Sunday, July 31, 2016

This is retirement....

I've been 'retired' since April of 2010. I retired when I had 30 years in the Church Pension Fund (one reason to consider being an Episcopal priest that has nothing to do with spirituality or religion, is the Church Pension Fund. Each month I receive over 80% of my total compensation from the 7 years of my highest pay--including housing, pension and medical care. Amazing!)

I still do stuff. I am a long term Interim Missioner for the Middlesex Area Cluster Ministry--three little churches--10-12 hours a week. So, I get paid for that. I also teach at UConn in Waterbury in the Osher Life-long Learning Institute every other semester. I choose to let my stipend go back into the Institute, so I don't get paid. And I'm a leader of the Making a Difference Workshop several times a year. I pay my way for that, except the Mastery Foundation pays when I go to Ireland for the plane ride. So, I stay busy.

But all that is stuff I love to do. What I do the rest of the time is, well, read.

I read 5 books a week--mostly mysteries, though some straight novels and poetry (which I read in a way that doesn't take much time). Almost never non-fiction. I did that in 7 years of post graduate studies (2 at Harvard for my MTS, 2 at Virginia Seminary for my M.Div. and 3 years at Hartford Seminary for my Doctor of Ministry degree) and since I was an undergraduate minor in political science--thinking I might go to law school--I read some non-fiction there for 4 years.

Now I do 'fiction'.

Five books a week. 260 or so books a year.

I spent a lot of time in the 'real world' as a social worker and a priest. And I still have a hand in that world. But I live for fiction.

I think fiction is a way into 'reality'. Fiction creates realities in our heads, places to live for a while knowing we can come back to what is 'real' whenever we need to cook dinner or walk the dog or have a visit with friends or talk to adult children.

But I always have a book with me--no matter what. There's a book on my passenger seat when I go to church, just in case I'm a little early and can steal a few minutes in an alternative world. I don't mind doctors' appointments because I can read while I wait. Plane and train trips are time for reading. I've thought about getting novels on tape (of course, it's not 'tape' anymore--whatever it is) to play while I drive. But I love National Public Radio almost as much as I love reading so I'll never do that.

I've always been a reader--but being retired has made 'a reader' who I am.

And I love it. I went to the library on Wednesday and got 4 books. I'll be starting the last one in bed tonight. And I'll finish it Tuesday if not sooner.

Read, beloved. Read.

Who knew?

For some reason, unknown to me, Bern is watching a 'Sharknato' deal. There are apparently 4 of them, she's on #3.

This is the woman who, for weeks after seeing Jaws couldn't take a shower in comfort!

Apparently the 'Sharknato' movies are comedies of sorts with all manner of unexpected cameos. I saw Penn and Teller in a diner and Teller had no lines!

Anyway, after I found out what the movies were I went downstairs to read. It wasn't until I'd been down there for a while that I realized the 'shark-nato' thing was a play on 'tornado' since sharks came out of the sky.

Up until then I was trying to get my head around what sharks flying through the sky had to do with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Donald Trump has little interest in even though it has kept the Western world safe since WW II.

"Ah," I said, a light bulb going on, cartoon like over my head, "like a 'tornado', I get it now."

Day by day I creep closer to needing to be in the home....

Saturday, July 30, 2016

As low as you can go??? Probably not....

Donald Trump has taken on Khizs Khan, the father of a Muslim soldier killed in the Middle East, for his speech at the Democratic Convention.

Trump said that Mr. Khan seemed like a 'nice man' and then went off on the fact that Mrs. Khan didn't speak. "Maybe she wasn't allowed to," he said, a slam at Muslims if there ever was one.

The truth is, Mrs. Khan didn't speak because she felt emotionally unable to since it was her son's picture that was being shown all over the arena--her 'dead son', who died for his country. She stood with her husband at the podium because, as Khan said, he couldn't have spoken without her by his side because of his emotions.

It was, in my opinion, the most moving moment of the whole moving convention. Khan said Trump doesn't know what their kind of  'sacrifice' is like. Trump replied he 'sacrificed' a lot by working hard.

Hard work (expected of us all) on one hand vs. a dead son, a military hero on the other. Let's just say Khan was correct.

Khan also pulled out a copy of the Constitution and volunteered to give it to Trump.


Friday, July 29, 2016

last night

Well, I was up so late last night I didn't get to write about the Democratic National Convention. Not only did I watch it all, Bill Mahre (is that how you spell it? Maher, maybe) had an after Convention show.

In my lifetime--which goes back beyond the middle of the last century--there has never been such a difference between the two parties.

Trump is the zombie killer. Hillary is the baby kisser. It's that profoundly different.

And, since Trump isn't really a Republican with traditional Republican values, he handed the Democrats the 'patriotic card'. I've never seen so many American flags as last night.

