Thursday, March 31, 2016

Happy Birthday, Daddy.

Tomorrow, April Fool's Day, would have been my father's 108th birthday, Bless him.

He was born in Waiteville, West Virginia, a place that had only dirt roads when I was a teenager, to a farm family. He was the youngest of 4 brothers and a sister. The sister died before I was born but the three brothers--Del, Russel and Sid--were major parts of my youth and upbringing. Del and Russel were merchants--Russel owned  grocery store and dry goods store in Anawalt and Del (Adelbert, if you were wondering) owned the Esso station across the street from the H&S grocery and 'department store' that Russel owned.

Sid lived in Princeton, a town of 20,000 24 miles away where my parents moved when I went to college.

Sid was an insurance salesman.

Roxie, their sister was the oldest and died when her two children--Billie LaFon and The Rev. Pat LaFon where teens. Pat even lived with my parents and me when I was a baby. When he left, I moved into what my parents always called "Pat's room".

God, I could get into culdesacs of memory we'd never get out of here!

Virgil Hoyt Bradley grew up on a farm where the cash crop was turkeys. So he didn't eat turkey until he went to McDowell County to be a coal miner. He didn't believe it could be turkey until he saw the carcass since they had been told as children that turkey was tough and tasteless and only city folks liked it.

From the coal mines he went to war--old enough to not go, but he went anyway, marrying my mother before that, and spend four years in Europe.

He was in the Engineering Corps and landed on Omaha Beach on the second wave. The rest of the war he helped build bridges for Gen. Patton to drive tanks across and then helped blow those bridges up, since they weren't going to retreat.

Back in WV after the war, he owned a bar/restaurant until he had to pull a gun on a drunk friend.

By then, I was a kid--the only one they had, the result of 14 years of marriage. Surprise!!!

Then he worked for Uncle Russel, then he drove a dry cleaning truck around the county and then he became--like Sid--an insurance agent (passing tests as an 8th grade drop-out that college kids couldn't pass).

My mother died when I was 25. My father over a decade later, after senility embraced him and I moved him to CT.

He was a self-made man.

He was never sure why I was an English major in college. "What will  you be when you graduate?" he asked me.

"A gentleman," I replied. (What a jerk I was.)

And this Episcopal priest stuff was totally out of his wheelhouse. He'd never met an Episcopalian (besides my cousin Mejol, who preceded me into Anglicanism) until I became one.

And he was dear and sentimental and loving and sweet.


And Tegan 'Hoyt' Bradley, our 6 year old granddaughter carries his name. Bless her.

Happy Birthday, Daddy, wherever you are.

I love you now the way I should have loved you while you were alive.

I'm sorry it took so long for me to love you the way I should have loved you always.

Fathers and Sons. Who can figure that out?

Happy Birthday, Daddy.

I love you so much.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

What a scam!

Yesterday I got 4 robocalls in 20 minutes--all the same: it went like this....

We've been trying to get in touch with you, a somber female voice said, This is the Internal Revenue Service and we are calling to let you know the IRS is filing a law suit against you. You must call the following number (she gives a number with a 305 area code) to hear about this law suit. Then she repeats the number and tells me 'to call immediately'.

Well, I didn't believe it for a moment--since the IRS obviously knows how to get in touch with me! And 4 calls in a quarter of an hour or so just seemed bogus.

I had to call Jane, who prepares our taxes, about a question she had so I told her about the calls.

It seems they start around this time of year and many people call the number and are offered 'a settlement' for their law suit.

What a scam!

And people who aren't as cynical as me might fall for it.

Jane told me the IRS will never call--they use the postal service. Government agencies working together....

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Light switches

Of all the things I'm terrible at--linear time, for example--I may be worst at light switches.

St. John's, Waterbury, where I was for 21 years (if I'd been born there I would have been old enough to vote, drink and smoke when I left!) I never quite got the details of light switches, especially in the church, down.

One day, before a Wednesday Eucharist, I was trying to figure out which of the 20 or more switches turned on the lights in the chapel. Mary, who was blind, was already there for the service.

I tried a dozen switches or so and then called out to her from the back of the church, "Mary, is that enough light in the chapel?"

"I couldn't tell you, Father," she said, not missing a beat, "but thanks for asking...."

We've lived in this house since 1989--27 years come September--and we have lots less switches than St. John's does.

But tonight, shutting off lights to go upstairs to bed, I went from the kitchen to the living room and reached to my right to turn off the light--and the switch is, as it has always been, on the left.

Two switches are by the door to the back porch. I meant to turn off the back porch light and plunged myself into darkness on the first try.

Then, at the back steps there are two switches. One turns on the overhead light in the kitchen (like the one by the porch door does) and one controls the overhead light near the fireplace. I meant to turn off the light in the kitchen and instead turned on the light near the fireplace.

Zero for three, all in one night.

Light switches and Linear Time--what is the connection?

I don't know, but I'll ponder it.

Now I'm going to turn off the light in my office (only one switch, a cinch) and walk down the hallway to our bedroom and turn off the light in the upstairs hall (only one switch available again) so I'll get those right.

But when there is a choice of two, I'll always push the wrong one.

Just the way I am.

Someone looking for the Light and unable to control it.

