Thursday, July 18, 2019

What do you see?

We have Amos again Sunday, and it makes me wonder if the Lord is harrassing me with this eighth century BC prophet of doom. That's ridiculous I know: as long as they are paused momentarily on Amos, the lectionary framers couldn't bear to include one of this poetic prophet's two most famous metaphors, first about the Plumb Line, and not to include the other, about the Basket of Summer Fruit. "Amos, what do you see?" 

My chief regret is that they left out Amos' best line, at 5:24, 

But let justice roll down like waters,
    and righteousness like an everflowing stream.

Amos' railing against Israel is brilliant poetry with bright metaphors all the way through though, and it's well worth out of life, to take the few minutes one would invest, to read Amos from start to finish. In fact, here's a link so you can read it online and not even have to go searching for a Bible, and then, having found one, the almighty struggle of where to look inside as you face the Book cover. Oh, and if still clueless, tap the little > arrow in the right margin to go to the next chapter when you are ready to move on. Jiminy.

Jiminy. Jiminy Christmas. As the Professor says when Peter and Susan come to discuss Lucy's apparent delusional state in telling about her adventure after returned, into and out of the Wardrobe, from Narnia the first Time, "What do they teach them in schools these days?"

But Amos, eh, Amos and me. This housing development, Breakfast Point, is on reclaimed lowlands, even swamp land. Beautifully incorporated drainage ponds are all over the place, and ours out behind the house has at least one alligator in it, a small one, but it's Albert alright. And frogs, the tree frogs, or swamp frogs. When one first looks out mornings, they are clinging to the outside of the house windows like the chocolate frog on the outside of the window of the Hogwarts Express in the first story. And walking round the property, they are, not everywhere, but sufficiently present to be named Ubiquitous. And generally half-dozen or so squashed on the driveway and flattened into the concrete. It's a wide driveway, so it's not as if they cover the place. But no car driver can avoid them: even if you manage to miss them driving in, there will be another or two in the way of a car tire when next you back out, so ... .

But Amos and me, I keep wandering, basic to my nature. Amos is doomsday prophecy. In the first chapter and into the next, Amos has God warning everybody, every nation, every city, with dire oracle. Then when Amos gets to Israel, he focuses, like a boy holding his magnifying glass over one ant until it curls up as the sun incinerates it. So, from a place that nine months on feels as fully exilic as Israel and especially Juidah ever knew, I feel called to Amos; but how so?

It gets to the rector's benediction and blessing, "My friends, life is short, and we haven't much Time to gladden the hearts of those who travel with us." So, why am I beginning to take this Time of exile so badly, even deadly, when it's still and all, nevertheless and notwithstanding, part of precious and non-replaceable, non-recoverable, and not reusable Time, my Time of life. For me, I need to not be wasting it lamenting and, counter to my ongoing declaration of my own self, losing patience. I cast myself, to myself, as the most patient man I know or have known. Until I find myself with the prophets, now Ezekiel, In the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I was among the exiles by the river Chebar, impatient and angry and despairing, wanting only the Day of the Lord when I can move back to 7H as the exiles rushed back to reclaim and rebuild Jerusalem. But here's God to Israel through Amos (5:18-20) as the prophet sprinkles and mixes simile and metaphor to extinguish my longing for a Future that may not be at all what I envision - -

Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord!
    Why would you have the day of the Lord?
It is darkness, and not light;
     as if a man fled from a lion,
    and a bear met him;
or went into the house and leaned with his hand against the wall,
    and a serpent bit him.
 Is not the day of the Lord darkness, and not light,
     and gloom with no brightness in it?

So, I better and best enjoy the day here in Babylon, and the oysters. Because tomorrow is not mine to have. At least, not now, not today. Not even likely this season.

Even so, here's the Amos reading for Sunday, and below it, last evening's sunset - - - 

Amos 8:1-12

This is what the Lord God showed me-- a basket of summer fruit. He said, "Amos, what do you see?" And I said, "A basket of summer fruit." Then the Lord said to me,

"The end has come upon my people Israel;
I will never again pass them by.
The songs of the temple shall become wailings in that day,"
says the Lord God;
"the dead bodies shall be many,
cast out in every place. Be silent!"
Hear this, you that trample on the needy,
and bring to ruin the poor of the land,
saying, "When will the new moon be over
so that we may sell grain;
and the sabbath,
so that we may offer wheat for sale?
We will make the ephah small and the shekel great,
and practice deceit with false balances,
buying the poor for silver
and the needy for a pair of sandals, 
and selling the sweepings of the wheat."

