Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Part of my reading this week has been about desires, holy desires. It's a personal spirituality that perceives the hand, desire, presence and call of God in our deepest desires, which are the basis of vocation. Not red convertibles: what we desire to do and be as human beings, and perceiving the call of God in the desire. Or, a little deeper, what we wish we desired, and recognizing God’s own desire, God’s summons, in our wishing for the desire.

Personal example. As a priest it bothers me that I’m not, as I know myself, a very spiritual person. Religious, OK, but not spiritual. I wish I were more spiritual. Or actually, in that I may be pretty much satisfied with myself as I am (a sin of either pride or complacency), I wish that I wanted to be a more spiritual person. If I were a more spiritual person, I could be a better priest; for example, offering myself as a spiritual director to persons who need and seek that ministry. As I age and contemplate my ministries and my ebbing-away life (face it, at 77 going on 78, life is ebbing), I’d like to be able to do that. But what it is, really, is that I wish I wanted to do that. It takes a couple years of education and training to become a qualified and certified spiritual director, and I have no desire to take on that effort. I wish I did. 

Maybe God will do something with what I wish I wished. Maybe my wishing to wish it is God already doing something about it. Naaanh! God could not be that devious and sneaky just to get what He wants out of me, eh?


Would it be too disingenuous to point out that this is not about me at all, but to induce any reader to reflect spiritually upon self? Discontentment, lack of satisfaction, even unhappiness may be part of God's nudging, God's pressing his desire for us, God's hope for us.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Book of Hope

Vision of the New Jerusalem
Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 And in the spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. 11 It has the glory of God and a radiance like a very rare jewel, like jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It has a great, high wall with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates are inscribed the names of the twelve tribes of the Israelites; 13 on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. 14 And the wall of the city has twelve foundations, and on them are the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
15 The angel who talked to me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. 16 The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width; and he measured the city with his rod, fifteen hundred miles; its length and width and height are equal. 17 He also measured its wall, one hundred forty-four cubits by human measurement, which the angel was using. 18 The wall is built of jasper, while the city is pure gold, clear as glass. 19 The foundations of the wall of the city are adorned with every jewel; the first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. 21 And the twelve gates are twelve pearls, each of the gates is a single pearl, and the street of the city is pure gold, transparent as glass.
22 I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. 25 Its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 People will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27 But nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
The River of Life
22 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3 Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; 4 they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
Above, more of Revelation, the bold type being our reading for next Sunday, May 5, Easter Six (Revelation 21:10, 22--22:5). 
In considering what to preach about yesterday, wanting to use something from one of the Bible readings, I looked at the Gospel (which Episcopal priests often treat as de rigueur the obligatory preaching base) and realized that I had probably preached it to death over the past thirty years. Although “love,” agape’ is impossible to wear out. The Acts reading did not especially appeal. So, Revelation, the Apocalypse then, coincidentally our Sunday School and Bible Seminar project through the Easter Season. 
Or perhaps not so coincidental. Looking at our Revelation readings for Easter, it was evident the lectionary framers had avoided the frightful imagery of John Patmos and looked on the bright side. Why? 
Because for all John’s fearsome graphics, which, in order to get the attention of his readers and hearers he lifted straight from Old Testament apocalyptic and burnished with his own fantastical imagination, John’s Apocalypse is a book of encouragement. It’s not about punishment and violent, horrendous battle a la Lord of the Rings. John Patmos wrote about Hope, he’s writing about Hope, he’s offering Hope in the midst of life’s suffering. And Hope is the wellspring of Easter. Hope of personal resurrection. Hope of eternal life. Hope of heaven. Hope of seeing loved ones. As our burial liturgy puts it, “the comfort of a reasonable and holy hope, in the joyful expectation of eternal life with those we love.” 
So it’s reasonable that during Easter, the Church’s season of Hope, we would read from Revelation with its hopeful images and promises of what lies ahead for us. John Patmos‘ vivid scenes of stars falling, and scorpions the size of horses, and beasts from earth and sea, and lakes of fire, are fine and fun for Sunday School and Bible study groups; but when we gather for worship during Easter we expect and need to hear words of Hope, the promises of God. And that’s what Revelation is really about. Hope. Easter Hope. The Promises of God.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Creepy Crawlies

The Creepy Crawlies

A Song of Creation     Benedicite, omnia opera Domini
       Song of the Three Young Men, 35-65 

I    Invocation
O all ye works of the Lord, bless ye the Lord; *
    praise him and magnify him for ever.
O ye angels of the Lord, bless ye the Lord; *
    praise him and magnify him for ever.

