Monday, December 31, 2012


Pearsall vice Auld Lang Syne
Interesting and horrifying to have lived into a latter age of the children of Rachel.
Conscience of nation and world, rant, Isaiah. Jeremiah, prophesy.
Not waxing sentimental over 2012, nor making merry, simply letting go. For all the bad and good, joy, grief, tears and laughter, Connecticut darkened all, giving new life and truth to 12th century Bernard of Cluny, de contemptu mundi and #595 in The Hymnal 1940
        The world is very evil,
        The times are waxing late;
        Be sober and keep vigil,
        The Judge is at the gate;
        The Judge that comes in mercy,
        The Judge that comes with might,
        To terminate the evil,
        To diadem the right.

        Arise, arise, good Christian,
        Let right to wrong succeed;
        Let penitential sorrow
        To heav'nly gladness lead ...
... and so on wrested from St. Bernard by John Mason Neale, whose portrait is as dour as his poem and the personality of his mentor. 
Wearing rose-coloured glasses and pushing to be on the cutting edge of social cool, the Church deleted the hymn, which offends sensibilities as we shed our sense and concept of sin. Not the sin of others, but broken the mirror. 

Morally bankrupt and blind, we do not see ourselves as we are and for what we are. For a nation and world of smug, self-righteous, certitudinous, good Christians, the liturgical Confession of Sin becomes rote, ablutional finger-wash on the way to the Meal. Rather than being assured, fed, and patted on the bunny, we need endlessly to be confronted with the Baptismal Covenant until we get it, and not Do you, but Will you.
Connecticut is not they, but we. 
From 2012, where to go, what to do in 2013 to make things right. 
It cannot be done, because we will not: we demand our rights.
Most frightening line of Bernard/Neale? “Arise, arise, good Christian.” μὴ γένοιτο  

Sunday, December 30, 2012

One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism

One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism
Isaiah 61:1 - 62:3 (KJV)
10 I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.
11 For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.
For Zion's sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth.
2 And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name.
3 Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God.
Reading, hearing these verses from Isaiah, our Old Testament lesson for this morning, one has the sense of being set up for what is to come. And sure enough, next Sunday, January 6 is The Epiphany, when we celebrate the coming of the Magi -- we three kings of Orient --- more on that later perhaps.
We have Baptism at church this morning, a tiny boy, and we’ll baptize another little boy next Sunday morning. Baptism for us is water poured over us and the Holy Spirit coming upon us as the Church admits us to full membership and communion. My tradition, custom, for long years has been always to baptize using some water from the River Jordan, where Jesus himself was baptized. Over the years, friends visiting the Holy Land have brought me water that they themselves dipped out of the Jordan River. Anyway, we’ll do that this morning and then at least those standing round closest to the font will be sprinkled with the holy water over which we will have just said the words,
Now sanctify this water, we pray you, by the power of your
Holy Spirit, that those who here are cleansed from sin and
born again may continue for ever in the risen life of Jesus
Christ our Savior.
As drops of water hit us, some may make the sign of the cross both in acknowledgement of being touched by the holy and in remembrance of their own baptism. 

Saturday, December 29, 2012


First Sunday after Christmas Day
This Sunday takes precedence over the three Holy Days which follow Christmas Day. As necessary, the observance of one, two, or all three of them, is postponed one day.
Almighty God, you have poured upon us the new light of
your incarnate Word: Grant that this light, enkindled in our
hearts, may shine forth in our lives; through Jesus Christ our
Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy
Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
So, what are those three Holy Days? Saint Stephen, Deacon and Martyr, December 26. Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist, December 27. The Holy Innocents, December 28. In my experience, observation of Holy Days is pretty much limited to Anglo-Catholic parishes anyway.
This collect is in classical three-part format. Address to God (ending in a colon). Single petition. Close in the Name of the Trinity. The petition, “Grant that this light, enkindled in our hearts, may shine forth in our lives” passes the action responsibility to God (i.e., grant that). Rather than waiting for God to grant, better to pray that God inspire each of us to do whatever is required to make the light shine forth in our lives. The collect needs to light a fire under each of us.
The collect’s source is the 8th century Gregorian sacramentary according to Hachett. He says the original reads, “Grant that the light which through faith shines in the heart may shine forth in our works.” Either way, it’s more lovely than igniting. This collect isn't going to blast anybody off.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Heroes in Packards

Stormin’ Norman is dead, a general who was admired, trusted and trustworthy, who looked the part of a beloved war hero, General Norman Schwarzkopf, a great bear of a man.

