Tuesday, May 31, 2016

When will the madness end?

In the last few days Donald Trump has:

a) criticized the Republican Governor of New Mexico (the only Hispanic woman Republican Governor) probably because she hasn't endorsed him;

b) called the judge in the class action suit against Trump University for fraud, a Trump Hater and a Mexican. The judge was born in Indiana and is just doing his job;

c) castigated members of the press for asking him to reveal how the money he raised for vet's organizations has been distributed (until the Washington Post pointed out none of the money had been sent to any group--none of it had been!)

d) been endorsed by the state controlled newspaper in North Korea;

e) called William Kristol, much respected colemnist and writer, a 'loser';

f) continued to refuse to release his tax returns;

g) and on and on......

There was a cover story in this month's Atlantic Monthly called "Trump's Brain" by a deeply admired psychiatrist. Read it and weep.

Will the madness end....???

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Memorial Day

The Cheshire Memorial Day Parade passed two houses down from us. We didn't go watch it. Nothing about Memorial Day, just Bern and I 'don't' love a parade.

Lots of folks do. As I headed to church at 8 a.m. people were already putting lawn chairs and blankets out for miles along the route. The parade didn't start until 1 p.m.!!! Some people start early to get a prime spot for parade watching.

I was talking to a couple of people after church about WW II, which all of our father's fought in. One was saying how the war gave her father an appreciation for beauty and nature he hadn't had before the war. None of our fathers ever spoke of what they had experienced, except in very general and vague ways.

I know what my father did--vaguely and generally--he built bridges for Patten to drive his tanks across and then blew up the bridges. They didn't intend to come back, one way or another. One of the others asked if my father felt bad, destroying what he had built.

"No," I told her. "He was a coal miner. He was familiar with blowing things up and destruction."

My childhood memories of Memorial Days all revolve around the Memorial Day dinners in Waiteville, WV, where my father grew up. I think I wrote about it a couple of years ago. I'll try to find it and attach it here since I'm not as bright as I was a few years ago and it was probably better than I could reproduce.

(Found it! Here it comes....I hope....)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Waiteville of my childhood

I have two 6 foot high bookshelves in my little office at home. One of them is solid and has  lots of the copies of stuff I've written and several volumes of the Interpreter's Bible and my printer and two things that have to do with my computer and Bern's which I don't understand but which blink at me all the time and I know if I disconnected them I'd be thrust immediately into computer hell, so I leave them alone, blinking aimlessly, so far as I can tell. I also have pictures of my children as babies and toddlers and a picture of my Dad and a chalice and several stone lions on that bookshelf.

The other bookshelf is unstable and held straight by a piece of laminated coal that someone gave me because I'm from West Virginia. So, a week or so ago I decided to empty the unstable book shelf and give the books away. I gave the novels to the Cheshire Library and the religious books to St. James in Higganum for their library. I've never been attached to books as books. I go to the library in Cheshire weekly at least and check out books I want to read. And if I ever need any of the religious books, I know where they are. But they were very dusty and made me sneeze, so I can't imagine needing them any time soon.

I did keep some books of poetry and a book called If you meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill him which I've had for 40 years or so, and my copy of Joachim Jeremias' The Parables of Jesus, absolutely the best book about parables ever, and Lamb by Christopher Moore (which everyone should read) and The Hundredth Monkey and The Giving Tree. Everything else is gone to Cheshire Library or St. James. Next week, when I get back from San Francisco, I'll take the rickety bookshelf down and out.

On it, though, I found a plate with a likeness of the New Zion Union Church in Waiteville, West Virgina dated 1863-1966. It was something I took from my parents home. Waiteville is in Monroe County, the most South-east county of the state. Monroe County is where White Sulphur Springs is, which is the only name you might recognize from the whole county unless you're from West Vriginia and realize Lewisburg, the county seat, is where the WV State Fair was held--and may still be.

Zion Union Church is called that because everyone in Waiteville was either a Baptist or a Methodist and there weren't enough people there to have two churches. So a Baptist would preach one week and a Methodist the next. And the graveyard for Waiteville was there where most everyone buried there would be in some way related to me.

We used to go to Waiteville every Memorial Day for the Dinner that raised money for the graveyard's upkeep. The dinners were unbelievable: fried chicken, baked chicken, chicken and dumplings, pork in an endless variety of forms, rare roast beef, green beans cooked into an inch of their life in fatback, mashed potatoes, boiled potatoes, baked potatoes, fried potatoes, potatoes au gratin,  potato salad (lots of Irish folks there, including the Bradley/McCormick clan) sweet potatoes in several iterations, lots of jello salads, carrots and onions, peas and onions, just plain onions, gravy in several forms (gravy is a food group in Southern West Virgina) and desserts beyond imagining all topped with whipped cream or brain-numbing homemade ice cream.

Once, on some Memorial Day (linear time confounds me) I was wandering around the grave yard where countless ancestors were moldering in the grave, and happened upon two grave stones that said: JAMES GORDON BRADLEY and JAMES GORDON BRADLEY, JR. That is my name and I almost fainted away (I was, hard to believe, a delicate child). I'd never known I'd been named for ancestors. Those were my great and great-great grandfathers. My grandfather's name was Filbert and my father's name was Virgil. Go figure. I could have been James Gordon Bradley V but for Filbert and Virgil in between.

Another year, my crazy great aunt Arbana (ever know anyone named 'Arbana'?) had put confederate flags on many of the graves of my ancestors for Memorial Day. Though Monroe County was a boarder county and there are slaves somewhere in there, most of the Bradleys and McCormicks had been true blue Unionists. My Uncle Sid and Uncle Russell went around gathering the Confederate Flags and cursing their Aunt Arbana.