II    The Cosmic Order
O ye heavens, bless ye the Lord; *
    O ye waters that be above the firmament, bless ye the Lord;
O all ye powers of the Lord, bless ye the Lord; *
    praise him and magnify him for ever.
O ye sun and moon, bless ye the Lord; *
    O ye stars of heaven, bless ye the Lord;
O ye showers and dew, bless ye the Lord; *
    praise him and magnify him for ever.
O ye winds of God, bless ye the Lord; *
    O ye fire and heat, bless ye the Lord;
O ye winter and summer, bless ye the Lord; *
    praise him and magnify him for ever.
O ye dews and frosts, bless ye the Lord; *
    O ye frost and cold, bless ye the Lord;
O ye ice and snow, bless ye the Lord; *
    praise him and magnify him for ever.
O ye nights and days, bless ye the Lord; *
    O ye light and darkness, bless ye the Lord;
O ye lightnings and clouds, bless ye the Lord; *
    praise him and magnify him for ever. 

III    The Earth and its Creatures
O let the earth bless the Lord; *
    O ye mountains and hills, bless ye the Lord;
O all ye green things upon the earth, bless ye the Lord; *
    praise him and magnify him for ever.
O ye wells, bless ye the Lord; *
    O ye seas and floods, bless ye the Lord;
O ye whales and all that move in the waters, bless ye the Lord;
    praise him and magnify him for ever.
O all ye fowls of the air, bless ye the Lord; *
    O all ye beasts and cattle, bless ye the Lord;
O ye children of men, bless ye the Lord; *
    praise him and magnify him for ever.

IV    The People of God
O ye people of God, bless ye the Lord; *
    O ye priests of the Lord, bless ye the Lord;
O ye servants of the Lord, bless ye the Lord; *
    praise him and magnify him for ever.
O ye spirits and souls of the righteous, bless ye the Lord; *
    O ye holy and humble men of heart, bless ye the Lord.
Let us bless the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; *
    praise him and magnify him for ever.

In our Daily Morning Prayer liturgy the first two canticles are from The Song of the Three Young Men, a book of the Apocrypha that in the Septuagint and the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Bibles is part of the canonical book of Daniel, chapter 3. We commonly sing Canticle 2, the Benedictus es, Domine, as our Song of Praise in Holy Eucharist Rite Two on Sunday mornings, and those of us who grew up with the earlier Book of Common Prayer sang it lustily and often in Anglican Chant. Much beloved.

Canticle 1 above, the Benedicite, omnia opera Domini, is sung less often, in fact hardly ever, in part because the sheer length of it makes it a daunting undertaking that leaves the singers breathless. In my memory it was sung from time to time back in the 1940s by the choir at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church. Our choir at Mount Calvary in Harrisburg sang it beautifully, not often or regularly but enough that members of the congregation were familiar with it. We still couldn’t sing it, though, it was strictly a choir undertaking. Members of the choir, who sighed and groaned when it showed up in the liturgy plan, called it “The Creepy Crawlies” because by the time you finish singing it, you’ve pretty much praised the Lord for everything under creation, bugs, snakes, spiders, snails, worms and all. Thus the name of it, “all the works of the Lord.”

What brings this to mind is our psalm for this morning. We’re reading, singing or chanting Psalm 148, one of the so-called “Hallel” (praise God) psalms because they begin and end with the word “Hallelujah!” Like the Benedicte, Psalm 148 does a good job of praising the Lord for all that He has done, including the creeping things.

Psalm 148  Laudate Dominum

Praise the LORD from the heavens; *
    praise him in the heights.
Praise him, all you angels of his; *
    praise him, all his host.
Praise him, sun and moon; *
    praise him, all you shining stars.
Praise him, heaven of heavens, *
    and you waters above the heavens.
Let them praise the Name of the LORD; *
    for he commanded, and they were created.
He made them stand fast for ever and ever; *
    he gave them a law which shall not pass away.
Praise the LORD from the earth, *
    you sea-monsters and all deeps;
Fire and hail, snow and fog, *
    tempestuous wind, doing his will;
Mountains and all hills, *
    fruit trees and all cedars;
 Wild beasts and all cattle, *
    creeping things and wingèd birds;
 Kings of the earth and all peoples, *
    princes and all rulers of the world;
 Young men and maidens, *
    old and young together.
 Let them praise the Name of the LORD, *
    for his Name only is exalted,
    his splendor is over earth and heaven.
 He has raised up strength for his people
and praise for all his loyal servants, *
    the children of Israel, a people who are near him.