Ponder that.

A lot like life, I'd say....

Go figure....

Since I can see what people are looking at on my blog, I sometimes notice something odd--like a really old post getting attention.

 The following post is from September 2011 and people have been looking at it today. Go figure.


fall fell

Was it just me but did we lose 35 degrees or so overnight between Wednesday and Thursday?

I'm writing this with a tee shirt, a long sleeve shirt and a West Virginia University sweatshirt on. It is chilly. Relatively from a few days ago.

I grew up in Anawalt, West Virginia in the southern most county of the state--the free state of McDowell. One of the things I've come to realize having lived in New England and Alexandria, Virginia is that southern West Virginia has arguably the best weather in the US.

Anawalt is further south than Richmond and Lexington. And the elevation is about 2700 feet above sea level. The highest spot in WV is Spruce Knob which is 4200 feet a.s.l.

Because Anawalt was so far south and so high up, surrounded by mountains about 1000 feet higher, the climate was remarkable. We had four months of Spring and four months of Autumn with about 2 months of Winter and Summer. Spring and Autumn were cool at night and warm in the daytime. Summer was sunny but not that hot. A town 30 miles away called Bluefield (nicknamed "Nature's Air-Conditioned City") gave away lemonade any time the temperature got to 90. In the 18 years of my early life, I don't remember more than a few days that free lemonade flowed.

It rained a lot and snowed a lot. But the snow seldom stayed around for more than a few days. Even in winter, the temperature would creep up into the 50's a lot, so the snow would melt.

I actually think McDowell County could be a really ideal retirement place--amazing weather, mountains, friendly people. But then there is this: of all the counties in the contiguous 48 states, McDowell County has the earliest death rate AND the oldest average age.

Ponder that for a moment. People die sooner there than anywhere in the US and yet the average age is the highest. young people at all. When I grew up there 50 years or so ago, the county had 12 high schools--6 white and 6 black (McDowell County has about a 50/50 racial divide, the highest outside the deep South, though in the whole state there are only about 5 % black population....go figure that!) Now, to my knowledge, there are only 3 high schools.

The population of McDowell County, when I was growing up there, was about 60,000. Now, bear in mind that the county is about the size of Rd. Island, so we're talking a really rural place. Now, if I'm not mistaken, the population is around 30,000 or less. Go figure. Well, deep coal mining lost out to cutting the tops off of mountains. All the young people left.

Don't tell me there isn't something called Irony: the place in the country with the greatest weather ever is poverty stricken, practically deserted, full of old people who die early and so isolated that even if you wanted to retire there there is almost no easy way to get there.

Ponder that.

What a shame....

Monday, March 28, 2016

One more Easter over....

They were all here--both our children, their spouses, our three living granddaughters and our slumbering one in Mimi's belly--John and Suzanne, his niece, Jack and Sherry and their son, Robbie, and Jay (one of Josh's oldest friends) later.

Easter full of life, as it should be.

Our dog snapped at Robbie, as he has twice before (who knows what's that about? the dog gods?) so Bela was on a leash all day and upstairs in our bedroom with either me or Bern while Jay was here.

Resurrection is sometimes a complicated times--especially when you have a dog who is the worst ever but who you love like a Rock.

Food coming out our ears. I do the 'befores' except Bern breads and fries asparagus--usually canned but this year fresh and much better than what was already very good. I did pate and cheese and crackers and olives and shrimp and deviled eggs.

Then there was two hams--fresh and 'country'--vadellia onion  pie, green salad and dandelion risotta (from Sherry and Jack--green salad is lime jello with walnuts and cottage cheese in case you don't know) salad 'salad'. Coconut Cake and Robbie's Chocolate Silk pie for desert. Amazing

And good friends and beloved people and food and laughter and joy (after Bela was on leash!)

Good Friday was John's birthday. I found all these great cards and we gave him the National Geographic "Story of Jesus".

John is one of only a few folks I remember from college.

Suzanne, John's niece, went to Bennington College, where both Tim and Mimi went, more than a decade before.

I'm just rambling now, I know.

John took Tim to the train late Easter afternoon. Josh and Cathy and the girls left in the early morning on Monday for Baltimore. Mimi drove back to Brooklyn just after noon today and will pick Tim up from work in the Empire State Building and they'll go home. (How cool to have a son-in-law who works in the Empire State Building!)

And now, sated with left overs, about to go to bed, I'm writing this.

He is Risen! He IS indeed!

And I feel that way too after so much time with the people I love most in the world and Holy Week with the folks at St. James in Higganum.

Alleluia! I say.

Another Easter has come and Gone.

Alleluia! in lots of ways.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Happy Good Friday!

Josh and Cathy and the girls got here just as I was leaving for Maundy Thursday services. (My spell check didn't recognize 'Maundy'--who's running these things?)

They left this morning to visit a friend of Cathy's in Boston and show the girls Beantown. (Spell check doesn't like 'Beantown' either--must be West Coast atheists doing the checking....)

They'll be back tomorrow and stay until Monday.

Mimi arrived this morning and Tim will be here in the morning.

The tribe is gathering.

Just one of the reasons 'Good Friday' is so good.

The other reasons are theological and not nearly as much fun as family....

