Friday, July 31, 2015

2 our of 3 ain't bad

I just finished the third novel by Stephanie Kallos, entitled Language Arts. I read it's 400+ pages in two days. I read her first novel, from 2004, called Broken for you in a day. It is one of the best first novels I've ever read. Amazing.

Then it took me several days to read her second novel, Sing them Home. It had all the things that make the other two so special: fascinating and needful characters, quirky situations, skipping between decades in the characters' lives: but somehow it was like she tried too hard and stretched it out to over 500 pages. I loved the characters and the stories, but it was just too much.

Language Arts won me back. Very like Kate Atkinson, my current favorite writer, Stephanie Kallos took some bold and dangerous moves in Language Arts. I won't do a spoiler but it has to do with the 'reality' of the narrative and how both of them disrupt reality in major ways.

Bern and I disagreed about Kate Atkinson's latest novel. I was troubled by the disruption. She was not. Kallos, in this book, pulls it off more adroitly.

I admire writers who take that chance--like stepping off a precipice believing you'll find something to step on or else learn how to fly. Kallos even uses that quote to introduce one of her portions of the novel.

I love the main character, because he reads so much.

I sometimes wonder if I read too much--5 books a week on average.

Then I remind myself: "what would be a better use of my life". Then I know. I read just the right amount.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Haven't been posting--guests

I haven't written much the last few days because we've had company/family. Mimi came down to get away from the wildness of the 'season' at Jacob's Pillow. She arrived on Sunday in time for dinner and left Tuesday morning to go back. She needed some 'alone time' since being a Development Director takes a lot out of an introvert like her. So, that was good for her and great for us! Having Mimi around is like having a cool breeze always blowing through the house on hot days. It is actually 'comforting' to have her around. She brings good vibes, you might say, if you grew up in the 60's, like I did, and remember all thee slang.

Then on Monday, in time for dinner, Dan, Bern's brother who is a late-vocation Roman priest, arrived. (Arriving in time for dinner is de rigor in our house! He's leaving tomorrow morning to go back to Wellsburg, WV, which is actually near Pittsburgh. Parts of WV are near DC, Lexington, Cincinnati, Roanoke Virginia and Boone, NC. WV, if I remember, has boarders with 6 other states and the southern boarder with western VA is awfully near North Carolina as well.e

I took Dan to my clergy group on Tuesday and a tour of the three churches I serve on Wednesday. Good road trips.

So, with a daughter and a brother-in-law in residence, I haven't had much time to write.

(Gross! I just took a drink of my wine and got a bug in my mouth since I'd been out of the deck until it got dark. A little protein in your Pino Grigio never hurts....)

The moon was out in the North while the sun set (as it should) in the West on our way home from dinner tonight. It may not be 'full'--maybe tomorrow night--but, boy, it is huge and, if not full, aching to be so.

Which reminds me--extraterrestial things--about the earth like planets the Hubble Telescope has been looking for. I wrote a poem once about the possibility of a planet beyond Pluto.

I'll share it with  you here.


I read it on the internet just tonight:
"There may be a world beyond Pluto."

Poor Pluto, disgraced and diminished,
labeled less than a planet.
So small, so cold, and so, so far away.
Pluto gets forgotten in the mix
of the solar system--demoted and damned
to the outer reaches of the sun.

Pitiful Pluto, so dark and chill--
but there there is the news, spread wide and far:
another world,
three times farther than Pluto from the sun--
we're talking 200 "AU's" from the sun,
based on the earth being 1 AU
(since we are still, Galileo not-with-standing,
still the center of the universe.)

Planet X, in its leisurely 12,000 year journey around the sun,
would explain mysteries:
like the Kepler Belt (whatever that is)
and confounding questions of people smarter than you and me.

And it would give me--maybe you--
another metaphor for loneliness.

I no longer need to feel,
from time to time,
like I'm on luto,
so unthinkably far away from comfort and love.
There is another wold out there--
even darker, even colder, even more distant,
that I can imagine myself
a citizen of....
from time to time.


Sunday, July 26, 2015

Mike Hckabee has out trumped Trump

Mike Huckabee, one of the multitude of Republicans who are seeking the opportunity to lose to Hilary or Bernie, said, out loud and in front of people, That President Obama, by supporting the nuclear deal with Iran, "is leading Israelis toward the ovens."

Well, in spite of all the nonsense Trump and Cruz are pushing, this takes the cake.

Our oh-so-Christian friend is equating our president with Hitler.

Can you read it another way?

My God, diplomacy and negotiation is much preferable to war and violence.

I have always believed that we, as Americans, have much more in common with the folks in Iran--the Persians, as highly educated and sophisticated as they are, more so than any country besides Israel--that we needed to 'get over' that nastiness when Carter was President and move on.

Besides, the UN Security Council--including folks like Russia and China, not to mention Germany, France and Britain--have already approved the deal, since many of them helped Secretary of State Kerry negotiate it.

Israel doesn't like it because Israel doesn't like anything that isn't about "Israel is all that Matters".

Mike Huckabee comparing an African-American twice elected President to Hitler is over the top, our of order and out of your mind.

We live in a world that is larger than the 48 and Alaska and Hawaii--get used to it. The world powers believe this agreement with Iran is the best we can have in an imperfect world.

And Mike--just like your friends Trump and Cruz need to learn some decorum--have some respect, for Christ's sake, of the President. Don't call him a Nazi. Is that too much to ask, you sanctimonious, Right-Wing, supposedly Christian asshole?

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Waiting, while trying not to....

Our dog and cat are getting old. Luke, the cat is already old--he's 14 or more, probably more (but I have this confusion about linear time...) and he throws up a couple of times a week and sometimes goes to the bathroom (poops mostly) in places outside his litter box. Plus, he drinks lots and lots and lots of water, which probably means his kidneys are in trouble. And I clean his litter box daily and their is so much pee (from all the water). However, he looks like a much younger cat and moves with grace and speed. So, who knows.

Bela, our dog, is 11. He weighs about 50 pounds, which means he's not a big dog, by any means, and smaller dogs live longer. He has some arthritis and his legs shake from time to time and he sometimes has trouble getting up if he's laying down. But he too seems younger most of the time and barks as much as he always has and is frisky.