Saturday, April 27, 2013

"We Love To Punish"

“We Love To Punish”

This computer’s storage and Desktop has so many car pictures it’s a marvel anything will process. Time to move stuff to Trash, at least those that are readily available on line. 

Reading at the moment. Actually reading again, The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything as I think and explore and start trying to figure out, discern is the spiritual word, things about my life, use of the time I have left, including my ministries after next month. In my life and lifestyle, my vocations shift over time, and actively discerning that shifting is a facet of my -- spirituality. My way has generally been to work through it in the wee hours or just ignore it and let it happen, but this season of change may require some time in Retreat. So, looking into that as a possibility for a few times over coming months. In that my blog postings are journaling of sorts, that’s what this is. Journaling self-reflection.

Boston Bombings are still in mind, and may be so for a long time. The teenager has been transferred to a prison hospital. That he wasn’t given his Miranda before questioning is not important, because it enabled authorities to get essential intelligence: if the judge doesn’t allow the boy’s testimony as evidence in court, there is plenty of material, evidence, witness, to convict. His father is coming over from Russia, loyally, blindly protective. When he visits, we might hope Jahar will tell his dad the truth and not foster the family denials that seem to have driven his mother to the edge of insanity. The media are reporting that his brother’s body is “unclaimed,” which is pitiful, pathetic enough before even considering that the imams may not allow a religious funeral. Funerals are more to comfort the living than to honor the dead, and even the Episcopal Church has burial liturgy for one who is not of the Christian faith. 

To me, loving children, a burning part of the pathos is a frightened teenager hiding in someone’s boat, unarmed, alone, wounded and likely in physical pain, terrified, slowly bleeding out as he listens to the search going on furiously in the neighborhood around him while he waits to be killed or captured, with hours to come to his senses, think for and about himself and realize that he is in his last moments of freedom forever and that in following the wrongful lead of the brother he doted on, he has brought his own life down in ruin. Irretrievably. Before he even had a chance to love and live.

No one could wish this on a beloved son or grandson. Or nephew. 

For the rest of us, the end of all this, probably years out with our slow justice system, will be America’s ultimate moral test: whether to execute a child. And if we do so, whether our nation can face the ages and remain standing, convicted and condemned by the same evil we deplore.

"... and the star spangled banner in ... "

Someone said to me recently that God will punish evil, that God must judge and punish evil because God is just. I pray and deeply hope, that God is not just, but merciful. Else, I myself am in deep kimchi.

Watching the Boston Bombing episode is causing me more moral reflection and introspection than anything else ever in my memory. How can God bring something good out of this evil? Perhaps by self examen, to let it change me in some positive way.

“Why do they hate us so?” was a question that circulated briefly after 9/11. A high prince of Saudi Arabia hinted at answers and was rebuffed. And we have not been interested in the question even to bother considering it. Only to punish. And make them hate us even more.

"... and the star spangled banner in triumph ... "

Kyrie, eleison.


Friday, April 26, 2013

Cuban Caddy

In the early 1950s my Gentry grandparents Mamoo and Daddy Walt went to Cuba on vacation, drove to Miami then flew across. My first cousins Margaret and Bill, children of mama’s brother Wilbur, whom my grandparents raised after the death of their mother in July 1939, were on the trip. Bill later described what one might call an Ugly Americanism by our grandmother

In an elegant restaurant she asked a waiter where the bathroom was. The man didn’t understand. Or indicated so, shaking his head. To his real or feigned and continuing lack of understanding, Mamoo became increasingly impatient and kept raising her voice, talking louder. It’s a common habit: if at first the foreigner doesn’t understand your English, speak louder. “The bathroom.” Blank stare. “The bathroom.” Blank, shake head. “THE BATHROOM.” Blank stare, eyes diverted as though trying to figure it out. At a shout that caused everyone in the restaurant to turn and stare, Mamoo switches to Spanish. “ZEE BASSROOM DAMMIT.” 

The maitre d’ comes over. Ah, zee bassroom, zis way, Madame. 

