Friday, February 28, 2014

New Computer

My agenda yesterday while Linda was in Apalachicola for lunch with Pat was to go to Tyndall for a haircut. Let's face it, at this age and state of hirsuteness -- don't say bald, it's a four-letter-word and preachers don't cuss -- what's left of the head is better suited to a military skinning than to the art of a hair stylist, and to be truthful for a change, I prefer it anyway, just plain tapered. "Any off the top, Commander? har har har." The barbershop is in the mall with the Exchange and the Commissary, so it was convenient to hit those while I was there. 

In the Commissary I purchased two half-gallon bottles of the Bulgarian style buttermilk I love. Mixed with one-third Kefir, it makes a tasty supper a couple evenings a week. Always in the Commissary I check the peanut butter shelf, but only once recently found natural crunchy sans sugar and they didn't have it yesterday. 

My Exchange visit was more focused: computer section. The past several years I've been using Mac computers, but there are two issues with Apple: overpriced by four and not compatible with Madge's computer in the parish office. No, three issues. My desktop computer in the parish office is one Father William left behind for good reason. Up to here with it's constant freezing up and dawdling slowness, I decided to try a dedicated, compatible laptop that I can use at the office or at home, or on the church library or Battin Hall WiFi. This it: from the BX, their cheapest hp with a CD drive. On the FrWm computer the CD drive doesn't work, and I need it for "The Rite Stuff" and to install a decent word processing program. Adapting to a pc with Windows 8.1 after years developing Apple intuitives is a trip through insanity. But I'm working on it with determination and a fresh garden of flower names to say at it. 

Last summer we turned in the Buick Enclave at the end of its 39 month lease, intending for economy in retirement to get along with one car. My buddy Chris said, "We'll see how long that lasts." It lasted a month or six weeks until I started bugging him to find me a decent used car. It's a creampuff actually, a white 1999 Buick Century with blue interior. Before trading it for a new Chevy in surrender to his new car bug, the original owner put new tires, new battery, new fuel pump, a couple thousand dollars of work done. But it's still fifteen years old, so since buying it last summer I've only driven it back and forth between home and church. Yesterday though it took me safely to Tyndall and back. Only problem, the car has no cup holders. And I won't let Linda drive it because it lacks most modern safety devices, including stability control and dozens of airbags. 

Heliotrope sunflower. Something I pressed by mistake on the nasturtium hp changed all the print to microscopic size and I don't know how to get out of that, so this last paragraph is back comfortably on the MacBook.

Pox. Not pax today. POX.

W  

    

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Heaven Happens

Who do I feel sorry for? Anyone who is missing Wednesday evenings at HNEC. 

In last night’s dialogue about next Sunday’s gospel -- Matthew’s story of Jesus on the mountaintop with Moses, Elijah, Peter, James, John and God the Father -- we heard and had discussion about Heaven. The rector recalled the movie Field of Dreams and the lines, “Is there Heaven?” and the response “Heaven is where your dreams come true.” 

This stirred my memories so powerfully that sitting there in my pew I had to close my eyes and go off alone for a few minutes, to Heaven actually. I’ve seen Field of Dreams several times and each time, I like it more, it’s the most touching, moving film I’ve ever loved. When I see it I can hardly bear to have it end; but that, as Peter found out, is how Heaven is. Especially do I love that line, “Heaven is where your dreams come true.” 

I know that there is Heaven, and that up on the mountain with Jesus, Peter doesn’t yet quite understand about Heaven. He thinks Heaven is that place on the mountaintop where you can build booths, tents, a dwelling. He doesn’t yet understand that Heaven is not a place at all, Heaven is something that happens, such as what has just happened to him there on the mountain with Jesus. Heaven wasn’t the mountaintop, Heaven was being there with who was there, and being taken into the midst of it to witness and wonder and be overcome with awe and love. And to be able to tell about it later; or just to remember. 

Peter was a young man at the time, but he would mature in age and wisdom, and by now he would understand. I am older than Peter was that day on the mountaintop with Jesus, and I’m pretty sure I understand now better than he did then. Heaven is not a place, surely not My Laughing Place under the scraggly cedar tree down front by the Bay where I go when I have deep sorrow or stress and extreme need for Gethsemane-type consolation. And Heaven is not where I will be after this life; I may have "reasonable and holy hope in joyful expectation," as our burial liturgy says; but I don’t know about that, and it's beyond my control and beyond my imagining, and it isn’t where my dreams come true, and I’m not really interested in it. Heaven happens. I know. Heaven has happened to me many times in life. My iPhone dings and there's a text: "I'm here." A Ford station wagon drives up into my back driveway, loaded with my girls. Linda stands on the pier waiting as the Jamestown ferry arrives from Newport. Joe runs toward me at top speed and leaps into my arms the day my ship returns from WestPac. A college offical pins Malinda’s RN pin on her uniform. Joy says, a few minutes after Kristen is born, "Does anybody want to hold her?" Tass walks safely off the plane from London. Kristen’s car drives up from Atlanta. The speaker announces at Tassy's college graduation, "Honors in Biology. Magna Cum Laude. Phi Beta Kappa" as she walks across the stage. The entire congregation of an Episcopal parish stands and says, "Charlie, Bishop in the Church of God, on behalf of the clergy and people of the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania, we present to you Thomas Carroll Weller, Jr. to be 
ordained a priest in Christ's holy catholic Church." Heaven? Heaven happens. You can't build a booth and stay: you just have to be there. 