My great uncle Amos was buried from Zion Union Church. I was at his funeral when I was 8 or so. (Linear Time, like I said....) It was February and bone cold and the boys digging the grave were having trouble with the frozen earth and kept sending messages to the Baptist minister to keep preaching, which he did, for an hour or so before the grave was ready.

Great Uncle Amos was a man about 5'4". He was a McCormick. He liked a bit of whiskey from time to time and used to keep it in his barn where my father and uncles would go with him whenever we were in Waiteville.

The story goes like this: there was a revival at Zion Union Church and great-uncle Amos responded to the altar call. He had his head down and the Revivalist came by, laid hands on him and said, 'bless the little boys', though Amos was 24 or so. Afterwards, out in the night, some of his friends were kidding him, being much taller than him.

"God bless the little boys," they said, circling him out on the road.

"Hump," Amos is reported saying, though I don't know if this is true, "I'd rather be a little man like me and go to heaven than a great big son-of-bitch like all you and go to hell." Then, I was told as a child, he hitched up his britches and walked away. That was the night, the apocryphal story goes, that he met my great-aunt Arlene, who had been saved like him. Only her salvation 'took' and she was a teetotaler while Amos had some whiskey in the barn. Arlene was 5'10' and weighed about 200 pounds to Amos' 95. But they had, so far as I knew, a joyful if childless marriage.

New Zion Union Church, founded in the midst of the Civil War, is, so far as I know, still there, though I haven't been to Waiteville for 40 years or so. Maybe I'll go someday before I die, to walk the graveyard and say soft things to those of my blood.

That might be something I should do....

{Back to 2016. By the way, I never took that bookshelf apart. It's still here beside me! So much for good intentions and the road they pave....}

Friday, May 27, 2016

"moral realism"

E. J. Dionne and David Brooks just completed their weekly commentary on the news on National Public Radio. Dionne is a progressive and Brooks an economic (not social) conservative--yet their conversations are enlightening, civil and full of compromise. The way all debate in this country should be--but sadly isn't. If you've never heard them they usually speak on Fridays.

Today, among other things, they talked about Obama's visit to Hiroshima. They were analyzing the President's speech and Dionne mentioned 'moral realism' as taught by the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. (OK, where else besides NPR do commentator's reference theologians?!!!)

One of my professors at Harvard Divinity School was Richard Reinhold Niebuhr--nephew of Reinhold and son of another well respected theologian, Richard Niebuhr.

The students always thought being saddled with the name of such well-known brothers much have been hard on R.R. Niebuhr. How to live up to that?

R.R. Niebuhr did, however, did give me the most intriguing moment I ever spent in a classroom.

One lovely spring day he came in, weighed down by books, as usual. The birds were serenading Cambridge as he unpacked. The huge, angled lecture room held 80 or so students.

Without prelude, he went to the blackboard and drew a stick figure. "Homo religiosis" he said, stepping back to admire his drawing. He figured we were Harvard students so he didn't have to translate the Latin to 'religious man(sic)'.

After several minutes of silence except for the bird songs, he went back to the board and drew a flurry of lines around and through the stick figure, nearly obscuring it.

Then the stepped back and said 'the Chaos'--and we knew it must be capitalized.

He stared at the board for what must have been five minutes, though it seemed longer.

Then he moved his head, listening to the birds for a moment, gathered his books and left without another word.

It took quite a while for us to pull ourselves together and begin to leave by ones and twos. Not one word was spoken as we straggled out. It would take days to process the event, but none of us was ready to sully it with words.

We had witnessed a brilliant man from the most important theological family in American history, struggle with an existential crisis before our eyes. And, like the most critical of existential crises, he left it to echo in silence down through all the years of his students lives.

How does a religious person cope with the Chaos of the world's reality? That is the question Professor Niebuhr left us with.

His uncle's answer, what Dionne and Brooks called 'moral realism', was that the first step was to fully recognize the depth and breath of the Chaos. Fully 'know' it. And live morally into that Chaos. Not romanticizing or sugar coating the world or give simplistic (and wrong)  'religious' answers to the
Chaotic 'reality' around us. The answer is 'to stand for something' in the face of the Chaos. Simply that. Don't dream of defeating it, but neither be defeated by it.

Be who you be in the midst of Chaos and Evil. Stand for 'morality' in a senseless and amoral world.

Pretty good lesson, that....Don't you agree?

Ponder that as a life stance....

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Sudden Summer

It was in the 80's today, with low humidity. And it may be 90 tomorrow.

Here in Connecticut, we went from a cool, rainy Spring to a Sudden Summer.

It's going to cool off in a few days, the weather people say, but it's a real shock.

Connecticut is, like Ireland, a place where people say, "don't like the weather? Wait a few minutes."

Also, I read online that, though CT was cool and rainy in April and much of May so far, April was, world wide, the hottest April on record!

121 degrees in parts of India. A remarkable drought in much of Africa and Asia.

OK, if any 'climate change deniers" read this blog. Let me know how you can defend that in face of, what are they called again?--The Facts.

(The sad truth is, 'climate change deniers' probably don't read my blog. The very sad truth is, they read blogs of 'climate change deniers' and nothing else. And folks who read these musings and I, would never read a 'climate change denier' blog....)

This political cycle has proved that we are as divided a nation as we have ever been--and that can't be good in any way. The divide gets wider and deeper by the day.