My memory of a hero general from the Vietnam War is William Westmoreland who, by my recollection, came to speak to our class at the Naval War College, Newport, RI. Admiral Thomas Moorer, who was CNO and then Chairman of the Joint Chief, also came to speak to us. During the question and answer session after his presentation, an officer stood, expressed frustration with the president’s war policies, and asked Admiral Moorer what he would do. He looked around cautiously, asked the Vice Admiral who was president of the college if members of the press were present, then, assured that there were not, talked about using tactical nuclear weapons in the north. We were a ferocious group and he got a standing ovation.

Our other hero during my Navy years was Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, who eased many administrative regulations. His Z-grams popular with the sailors, authorized beards and mustaches, longer hair and sideburns. No beard or mustache for Linda's husband, but I did grow the sideburns, which in retrospect were ridiculous.

General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, hero of the Pacific War during WWII, was a great military leader but an arrogant man who played oneupmanship with President Truman and lost. General Eisenhower, Bradley, Marshall and others, WWII created many heroes. The summer of 1947 my aunt Ruth took me and my cousin Ann to Washington, DC partly as consolation after our grandmother died, for a couple weeks with EG, our aunt Evalyn. We rode from the L&N station in Pensacola to Montgomery where it was sweltering hot, saw a movie in an air conditioned theater, and when we came out the early evening was cool and damp because it had just rained. We caught our train, overnight Pullman car reservations to Washington Union station. 

On the Fourth of July we went to the fireworks celebration on the Mall, where war heroes spoke and were honored, among them Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz and I think Bull Halsey too. My memory is not what they said but that they arrived in Packard limousines with flags on the front fenders and were greeted with extended standing ovations. 

The rest of my memory of that evening is that as we were walking back to the car, it clouded up and rained and I was extremely upset about my brand new wool sportcoat getting wet.


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Song of Simeon

Luke 2:22-40 (KJV)
22 And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought Jesus to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; 23 (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) 24 And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.
25 And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. 26 And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 27 And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, 28 Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,
29 Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: 30 For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, 31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; 32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
33 And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.
34 And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; 35 (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
36 And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; 37 And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. 38 And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.
39 And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth. 40 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.
Luke 2:22-40 is our gospel lesson for this coming Sunday, December 30, the First Sunday after Christmas Day. Born in Bethlehem, acclaimed by angels, Jesus now is taken to Jerusalem to be presented in the Temple. There he is recognized by Simeon and Anna, both of whom make a great fuss over him. It is significant that this happens in the Temple, and Luke intends us to understand that this is far more to-do than Simeon and Anna might have made over any other newborn infant. 
Jesus‘ relationship to the Temple is significant for Luke, who begins his very story in the Temple, with Zechariah serving there, and subtly ties it to Jesus through Zechariah’s wife Elizabeth, and her relationship to the Virgin Mary and her prophetic visit to Elizabeth. Now Jesus himself is in the very house of God where even as an infant he is recognized for what he is to become. 
Sunday’s lesson ends with Luke telling us that Jesus grew in strength, wisdom and spirit, and in favor with God. But as Luke’s story goes on, he will have Jesus back in the Temple at age twelve, himself already knowing his spiritual home.
These are great Sunday School lessons that every child should learn and love. And every adult should be able to sing the “Song of Simeon” in Anglican Chant.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Bacon is Love

Whether it’s going on fifty-five years ago or this very moment, life never gets better than having daughters and granddaughters around. It’s 7:03 and the only ones awake are Linda and Caroline and Papa, all three of us having amazingly slept past six o’clock, unheard of here. Caroline just asked, “Nana, will you cook bacon now?” so they’re in the kitchen.
The fragrance of bacon cooking will surely roust Charlotte. The girls always look forward to breakfast here, because Linda cooks bacon for them, which they don’t eat at home and which in fact neither Linda nor I eat. But beloved daughters and granddaughters get whatever they want. It’s just the way it is here.