 Heaven? Happens almost every Wednesday evening at my church. And every Sunday morning when Father says, "Come on up, kids!"

In a shadowy spot of that stained glass window there's a rowboat with two men fishing. They're not there now, and you have to look for it, but the memory is there and it's very real. Heaven is not forever, Heaven is one off. It happens. You just have to be there. When it's over, it's over until next time.  

TW+  

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Light Bulb


Rainy this morning. And that sound wasn’t thunder as I thought, but my neighbor cranking up his red pickup truck. Covet. If I can’t have a red convertible, maybe I’ll get a red pickup truck, both of my pickup trucks have been green. The first one was a well-used Ford V8 F-100, a model years before the popular F-150. The second one I ordered brand new about 1995 from my buddy the Ford dealer in Apalachicola, an F-150 XLT. Nice. Very, very nice. It was a six.  

One evening last week, news online carried stuff about asteroid 2000M26. It was the size of three football fields and could be a near miss and you could watch it pass us on Slooh, an online telescope community. So, I did. I listened to excited chat of astronomers on, as I recall, the Canary Islands and somewhere way across in the southwestern Pacific. George Washington would have been amazed. But there was nothing to see, it was a dark shadow passing in black space and Slooh missed it. And it was no “near miss” either, that was hype, it was more than two million miles away from us. Last year we had a real “near miss” pass between us and the moon, seems to me it may even have been between us and the space station. Holy you-know-what, the apocalypse.

Apocalyptic excites people. A string of blazing infernos in Kiev last week looked like the end of the world or at least that part of it. But the next day we found out that it was really just the downtown square and for the rest of the city, area neighborhoods, life was pretty much as usual. Could that happen in Washington? Would the officials shoot us? Or would they flee? I think they would shoot us, but remember, this is why we have the second amendment, not for squirrel hunting. Of apocalypse, I watched from the Pentagon across the Potomac River, the burning skyline of Washington, DC in days after MLK was assassinated. I saw newsreels of WW2 firestorms in Tokyo, Dresden, Coventry. On Youtube, one can still experience Coventry with people who were there. And get a sense of it by strolling the grounds of the Cathedral.   

Or by reading books. The Road. Earth Abides. On the Beach. Looking back on last week’s frankly phony stir about 2000M26, and the general notion of watching for the death of planet earth, some journalist wrote, “Here’s my hunch: The thing that’s going to get us, one day, isn’t going to be something on anyone’s radar.” I think that’s true. It won't be God coming at us from outer space. What’s going to wipe us out is our hatreds for each other.

My reading list has shifted. Yesterday while preparing for today’s Bible study of 2 Peter, I read something about Ignatius. According to tradition, and there is a lot of tradition surrounding Ignatius, he was Bishop of Antioch at the turn of the first century. About the year 110-115, Trajan the emperor condemned him and ordered sent for execution to Rome, where he was devoured by ferocious lions as a public spectacle in the Coliseum. On his way to Rome, Ignatius, like Paul, wrote letters. There are lots of forgeries claiming Ignatius, but seven letters are accorded legitimacy by most scholars, although there are said to be issues of some letters being tampered with, added to later. That uncertainty makes it uneasy to read them and unequivocally date things about early Christian church christology and ecclesiology. At 78, I don’t have to remember a gardenia thing and I don’t have to apologize that my lightbulb needs changing, but it seems to me I read that Ignatius did not know Second Peter. What Ignatius of Antioch knew, as indicated in his letters, is a help to scholars in dating early Christian writings, and this may be taken as one of several clues in dating 2 Peter into the second century A.D. after Ignatius instead of to the Apostle Peter. 

English translations of the seven genuine letters of Ignatius are readily available online. It occurred to me last night that I never read them in seminary, so started last evening and read two, his letter to Polycarp and the letter to the Philadelphians. Ignatius seems chiefly concerned about gentle kindness and about loyal obedience to bishops. Also, in both of those letters he discusses presbyters and deacons (which if genuine is indicative of that organization quite early). The letter to the Philadelphians is full of information, including his high christology (but is that his or added?). And in that letter I found quotes from the gospel according to Matthew, even though Ignatius doesn’t actually name Matthew: what might that suggest? For one thing that the "first gospel" was in circulation but had not yet been named. The seven letters of Ignatius of Antioch are short and easy to read in English, so my reading project for the rest of this week is to finish all seven.

For free tasty lunch at Bible study today, Linda is serving spaghetti with tomato meat sauce and a bowl of grated cheese fresh from Rome where Ignatius was martyred, no doubt, cheese from sheep grazing on grass growing in the blood of the martyrs right there in the coliseum; and Nancy is bringing a just-baked cake. It will all be delicious, and the rainy weather will keep some people away, so there will be plenty for Bubba.

TW+ 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Bible Study: Seek the Truth

Forty-one months of blogging, done for myself as a daily pseudo-intellectual exercise, started in October 2010 upon being told my stage of heart disease was inoperable and I had two to five months to live; and since I had as priest and pastor been down that road with many parishioners over the years and always wondered what it must be like to be dying and be aware of it (more precisely so than the dismissive "well, we're all dying"), I decided to pay close attention and enjoy and journal my end of life experience. "Enjoy" is a stretch, because admittedly it came as a bit of a shock, especially when a beloved daughter burst into sobs when told on the phone, but I accordingly started my journal in my BayMed hospital room the evening of Wednesday, October 20, 2010, the day the team of cardiologists and heart surgeons gave me the bad news. Within a day of starting my journal, a friend cajoled me into being public and letting people know how I was doing, so I did that and have never skipped a day of writing and posting. Only one post was deleted, and I'm no longer sure why I did that, perhaps it was offensive or obtuse, I don't recall (after all, being a brainless bull in a china shop has never bothered me). Even when I was in Cleveland Clinic for open heart surgery and recovery, Tass and Joe covered for me faithfully a day or so and never missed a beat. 

