Thursday, November 29, 2018

what is that in the sky?

I came inside today and said to Bern, 'there's a big shining orb in the sky. It looks familiar but I'm not sure what it is."

The sun shined on Connecticut today after days of gray autumn skies.

People in New England should be issues, free of charge by the states, those lights that simulate sunlight so you don't get depressed by the darkness.

I even took Brigit out at 4:30 plus in daylight. I usually take her out before dinner and then again before bed with a flashlight.

I've been sleeping 10 hours a night and Bern, a light sleeper, has been sleeping from 9:30 or so until almost 8.

The dark overcomes you here in the North-East.

And there are 23 days before the Winter Solstice when the light begins, a few minutes each day, to return to this part of the earth.

I couldn't live in Alaska, of that I am sure. Or Greenland either.

I need the sun and it is just over 3 weeks away from beginning to return.

Darker each day until then. And cloudy so much.

Welcome to the Nutmeg state!

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Great line

I just watched Rev. Nadia Bolz-Webber on Huffington Post at a event for women.

She is a minister who wore a tank top revealing all the tattoos on her arms and a great necklace tattooed around her neck. She is asking Evangelical women to send her their 'purity rings'--given to them when they  promised not to have sex until marriage--so she can melt them down and craft a golden vagina out of them. She sees the "purity rites" of many evangelical churches as a way of shaming women about their bodies.

She has a valid point.

But she had a great line that I will use over and again. She was in a conference with many very successful and prominent women and she wondered if she should change her life and become like them.

Then she said, "but then I realized I have a graduate degree from a seminary, which is like a degree from Hogworts--it's not much use in the world, but you know the magic."

I have 3, count 'em, post-graduate degrees: a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard, a Master of Divinity from Virginia Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Ministry from Hartford Seminary.

I can honestly say I am 'the Rev. Dr. Jim Bradley'.

And all those degrees are like degrees from Hogwarts.

Outside the church, they have little meaning.

But I 'do know the magic'.

Thank you Nadia, for that great line....

Monday, November 26, 2018

The most important 8 words in American life


There they are, in all their infamy and glory. What comes next are these words, "that all men (sic) are created equal and have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness".

Well, the Declaration of Independence has needed a lot of tweaking  since 1776--the whole nasty slavery thing, women's rights, inclusion of minorities--but we've made a lot of progress even if it took over 250 years!

But more is to be done.

It is part of the 'truth' that is 'self evident' that anyone from another country has the RIGHT to apply for asylum in the United States. That is true and right and law.

And yet, our President is denying that truth and right to those waiting in Mexico.

I would say because they are brown and not white and don't necessarily speak English.

He would say because they are criminals and bad people--without any evidence of that!

And America is based on "evidence" as well--one of those 'truths' we find self evident. That's what law is about. Law. I have a son who is a lawyer and a daughter-in-law who is a judge--let me know and I'll put you in touch with them if you don't believe LAW is a self evident truth of our democracy.

And those frightened, haunted people just want to do what our LAW says is self evident and apply for asylum.

And we shoot tear gas at them.


It appears that people of color and ethnicity were denied the right to vote in the mid-term elections or removed wrongly from the roles.

I vote in Connecticut. I took an envelope addressed to me from our oil company and that was all I needed to vote.

Why these 'picture ID's' and signatures matching? I don't sign anything to vote. I never show my picture. Why is it so hard to vote other places.

When the 'rights' of anyone--people who want to ask for asylum or people who want to vote who don't have a picture ID--are violated, all our rights are violated.

Democracy is strong but not beyond defeating.

We must all begin to defend the 'truths' that are 'self evident'.

Bad things are happening.

They must stop.


And soon.....Very soon.....

Something I've never shared

I wrote the following sometime before my father died in 1987. It tells of the first moral decision I ever made in my life--to quit baseball rather than play for a manager who was cruel and awful about the boys who loved him. I've never shared it before. I regret I didn't tell people way back then, in 1960. But it would have broken hearts and hurt many. "Moral decisions" I've learned since then, don't always lead to 'moral actions'. Would that they always did. But they don't. Alas and alack.

So, now, all these years later, I share it.

