ponder your betrayals. It will be painful and full of angst--but worth it, because God will love you in the betrayer you are. Really. It is the dark places of our lives that God's love shows up most clearly. I'm not kidding. I truly believe that when Jesus said to Judas, "do quickly what you are going to do", he said it with love and forgiveness 'proleptically", even before his actual betrayal. So, ponder who you have betrayed, knowing that even before you betrayed them, God forgave you. Imagine accepting joyfully the sufferings of this present time, knowing your betrayals, when acknowledged are already forgiven.

How good is that? Forgiven before the act. Not bad, as things go.

COLLECT: Lord God, whose blessed Son our Savior gave his body to be whipped and to be spit upon. Give us the grace to accept joyfully the sufferings of the present time, confident of the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen

(The rest of the Holy Week meditations are to follow)

Shalom, jim

(rest in next post)

Jim Bradley

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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.