Thing is, I worry about them, knowing (hoping) we'll outlive them. No one would take them if we died first--that's the worrying thing--because Bela is a bad dog and Luke is a pain. But beyond that, I worry especially about Bela because my wife, Bern, loves him more than she loved the other 30 or so pets we've shared combined. She loves him so much it frightens me. I'm more an 'animal person' than she is but her devotion to Bela is so overwhelming that I feel stress walking him because if I was the cause of him being hit by a car or something, I'm not sure Bern could forgive me.

It's just odd, worrying about creatures. My fiend John told us tonight that a person he worked with years ago (John is a psychologist) told him recently when they ran into each other that he knew he's been a better therapist (John's former client is a psychologist too) for having worked with John--though he didn't realize it at the time. Here's what he said to John: "when someone loves you, they teach you how to love."

I can't think of a more endearing and wondrous thing to be told. John's voice broke when he told us.

That''s the thing about animals, I think. They love you so unconditionally, so purely, so cleanly, that they teach you how to love.

Luke and Bela have been with us for over a decade and they have taught us a lot about love. But, old as I am, I know cat years and dog years are different from my years.

I try not to think about it, how we will lose them as some point to death. But sometimes I can't help myself. I think about life without them and sigh.

They have taught me a lot about loving. They truly have.

You don't like to imagine losing such a gift.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Little League

I watched Phoenix, third child of four and only boy of our next door neighbors, throw a baseball against a device designed to throw it back so he can practice catching grounders and line drives and short pop-ups.

I used to do that for hours, only I threw the ball against the cement block basement of the grocery store/our apartment. Hours, I did that. And it paid off.

I played Little League for two years and was all glove/no bat. I should have found a way to practice hitting as well. I played first base and never made an error in two years. I hit about .190, which in Little League really sucks. It was curve balls I couldn't hit--even bad curve balls thrown by 12 and 13 year olds. Throw it straight, I'll hit it. Make it curve, I'm helpless.

The last game of my Little League career, our coach, Jimmy Newsome, was standing with a friend from out of town about 15 feet away from first base, where I was throwing infield to Danny Taylor, Billy Bridgeman and a bully named Donald LaFon. Mousey McCrosky was warming up to pictch. We were behind 8-3 to Gary and our last at bat of the season would follow this inning.

Jimmy Newsome was talking about his team to his friend and since I used to have almost super-human hearing (no more, beloved, no more) I heard everything he said.

His descriptions of us was right on, but what amazed me is how he said it.

"That big bastard on third base can hit like hell but makes up for it with throwing errors," he said.

"That son-of-a-bitch pitching is already too old for little league but he's small and we may get away with another year," he said.

"Bridgeman is a solid player, but the mother-fucker is a show-off,' he said.

"The ass hole on first never misses a play but can't hit for shit."

Over 50 years later I can still hear his comments about us. I thought he loved us. We certainly loved him. My blood ran cold. The game couldn't have been over soon enough. And it was over quickly, three ground balls, two bad throws to first, I caught them all. When we batted, two pop ups on either side of my strike out on a curve ball.

I was 13 and could play another year. But on the way home, I told my father I was through with Little League. He was sorely disappointed since he thought I'd learn to hit a curve ball. Not! But I never told him why. Never told him about how our coach referred to us. My father, after all, was a grown up and I had figured out their was a 'Grown Up Club' that cut each other slack, even when it wasn't deserved.

That day is when I decided to never be a Grown Up like Jimmie Newsome.

I don't think I've ever been.

For that I am grateful.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Joy for Shane and Elizabeth

I went to Holy Cross Monastery (an order of Episcopal Benedictine monks) for the life-professions of my friends, Shane and Elizabeth as the first members of the Companions of Mary, the Apostle.

Here's what is amazing--this is a new order within the Episcopal Church. Shane and Elizabeth have been living into the order for 4 years, I think, and today it came to be! History was made--as the preacher, Br. Don Bisson, FMS (who knows what order that is?) said, "Back in his time, St. Benedict would have never imagined two woman priest founding an order based on his rule."

Big laugh line, I assure you.

There are also five people who have come to be part of Elizabeth and Shane's community who were received as 'Candidates for Covenant Companionship' in the Companions of Mary the Apostle. And one of them was a man! Shane and Elizabeth are trying to design committed Christian community for this new age. The two of them live together in a house owned by the brothers of Holy Cross and keep their vows there. But they want others to join their journey--by joining them in vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and living with them...or, joining them in 'spirit' keeping a rule of life and being part of a larger, more diverse gathering of Christians.

I had wondered what their 'habits' would be and was delightfully surprised. They both wore black pants and tops and put on bright red shawls after their professions. A great look. A woman bishop blessed their crosses and shawls. And in the Lord's prayer, we said, "Our Mother, our Father in heaven...."

Fierce feminist liturgy combined with welcoming men into their companionship. What could be better?

I know Shane and Elizabeth through work in the Mastery Foundation, which has been part of my life since--lost in linear time but depending on my friend, Ann's memory--1987. Shane and Elizabeth and I worked together recently (which month, don't ask me--linear time and all!) on a Making A Difference Workshop at Holy Cross. Many of the participants of that workshop were there today along with a few other Mastery folk.

It was impeccable--as worship at Holy Cross always is. A bit higher church than is my wont, but I enjoy it when I see it. Elizabeth and Shane prostrated themselves before the altar at some point. The only other time I saw someone prostrate themselves in front of the altar was when my friend Larry was being installed as Rector in a church in Maryland. I was sitting with is wife, Vickie and whispered to her when he did that, "is Larry OK?" She giggled through the rest of the service and Larry was not pleased.

I'm not sure what would provoke me to lay down in front of an altar--but it seemed natural and proper for Shane and Elizabeth. It was an humbling honor to see that--and their whole profession.

I wrote them a poem for their day. It is for them--but I don't think they'd mind me sharing it with you.


Not just an occupation,
though that is the usual definition.
Oh, no, more than that, much more.

Profession” as a verb, not a noun,
is wondrous indeed.
To avow, to declare, to promise--
profession” leads into all sorts
of nonsense and wonderment and joy.

To actually 'say so' about
what your lives will be and consist of
and contain.