          My father played baseball in a rag-tag country league that covered three or four counties in south-eastern West Virginia and south-western Virginia. Actually, it is a misnomer to call what my father played in a ‘league’, even a ‘rag-tag’ one. It was more like a network of young men from scattered farm communities who knew each other from logging jobs, country fairs and cattle sales. Each of those young men would go back to their community and fire up enough enthusiasm to schedule a two Sunday double header, home and away, during the summer. They would play on rough hewn ball fields beside local schools or on make-shift diamonds in the middle of someone’s cow field. They would assemble early, strutting their farm grown stuff, the 1930’s version of ‘macho’, drinking lots of half-fermented homemade moonshine, playing a little baseball that would end up in a fight.
          The next Sunday they’d do it on the other team’s field.
          I know the names where those rough farmers grew up. There are places like Waiteville (where my father grew up), Paint Branch, Rock Camp, Peterstown, Greenville and Wayside. Names I know from my father and because, in my boyhood, I have been there.  And in all those places, according to my father, there were raw, rough, harsh, sunburned farm boys, itching for sunny weekends, home brew and baseball. Not to mention, it was a good way to meet girls from other towns.
Those girls would come in their home-made dresses or summer things from Montgomery Ward, full of freckles and giggles, hiding their faces behind their hands, but their eyes were sharp, focused, sizing up the Farm Boys that weren’t boringly familiar. The girls would sit in the shade of the schoolhouse or under trees in the outfield of the pastures, always distant, always shaded, remote from the action but fully involved. Dreaming dreams, I imagine, that Farm Girls have always dreamed.
I have disappointed my father in many ways, but no two as profound as my not playing baseball beyond backyards and two years of little league and my not being a Republican. All the other disappointments and betrayals pale beside those two. And now, in the last of the ninth of his life, with a Republican in the White House who even confounds my father, in the last months before the intricacies and failures of his own mind and body began to be his only confusion, it my not playing baseball that causes me the most guilt.
He never understood why I quit playing baseball. I was ‘promising’. I played first base with a grace and effortlessness that still surprises me when I pass ball with my son. I was, in the language of the game, ‘a glove’. And in batting practice, or in softball, I scattered hits to all fields and showed occasional power to right-center. But when the game began, when Ray Smith was on the mound for Gary and I was at the plate, people went for sodas. “All field, no bat” was the scouting report when I was 12 and 13. But everyone thought I would ‘come around’. People who had seen me in practice knew it was just a matter of time and timing and all those sharply hit balls just outside the right field line would be landing in the alley and I’d be standing on second base before anyone knew what had happened. I had one year left of little league and people in Anawalt were counting on me to develop into a hitter. I’d bat second next year, right behind Danny Taylor, who led the league in hitting and was a constant threat to steal, even with the strict, no-lead-off rules. Danny would get on more than half the time and the worried picture would serve me some fat ones. Danny would score from first on all those doubles into right center. The Anawalt Comets would, at long last be winners.
Then, with one game left in the 1960 season and the Comets securely in second place, preparing for the playoffs, I quit. I walked off the field after turning a brilliant, unassisted double play that ended a 16-3 rout of the Elbert Aces, in which I even had two hits, and, never explaining, turned in my uniform.
There was one out and a Subric boy, Bobby, I think, on first. And Leo Kroll, the only decent hitter Elbert had, was batting. He hit left handed and I was guarding the bag, holding the runner on. Jason Butler was pitching, which showed the disgust in which we held the Aces—Jason only pitched against Elbert, allowing us to save Danny Taylor or Bobbly LaFon to pitch against first-place Gary. Leo dried his hands, spit on them, dried them again. We were ahead by 13 runs and most of the parents were anxious to go home to TV. Benny Braham’s mother stated hooting at Leo, questioning his manhood (or at least his boyhood). Benny scraped the dirt around third base, hanging his head as he always did when his mother embarrassed him, which was often. Leo stepped in, took some practice swings, ignored Betty Braham’s insults and hit Jason’s pitiful fast ball like a shot about a foot off the ground a yard to the right of first base.
(But before all that, I had been listening to our coach, standing about ten feet to the left of first base, talking with a friend from out of town. I have great hearing and often overhear conversations never meant for me—and this one certainly wasn’t! Jimmie N. our coach was telling his friend about the player’s on our team. He called me ‘four-eyes’ because I wore glasses and pointed out the obvious, I couldn’t hit worth a “God damn”. He said Jason, pitching, was a “fat assed bastard” and that Benny Braham had a ‘whore’ for a mother—and he said, “I know that first hand!” He said Danny Taylor was an ‘ass-hole’ and a ‘cunt’. He said Billie Bridgfield in center “likes to pat butt too much, he’s a queer, I know it”. On and on he went, saying horrible things about each of us. This was a man I had given two summers of my life to. A man I looked up to and trusted. And no one on either side of my family used the language he used for anything—much less to talk about 12 and 13 year old boys who idolized him.)
I don’t remember thinking about what to do when Leo hit that line-drive. Obviously, I didn’t think at all, but threw my body to the right, leaving my feet as I had done so many times playing catch with my Uncle Del in my Uncle Russell’s yard, and caught the ball in the air. The runner was already half-way to second base, not even looking back. Nevertheless, I pulled myself to my knees and dived back to first, slapping my Ferris Fain mitt on the base for the game ending double play.
The crowd, whether delighted by my fielding or merely glad to be able to go home (or a little of both) cheered and cheered. Someone picked me up and suddenly the arms of my friends were lifting me up on Benny Braham’s and Jason Butler’s shoulders. I was carried off the field for the first and last time in my life. They put me down into the waiting arms of my Daddy and he carried me, all 112 pounds of me, almost to the car. Half-way home down the winding mountain roads, I told him I was quitting baseball.
There was so noise save the whizzing of the wheels on the cooling pavement and the cracking of my father’s heart. He said nothing. We rode in silence. When we got home neither of us told my mother about my two Texas-league singles, my run scored, my miraculous double play. My father went outside to the coal house for drink or two of bourbon and I folded my jersey, #7, just like Mickey Mantle, for the last time.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Christ the King