I've been trying to read as much as I can by Trump supporters to see if I can have any idea whatsoever about how they see the world. 'World view' isn't a term I use much when talking about Americans because I sort of have assumed we see the world pretty much alike. Now I know what a self-delusion that is.

The world Trump describes might as well be in another galaxy from me. Everything in that world is distopic, frightening, negative and terrifying. That's not my world. I'm a realist: I know there are lots of bad things going on, but I'm a Pelagian as well. I believe in the deep-down, basic goodness of humankind in spite of the evidence to the contrary. I think the Evil in the world is created by human beings and that human beings can create Goodness to overcome the Evil.

The homage paid by the Democrats to the 'higher calling' and 'better nature' of human beings was salvation language to me.

I am 'frightened'. I am frightened that all my trust in the basic kindness and compassion of human beings might not be enough to defeat Trump in November. But I will not and cannot give up on humanity the way Trump has.

(Mike Pence criticized Obama for using the word 'demagogue' in his speech. Obama said, "Whoever threatens our values, be they fascists, communists, Jihadists or homegrown demagogues, they will fail." Pence assumed the President was referring to his running mate. He said "name-calling" had no place in politics.

Has he listened to Trump? "Little Marco", "lazy Jeb", "Lying Ted", "Crooked Hillary", on and on....

Pence should resign from the ticket if he objects to name-calling in politics. You know he should.)

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Wednesday night

So, I've been trying to write something while listening to the DNC on radio while I type. Then Joe Biden came on and I had to go watch him (incredible) and then watched Mike Bloomberg, an Independent, unleashed the most bitter attack on Donald Trump of the Convention.

Soon, Tim Kaine and the President--so I'm not getting much written.

I probably shouldn't even try.

So, I won't.

"I'm with HER!"

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Living inside God

I was with three of my Tuesday morning friends today--Charles, Michael and Armando--and though we seem to disagree a lot recently, today's conversation (since it wasn't about politics) was invigorating.

We talked about prayer--which I preached about Sunday. I have lots of issues with the 'normal' understanding of prayer. In fact, I don't think 'prayer' is something we 'do' so much as it is a way we 'be' in the world. I don't want to pray a lot--I want to 'be' prayerful. I want to have my eyes wide open and my heart wide open and my life wide open to the presence of the 'divine' that, I assert, surrounds and envelopes us. If we only look, watch and listen.

I don't have what I said about prayer on Sunday written down in any way that would make sense if I put it here. But I did find a sermon from 3 years ago on my computer that addresses some of my concerns and begins to flesh out some of my thinking on prayer.

I'll  share it with you (it's on the same lessons from last Sunday--thank God for a three year lectionary!) and come back to prayer another time.

Prayer revisited…
          Today I want to talk about prayer and say some things that the church usually doesn’t teach about prayer. Two quick stories—decades and time zones apart—that will help me get started in the right direction.
          First story:When my father was stationed in England just before the invasion of Europe, he had bad problems with his teeth. Against the rules of both the Army and the English government, he went into London and found a civilian dentist. The dentist knew the rules and told my father he couldn’t possibly work on his teeth. As my father was leaving, the dentist shook his hand and gave him the Masonic hand-shake which, my father, being a Mason, returned. “Ok,” the British dentist told Dad, “sit down and I’ll  see what we can do….”