To 'profess' opens up the possibility
of a future you speak into being.
A future that wouldn't have happened
otherwise, until you spoke it.

Few people in the world
make such a 'profession'--
speak a future and a life
into being like that.

And today you two do.

Astonishing, memorable, inspiring,
full of being and hope and wonderment.
Like that.
Thank you for going to the edge
of what you can know and see
and then stepping off.

And I know, as you step off into what
is not known, not knowable,
you will be caught by loving arms
or learn how to fly.

JGB 7/21/2015

I might suggest that each of us consider and ponder what it is we 'profess' to be in this world. That, I believe, would be a pondering of great value, to us and to the world we live in. Just me thnkin'....


Monday, July 20, 2015

How did this happen?

Tomorrow, our baby Mimi turns 37. In about three months, our oldest child, Josh, turns 40.

How did this happen? How did they get so old and how did I, along side them reach the great age I'm at as well?

Bern and I were children of older parents. My parents were nearly or past 40 when I, their only child was born. Both my parents were dead before I was 37, much less 40. Same with Bern's parents--she was the late in life child with two much older siblings.

And here we are--Bern and me--with children that old! Amazing!

Here's the thing--both Mimi and Josh turned out 'just right'. We can take no credit for it for we were young when they were born, in our 20's, and had no idea what to do with babies, much less adolescents when they got there, much too soon by my timing....

We made it up as we went along, flying by the seat of our pants, improvising like crazy, having no clue about most everything about raising children. And only child and a youngest child trying figure out what growing up as brother and sister was all about. God help us!

God probably did--must have--since Josh and Mimi are remarkable, successful, wonderful, beyond lovely adults. I can't imagine how it happened, how we were blessed--truly 'blessed' to have them turn into the adults--nearing middle aged (imagine that)--that they've become.

Both are married to people we love and adore. All four of them (spouses and our children) are accomplished and successful. Mimi and Josh both make more money that Bern and I can imagine, putting the lie to the thought that children of Baby Boomers aren't as successful as their parents.

I'm actually tearing up, writing this. That's how wondrous they are. Things were not always seamless with them or between them, but somehow, right now in all our lives, something special is magically taking over.

We are all wonderful and well and full of joy and loving each other.

What could be better than that?

Nothing, that's what!!!

Happy birthday, my babies, now 37 and 40. Who knew, when this all started, how perfect it would be now?

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Trump and Cosby--two tales sadly told

OK, there are few icons in the country larger than John McCain, prisoner of war turned US Senator and candidate for President. Love Sen. McCain or not, he is certainly worthy of respect. Yet Donald Trump has taken him on and dissed him big-time.

Trump  said publicly that McCain is only a war hero "because he was captured" and that he (Trump) preferred people who weren't captured.

Outrage was wide-spread and apologies were demanded. No way, Trump said. "I stand by what I said," he said.

Really. I don't agree at all with McCain's politics but anyone who spent over 5 years as a POW and still has physical issues from his torture has got to be given acknowledgement and respect.

Unless, of course, you're Donald Trump. If you're Donald Trump, you can say anything and not have to apologize--like to Mexicans....

And here's the thing to make you nervous, Trump is polling first in the over-crowded Republican field for President. It's only 15%, granted, but he's first! Something to give you pause about the party....

Then, with the release of 2005 court documents, it becomes blatantly clear that Dr. Huxtable was in fact 'playing doctor' with all those women--sedating them and raping them. It requires a rethinking of a life-time of admiring Bill Cosby. Even Whoopi Goldberg has withdrawn her support and President Obama said in a press conference that there is no mechanism to revoke Cosby's Freedom Medal but anyone 'who is given a drug and then forced to have sex' has been raped.

At least he's not running for President.

If only some stuff like this would come out about Ted Cruz....

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The gloaming

The 'gloaming' is what we, in America, would call 'dusk'. It's defiantly a term from the British Isles. Gloaming, it seems to me, is a much richer word. It comes, this much I know, from the Old English word (which required diacritical  symbols my computer can't make--umlauts and such) that means 'glow'. That time of day, sans Sun, that is still light.

It's my favorite time of day, I think. Often I sit on our deck in one of Adirondack chairs Bern made with the help of our friend, Hank, in the gloaming and read until I can't see the words on the page any more. This year, because of the mild summer nights, it's always been pleasant until the light dies. I tend not to be bitten by bugs so I don't use the bug light or the organic oil Bern uses. I just sit and read until I can't see anymore.

It's 8:15 pm as I write this and it is still enough light to read, but I watched something in the gloaming I want to write about. Two young Cardinals (so many, many birds this year) were trying out their wings and flying through our back yard and then our side yard. Their mother, I'm sure, a full-grown female Cardinal was following them. They landed near a robin in our neighbor's front yard and the mother seemed distressed. But then the father Cardinal--so red it hurt your eyes, even in the dimming light--arrived to drive the Robin away.

Not something you see every day--the parental instincts of birds.

And how lovely to see it in the glow of the gloaming.

So rich it is to sit until the glow after sunset leans into darkness.

My favorite time of day by far--the gloaming....

Friday, July 17, 2015


(This is something meant for my reflections on priesthood. But I never finished it fully because it is, in this shape, a sermon.)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Sermon last

(OK, I'm sure I posted this before but after over 1300 posts I don't want to go looking to make sure. This is the last sermon I preached at St. John's, Waterbury, CT after 21 years as Rector. For me, it is one of the best sermons I ever preached. Hope you like it.)


In one of Robertson Davies’ novels, someone asks an aging priest how, professing to be a holy man, he could devour a whole chicken and a bottle of wine at dinner. The priest answers:
“I am quite a wise old bird, but I am no desert hermit who can only prophesy when his guts are knotted in hunger. I am deep in the Old Man’s Puzzle, trying to link the wisdom of the body with the wisdom of the spirit until the two are one.

In my two decades in your midst, I have feasted on Joy and Sorrow, on the Wondrous and the Mundane, trying always to link the wisdom of the body to the wisdom of the Spirit…Deep in the Old Man’s Puzzle….