Plus, Caroline is named for me. 
Thomas Carroll W+ loving +Time

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Magic

Christmas Magic
Magical things happened in our Christmas Eve services at Holy Nativity Episcopal Church last evening, something different each time. You had to be there. The congregation of our ten o’clock service was blessed by our Rector’s incomparable Christmas sermon. Everyone who wasn’t there to hear it will always be impoverished without ever knowing it. The sermon was truly magic, like stars being sprinkled on us. 
At our four o’clock service our children’s choir sang so beautifully that it was all anyone could possibly ask or want for Christmas. One song was so timely, poignant, lovely and touching that I could hardly bear it:
You be an angel, I’ll be a star We’ll shine down on Bethlehem. Calling people near and far, Calling them to Bethlehem. 
Listen to the angel, look at the star, Come to Bethlehem tonight. The world is needy, much is wrong, But even more is right, in Bethlehem tonight.
You be an angel, I'll be a star.
As our own little angels sang, these far away angels and those who loved them were in my heart and mind:
Charlotte Bacon, 6
Grace McDonnell, 7                          
Dawn Hochsprung, 47
Daniel Barden, 7                                       
Emilie Parker, 6                               
Rachel Davino, 29
Olivia Engel, 6                                          
Jack Printo, 6                                   
Anna Marie Murphy, 52
Josephine Gay,  7                                       
Noah Pozner, 6                                 
Lauren Russeau, 30
Ana M. Marquez-Green, 6
Caroline Previdi, 6                            
Mary Sherlach, 56
Dylan Hockley, 6                                       
Jessica Rehos, 6                                
Victoria Soto
Madeline F. Hsu, 6                                    
Aville Richman, 6
Catherine V. Hubbard, 6                            
Benjamin Wheeler, 6
Chase Kowalski, 7                                      
Allison Wyatt, 6
Jesse Lewis, 6
James Mattioli, 6

You had to be there. It was all the magic of Christmas.
Fr. Tom+

Monday, December 24, 2012


Look At Her!

Doesn’t seem like Christmas? Does to me. This morning the wi-fi wouldn’t connect in the family room, so I’m in the living room where the connection is better. Lighted Christmas tree, some lights twinkling like stars. 

Years ago on the Sunday afternoon before Christmas we piled into the car and headed across Hathaway Bridge to the west end of Bay County. It was all woods then, innumerable little pine trees ripe for cutting. Except for the “Y” there was no other paved road crossing Highway 98. You found a dirt road, turned onto it and drove slowly through the woods scouting trees. The seeming perfect ones had a flat backside, so you had to keep looking until you found one that everybody agreed was OK. The longer you looked, the more your quality demand faded. When we got home with the tree, it was my job either to make a stand for it or to crawl under the house and get the stand from last year.

Christmas Eve 1948 was my first year going to the Midnight Service. Mama insisted I have a nap first, then she woke me, with a cup of hot chocolate. I dressed and went with my father. It may have been the first “Midnight Mass” at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, or it may have just been the first one I was aware of. The service was lovely, but my memory is of the nap and the hot chocolate, then of my father exchanging “Merry Christmas” with other parishioners as we got in our new 1948 Dodge and left church after the service. It was a chilly, damp, foggy night.

Christmas Day 1963 we lived in Yokohama, Japan. Never having cooked a turkey because we’d always been home in PC for Christmas before that, we baked a fish. Good, but didn’t help the homesickness.

By the memory of the car, it would have been Christmas 1976. We were members of Mount Calvary Parish, but my fascination was still with St. Luke’s, the local high church where there would be smells and bells for Midnight Mass. Linda refused to go with me, so while she went to MCP I drove the icy, snow-covered roads to St. Luke’s, slipping and sliding the whole way. Incense doesn’t smell so great when someone you love isn’t next to you. Never did that again.

Worst Christmas: 1969 USS TRIPOLI on Yankee Station off Vietnam. 

Second worst. 1947 in Adams Hospital after my appendectomy, age 12.

Christmas 1973 instead of coming home to PC, we stayed home in Columbus, Ohio. Tass was nearly two, and Santa brought her a doll nearly her size and a doll crib. As we continued opening presents, she climbed into the crib, lay down flat, and cried out, “Mom! Look at Her!” 