          Second story: When I was a new priest in Charleston, West Virginia, I rushed to the hospital because John Weaver, a teenage member of St. James Church, had been hit by a truck as he walked along the highway. John died shortly after I got to the hospital and when I was holding his mother, Bea, she said to me through her great, global grief—“Did God let John die because I didn’t pray well enough?”
          That is the most painful and disturbing question anyone has ever asked me about God. Bea Weaver, mourning her son, imagined God was waiting for the “secret handshake”, the right words, the correct formula, prayer devout and impassioned enough to let her son live instead of die.
          What kind of God would that be? That would be a monstrous, fickle, irresponsible, crazy God. No God worth our worship, no God who truly loves us, would make prayer into some kind of parlor game where we have to somehow “solve the puzzle” before our prayers are answered.
          Yet that is the way the church, more often than not, teaches people to pray. The church tends to teach people that there is a “right way” to pray, that there is some skill to be learned, some practice to become facile and adroit with, some formula that “works” when dealing with God.
          Today’s lessons, I want to suggest, are not helpful at all in wrestling with how to pray. In fact, and this is just me talking—it isn’t the Truth—today’s lessons teach us something wrong and misleading about prayer.
          The lesson from Genesis leads us to believe that God can be “bargained” with and manipulated. On first glance, its rather interesting—even amusing—to see how Abraham is able to convince God to “lower the ante” on destroying Sodom down to 10 righteous people that can save the city from God’s wrath.
          Theologically, though, that kind of God is as disturbing as a God who would let John Weaver die because his mother didn’t pray quite right.
          No better is the God in Jesus’ parable about the inopportune neighbor. The message, it seems to me, is this: “annoy God enough and just to shut you up God will give you what you ask for….”
          That’s a deeply troubling thought to me. The rest of it is better—the ask and search and knock part, how God will give and find and open—and the part about God knowing what to give us—a fish rather than a snake, an egg rather than a scorpion. At least these thoughts reveal a God who deeply and profoundly “cares” for us and wishes us wholeness and wellness.
          But the whole “prayer” deal is problematic to me. I can’t believe God operates on the Gallup Poll—though the church seems to teach us that both persistence and quantity of prayers are important and may just result in answered prayer.
          I want to suggest—just as a suggestion, not the Truth—that maybe prayer is not so much a skill to be learned as it is a possibility to be embraced. What if “prayer” is not so much something we “do” as it is something we seek to “be”?  What if “learning to pray” is not so much learning what to say to God as it is realizing how to be with God?
          I’m not suggesting that we don’t DO “prayer”. In fact, that’s why we gather here each time we gather—we gather to “do the work” of Prayer. That is as it should be. What I am suggesting is that “doing” prayer—repeating words hoping we’ll find the right ones, looking for the secret handshake, trying to influence God—isn’t “prayer” at it’s most profound and significant level.
          What I am suggesting, just as a possibility, is that living “prayerfully” is the key to “learning to pray”.
          What I am suggesting is that the deepest kind of prayer is something we soak up on an almost cellular level, in the deepest part of us, in our souls. This understanding of “prayer” makes it accessible to all of us all the time. It is more akin to listening than to talking. It is more akin to breathing than to thinking. “Prayer”, it seems to me, might just be a kind of awareness, a kind of “being awake” to God, a kind of dance we dance with the Lover of souls.
          To bring all that near, let’s look at Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer.
          First of all, when Jesus tells his disciples “how to pray” he begins with God: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your Kingdom come.
          Prayer—deep prayer, soaking prayer, prayer from the soul—begins and ends with God. Hopefully, praying “gives” us something, “shows the way”, “opens the door”—but prayer is about God, about being present to God, about being open to God’s holiness and God’s will and God’s unfathomable love.
          “Give us each day our daily bread.” Prayer is about what we “need”, not what we “want”. Just enough bread to fill us today; just enough courage to inspire us today; just enough patience to relax us today; just enough love to let us love everyone we need to today. Learning to expect what we “need” rather than what we “want” answers countless prayers we haven’t even prayed yet.
          “Forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us,”  Wow, that’s pretty “bad news” for me and I suspect for you! If the disciples had had their wits about them, they wouldn’t have asked Jesus how to “pray”, they would have asked him to teach them how to “forgive”…. Prayer, it seems to me, is as much about “our forgiving” as “God’s forgiving”—the deepest prayer is forgiveness, forgiveness, forgiveness….
          “And do not bring us to the time of trial….”
       Lots of people tell me they don’t know how to pray. And, if I were a betting man, I’d bet my house that everyone here has, in a moment of trial, said something like “O God…” or “Help me…” or “What now?”
          If you’ve ever done that, you know how to pray. It’s really that simple, just offering up whatever pain or fear or anxiety or loss is with you in the moment. That’s Prayer. That’s how Jesus tells us to pray….

          Many people love the Lord's Prayer from the New Zealand Prayerbook that expands and enriches what Jesus told us to pray. I prefer the minimalist method. This is my Lord's Prayer.
       “You are holy; your Will, not mine; give me what I need each day; teach me to forgive and forgive me; keep me safe from myself and save me from 'me'; you are holy. Amen.”

Emmanuel, Killingworth/July 28, 2013/jim bradley

Monday, July 25, 2016

First night

In the next few days I'll have lots to write about the Democratic Convention--it's late tonight so I will be brief.

Started rocky with lots of Bernie discontent--not unexpected by any means.

But my God--Al Franken and Sarah Silverstein--tell me two comics at the Republican Convention (besides Trump and Pence, who don't mean to be....) they were great.

Michelle for President! Lordy, Lordy the girl can move a crowd. The turn started there.

Then Elizabeth and Bernie: the twin darlings of Progressives like me (when did we accept the P word rather than the L word--whether L means Liberal or Left-Wing) who made the case that Bernie's 'revolution' created the most liberal platform in history and will live on through Hillary's presidency.

What a contrast to the gloom and doom and zombie apocalypse of the GOP.

Makes me prouder than ever to be a Yellow Dog Democrat.

More when I'm more awake.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Looking for meaning

It's something we all do, all of us,
look for the meaning of things,
seek out the 'truth', delve for 'purpose'.

And come up, from all that,
more often than not,
empty-handed and disappointed.