Today a half century later, willingly or not, willingly and/or pridefully, but certainly needfully, Cubans are still driving American cars that were imported in the nineteen-fifties before Castro came to power and spewed hatred against el Norte the arrogant imperialist, bringing on our embargo. 

Cubans are still driving those ancient American cars. In the art above, both cars are Fords. The yellow one on the right is either a '49 or '50, not seeing a hood emblem I think it's a '49, which had FORD spelled out instead of the emblem. The red one on the left with the broader, flatter hood, hood emblem, and reworked dome in front center with fancy ridge work on each side is a '52, '53 or '54. Said to be kept together with safety pins, love, paperclips, chewing gum and rubber bands, and kept running by the most skilled mechanics and machinists under the sun.

The blue Cadillac is a 1950 Series 62 sedan, though it could be a 1952. The chrome under the headlights marks it as not a 1951 model. However, just forward of where the fender skirt would have been on the rear fender, we may see the vertical chrome strips that were peculiar to the Fleetwood Series 60 Special, but I'm guessing that is dirt not chrome. Because of the angle, can't tell whether the rear fender stretches out long enough to be the 60 Special. I'm saying 1950 Series 62 unless somebody brings me a full side shot.

The classic cars of Cuba have been widely reported on and photographed.

The blue Buick is a 1953 Super sedan, but the front grill must have been smashed or something, because the owner has replaced it with an Oldsmobile grill of the same era. The 1953 Buick Super and Roadmaster were the first Buicks with V8 engines, replacing the mighty Buick straight eight. The 1953 Buick Special kept the straight eight, and was the final year for it.

The green Buick above is a 1951 or 1952 Buick Special, can't tell which without seeing the taillights.

Above, a Chevrolet Fleetline Aerosedan. These were unchanged for 1942, 1946, 1947, 1948. You can tell the difference in each year by looking at the front grill. This car is just like, almost the identical color, of the 1942 Chevy my parents bought from Bubber Nelson right after Pearl Harbor. They traded in our 1935 Chevrolet Master Coach for it, and drove it until buying the new 1948 Dodge for my mother's birthday in May 1948.

That blue 1955 Chevy Bel Air hardtop coupe on the right is worth a pretty penny. The green car and gray car are both Chevys. The blue coupe on the left is a GM car too, but I think it's an Oldsmobile, judging by the chrome strip on the rear fender.

Americans will not forever be so naive as to miss commercial opportunity in order to let politicians kiss up to Miami’s Little Havana. So what if Cubans get new cars even though they don’t like us, we sell cars all over the world to folks who don't like us; indeed, even most Americans don’t seem to like us these days. The embargo on Cuba, our close neighbor who for awhile was an ally of the nonexistent Soviet Union, is as outdated as the cars they're driving.


Thanks for the prod, Carolyn!!

Thursday, April 25, 2013


Aaaahhhhh! A follow-through checkup in August, but it’s done, finished. Yesterday, Wednesday afternoon, the surgeon deadened both eyelids and removed the last sutures from recent surgery to tighten the muscles so eyelids no longer droop to cover pupils, light enters eyes, vision is restored. The doctor said he does 500 of these operations a year, and my droopy eyelids were the worst he had ever seen. 

Eye Celebration? My last hotdog was before October 17, 2010 when cardiologists took control and certain foods were put on the forbidden list. Supper last night was a two-course meal. First course, angus beef hotdog with chili, Löwensenf mustard and a Munich beer. Second course: angus beef hotdog mitt sauerkraut, Löwensenf und eine sekunde München Bier. Zweiten. Sehr gut. Only way it could have been better would have been while sitting in Riverfront Stadium watching Johnny Bench, Pete Rose and the Big Red Machine -- which we did while living in Columbus.

Are the eyes noticeable to anyone but me? Someone said in church Sunday, “Father Tom! I didn’t know you had blue eyes!”

Conceivably, all Bartimaeus needed was to have his eyelids lifted, eh? No wonder he couldn't see. Speaking of which, time to work on Sunday’s sermon. Ach!


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Back On Line

Working. On the outside back screened porch. Northwest corner of the house off the back porch, family room and kitchen. From a cone shaped hanging basket peeks the beady eye of a bird. The bird couple built their nest on this periphery of Patty’s Garden. To discourage cats and raccoons, Linda moved away the table that was under the basket. Jeremy is the bird watcher in the family, hoping for their survival we’ll wait for him to tell us their breed, and about this bird family and their habits.