Although it's for me, I blog for myself, the blog nevertheless gets read by some people, ranging from about 150 to sometimes more than 300 hits a day. Know what causes the wide range of counts? The title I put on it. I've messed with minds just to find out, and it's so: a sensational sounding title garners lots of hits. This, "Bible Study" will be lucky to get a dozen. But I don't care, and here goes.

Always to some extent a bookworm of sorts, I love the Bible and love reading and studying the Bible and discussing it with others, both with people who know more than I do about it and especially with people who know little but whose Bible interest and enthusiasm may be ignited by studying in a group. So, I like to offer Bible study classes. The reason I offer Bible study is that in my experience coming out of seminary into life as a parish priest I generally found my lay parishioners naive about the Bible. Naive and ignorant. Naive and ignorant and literal. Literal minded. Mentally and emotionally and knowledge-wise in children’s Sunday school, like the people Saint Paul found to be still on milk, pablum instead of chewable food. Not just cradle Episcopalians who always thought that all they needed was the Book of Common Prayer and the Sunday Lectionary and do the liturgy and get home for martinis and Sunday dinner; but especially the good folk like my dear mother who had been raised in fundamentalist literalist churches, who grew up with a family Bible on the coffee table in the living room with notes penciled in the margins and always lying open in case the preacher dropped by, folks who memorize Bible verses and tell you, “well, the Bible says...” because they’ve picked out prooftext verses that eisegete their certainties while skipping verses that say quite the opposite, who have no idea of the centuries of human experience that went into telling and compiling and writing down and rewriting what they were reading, and who brought this personal baggage into the Episcopal church with them but still generally assumed that God scribed the Bible himself with his own fingers a la Moses or dictated to a human amanuensis a la Paul. And who see the Bible as a book when in fact it's a living process. 

On leaving seminary I observed that my colleagues, and in fact the priests who had been my predecessors before me, eased into “parish management” and pastoral duties and conveniently tucked away in a box on a high shelf in the back of the closet of their mind, what they studied and learned about the Bible in seminary. As in, "Oh, lay people aren't ready for that, and besides I might get fired." My seminary theology professor warned our class that this would happen and urged us to be bold and take our seminary education into our parishes. I have tried to do that, beginning thanks to a friend named Pat with a program called "EfM" and branching out after long EfM years into general Bible study wherever I find myself in ministry. 

At first, I tried limiting Bible study class registration, attendance and participation to folks who were EfM graduates, because I knew that there would be shocking things to face and they would arrive with basic knowledge and not be floored at what they found out. But I no longer limit: all are invited and welcome. Yet it's risky, quite risky.

Why? Because there's lots to learn, and much of it is challenging, assumption-shocking, certainty-rattling, faith-shaking. Things of “faith” get people riled up to feel affronted and take offense when lifelong certainties are called into question. People with certainties to protect defend them with rationalization. People with “faith certainties” want them ratified, not challenged. People like to nod their heads knowingly while you talk; they don't like it when their mouth drops in astonishment. And it’s almost impossible to change the average person’s mind with facts and reason and common sense -- even though we Episcopalians say that our faith is based on Scripture, Reason and Tradition. My observation is that Reason sprouts wings and flies into cubbyholes and covers its eyes and ears when faith encounters doubt.

One of the most valuable experiences I have had in life as a Christian was/is EfM. “Education for Ministry” is a program of scriptural and theological lay education by extension, sponsored by our seminary at Sewanee and offered in parishes all over the world, in seminar groups that meet weekly. I’ve learned far more about the Bible in EfM than I ever learned at seminary, because seminary was only three years and I’ve been involved with EfM more than twenty-five years of study and experience and reason. There is lots of reading and lots of discussion, and EfM helps people approach the Bible critically as explorers instead of fearing it as unapproachable and untouchable. But I think it’s my prime duty, main responsibility, to help and encourage people to learn. Bible study is, to me, a flight from ignorance into the knowledge and love of God. As long as I know one thing about the Bible that parishioners don’t know, I’m not doing my job as priest and pastor. 

These things occur this morning as I'm mindful of Wednesday noon Bible class tomorrow. Coming up is Transfiguration Sunday, Last Sunday of the Epiphany Season. We'll read Matthew's version of Jesus' transfiguration on the mountaintop with Moses and Elijah as Peter, James and John watch terrified, and as Peter famously says things that sound ridiculous. Matthew gets the story from Mark, and enhances Mark's version because Matthew, with his agenda and his intended audience, understands Jesus as the new Moses, and sees the promises and prophecies of the Hebrew Bible happening again and coming true in Jesus. In the mountaintop experience, like Moses and Elijah, Jesus converses with God. As Moses conversation with God comes after six days, Jesus goes up on the mountain after six days. As Moses took three men to Sinai, Jesus takes three friends with him. As Moses face glowed, the face of Jesus shines like the sun. As a cloud descends to enshroud Moses, so with Jesus and company. Nothing about Jesus, or that happens in Jesus' life, is coincidental for Matthew; Moses is happening again. Bible study that notices these things doesn't call Matthew a fabricator, but rather helps me better understand what Matthew is trying to teach his audience two thousand years ago, and also me today, about who and what Jesus was and God's Christ is. 