Christmases at Trinity, Apalachicola were always memorable. Jam packed church, balcony packed and no standing room downstairs. Wesley singing “O Holy Night,” choir singing “Adeste Fideles” then breaking into “O Come, All Ye Faithful” for the procession with the Cross led by the thurifer smoking up the place. Some in the choir did not like incense, Dot in particular was allergic to it. 1997, our last Christmas at Trinity, as we assembled on the front porch ready for the procession, Dot looked at the thurible, glared at me and said, “That better not have incense.” We had dry ice in it.

Best Christmas these days. Holy Commotion at Holy Nativity. Loads of children and babies, lots of noise.

This morning.

Looks like rain, eh? Doesn't matter. It's Christmas all the same. 


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sunday School

Customary for this day, our OT scripture is Micah 5:2-5a: 

But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,
    who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
    one who is to rule in Israel,
whose origin is from of old,
    from ancient days.
Therefore he shall give them up until the time
    when she who is in labor has brought forth;
then the rest of his kindred shall return
    to the people of Israel.
And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord,
    in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great
    to the ends of the earth;
and he shall be the one of peace.

For Micah, prophesying doom for God’s people in the eighth century B.C., the passage has nothing to do with Jesus. But toward the end of the first century A.D. our Christian evangelist Matthew picks it up as early scriptural messianic prophecy and includes it in his gospel. The wise men have come to Jerusalem seeking the newborn king of the Jews and of course they call on King Herod, obviously figuring the newborn one will be in the palace. Herod is horrified, and inquires of his counselors where the messiah is to be born. They tell him "In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it is written by the prophet: 'And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will govern my people Israel.'" (Matthew 2:5,6). 

Matthew, who seems to be a Jew writing for a Jewish Christian church, is big on using Hebrew scripture to prove that Jesus was the long-expected messiah. This approach, he believes, will be understood and convincing to them. The verse above is only one of about half a dozen Old Testament passages that Matthew uses in his first two chapters alone. I think we’ll have a look at all of them in our Adult Sunday School class this morning.


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Never Happen

In Adult Sunday School class last week, my intent had been to present for discussion General Convention 2012 resolution A049 Authorize Liturgical Resources for Blessing Same-Gender Relationships, and look at the approved liturgy. Instead came what was done in Connecticut, and as my own need to find God somehow in the nightmare, we read in The Book of Common Prayer, our liturgy for the burial of children. In doing, we compared Psalm 116 in a couple of translations, including Today’s English Translation where verse 15 gives the soothing assurance, “How painful it is to the Lord when one of his people dies.” 

Inevitably, discussion turned to the horror, and I wondered if I sensed a hopelessness about what could be done to prevent.

We are a nation obsessed with rights, our rights, our individual rights. That rights have responsibilities never occurs. Yahoo News this week had an article about a home gardener who turned his front yard into a vegetable garden. Neighbors were not happy: in a lawned neighborhood it was unsightly, threatening property values, possibly attracting pest, rats. Municipal code enforcement cited the owner for not maintaining the required ground cover. The homeowner gardener was sure of his right to use his property in this productive way, and determined. Reading comments, one visualized a mob of peaceful gardeners with torches, pitchforks and a rope headed for city hall.  

How peaceful it might be to live in a world where the headline is “Ashton Files for Divorce from Demi.” Or “Who Will Win the $10,000 Cupcake War on TV?” Or even “Man Grows Vegetables in Front Yard.” Never happen. As long as humans have dominion the news will be ugly, because the raw truth is that we evolved to fight. Even our hands, a science piece reports, have taken their shape to give us optimum power to punch crushingly, once we stopped swinging from limb to limb, came down from trees and went bipedal. We love a fight (how to put ice hockey out of business: ban fighting), we love to hunt, we love to shoot. Bullets, pellets, BBs, arrows, slingshots, slings, spears, smooth stones. 

We are hunters and we are fighters and Blonds Prefer Alphas, which when everything is said and done is what it’s all about anyway and thank you very much David and Paula oops make that David and Bathsheba. 

Fighting is manly and victors are heroes and anyone who shrinks from a fight is contemned. 1 Samuel 17, the Sunday School story of the ages:

At least three things must happen to curb the insanity in which all are complicit. 

