Sunday, May 30, 2021

Memorial Day 2021

 Tomorrow, besides cook-outs and visits with friends, we commemorate all those who died in wars to protect our country and our democracy.

My father served four years in WWII, building bridges for General Patton to drive his tanks across and then blowing those bridges up because they weren't going to retreat.

There was always a Memorial Day dinner in Waiteville, West Virginia, where my Dad grew up. It was an amazing amount of food, cooked country style. The dinner was to support the village cemetery, which held graves of people who died in many wars.

I enjoyed those meals.

I actually like walking around cemeteries looking at grave stones, trying to imagine what those lives might have been like.

My crazy great aunt Arbana, would put small confederate flags on all the Bradley graves and my Uncle Russel, cussing the whole way, would take them off.

Six generations of Bradley's were in that little grave yard.

Including my great-great grandfather and great grandfather who I was named after.

Skipped two generations so I didn't get to be James Gordon Bradley III.

At 3 o'clock tomorrow there is a movement called Taps Across America where musicians--good and bad--are to play taps. Listen wherever you are to see if you hear taps played.

And pause for a moment in your Memorial Day celebration to remember why it is a holiday.

And hope we don't have any more troops in the future to be honored on that day.

Pray for that.


Saturday, May 29, 2021

A dead colony of worms

I noticed today and I went out to get milk for Bern's corn chowder, that a whole colony of worms were dead on our walk-way to the drive way.

The cold or the rain, I suppose. Tiny little worms, wiped out in their infancy. 


If I were a worm and wanted someone to stand up for me in the chill and damp, it would be Jen Psaki, Biden's press secretary. 

She is focus, calm, factual and firm.

And she doesn't suffer fools lightly.

If you  haven't seen more of her than clips on nightly news, you need to go to You-Tube and watch a longer interchange with the press.

She always calls on right-wing reporters when they raise their hands with a question. She answers them concisely, truthfully and not without a good deal of irony.

Thing is, I don't think they get the irony, though other reporters are grinning at her answers.

We all need to be like that.

Do not suffer fools lightly.

Speak the truth with politeness and with irony.

Whether they get the irony or not.


What happened to Spring?

Here I am on the first day of the Memorial Day weekend--on May 30, for crying out loud!

And I have on a triple layer of long sleeve garments!

It's barely gotten above 40 and is damp today.

I thought Spring was here....

We're going to an outdoor party on Monday. I have to check the weather for then. I thought their pool might be open, but I'm not so sure anymore.

New England weather can drive you a little crazy.

Here's hoping Spring decides to come back soon.

I miss you, Spring.... 

Friday, May 28, 2021

It's raining tonight

 Bern says we need the rain. I don't pay much attention to such things, but I always believe her.

So much is in bloom. Our 4 rhododendron trees are spectacular, as is our snowball bush and columbine (who knew there was a plant named after that tragic city?) and lilies and lots of irises. 

What's not in bloom is the integrity of most of the Republicans in the Senate who blocks the bill to create a bi-partisan commission to look into the attack of the Capitol on January 6.

Six (God bless them!) did vote yes, but there needed to be 10 to avoid a filibuster, which they were willing to do if need be.

Lisa Murkowski of Alaska called them out on it in a wondrous way. Love you Lisa.

If people broke into your house, damaged it and threatened your life, wouldn't you want to get the bottom of it?

Of course you would.

But 44 Republican Senators didn't want to do what any sane and reasonable person would do!

They are afraid of attacks (and maybe primary challenges) backed by the former president (who as you know will not be named here).

Lisa and Susan Collins have more balls than any of the men (except those who voted yes).

Sad day for the GOP....

And for the country.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

I think it's time... share my first post again so you'll know where this blog comes from.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

My first post

Sitting under the Castor Oil Tree (March 7, 2009)

The character in the Bible I have always been drawn to is Jonah. I identify with his story. Like Jonah, I have experienced being taken where I didn't want to go by God and I've been disgruntled with the way things went. The belly of a big old fish isn't a pleasant means of travel either!

The story ends (in case you don't know it) with Jonah upset and complaining on a hillside over the city of Nineveh, which God has saved through Jonah. Jonah didn't want to go there to start with--hence the ride in the fish stomach--and predicted that God would save the city though it should have been destroyed for its wickedness. "You dragged me half way around the world," he tells God, "and didn't destroy the city....I knew it would turn out this way. I'm angry, so angry I could die!"

God causes a tree to grow to shade Jonah from the sun (scholars think it might have been a castor oil tree--the implications are astonishing!). Then God sends a worm to kill the tree. Well, that sets Jonah off! "How dare you kill my tree?" he challenges the creator. "I'm so angry I could die...."