MIND THE GAP. In the mug Malinda and Kristen brought me from London in 2009, a cup of Gevalia coffee, on introductory sale at Publix. Michael Jackson died while they were in London and when I texted or emailed informing them they were at a tearoom near Kensington Palace for a pot of English tea, little sandwiches, scones with thick cream and strawberry preserve (conserve?). My first cup of Gevalia was when calling on Fred at his beach house at Cape San Blas soon after his wife died. About 1995, 6, 7. A member of our congregation, he was part owner of Franklin Ford, later Gulf Ford-Mercury, where I enjoyed buying cars our years in Apalachicola. Gevalia. Proliferation of coffees with the advent of Keurig and K-cups. As I left, Fred gave me a bag of Gevalia coffee grounds to take home.

A lovely spring dawn so far. 60 F out here. Wednesday afternoon Bible Seminar at the beach. At the Carousel, Dock has some decent Australia reds at about $5 a bottle, a shiraz and a cabernet, so I may drive out early and get another bottle or two of each. Can’t do it afterward because of a 3:15 PM appointment at the Eye Center.

Caroline is in the Great Smoky Mountains this week with her class from Holy Comforter Episcopal School, Tallahassee. Papa worries about her. That’s my job, it’s why God made papas.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Not For Reading

Nonsensical Babble Not For Reading

This has been an interesting wake-up morning and continues so. For starters, four-thirty is late, my usual wake up is about three to three-fifteen, though recently I’ve been trying to train my bathroom habit -- OK, WTH, bladder -- to wake me soon after midnight so as to go back to sleep and maybe sleep till five, a sheer luxury that has actually happened once or twice since I started trying this. In fact, Sunday morning I slept until five-thirty, which would have been nearly disastrous on a Sunday morning if it had been my Sunday to preach the sermon.

This morning’s wake up was to an anxiety dream, hot and sweaty and tangled in the sheets and blanket and pillows. My anxiety dreams are always one of two types. I’ve been called to active duty as a Navy officer. It’s a huge ship, usually an aircraft carrier, and having just reported aboard, I can’t find my way around. When I find my way to my stateroom my uniform is all goofed up and I can’t find my hat. When I do find it, it doesn’t have scrambled eggs like it’s supposed to, so I’m out of uniform. Word is passed over the 1MC that I’m to report to the admiral’s cabin. I start putting on my uniform. My collar devices are the wrong rank, and this khaki shirt isn’t supposed to be worn with this Navy blue coat but my shoulder boards for the khaki coat have the wrong rank and corps device and don’t match the shirt collar markings, and I can’t find a white shirt. And I don’t know whether I’ve been recalled as a line officer, or Supply Corps, or as a chaplain. I’m thinking probably chaplain and the admiral wants to discuss the spiritual life of the ships in the carrier group, but I don’t have a cross to pin on my left collar. Or was it the right collar. No right was rank, rank on right, easy onomatopoeia for remembering. Word is passed again. Where’s that blasted hat? Out the door without hat and with the wrong uniform and wrong rank on the sleeves. Or was I called to active duty at lower rank because they made me a chaplain? Word is passed again this time it says report to the admiral’s cabin on the double. I have no idea which way to go or which passageway to take, I only know that the admiral’s cabin is probably “up”. Sailors I pass turn and stare at this strangely clad out of uniform naval officer as I rush by. It’s literally a trip through hell until I wake up in a sweat and realizing it was a dream and I’m safe in my real bed, wide awake relieved. On the double comes over the 1MC again. And this khaki p-cutter hat doesn’t go with this Navy blue coat. On the double. 

In the other anxiety dream I’m preaching at one of my old churches that I’ve served. This morning it was Mount Calvary Episcopal Church, Camp Hill, Pennsylvania and some bishop has been set aside, his preaching invitation cancelled so that I can preach the sermon, and that bishop is in the congregation. Huge crowd in the outdoor amphitheater style church. They’re reading the first lesson and where the aitch is my vestment? Oh, well, put on my Navy ensign uniform, that’ll look fine. They’re singing the hymn before the gospel, how do I get to the blasted pulpit? OMG, I forgot to prepare a sermon, write notes on tiny scraps of yellow paper. Get in the pulpit. Wrong pulpit, have to go to the pulpit on the other side of the amphitheater while people watch and wait and stare at this priest in a Navy ensign’s uniform. Drop my scraps of paper, OMG, I forgot to write page numbers on them. Make jokes as I try to get the yellow scraps of paper in the right order, but nobody chuckling, just staring. Kristen very small comes up and wants to be held while I spread the scrap out and decide I’ll just have to do an extemporaneous sermon, because my writing is too small to read. 