I wish I could fix climate change only a little less than I wish I could fix the deepening, widening divide between us as a nation. Because climate change and nothing much will be 'fixed' as long as we're this divided.

I have four stickers on the back of my car. I call them, to anyone who asks, my four persons of the Trinity.

One is the state seal of West Virginia. That's where I came from and in many ways, that's who I am. Monti semper libere--is our motto, we West Virginians: "Mountaineers are always free". God love us.

The second is the latitude and longitude for Oak Island, North Carolina, where we have gone for vacation as a couple, a family, a family with friends, and with Tim and Mimi and John and Sherrie--all told well over 30 times. Oak Island matters. In my "do not open until my death" letter, I ask that some of my ashes be left on the waters off Oak Island.

The third is the Episcopal Church seal. Nough said about that.

The last is, from 4 years ago, an "Obama 2012" sticker. He was a very good president, I think, who could have been a 'great president' if it weren't for this 'divide' among us.

I'm not even sure what the 'divide' is any more since both Trump and Bernie (eons apart politically) are tapping into the divide.

I don't think it is as simple as 'the establishment' vs. 'the people'. I think it's more complicated than that, though I don't quite know how.

But, since our planet, which has been around for billions of years, is getting hotter and more unstable than its ever been--we need to turn our attention to finding 'common ground' rather than making what divides us deeper and wider.

It's not just the republic that needs us to do that--find common ground--it is this fragile earth, our island home.


Ponder that, please, please, please with sugar on it.

It's that vital and important.

Like the life of the Planet.

'nough said.....'

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

One thing I forgot about my dreams....

(You have to read yesterdays post to understand this one.)

In my anxiety dream about the coffee house in nowhere, I actually said to the woman (Mahala??)

 "Of all the Episcopal Churches in all the towns, in all the world, I walked into yours."

Even in dreams, quotes from Casablanca show up.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Anxiety dreams

I had an anxiety dream both last night and the night before.

When I was a student the dreams were usually about being late for a final and not being able to find the classroom, though I knew all the answers, or moving through amber trying to reach the building.

As a priest they have ranged from being chased by a posse of bishops across an open field to beginning a Eucharist for a huge crowd, opening my Book of Common Prayer to discover it is a picture book and everyone gradually leaves because I can't remember the opening acclamation.

The last two nights have been different.

First, let me assure you, my anxiety dreams are rich with symbolism and depth and I ponder them for days, wishing I were in Jungian analysis  again--several sessions for each! Ultimately they are not terrifying, but point me to consider what it is I might be anxious about subconsciously. They never come when I'm consciously anxious, but only to make me ponder and reflect. (Sounds Jungian enough, right?)

Saturday night, I'm traveling in a strange place (It looks like West Virginia) and go into an Episcopal church for Eucharist (I think it's called St. Peter's) and encounter there a woman from my past. Obviously she is someone I had feeling for. She looks a lot like Mahala Holmes. Mahala and I were both counselors in a summer camp when we were juniors in college. She went to Marshall and I went to WVU. She was a lifeguard and I took kids on nature hikes and played softball with them. She was beautiful and unattainable to me.

Anyway, this dream woman and I reunite and she tells me to follow her to her place of work--which is a fancy coffee/desert place in the middle of nowhere. She has to work and I drink coffee and eat a desert she brings me. Finally I must leave and she walks me to the door. Outside, I can't find my car, so I go back in and ask her where it is. "Right in the front lot," she tells me. I go out a different door and the parking lot in that direction is on fire. I circle around the coffee house and can't find my car.

I can't find a way back in and end up near the burning lot again only to realize somehow I've lost my sports coat and my car keys (for the car I can't find!) are in the coat's pocket.

Then I wake up.

Saturday night, I'm at a board meeting of the Mastery Foundation, which I am a member of. There are people there I know and some I don't. It's at the house of one of the board members--a very nice and spacious house. Some of the members are actually from the real Board, some are other people in my life (which confuses me in my dream) and some are total strangers. For some reason, I go for a walk with 'Margaret' (who looks like a much younger version of Margaret Baranoski--a member of St. John's, Waterbury, who I buried years ago).

On our way back from wherever we went, Margaret is hit by what I think is a big, black Landrover. One of the tires comes off the car and I pick it up and carry it into a Post Office (much more like a British Post Office than ours) and get one of the postal workers to help me get it on a table. We open the tire and 'Margaret's' clothes and possessions are in it, but not her body.

I say to the postal worker, "we have to call the police!"

He (who looks like a British actor, maybe a young Michael O'Toole) says to me in a British/Irish accent, "no, lad, you brought this to me, I have to handle it now."

Suddenly I'm back at the house where the meeting is. I find Ann (who is real and the Executive Director of the Foundation) and tell her what has happened. She touches my arm and says (as she has from time to time) "I'm leaving this to you".

I spend the next however long (it seems like an hour) chasing the members of the board around the spacious house trying to get them into the meeting room so I can tell them what has happened.

All to no avail. Like trying to herd cats, they escape me at every doorway. I finally tell our hostess what has happened and say, 'we'll all have to go to the police station in a while'. And she says (I kid you not!) "But there's so much chocolate left!)

I end up in the meeting room in despair with Ann looking at me with her arms crossed and no one coming to my calls.

Then I wake up.

I'll ponder these for weeks. Any Jungian folks out there who have any insights, let me know.

(My unconscious anxiety is probably that we're leaving for Italy June 10th and I hate to travel--I'm a real home-body, truth be known. Or it may be that I'm 69 and was very ill on Saturday--though I slept through it--and I'm having intimations of mortality. I'll be following both those threads and others, I assure you.)