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

OK, we've now moved to 'too much'...

Just when you thought the political debate couldn't get any crasser or more demeaning--well, you were wrong!

A Ted Cruz Super PAC ran an ad in Utah (where Mormans live) of Donald Trump's wife naked in some magazine spread saying something like "meet your new first lady...or you could vote for Ted Cruz."

It was Donald's (I think) third and current wife (and why hasn't that come up among Evangelicals?).

So Trump tweeted (if elected he will run the country through Twitter!) that he might "spill the beans" on Ted's wife. Whatever the hell that means.

OK, adult people know to stop before trashing another person's spouse. They just do.

I'm through writing about these adolescents until they start 'dising each others' mothers.

That's sure to come, given the way all this is going.

I give the nomination to which one--Ted or Donnie--uses the MF word first....It's just what their supporters deserve.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

What does my PC want?

There are lots of things I still don't like about my new computer.

For example, WORD is a nightmare. I don't know how I used to write documents but it was a lot simpler. Just like this--spell check isn't available unless I ask for it by typing 'check spelling' in a box. And I need spell check a lot!

But the thing that drives me craziest is that no matter what settings I set, my computer goes to sleep in about two minutes. Then it shows me a picture and asks what I think of it "I'm not a fan" and "I want more" are the only two options.

I've never 'wanted more' of any picture of inanimate objects (no matter how artistic!) or anything with a human being in it. I want nature, nature, nature, nature....Get it PC?


Today photos of tools, a man climbing an ice wall and a room full of people showed up.

I've had this computer 6 months or more and all I've ever been a 'fan' of is pictures of nature, nature, nature, nature....What's so hard about that?

"We'll show you more like this", my PC tells me when I pick a nature/nature/nature photo as a fan. Then a day or two later, there's a photo of a violin--a perfectly lovely violin--but I want nature, nature, nature, nature you a-hole PC!!!

What's so hard about that?

Give me a view of a bay with funny islands or a forest or a seascape or the night sky and I'm a 'fan'.

No more artistic violins or tools.

Is that so hard?

Stupid PC....

Monday, March 21, 2016

Reality in an ultrasound

Mimi emailed Bern and me ultrasounds of little Ellie, growing inside her.

Little hand, little foot, two profiles: I was shocked into the reality that our baby girl is having a baby girl in July!

I'd been in, not 'denial', but something like 'disbelief'. Mimi was here a week or so ago and didn't look pregnant to me. Of course she wears Brooklyn style and her tops were a little too flowing to show off anything.

But there was Ellie's profile and foot and hand for all the world (or at least Bern and me) to see.

Tim and Mimi will be great parents, as terrified as they must be right now.

So Ellie has stepped into my reality. And I thank God for her and welcome her.

(I can't quite tell who she looks like from the ultrasounds, but her profile is perfect.)

Just perfect.

Joy and wonder.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Mystery least one....

Big mystery last week.

Several mornings there were pages in my printer tray I didn't print. They were, it turned out, pages from Dr. Stombakis, the surgeon who removed my prostate.

Medical records. I couldn't figure out how they were being sent to me through my printer.

After three random assortment of pages arrived, I noticed they weren't on the kind of paper in my printer. They were on thicker paper.

I was dumbfounded.

Was my printer also a FAX machine and the doctor's office was faxing me my records? But a fax machine prints stuff sent to it on the paper in the machine. No one can send paper through a wire!

I was flummoxed. Totally.

I'd begin to think I was imagining the whole thing when a few more pages on that thicker paper would show up in my tray.

Maybe I was losing my mind--though I always thought you had to have one to lose it....

Then, just a day or two ago, I came into my little office and there were papers all over the floor--more medical records on that good paper.

I looked on top of the bookshelf where my printer occupies the middle shelf and saw a folder about to fall off. It was the folder Dr. Stombakis gave me when I started seeing a urologist closer to home (Meriden vs. Greenwich). One or two pages had been falling out at a time and miraculously landing on my printer's tray!

Mystery solved! That one at any rate.

Another mystery emerged when I started reading the pages. I didn't understand most of it since it was in the medical secret language it takes years of Med School to master. No mystery there.

The mystery was when I noticed the date of my surgery.

It's been 11 years!

I told someone a few weeks ago that I had prostate cancer "five or six years ago".

Half right!

I know I am lost in linear time--but I didn't know it was that bad.

Eleven years becomes 'five or 6' in my mind--how weird. (Take the 'in my mind' in that sentence with a grain of salt....)

You have to 'have one' to lose it....

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Holy Week cometh....

Tomorrow is Palm Sunday. Holy Week is on the doorstep, ready to step in.

As an Episcopal priest, I should, it seems to me, be getting all misty about the arrival of Holy Week.

But, if I'm honest, I have to admit I'm more excited about the arrival of my children and grandchildren next week for Easter. Time with them is golden and all too rare. Jesus is always there!

I do like the drama of Holy Week and the Maundy Thursday/Good Friday liturgies. I don't have to do an Easter Vigil and I'm deeply thankful for that. Lots of 'church rats' love the Easter Vigil but I've never gotten into it. Easter for me is daylight and sunshine and warmth and Easter eggs and dinner with my family and some dear friends (we expect 13 for Easter dinner!)