A few years ago, for our anniversary I gave Bern a drawing by an artist named Heather Handler. It has a weird looking tree on it and these words:
“Sit with me on hilltops, under trees and beneath the skies.
Then speak softly and tell me the story, once again,
About why we met, and how someday we’ll fly….”
That sentiment was about our relationship—Bern’s and mine—and it also speaks to me and you and our shared ministry and our relationship in this place for over twenty years.

Today—this day—is our ‘last dance’. Friday we will part. I will go my way and you will go your way. And both ways are full of hope and joy and not a little anxiety and unknown wonders. Both ways lead to this: they lead us deeper into the Old Man’s Puzzle and they lead us to flying….

There is no doubt in my mind that “why we met” was because of the will and the heart of God. But when I came here, I could not have ever imagined staying so long. And now that I am leaving, I cannot imagine leaving so soon.
Yet I know this—we, you and I, will soon learn how to fly.

Today we sit on the hilltop, beneath the sky and speak softly.
And then we part, you and I. The last dance always ends. And the future lies ahead, beckoning, inviting, always to be created….

I cannot thank you enough. I cannot thank you completely. There are not enough words—though I am a man of many words—to give that thanks in a way that matters.
Instead, I will bless you.
And these are my words of blessing: VOCATUS ATQUE NON VOCATUS, DEUS ADERIT….That means this: “Bidden or unbidden, God is present….”

Whether we call upon God or not—God is always there…profoundly there…totally there…here…and now….

I leave you, as I found you, with God in your midst and deep in the Old Man’s Puzzle.
You have let me be a part of that for these years. God was here when I arrived and God guided us—you and me—on our journey together…and God waits, ready and glorious, to lead you on as I leave and to lead me on as you stay here.
And there is this: God will teach us how to fly….And puzzle us more and more.

I love you. I adore you. I will miss you more than you imagine…more than you CAN imagine. And I bless you and thank you.
Keep trying, in every way possible, to link the wisdom of the body—WHAT YOU DO—to the wisdom of the Spirit—WHO YOU ARE.
And start trying out your wings……
April 25, 2010

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Cluster Council picnic

How wonderful it was--the annual Cluster Council picnic. In Higganum at Dick and Nancy's house.

Great food, but even greater people.

I love the folks from these three little churches and value my time with them greatly.

They remind me how blessed I am to be who I be and do what I do.

We went in for dessert since the rain began to fall tenderly. We would have left earlier if we'd been outside, but inside was so comfortable and welcoming we stayed and stayed.

I'd like to thank each of them: Nancy, Dick, Gert, Dean, Garnett, Deb, Steve, Nancy, Toni, Ann, Bea, Cherry...each of them make me realize how rich and deep and profound my life is.

I'm not embarrassed any more for being joyful and fulfilled in my life. I've moved on to thanking those who make that so....

Monday, July 13, 2015

Tend the fire...chapter 13

(tomorrow is my day to reject all media, so I thought I'd send this tonight.)

13. God around the Edges


I drive home through pain, through suffering,
through death itself.

I drive home through Cat-scans and blood tests
and X-rays and Pet-scans (whatever they are)
and through consultations of surgeons and oncologists
and even more exotic flora with medical degrees.

I drive home through hospitals and houses
and the wondrous work of hospice nurses
and the confusion of dozens more educated than me.

Dressed in green scrubs and Transfiguration white coats,
they discuss the life or death of people I love.

And they hate, more than anything, to lose the hand
to the greatest Poker Player ever, the one with all the chips.
And, here’s the joke, they always lose in the end—
the River Card turns it all bad and Death wins.

So, while they consult and add artificial poison
to the Poison of Death—shots and pills and IV’s
of poison—I drive home and stop in vacant rooms
and wondrous houses full of memories
and dispense my meager, medieval medicine
of bread and wine and oil.

Sometimes I think…sometimes I think…
I should not drive home at all
since I stop in hospitals and houses to bring my pitiful offering
to those one step, one banana peel beneath their foot,
from meeting the Lover of Souls.

I do not hate Death. I hate dying, but not Death.
But it is often too much for me, stopping on the way home
to press the wafer into their quaking hands;
to lift the tiny, pewter cup of bad port wine to their trembling lips;
and to smear their foreheads with fragrant oil
while mumbling much rehearsed words and wishing them
whole and well and eternal.

I believe in God only around the edges.
But when I drive home, visiting the dying,
I’m the best they’ll get of all that.

And when they hold my hand with tears in their eyes
and thank me so profoundly, so solemnly, with such sweet terror
in their voices, then I know.

Driving home and stopping there is what I’m meant to do.
A little bread, a little wine and some sweet smelling oil
may be—if not enough—just what was missing.

I’m driving home, driving home, stopping to touch the hand of Death.
Perhaps that is all I can do.
I tell myself that, driving home, blinded by pain and tears,
having been with Holy Ones.