Today was the Feast of Christ the King. I'll sending along a sermon I preached on this day 11 years ago.

          Here we are, on the Sunday before the first Sunday of Advent, poised on the edge of preparing ourselves to receive the Christ Child into our hearts, and what is the reading we get? Something from Luke about Good Friday….Something about the crucifixion.
          A little jarring and ‘out of time’, it seems to me.
          I’m reminded of how the Council of Churches—which became the Interfaith Ministry—used to have a Good Friday service here at St. John’s.
The service was “The Seven Last Words of Christ” combined with our Book of Common Prayer Good Friday Service. There were always 7 sermons—talk about a way to make Good Friday dismal and BAD!!!—and I was in charge of making sure the whole thing fit into the hours between noon and 3 p.m.
          Dealing with 7 preachers and a set-in-stone time frame was always an adventure! Preachers, by-in-large, don’t like to be given limits but I would limit them to no more than 7 minutes for their sermons, knowing full well most would go past 10 or 12. I’d built in enough silence to manage that. But the last one of those we had, the preacher on the 6th word had gone on for almost 15 minutes about the crucifixion, when he said: “Now let us go back to Bethlehem….”
          “Oh no!” I said to myself, with expletives deleted, “we’re going in the wrong direction!”
          That’s rather how I feel today. We’re preparing to embark on the journey to Bethlehem and Luke has jerked us to Golgotha and the conversation between Jesus and two other dying men.

Since it is what we are given by the Lectionary, it is what we will attend to—Jesus talking with the two thieves.
          What is interesting about the exchange, in my mind, is this: the first thief parroted the slurs of the crowds and jeeringly called on Jesus to save himself—and to save the two other condemned men as well. Not only did that first thief by into the “conventional wisdom” of the leaders of his day, he was thinking of ‘himself’ above all. “Save yourself and US!”
          The second thief had another view of the situation. “We have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds,” he tells the other man. “But this man has done nothing wrong….”
          The second thief is not thinking of ‘himself’. In fact, he has a realistic understanding that, for him, ‘the punishment fits the crime’. Instead, that second thief, bleeding and dying, is thinking of the one beside him, who is innocent in his mind.
          That is a place well worthy to begin Advent—thinking of the one beside you, the ones around you, those even far away…instead of thinking of yourself.
          That could be recommended for all of us as a way to prepare our hearts for the visit of the Child of Bethlehem.
          But the conversation is not yet over. The second thief has one more thing to say to Jesus.
          “Jesus,” he says, life slipping away from him, “remember me when you come into your Kingdom….”
          That is certainly a second recommendation for all of us as a way to prepare our hearts for the visit of the Christ Child.
          Memory is one of the most precious gifts God gives us. Memory is our anchor in the angry sea, our Rock in the storm, our Hope in the times of Trouble. Memory ties us to our identity—to WHO we are and WHOSE we are as we continue our journey.
          WHO we are and WHOSE we are is clear. We are the children of God, and as we move through the shadows and darkness of Lent we should pray God to “remember us”. And God will….
          “Truly I tell you,” Jesus tells the thief, “today you will be with me in Paridise.”
       There’s a third recommendation to us in today’s readings as we verge on the preparation of Advent. It comes from the Psalm of the day—Psalm 46, my favorite Psalm of all. After that Psalm tells us that we need not fear the changes and chances of life, the song reminds us of this: Listen—“BE STILL, THEN, AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD….”

