Wednesday, May 27, 2015

spit, swish, spit

spit, swish, spit

Least of all me, nobody can think all the time, much less always be thinking about things eternal and unseen. Or maybe some can, what the heck do I know; but not me. This morning I got up late, after four o’clock, acknowledged mother nature and old father time, cursed the clock and snuggled snugly back under the sheet on the bed in the Bay bedroom thinking of nothing but to doze until time to walk three hours thence. As sleep returns, suddently a buzz and a flashing light. My phone with me all night in case Tass, Malinda or Kristen calls, I leap up awake, alert, alarmed. Linda’s iPhone flashing news: in response to U.S. indictment FIFA officials have been arrested on corruption charges.

My older model iPhone sleeps on. But not I. Damn the instant news anyway.

Maybe this is the morning to write about bathroom habits. By late high school years it became necessary to shave every morning. Razor with doubled-edge Gillette blade that I changed every couple days, dropping used blade down slot in side of medicine cabinet: nine thousand years hence, archeologists will be able to tell much about our civilization. Brush with bone handle. Smelling nice, marked “Yardley,” and shaped to fit the palm, a small wooden bowl with wooden lid. The good old days were best. Wet brush, vigorous circle motion on soap in wooden bowl, lather face, shave. Stiptic wet and ready. Run stripe of Ipana full length of toothbrush, brush teeth with mouthful of foam, spit, rinse, spit. 

Some years later, in response to cute and catchy roadside signs, I switched to a can of Burma Shave. Per instructions on can, shake can, squirt golfball-size ball of shaving creme into other hand, lather face, shave with Schick razor, click-click dispenser changes instantly, easily, daily if feeling flush, without slicing finger tips and less wear on stiptic pencil to dab bloody chin.

Life moves from 18 toward 81. Pea-size is sufficient. Pea-size drop of Crest and swish with FoxListerine.  Pea-size dab of Barbasol (89 cents a can, cheapest for the cheap): purpose is not to soften the beard anyway but to paint the face white so I can tell where still needs scraping with the everlasting Gillette that needs a new blade annually.

Another day: sacred shampoo story.

From the ridiculous to the sublime.

Walking day, but I can't remember whether it's seven, seven-fifteen, or seven-thirty. 


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Lemme Loose

Evenings when weather is right I'm outside on the balcony. It’s good at the moment, light breeze, sound of little kids laughing, talking, running on the boardwalk in the city park below. Linda is inside with a book and the television on, and probably her iPad, maybe scrolling Facebook but for sure checking how to have healthy hydrangeas and how to make them pink and how to make them blue. This weekend we brought two hydrangeas in pots from the house, one of each color. 

About dark last eveing I went back to the house to rescue something my nephew Mike wanted: the door jam in the kitchen that my parents used for nearly forty years to mark the growth of grandchildren. I’m pretty sure everybody’s on there, including great-grandchildren. Family history that I didn't have the heart to toss it when we remodeled the kitchen in 2002, I tucked it away in a garden shed that we called "the half-house" because the front door of it was the old front door of the house and on the door we had the numerals 2308 1/2. This evening the house and that door post became a family topic on Facebook. Mike said he wanted the post and I went immediately and got it. Obviously, I'm not the only sentimental one, and I'm delighted someone will cherish it. I only wish I could have given someone the house to go with it.

Seldom but now and then I use this evening outside time to draft what may or may not be my blog post the next morning. Most often better judgment prevails after a night’s sleep and in the wee hours I reread and find it was too frank and revealing of the grouchy old man -- grouch and grieve -- and I ditch it and write something rational. But I like tributes written over the weekend about John F. Nash, Jr. and his evident disdain for forcing oneself to be rational because that’s what’s expected of one. If +Time and I are still together after I retire from all responsibility to others, I may say the hell with what’s expected and set loose who I really am. Monster at large.

We have our Tuesday Bible Seminar this morning, usual time and place, final gathering for the Spring 2015 season. My intention is to open the discussion for people to share personal experiences of Pentecost, and then have a hack at one more chapter of the Gospel according to John before recessing for the summer.

Salty outside this morning, humid and salty.


