Monday, September 22, 2014


a lunchbox full of gears

Fissiparous? Okay, Anu Garg, I’m off my rocker just enough to appreciate the unlimited notion of using word parts to create new words as needed. If Johnny can build himself a Cadillac “One Piece At A Time” by sneaking out a part a day over 24 years, there’s no reason anyone has to be trapped in a dictionary. Webster can stuff it. One of my own words, “certitudinous” has often proved useful over the years and is at least as legitimate as the splendiferous new, unique and exclusive names that parents have been creating to damn their children to lives of crime. I don’t see working fissiparous into a sermon but might casually drop it into a blog post one early morning.

“U.S. Ramping Up Major Renewal in Nuclear Arms” reads today’s NYT headline. Seems that Peter Arnett was right, we’ll have to destroy the world in order to save it. What will it look like when we’re done? Cormac McCarthy has the answer in The Road. Some years ago I attended an EfM training session at Sewanee, where as part of each person introducing themselves I mentioned being a retired naval officer. Later someone on faculty, who had noted my saying that, said something to me about “your military mind,” which triggered my response in a rage of furious putdown that startled her into shutting up and everyone else at the table into astonished silence, but in retrospect probably proved her point. One of my least illustrious moments, that event comes to mind this morning as, thinking of ISIS beheading innocent Americans, I read the NYT headline and react “it’s about damn time.” I’ve not always been some fool politically correct preacher, nor am I yet when my closet door is left unlocked and the beast emerges. But “... in thought, word, and deed, ...” I’ll cover it again during confession next Sunday and the priest will absolve me for the moment.

Linda and I are cleaning up and out. Hundreds of books already taken to my office, and the church library, hundreds more on the dining room table downstairs yet to be carried to the car, which already has a load for her trip to the public library and other stuff for an animal welfare organization this morning. We’re at the grandparents’ standard plea, don’t give me things, just a hug, a chunk of cheese, a chocolate bar, bottle of red wine; and hear me when I say I love you: it’s not just words, it’s everything I am.

One of the things we’ve come across is this little stack of Panama City telephone directories that my mother laid aside. I was hoping they might date back into the thirties and forties, and there may be more; but the oldest I’ve come across, and am thumbing through at the moment, is February 1963. Being among those who complained years ago when our area code was changed from 904 to 850, I had forgotten that it once was 305. There’s the Studebaker, Packard, Mercedes-Benz dealership. The Willys Jeep dealer’s phone number is POplar 3-6581. Christo’s Five and Ten Cent store, and McCrory’s a couple doors down, are in the 400 block of Harrison Avenue. My grandmother had been dead sixteen years, but my grandfather was still at 1040 E. Caroline and sixteen months to go before he joined her. 

We were living in Ann Arbor and soon to head to Japan. February 1963: I'd voted for Nixon but Jack Kennedy was President, where were you?

Panama City Pilot old issues found in a box mama marked and stored away. Here’s the Thanksgiving A.D. 1931 Pilot reporting that the Cove Country Club has been thoroughly renovated and a golf pro from St. Charles, Missouri hired to be in charge. The issue for February 28, 1926 has a photo of the "beach front at the foot of Harrison Avenue eighteen years ago.” On November 12, 1936 the Pilot announces that the Ritz Theatre has a brand new, modernistic front. Front page of the same issue announces, “Three Negro Women Are in County Jail Because of Fights,” remember this is not my doing, I’m just copying and OMG how times have changed. The January 10, 1929 issue has a front page article I’ll have to read, “New Chevrolet Six Finds Large Demand.”

This December 27, 1937 issue of LIFE has an ad for Ipana toothpaste, pictures of Arturo Toscanini and his wife window-shopping, and an advertisement from Glover’s Mange Medicine for curing patchy baldness, dandruff and itching.

Here's an issue of “The Modern Priscilla” for November 1913 with an ad for the magnificent Wing Player Piano. 

And the June 1916 “Home Needlework Magazine.” Mama started sewing early, but not at four years old, so this would have been my grandmother Gentry’s magazine. “Do you need a Sewing Machine?”

Penny post card, no doubt.


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Mike, Tom, and Paul

Away at a convention of USAF fighter pilots, Mike will not be with us in Sunday School this morning, it’ll be just me at the end table plus whoever wants to sit up there or down there with me and kibitz. 