The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob:
Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.
Shall not the land tremble on this account,
and everyone mourn who lives in it,
and all of it rise like the Nile,
and be tossed about and sink again, like the Nile of Egypt?

On that day, says the Lord God,
I will make the sun go down at noon, 
and darken the earth in broad daylight.
I will turn your feasts into mourning,
and all your songs into lamentation;
I will bring sackcloth on all loins,
and baldness on every head;
I will make it like the mourning for an only son,
and the end of it like a bitter day.
The time is surely coming, says the Lord God,
when I will send a famine on the land;
not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water,
but of hearing the words of the Lord.
They shall wander from sea to sea,
and from north to east;
they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord,
but they shall not find it.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019


The moon shot is from just now as it was setting into clouds past the park and stand of pines beyond us west of Breakfast Point, PCB. 

The osprey cam is from Monday morning, a chick fledging

and a few circles of the campground later, returning to the nest.

There are two cameras at the Boulder County Fairgrounds Osprey Nest, cam#1 is over the nest looking down on. Camera #2 is from the ground, looking up, and shows the same fledging by the same chick from that different perspective, first leaving

then circling high in the sky,

and low a few times,

then returning, now an expert flyer.

I intend to keep watching them, checking in from time to time until they are all gone. Looking forward to maybe the same parent couple, however that works out, returning spring 2020. 

Breakfast: small can of Bush's baked beans, black coffee.


Tuesday, July 16, 2019


Tuesday was an adventure morning to noon, and if this doesn't sound like adventure to you now, it will when you get to be 83. 

Left early for Tyndall AFB, out 15th Street and around Tyndall Parkway through, though there's progress to clean up, renovate, rebuild, what was the storm's worst, I'll get there, but the grief returns and the fury, raging anger that still nine months on I do not understand and cannot explain. My best metaphor for helping myself continues to be the image of Alma Mater beaten, ravaged, raped, and left for dead; the power of Nature loosed by Nature's god. Often beautiful, some of its, her, His Acts, as insurance and law absurdly but nevertheless call Acts of God, are unforgiveable, even grounds for vengeance, if such were possible. As in Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung theologizing that the offering and crucifixion of Jesus Christ was divine penance for the horrors God allowed Satan to visit upon Job, who is all of us.

Big news yesterday is that the two osprey chicks fledged yesterday, Monday morning early. I didn't know it until I checked in mid morning and found an empty nest; so moved the red time line, which is good second by second for twelve hours, moved it back until I found first one then the other darting off into life and liberty and the pursuit of.  

May they both beat the statistic that 50% of osprey do not survive the first twelve months; but then we'll never know.

Next, fairly soon, but not before the young ones can do their own fishing, the whole family will migrate south to wherever they go, and we'll not see them again. Unless, as seemed to happen earlier this season, a chick from a couple years ago came and stood in the nest beside the mother osprey for a bit, then flew on.

The young ones who migrate stay at their winter grounds over the next year, then may return to the area the following year and a year or two or three after that begin their own mating and nesting. Our present parent osprey couple have been coming here since 2003, according to the website, and returned each year.

Tuesday's adventure was on. Visit to the barber shop at TAFB BX. "Make it look neat" is my usual request after I sit down and the barber asks what I want. And since they like to have pleasant chit chat during the haircut, I add, "I've taken my ears out, so I won't be able to hear anything you say," which does the silencing job so I can semi-nap.

After, the BX. Out of martini ingredients, so bought replenishments, gin, vodka, olives. At six drops over the ice per martini, my green bottle of vermouth is sufficient for this life and the life to come. All this stuff should be kept in the reefer, but it's not out here at BP PCB because it's not my kitchen. Well, it isn't my kitchen back in 7H either, but I get away with it.

Commissary tour after the BX. Trying to improve my eating practices, I bought several cans of beans, Bush's, the commissary's own brand, and something Circle. Also bag of grapes and a box of my favorite, blueberries.

This would be as exciting a day's adventure to you as it is to me if you were my age, but never mind.