If dreams are 'whispers from God', these were two odd messages! Jung believed dreams were our unconscious seeking to make us more 'whole'. I believe that. I just don't understand it!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Sleep really is the best medicine

I felt a little punk-ish (and I don't mean the rock music) when I went to bed Friday night. I had just finished some Spicy Cajun Trail Mix and I seldom eat anything after 8 pm. But I had no idea what awaited me.

I woke up at 3 am with stomach pain and nausea. Then at 5 am I woke up and rushed to the bathroom. By 7 I was convinced something was badly wrong. I walked the dog, still feeling nauseous but couldn't fix his food because we feed him dry food mixed with stuff we make ground turkey or hamburger with rice, spinach, sweet potato and carrots and I knew I couldn't look at that mixture and remain standing.

So, I went to bed and slept for 4 hours. I still couldn't face food so I slept for another 4 hours. Then I ate a soft boiled egg and slept for 2 hours. And I went to bed at 9 pm and slept until 6:30 am. That's about 19 hours sleep in 24. And when I woke up I felt fine and famished. I ate a big breakfast and went off to church.

I slept right through my stomach bug.

Sleep really is healing.

I'm told that when I was 11 I had mumps and measles at the same time. I was in a darkened room and slept for most of 4 days. That's what I was told. I clearly don't remember because I was asleep....

Only problem with this miracle cure is that the dog stayed in bed with me the whole time except when Bern came to get him to eat or walk. So today, I laid on the bed to read for half-an-hour or so and when I left the dog barked for 5 minutes, ordering me to come back.

Bela doesn't obey much of anything, but if you say 'go to the big bed' he's off up the steps....

Another thing, being abed so much Saturday, my ankles haven't hurt today (they've been bothering me for a month or so). Bern suggested I should spend a day a week in bed with books to help my ankles. It sounds a tad extreme, but, hey, I'm retired. I might just do it....

Friday, May 20, 2016


We don't live in the country. Cheshire is a pretty dense suburban town. There is a field behind our back yard, but none other in the neighborhood. And people don't have large lots--this part of town was settled before zoning.

But we have lots of critters.

Bern saw a squirrel the other day in the yard she said 'was a big as a spider monkey'. I rather doubt that, but there are some big squirrels and lots of young ones around.

We have a colony or two of chipmunks in our yard. Some may be in our basement from time to time but mostly they live in an old wood pile that we haven't used for a few years since we need to reline our kitchen fire place. We sometimes smell a skunk and I've seen a racoon or two.

And there are several bunnies in the immediate area. One quite large.

And then there are the birds--more birds than I ever remember: wrens, swallows, tons of robins, mourning doves, cardinals, sparrows, a cow bird or two, blue jays, chickadees, crows aplenty and a golden hawk that lives in the very top of a tree two lots down and keeps an eye on the field and backyards. You can hear his cry throughout the day. And the occasional hummingbird since we have lots of red flowers.

And ground hogs--I shouldn't forget them--who live behind us and, in the fall, eat the berries just behind our back yard that have fermented and get drunker than skunks! Or, in this case, drunker than a ground hog should get.

I won't even go into the insects and worms and such.

Just a lot of creatures. I even saw what I thought was a coyote in the field behind our house and a red fox from time to time passes through.

Having grown up in a more rural place, I love the critters.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

feeling old

I had blood drawn today for two different doctors I have appointments with next week. Seeing doctors makes me feel old.

My joints hurting makes me feel old.

Not remembering the name of plants and people makes me feel old.

Being half-way through a book before I realize I've read it before makes me feel old.

Forgetting what I'm looking for makes me feel old.

But I have found a cure for 'feeling old'--go sit in the blood draw place for a while.

This morning, in the 20 minutes I was there I saw half-a-dozen people who were, no kidding, OLD.

They could hardly walk, had trouble breathing, had to have someone with them to answer questions, seemed not to know where they were.

I can walk, breathe well, answer questions and (usually) know where I am.

So, whenever I start feeling old, I'm going to sneak into Quest Labs for a while, read a book and watch the 'old people'. Then I'll feel young for a while....Until my ankle hurts or can't remember 'gardenia' or my neighbor's kid's name or am searching through the refrigerator for God knows what.

That will tell me this: time for a visit at the blood drawing place...(what's it called again?...oh, yeal, Quest Labs....

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

almost meaningless theological musings

I had a deep conversation today with the folks I meet with most Tuesdays. Mostly is was my friend, Michael, and me.

Michael was explaining something he'd been told by a priest who works for the Episcopal Church in Connecticut (we used to call it "the Diocese", but don't now). She was talking about sacraments by using and inverted triangle to illustrate her point.

The broad, top line of the inverted triangle, was, she said, 'Baptism'--the primary 'sacrament' and went on to show how the other six 'derive' from baptism.

I sort of lost it at some point, because I don't see it that way at all. Jesus said to his disciples they must 'baptize' and they must 'share bread and wine in his memory and it would be his body and blood'. Sometimes we call Eucharist and Baptism the 'dominical sacraments' (my spell check says "dominical" is misspelled but won't give me an option for it)--it's like "anno dominus" (which my spellcheck doesn't like either but won't respond to my clicks on ABC)...'the year of our Lord'.

Jesus gave us those two sacraments. He never gave us the other five--confirmation, ordination, reconciliation, marriage and unction. Those the church 'made up' out of whole cloth.