Gun control including confiscation, going against the popular and accepted view of the Second Amendment right to bear arms. The People v. NRA. Never happen. 

Insanity control including Identification, involuntary commitment and concentration of mentally ill whom psychiatrists certify pose a danger to society, going against the Fifth Amendment right to due process. The People v. ACLU. Never happen. 

Culture control including radical cultural reform that obliterates such as electronic games of violence that have yielded a violence prone society, going against the First Amendment right to -- free speech, free expression? The People v. the People. Never happen.

Meantime, the suggestion to make every school an armed fortress seems real, though there were armed security guards at Columbine. And though the idea of a national volunteer force for armed school security is as immature, childish, amateur and ridiculous as something reported out of a small group during a paid church consultant’s weekend on church growth. Nevertheless. It isn’t that something must be done. Everything must be done. 

Never happen. Everyone will make smoke about their rights until everyone throws up their hands and their lunch and gives up.


Friday, December 21, 2012

Camellias, Grapefruit

Growing season for some things and not for others. On advice, we cut the camellias way back and no blooms, maybe next year. The White Empress we did not cut back.

My mother would be horrified at cutting back camellias. 

Grapefruit are prolific again, both pink and ruby red. The pink are regular size for the most part. The red are small, about orange size, and they don’t seem as ruby red or as sweet as were the original fruit from whence came the seeds that sprouted the trees.

Linda’s mother Lucile Peters has all the credit for the grapefruit trees. When she finished her breakfast grapefruit, she would take a few seeds and go out into the yard, punch a hole in the ground with her finger, insert a seed, and smooth it over. That was summer 1997 through fall 2001. 

We have four large grapefruit trees now, two of them bearing. We picked a hundred pink ones a week ago and there are more up high to be picked. Haven’t picked but a few red yet.

Bees burrow deep into the blossoms. Fifty-odd years ago I was carrying Malinda around in the Peters' yard and let her grab a red camellia. HIdden deep in it was a bee, which stung her hand.

Thursday, December 20, 2012


201212200330Z Happy Moment of the Week. Papa on the back porch sofa huddled in a bathrobe with hood anxiously playing spider solitaire on iPad as Kristen drives up arriving safely from college proving that relief = happiness.
αποκαλυψις minus one and counting. Folks have been calculating and prophesying the end of the world since ancient times. It’s usually based on dissatisfaction with life and events, The Apocalypse of John being a prime example. It originated in the late first century during a time of severe oppression and persecution of Christians. The story, which we call “Revelation” is a response to fear and suffering, promising deliverance for all who remain faithful to Lord and Church; and threatening horrific punishment both for the persecutors and for those who fall away from Christ under pressure. However, the non-event scheduled for tomorrow, December 21, 2012, comes out of complex calendar systems of the ancient Mayans. On a scale of idiot, imbecile, moron, with moron at the top, imbeciles believe that human imagination and intellect controls the forces of the cosmos, and idiots buy shelters to protect themselves from the end of the world.
For myself, 

as a moron, I’m counting on the Parousia tomorrow. Left Behind, I’m going up the street to the GM dealership and help myself to a Corvette convertible for Christmas. There’ll be nobody there, because those are good folks and they’ll all be Raptured, it’ll just be me walking around shopping with no salesman shadowing me. The good news is that gasoline will be free as long as the electric power is on. The bad news? I’ll be alone watching as everyone else is caught up into the clouds.
There’s actually no reason to prepare a sermon for Sunday then, is there.
I hope they leave open the safe with all the car keys hanging inside. And I hope there’s a red ZR1.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Hashem, Kyrie, eleison

Tehillim 80 (Psalm 80) Orthodox Jewish Bible (OJB)

80 (For the one directing. Set to The Lilies of the Edut. Of Asaph. Mizmor.)

1 Give ear, O Ro’eh Yisroel, Thou that leadest Yosef like a tzon; Thou that art enthroned between the Keruvim, shine forth.
Before Ephrayim and Binyamin and Menasheh, Stir up Thy gevurah (might), and come and save us.
Turn us again, O Elohim, and cause Thy face to shine that we may be saved.
Hashem Elohim Tzva’os, ad mosai (how long) wilt Thou be angry against the tefillat amecha (prayer of Thy people)?
Thou feedest them with the lechem dimah (bread of tears); and givest them dima’ot (tears) to drink in great measure.
Thou makest us a madon (strife, contention) unto shcheneinu (our neighbors), and oyveinu (our enemies) mock us.
Turn us again, O Elohim Tzva’os, and cause Thy face to shine that we may be saved.