Monday, May 25, 2015


Zero dark thirty and the third day of a good three day weekend for Memorial Day. What is it? Well, Tass and family are here, and Malinda and Kristen have come, all of whom make my moments perfect. The condo is still quiet, everyone but me sleeping. I won’t allow the mind to think past noon, when remnants of the carrot cake Linda baked for Jeremy’s birthday will be packed up along with girls and stuffed animals. My girls make my life.

From the balcony porch and front window we look out on the breadth and distance of St. Andrew Bay. Saturday morning early the Bay began filling up with boats zipping across to Shell Island, continuing until afternoon. I wondered if the beach scene was anything like this

Mid-afternoon the boats started flowing this way like an incoming tide. As I watched them, with yet another round of dermatology zaps on my head, I hoped nobody got as sunburned as I did so many times at the beach sixty and seventy years ago. Sunburn has reared its ugly head: mine.

Memorial Day, with the obligatory guilt trip remarks that everyone ought to remember it’s not about a day off, a long weekend, a picnic, the start of summer, that it’s about being thankful for those who gave their lives in national service. Flanders Fields, Let’s Remember Pearl Harbor, Decoration Day. 58195 names on The Wall. Before lunch, on the way back from buying fried chicken at Publix, I’ll wear my U.S. Navy Retired cap with scrambled eggs on the bill and visit a couple friends. I appreciate.

I appreciate, and appreciated being appreciated. Bit of bitterness creeps in. Returning from the Vietnam War in the late 1960s and early 1970s, we were advised not to wear the uniform in public, because we were apt to be harassed or spit on. And we were — by people who didn’t have sense enough, were too gardenia alphabet stupid, to realize that the unpopular war was not our doing but the work of the politicians they voted for. However, a nation with narcissistic personality disorder never looks in a mirror and spits, but always finds someone else to blame.

On Memorial Day this is not a grouse, but a memory. I’m thankful for the Day, and most of all for my beloveds.

Commander, USNavy (Retired)

Sunday, May 24, 2015

a rushing wind violent

Frightening. Scary.

Over the years our other readings for this day have varied, but we always hear Luke’s story at Acts 2 of the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples gathered in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. It must have been terribly exciting, even frightening, scary. “And suddenly there came from heaven ἦχος ὥσπερ φερομένης πνοῆς βιαίας a sound as of a rushing wind violent, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.” 

It isn’t as if this were the first time the wind, spirit, breath of God shows up in Bible stories. In fact, it was there from the very beginning of our history with God, before the word was spoken to bring order out of chaos; and on the day God fashioned an earthling and breathed life into us; and upon Saul and upon the Lord's beloved David. And the post-resurrection appearance on the evening of Easter Day when Jesus came into the midst of his disciples and breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit.” Whether the word is ruach or pneuma, the bursting sound of it carries the sense of it. 

But this is the first story of the Spirit coming upon an assembly of what will be the church. The mental picture of cloven tongues of flame dancing upon people’s heads gives us the excuse to wear red today. After all our own recent moving and shuffling, I hope I can find my fiery red orange stole that I bought at Redeemer, Houston when Linda, Tass and I went out to Texas in 1985 soon after Nicholas was born. The stole is somewhere around, but I think that parish may have disappeared, a shame because at the time they were the center of pentecostal revival in the Episcopal Church. Redeemer, Houston gave us many wonderfully uplifting music, songs, hymns. We worshiped with them that Sunday morning exactly thirty years ago, our own personal day of Pentecost, and we have felt the joy of their mountaintop ever since, being right in the middle of the charismatic renewal of the late 20th century. 

Back to Jerusalem where I’m trying to know that sound of a rushing, violent wind. It must have been like my father’s memory of seeing a tornado out the school window one day in the twenties when they lived in Ocilla, Georgia. He said it stretched up into the sky, and sounded like a freight train. 


Saturday, May 23, 2015


Strip of lights to the east is downtown Panama City, due south between me and Shell Island and spread out among the channel marker lights are a few shrimp boats working St. Andrew Bay, strip of lights to the west is the east end of Panama City Beach. 

Way too early to operate my magical coffee machine for a cuppa Kona, so a mug of Community coffee and a small glass of Bulgarian style buttermilk from the Tyndall commissary. 