As well as the gospel, we also will read the epistle lesson for Transfiguration Sunday: beautiful words and testimony at 2 Peter 1:16-21, "the Word of the Lord," our reader will proclaim. But the fact that Second Peter is canonized as Holy Scripture, the Word of the Lord, doesn't exempt it from intelligent, critical study and perhaps discovering a second century teaching not from the hand of Peter the Apostle, named in the second century, coming so late that it wasn't known to early church fathers, with Christology and social concerns and saying theological things and using terms about Jesus that reflect a generation of church development long after Peter's time, and that it does not evidence the close personal relationship that we believe Peter had with Jesus of Nazareth. 

To me, Bible study is about seeking the truth. If I don't share issues, questions, bits of scholarly discovery, differences and knowledge with others, I will have failed. This is so although knowing that even as we bring them up, offense may be done, mouths may drop. Still and nevertheless, one of my seminaries had, I suppose may still have, inscribed in the lintel over the library door, the proverb, "Seek the truth, come whence it may, cost what it will." The "cost" is not only the risk to the "sure and certain faith knowledge" that folks who study with me arrived with, but the equal and to me even greater personal risk of my credibility with them. People of certainty are seldom open to reason. But this is the Episcopal Church where Reason is one of our main ingredients. We are not sola scriptura with Luther and the rest of the Reformation, but Scripture, Reason and Tradition. And perhaps adding the rest of Outler's Wesleyan Quadrilateral: Experience.

Which to press now: publish or delete.

TW+

Monday, February 24, 2014

PeeBeeNoJay


Eat so-many grams-or-whatever of protein within a quarter-hour of rising, Dr. Oz once advised in my hearing. He suggested peanut butter. Always doing anything makes life a dull boy same as all work and no play, therefore I have no television or eating habits and don’t always do anything; but sometimes -- sometimes being more frequent than from time to time and certainly (there’s that most evil of all evil words) more frequent than now and then -- I have a teaspoon of peanut butter while waiting for the coffee machine to say -- well, whatever it says when it’s ready to brew. Sometimes it says “dregdrawer full” instead, or “fill water reservoir” but those aren’t the best omens for a perfect day, are they. 

Publix has good peanut butter for eccentrics, make that weirdos, like me who won’t buy peanut butter that has sugar and other strange objects in the ingredients, and I always read the ingredients before usually putting the jar back on the shelf. Publix natural peanut butter in the jar with the yellow top has only peanuts and salt, and it’s good. With the heart episode I quit buying pb with salt and started grinding it myself at Publix or FreshMarket, but that’s not the max, because I like it crunchy not smooth, and while the grinder yields grainy, it won’t do crunchy. So, I started shopping around. The farther in time you get from the OR the less alarming the warnings, so I will eat it with salt, but never with sugar et alia. Trader Joe has the widest selection of peanut butter. I have to shop either in Winston Salem or Tallahassee for theirs, but they have crunchy pb both with and without salt, both good. A couple times a year finds me in Target, and for anyone who hasn’t been, Target has a decent grocery section now, where we’ve bought those fox meat patties with mushroom. They are good, but nothing is as good for breakfast as a 97% lean beef patty cooked searing hot four seconds on each side. Well, oysters on toast is better. Back to point: even though it has salt, Target’s crunchy peanut butter is really choice to my taste, because the peanuts are not even semi-ground, somebody stands there and cuts each roasted peanut in half by hand, so you get really good crunchy peanut butter. It does have that salt though, which taste comes through loud and clear. 

Where is this going? Every time I eat peanut butter I think of the Sunday evenings growing up when my father made us a peanut butter and jelly (grape) sandwich and strawberry milkshake for supper. Just now, while the coffee maker was still saying “warming up” I had a heaping teaspoon of the peanut butter from Target, very tasty. Unplugged the WiFi booster, put on shoes RSF&PTL and went outside for Linda’s PCNH. That took a while looking round and finding that it wasn’t there, not even doing its usual trick of hiding in the shadows or under a rain-wet bush. Upon going back into the kitchen, which as anybody who’s been here knows, is in the middle of the house squnched between front and back living rooms and popping out on the west side like somebody’s big belly, coffee was ready to brew. Punching button and waiting for it to brew, I had a second heaping teaspoon of the peanut butter. I only buy peanut butter one jar at a time so I can check it out because I have an aversion to lousy pb, and the Target brand is nearly empty, but I will buy more of that next time I’m in Target, probably late afternoon exactly ten months from today while shopping for Linda’s Christmas present. Next to be opened is my jar of Trader Joe peanut butter, crunchy with no salt.

To a crunchy peanut butter fan, these things are important.

It has to be crunchy, most healthy if the label says no salt, just peanuts, and don’t overeat it because of the calories. Some brands will tell you the specific species of peanuts, but Bubba is not that eccentric. 

What brought on this heart business? The fact that growing up and lifelong, a favorite snack was a thick layer of crunchy peanut butter on one slice of whole wheat bread, the peanut butter on one side, a thick spread of butter on the other side, well salted, and folded to make a half-sandwich. Sometimes you first take a rolling pin to the slice of bread and roll it out flat to make it thin and large. What does that produce? A Bubba with heart disease, who learned his lesson and hasn’t done it in going on four years now. Bubba also no longer eats chicken liver sandwiches with mayonnaise and salted to taste.