I don't mind that. I am very 'low church' and informal in liturgical practice, but I have a very 'high' view of the Sacraments. Which means, I believe they mean something and aren't just 'symbols', as Protestants believe. I think sacraments 'matter' in a real way. Like in life.

The 7 are all 'real' to me. But Baptism and Eucharist are the primary ones from which the others flow.

All this is because I think the rule about 'being baptized' to receive communion is non-sense. To my understanding, only the disciples of Jesus who were previously followers of John the Baptist would have been 'baptized' at the Last Supper.

If the 'font' can lead to the Table, then the Table can lead to the 'font'.

I've known dozens of people who received communion before they were baptized and because 'the Body and Blood' really mean something, they came to ask for baptism.

That simple. The Spirit can lead both ways.

That's all I'm trying to say.

(I once gave communion to a man in Charleston, West Virginia who wore a turban and had a red dot on his head. I never saw him before or after. He just showed up after the service began, received communion and left before the recessional.

Several people asked me if I knew he was a Christian (baptized) or not. I told them it didn't matter. "If God really doesn't want unbaptized people receiving communion God can strike me dead or strike them dead. Whichever. But if they come to the Table and reach out their hands I cannot, cannot deny them Christ's Body."

The Table belongs to God, not to the Church.

This was all almost meaningless theological musings...but not to me!!!

Monday, May 16, 2016

read this book at your own risk

I just finished Joyce Carrol Oats' novel The Man with no Shadow.

Lordy, Lordy, it shook me up!

It's about an amnesiac and the psycho-neurologist who studies him for three decades.

Halfway through I started thinking I had amnesia. By the end I was broken hearted.

It is quite a trip. But not for the faint of heart.

Risk it if you want....

Don't blame me if you do.....

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Happy Anniversary to me!

Today (May 15) was the 40th anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood!

I didn't even know until I got home from church to an email from Louie Crew--a remarkable guy from New Jersey who is a big deal in the Episcopal Church as a lay person. Louie sends me a birthday greeting and an ordination anniversary greeting every year. I'm sure he sends them to every priest in the church and has a computer programmed to send them out, but even so, I profoundly appreciate his greetings.

So, why didn't I remember it was my anniversary?

Other priests I know are always sure of their anniversary of ordination. Bryan Spinks, who works with me in the Cluster, is having a special mass for his 40th next month, when I'll be in Italy. Bill, who comes to my Tuesday group is also having a celebration of his 50th while I'm gone.

Why don't I remember?

It can't be because it doesn't matter to me. Much of my identity--along with husband, father, grandfather, is tied up in being a priest. It's what I've been for 40 years, for goodness sake--about60% of my life. I think of myself as a 'priest' most of my waking life and dream about horrible mess ups of being a priest from time to time.

(I may have told you, I have a recurring dream of being in a huge theater with an altar, with famous people in the seats--Hillary Clinton, Julie Andrews, Andrew Young--people like that...and I come out with a 10 year old Black acolyte and open my Book of Common Prayer and it only has pictures and I can't remember how the service begins and eventually everyone but the acolyte leaves and he and I clean up. Pretty anxiety producing, huh?)

I remember my wedding Anniversary (June 5) and my children's and Bern's birthdays flawlessly. So why not when I was ordained?

In my mind it was June, not the middle of May, for some reason.

So I dug out my framed invitation to my ordination. Sure enough, May 15, 1986. St. James Church in Charleston, WV. Bern's cousin, Tony, did a drawing of a figure sitting on the ground hosting up a chalice and the words "Oh, taste and see how sweet the Lord is." The inside was the date and time and notice that the first of many 'dance eucharists' at St. James would be on the day of my first celebration of the eucharist. A wonderful member of St. James named Rimitha Spurlock had gotten the dozen or so teenage girls together and taught them liturgical dance--mostly to spirituals. They were great. Rimitha had danced with Cab Calloway before coming back to WV to care for her aging parents.

On the back of the invitation I had written these words:

My Good Friends,

You have been a part of  me.

Your love and prayers and dreams, you encouragement, honesty and strength, your guidance, your hope and your faith in me have enriched me so. You have shared yourselves with me.

Now I invite you to share in one of the most important days of my life. Please join with me, with Bern and Josh (Mimi wasn't born then) and with the whole family of St. James Church in celebration, you and thanksgiving on the day of my ordination to the priesthood.

Seems like I should remember "one of the most important days of my life", doesn't it.

And every year I don't. I need to ponder that, why I don't remember.

Maybe it's this simple. Every day of 'being a priest' has been more important to me than the day I 'became a priest'. Maybe that's it. As simple as it sounds.

Anyway, remembered or not, happy anniversary to me. 40 years and counting....


Saturday, May 14, 2016

Pentecost sermon I won't give

 I was looking at old Pentecost sermons on my computer and this one came up. It's not the one I'll preach tomorrow, though it's worth it. But it's worth a view. Let the fire fall and the wind blow. Wear red.....