So, my biggest thanks for Holy Week's approach is that it ushers in Mimi and Tim and Josh and Cathy and Morgan/Emma/Tegan into our lives for a few days.

But never mind all that: Holy Week comes...Enjoy!

(Or should we 'enjoy' the Passion of the Lord?  I think maybe we should....)

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Even more enough...

We all know that the Republican 'establishment' (whatever that is now) is dead set on holding Trump to less than a majority of delegates and turning the Convention into a side show. More luck to them.

But the Donald said that if he has 'the most delegates' going into Convention, even if it isn't a majority, and he's denied the nomination there 'will be riots'.

I heard a supporter talk to Wolf Blitzer today and say, "riots wouldn't be the worst thing that could happen."

Wolf gave her three chances to say she didn't mean 'violence in the streets' and she never really did.

"Inciting to riot", last I looked, was against the law. Yet Trump, months ahead of Cleveland, is laying the groundwork for such nonsense.

I can only hope that a vast majority of Americans--Democrats, Republicans and Independents have enough sense to make sure D. Trump cannot be elected.

I believe that is true. But then, I haven't been right about anything yet....

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Wearing the Green

We had corned beef and cabbage tonight since Bern's group meets tomorrow evening and she likes to have an earlier Thursday dinner. She put kale and two kinds of cabbage in--a great idea. She also made horseradish sauce to stop your breathing--which it is supposed to do!

I'm not as Irish as I pretend to be, but I'm some so I love St. Patrick's day. I also love Celtic music, which much means my Irish DNA, though small, is strong--who, besides a Celt could possibly like that music?

Plus, I'm going to Ireland again next month to help lead a workshop. Eight or so years in a row now. This one has 6 (I think) Israeli rabbinical students enrolled. I have enough time with the Irish accepts--there are lots of them! Good luck to my Jewish brothers....

Also, good luck staying kosher. There is nothing even vaguely kosher about Irish food. They could live on the potatoes, I suppose.

The Irish all think I'm Irish though my DNA is 65 percent Scandinavian. Come to think of it, most of the Irish folks DNA is probably Scandinavian as well! Those pillaging hoards from the north left their mark in may ways on the British Isles.

But, even if you aren't Irish, it's fun to pretend to be for the day. Obama's Irish, so you can be too!

Tomorrow it's ok to hold grudges!

My maternal great-grandfather came from Ireland during some famine or another with his two brothers. They got into such a fight on the ship that when they arrived at Ellis Island they all gave false names so they'd never be able to find each other in this new land.

The family name, according to the lore, was O'Connor. My great-grandfather told them his name was Jones--a Welsh name to add insult to injury.

The Irish are good at many things--'grudges' are one of them....

Monday, March 14, 2016

Why Ted Cruz makes me Crazy

Ted Cruz said today that the only thing that could keep him from supporting Donald Trump if Trump is the nominee is if Trump actually did go out on 5th Avenue and shoot someone (as the Donald said he could do and not lose support)!

The only thing crazier than Cruz saying that is his reason: "When I give my word I keep it."

One of the things I admire most in human beings is when they are able to change their minds and admit a former mistake of judgment. That quality enables us to create new possibilities rather than grit our teeth and 'do what we said'.

The Making a Difference Workshop I help lead talks about 'being your word'. That's important. Very. But we allow for the possibility of 'being' your 'broken word' as well. Fessing up that you didn't keep it and 'being' the one who didn't slavishly follow through and changed their mind.

Given all that, I should admire, of all people, Donald Trump--since he's forever changing his mind and not keeping his word. But I don't admire him, of course, since he just 'says what he needs to say' without any inkling of the consequences.

I do admire Hillary for the very thing Bernie accuses her of constantly--changing her mind and apologizing for past positions. Bernie--though everything he says, I agree with--is too locked into 'keeping his word' and 'being consistent'.

Consistence, remember, is the hob-goblin of small minds.

Give me someone who takes risks, steps out, sometimes screws up and then is man/woman enough to admit they were wrong and have changed their minds.

Adaptability and being open to the new is much more important to me than 'consistency' even when it is Bernie Sanders' consistence.

I want a leader who can admit they have made mistakes and 'be' the person who made them and 'fess up' and move on.

That's what I want.

I don't long for 'perfection' so much as being 'human' and admitting it, taking responsibility for it and 'being' even your broken word.

Just so you know where I am on all this--unless something shows me I'm wrong, then I'll let you know and apologize.....

the neighbor

We have a neighbor down the street who has a lab mix I call "Good Dog" because she is so well trained and so sweet.

I won't mention my neighbor's name and I've forgotten 'good dog's' real name. But here's the thing: about 4 months ago, my neighbor and his truck disappeared. There is another guy who used to be there about half-the-time and his car is there in the mornings and late afternoons now.

And Good Dog is still there--but not outside as much since the guy there now obviously works and our old neighbor didn't.

So, back to the beginning. When the old woman who lived in that house either died or went somewhere to die, the new neighbor moved in. He was too young to be retired (late 40's to early 50's) yet he didn't work and he and Good Dog were outside a lot. Very friendly. We talked as I walked Bela and Good Dog never came near Bela. So we could talk and I wouldn't have to drag bad dog away down the street.