Pentecost tomorrow, on the Christian calendar the fiftieth day after Easter dawn. We celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit into the church as told in the story at Acts chapter 2, and wear red to commemorate the tongues of flame that Luke mentions dancing on the heads of the disciples.

Holy Spirit is a mystery, I suppose. Doubtful eisegetic scholarship perhaps, but I like to perceive the Holy Spirit as far back as Genesis 1, “In the beginning Elohim created the heavens and the earth, and the earth was chaos, and vacant, and darkness was upon the face of the abyss; and the (ruach, πνευμα, breath, wind) spirit of Elohim moved over the surface of the waters, and Elohim is saying (this saying I like to understand as logos, the creating word whom Gospel John defines as Jesus Christ) ‘let there be light …’ and there was light.” So, there’s the Holy Spirit already vibrating, moving and shaking; and already knowing what I intended to find, I went into Genesis chapter one and read and found it. In fact, there’s the whole Trinity, all three of them. That it isn’t a rabbinical understanding bothers me not in the least: a story belongs to the reader.

But my favorite impression of the Holy Spirit might be from a summer 2013 Ignatian retreat,my spiritual advisor characterizing the Holy Spirit as “Mary’s husband.” I was astonished, but there’s naught to be gained by arguing. Thinking to “correct” someone about how to understand a story that’s just as much his as mine is arrogance personified, and I’m not that. Besides, faith is not knowledge, it’s making up your own mind about things unseen.  

Today is Jeremy's birthday, and the four beloveds are coming over from Tallahassee to celebrate with us. Ribs and carrot cake.

There are mosquitos out here, I’m going inside.

Hey, it's almost tomorrow.


Friday, May 22, 2015

What do Episcopalians believe? is a question

What do Episcopalians believe? is a question that’s lately been working on me more than I’ve been working on the question. It’s a question that may have less of an answer than it has questions. Only once in my years of wearing this goofy collar has the question been put to me in the nature of get-it-right-or-it’s-a-deal-breaker. Years ago a newcomer to Apalachicola came to Trinity a few times and was welcomed and taken in, “adopted” so to speak. Telling me that she liked the people and liked our worship, including our music and our prayers and the eucharist, she made an appointment to come talk with me. She wanted to make sure we believed the same as her church back home where she grew up, or she’d have to keep looking. 

No, come to think of it, a second instance comes to mind. Same town and church. A man, lifelong resident and businessman, came a few Sundays. He was a Baptist, I knew him at Rotary, but knew him anyway because it’s a small town, 2,500 people, where nobody doesn’t not know everybody. After his second or third Sunday I asked if he’d like to talk with me about becoming a member. He said, “No, because I just noticed that you pray for the dead. That’s against the Bible. Jesus said leave the dead to bury their dead.” 

So, what do we believe? My first question might be “what do we believe about what?” About God? About Jesus? About the Bible? About liturgical worship? About written prayer? About eucharist, holy communion, the Lord’s supper? About the real presence of Christ in the bread and wine? About the virgin birth? About the Trinity? About the resurrection? About life after death? Okay, about praying for the dead? About the priest’s power and authority in the confession of sin and absolution? I’m going to work at one question, but first, a logos from our Creator:

What do we believe about God? (a) One way to get an answer is to worship with us and pay attention to what we do and say and sing and pray. We have a Latin phrase lex orandi lex credendi translated the law of praying is the law of believing: our theology (what we believe about God) is found in our worship. We don’t have an official theologian, or an official confession, or a curia or library, we have our worship. 

An example might be the second instance above, the local man who paid attention and noticed prayer for the dead: “And we also bless thy holy Name for all thy servants departed this life in thy faith and fear [especially                       ], beseeching thee to grant them continual growth in thy love and service.” 

(b) Another way to get answers is to know that our doctrine is the historical doctrine of the universal Christian church. Thumb through the Book of Common Prayer, read the Nicene Creed and the Baptismal Creed (Apostles’ Creed) that are ancient belief statements of the Christian church; read the catechism (a teaching in question and answer format). Read the Historical Documents in the back of the book, including the Quicunque Vult and the Articles of Religion, keeping your sense of humor and remembering that your mind is as good as the mind of any old bishop. Read the examination questions for those about to be baptized, read the examination and assurance required of one about to be ordained. It’s all there if you look for it. 