          Fear always says “no”.
          If you’re going to remember anything I say this morning—remember this: FEAR ALWAYS SAYS “NO.”
          And remember this as well: GOD SAYS “YES” TO US….
          Jesus’ friends were gathered in the same room they’d been using to hide. How many were there isn’t clear. The book of Acts says 120—though that number may be high. They huddled together, still frightened that the Temple authorities might be after them, still grieving in some way—though they had seen the Risen Lord time and again—and, most…most of all, terribly, wrenchingly lonely.
          Jesus had promised them they would be clothed in power. Jesus had promised them he would send an Advocate to be with them. Jesus had promised them they would be baptized in Fire. Jesus had promised them he was already preparing a place for them.
          But the promises seemed like so much pie crust to the disciples. They were still waiting for the promises to be fulfilled. They were frightened. And they were so lonely—so profoundly lonely.
          That image…that metaphor…that paradigm of being crowded into a lonely, frightening room rings true for us today.
           Fear haunts us these days. And though we huddle together in our fear, we are still so profoundly lonely. Fear speaks but one word and that word is “NO”.
          Our faith teaches us to be hospitable to strangers—but our Fear says “no” and we distrust those who are different from us and seek to keep people from Mexico and Muslims out.
                   Our faith teaches us that we are to be peacemakers—but our Fear says “no” and we demonize people half-a-world away and wage deadly war against them.
          Our faith teaches us to share our gifts with those in need—but our Fear says “no” and we live in the richest nation in the history of human kind where the gap between the rich and the poor gets wider every day.
          Our faith teaches us that “a little child shall lead us” and that we must become like children to enter the Kingdom of God—but our Fear says “no” as millions of children go underfed, undereducated and neglected in our midst.
          Remember this: Fear always says “NO”.
There is no easy or simple way to explain it, what happened in that closed and fearful room on the first Pentecost—it happened like this: one moment the room was full of fear and the next moment the room was full of fire and a mighty wind fanned the flames until the fear was burned away and all that was left was hope and joy and those formerly frightened people “found their voices” and left their hiding place and spoke words that transformed the world.
We need the Fires of Pentecost to burn away our fears and the Winds of Pentecost to blow away our loneliness. We need the Spirit to give us our voices so we may proclaim the “Yes” of God to this world.
Fear always says “NO”—but God always says “Yes”….
We need a Pentecost. We need to know that God says “Yes” to us. That God calls us to wonder and joy and love and compassion and hospitality. And not just in the “big things”—God’s “Yes” to us is about “little things” too. God’s “Yes” to us is global, universal, total.
This is a poem by Kaylin Haught titled God Says Yes to Me. It is a Pentecost poem, whether she knew it or not.
I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic
          and she said yes
          I asked her if it was okay to be short
          and she said it sure is
          I asked her if I could wear nail polish
          or not wear nail polish
          and she said honey
          she calls me that sometimes
          she said you can do just exactly what you want to
          Thanks God I said
          And is it even okay if I don’t paragraph
          my letters
          Sweetcakes God said
          Who knows where she picked that up
          What I’m telling you is
          Yes Yes Yes
          What Pentecost is about is God saying “Yes” to you and you and you and you and you and all of us.
          What Pentecost is about is the Spirit coming so we are never, ever, not ever lonely again.
          What Pentecost is about is Fire burning away Fear.
          What Pentecost is about—and listen carefully, this is important—Pentecost is about God saying to you and you and you and you and you and all of us:
          Sweetcakes, what I’m telling you is Yes Yes Yes.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

What would Dwight Eisenhower (or my father) think

Cultures shift and change and transform and, sometimes, die. I know enough to know that.

But as the inevitable becomes true and Donald Trump will almost certainly be the Republican nominee for President--what kind of sea change is this?

My father was a member of the United Mine Workers Union and a life-long Republican. Those two things didn't seem compatible at the time, but given Trump's enormous win in West Virginia, it's not too odd today.

But the Republican party my father belonged to--the party of Eisenhower, Dirkson and Rockefeller--doesn't exist anymore. That was the party of Lincoln, not Trump and Cruz. It was a party that worried about building highways, not building reputations. It was the party of the man who freed the slaves, not the party that wanted to keep a nationality (Mexicans) and a faith (Muslims) out of the mixing-pot that is the United States.

I may have told you, I was a Republican (like my father) until my Senior year of High School. I even spray painted "AU H2O" on an abandoned building in Anawalt. Then I heard Goldwater say he wanted to privatize the Tennessee Valley Authority, the government entity that brought water to our town.

Even then, Republican or not, I trusted government more than private enterprise. I still do.

I want government to handle health-care and infrastructure and the military and social services and education. And I'd gladly pay more taxes to have all that handled better.

My father would have thought Ted Cruz was a moron and Donald Trump was a braggart.

He wouldn't recognize the party he loved--the party that has done all it could to take power from all unions.

I'm not sure he could have voted for Hillary, but he might have thought Bernie was a liberal Republican back then. And he could have been. That would have been possible for someone like Bernie to be a Republican.

No more. No more.

To keep President Eisenhower and my father from spinning in their graves, please don't vote for Trump in November.

Please. Pretty please with sugar on it....

Monday, May 9, 2016

Web woes affect people differently

I discovered about noon that I couldn't get online from my computer.

I mentioned it to Bern a couple of hours later when we were both reading on the deck. She went into 'fix it mode'.

I also noticed a bunch of TV stations weren't on either. I have no idea why I know it but I just assume that Cox handles all the stuff for us and if there was something wrong with internet Wi-Fi then it was wrong with cable TV.

Bern goes up to where the router and other things are in my office and started unhooked things and hooking them up again--a trick she'd learned before.

No joy. I suggest the TV/Wi-Fi connection but she isn't convinced. She tries to go on-line on her smart phone to get advice, but, oops! the Wi-Fi isn't working....

She fussed and fooled with things which, when I asked her if she could tell me what to do about it, she said 'no'.

So, I read on the deck, having made sure the channel for The Voice was working and Bern fretted.

I was thinking I wouldn't have to read anything about Donald Trump or look at email tonight, while Bern tried to phone Cox--their lines were busy. During the Voice she figured out an optional way to get on line on her phone and tried to email Cox--Cox's email (no big surprise! was down).