I have a book from college,
decades and decades ago now,
by John Ciardi, a literary critic,
How does a poem mean?

It's the only book I still have
from those idyllic, innocent
years of my late teens
and early twenties.
The only one I kept,
though I had a multitude
of books those days.

I was looking at it earlier tonight.
It does have some of my favorite
poetry between its covers--
but what drew me to it this day
was that remarkable title.

Not "What does a poem mean?"
But "How", not "what".

Maybe I am looking in all
the wrong places
for the very wrong thing.

Maybe I shouldn't be asking,
over and over, non-stop,
ad infinitum, "What?"
"What?" "What?" "What?"
"What does it mean???"

Thank you Professor Ciardi,
for the question I need:
not "what?" but "How?"
is meaning found.

"How?" is easier to sit with,
because you can sit with it.
"What?" sends you coursing off
down dead-ends,
blind alleys,
labyrinths of confusion.

"How does it mean?"

Now there's a place to sit and think,
and wonder and ponder,
and invite being perplexed.

Where is obvious.
When can be placed in time.
Who is often undeniable.
What, as always, is difficult.
How, though, there's something
to sit with and wonder about
and ponder till the cows come home,
whenever cows come home.

How does life mean?

Well worth a ponder or two....

Saturday, July 23, 2016

"Back in the USSR"

I really don't know who reads these semi-meaningless ramblings I write (you'll see in a moment "why" I don't really know) so from time to time I'm astonished when I check the statistics about 'Under the Castor Oil Tree'.

(By the way, I wonder how many of you remember that Beatles song, 'Back in the USSR'?)

So, yesterday I had over 160 views of my blog.

I almost always have 50+ and sometimes, for reasons I sometimes understand--someone reads something and emails all their friends to read it too, for example--it's several hundred, but 160+ is a good day.

Here's the weird thing about that: yesterday 105 of those views were from Russia!

I get views from lots of places, but never before have that number of views been from anywhere except the USA.

My stats show me a map in various shades of Green to indicate where the views are from. Yesterday, Russia was the deep green I've never seen before for any country but my own.

Is Putin reading my Blog?

Should I be worried about the KGB (do they still exist? how could we know?).

One thing my statistics don't tell me is 'who' is reading 'what', so unless I want to go back and look at the page views for over 1700 posts, I don't know what is trending that day.

Hello. If you are back in the USSR and reading my blog, put a comment on this post to let me know why you're dropping in. (Unless, of course, you are the KGB and would have to kill me if you told me---in that case, please, please don't comment.....)!!!

Hey, by the way, I'm an almost socialist...communists don't offend me. OK?



Get scared. Get very, very scared.

I sat through the whole 75 or so minute acceptance speech by Donald Trump.

Why? You might ask, knowing me as a left-wing, semi-socialist Democrat.

Here's why: I wanted to get scared. I wanted to get very, very scared.

Trump is making late night comedians wealthy--but it is time to stop making fun of him and to begin being terrified by him.

This is a man that Facts Check constantly labels as 'pants on fire'! This is a man that described an America for over an hour that hovers between the zombie apocalypse and an alien invasion--an America that I do not and cannot recognize. This is a man for whom "the other"--whether Mexican judges or Muslim Americans or Black Lives Matter--are a deadly threat to 'the Real America' (another concept of his that I do not and cannot recognize).

And he is one day in November away from being President of the United States.

Know what was missing entirely from his too long speech? Humor.

Read or watch Hillary's campaign speeches and there are lots of laugh lines. President Obama is full of good humor. For Donald and his supporters there is nothing to laugh at unless it is the offensive nicknames he gives anyone who opposes him: "Little Marco", "lying Ted", "crooked Hillary" and, already, "corrupt Kaine".

I don't know about you, but for my whole life, the only people who felt they had to give ugly nicknames to others were school playground bullies....Well, that fits.

Is Hillary Clinton a perfect candidate? Of course not. There aren't any of those. But she has been America's First Lady, the Senator of one of the largest states in the country and Secretary of State. What is Donald's resume? Chapter 11 expert, failed football league leader, failed Trump University creator, thrice married, Reality show Bully.

Some of my best friends have this Hillary-thing. They just have to get over that and get scared...very, very scared.

OK, the emails. Two of George W. Bush's Secretaries of State did exactly the same thing. Colin Powell, who I profoundly respect as a good and decent man, even deleted thousands of his government email. Condeleesa Rice, who got an undeserved reputation, did exactly what Powell before her and Hillary after her did. Was there a grunt or a whimper from Republicans about Powell and Rice? Well, no. Why not? They weren't Hillary!!!

The hatred of Hillary is almost as blatant as the Hatred of President Obama, and nearly as despicable. According to their enemies, if Jesus came again and embraced either Hillary or Barack, those folks would become atheists.

I don't hate Trump, I fear him.