(c) My favorite answer might be to enjoy worship and especially friendship and fellowship in a church that goes back two thousand years, whose doctrines are those of the ancient church, and make up your own mind what you believe. No two people in the sanctuary on a Sunday morning believe exactly the same thing, and nobody is going to make sure you are “orthodox” before opening the door for you or as you come down the aisle to receive Holy Communion. None of us worries about what the person sitting, standing or kneeling next to us believes; and, believe me, we’re all different.

And my standing slogan: just because we believe it, that don't make it so. 


Thursday, May 21, 2015

that, creeping slow

that, creeping slow

Yesterday morning, Wednesday our walking day, while waiting for Robert I walked from where my car was parked on Linda Avenue north to 2nd Court, saw a mom and son get out of their car and walk across the stone drive toward the lower elementary school entrance. John Greenleaf Whittier’s poem “In School-days” came to mind. The little boy’s mother walked spritely ahead, he, as I would have done at his age, trailing slowly behind, head down. We never change: boys are boys from age to age, and I am glad to have been one of them with summer vacation about to start and three months to play in the dense woods around our house on Massalina Bayou. The most wonderful thing that could happen in any boy’s life is to have been an American boy growing up. 

And in an American father’s life, the most wonderful thing that could have happened is to have had ten little girls like mine.   

We’re walking this morning because Robert mixed days and plans yesterday and we didn’t walk. Well, I walked around the school while pacing sidewalks waiting for. But the serious walk didn’t come off, instead I filled the car tank with gasoline because the low fuel warning light came on to stay, its alarm tone sounding ominously. Stopped at dermatology for a walk-in zap: one spot he said, “that has to be gone, if it’s still there in six weeks, call and tell them I said let you in.” Is that scary? At this bus stop in life nothing about self is scary, everything is about others. Came home for a cucumber sandwich breakfast, a favorite.

Less is better: with three rooms instead of seventeen, eighteen counting the huge attic, there’s no room for clutter, so instead of one, I now have three places to sit and love life. By the living room window looking across my Bay, the blue velvet chair mama had reupholstered forty, fifty, sixty years ago and gifted to me twenty or thirty ago. Asa McNeil’s wife had the upholstery shop. Asa was a fisherman early; for a while in the late 40s or early 50s he worked in my father’s seafood business before becoming a PCPD policeman. Now and then he’d swing by in uniform on his motorcycle.

We’ve arranged the Bay bedroom with a sitting area. Facing the TV, Linda’s chair is the platform rocker mama reupholstered when Nicholas was little. Mine faces the Bay, the blue lift chair we gave mama on her 98th birthday. She never managed the controls. My third spot is one of those wedge shaped bed lounge cushions. It has a light but in the move the light cord disappeared. Anyway, all three have good lower back support and a pillow, are good for reading, blogging, dozing off.

Still sits the school-house by the road,
   A ragged beggar sleeping;
Around it still the sumachs grow,
   And blackberry-vines are creeping.

Within, the master’s desk is seen,
   Deep scarred by raps official;
The warping floor, the battered seats,
   The jack-knife’s carved initial;

The charcoal frescos on its wall;
   Its door’s worn sill, betraying
The feet that, creeping slow to school,
   Went storming out to playing!

Long years ago a winter sun
   Shone over it at setting;
Lit up its western window-panes,
   And low eaves’ icy fretting.

It touched the tangled golden curls,
   And brown eyes full of grieving,
Of one who still her steps delayed
   When all the school were leaving.

For near her stood the little boy
   Her childish favor singled:
His cap pulled low upon a face
   Where pride and shame were mingled.

Pushing with restless feet the snow
   To right and left, he lingered;—
As restlessly her tiny hands
   The blue-checked apron fingered.

He saw her lift her eyes; he felt
   The soft hand’s light caressing,
And heard the tremble of her voice,
   As if a fault confessing.

“I’m sorry that I spelt the word:
   I hate to go above you,
Because,”—the brown eyes lower fell,—
   “Because, you see, I love you!”

Still memory to a gray-haired man
   That sweet child-face is showing.
Dear girl! the grasses on her grave
   Have forty years been growing!

He lives to learn, in life’s hard school,
   How few who pass above him
Lament their triumph and his loss,

   Like her,—because they love him.