God simply reminds him that he is upset at the death of a tree he didn't plant or nurture and yet he doesn't see the value of saving all the people of the great city Nineveh...along with their cattle and beasts.

And the story ends. No resolution. Jonah simply left to ponder all that. There's no sequel either--no "Jonah II" or "Jonah: the next chapter", nothing like that. It's just Jonah, sitting under the bare branches of the dead tree, pondering.

What I want to do is use this blog to do simply that, ponder about things. I've been an Episcopal priest for over 30 years. I'm approaching a time to retire and I've got a lot of pondering left to do--about God, about the church, about religion, about life and death and everything involved in that. Before the big fish swallowed me up and carried me to my own Nineva (ordination in the Episcopal Church) I had intended a vastly different life. I was going to write "The Great American Novel" for starters and get a Ph.D. in American Literature and disappear into some small liberal arts college, most likely in the Mid-Atlantic states and teach people like me--rural people, Appalachians and southerners, simple people, deep thinkers though slow talkers...lovely for all that--to love words and write words themselves.

God (I suppose, though I even ponder that...) had other ideas and I ended up spending the lion's share of my priesthood in the wilds of two cities in Connecticut (of all places) among tribes so foreign to me I scarcely understood their language and whose customs confounded me. And I found myself often among people (The Episcopal Cult) who made me anxious by their very being. Which is why I stuck to urban churches, I suppose--being a priest in Greenwich would have sent me into some form of I would have driven them to hypertension at the least.

I am one who 'ponders' quite a bit and hoped this might be a way to 'ponder in print' for anyone else who might be leaning in that direction to read.

Ever so often, someone calls my bluff when I go into my "I'm just a boy from the mountains of West Virginia" persona. And I know they're right. I've lived too long among the heathens of New England to be able to avoid absorbing some of their alien customs and ways of thinking. Plus, I've been involved in too much education to pretend to be a rube from the hills. But I do, from time to time, miss that boy who grew up in a part of the world as foreign as Albania to most people, where the lush and endless mountains pressed down so majestically that there were few places, where I lived, that were flat in an area wider than a football field. That boy knew secrets I am only beginning, having entered my sixth decade of the journey toward the Lover of Souls, to remember and cherish.

My maternal grandmother, who had as much influence on me as anyone I know, used to say--"Jimmy, don't get above your raisin'". I probably have done that, in more ways that I'm able to recognize, but I ponder that part of me--buried deeply below layer after layer of living (as the mountains were layer after layer of long-ago life).

Sometimes I get a fleeting glimpse of him, running madly into the woods that surrounded him on all sides, spending hours seeking paths through the deep tangles of forest, climbing upward, ever upward until he found a place to sit and look down on the little town where he lived--spread out like a toy village to him--so he could ponder, alone and undisturbed, for a while.

When I was in high school, I wrote a regular column for the school newspaper call "The Outsider". As I ponder my life, I realize that has been a constant: I've always felt just beyond the fringe wherever I was. I've watched much more than I've participated. And I've pondered many things.

So, what I've decided to do is sit here on the hillside for a while, beneath the ruins of the castor oil tree and ponder some more. And, if you wish, share my ponderings with you--whoever you are out there in cyber-Land.

Two caveates: I'm pretty much a Luddite when it comes to technology--probably smart enough to learn about it but never very interested, so this blog is an adventure for me. My friend Sandy is helping me so it shouldn't be too much of a mess. Secondly, I've realized writing this that there is no 'spell check' on the blog. Either I can get a dictionary or ask your forgiveness for my spelling. I'm a magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa ENGLISH major (WVU '69) who never could conquer spelling all the words I longed to write.

I suppose I'll just ask your tolerance.


Wednesday, May 26, 2021

"What the hell is going on in the U.S.? What is wrong with us?"

The quote in the title of this blog is from Gavin Newsome, governor of California after a mass shooting killed 8 in his state.

He's right. Something is wrong with us.

It was the 232nd mass shooting in the U.S. this year--on day 154 of 365!

And yet the Republicans in Congress have no intention of passing stricter gun laws.

Biden called on Congress to act as he lowered the flags to half-staff to recognize the victims and their families.

The flags at the White House have been at half-staff most of this year.

The NRA is supposedly bankrupt. Even legal gun owners want action. Our nation is bleeding out.

But nothing from Republicans.

Indeed, Gaven, "what the hell is going on and what is wrong with us?"