And you should to.

I don't usually get so blunt, but here's the choice: a presidential ticket that includes a pathological lying narcissist  and a governor who is so Right Wing he opposed the right to choose for women, equality for the GLBTQ community, Planned Parenthood and would put into law the right for people to discriminate versus a woman uniquely qualified to be President and a Senator who is generally regarded, even by Republicans, as fair, open, flexible and engaging.

Go ponder that choice.

And be very, very scared if the choice isn't obvious.

Friday, July 22, 2016


In years gone by, people would say, on days like today, "hot enough for you?" And I'd reply, honestly, "Not nearly! And more humidity too!"

I used to love the heat. No more, beloved.

Many older folks I know are always complaining about the chill. Not me, never again.

Any time I went out today I wanted to faint away or lay down and die. My dog, luckily, feels the same way about the heat, so he 'gets busy' and we go back to where it's cooler.

I wonder what flipped in me. I really did relish the heat in years gone by. I loved to be sweaty and press glasses of ice water against my face. Now I want to live in 68 degrees always.

I've even embraced the cold after, what is it, 27 years, in New England. There are always more clothes to put on in winter. In summer, to stay legal, you have to keep one layer on even if you'd like to shed your skin....

One thing though that is wondrous about summer: we have a half-bath on the first floor of our house. It was an add on about forty years ago and the exhaust has about a 5 foot trip to the outside. Every year birds, I think they are swifts, nest at the end of the exhaust pipe. It doesn't blow hard enough to disturb them and when you sit on the toilet you can hear them singing. Not a bad way to (excuse my language) 'take a dump' bird song....

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Our Baby's birthday

Today Mimi turned 38. How on earth can our youngest child be 38?

We talked with her on the phone just now. She is not only 38, she is 8 1/2 months pregnant with our 4th granddaughter "Ellie".

Mimi's real name is Jeremy Johanna. Named for her god-mothers, one of whom, Jeremy, was a Sister of Mercy. I intended to call her JJ but all that changed because for the first 6 months of her life, she was the worst baby in the history of babies! She cried and arched for about 5 of those 6 months and our son, Joshua, would sing to her, "Jere-mimi-mimi-mimi..." trying to calm her. So, she became our 'screaming Mimi' and when, at 6 months, her brain flipped and she became the best baby in the history of babies, she was already and irrevocably, "Mimi".

Ellie will actually be "Elliot" though she and Tim toyed with Elenore for a while.

Mimi has been a golden one--so kind and so understanding and so easy to be with. She and Tim have gone to Oak Island, North Carolina with us for the past 5 or 6 Septembers. Having them around is like being surrounded by grace. We've put off the vacation until after the middle of September this year in case they'll feel up to coming with Ellie. I pray they will. John Anderson and Sherry Ellis go with us and I hope Tim and Mimi will be able to come and say, "here's the baby, she's yours until we leave."

Below is a poem I wrote on her 30th birthday. She was in Japan with the American Ballet Theater and it was the only birthday we didn't either have her with us or talk with her.

Bless her, my baby girl....

                          PHOTOS OF MIMI
The house is full of pictures of her.
In some of them, she is a tiny, chubby baby.
In others, she is a little girl possessed.
In one she gains speed, running
down a hill in front of my father's house,
her tongue out, her blonde hair flying,
her small arms churning
like the wind.
In another, taken the same day,
she is solemn, not looking at the camera,
considering something out of the frame,
unsmiling, gazing at the future perhaps.
She grows through the pictures—though they are random
on the walls and shelves, so she doesn't grow evenly.
A beautiful, awkward teen, smiling in spite of braces,
her jeans decorated in ink, a hole at the knees,
her shoes half-tied, embarrassed, I think, by the camera.
There is a sagging Jack-O-Lantern at her side,
smiling a smile as crooked as her own.
A whole group pictures when she was finishing
high school—a lovely, wistful, long-haired girl
exploding gracefully into life and what comes next.
I love the photo from her college graduation,
the four of us, this little family, her brother posing,
Mimi—short-hair and sun-glasses—smiling.
Just the four of us, a tiny clan, so different and distinct,
frozen in time on a mountain in Vermont, timeless, eternal.
I walked around the house today, looking for her visage--
bride's maid at Josh's wedding, clowning in a hotel doorway,
holding one niece or another with her boyfriend
(she natural, laughing, Morgan content on her lap,
Tim is a bit anxious and Emma is pulling away from him),
sitting on our back deck at an age I can't remember
when her hair was a color not found in nature,
and she is, as always glancing away from the camera,
playing on the beach as a toddler, sandy, nude,
hands in the sand, staring backward through her legs
(a photo a camera shy person would hate later on!)
I made my circuit, stopping before each photograph,
amazed at the memories that leaped out of the frames
and enthralled me.
Amazed more that such a beautiful child and woman
could have lived with me so long
and left imprints on my heart so deep.
She is half-a-world away.
In a land I can only faintly imagine.
I will not talk with her today—her nativity day.
I cannot even remember, as I gaze at photos,
if it is today or tomorrow in Japan.
Or yesterday.
Then there is the photo I love most.
It is pinned to the cork board beside my desk,
where I sit and write.
She is framed in a glass doorway. Her hair is long.
I can't remember how old she way—in college, perhaps--
and beyond the door you see, fully lit, dunes of Nantucket.
Mimi is in shadow, almost a silhouette cut from dark paper,
in full profile. Only the back of her hair is in sunlight,
shining, translucent, moving in the wind.
I love that picture because it is Mimi stepping through the
Door of Life, moving away from the infant shots,
the little girl, the teenaged child,
moving into life beyond me...half a world away.
All grown and still, all new....
jgb/July 21, 2008