8/2007 jgb

Poetry, it has always seemed to me (aging English Major that I am) speaks in code and un-conceals truth with a lyrical ruthlessness. I had written the line above that goes: “I believe in God only around the edges” , and read that line several times before I realized being in “poem mode” had stripped away decades of self-deceit and un-concealed an abiding and profound Truth about me. I believe in God only around the edges. What a stunning realization to a man of 60+ who has been an Episcopal Priest for some 35+ years! What a dose of cold water poured over my head. Prior to my third or fourth reading of that line, which my subconscious wrote, I would have said, without fear of contradiction: “I believe in God.” But now I know that is a lie. Now I know I only believe in God around the edges.
Since the edgy God I believe in is a master of irony, just today a dear friend asked me if I’d read the article about how Mother Teresa (God Bless Her) was haunted with severe doubts about the existence and reality of God throughout her life of doing God’s work. The article, my friend told me, promising to get it to me, was written by one of the recent group of authors who have challenged “faith” to the point of finding it the root of all problems in our suffering, darkling world. “Just an example,” she told me, “of how ‘religious people’ are all frauds and fakes and worse than that.”
Irony piled on irony—I had emailed the poem “Driving Home” to my friend the night before she saw the article. And now, Mother Teresa, the combination of Martin Luther King, Hildegard of Bingham and Gandhi, had doubts! Who better, I commented, given all she saw and worked with every day to have serious considerations about a God of compassion, love and mercy? Who better to believe in God only around the edges than Mother Teresa? Who better to doubt?
Here’s what I know: I don’t believe in God ‘head-on’, rushing inexorably into my life, running the Universe like the manager of a Target store, slaying the unrighteous and guarding the faithful. I don’t believe (whatever “believe” means) in the blood-thirsty and vengeful Almighty of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I don’t believe, except around the edges, in the God of the Nicene Creed—a collection of random dogma if there ever was one. And—this is the killer, the one to get me de-frocked after all these years—I don’t believe in the petulant God who decided the Creation and human beings he/she/it ‘spoke’ into being in Genesis and destroyed in the Great Flood were so despicable and un-holy that the only thing that would make them somehow ‘fit’ to be in the Kingdom was if he sent his child to be brutally murdered in their place.
I don’t believe in the Doctrine of the Atonement, in other words. It is offensive to me and reveals a childish and impetuous Deity. “Hey, you ‘chose’ these people as your own! Put up with them, for your sake!” (I’m reminded on the little poem by Ogdon Nash: “How odd of God/to choose the Jews.”) But since you chose them, don’t change dance partners half-way through the party. And for all that is sacred in heaven and earth, don’t demand the blood of Yourself—Your son—to correct the problems! Get over it and move on—there might be a design flaw in those created “in Your own image” and “just a little lower than the angels” but that’s Your fault not theirs. The God of the Old Testament reminds me of automobile manufacturers in our own day who are so loathe to admit they made a design error and re-call cars as if it were the fault of those who bought them. That God also reminds me of the Chinese folks who have—in a remarkably short period of time—be found to have poisoned animal food, children’s toys and clothing. Just today they admitted their fault but covered the bet by saying it was a result of a change in regulations rather than the poison that they felt was ‘legal’ when they put it in food, painted toys with it and dipped clothing in it. At least there is this: a few of the Chinese managers have committed suicide to prove their commitment to ‘honor’. Yahweh just kept killing off the enemies of the Hebrews, destroying the world with water and deciding to have the authorities crucify the second-person of the Trinity because of manufacturing mistakes. Hey, put poison in dog food, lead in toy paint and formaldehyde in baby clothing and someone will get hurt. Perhaps the God of A/I/J should have taken a little responsibility for making Free Will part of the factory package….
So, I believe in God around the edges. Here’s a metaphor for that (don’t blame me that all metaphors ultimately fail after making their point). Did you ever have a bee—or worse, a wasp—show up in the front seat of your car when you’re driving 75 mph in the third lane of an Interstate? There you are, straining your fine motor skills to the limit by driving a lethal weapon faster than it should be driven, and suddenly there is a bee buzzing around your hands on the steering wheel. There are several options. Crash into the divider and kill yourself rather than get stung. Slam on the brakes and cause a five car pile up, damaging lives other than your own, instead of getting stung. Swerve across two lanes of heavy traffic to the break-down lane and if you don’t kill yourself or somebody else, stop the car, open all the doors and run around your car screaming like a banshee, avoiding being hit by a twelve wheeler bearing down on you. Open your windows and hope the little beast goes out. Start slapping at it with a road map, careening madly across crowded lanes of traffic in front of people who, truth be known, shouldn’t be allowed to drive to begin with. Or, keep your speed up, hoping for an interchange in a dozen miles or so that you can carefully cross the other lanes and pull off at a Shell Station to deal with the bee.
If (as I hope you will) you choose the last option—(using the Free Will Yahweh shouldn’t have handed out so lavishly if He/She was going to regret it later), you will have, before then, felt—whether true or not—the little insect, make it a wasp instead of a bee since bees are so fuzzy and loveable and wasps are the spawn of Satan, walking up your leg with six sticky little feet toward your thigh. I forgot to tell you it was summer and you had on shorts as you drove like a crazy person down an Interstate with a wasp in the car.
Ok, that’s a metaphor for how God most often shows up to me—just when I don’t have the time or attention to give; just when I’m distracted by vital things; just when I’m too busy to be disturbed.
It’s like the story of the young monk and the wise old monastic. The younger monk asks, “Brother, you have taught me to always be ready to receive the Lord when he arrives in strange guises. But I am sometimes too distracted or busy with my work and prayer and study and am not hospitable to the stranger.”
The old monk smiled and nodded his head. “That’s alright, my brother. Often when I see the Lord coming at an inopportune time, I say to him, in my annoyance, ‘Jesus Christ, is it you again!?’ Our Lord is always ready to be welcomed—even when we are not feeling like we can….”
A few months before I retired, I was at a meeting in St. John’s library at 3 p.m. Four of us were discussing a brochure we are creating to raise money for capital improvements. I will take the opportunity to whine a bit since Friday is what was occasionally referred to as “my day off” and there I was sitting around a table, annoyed and out of sorts. No one but the four of us were in the building, it being an August Friday afternoon, but the last person in had not locked the door to the Parish House so I heard it open. What a pain—not only am I spending my day off talking about raising money—now I have to go see who just walked into the building.
It was a young woman named Rachel who was in tears and obviously distressed. I told her I was a priest (who knows if she believed me!) and asked her what she needed.
“My friend is dying,” she told me, between sobs, “and I just wanted to light a candle and pray for him.”
I told her we didn’t have candles to light but I would be glad to let her into the church to pray. I did that small kindness and minor hospitality and then went back to my meeting.
Half-an-hour later I sensed her in the hallway and left the meeting again. Her friend has a rare form of cancer—he’s 33 and a new dad and is dying in spite of all the resources and miracles of Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. We sat for a while in the hallway and she suddenly asked me, “Can I be baptized?”
I thought she meant at that moment and, though I would have roused the witnesses from the library and done it then, she meant in the near future. She’d not been baptized as a child—in fact she’d been to more funerals and weddings that Sunday services in her lifetime. But it had haunted her—like a wasp climbing up your leg at 75 mph—that she’d never done it.
I told her what I truly believe: that God loves her just as much in that moment as God will love her after her baptism but that I believe baptism has a profound objective reality and that I would be honored, blessed, humbled and proud to talk more with her about it and baptize her whenever she was ready.
She hugged me awkwardly and, tear drenched, went on her way.
We finished the meeting about the brochure—so vital to the future and enhancement of the mission and ministry of St. John’s, I really mean that—and yet, driving home, I was left wondering if the God I believe in around the edges had brought me to that oh-so-important meeting to meet Rachel, longing for baptism.
OK, right off the bat, I have to admit that I had doubts if I’d ever see her again. Maybe she’ll feel embarrassed by how open and needful she had been with me. Maybe her friend will die and she’ll be too angry with God to want to be baptized. Maybe her friend will live and she’ll think coming to pray for him and talking to a graying, over-weight priest who didn’t want to be there…wasn’t supposed to be there, was enough. Maybe she’ll come back and we’ll talk about God and baptism and the water and oil will proclaim the awesome and unfathomable truth that Rachel is a beloved child of God and she’ll teach church school or be a Lay Eucharistic Minister or Senior Warden one day. Who knows? Maybe God knows—the God I believe in and love around the edges. But I know this: any God that thinks Rachel needs water and oil to be His/Her child is inside the edges I believe in and love.
Here’s where my wasp in the car metaphor fails. I simply left my oh-so-important meeting and spent time with Rachel. I didn’t kill the wasp or get it out of the car or pull over to the side of the road. I just knew the little sticky feet—six of them—on my thigh meant I needed to react to the moment and deal with the person God sent to be with me when I wasn’t supposed to be there. That’s all I know. I don’t know the rest.