The Episcopal Church observes the seasons of the church year, and we are in the Season after Pentecost, that long green season that stretches from Pentecost to Advent. In worship we read from a prescribed lectionary that runs in a three-year cycle. Because of our wonderful summer-into-fall of reading old Bible stories from the Old Testament during this Lectionary Year A, we’ve been talking about the Old Testament in Sunday School, and have had a couple of fascinating sessions. This morning, though, I think we'll digress because our lectionary launches a four-Sunday series of reading from Paul’s letter to the Philippians. So I think we may have this one Sunday School session as an introduction to Philippians.

The warmest and most loving of his extant letters, sometimes described as “sublime,” Paul seems to have written it about 50 to 60 A.D. to the church he founded with which he had the most positive relationship in the years that followed. 

Paul seems to have had three reasons for writing to his Philippian friends and converts to Christ -- 

The folks in Philippi took up a collection of money to help support Paul and his evangelical mission, and sent Epaphroditus to take the money to Paul, who writes back thanking them.

Paul seems to be in prison during this time, but doesn’t tell us where, so scholars like to argue about that and manage to sell lots of seminary textbooks with the arguments; but Paul finds that his being confined is a good thing because those who are competing with him in preaching Christ are bringing many people to Christ while he’s in jail, and Paul appreciates that.

Also, and perhaps the most interesting because it shows up elsewhere in Paul’s writings, Paul is constantly at odds with evangelists who are coming along behind him and telling folks that in order to become Christians they must first convert to Judaism and submit fully to Jewish law including circumcision. Vehemently disagreeing with this, Paul fights them bitterly, and the fight is clear in his writing as he insists that with Jesus there is a new covenant in which everyone is welcome, only Jews are bound to the Law of Moses and the practices of Abraham: Gentiles, the non-Jews to whom Paul is sent to preach Christ, are invited and welcome, come as you are, just as you are. Paul warns the Philippians to beware of these false preachers who bring a false gospel.

Many scholars think Philippians is not a "unity" but is actually three letters that Paul wrote to Philippi at different times, canonically cobbled together to form a letter that isn't necessarily cohesive or reasonably sequential. We might look at this in Sunday School this morning.

In Philippians chapter 2 there’s the famous so-called “Christ Hymn” which over the years has been misunderstood as Paul preaching the eternal divinity of Jesus Christ. But Paul was a monotheist Jew, high christology was/is a feature of the much later Gospel of John and the later Church, and the “hymn” is actually an exhortation to Paul’s readers to be humble as Jesus was humble. Maybe we’ll talk about it.


Saturday, September 20, 2014

... but no ...

Shame but No Apocalypse

Shame, isn’t it, disgraceful that sports in America, especially football -- at least that’s the one I’ve cared most about or paid most attention to since MLB faded decades ago -- shame that football and sports don’t lead in morality instead of responding to morality. Jameis the Jewel won’t be playing at all today instead of penalized half a game. It isn’t just CFB. Yesterday the commissioner, whom we looked at but muted because enough already, made his excuses for himself and NFL. Was it money and winning all along, or wasn’t there a time when honor, honesty and integrity were the rules of the game. No, there never was such a time, it’s something we say in church and Boy Scouts that has no meaning for life as we live it. And far back as you can go, every generation decries the new immorality. 

Yea, even God's ownself. Even unto Marcus Aurelius.

Am I ashamed to be American? Hell no and I am and have been as normally inhuman as you lot, close but no cigar and I too haven't tried all that hard either. So, Genesis 6:5-7, why hasn't there been another Flood? 

Oh, I almost forgot, Genesis 9:11. But then, James Baldwin said The Fire Next Time. Who doesn’t smell smoke needs to have eyes to see and ears to hear and watch the News. 

Friday, September 19, 2014



Strange this morning, at least it seems odd to me as a non weather person -- sitting up here in my bed with the blind open in the door so I can see out into the blackness, thought I glimpsed a quick flash of lightning. So I look at the iTitan weather display on my iPad to see what’s going on. Shows us and the entire northern Gulf of Mexico to the west of us from about Morgan City to, now as I watch, drifting into Apalachee Bay, covered in green, indicating rain, or rain clouds, with the entire -- I suppose it’s a system -- apparently moving eastward, such that we soon would be covered. However, and this is what caught my eye, right smack in the middle of it, south from Gulfport to Pensacola, is a band of yellow and orange clouds that seem to be fighting their way westward. Is it rotating? IDK, it seems to be more -- sliding -- sneaking -- the bottom sneaking east and the middle moving west and leaving its castoff part to the north of it drifting eastward and over us. WTH? 