Half way through The Voice she said the only way to contact Cox was by tweet and said she'd probably, soon, have to join Twitter.

I watched TV.

Some stations and the internet came back on--which is how I'm writing this.

When she said Wi-Fi was back up I thought, "oh sh*t, I have to look at emails after all...."

We talked about my lazzie faire (sp!) attitude and her upset. Turns out she has this thing in the back of her mind when tech stuff goes wrong it's somehow her fault and she has to fix it. She knows it's an irrational thought, but there it is.

I don't know enough about all the technology to even imagine I did something to damage it!

I like 'being off the Grid' from time to time. Bern can't abide it.

Web woes affect people differently, is all I have to say.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Spring comes to Connecticut

The strange yellow ball in the sky, that the elders had told us about, finally arrived today about 3 p.m.

After weeks of rain and clouds and clouds and rain, the rain stopped and the clouds parted.

It took until May 8--Mother's day--but the birds were singing, the chipmunks and squirrels were frolicking and the strange yellow ball was shining in the sky.

Spring has come, at last....

Mother's Day

My mom was Marion Cleo Jones Bradley. Everyone called her Cleo.

She was 38 when I was born--unusual in 1947 in rural West Virginia. My mom and dad's friends were my friends' grandparents!

And I was their only child.

Being an only child could take up a week's worth of posts. But I am, on the whole, satisfied to be one. I am more independent and never bored, I think. Only children learn to fill the time of life in ways that are fulfilling. Since I never had brothers or sisters I can't very well 'miss' them.

My mother's family was rural poor--one of the most draining forms of poverty. My Grandfather, Eli Jones, couldn't work in the mines because he had lung issues and nothing else paid very well in McDowell County, West Virginia.

There were lots of stories (apocryphal or true) about their bitter poverty. Picking the slate dump (where all the 'unusable' stuff from coal mining was piled) for fuel; Aunt Elsie wearing galoshes to school because she had no shoes; having to wait until the tenants in the boarding house my grandmother ran for several years had eaten and eating what was left for supper; sharing coats in the winter; walking long distances to school--on and on. My grandmother never had indoor toilets until she moved into a trailer at 66 or so. I remember the outhouse well and having to chase away the chickens and ducks who piled up against it in winter because human waste produces warmth.

In spite of that, three of the Jones girls got Master's degrees in Education during summer school and at nights at Concord College and Bluefield State College. My aunt Elsie, who died a few months ago, eventually got a Ph.d.! Their only brother who survived childhood (2 didn't) raised 8 children in a fine house in Falls Mills, Virginia. Nearly all my first cousins (14 of them) went to college and did well in life.

I'm both proud and humbled that from such modest beginnings, my mother pulled herself up and was a first grade teacher for 30 years.

I can't remember her voice--she died a few days after my 25th birthday--but I remember her smile and her gentle, patient nature. (You don't work with first graders for that long and not develop gentleness and patience!)

She was a kind woman, I remember how she looked out for people who hadn't made it out of poverty, and a generous woman as well. I know she and my father gave away 10% of what they had, and not to the church, to people in need.

I suspect she was a woman of faith, but she never talked about it in those terms. And she was a woman of deep loyalty--to her family, especially.

Here's the only story I'll tell about her. It is story enough to know something of her character.

We attended (my mother and me) the Pilgrim Holiness Church of her family in Conklintown (I don't make these names up, by the way!) My father was some vague form of Baptist if he was anything and would drive us to church but stayed in the car to read the Sunday edition of the Bluefield Daily Telegraph and smoke cigarettes.

One Sunday, Preacher Peck, who, as I try to remember him, looked a lot like Ted Cruz ('nough said), introduced a time of prayer, which meant kneeling on the floor and resting your elbows on your pew and all praying out loud (some louder than others) until somehow everyone stopped praying. Preacher Peck said, "today let's pray for that sinner out in the parking lot smoking cigarettes and reading the paper."

I was sitting with some cousin or another and my mother stood up, came and took me by the hand and we left that church forever.

I don't remember her telling my father why we came out early and went home. It would have just been like her to never tell him, not wanting to upset him.

We became Methodists. My father often said, "Methodism won't hurt anyone...."

Happy Mother's Day, Mommy. I've lived much longer without you than with you. You never met your grandchildren, but you would have loved them and been patient and kind and gentle and generous with them. And they would have loved you greatly.

I know that and hope, in whatever way might be possible, that you know that too.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Something I remembered tonight

Driving home from seeing Howie inducted into the Haddam-Killingworth Hall of Fame (which he richly deserved) I remembered a question I used to ask to people (mostly women of color) who were applying to the Regional Council on Education for Employment (RCEE) which I was the Center Co-ordinator for while I was out of parish ministry back in 1985-89.

RCEE took talented folks who had fallen through the cracks and were on welfare and in 12 weeks got them entry level jobs at Yale, IBM and lots of Insurance Companies and other employers. It was remarkably inspiring work. I'm so thankful and humbled that I got to do it.

But I always asked the applicants this question: "if you were an animal, what animal would you be?"

It threw them off balance, which I wanted, and usually told me a great deal about them. Really.

It is disarming and very revealing what people say to that question.

So, I ask you, "if you were an animal, what animal would you be?"

It says a great deal about you. Ponder your answer. Let me know by commenting or emailing me at Padrejgb@aol.com. (Tech savvy folks have told me it's hard to figure out how to comment on my blog.)

Let me know and I'll tell you what that means about you--though it's just 'me talkin''.