If you asked me to describe my spirituality—which I hope you’d never think of asking me…ask me about the weather, the Yankees and Red Sox, the Bush administration, the price of gas, my twin (not identical) grandbabies, how I’m feeling, the brochure we’re developing to raise mega-bucks for St. John’s, whether I saw The Closer episode on Monday or have read the last of the Harry Potter books (yes and yes, by the way) and I’ll be happy to engage you in conversation—however, I pray you won’t ask me to ‘describe my spirituality’.
But if you did, I would pause long enough to let you be distracted and walk away before telling you, “I’m a contemplative.”
I am a ‘contemplative’ spiritually. Though I am often and always involved in social action issues, I am not a ‘social activist’ in my spirituality. I wouldn’t even know how to be that. I believe in prayer the way I believe in God—“around the edges”. I’m perfectly happy to pray the prayers of the Eucharist of the community. That’s what I get paid for, in large measure, after all. And I participate in ‘intercessory’ prayer and prayers for healing and more often than I remember pray prayers of thanksgiving and prayers giving Glory to my edgy God. All of that I do without apology. And, I must admit, though I think it is meet and right to do so, I’m not certain in any significant way about what those prayers mean or do.
Prayer to me is not asking or inviting or thanking or hoping or wishing or intoning. I don’t object to any of that—but if you asked me how I pray—when I do…I would tell you I am a contemplative. Here’s what the prayer I truly believe in consists of: sitting in a chair and shutting the hell up. And that doesn’t mean I believe if you just ‘sit there’ and ‘listen’ God will come over your FM receiver with lots and lots of news. In fact, I believe mostly in prayer that makes no sense and has no immediately discernible result. What I believe in about prayer is this: Prayer is waiting.
I sit by the beds of people dying from horrific diseases and my prayer by those bedsides is waiting.
That might be an insight into what a ‘contemplative’ is and what the nature of believing in God ‘around the edges’ is all about. I could never believe in a God who was guided by what I call “Gallup Poll Prayers”. I could never believe in a God who was tallying up the number and sincerity of prayers before deciding, as the Creator of the Universe, what to do about Aunt Elsie’s cancer. I participate in “prayer chains” and am honored, humbled to do so. But if you put a gun to my head I’d say that the God I believe in and love isn’t keeping count of how many prayers come in before deciding to let Aunt Elsie live or die. To start down that road turns prayer into some form of competitive sport and if you only pray hard enough and well enough and avoid getting penalized for insincerity or too little love then the One who spread the heavens and created the stars will say: “well, lots of prayers on that one—let them live….”
Please don’t hear this as a discouragement for prayers of intercession. They ‘work’; I know they do. It’s just that they don’t necessarily ‘work’ (from my point of view) in the way you and I want them to ‘work’.
(I was once sitting in Malcolm's back yard on Capitol Hill in DC with Malcolm and his daughter Rachel, aged 5. Rachel came over to where we were sitting and said to her father, “Daddy, can we go get some ice cream?”
“Not just now, Rachel,” he told her kindly. Let me talk with Jim and then we'll go.”
She wandered off to play but was back in about two minutes. “Daddy, she said, “can we go get ice cream now?”
“No, Rachel,” he said, a little less kindly, but kindly none-the-less, “I told you we would go after I talk with Jim.”
Again, she wandered off and was back in about 60 seconds this time.
“Daddy,” she said, “can we go get ice cream now?”
Malcolm pulled her onto his lap and said, very seriously, “Rachel, I've answered this question twice already. Why do you keep asking me?”
She touched his face and said, “Daddy, it hasn't been the answer I was looking for....”
He melted and the three of us went to get ice cream.
Lots of people see prayer like that. If you only ask enough or 'in the right way', God will give you the answer you're looking for. The parable of the 'inopportune neighbor' in the Gospels seems to support that notion. Annoy God long enough and often enough and God will grant your wish.
I'd call that 'wishful thinking' or 'persistence' but not prayer.)
I often tell people in deep distress about something in their life or the life of one they love to read the Psalms aloud. And I tell them to skip the mushy ones like everyone’s favorite—the 23rd in the King James Version—and concentrate on the ones that are totally pissed off at and mystified by God’s deafness. It seems to me that prayers raging at God are good for the soul and most likely, unless I’m totally crazy, good for God. Do I think ‘God answers prayers’? Of course I do. I just don’t think the ‘answer’ is necessarily the one we prayed for and expected. If you only believe in God around the edges, it seems to me, you develop a highly sophisticated trust in what God does since the God you believe in is the God of mercy, love, inclusion, forgiveness, compassion, joy and life. Those are the ‘edges’ of God. What exists inside the edges is a God of judgment, vengeance, favoritism, psychological imbalance, destruction and almost endless pain.
You take your choice and get the God you get….
So, I’d describe myself as a ‘contemplative’ spiritually. That definition would be like shock and aweamong both my friends and those who don't like  me very much
  —and both, interestingly enough, for the same reasons. I am considered, by most people who know me as “a crazy, off-the-wall, out of control Left-Wing nut”. Which is, by the way, one of the ways I would define myself, if you asked me: I’ve been known to say that I’m so ‘liberal’ I sometimes scare myself.
But nobody deserves just one ‘description’. Since I get at least two, I describe myself as a “contemplative” as well as a “left-wing nut”. One way I would not describe myself—though many who know me would use that description—is as ‘an activist’. I used to be an activist. I used to frequent demonstrations and protests for all the right causes. I used to show up in court to support my comrades who had been arrested. And I’ll ‘talk the activist talk’ as much as you can stand to hear it. I minister to activists all the time. But my commitment to being a parish priest took me off the ‘front lines’ and into a supportive role. I’m not proud of that retreat, but it is a retreat I’ve made.