Just the occasional heaping tsp of crunchy pb while waiting for coffee. Furosemide and black coffee and sit down to blog.

Uh oh, the lasix has struck with a vengeance, and while I’m up it’s time to check again for the newspaper. Oops, and plug the WiFi booster back in.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sunday morning, Sunday morning


Whoa! Waking up to thunder and lightning and the clock saying 4:19 has a feeling of urgency. One, it’s Sunday morning and I’ve overslept, but at least I'm not preaching today. Two, there ‘s time to get Linda’s newspaper before it’s soaked by rain; the carrier always bags it, but the blue bag must be porous, as the paper gets wet regardless on rainy mornings.

Diocesan Convention is over. I didn’t go, I could hide behind an excuse that retired priests without a charge get voice but no vote, but when I retired fifteen years ago I resolved to use my privilege not to go, and pretty much have not except the years when I did have charge of parishes. This time there were, as I understand it, issues about diocese reorganization and sides sharply drawn. Truly, I don’t know that, but I do remember our first diocesan convention, February 1985, soon after we first arrived in CGC from Central Pennsylvania. Convention was in Mobile, at Trinity as I recall. Whatever the main issue was, it was intense, oh man, was it intense. Likely some resolution about sex, that would be Typical Episcopal. After the vigorous unto rancorous debating, and then the close voting and announcement of the winner, the man sitting in front of me, a delegate from some parish or other, stood, said, “It’s back to the Baptist Church for me,” and stalked out. I don’t remember the issue, nor likely does the Creator, but I do vividly recall the intensity of feelings. 

Brian wonderfully on Facebook used the term Sayre’s Law, which all of us but the lawyers had to look up: “In any dispute the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the issues at stake.” It’s named for a professor named Sayre who is quoted, "Academic politics is the most vicious and bitter form of politics, because the stakes are so low." And then applied to every piddling issue that people fight over, the more trivial the more intense. Who has been to a meeting of a condominium board of directors and then gone outside in the fresh air and looked up at the stars! Ecclesiastical politics is/are of like nature. One year we had intense debate over whether to pass a resolution that the Alabama legislature should do something or other. There are no winners in church politics, only two sides of losers, one bitter, one jubilant. Someone speaks of the “narcissism of small differences.” Having no idea whatsoever what happened at convention, I pray that everyone came home feeling good anyway.

In Sunday School this morning we will be examining our lectionary readings for the day as we finish up reading from Matthew’s version of The Sermon on the Mount. And we’ll take at least a quick look at an essay published this week in our diocesan online newsletter, could be fodder for fight next Sunday!

Pax. As in peace. 
Tom+ 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

RSF&PTL

RSF&PTL

At church Wednesday evening we wrote something private about ourselves on a slip of paper, something personal and private, folded the paper and dropped them into a basket. Unopened, unread, at the end of the service they were taken outside and burned as an offering. Mine said “Lord, you know.” It’s just between me and Almighty God unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid.    

Right shoe first and praise the Lord, even, no especially including, when it’s slides, slide on shoes that stay in the back closet near the door for the early morning walk out to get Linda’s PCNH. With focusing, RSF&PTL overcame the lifelong habit of LSF. It was a struggle that now and then involved taking shoes off and starting over upon realizing I'd done it wrong. Neither spiritual nor piously inclined even after last summer’s battery of silent Jesuit directed retreats, the PTL part of the exercise slips away occasionally and has to be reclaimed. For anyone who wants a prayer life but doesn’t know how, try letting an existing routine action trigger the prayer. Putting on shoes ignites anew my knowledge and love of God. RSF&PTL.


Svendborg Maersk loses more than 500 containers in heavy seas. 

Ukraine protestors take Kiev without a shot Saturday morning, Yanukovych flees the city. Who’s right? Depends on which side you’re on. People over government. All government is always all bad, all ways. War with Iran for Israel, AYFSM? It's governments that hate and that should be hated, the Persian people are not our enemy. Did you ever see a Persian child?

Russia takes Olympic gold in women’s figure skating. Canada beats U.S. 1-0 in hockey semi-final, moving to Sunday’s gold-medal match with Sweden. Go Canada.

Solitary confinement for teens at Rikers Island as new anti-gay law sparks protests in Arizona. 

WiFi works again at 2308 after Bubba discovers and replaces cable with broken clip. Not canceling Geek Squad visit until sure though. 

Manziel all self, O’Brien is welcome to him and thankfully CFB is shed of him. 

McCain says if 2016 election were tomorrow, Hillary would be president. John’s dead wrong, but I no longer think it would be Christie.

Last, maybe, this from NYT opinionator. http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/02/21/to-read-or-not-to-read/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0 Shortly after her mother’s sudden death at 53 in 1993, Olivia Judson, then 23 picked up one of her mother’s diaries, opened and read, “Olivia wants to be hugged all the time. I find it rather irritating.” It was written when Olivia was two years old. Stunned, she put the diary down and read no more. Now more than twenty years after the death of the mother she adored, author and professor Olivia decides she wants to know the woman behind the mask, and opens the trunk containing her diaries. Would you do that? Would I? Would I want to know the intimate thoughts of my parent? Would you? My children growing up were so doted on and adored that it’s still painful to me to remember how much I wanted them, and could hardly bear to be away from them, and loved them, and still do, and grieved as they grew up and left me. My biggest shock in life to date? Leaving Tass at her college in Virginia and driving away without her. All four have done that to me, I would think I'm used to it by now but I'm not. Would I want them to open my diaries and discover the real me thirty years from now? Would I want to open my father’s diaries? My mother's? Would I want Joe to open mine? How would he feel about what he found, the person he didn't know after all? To those who “know” me I’m a person who ... whatever. To myself I’m a huge disappointment. I should have ... I could have ... I shouldn’t have ... Lent is coming up: I may write more on a slip of paper and burn it again, but I’m keeping this personna, wearing this mask to the grave, and there are no diaries.