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Enough is enough

You might have noticed I've resisted blogging about the Republican National Convention. It has taken an act of will.

Chris Christie's "guilty" speech about Hillary Clinton and the chant, "lock her up! lock her up!" was bad enough but nothing compared to Al Baldasaro's comments.

Baldasaro a delegate to the convention from New Hampshire said that Hillary should be 'put on the firing line' and 'shot for treason'. That was after he called her 'a piece of garbage'.

The Republican rhetoric about Hillary has been horrendous through the whole thing. Trump's supporters seem to think tearing down Hillary is more a more promising strategy than being positive about Donald. Which might be realistic since I can think of almost nothing 'positive' about Trump except that his kids seem to have grown up sort of normal (if being wealthy is ever normal) and his third wife is beautiful (and such an admirer of Michelle Obama that she uses Michelle's words!)

But, it seemed to me that suggesting a public figure be executed by a firing squad went beyond the pale.

I just read on line that the Secret Service is talking with Baldasaro. Last I knew, threatening someone like Hillary was against the law.

The rest of the stuff (almost all of it) that made me a little sick that's come out of the last three days...I'll just stick to my act of will and let it lie there. (I know 'lay' is the word, but 'lie' just fits....)

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Am I that out of line?

In my sermon on Sunday, I apologized to the congregation and to David, who was being baptized for the Collect of the Day. ('Collect' is Episcopal-speak for a prayer....also, the entryway to the church is the 'narthex' and the basement is the 'undercroft'--go figure Anglicans!)

Here it is: the collect for the Sunday closest to July 20...

Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking; Have compassion on our weakness and mercifully give us those things  which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

OK, in one prayer (sorry, 'collect') we are calling ourselves "ignorant, weak, unworthy and blind". And we prayed that prayer on a day when David IV (and the other three were all there!) was being 'marked as Christ's own forever' and declared both a child of God and a member of Christ's Body.

It is times like that which cause me to think Christianity is schizophrenic! On a day we declare David and ourselves "marked as Christ's own" and, indeed, Christ's Body in this world we decide that we are, as Marcus Aurelius (not a Christian, a Stoic) said: 'a bag of bones and foul smell'.

Ignorant, weak, unworthy and blind are hardly attributes of "Christ's Body in this world". And certainly far, far, far short of the Bible's assertion that we are created 'in the image and likeness of God'.

So, which will it be? God's beloved or pond scum? The Body of Christ or miserable, nasty, sinful, awful creatures?

So I told the group I go to on Tuesday mornings about my apology and read them the collect to prove my point. They'd all heard it since 3 of them were priests and the 4th is an every-Sunday worshiper.

And to my utter dismay, none of them were offended at all by the collect. They even seemed to agree with it. I became so irrational that I really could do very little except sputter in exasperation and utter four-letter words....

I just assumed they, like me, thought of human beings (much less Christians) as beloved 'children of God'. Can I be that out of line? I'm not stupid. I can't miss the incredible evil of the world. But I simply assume that 'evil' is a perversion of who we really are.

I have known for some decades that my heresy of choice is Pelagionism. Pelagious was British but taught his theology in Rome in the late 4th and early 5th centuries. What he taught was rather simple (if condemned by 5 or 6 church councils and St. Augustine!). It went like this: human beings were born with the same free will and moral choices as Adam before the Fall. Humans could choose to do 'the right thing' without Divine intervention. The concept of 'original sin' was rejected by Pelagious.

I reject it too. I told David IV's parents that God loved David IV as much before he was baptized and God would love him after  he was baptized. We are not 'born sinful' in my theology.

(By the way: since you're going to be a heretic anyway, CHOOSE your heresy carefully. I start my classes in Gnostic Christianity at UConn by saying, "How many of you are heretics?" Only a brave soul or two might giggle and raise their hands. Then I ask, "How many of you believe in the Immortality of the Soul?" Every time either all or almost all raise their hands. "So," I tell them, "read the Nicene Creed. We believe in the 'resurrection of the body', not 'the immortality of the soul'. You're all heretics!")