I got an email recently about two books that are “Monastic Values for Everyday Life”. The first book is called “Simplicity” and the second “Hospitality”. I can get them both, according to the email, for “$40 USD plus shipping.”
There were two quotes, one from each book, included in the email. I want to share them with you, though they are lengthy. The underlined portions are what I want to write some more about, contemplative that I am.
The expression ‘separating the wheat from the chaff’ means to find things of value and separate them from things of no value. The contemplative life calls us to discern between that which is true and good and that which is meaningless and distracting. It is a life of ever deepening relationship with God, a life of value and purpose and in vertical alignment with what is real, eternal and sustaining.Simplicity praxis book.

Hospitality is an important aspect of contemplative spirituality, as it gives a concrete shape to the meeting of God in silence and prayer. To love the invisible God one must love the visible neighbor. And, as a logical extension, there is a call to respect all that God has created, showing a stewardship toward what has been freely given by God for the earthy journey toward heaven.” Hospitality praxis book.

I learned my contemplative spirituality from Fr. Basil Pennington who believed we must have a holy respect for “ALL that God has created”. Fr. Basil refused to “discern between that which is true and good and that which is meaningless and distracting”. He considered the ‘distractions’ to prayer as a gift from God. He never suggested obliterating or separating them out from anything else. “The distractions”, Fr. Basil would say, “are part of your prayer.”
The two quotes in the email are contradictory. Never mind that I agree with Walt Whitman—“Do I contradict myself?/Very well, I contradict myself./I am large./I contain multitudes.”—I still find a profound problem in ‘separating the wheat from the chaff’ in the spiritual life. I agree, however, that in the spiritual life ‘there is a call to respect all that God has created’. So, either everything—every f---ing thing—is meaningful; or, none of it is. Once we start to pick and choose about the ‘meaningful’ and the ‘meaningless’ we have let loose upon the earth an unholy code that will divide God’s creation against itself. I—as a contemplative—just can’t accept the uncontrolled self-righteousness that would grant me. There are enough people on the planet who are dividing the “wheat from the chaff”. I choose, with the God I believe in around the edges help, not to be one of them.
A dear friend of mine, once my lay assistant, considers himself a Buddhist Christian—or a Christian Buddhist—I can’t remember which. I remember overhearing a conversation between him and a member of our parish over a decade ago. Stephen (not his real name) had just returned from his vacation, which had been a 30 day Buddhist retreat. He was telling Carl (not his real name either) about the experience. When Stephen had worn Carl out with the details of the meditation and vegetarianism and physical work of the retreat, Carl asked, not unexpectedly, “Tell my Stephen, are you a Christian?”
And Stephen, God and Buddha bless him, gave the finest and most complete answer I’ve ever heard to that presumptive question.
“At least,” Stephen said.

When you “believe in God around the edges” you can be ‘at least’ a Christian. ‘At least a Christian’ is a proper definition for believing in God around the edges—at least for me.
Another metaphor for how God shows up for me is this: I am pouring the water of baptism over some so-cute-you-could-eat-them baby, who is smiling and cooing and enjoying the whole thing. And then, as I say “Holy Spirit”, the baby either farts or has a massive, almost instantaneous bowel movement, filling up her/his diaper within his/her little satin baptismal get-up with what can be defined as lots of things, but let’s say ‘poo’.
I’m convinced whoever wrote the thing about ‘separating the wheat from the chaff’ and the ‘meaningful from the distracting’ would categorize baby ‘poo’ in the latter of both those distinctions. But I’m not sure. I know you’ve seen the bumper sticker that says “SHIT HAPPENS”. Well, it does, of that I am convinced.
Either the shit that happens is part of the whole thing—a piece of the party, a wondrous gift once you get by or begin to enjoy the smell and the mess and the dry cleaning bill for the satin baptismal outfit—or, it’s not. I’m a fundamentalist about this—‘either IT ALL means something or NOTHING DOES’. I really trust that either every moment/distraction/shit/wonder of life can either reveal or un-conceal God or, as a friend of mine says: “Life is just one damned thing after another.”
Would that we could siphon out the bad and reflect only on the good. Would that we could distinguish between the clean and unclean. Would that we could gather all the wheat into one place and consign the chaff to outer darkness. Wouldn’t that just be the cat’s pajamas?
Well—aside from having no idea what ‘cat’s pajamas’ means—being able to divide God’s beloved creation into the “good” and the “bad”, the “saved” and “damned”, the “light” and the “darkness” would make me worship the God within the edges. I have no patience for that God—boisterous and demanding and ultimately Self-Serving…the God that I fear many worship and cling to and even ‘vote for’ when they vote in elections. I have no patience with the God that demands warfare and drinks blood and condemns those who do not give obeisance to eternal fires and boils and running pus and suffering beyond all imagining.
I offer two more metaphors (for now) about God and how God shows up for me. First: I am in a room with someone I care for, even love, who has been a part of my life, and they are dying. They are surrounded by family and maybe even friends. I am expected to say something ‘profound’ and ‘meaningful’, but I have no words. I take a chair near the bed—they almost always find me a chair near the bed—and simply sit. Breathing is labored, strange fluids flow through plastic tubes into their arms and ports and other places. Machines register numbers in green figures on screens. People in scrubs and white jackets move in and out. The only sounds are those of medical devices and the soft wings of angels. I pray words I have prayed before, mumbling them through my pain and my tears—which are nothing, nothing at all compared to the pain and tears of the others by the bed. I use the only tools I have—prayer, oil, bread and wine—and then I sit down and wait. Something in the sacraments brings an initial healing, some temporary peace to the others by the bed. And the God I only believe in around the edges is inexplicably present. Something soft, something tearful, something wondrous.
And we wait. All we can do is wait and weep. Something Holy is near.
Imagine the God that would include such intimacy, such anguish, such sweet patience, such waiting. That is the God I worship and love around the edges.