Tuesday, May 25, 2021

The Sunday I alway dread

Two days ago was Trinity Sunday, a Sunday I always dread. I found a sermon from two years ago that explains. Enjoy. Or be, as I am, confused by the Trinity.




          This is the Sunday that has, over the years, caused me to give thanks for Assistants, Seminarians, Deacons, retired priests in the parish and even talented lay preachers ...anyone to preach on Trinity Sunday besides me!

          Today is the Feast of the Trinity—the only Holy Day on the Episcopal Calendar that celebrates a ‘doctrine’. The Trinity is a ‘doctrine’ of the church, which means two things: the Church “made it up” and we are meant to ‘believe it’ without question!

          But let me give you an example of the verbal gymnastics necessary to explain the doctrine of the Trinity. Listen

          The Trinity is a Christian doctrine stating that God is one Being who exists simultaneously and eternally as a mutual indwelling of three persons: the Father, the Son (incarnate as Jesus Christ) and the Holy Spirit. Since the 4th century in both Eastern and Western Christianity, the doctrine of the Trinity has been stated as “Three persons in one God”, all three of whom, as distinct and co-eternal persons, are of one indivisible and Divine essence, a simple being. The doctrine also teaches that the Son himself has two distinct natures, one fully divine and the other fully human, united in a hypostatic union….Each of these divine persons is said to be eternal, each almighty, none greater or less than another, each God, and yet together being but one God.


          Okay, there will be a pop quiz before communion about what that means!


          There have been, over the two millennium of the church, many attempts to explain the Trinity in a way that a normal human being might begin to understand the doctrine. Most of those attempts have been to replace the doctrine with metaphors. Like this:

          *St. Patrick used the clover—with three leaves connected to one stem as a symbol of the Trinity;

          *a equilateral triangle with three equal sides and three equal angles has often been a metaphor for the Trinity;


          *flour, water and yeast made into bread has been a powerful image of how three distinct substances can be brought together into one;

          *I’ve often said that Bern, my wife, experiences me in one distinct way, as her husband; Josh and Mimi, my children, experience me as their father and my friends experience me as a friend though I am one person—another way to try to make the Trinity sensible.

          But, you see, the Trinity only makes sense in metaphor and images. As a ‘doctrine’ it fails miserably and escapes our understanding.

          Eldridge Cleaver, one of the Black Panthers from the 60’s, wrote a book from prison called Soul on Ice. In his book, he tells how going to the Roman Catholic confirmation class would get him out of solitary confinement for an hour a week, so he signed up. He even enjoyed the conversation and theological interchange until the day the priest asked, “Can anyone explain the ‘mystery’ of the Holy Trinity?”

          Eldridge was about to raise his hand and say the Trinity was akin to ‘three-in-one oil’ when the priest said, “Of course you can’t explain it—that’s why it’s a mystery.” Cleaver never went back to another class.

          He was going to suggest that a metaphor might give some insight into the ‘mystery’ but was told that wasn’t valid.


          I believe it is only ‘metaphor’ and ‘simile’ and ‘poetry’ that can give life to the moribund doctrine. Doctrine is dead—metaphor lives.


          Perhaps the greatest living religious observer of our time is a woman named Karen Armstrong. She agrees with me—makes me lucky, huh? Karen Armstrong believes that doctrine must be seen as poetry if it is to live. Here's her poem about the Trinity.

“When I am alone, afraid, depressed

Unwilling, unable to face the world,

I need a parent to soothe my pain,

To calm my fears and tell me

Everything will be alright

I can be brave.


When I am brave, ready to fight the fight,

Ready to face the world and make things right,

I need a strong brother to walk with me

And give me strength and make me free.


When I am free, a friend I need

To be with me.”


          That explains it about as well as possible. Amen



Monday, May 24, 2021

Majorie Taylor Green

When I told Bern I thought MTG (whose name I will never spell out again on this blog) was a douche bag, she told me that wasn't harsh enough. Apparently a 'douche bag' actually serves a purpose, which she who will not be named, doesn't.

Let me try: 'feeling cold is like the ice age', 'killing a fly is like the extinction of dinosaurs', 'a family disagreement is like World War II', none of those do.

What she said was being required to wear a mask in the House Camber was like the holocaust.

She's much worse than a douche bag.

She is a plague on our Congress and our Country--like the one masks prevent...since half of the House Republicans haven't been vaccinated though 100% of Democrats in the House have.

She is s*** on the floor of the House of Representatives.

She is a disgrace to us all and a deeper disgrace to Jews anywhere.

Make her go away!

Oh, yes, though some Republicans have repudiated her, the leaders of the House haven't....


Blog Archive

About Me

some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.