T+ mucking on through +Time

Friday, February 21, 2014

Storm

Meditation, thinking, slave labor of the mind. MacBook won't go online, iPad battery run down and charging, no sane person with adult size fingers would type an essay on an iPhone. Eyes and mind puzzle at looking on a sheet of white instead of a bright, colored, live and moving screen. But pen and ink still work, and coffee is hot, black and strong.

As Linda is not into sleeping my Florida way in the damp, cool, salty breeze, I didn't bother suggesting we have the porch door open last night to enjoy the weather's arrival. However, the red yellow orange line of thunderstorms is just now leaving Pensacola, so no matter anyway.

"Light off the boilers" comes to mind here in 20140221 realtime instead of electronics. Last time I heard that exciting stir about going to sea? Maybe in Subic Bay before getting underway for Danang. "Light off the brain" instead, but it isn't meditation at all, meditation is serious exercise, this is barely even thinking. About what? "Now officers' call, officers' call" with the XO then slouch off to brief the JOs and sailors. What was good? Nearly two-thirds of life still lay ahead, stretching out into God Only Knows What. Most of it was really great. Would I go back? No way, Jose, would I go back to a time of life without Tass and Kristen.

What's crazy just now? Linda has come downstairs and on Channel 13 Jerry Tabatt turns off the radar to show just the insane lightning in that storm line that's sweeping toward us, holy fire. Coming on fast, 40 MPH. Severe thunderstorm warning.

Buick lease up in June means new car interest is hotting up. I took this Regal sedan in March 2011 only so my mother could get into it, as she could not get up into the Enclave SUV. But we don't want another car that you crawl down into and climb up out of. So no more sedans, but which also eliminates Corvette, Camaro, Mustang. And we don't want another car as big as the Enclave SUV. Whatever happened to that red convertible my heart was set on three years ago? Cramers didn't have a red convertible at the time, so I settled. Happily now being battered by GM and Chrysler (how did Marchionne find out about me?) with new car incentives, but nobody is making a car that excites me. A new Buick XUV is due out this fall along with redesigned Chevy Equinox and GMC Terrain replacements, maybe wait and check those out?

On the upstairs front screen porch now to await. Flashes of lightning off to the west, low rumbling thunder. Another cup of coffee, extra strong Italian roast. Thunder getting louder and closer, Bay surf angry and noisy in the predawn darkness down front. Pitter patter on the porch roof just over my head.

Not only would I not go back to Navy life at twenty-something all the way through the decade of thirty-somethings. The forty something years were great. But I wouldn't miss this eighth decade stormy early morning of life for the world.

TW

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Breath


On Facebook, someone shared from a generation ago, the Carol Burnett television show episode “Wrong Number.” I still cannot get my breath. 

Television I watch for news or entertainment. Not generally education or enlightenment, for example, Bible material on PBS or History Channel is often so sensationalist, literalistic, and unscholarly that it tries one’s patience. Entertainment, I want to be funny, seldom serious. Want history? Monty Python or Blackadder. But the Carol Burnett show was the funniest program ever aired. I’d no idea complete episodes are instantly available on Youtube, punch the button for full-screen. Thanks to a Facebook friend, TV is wonderfully re-enlivened, even a generation later, with painfully breathless laughter. 


For whoever posted that, thank you! I once thought “Red Skelton” was funny, but seeing an episode a few years ago was hugely disappointing. Anyway, the other all time funniest show having been “The Honeymooners,” and now having found Carol Burnett, check for Jackie Gleason as well.

Oh my, thanks again!

TW 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Porch Freedom

Last night was the first time this year, maybe since late in the fall, we slept with the porch door open. Getting up at three-thirty I closed the door, and shut the blind in it to stop the street light from shining in Linda’s face. Upstairs porch and bedroom opening on to it is something about freedom, like living in a treehouse or on a riverboat. Last night I went out on the porch to put on my pajamas and wondered if Alfred had ever done that, put on his PJs while looking out across the Bay. 


The porch is better now, screened in and with a new metal deck, but know what, I’ll bet he did, it was his bedroom and his porch. He was a teenager when he lived here, 1913 when the house was finished until January 1918, and I’ll bet he slept out there when the weather was right in those days before the house was heated and cooled, I would have. In fact, I promised Kristen we’d sleep out there sometime but we never got around to it. For the moment it’s my porch, but nothing is forever, is it, especially the happiness of having a child around to keep you smiling. Alfred and I shared birthday months, he turned eighteen in September 1917, and I outlived him by exactly sixty years last month.  

The backporch thermometer says 60F. That piece of a moon is in the haze right over my house, but judging by what was going on in Kiev last night and the smouldering rubble this morning, I’m guessing it’s still not in the Seventh House. 