If the thing is moving west I won’t worry about it. But I can’t really tell. At least it isn’t circular with a hole in the middle, it’s long and narrow, like somebody stepped on it and squashed it out flat but didn't kill it and it's still fighting to become what it's not yet. OK, tell me it isn't tropical and I'll relax.

No matter what happened yesterday, so as not to be distracted I’m not even glancing at A.Word.A.Day yet, much less email or the news. My mind is on my books. I have, I’ll have to count them, hundreds of books here, well, surely way more than one hundred, in my upstairs office, or study, or whatever I might call the upstairs bedroom at the northeast corner of this American Foursquare house. Yesterday and the day before I loaded them into my arms an armload at a time and lugged them downstairs. Some I’ve already taken to my office at the church. Once I get them all there, and I think it’ll be a couple hundred books, I’ll pick out any few I want to keep and set them aside. The rest I may put out on a table in the parish library for anyone to take. For the most part these are not books that would likely interest anyone browsing the public library, most are related to my vocation. Want a Greek N.T. and books on N.T. Greek? Got you covered. Want to read Frederick Buechner, John Claypool, Martin Bell, C.S. Lewis, Barbara Brown Taylor, ... ? Gotchoocovered.

Linda is doing the same with her collection of books, mostly novels, especially those very long historical novels in which series of books carry the reader across centuries.

Why are we doing this? Because there’s too much stuff in this, count them, 13 room plus one, two three, 4 1/2 bath house that’s over a hundred feet long counting covered porches at each end, and varies 33 to 45 feet wide. Built in 1912 for seven, and nearly doubled in footprint if not s.f. by Linda and me, there are two of us and three households of furniture and things crouching here with us. We are starting to clean house, eh? Books first. Maybe dishes next? Or furniture. Or art.

Oh, I forgot to mention, the huge walk-in attic is loaded. 

Want something? Need anything? 

TGIF is not for clergy, for clergy it’s TGIM. 


Tom+ still mucking along through +Time

OMG, I forgot, there's another couple hundred books in my downstairs study and in Joe's room ... aaahhhhhhgggg

Anybody need some sofas and chairs? How about my old Mickey Mouse doll? Or a car model? 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Whatever Am I Thinking?

Often as not, my daily blog post begins without prior thought as I start typing while sipping my first cup of coffee. Something occurs, evolves. Maybe after walking down the front concrete path for the PCNH and, looking out across my Bay, pausing to recall the flashing green light that, across his bay, cost Jay Gatsby his life because of a dream he so passionately believed in but, even as he died, never saw was not real, an illusion. ὁ ἀναγινώσκων νοείτω. His life and his dream were illusions. Was my dream real? I don’t know. It no longer matters. What matters is that I have no sermon for Sunday. 

If there are possibilities in the OT reading, say a Bible story I learned as a child, I prefer to find a sermon in that instead of my old Episcopal habit of standing in the pulpit and beginning yet one more time again, “In our gospel for today ...”. Yesterday in fact I was reading the Exodus 16 story of God and Moses and the whining, complaining, grousing Israelites in the wilderness, and the flaky white goo that the Lord rained down on them as bread. “Man-hu?” they asked, “Yuck, what is it? We're supposed to eat this?” Wandering from the NRSV translation from which we read in worship, off into the Orthodox Jewish Bible, an English language version that charmingly uses Yiddish and Hasidic cultural expressions, I started to explore a Hebrew-English interlinear that would have given my seminary OT professor thundering apoplexy, and realized, why am I doing this, I don’t know what the hell I’m doing here and now or anyplace and ever, so deleted that blog post and wrote about Me, Myself. Persona v. Being. One you see, one I know.

There’s the crescent moon, high. At an earlier hour earlier in the week it was nearly half, pointing to Orion. Truck door closes and voices down on the Bay. Casting for mullet? Can’t say.

See? Mind of the octopriest. Despite “often as not,” this morning’s blog post began otherwise because I couldn’t resist peeking at what delight Anu Garg might have for me this morning. Even better than I’d hoped. This week he’s serving adverbs, verily, my favorite flavor of words. Today it’s perchance but Tuesday took me back -- what? -- sixty years? His name slips my mind, but my law professor in the business school at UFlorida was -- second only to my German professor when I was pre-theology before psychology 301 or whatever number nearly decapitated me -- my all time favorite professor as an undergrad. He was captivating as a lecturer and instructor, you didn’t take your eyes or ears off him lest you miss something, and with him another chance to laugh. He kept using a fortiori until somebody said you sound like some lawyer and he said I am some lawyer and have been for many, many years, and told everybody to use a fortiori in the exam at least once. 