This was 4 or 5 years ago. I never asked him what brought him to Cheshire and he never asked me either. Some of our neighbors know all about each other and some don't. And we honor that--we live in Cheshire for a reason, after all! Privacy is honored. Friendliness doesn't have to go very deep.

So, in my head I started inventing background on my neighbor. He was ex-military (the easiest solution for his not working) and he was well built and healthy. Then I thought ex-CIA or ex-Secret Service--both entertaining ways of explaining him.

After the guy who lives there now started coming for a few days at a time, I assumed they were lovers neighbor was in the Witness Protection Plan and the visitor was his contact who would come to let him know when he would have to testify.

That was full of adventure in my head, let me tell you!

But on 4th of July and Easter my neighbor threw huge parties for people with out of state license plates (I know, I know, I'm a creepy snoop!--but I walk Bela every day past that house, OK?) So, who were all these people? He couldn't be in witness protection unless the Federal Marshalls were bringing their families on holidays. So--back to ex-military, ex-CIA.

Then he disappeared. And 'good friend/lover' moved in to keep Good Dog. I saw good friend the other day out washing his car and he looks a lot like my missing neighbor, so maybe he's a younger brother.

Every time the scenario changed, I lived out different former lives for my neighbor.

So where is he? Not in Florida for the winter since he'd have taken Good Dog in his Truck, that's also MIA. Recalled to the Military? Called up to be Secret Service for Donald? Federal prison for reasons I can't imagine? He died and his brother sold the truck and is devoted to Good Dog? And a dozen or more such stories.

I told a friend all this and he said, "why don't you just knock on the door and find out the truth?"

I thought about that for a long while and then said, truthfully, 'that wouldn't be as much fun!'

Before our cat, Luke, died, I used to realize I didn't want to be in his mind. I might never get out it would be so cat-like and Byzantine. I could get in and out of Bela's mind without much effort.

All this might tell you something: you most likely don't want to wonder what goes on in my head either....

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Enough is enough....

Just for Donald Trump and all of us, here is the First Amendment to the Constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Mr. Trump today blamed (of all groups!!!) Bernie Sanders supporters for having to cancel his rally in Chicago last night. And beyond that, the 'thugs' who are violating his 'first amendment rights'.

In the first place, the First Amendment is solely a restriction on the power of the Congress. The right to free speech or assembly cannot be revoked by an act of Congress.

I remember from Civics Class more than half-a-century ago, that the right to speak freely has limits. You have no right (the example was) to say "Fire!" in a crowded room when there is no fire.

That should extend to cover many of the things Mr. Trump has said about protesters at his rallies--like he'd like to punch them in the face. Free speech does not include threatening others verbally or inciting people to violence. Both of which the Donald has done time and again.

The First Amendment is also the part of the Bill of rights which protects protest in a peaceable way.

The semi-Nazi salute he's incorporated into his rallies--raising your right hand to promise to vote for him was almost enough. But orchestrating situations where peaceful protest is not accommodated and where repercussions toward protest are suggested is way, way over the line.

The comedy of this primary season has become a tragedy--for us all and for the American political process.

Enough is enough.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Well, I've done it again!

I'm over 1700 posts on 'Under the Castor Oil Tree' and have started repeating myself!

As soon as I hit 'publish' for the last post "Just to let it be known...", I thought--"I've posted that sermon before!"

Sure enough, searching my posts, I found it back in the Autumn of last year!

So, either I have to improve my memory or you're going to have to read some things more than once.

(Or, best of all, if you're memory is getting like mine, you won't remember reading it before!)

Just to let it be known

There's a lot of talk in the Presidential primaries about who did and who didn't support the war in Iraq back in the day. I came across this sermon and thought I'd share it to just let it be known where I was at the time.