          Next Sunday, Advent begins—one of the great and wondrous seasons of the Church’s year. And today we are given advice on how to prepare to prepare our hearts and lives to receive the gift of God at Christmas.
          It’s not hard. It’s not rocket science or heart surgery. It is, in fact, as simple as ABC.
          Think of others, not yourself.
      Pray to God to ‘remember’ you.
      Be still…find time to be still…and in that you will know God.
          That’s the advice I’ll seek to follow.
          I invite you to do the same.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

All gone now

Cathy and the girls went home this morning. They had to take a friend they picked up in Wallingford back to Farleigh Dickerson in Pennsylvania so it took them 6 hours to get to Baltimore. Josh is in Southington with friends for their 25th high school reunion, He'll go home tomorrow.

Tim left on the train from New Haven yesterday since he had to work some today. Mimi and Eleanor left late morning and had what Mimi called "the best traffic ever" back to Brooklyn.

They were all smart to leave on Saturday and miss the mobs yesterday.

Bern was so sick she couldn't eat Thanksgiving Dinner with us all and John, our friend, who always comes and is Josh's godfather.

I made her go to urgent care yesterday morning. She has a bronchial infection and is really so much better tonight she ate a turkey leg!

Her illness was the only negative spot in a wonderful time with all our little family--and John,of course, who is like family.

The Bradley girls adore Eleanor and Eleanor likes to tell them "you're not my cousins" and grin. Irony at age 2 years and 3 months!!! Even Brigit, our dog, who was cowered the first day was in the midst  of things the next two days. She even got used to Lara, Josh and Cathy's pit bull, being around.

As I know I've said before, being around those eight people makes me pinch myself just so I know they have turned out the way they have.

Tim and Mimi are quiet. Hardly know they're around. Josh and Cathy are high-energy and noisy. But all four are 'just right'.

And those girls! The twins are 12 but so kind and bright and polite. I thought kids that age got snarky.

Tegan and Eleanor too, so wonderful to have around.

Lucky isn't nearly descriptive enough for our family. Blessed is better.

And I'm so thankful and grateful and humbled and proud. All at once.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Making America Grim Again

Today's performance by the President I won't name, was the very nadir of a dark and frightening two years.

His continued support of Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince against the evidence of the CIA and the words of some of his most vocal supporters in the past (Sen. Graham called the Crown Prince "beyond toxic") has made America's foreign policy up for 'sale'.

The President greatly inflated the amount of money the Saudi connection is worth in trade (mostly weapons to rain on Yemen!) but said "America First" meant taking dirty money more than defending human rights and avenging the murder of a permanent resident, journalist of the United States.

It is a sad and woeful day--sadder and more woe-filled than the sad and woeful last two years--in the history of America.

Remember, we were not always the 'Shining City on the Hill' of Reagan's vision. We had slavery for hundreds of years only ended by a civil war. We still have deep and divisive divisions over race and nationality and sexuality.

But today's statements by our Leader (and former Leader of the 'free world'--our allies no longer see him that way) plunged us into role we have sought for decades to avoid: "buy us, we're for sale".

It seems this might be a turning point many who have ignored turning points before can't ignor.

I hope so. I pray so.

It is the only way toward the Light and out of the Darkness of this administration.

Hope and pray and ACT with me on this.


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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.