Imagine having been able to watch chaos, rioting and the fires of Kiev on live streaming Ukraine TV during the Soviet era. How did I get so lucky as to be born an American. And to live in this in-between closing age of diminishing freedom before out of control government regulations and big brother surveillance completely shut us down Soviet style afterall.  
How’s the Blogger? He thinks he fine, but he’s just the writer, only the reader can tell. He’s going off paranoid about the government like every other buzzy old codger who ever lived.

In the meantime, 11:30 today, Wednesday Noon Eucharist and free tasty lunch with Bible study. What? Still in the Sermon on the Mount according to Matthew.

TW 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Goodness Snakes Alive

Monday online, CNN reported the death from snakebite of a Kentucky snake-handling preacher. These folks, whom we may visualize as mad, wild-eyed fringe, get their motivating Scripture from Mark 16:17-18, "... signs shall accompany those believing these things; in my name demons they shall cast out; with new tongues they shall speak; serpents they shall take up; and if any deadly thing they may drink, it shall not hurt them; on the ailing they shall lay hands, and they shall be well." (YLT). 


These folks are not wildeyed fringe, they are a species of Bible literalists. But attributed as postresurrection appearance, to reputable scholars the words of Mark 16:9f did not come from the lips of Jesus, nor does this ending of Mark have claim to being original to the evangelist’s work. It is part of a later, likely second-century, addition that is meant to be, among other things, a threat to those who are falling away from the church in decades when the expected Parousia did not materialize; and also reflects early readers’ failure to understand Mark’s evangelical genius in ending his gospel abruptly with 16:8. Material after Mark 16:8 is so spurious and scandalously unChristlike that it should in no wise be accepted as canonical and authoritative. 

Snake-handling Christians are building their faith on ignorance that sadly is beyond correcting, because on matters of religious certitude, minds are not open to reason or change. One wonders about these people, like mothers of teenagers who, when the teen says, "Well, I don't see why I can't; all my friends are doing it," mama says, "If all your friends were jumping off a cliff would you jump off a cliff too?" There is a verse where Jesus says, "Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you.'" (Mark 11:23, NRSV). Perhaps they should test their faith by first moving a mountain, and when the mountain falls into the sea, then go handle snakes. 

Or learn from the deaths of other snake-handlers the folly of taking things so literally. Afterall, Jesus was a master of metaphor. 

T+

Monday, February 17, 2014

Good morning, starshine


Melchior & the Ghostly Galleon

Very early and dark, cool 44F and falling, clear sky with no fog, a welcome change. Good morning, starshine, and the moon is a bright white disk on black, what? velvet? Maybe winter is over, woodchuck meteorology wrong again. Forget Phil, astrology rules: what could Gaspar, Balthasar, and Melchior tell us by gazing at the moon?  

Winter seems over this morning, not sufficiently yielded to springtime for me to gather a blanket, bundle up and start out on a screen porch with coffee and laptop, moongazing. I’m no New Ager, but one thing’s certain: the moon isn’t in the Seventh House, because love sure as aitch isn’t steering the stars. Warring greed is at the wheel, an insane crowd-controlling god of selfish immediacy is driving, and let me off at the next fork in the road. 

Special in my email this morning, Carl Hiaasen’s PCNH piece from last week, “Muddying the waters.” At church yesterday, some breakfasters went for the casseroles with green jalapeƱos, some steered clear. I like it spicy. CH likely flavored his essay too hot for some with a dig at Red states, but he’s right on. Florida joining other icons of stupidity by fighting a Chesapeake Bay cleanup project? AYFSM? Florida, where filth, selfishness and greed are decimating the oysters of Apalachicola Bay, fighting cleanup of the nation’s other oyster treasury? I would say I can’t believe this, but seeing is believing and I was thinking of the moon and a song, and this sure isn’t the Age of Aquarius. To a onetime sometime astronomer, astrology is as absurdly small-think as climb up on the mountain and wait for the end of the world eschatology, but the New Agers have it right about this being some age of bullheaded, warring, selfishness and greed. Is it Aries? Let me off.

The moon is a ghostly galleon, tossed upon cloudy seas. But it isn't in the Seventh House and this is not the Age of Aquarius.


When the moon is in the Seventh House
And Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars

This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius
Age of Aquarius
Aquarius! Aquarius!

Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions
Golden living dreams of visions
Mystic crystal revelation
And the mind's true liberation
Aquarius! Aquarius!

When the moon is in the Seventh House
And Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars

This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius
Age of Aquarius
Aquarius! Aquarius!

Let the sun shine, Let the sun shine in
The sun shine in
Let the sun shine, Let the sun shine in
The sun shine in
Let the sun shine, Let the sun shine in
The sun shine in
Let the sun shine, Let the sun shine in
The sun shine in
Let the sun shine, Let the sun shine in
The sun shine in
Let the sun shine, Let the sun shine in
The sun shine in
Let the sun shine, Let the sun shine in
The sun shine in
Let the sun shine, Let the sun shine in
The sun shine in
Let the sun shine, Let the sun shine in
The sun shine in
Let the sun shine, Let the sun shine in
The sun shine in
Let the sun shine, Let the sun shine in
The sun shine in

Good morning, starshine.

T

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Alphabet Soup in the Floral State

Everybody and his brother ...

... who was watching the Dunn trial instead of the Olympics has an opinion about the partial verdict reached by the jury last evening. More than a stupid alphabet moron was on trial. Our values. Who and what we are. Us. Our legislature. Those who elected them. Our state legal system. We aren’t coming out so well.