Though I don't understand the authority figure common to my anxiety dreams, the dream itself I recognize as ongoing mental fallout from a recent class that went off course and into the brambles, stirred with unending personal and obviously national obsession with the Boston bombing and anxiety about the teenage bomber who could be a beloved grandson; and frustration with shouts from a U.S. senator wanting to run the Executive Branch and classify the boy as an enemy combatant instead of treating him as an American citizen. And the senator himself a bad dream.

Time for heart meds and get my stuff together for this morning’s class about Revelation with scorpions the size of horses stinging people for six months but not killing because death would be too merciful. 

And this morning’s TV news, ongoing nightmare: questioning the boy without reading Miranda. Legally he's an adult, but morally he's a child. People are shouting for his execution; but in a civilized society there is not even discussion of executing children. Why am I irrationally worrying about a child who has murdered innocent people without conscience? Legally he’s not my problem, the justice system will handle it and without the interference of rabid legislators. Legally not my problem, morally he’s the problem of every American, at least every American with a conscience.

God help.


Monday, April 22, 2013


Revelation 7:9-17 (NRSV)
9 ... I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10 They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
11 And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 singing,
“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom
and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them.16 They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; 17 for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Revelation 21:1-6 (NRSV)
21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; 4 he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”
5 And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.
Through the Easter Season this year the Lectionary has us reading from Acts and Revelation. The first reading above is our Revelation reading for yesterday, the Fourth Sunday of Easter. The second is our Revelation reading for next week, April 28th, the Fifth Sunday of Easter.
Read through start to finish, Revelation with its violent, graphic imagery can seem frightening, but it isn’t really. It is not a prediction of what’s going to happen to us at an imminent end of time; and if it were, we could laugh, scoff and toss it aside, because any amateur astronomer doing a bit of scientific reading and looking out into the heavens could see that it’s completely unreal, overactive imagination, stars falling and all that is not the way the universe works, it isn’t compatible with creation and nature, our earthly notion of time and space is laughable compared to the expanse of galaxies and suns. And from our religious viewpoint it is not consistent with the ways of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; even though, as William Cowper wrote in 1774, “God moves in a mysterious way,” it isn’t that mysterious or peculiar or vengeful or violent; indeed in that faith is chosen, who could worship such an angry deity!    
Revelation is a “literary genre” that was not uncommon in its day, with a specific agenda for the hearers for whom John Patmos wrote it. There was a persecution going on in the Roman Empire, officials were tormenting Christians because they would not practice the lawful and mandatory religious rites of the empire. Christians had a choice of staying in the faith and being persecuted even unto death, or sacrificing to Caesar as the law required and being left alone. That may be oversimplified, but that’s how it was. John Patmos (or we can call him Johann von Patmos if anyone prefers) was a Christian leader whose agenda was to prevent Christians under persecution from abandoning Christ and the Church no matter how horribly they were treated. His method is to both encourage and intimidate by saying that the persecution is terrible, conducted by evil ones; it will get worse, you will be tormented, tortured, even killed, but the persecution will culminate in battle between forces of evil and forces of God; God will win and for the victors there will be a wonderful eternal kingdom ruled by Jesus Christ. Everyone who remains faithful to Christ during the persecution, whether living or dead, will be included in the kingdom. Everyone who succumbs to the persecutors and falls away from Christ will be thrown into the lake of fire.
John Patmos‘ descriptions of the battle are violent, graphic, frightening, not a good bedtime story for children. He borrows most of his imagery from Old Testament apocalyptic writings, especially Daniel chapters 7-12 and Ezekiel, but others too. His battle is fierce and his punishments of evil doers and unfaithful Christians are unspeakably cruel and unusual -- which is common in apocalyptic writing.
On the other hand, for those who remain faithful, John’s encouragements and promises are wonderful. And this is what we see, read, hear in our lectionary readings during the Easter Season this year. In yesterday’s Revelation reading (7:9-17) John Patmos has been lifted into the throne room of heaven where he sees multitudes of happy souls. An elders asks, “John, do you know who these folks are?” John admits that he does not. The elders tells him that these are the people who have remained faithful to Christ in spite of the persecution. That’s what it’s all about. It’s part of John Patmos’ agenda of encouragement and promise.
In next Sunday’s reading above (21:1-6) the persecution is finished, the strife is o’er, the battle done, the victory is won as the hymn says, and this is John’s description of the wonderful reward for the faithful. We’re reading the promises.
With all the above, other than an exciting adventure story, Revelation wouldn’t be much use to us today if we only viewed it from a historical-critical perspective. So we take the promises, we accept them, bring them into our own lives, incorporate them as part of what we believe. We look at the suffering and sadness that goes on in our lives and in the lives of those we love and our neighbors and the world, and we bring out of our sacred Scripture the promises of God. In that Revelation is prophecy, it’s a basis of our hope that all will be well in the end, or after the end, and we acclaim this as the Word of the Lord.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Fender Skirts