Thou hast brought a gefen (vine) out of Mitzrayim; Thou hast drove out Goyim, and planted it.
Thou preparedst room before it, and didst cause it to take deep root, and it filled the eretz.
10 The harim were covered with the tzel (shadow) of it, and the branches thereof were like the mighty cedars.
11 It sent out its branches unto the yam (sea, i.e., Mediterranean Sea) and its shoots unto the Nahar (river, i.e., the Euphrates).
12 Lammah (why) hast Thou then broken down her walls, so that all they which pass by the derech do pluck her?
13 The chazir (wild boar) out of the forest doth lay it waste, and the beasts of the sadeh doth devour it.
14 Shuv nah (return now), we beseech Thee, O Elohim Tzva’os; look down from Shomayim, and behold, and visit gefen zot (this vine);
15 And the stock which Thy Yamin (Right Hand) hath planted, and the Ben that Thou madest strong for Thyself.
16 It is burned with eish, it is cut down; they perish at the ge’arah (rebuke) of Thy countenance.
17 Let Thy Yad be upon the Ish Yeminecha (the Man of your Right Hand), upon the Ben Adam (the Son of Man) whom Thou madest strong for Thyself.
18 So will we never turn back from Thee; revive us, and we will call upon Thy Shem.
19 Turn us again, Hashem Elohim Tzva’os; cause Thy face to shine that we may be saved.

Yikes! This is an odd psalm for Advent 4, when even in the Church we have slipped on past the ominous words and largely forgotten the apocalyptic sense of Advent, and are not fearing the Eschaton, but are eagerly looking forward to Christmas. It’s “Mary Sunday” and we do not expect to sing some ancient Jewish lament, but to celebrate with the Magnificat
And so we shall. But there are two songs appointed for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, and Psalm 80 is the alternate. What’s all this? A lament so close to Christmas? What’s going on? What’s all this?
Dated perhaps with the fall of the Northern Kingdom, Israel, this may have been a psalm that was sung in a remnant congregation, maybe only a gathering of the tribes of Rachel, that is, Benjamin, Ephraim and Manasseh, during the invasion and overthrow of Israel by the Assyrians. Those three tribes may be the only ones still left in what will soon no longer be Israel, the others already having been decimated. The congregation are terrified of what is coming down upon them and are singing for deliverance. The introduction indicates that the psalm is to be sung to some familiar tune named “the Lilies of the Edut,” which of course is lost to us. 
The song is to יְהוָה Elohim Sabaoth, YHWH Lord God of Hosts, but they are forbidden to speak aloud יְהוָה Yahweh, so normally they might say “Adonai” in place of The Divine Name. But in this OJB translation they are singing to “Hashem” (The Name) instead of Adonai so as to make doubly sure that they do not slip up and violate the law against saying God’s Name.
For all the seeming inappropriateness of the psalm so close to Christmas, it turns out to be most timely this year in the raw horror of the Connecticut atrocity. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. The tears are just beneath the surface, and there are moments when I am very sure that my sadness will never go away.
Kyrie, eleison. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday!

Born December 18, 1885 in Bluff Springs, Florida, Escambia County north of Pensacola, my grandfather Walter Henry Gentry is 127 years old this morning. He married my grandmother, Mamie McClammy, and they had five children. My mother, Louise Gentry, was second, born 1912 in Bluff Springs. Early, the family moved to Pensacola, where Daddy Walt went into the business with his brothers Lee and Elbert. Lee I don’t remember, but I do remember Uncle Eb. 

Established in 1909, Gentry Brothers Loans and Pawns was in several places off Palafox in Pensacola, the last being at 10 E. Intendencia for many years. Seems to me there’s a vacant lot there now.