Tuesday morning, Anu Garg thought he had me, but I was already there, have known a fortiori 60/80ths of my life. As those who do higher math know, that's 3/4 -- 75%.

Today, perchance, good. But Anu's thought for today is superb: Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not. - Samuel Johnson, lexicographer (1709-1784). It’s agape’ which is the New Testament word for love. To put it extreme, I can hate your guts, but the Second Commandment requires me to be nice to you. Love is not a feeling, it’s how you treat people.

And yes, that’s MLP this morning.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Me, Myself, and

Me, Myself, and
An expert is someone carrying a briefcase who arrives from out of town to tell you you’re wrong. No expert, I know not much about anything but a little about several things. Like everyone, my range of knowing is different from yours. Our knowing overlaps variously yet is not common, e.g., a St. Andrews Bay native, graduate of a theological seminary and the naval war college, yet expert in nothing, I’ve some knowing that others don’t. A bishop laid hands on, mashed me down, and ordained me to wear a goofy white collar that fools the naive into assuming I’m expert. Not so, yet when I wear the fool thing they call me “Father.” Who, me?
Just as when I wore the coat with stripes and the hat with scrambled eggs they called me “Sir.” Don't call me Sir.
It was only me.
Our knowing is different. Our knowing and also our having been. Stirring the knowing and the having been, each is so different that no two match. Different knowing and being.
If I offer a Sunday School class and a Bible Seminar, people come, some illusioned that I'm expert, others confident I will share my different knowing and having been. None see that my different knowing hardly fills a teacup. Barely enough Greek to do minor damage, no Hebrew, and the older I get the more discouraging my attempts at learning, but I say the first line of the shema and recognize אֶהְיֶה as the name God told Moses from the burning bush. 
No prophet, no expert, a St. Andrews Bay native, I am still, always, just and only a local.
My credential? Gone forty years, scripturally enough to return with briefcase, collar, and peripheral knowing, and be called Father instead of Bubba. And Sir.
Oh, it's only you, Tom.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sand Frog

Across the Bridge

At least for those of us who enjoy the predawn darkness, it is so easy to love a predawn thunderstorm. Now Dasher, now Dancer, it came rumbling noisily through, awakening me from the slight doze to which I’d returned after Father Nature’s quick traipse. In a Navy ship, a headcall, but in those days it didn’t strike during the wee hours. Lightning and thunder, on Donder and Blitzen, and the sound of rain on the upstairs porch roof just outside my door. I went out to appreciate it for a moment and check for the PCNH, not there yet, and to read the thermometer, just over 80F and gaspingly muggy. Back inside just as the storm, which had a chance to make itself proud but didn't, drifts on off toward Apalachicola. 

The iTitan program on my iPad shows another string of yellow revolving toward me from just this side of Fort Walton Beach. 

Stretching from Grand Isle to Ocala, this weather system covers this entire part of the Gulf of Mexico. It has its back arched to the north and is rotating slightly clockwise, which means nothing to worry about, just enjoy the sound and fury. It would be nice if its bite is as wet as its bark, but typically these late summer storms go either slightly south of us, pouring on Shell Island, or just up the road, drenching Advance Auto Parts and the Hertz outlet at 15th and Frankford, but leaving us parched. 

Here comes a little more now, and the newspaper’s there at the end of the path. But I’m not going downstairs and out yet. Hoping it is but betting it isn’t, I’ll trust the carrier double-bagged it this morning. 

Across the Bridge. Yesterday Linda and I had an adventure, left here about ten-thirty or eleven, drove out to the beach and explored the eastern shore from Bridgewater to Bay Point and on across the Lagoon bridge to Thomas Drive and Schooners. My mouth was set for the oyster basket until someone laid the blue menu in front of us and said “we’re still having our lobsterfest” so we both ordered from that. OK but Buddy Boy, this ain’t Maine, next time I'm with the local shellfish. On the beach just beyond our table someone was sculpting an enormous frog in the sand. Beautiful, and really well done. I should have gotten a picture but was busy texting Tass and Kristen.

After lunch we browsed back along the bayshore, returning to Magnolia Beach looking across toward St. Andrews. When I was a boy nothing was over there before WW2 but Major Wood’s homestead. True to its name, the place is covered with magnolia grandiflora, and from one place we stood on the quiet and peaceful bayshore looking straight across at the Port. That freighter looked close enough to toss a stone across and hit it if I were George Washington.

Now dash away, dash away, dash away all.