FEBRUARY 9, 2003

          Today’s Gospel finds Jesus in Capernaum—going to the synagogue for prayers, visiting the home of Simon and Andrew, healing Simon’s mother-in-law and the townsfolk.
Capernaum was a village on the Sea of Galilee—a village of those who fished for a living. First century Capernaum has been largely excavated by archeologists. When I was in Capernaum several years ago, I sat amid the ruins of the synagogue St. Mark talks about and visited the site of what may have been Peter’s house. The synagogue was smaller than the chancel area of this church—nearly as long but only half as wide. And the foundation of what could have been Peter’s house was even smaller. The houses were built almost wall to wall and the streets of Capernaum were only about four feet wide. What struck me about the town was how small and close it must have felt—how tight and confining.
          The house was only one room. Peter’s mother-in-law must have been on a mattress of straw in one corner of the room. It would have only taken Jesus a step or two to cross to her and lift her up, healed of her fever. Jesus and the four disciples with him would have taken up much of the house while Peter’s mother-in-law prepared a meal for them. Living in that house would have been much like sleeping and eating and washing and talking in a space about the size of a modern-day kitchen—that tight, that crowded, that close.
          When we’re told that the whole city “was gathered around the door”, we need to picture people crowded into a space about the width of a narrow hallway, stretching away in both directions. If Jesus sat in the doorway of Peter’s house only a couple of people at a time could have stood in front of him. A crowded, tight space—but not too crowded for the broken to find wholeness, for the suffering to find relief, for those in pain to find relief. So Jesus touched and healed until darkness fell and all who sought him had found him.
          Its little wonder then that Jesus rose before dawn to go outside to a deserted place to get away from the confinement and narrowness of the day. He needed some space, some escape from how crowded and pressed upon he must have felt in Capernaum.
          I was having a conversation with a friend and parishioner this week and the conversation turned, as most conversations these days do, to what may or may not happen in Iraq.  I was saying that I was surprised and confused by how the coming war seemed so inevitable and that most people seemed almost to take it for granted.
          My friend told she’d heard someone say that since September 11, 2001, Americans had been living with “an intolerable vulnerability.” The American people, after that terrorist attack, had—for the first time in recent history—felt so “vulnerable”, so unsafe, so exposed, so frightened that it has seemed unbearable—“intolerable” to us. An intolerable vulnerability….
          Since September 11, the US government has been granted wide latitude by the public for anything that claims it will reduce this “intolerable vulnerability” and make us feel somehow safer. With almost no opposition either within or outside the government, there has been serious, perhaps irreparable, erosion of civil liberties and constitutional guarantees.  All the government has needed to convince us to give away precious rights is to appeal to our fears, our vulnerability. We are promised that arrests without sufficient evidence, illegal searches and imprisonment without the due process are justified because we will be safe from terrorists. We are being “closed in” by our fears and vulnerability.
          Jesus escaped to the open places outside Capernaum while it was still dark. He went away from the crowds and the tightness and the confinement and close quarters so he could pray. But when his disciples came searching for him and found him, he returned to the people, to the crowds to proclaim his message—the message he was sent to bring.
          The Collect for today reminds us of Christ’s message. Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life you have made known to us in…Jesus Christ….
       Jesus’ message is the same today as it was in Capernaum. We are FREE from Sin and given the LIBERTY of Abundant Life.
          Freedom and Liberty are the enemies of fear and anxiety and that intolerable vulnerability. Abundant Life is life lived fully in spite of fear. Abundant Life is life lived with the courage and safety only God can give.
          Personally, I question the morality of the coming war. I oppose it strongly. It is, in my mind at least, a war that will be waged, not out of a longing for justice and righteousness, but out of our intolerable vulnerability.
However, I also believe most of those who support military action in Iraq are convinced of the rightness of their point of view. Saddam Hussein IS a tyrant and a monster to his own people. But there is much that can be done to oppose and weaken him short of unleashing our nation’s military might. I believe we need to act out of courage rather than fear.
          We will be no safer after much blood has been spilled and Iraq is defeated. The damage that this coming war will wreck will inflame and embolden those who wish us harm.
          As a Christian, I feel I need to cling to “the liberty of that abundant life” Christ makes known.
          Abundant Life is life lived fully in spite of fear and danger. We cannot ever be safe. But all that is most precious and most real cannot be taken from us by violence and terror.
          In fact, I think there is freedom and liberty found in facing our feelings of vulnerability.  Vulnerability teaches us humility. Vulnerability opens us to possibilities beyond returning violence for violence. Vulnerability can give us access to transformation, to newness, to hope. Living an abundant life takes much more courage than dealing death.
          Perhaps the most troubling part of our current quandary is how inevitable the coming war seems. Even people who oppose military action in Iraq seem defeated. “It’s too late to do anything,” a friend told me about the coming war. “Too much is in motion,” he continued, “it’s simply too late….”
          The vulnerable people of Capernaum—those sick and weak and possessed of Fear—sought out Jesus. Their brokenness was intolerable to them, so they sought out Jesus. And Jesus offered them freedom from sin and fear—he offered them abundant life.
          He offers us no less.
Christ offers us that abundant life which empowers us to live courageously in spite of fear and danger, to live with hope and restraint and faith in a time of intolerable vulnerability. Christ offers us freedom and liberty, and it is never too late to seek him.
          It is never too late to seek peace—though our country’s leaders seem committed to a fight to give us the illusion of safety at the expense of our national honor and integrity. It is never too late to bring the Light of Christ to this fearful, darkling world.
          It is never too late to seek Christ and to seek peace….It is never too late….

The Rev. Dr. Jim Bradley
St. John’s on the Green
Waterbury, CT 06702

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

I love adversity

So, we show up tonight for Cluster Council--or, at least, I show up first with a Chicago hot dog and a strawberry milkshake I bought at Sonic on the way. But there were cars in the parking lot. Instead of eating in the car, I go in to eat with the early arrivals.

But when I open the door to the room where we meet at Emmanuel, the room is dim and half-a-dozen folks are prone on the floor.

Confused I am. I retreat and Ted comes out to tell me there is a Yoga class in the parish hall. I am terrified I went to the wrong church for the meeting, but when the door opens and three other from the Council come in I am not only relieved, but intrigued.

You see, I love adversity, which is a not bad personality trait since the cosmos throws adversity at you so often. But what intrigues me is how the Cluster Council folks will deal with this alteration, this curve ball, this minor adversity.

You see, I like to find out how people adjust to the unexpected. That same cosmos is expert is giving us the unexpected.