More and more these days, I find that I'm outside the 'orthodox' box. I've never much wanted to be 'inside' it, but I'm often struck by how 'out of line' I am.

I still think that's a terrible Collect!

Some of the Episcopal Church's collects are wonderful in their wisdom and guidance. My favorite is the Collect for Good Friday. Listen: Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross.....

Now that's something to hang your Pelagion hat on: we are God's 'family' and Jesus was willing to die for us.  That's the humanity I'm a part of. Part of the Family. Worth dying for. Know what I mean?

Am I that out of line?


Sunday, July 17, 2016


Ok, I'll be honest, I scarcely know what Pokemon is. I didn't get it first time around and I don't get it now.

But from all I can hear or see or learn about 'Pokemon Go' it is like a mind-altering drug.

So, it's an 'augmented reality' game, whatever that is?--played on a smart phone (which I don't own) by downloading an apt (or is it ap?--I don't do it so I don't know). You walk around and see what is right in front of you on your phone (which you could see for real if you put down your phone!) and these Pokemon characters appear in the 'reality' on you're smart phone. (If anything on a phone can be called, accurately, 'reality'.) Then you, what? Capture or kill them? I'm not sure.

So, your 'reality'--which isn't really 'real' if it's on your phone--is 'augmented' by this game I don't understand nor care to.

People are walking into traffic, falling off cliffs, bumping into people (with or without smart phones) and generally spending literally hours doing whatever it is you are doing in Pokemon Go.

Several universities have opened their football fields to make sure students playing Pokemon Go are safe. The Holocaust Museum had to post a sign forbidding people from doing Pokemon Go in the museum! On the other hand, Westboro Baptist Church, which has anti-gay protests are funerals for soldiers killed in duty (since LGBTQ folks are what cause God to make wars!) is an official 'Pokestop'--a place where you can get "Pokeballs" to capture the Pokemon and 'eggs' which grow into Pokemon. None of the Pokemon (which is a plural noun if you didn't get than already) must be gay since 'God hates fags', according to WBC.

People have apparently made 'Pokestops' in places without getting permission. One family I saw on line had dozens of people a day knocking on their door because their house was a Pokestop and the strangers wanted Pokeballs and eggs. Pretty annoying, I'd say. Also, playing Pokemon Go apparently eats up your power and may even cost you lots of money because of the data it uses (whatever that means--no smart phone, no charge for data!)

Four or five of the jokes on "Wait, Wait, Don't tell me" this week were about Pokemon Go. So, if the game has the attention of Public Radio it must be a phenomena since Public Radio is still trying to understand baseball as a cultural event.

I will never play it and promise not to write about it again. But since it's interfering with my Public Radio addiction, I had to mention it today.

The final segment of Wait/Wait asked the three panelists to predict what the next 'ap phenomena' (or 'apt' or whatever) might be. Jessie, a comedian, said "Pokemon doesn't do anything but it does blow up your phone."

Well put, Jessie.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

In this night

The moon is almost full
but the clouds make it only
an image through gauze.

There is a concert
at the park
across from the high school,
but I can only hear echoes,
not the words,
only the rhythm.

There is a spider
who keeps building
a web that touches
our porch post
and banister
and a wind chime
of wolves
that my daughter
gave me years ago.

There are little moths
I call 'millers'
(from my childhood, surely)
who bat against the light
on our back porch
and, from time to time,
rush my face
as I sit smoking.

And there are the crickets
in my head
that are called tinnitus
and are always there
on the back porch
or wherever I am.

The clouds will move
and the moon will shine
and the clouds will move
and the moon will shine.

The concert will end
whether I hear it end
or not.

And because the spider
is so unwise
the web will break
if not by morning
some time tomorrow.

The little moths, most of them,
live only a few days
and won't bump against
the light on the porch
beyond Monday.

The crickets in my head continue.
But when I come to die
we will say goodbye
and part forever.

Like this night
nothing endures.
Change is the reality.
Permanence is a myth.
Like the sea,
all roll on.

Day will come, surely,
to end this night.

And then, night again.

Rhythm is what goes on.
And on and on and on....


Thursday, July 14, 2016


This afternoon about 5:30 it got really dark and we had a brief thunderstorm.

There's not a lot I like better than a thunderstorm unless it's a thunder storm at the beach.

I sat out on the porch today and watched the whole thing. The lightening was above the clouds and back lit them. It was great. Though greater still is the lightening way out on the ocean.

We'll be on the beach in September--a good time for thunderstorms. Downside: once we had to leave early because of a hurricane.

Don't like hurricanes. Like thunder and lightening a lot.