Leaving the Base, back across Dupont Bridge into Callaway and stop for lunch at Gary's Oyster Shack right at the curve on Tyndall Parkway. Dozen of Mother Nature's best. Gary stopped by our table to chat and I asked where the oysters were from. He said he gets them all from Apalachicola, but that his Apalachicola supplier gets them variously from Texas, Mobile, Pensacola, Louisiana. No matter, they were perfect; and, unlike the dozen I had at Reel Time Fishers on 22 the last time we were out that way: good, and genuine Apalachicola, but shells nor nothin' not hosed off before opening and serving muddy dirty. 


My last but main feature today is the article I read about the two Americas, neither side knowing nor understanding, but both hating, the other. Epiphanic: lots of lightbulbs coming on. A problem with the hate talk from the WH is that hate talk energizes the many sub-humans among us to violence. Anyway article copy and pasted below:

There's a sobering truth to Trump's racist tweets that we don't like to admit
Updated 7:42 PM EDT July 15, 2019
President Trump's critics may not like to admit it, but there's an element of truth in the racist tweets he sent this weekend.
Trump told four nonwhite Democratic congresswomen that they should "go back" to the "crime infested places" where they came from, even though three of the four were born in the US and the fourth is a naturalized citizen.
Critics pounced. But in some ways those four lawmakers -- Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez , Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley -- really do belong to another country.
In one America, people react with shock when a President issues vile racist tweets against women lawmakers. In the other America, people say nothing.
In one America, people speak out in protest after a President claims that African, Haitian, and Salvadoran immigrants come from "sh**hole" countries. In the other America, people nod in agreement.
In one America, people become outraged when administration officials snatch migrant children from their mothers' arms and detain them for weeks in filthy conditions with no repercussions. In the other America, people remain silent.
And in one America, people condemn a President for describing protestors alongside neo-Nazis as "very fine people." In the other America, people shrug.
Trump's tweets show a keen understanding of America
It's been said that Trump's comments about immigrants reveal that he really doesn't understand America. The US was built on the concept of a melting pot, and immigrants are making the nation stronger, some say.
But Trump's recent tweets could show that he understands America better than his critics realize. 
These two Americas have long co-existed.
One is the country represented by the Statue of Liberty, and its invitation to poor and tired immigrants "yearning to breathe free."
The other is the one that virtually wiped out Native Americans, enslaved Africans, excluded Chinese immigrants in the late 19th century and put Japanese Americans in concentration camps.
From the rarified perch of the White House, Trump's racist tweets tap into the id of this other America.
And here's what's so frightening about this: It is not a big stretch to say that when a leader uses the kind of language that Trump uses against minorities, it may increase the chances of violence being used against them.
I recall what Mark Naison, a historian at Fordham University, told me after the Charlottesville violence in 2017 when talking about Trump's racial rhetoric.
He says most Americans don't realize how dangerous it is for a leader to talk about fellow citizens as if they're the enemy. But some people from other countries know.
Naison recalled a conversation he once had with some Trump supporters.
"I told these guys, 'You can't control this. You're playing with fire,'" Naison says. "Open violent communal warfare is scary. You can't control it. Look at what happened in the Balkans, Northern Ireland, Israel."
The United States must become one thing or the other
Historical analogies, of course, are tricky. 
I've heard commentators say we're on the verge of a second Civil War. That makes a mockery of the carnage of that war, where at least 600,000 Americans were killed. 
Yet there is another 19th-century parallel that resonates. One commentator recently said we're on the brink of a "political civil war." 
That comment evoked another era that reminds me of this one -- the decades running up to the Civil War.
Then, as now, we were splitting into two different countries. Political compromise was impossible on another issue that revolved around American identity -- slavery. Congressional lawmakers carried pistols on the House and Senate floors.
The impending Civil War was described as "irrepressible conflict" -- the nation would become either a slave-holding nation or a free-labor country. There was no middle ground.
That period also saw the rise of the nation's first anti-immigration party. They were called the "The American Party," otherwise known as the "Know-Nothings." They blamed Irish and German immigrants for rising crime and poverty rates, and riots erupted across America in the 1840s and '50s.
"Party members tended to come from the working classes and had a strong anti-elitist bent," Amy Briggs wrote in National Geographic. "Their platform sought to limit immigration and the influence of Catholicism, and they used ugly ethnic stereotypes to stir up hatred against the recent German and Irish arrivals."
Trump's tweets show we are now in the middle of another "irrepressible conflict." We can't forever be a country that prides itself for welcomingimmigrants and religious diversity while also being one that puts immigrant children in cages and shrugs when our President makes racist statements.
To paraphrase another President -- Abraham Lincoln -- we eventually "will become all one thing or all the other."
We can become what one scholar called a "compassionate, multireligious, multiracial democracy." 
Or we can become what another called a "hollowed out" democracy, where one ethnic group rules the rest. 
The outrage over Trump's tweets will eventually fade. But the choice his racial rhetoric presents to America will be with us for years to come.