Almost nobody we let into RCEE failed. And one of the determinations was the answer to that question.

Ponder what animal you would be if you were an animal.

It will give you quite a while of introspection.

Which is good.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

getting hurt...getting old

I hurt my foot two weeks ago. It's only now feeling back to normal.

Time was, it took two days rather than two weeks to heal from something like that.

Everything slows down as you get old.

Even time, it seems to me.

Oh, yes, a year seems to flash by, just the way they tell us it will as you age.

But I'm not talking about years. I'm talking about moments.

It seems to me that as I grow old, moments stretch out a bit. I am 'present' to the 'present' in a way I couldn't be when I was a younger human being.

"Being in the moment", I've noticed, lingers longer than it used to.

I think the whole 'time passes faster as we age' thing is because we have more 'past' to live in each day.

When I was a child, I had so much 'future' to imagine that I didn't fully appreciate 'the moment'. That went on and on I think--living into the future...until at some point you notice you have more 'past' than 'future' and you start dwelling back there in 'what was',

For me, one of joys and comforts of growing older (never mind taking longer to heal) is that 'past' and 'future' seem less important than 'right now'.

Moments expand for me because I am able to be more fully 'being' in the present.

When  you are young, the future is a gift yet to be unwrapped. And too often, as we age, the past becomes an old gift to be poured over.

But for me, being here now, has become more and more possible. And that, I suggest, is the best gift of them all.

Savor the moment. That one and that one and this one just appearing....Be there in each of them.

The past cannot be undone. The future is yet to come.

But 'right now'....Well, that's the place to be, it seems to me.

Join me there...when you can....

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

you won't have Ted Cruz to kick around any more

The evening after Ted Cruz's most serious attack on Donald Trump (calling him, among other things: 'a serial philanderer' and 'a pathological liar) Cruz suspended his campaign for the GOP nomination for President.

He lost Indiana by double digits in percentage and Trump is almost certainly the nominee.

I won't miss him. He always stuck me as more dangerous than Trump in the long run. Cruz is a 'true believer' and true believers are always dangerous. Trump, at least, has no discernible 'beliefs', true or otherwise.

So, it's all over but the shouting in the Republican race.

Tell me the truth: a year ago would you have ever imagined this scenario?

Who did?

In my lifetime--which is getting longer daily--nothing like this has ever happened.

I am at a loss to explain the anger that has become the vehicle of Trump's ascension. Maybe, like NYTimes writer, David Brooks, said this week--I need to get out and meet some 'real people'.

Someone like me: a person who has admired and supported President Obama, a person for whom the 'great recession' made no difference in my life, a person who thinks America is 'great' already, a person who supports amnesty for undocumented immigrants and openness to the masses fleeing the Middle East and Africa, a person who fully supports Black Lives Matter and the LBGTQ community, a person who believes in equal rights for all and taxes raised to provide money for education, infrastructure and the poor...well, I guess I'm not 'real enough' any more.

May God have mercy on us all. The time between now and November 8 my try all our souls.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Farm Foolish

Sunday I sat at a table with three guys who know about farming and realized how little I know about sheep, bees, be hives, the state bee inspector, alfalfa, chickens and eggs, shearing sheep, when to plant things, on and on.

Funny thing is, I grew up around farming. My Uncle Russel had a big farm with sheep and pigs and lots of stuff I know nothing about. My uncle Lee had cows when I was growing up. My father grew up on a farm and had huge gardens. My grandmother and mother and aunts canned anything that could, I suppose, be canned.

My family, on both sides, was close to the soil in many ways.

And I know absolutely zilch about it all!

I'm not sure if I just didn't pay attention or if people shielded it from me--like they shielded me from anything having to do with coal mining though my family weren't unfamiliar with the pits.

I'm going to have to ponder why I would have understood as much of what my three friends were talking about on Sunday if they had been speaking in Lithuanian.

As I sat there, I envied them: the things they knew that I don't and never will.

Humility, it seems to me, comes from 'not knowing'. And 'humility' is a good thing, much to be desired.

I got my plate full of humility listening to them talk.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

memo to the DCCC

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sends me up to 5 emails a day!

Some are signed by Nancy Pelosi,  some by Joe Biden, some by Harry Reid, some by the President and one from Michele Obama telling me I've let her husband down.

They're all like that. Verging on hysteria, full of doom and gloom and evil Republican fund raisers, trying everything to make me guilty enough to send them more money.

I've sent them 5 emails in return telling them 'guilt goes away' and shame doesn't work with me. I tell them to tell me all the good things the Democrats want to do in the next term regarding sensible and open immigration policy, real equality for Blacks, other minorities, women and the LGBTQ community, raising taxes on the rich, building infrastructure, staying out of regional conflicts, and on and on.

They answer my emails each time--but it's obvious their 'response' is generated by the same computer that sends me the emails in the first place because they always tell me something nefarious the Republicans are up to and beg me for money (after thanking me for the email I sent!!!)

Really, DCCC, some people like carrots instead of sticks!

I give you money from time to time but only because I want more democrats in Congress, not because you scared, threatened or cajoled me into it....

Lighten up your message. Make me feel good for giving rather than bad for not giving.

Seems pretty simple to me. "Good news" = "generous support".  Just like that.

(Besides, my first email today was Nancy Pelosi thanking me for a donation I did not give!)

Reminds me of Will Rodger's quip: "I don't belong to an organized political party...I'm a Democrat...."

p.s. please forward this to National Public Radio--they could stand some optimism and good news in their fund raising too....

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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.