Fender Skirts

One of my all-time favorite cars, one of my many, many all-time favorites, was the 1953 Chevrolet. It came to mind a couple days ago when a friend sent me an email about fender skirts. The '53 Chevy was the second generation post-war Chevrolet, the 1946, 47, 48 having been a continuation of the pre-war 1942 Chevy: 

and the 1949, 50, 51, 52 having been the first complete redesign and restyle after WW2. 

The 1953, 54 Chevrolet was new and elegant. It never garnered the classic status of the golden age 1955, 56, 57 trio:  

But at least the 1953-54 was on the market two years, not just a single year like the enormous 1958 Chevy that introduced the Impala series:

Why General Motors did that one year production of such a beautiful car was beyond me then and still is today.

And the '53 was well before the 1959 Chevy with its outrageous fins

that created the eyebrow taillights.

But the 1953, 54 was a good looking car and a nice size. Not too big for the day, nor too small. A very pleasant shape. And its trim line was interesting. Top of the line Bel Air had distinctive side trim. And above all it had fender skirts, the ultimate in classy in those days. 

The mid-line 210 series had a strip of chrome on the side but no fender skirts. My aunt Evalyn had a '53 series 210 sedan:

The base 150 series was the plain jane, its only side trim being the stone guard on the front edge of the rear fender. Fender skirts? Certainly not, but you still saw those ubiquitous whitesidewall tires: 

The 210 series also included a convertible,  

but it wasn’t as flashy and didn’t sell as well as the Bel Air convertible:

Seems to me the 210 convertible was dropped for 1954, not having sold well in '53.

Summer 1955 or '56, a used car dealer on West 6th Street here in Panama City had a 1953 Chevy 210 convertible for sale, bright red with a white top and three-speed standard transmission (3-on-the-tree). I stopped and looked longingly at the car, and my mother told me my father had mentioned getting it for me. My parents’ cars at the time being the 1948 Dodge sedan that later was given to me, and the 1949 Plymouth station wagon, I told mama that I wasn’t about to drive a car newer and better than their cars, so the matter was dropped. 

In retrospect, it turned out to have been my one chance in life to own a red convertible. December 1957 after Linda and I were married, home from Rhode Island on Navy leave and looking to replace the 1948 Dodge that was turning into reliability issues for us, my father’s friend Joe Parrott was working at Cook Ford and driving his demo, a long, sleek, bright red with white top 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 convertible with continental kit spare tire and wire wheels. 

Joe offered it for $2,400 as I recall, and I drove it to Linda’s parents’ home at then-518 Bunkers Cove Road (brick house east of the Edwards that the Clemons later bought from Linda’s parents). Linda’s mother came out, took one look at the convertible, and started ranting about dangerous convertibles and her pregnant daughter. We ended up with a Ford bought from Joe Parrott, but it was a blue and white tudor sedan.

Will you have a banana split with three scoops, chocolate, strawberry and vanilla and whipped cream with a cherry? Or plain vanilla? We had a plain vanilla cone, one scoop.

When I wanted a car in April 2011, I went to buy a red convertible to celebrate my successful return from Cleveland Clinic, but Cramer GM where I buy my cars didn’t have a red convertible. In fact, they didn’t have a convertible at all except a hundred-plus-thousand-dollar Corvette, so I chose a Buick sedan. It’s nice but it’s not red and the top doesn’t go down. 

Maybe I’ll get my red convertible in the next life. In heaven. Or more likely on a cold day in hell.