Daddy Walt was always loving and generous with us. My first bicycle came from his pawn shop, as did many other things, including clothing during the Depression, jewelry and the tall radio we had in the living room during my growing up years and listened to "The Shadow" and "It Pays to be Ignorant" and "Kate Smith" and "Baby Snooks" on Sunday evenings. On your birthday every year Daddy Walt gave you a stack of silver dollars for your new age. Except for my mother, his other two sons and two daughters borrowed heavily from him, promising and never repaying. One Christmas he gave each one a paid receipt for what they owed him, but my mother received a $1,000 bill, the first one I ever saw. In those days that was enough money to buy a new Chevrolet, Ford or Plymouth but I think she invested it in real estate. 

Originally riding a bicycle to work, Daddy Walt loved cars. His first was a Maxwell touring car, then when Walter P. Chrysler bought out Maxwell, he bought Chryslers. I still have a mental picture of every Chrysler, Plymouth, DeSoto and Imperial he owned from about 1936 on, the first I remember being a silver DeSoto Airflow sedan. The one non-Chrysler car, and I don’t remember it, was the Auburn. In her last days when my mother and I would talk I asked her about the Auburn. She said it was a beautiful car, two tone red. One time when their car broke down during a visit to Pensacola, my mother and father borrowed the Auburn to drive from Pensacola to Panama City so my father didn’t miss work. She said it got eight miles to the gallon on the highway, not good when your paycheck was seven dollars a week, even with gasoline a dime a gallon. They drove the Auburn back the next weekend and picked up their Chevrolet. I think soon after that was when they traded with Bubber Nelson for a new 1935 Chevrolet Master DeLuxe coach, our first car that I remember clearly. “Coach” was Chevy’s name for a two door sedan in those days. It was black with white sidewall tires and yellow spoke wheels, and a radio and heater. It had no trunk, the spare tire was on the back. Front opening doors, and running boards of course. The 1935 Chevrolet Master was the first year with an all steel "turret top" body instead of the wood slat and fabric insert in the roof.

Daddy Walt was a member of the board of deacons at East Hill Baptist Church for long years. It was a live, thriving congregation, and going there with him was where and how and why I loved Sunday School and church early in life. On a Sunday morning in Pensacola, while my parents and grandmother stayed at the house, the three of us and our two cousins piled into the back seat of a light green 1942 Chrysler Windsor sedan and he drove the three or four blocks to church, always parking on the same corner aimed out for quick and easy exit later. Often parking next to us was a 1937 Cord sedan that always caught my eye. Once parked, Daddy Walt would turn around to us in the back seat and dole out a nickel to each of us, our Sunday School offering for the morning. 

When we walked into the house later, it always reeked deliciously of fried chicken, and there would be freshly grated cream corn pudding. The grownups ate in the dining room, we children around the huge round kitchen table. At least, it seemed huge to a small boy. 

That afternoon, before we left to drive home to Panama City, the front doorbell might ring and a boy dressed all in white be standing there with a quart of orange sherbet, brought speedily by bicycle from the drugstore a couple blocks away.

My Gentry grandparents were half a generation younger than my Weller grandparents. I loved them all dearly, but if I had to rank it would be Mom best of all and Daddy Walt second always huggy, as was Mamoo; Pop was reserved, not outwardly affectionate with us though always kind. This is the first time I've ever admitted that ranking and if anyone quotes me I'll deny it. All four of them are buried in St. John’s Cemetery, the Weller plot near the front dating from 1898 my father's sister Carrie who died a dozen years before he was born, the Gentry plot about halfway back dating from 1939, my Uncle Wilbur's wife Margaret. 

Daddy Walt died in 1976, age 90, when I was forty years old. I flew down from Harrisburg for his funeral.


Monday, December 17, 2012

Cost of Insanity

With every horrendous massacre, while Americans are still digging graves and weeping, one faction says this proves we need tighter gun control, another side rises up in arms about constitutional rights, there’s political posturing, shouting and name-calling while losing sight of the threat, then it dies down until the next time children are murdered.

Gun control isn’t the answer, it isn’t even the question, it’s too late for gun control in the world. Everbody has guns and nobody will permit government to collect them. Gun control is a red herring that doesn't even identify the threat. The shooters are not gun enthusiasts, not gun collectors, not hunters, not even the para-quasi-military lunatic fringe crazies. The shooters are loners, shy, angry, quiet social outsiders feeling abused, bullied; raging, resenting, seething, biding. Profiled, they are mentally ill. Unseen, unnoticable, to some extent invisible, difficult to identify; impossible, unthinkable in America to round up, concentrate and eliminate. They will get whatever they want to murder insanely: guns, ammunition, explosives. Gun control? A shooter doesn’t need a license to own a gun, a shooter can grab his parent’s guns, which in an insane world can include military firearms. 