By the time the 12 of us are in the church, it is clear to me that these are people I want to be around. A few murmurs about 'why wasn't it on their calendar?' but people then pile the food they brought on the piano--even pizza delivered to what is 'the wilderness' of Emmanuel Church--and people are finding chairs from all over to set up a meeting place in the back of the sanctuary in spite of the slight chill and the dim lighting. Someone even found a table for the clerk to take notes and we ate and had a great meeting.

These are the kinds of folks I want to surround myself with--folks who make the best of a bad situation, who are not cowered by the unexpected, who forge on into adversity.

I was blessed to be with them. Blessed.

Adversity, you don't have a chance with the folks of these three churches! They're up to it....

Maybe it's because of the 'night prayer' we always end with.

I refer you to the post before this to read that prayer--or 'pray' it, if you will. Gives the lie to the power of adversity, that prayer does.....

Pray it again, Sam...

Tonight we had Cluster Council. We always end with a night prayer.

It is so good I needed to share it again, so I found where I did share it. Here it is. 


 Thursday, October 9, 2014

night prayer

There is a prayer that we use to end Cluster Council Meeting called "night prayer" that is the most theologically and psychologically healthy prayers I've ever prayed.

It starts out in stillness in the presence of God--which is the very nature of the Centering Prayer I do and teach.

It calls us to let go of what 'has been done' and what 'has not been done', which is what we need to do spiritually and psychologically. Just 'let go' and move on.

It is fully Jungian when it talks of letting go of our fears of the darkness within us--embracing the dark, shadow side of who we are.

It asks for peace for all, even those who 'have no peace'.

It calls us to look for 'possibility' in the midst of the brokenness of life.

I've been told it comes from the New Zealand Prayer Book of that Anglican island.

I'm not sure. But I am sure it is one of the most holistic and inclusive prayers I've ever prayed.

So I share it with you here.


Lord, it is night.

The night is for stillness.
Let us be still in the presence of God.

It is night after a long day.
What has been done has been done.
What has not been done has not been done.
Let it be.

The night is dark.
Let our fears of the darkness of our world and
of our own lives
rest in you.

The night is quiet.
Let t he quietness of your peace enfold us,
all dear to us,
and those who have no peace.

The night heralds the dawn.
Let us look expectantly to a new day,
new joys, new possibilities.

In your name we pray. Amen.

I invite you to ponder the complexities of 'Night Prayer'. And to pray it....

No comments:


Walking the dog yesterday morning I counted 25 robins along the way.

Today there were 20 in Clara's yard across the street and 7 in our yard.

Robins, robins, robins. Robins everywhere!

I don't remember ever seeing so many at one time, especially this time of year.

Bern told me maybe I have, but have forgotten. (The woman has a list of my forgettings....)

But I'm not complaining. Robins are good.

And it's 50 degrees today.

What could be better than when the red, red robins come bob, bob, bobin' along?

Friday, March 4, 2016


I've got a lot of them.

The oldest one has shrunk to a dot over my left eyebrow. I was six or so and playing baseball in my uncle Russel's yard with much older cousins. I slid head first into home plate and hit my head on the side of the sidewalk. Blood everywhere (head wounds are the worst!), carried by a cousin, a long ride in my mother's arm to a doctor 15 miles away, some stitches and a ride home, still in my mother's arms. Repercussions to cousins for sure for letting 'little Jimmie' get hurt.

Scars, it seems to me, are like the rings on a tree stump. Scars tell us something about how life has gone over time. Scars have, literally, marked the passage of life.

I'm not sure I can label them all. I have so many.

On my left arm: two ten inch scars from where I broke the two bones in 10 places and had them replaced or attached to titanium rods--the longest rods the surgeon had ever put in an arm. He was proud. I was just glad I broke the bones so badly that they were repaired two days later. No cast, just Physical Therapy. That was in 2008 or so when I hit a guard rail on an icy exit and the air bag broke my arm. If you break a bone, do it up right so it gets fixed fast....

Further up my arm, barely visible except no hair grows there, is when as a child a bat in my step-grandmother's house startled me and caused me to fall against a red hot pot belly stove on a cold winter night in Waiteville, WV. The scar,like the one over my eyebrow, has diminished over the decades, but I can still smell the burned skin and still remember the night in a feather bed with salve soaked rags wrapped around my arm.

My stomach is a topical map of scars--appendectomy on the Eve of the Millennium and prostrate cancer surgery in 2005. (Yes, I am a cancer survivor. Praise the Lord....)

On my right index finger--a 9 stitch scar from pulling open a drawer on Thanksgiving several years ago and having the glass knob break and slice open my finger. Mimi and our friend John and I went to get it sewed up while Tim and Bern and our friend Hanne tried to keep dinner eatable! Mimi sent Tim photos from her Smart Phone of the minor surgery. Hopefully long ago erased!

Cut my left thumb open after that. No sign of the stitches--4, I think, done in an urgent care office just down the road.

And my eyes--scars on both irises from over wearing contacts that should have been replaced. I never wore contacts again, but the pain came before the permanent damage (not the way it usually happens) so my vision is fine but I have these intriguing scars on my eyes that many people notice and find in some strange way, attractive.

Your scars are 'who you are'. Think about that. Ponder it. List your scars--relive the moments that caused them. Ponder how that shifted your life. Wonder who you would have been without your scars. Would that have been better or worse?