Thanks, Norm!!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

USA and Dunkin' Donuts


Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants were kept open for police and other responders during yesterday’s manhunt in Boston, and TV reporters kept commenting during the lockdown that folks were sneaking out of their houses, running down to Dunkin’ Donuts and racing back home with donuts and coffee. It reminded me: Dunkin’ Donuts is an institution with a special place in the hearts of Bostonians. 

My old Navy friend Lieutenant John Shaughnessy, a special buddy who was an MBA student with me at the University of Michigan fifty years ago along with Lieutenant Joe Flores, once told me, “I love Dunkin‘ Donuts” and we often went there for donuts and coffee during long breaks between classes. We both especially liked the cake donut with the little handle on it for dunking. John, and his twin brother, also a naval officer a submariner, was from Boston, a Boston native with that wonderful Boston twang. John stopped by to see me at the rectory in Apalachicola one day, but Linda and I were out of town and missed him. He’s in his eighties now, undoubtedly still loving Dunkin‘ Donuts.  

On social media Tamerlan wrote that he did not have one single American friend and did not understand us: an intriguing clue to the man’s mentality and ending. On the other hand, his brother Johar (can’t spell or pronounce Dzhokhar and don't care to learn and he himself spells it Johar on his social media websites) had loads of friends, never met a stranger, as his father said, an angel; Tamerlan’s brother Johar, a promising teenager whom he destroyed.  

Every loving parent can understand a panicked father and mother grasping at thin air, insisting their sons were framed and innocent; though their Soviet-era mindset surfaced in hearing them berate authorities and the police. An unrelated, mind-boggling mystery: why on earth, why in the name of God in heaven would sane people (responsible and loving parents?) leave Boston and their four children, one of them still a teenager in school, and move back to Russia after years in the United States? Reading their family history of fleeing from place to place, they seem to have no settled homeland, and America took them in and gave them and their extended families a home. Yet, watching media interviews with the father’s three brothers yesterday, there clearly was some problem in the family that they were estranged, weren’t speaking to each other. A psychologist might discern that the father, though understandably distraught and frantic about his sons when being interviewed on TV yesterday, was an angry man who instead of facing and settling personal issues would “rather be mad” as the saying goes. Like father like son, perhaps.

Links to a couple of very human stories below, first from today’s issue of the Sydney, Australia Morning Herald, second from the New York Times.

Imagine doing such an evil thing to your kid brother and bringing his life down in ruin for whatever self-centered motive or contrived motive, or lack thereof. Their uncle who lives in Maryland had it right when he said “loser” and disgrace. Tamerlan couldn’t make it and so decided to turn against. Against what or whom? Whatever. 

Literally, Whatever. Many folks who leave a church and when their church friends don’t understand and ask why they left, contrive a reason, any reason but self. In my last parish a couple whom we welcomed and befriended and incorporated stayed a year or two then quit coming. When we realized it and contacted them, one of the reasons they gave for quitting was, “Father Tom doesn’t shake enough hands during the Peace.” Stupid people can’t see themselves for what they are. Some quit church, some become terrorists.

Any reason that blames other than oneself is sufficient. There's some chip on the shoulder or narcissism to it, ingrained in the personality. Tamerlan and Johar’s parents in a huff leaving America for Russia. Tamerlan becoming disenchanted with life, blaming anyone but himself, recruiting his brother into incomprehensible evil, bringing death, bringing shame and disgrace, and leading foolish people to blame his religion. Thank God, authorities took great care to capture Johar alive. Because what psychologists and others who probe the mind observe about this case could be even more fascinating than what the FBI and other security agencies learn.

And also because Johar is just a year younger than my Kristen, and thinking about their age and maturity similarities, and about how much I love her, and seeing Johar's father's anguish, to have this nightmare bring another death, the death of a young American teenager, who if he wanted to shoot would have done far better with his life to have been fighting as an American soldier, would have added tragedy upon tragedy and sorrow upon sorrow upon desolating sorrow.

So, discovering a teenage boy cowering in a boat in someone’s backyard, making him get out, and taking him, alive, to hospital for treatment, is as American as life gets.

Tamerlan -- in the end a loser who destroyed not only other people and himself, but his own brother who backed over him with a Mercedes SUV as he fled in panic -- Tamerlan contrived to hate us instead of looking in the mirror. But when it was all over last night, and the nightmare was ended, the chant of the Boston crowd said it all. USA USA USA USA USA USA USA USA USA USA