Calls for “meaningful action” need realism not stupidity or temporary political posturing. The threat is mental illness, personal and public insanity. It can be countered at least two ways. Individual treatment and public defenses. Individual treatment may help some. Public defenses would help not only against shooters but against the growing threat of terrorists. Every school, mall, theater, church, office and industrial complex, and public gathering place will have to become an armed fortress of security. It won't be the America that our forefathers envisioned, or the America that we older generation knew. Want to live there? Seem insane? It's the cost of tolerating insanity. 

With yet another horrendous massacre, while Americans are still digging graves and weeping, one faction says this proves we need tighter gun control, another side rises up in arms about constitutional rights, there’s political posturing, shouting and name-calling while losing sight of the threat, then it dies down until the next time children are murdered.

How stupid can we get? And who are the insane?


Sunday, December 16, 2012


As a thinking, questioning, doubting person, events of life challenge my faith, cause me to examine, revise, correct, mature my faith. Who and what and where is God, and what does God -- do? Or indeed does God: perhaps God limits self to being, I AM. Any number of times at school I heard a teacher or administrator tell the children “God will protect you.” Many would witness that this is a naivete not borne out in life and that a single disaster makes a lie of it. A child is killed in an auto accident. At Bay High School a 16 year old girl is struck and killed by lightning while walking across a grassy courtyard on campus. Why? The why is called theodicy, the question of why evil happens to us if God is loving, omniscient, omnipotent, real. The question turns many people from faith to agnosticism, or to atheism, or to simply walking away from religion.
In Night, his personal survivor witness of the horrors of the German Holocaust, Elie Wiesel tells of he and his fellow concentration camp prisoners being forced to watch the hanging of a young boy. The child was still alive as he filed past the scaffold and heard someone behind him wonder aloud, "Where is God? Where is He?" Wiesel relates that he heard a voice within himself answer: "Where is He? Here He is — He is hanging here on this gallows..." For Wiesel, the unspeakable cruelties he saw being afflicted upon human beings by other human beings destroyed his faith, murdered his God for all eternity.
Faith in God as described by humans necessitates faith in humankind as well, for it is humans who remember and tell the stories in which God abides, loves, protects and saves. Little intelligence and no imagination is required to see that a crisis of faith could come out of any horror in which God can be perceived as not having protected, especially children. Holocaust. Killing Fields. Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, Oklahoma City. 9/11. Tucson. Columbine. Aurora. My Lai. ... lightning strikes, car crashes, Kayla Campbell. Ashlea. Father John Claypool and LauraLu. Tsunami. William’s Field. Cain and Abel.
Why? If Psalm 116 can be forced to ask “if God saved the psalmist, why did God save this one and not that one?” at least Psalm 116 (v. 15, GNT) says, “How painful it is to the Lord when one of his people dies,” which is faith in a God who cares. If the psalmist has it right, we love a God who wept with us Friday even if His lightning didn’t strike a murderer set on evil before he could shoot, or even change his mind. We can believe that our God still weeps with us this morning, even weeps forever with those whose weeping will never cease.

May God weep with those who loved:

Charlotte Bacon, 6
Grace McDonnell, 7                          
Dawn Hochsprung, 47
Daniel Barden, 7                                       
Emilie Parker, 6                               
Rachel Davino, 29
Olivia Engel, 6                                          
Jack Printo, 6                                   
Anna Marie Murphy, 52
Josephine Gay,  7                                       
Noah Pozner, 6                                 
Lauren Russeau, 30
Ana M. Marquez-Green, 6
Caroline Previdi, 6                            
Mary Sherlach, 56
Dylan Hockley, 6                                       
Jessica Rehos, 6                                
Victoria Soto
Madeline F. Hsu, 6                                    
Aville Richman, 6
Catherine V. Hubbard, 6                            
Benjamin Wheeler, 6
Chase Kowalski, 7                                      
Allison Wyatt, 6
Jesse Lewis, 6
James Mattioli, 6