© 2019 Cable News Network, Inc. A WarnerMedia Company. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Two things, and three.

Couple of things in mind this morning, or three. The first is that I once knew a man who died of a broken heart soon after the death of his wife and then his son dying sudden and unexpected in front of him, a man my age whom I had worked with as priest and friend, and tried to help him through, and he just couldn't make it. But until now it never occurred to me that a tree could die of a broken heart, but I'm seeing it. So many local area pine trees who were still standing after Hurricane Michael passed through, when all their colleagues were broken and hanging over dying, seem to have given up on life. 

And in Time will have to be taken down. I do understand though, because driving through the Cove and out through Parker, Springfield and Callaway to Tyndall, I still feel it myself nine months on, when I should be healing.

The other thing is that yesterday was a hallmark day at the osprey nest at Boulder County Fairgrounds, Colorado. 

It was windy, and the wind helped lift both chicks into the air as they spread their wings and were lifted high,

not just to fly across the nest, but up well above the nest including to hover high.

One soared so high that for a while only her/his feet were visible, all the rest out of sight range of the camera. 

The other thing I hesitate but feel too disgusted and sickened to let it pass, the unspeakable and indefensible, inexcusable and unforgivable comment that four congresswomen, non-white Americans, should go back where they came from. Anyone who thinks this dehumanizing other Americans is okay in America that is so disintegrating morally, back to when it ostensibly was so "Great" but actually was working to move beyond the masked and even unconscious evil of its deep-seated cultural racism, should examine self first and think twice, even remain penitently in the pew rather than dare come forward to the Altar and blaspheme the Body and Blood of the Lord by eating the Bread and sipping the Cup. Liturgical absolution does not cover unrepentant evil and its certainty, and John 20:23, the sin is retained.


Sunday, July 14, 2019


Jesus said the first commandment is this: Shema Yisrael, Adonai elehenu, Adonai echod, Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second commandment is this: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these. 
You may be seated.

A beloved parable: ”The Good Samaritan”, a Bible story for children to color pictures in Sunday School, I did it myself as a child. We have a beloved parable, and we have it wrong.  

Over the centuries there has been a lot of art visualizing the parable. 

And there is the story of folks visiting the Holy Land, and one day the tourbus stopped in front of the ruins of an ancient building and the tour guide stood up and announced, “This was the inn where the Good Samaritan took the stranger who was set upon by robbers and left for dead.” And someone on the bus scoffed, “That was just a story, a parable Jesus told, it did not really happen”. To which the unfazed tour guide said “Well, if it had really happened, this would have been the inn”.

Jesus dealt in short stories, parables, which were confrontations. Maybe while I’m speaking you will finally hear, see, perceive, realize, understand what he’s talking about in this parable, that Jesus is talking to you. That he’s not praising the Good Samaritan, he’s holding him up as a contrast with you, the listeners, the smug lawyer, the upstanding citizens who pass by on the other side of the road.

I will tell you that, as an Old Testament fan, my inclination this morning was and is to preach from Amos, Amos, who prophesied “you yourself shall die in an unclean land,” (and sure enough, here we are), Amos, one of the four eighth century prophets of doom, Isaiah, Hosea, Amos and Micah, each an unlikely character who prophesied against evil government for its inhumanity and its shading of truth and its lust for power and glory; and each prophet prophesied against the people and culture for their greed and hatefulness and prejudice and ungodly certainty of their own righteousness, over against the love of God and love of neighbor.

I might prefer Amos, but only once in three years does the lectionary come across the Parable of the Good Samaritan, a story of a man hated simply for what he is, hated because he is Other, hated because he is not “one of us”, in the story a good and righteous man, let us say a Muslim or a Democrat who came along and did a good thing simply because it was the right thing for a decent human being to do, and suddenly the light comes on in our dimly lit, self-certain head that Jesus is chastising us, turning our own "Personal Gospel" garbage cans upside down and dumping them out so we and all the world can see prejudice and hate for the filth it is, that those we hate are as good as we are, that Truth about Others is the opposite of everything we think and have been taught in our culture and have always “known”.