(Oh, I just remembered, I had bloodless surgery to remove a cyst on my left elbow years ago. I can't find the scar, but it's there, if only in my mind.)

We are our scars.

What a thought.

Ponder that, see where it leads you--and don't stop with the ones we can 'see'. There are other scars, not visible, to our hearts and souls and minds.

Those too have altered and shifted and changed and transformed and made us who we are now.

Scars are too profound to ignor.

Ponder your scars....It will help make you more whole, ironically....

David Brooks is sitting Shiva

I always look forward to Friday because David Brooks (NY Times) and E.J. Dionne (Washington Post/Brookings Institute) are on "All Things Considered" to discuss the political landscape.

Brooks is a Conservative Republican I deeply respect and agree with more often than I'd ever tell my Leftist friends! He IS Conservative, no doubt about it. But he is a Conservative in the linage of President Eisenhower, Nelson Rockefeller and Everett Dirksen--men I all admired.

Brooks can hardly hold back tears that his Republican Party has gone so far off the rails in this Presidential Election cycle. Brooks is a Conservative of the Jeb Bush and John Kasich ilk. Which means that David is a man without a Party right now.

Today he even said that he fears a irreparable split in the Republican Party between free market/socially moderates and whoever it is Donald Trump is speaking for. He said that political parties 'realign'  every half a century or so, and this might be the Republican's time.

He's devastated by all this, it's obvious in his voice and choice of words.

He's already sitting Shiva for the Party he loves so.

I like David Brooks so much, I must feel pain for him in my heart, though me mind is jumping for joy that the Republican Party may be self-destructing....

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Free and ABSOULTELY TRUE advice

I am going to give you some 'free advice', which I often do.

My free advice is almost always based on my left wing politics and theology.

It is always 'free' (have I ever asked you to pay for it? really?) but, even I must admit that my advice, though free, is not 'absolutely true' advice.

My advice is always filtered through my odd and very liberal lens. Did I say 'left-wing' above referring to my politics and theology? Correct that. (See how free stuff should be carefully scrutinized?) My politics and theology is VERY left-wing!

For example, this piece of advice: vote for Bernie Sanders in the Primary and then, in November, vote for Hillary for President. Every vote for Bernie (who can't be the nominee unless Hillary is in prison for her e-mails) drives Hillary further to the Left. See the method in my madness and the self-servingness in my advice?

But this advice is both "free" and "absolutely true". Believe you me....

If you are ever eating HAPPY YUMMIES 'Gourmet Cajun Mix'--peanuts, pretzels and sesame sticks in a Cajun style--(and you should, by the way--delicious and very spicy) don't ever wipe your eye with the hand you've been using to eat the Cajun Mix.

I did yesterday and it was a nightmare.

Water splashed in my left eye for five minutes and two different eye drops finally cleared it away enough to see again.

It was, for the first few minutes, equivalent to putting a white charcoal briquette in your eye.

So, don't do it.

Free and absolutely true.

Nothing much better than that.

(And the thing about voting Bernie for his proposals and Hillary because she can win by moving left toward Bernie--all that is 'free' as well. If you're a socialist at heart and a liberal in mind.)

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

sometimes meetings are good

The Cluster Council officers--President, Vice-President, Treasurer and me (and Nathan) haven't met for a long time to plan the agenda for the Cluster Council meeting since the Cluster Council hasn't met since sometime last fall.

Things are simply perking along--which is what I like! I am a fan of positive ruts--so there wasn't really anything to meet about.

But the Executive Committee met tonight and the Council will meet next Tuesday.

(For those who find all I've written to be in Sanskrit: I'm the Interim Missioner of the Middlesex Area Cluster Ministry--three churches who share clergy and practice 'total common ministry', which means clergy are a necessary evil but not necessary for much of the life of the churches in the cluster!)

Meeting tonight was great. We all love each other and sharing a meal is a good thing to do any time and maybe we should meet from time to time (though I really don't like most meetings).

We meet at the Cozy Corner in Durham. The waitress there (only one for 12 tables!) is young and lovely with the slightest of Italian accents who is the greatest waitress I know).

I tell Bern about her. Bern has been a great waitress herself and actually waited tables while she was in New York acting when we were newly married and waited tables and acted while I was in Seminary in Virginia.

The young woman at Cozy Corner is amazing. I walk in after three months or so and she smiles, says hello and says, "ice-water and a Pinot Grigio?"

Amazing! And with people at all 12 tables she takes orders, serves and buses the tables all by herself while noticing (who knows how?) whether anyone needs coffee or wine refills.

A Pearl beyond price she is.

I tip her 35% and include something in cash.

That's how good she is.

Such competence and attention is seldom demonstrated and ever less appreciated.

I think the 5 of us should meet more often just to be served by her.

And, finally, to learn from her what 'service' and 'ministry' is all about and how to recognize it and appreciate it and emulate it.

Waiting tables is a lot like 'ministering'.

Knowing that should humble us 'ministers' enough to do the job and enlighten us enough to know what we do isn't 'special' unless we do it with the same competence and grace as that young waitress.

What a gift her service is to me.

Blog Archive

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.