I'm having a colonoscopy tomorrow and took the yukky stuff right after the thunder storm so I'm having my own internal thunder storm right now.

Which means, I need to end this now....

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

As if I needed proof...

I know it in the first two steps I take when I get out of the car.

I know it when I look in the mirror.

I know when I look at my calendar and see the number of Dr.'s appointments this month.

I know from how vein-y my ankles are.

I know when I pick up something over 20 pounds.

I know when I look at my hands.

I know because my driver's license tells me so.

I know because I hold the handrail when I go up steps.

Then today I got three pieces of mail and they were all from AARP.

A fine organization but I don't need that much mail from them to realize I'm old!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Perfect Day

To be this far into July and have such a perfect day is amazing. I didn't check the temperature, but it wasn't hot and almost no humidity. A great day to sit on the deck and read.

But it wasn't a perfect day in Dallas, where a Memorial Service was held for the victims of the hate crime against cops today.

Obama's speech made me so proud that he is my president. Oh, he got social media hatred for daring to mention gun control at a service for 5 men murdered with a gun.

But then for lots of folks out there whatever Obama mentions whenever he mentions it is cause for hating him. If he mentions God, Motherhood and Apple Pie someone will tweet: "Obama never mentions Jesus, demeans mothers and has no appreciation of Blueberry Pie."

I think the racial tensions in our culture are lived out in people's spitefulness toward Obama's blackness. And the great irony is that the people who capital H-A-T-E him would claim it has nothing to do with his race, not in the least bit.

Until we are all able to look honestly at our own racial bias--and we all have them, we do--how can we deal honestly with the scourge of racial bias in the larger society?

Obama's grace and character and even nobility in the face of the irrational hatred directed toward him has been a source of hope and pride for me.

He is a good man. A good, good man--he deserves better.

Bern said she cried during his speech. And she's a tough lady who doesn't waste tears or suffer fools.

Monday, July 11, 2016


Privilege is what I have.

I am not wealthy, but I have an income from my part time job, my SS and Bern's, and the Church Pension Fund that has been in 6 figures the last 6 years--it never was before that, by the way. So, I have all the money I need. And with the Pension Fund's health insurance beyond Medicare, we hardly ever have a medical or dental bill more than $16.

I am also white, male, heterosexual and Protestant.

Newt Gingrich, of all people said it today: "Most average white people have no idea what it's like to be Black."

No kidding.

Back in the Viet Nam years, with my hair much longer than now, I got some 'looks' from police officers--but they never looked at me the way some police look at young Black a threat, like a danger, like someone to fear.

There was a photo on line today from somewhere--Memphis? maybe--at a Black Lives Matter demonstration. A 28 year old black woman in a long dress is standing absolutely still as two police officers in riot gear rush toward her.

It reminded me of the photo of the single demonstrator staring down a tank in Tinneman Square in China and the photo of of a Viet Nam demonstrator, a young woman, putting a daisy in the barrel of a National Guard soldier's rifle and of so many of the photos from the civil rights movement when peaceful people stood still in the face of armed police and police dogs.

I served an historically black church in Charleston, West Virginia and two deeply integrated churches in Connecticut cities. And Newt was right (about this if little else!) I don't have any idea what it's like to be black.

And I have never needed to know.

That is 'privilege' that the growing number of people of color in my nation don't have.

I sometimes notice, when my granddaughters and son and daughter in law are walking in Baltimore with Bern and me, that white people do a double take at Cathy because she's Asian and the rest of us look white (though the grand-daughters are mixed-race). But it's not a double take with much more than curiosity. If she were Black or Hispanic or Muslim with a head scarf, I'm not sure what the double take would be about.)

No white person has ever done a double take at me. Except maybe for my hair. But it is usually amusement that I haven't advanced from the 60's.

I live in a town so safe that we never lock the doors or our cars. Many people of color and poor white people couldn't imagine that--just like I can't imagine being them.

The thing is, now that I ponder it, people without 'privilege' probably can't imagine being 'privileged' any more than I can imagine being them.

So here we are in the only country I'd want to live in (except maybe New Zealand) and we can't imagine what it's like to be on the other side of the divide between privilege and "not".

My privilege gives me guilt. And I have mixed with 'the other' most of my life.

Somehow, someway, we have to bridge this gap, this divide.

I promise to try to work on that--though I have no idea how to do it. And I hope you will ponder doing the same.

We can't live in such a divided society. We must do something to enable the diversity of our nation make us strong and united rather than divide us. We must do something about the distribution of wealth that drives much of the divide. We must find ways to come to identify with 'the other' so that we can be 'one'.

I long to know--really 'know'--my brothers and sisters who are not like me.

I pray for the wisdom to somehow, someway do that.

My 'privilege' is a weight on my back. I long for it to be my ballast in the rough seas of life.


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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.