A parable is a roundabout way of making a point, and the point of this parable is that “what you’ve always known for certain” is the opposite of God’s Truth. Which is that the people you most despise are better than you always thought, and indeed may be more human and more godly than you. 

If you think this is a cute and beloved little children’s Sunday School Bible story and you come out of it feeling good about the Good Samaritan, “Oh what a nice man, I’ll be like that” you’ve utterly missed it. Because Jesus does not mean for you to find  yourself in the Good Samaritan; he’s telling the story to you, the listener, about you, the listener, at you, the listener; where the listener is the worshiper in the pew, and the temple priest, and the Levite; and the lawyer who wants to justify himself but who still does not get it. The parable is a sharp comeuppance. The point of Jesus story is not to go out and be the Good Samaritan as some editor* (who himself did not have sense enough to understand the parable) has “corrected and improved” Luke and Jesus by adding to end it “Who was neighbor?” and “Go and do likewise”: Jesus does not explain and moralize his parables, he tells the story, drops it in your lap, and lets it explode in your face. 

The story is not about the Good Samaritan, the story is about ignorance and evil prejudice against other people. The point of the story is that you are dead wrong in what you think and say and believe about those who are not like you, those you hate, despise, rail against in your heart and in your mind and on social media as queers and libs and homos and Latinos and illegal immigrants and radical Islamists and pro-life and pro-choice and I won’t say the N-word that is filthier from the mouth than the F-word and the S-word; when I was growing up in polite Southern society it used to be delicately, “the darkies”, as in Stephen Foster, “it’s summer, the darkies are gay”. 

Jesus did not come to soothe and comfort and assure (to descend into Modalism, that’s the Holy Spirit’s job!). Jesus came with fire and a sword, Jesus came against everyone who hates and against everyone who is certain against those who are not like you. The Good Samaritan is in your face, told at you. Jesus is talking to each person who hates, and who knows himself Greater than and Better than, and Whiter than, and Straighter than, and more righteous than, and his/her religion and politics and race and social class True and all others false and less. The parable is about “What is Truth?” when Truth is looking you in the face and telling you the story, and you cannot see, hear, perceive, realize, understand.

The parable is not affirming. The story is not about the Good Samaritan. The story is about you, the listener. The story is to everyone who is certain that others are wrong and you are right. And the Good Samaritan is not you, the Good Samaritan is everyone you hate, every person and group of people you cannot stand because they are “Other”.

Amos, Jesus, and Luke: the gospel of the Lord.


Sermon in Holy Nativity Episcopal Church, Panama City, Florida, Sunday, July 14, 2019. The Rev Tom Weller. Text: Luke 10:25-37

* "some editor", possibly the same editor or editors who "corrected" and "improved" and "completed" the Gospel according to Mark by adding all the material after Mark's intentionally startling ending at Mark 16:8a 

Saturday, July 13, 2019


Thinking last night to leave by 6:30, Joe drove away at 6:09. On his way home to Winston-Salem, a ten hour drive, he probably will text me he's there about four o'clock this afternoon. We do that, the texting, to relieve travel anxieties. Joe comes down, usually, twice a year; for his mom's birthday in July and so, if he comes again around Christmas maybe we will be back in 7H. 

Saturday morning at PCB, life moves on and we look for TJCC to arrive mid-morning. A trip into town to show them how 7H is coming along, check the mail, go by the church to pick up tomorrow's worship bulletin to put me in mind for Sunday School.

As I say, life moves on.


Friday, July 12, 2019

Mom! Dad! Lookit me!

Waking this morning with black and dark, first to a delightful email filling me in on what's in the background when the osprey cam perspective is shifted to show off in the distance.

When I first tuned in the two chicks were both awake and alert, on the edge of the nest looking at the lights and not unlikely hoping their father would show up soon with breakfast.

Backing up the time slide on the display I watched one chick enthusiastic about the power of wings,

lifting completely above the nest while ignored by mom, dad, and sibling.

Also got an interesting shot of light off the creek as the setting sun glared brightly in everybody's eyes.

Fledging into the open sky of Colorado can't be far off, and after that learning to watch, hover, dive feet first, and snatch their own trout from the creek.

The mountain range is part of the Rocky Mountains, and the city off in the west background, I learned, is Longmont, Colorado, named for nearby Long Peak, a high, 14,000 foot mountain that, I think my large cursor arrow points to. And the road back there that I watch traffic on, making me feel like part of the scene, is Hover Road.

With thanks to C&N this morning!