I remember going to see Morgan and Emma—my twin (but not identical) granddaughter at age 10 months or so. I remember the moment they saw me come in. Morgan laughs as soon as she sees me (she would probably laugh if Satan walked in…she’s just ready to laugh). Emma is suspicious, withdrawn, not ready to embrace the stranger. They are almost a year old and they are the product of DNA from the British Isles, from Italy and Hungary, from China. They are, in a real sense, ‘the world’. (Their roles: laughing and shy, have changed over the years several times and now I have a third grand-daughters, Tegan. We see them more than before I retired and their first sight of me is always the same—surprise, shock and then delight.)
And I love them—unconditionally, without strings attached, absolutely, finally and eternally. I almost weep to simply see them—blood of my blood, bone of my bone, children who would not exist if I had never existed…so beautiful, so full of life, so wondrous and magic. I bite my lips to hold back sobs of joy as I move toward them—knowing they may accept or reject my embrace, my wonderment, my unquestionable adoration and devotion to them. I would gladly forfeit my life for them—in a heart-beat, without hesitation, gladly.
(An aside about the power of DNA: our house in Charleston had a back porch with a wrought iron railing. The garage was underneath that porch, so it was at least 10 feet above the driveway. I came home one evening in the autumn when Josh was just past one year old. I parked, as I did in good weather just inside the drive way gate. Josh and Bern were on the back porch and when he saw me he got so excited it stepped between the rails into open space....In that moment, I finally understood Jesus' teaching about 'there is no greater love than this, to lay down your life for another....” I would have gladly, without hesitation had taken that fall for him....Bern, God love her, grabbed his shirt, so he was dangling, held only by his shirt, 9 feet above the concrete. I ran beneath him and caught him when she let go. He thought it was great fun and wanted to do it again. We stretched chicken wire over the railings the next day and treated him as an even more special, my precious being than he was for a week or so at least.)
Back to my grand-daughters: they know me only “around the edges”. They do not realize or have the capacity to know the secrets of my heart, the betrayals of my life—the distractions and the crap—or the love that nearly makes me explode into white light. They cannot yet ‘name’ me fully—though they have a name for me, a name to call me by, a name to ask for intercession, a name to demand attention and presence and relationship. But back three years ago, before Tegan was born, it was only Me—just as I am—and Morgan crawls toward me, laughing and Emma walks (she who walks first) toward me, suspicious but trusting. And I feel their tiny bodies against mine. I lift them in the air. I speak to them in non-sense syllables and escape from the bonds of time as I hold them near.
Imagine the God that could grant me such wonder and love and peace. Imagine the God that could create, out of nothing but DNA and sperm and eggs Cathy carried from birth, ready to bloom, such creatures. Imagine such a God and I will tell you this: THAT IS THE GOD I BELIEVE IN AROUND THE EDGES.

The God I believe in, around the edges, is the God of Life and Death and everything in between and everything after and all that there is—the God of the Shit and the Glory, the God of the Wonder and the Pain, the God of the Anguish and the Joy, the God of the Hopefulness and the Loss, the God of the sterile hospital rooms and the rooms of homes and promise,
That God.
Around the Edges I give That God my life, my heart, my soul….

I believe in the Edges of God.
Truly, that is my limit on the whole question of Creed.

I don't believe in God storming out of the clouds
and smiting me to smithereens if I am bad.
I don't believe in a God who would wake me up,
pin me to my bed and give me bleeding sores
on my palms and the top of my feet,
much less my side.
(Explain that to your general practitioner!)
I don't believe in a God who would instruct me
to slay infidels or displace peaceful people
so I can have a Motherland.
I don't believe in a God that has nothing better to do
besides visit bedrooms around the globe
uncovering (literally) illicit love.
I don't believe in a God who frets
about who wins the next election.
I don't believe in a God who believes in 'abomination'.

I believe in the edges of God--
the soft parts, the tender pieces--
the feathers and the fur of God.

I do believe in the ears of God,
which stick out—cartoon like—on the edges of God's Being.
I, myself, listen and listen
and then listen some more
for the Still, Small Voice.
I believe in God's nose—pronounced and distinctively
Jewish in my belief--
I smell trouble from time to time
and imagine God sniffs it out too.
The toenails and finger nails of God--
there is some protein I can hold onto,
if only tentatively.

Hair, there's something to believe in as well.
God's hair—full, luxurious, without need of jell or conditioner,
filling up the Temple, heaven, the whole universe!
I can believe in God's hair.

God's edges shine and blink and relect color.
God's edges are like the little brook,
flowing out of the woods beyond the tire swing,
in what used to be my grandmother's land.
God's edges are like the voices of old friends,
old lovers, people long gone but not forgotten.
God's edges are not sharp or angled.
The edges of God are well worn by practice
and prayer and forgotten possibilities
about to be remembered.
God's edges are the wrists of someone
you don't quite recall but can't ever remove from your heart.

God's edges are rimmed and circled
with bracelets of paradox and happenstance
and accidents with meaning.

God is edged with sunshine,
over-ripe, fallen apples, crushed beneath your feet
and the bees hovering around them.

God's edges hold storm clouds too--
the Storm of the Century coming fast,
tsunamis and tornadoes, spinning out of control.

Blood from God's hands—now there's an edge of God
to ponder, reach for, then snatch your hand away.
God bleeding is an astonishing thought.
God bleeding can help my unbelief.

And most, most of all,
the edges of God are God's tears.
Tears of frustration, longing, loss, deep pain,
profound joy, wonder and astonishment--
tears that heal and relieve and comfort...
and disturb the Cosmos.

That's what I believe in:
God's tears.

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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.