It is clear from this and other cases, especially that similar case, that our gun law meant to let us protect ourselves without turning tail and trying to escape is being abused. People who are not worth the price of the bullets they shoot are using the law to claim they felt threatened after they kill someone then wake up and realize how stupid they were. The cost of their stupidity -- or maybe not always stupidity, maybe cunning, because sometimes they are getting away with it -- is being the lives of cocky but innocent and unarmed people who refused to be bullied. Dunn actually thought he had the right. He’s a fool. Raca, as in this morning's gospel. Thanks to Dunn's and others’ stupidity, the law needs changing, because instead of a law being helpful as intended, we are reverting to the Old West, trigger-happy cowboys who didn’t get enough Gene Autry and John Wayne movies. It’s fine to have a gun. It’s usually pretty stupid to fire it. An angry cowboy has as much conscience as that other gun.

Going to logic, if an enraged Dunn in his cowboy hat is guilty of three accounts of Attempted Second Degree Murder, it is obvious that he succeeded in the first attempt of Second Degree Murder, and the jury on which none of us served and therefore shouldn’t so quickly second-guess should have brought in a conviction. As in that other similar case that is on everyone’s mind, the same overzealous prosecutor could have gotten a conviction if she had used her head instead of being a politically ambitious lawyer posing as a righteous social reformer. I couldn’t believe it last night when I heard her say that any defense attorney who thought she was over-charging could object. Where does stupid end? No defense attorney in his right mind would object when he has a better chance to get an acquittal on an over-zealously prosecuted over-charge. Once she gets her face on enough TV shows, she will be running for state Attorney General. If elected, she will be running for Governor. God forbid. Where does stupid end? We'll see.

Both sides are in the soup. All of us.

Pardon my language. At least I said alphabet instead of forsythia.

TW  

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Just Saturday


Just Saturday

Articles about it all over, Greg Cote has a good piece in the Miami Herald this morning about the Wells bullying report. Cote is right, Turner should be fired, yesterday. Pouncey and Jerry should follow Incognito out the door and all of them should be suspended indefinitely by the league. 

And what about those who looked on? Quote from Cote: “It is the archaic locker room code of silence that let the Dolphins’ problem get to where it did. How many teammates saw and heard Incognito, Pouncey and Jerry repeatedly inflict themselves but did and said nothing? A code of conduct won’t remedy that as much as a hard look in the mirror might.” Greg Cote’s advice is good for life itself. Our commandments are love God and love neighbor, and when we do nothing while others are mistreated we seriously break our Baptismal Covenant. The best weapon against evil has always been and will always be the mirror. Word, and Glass not darkly.

4.1 earthquake between Columbia and Atlanta. 

Federal judge overturns Virginia gay marriage ban. Florida next? Ellen Page comes out as gay. I don’t blame her. If I were a woman I’d come out as gay too, has anyone ever noticed how repulsive men are? Especially as we age. Jiminy Christmas.

Anthony says, right on, “So, how many clergy in the CGC are beginning to dread seeing an email from the bishop these days?” Can’t doubt the bishop’s dread is worse than ours. A full moon of horrors, waiting for the next one. LHM, CHM, LHM.

No adult Sunday School tomorrow, the bishop will be with us for Confirmation and a visit, and at SS time we’re having breakfast. The usual delicious, including fruit, muffins, egg casseroles. Linda’s egg casserole is always so delicious that I’m thinking of pouring Tabasco Habanero hot sauce all over it so nobody eats it but me.

Funeral today, two o’clock in the afternoon at St. Thomas by the Sea, Laguna Beach. Be present, Lord.

TW

Friday, February 14, 2014

Unpreached

Epiphany 5 - Feb 9, 2014 unpreached

Text: Matthew 5:13-20. You are the salt of the earth


Just a few weeks away is our “giving up for Lent” custom. Some of us, at least speaking for myself, have such a habit for Epiphany also. My habit for long years has been to look for an epiphany in every Sunday's lectionary readings. And my Epiphany Season hymn of choice is "Open my eyes that I may see" * and 

for years my Epiphany prayer has been open my eyes to see God’s hand at work in the world about me, keeping eyes and ears open for the joyful or obnoxious presence of God in light shining down from “heaven” to speak to me in some way, ready or not. With self-conscious hesitation, I’ve shared my eccentric, quirky "call story" with you before, and will not repeat the details today nor again anytime soon, that in a time of personal and emotional crisis, the year after I was first ordained and most unhappy in my first church assignment, I tried all kinds of things to give God a chance to speak to me, and of course as many of you know, God did speak to me and here I am. But in that time of uncomprehending unhappiness I was doing dumb stuff --
  • closing my eyes and opening my Bible and putting my finger on a verse to let God speak, it never worked. 
  • turning on my car radio and listening to see if God would speak to me in the words of a song or a radio announcer -- 
but God was too subtle for that. It turned out that my very unhappiness was itself the word of the Lord, God speaking, the voice and presence of God forcing me out of my “comfort zone” into a different direction for my life. If not a detailed plan, God at least surely had hopes and dreams for me. My dissatisfaction and anger, my unhappiness, my puzzlement about what was going on in my life was itself the voice and word and presence of God. I tell you these things this morning, not to titillate you about my life, but to stir in you the epiphany -- that God may be chasing you as capriciously as God tormented me and Job. And why would God be capricious about it? Because otherwise I would not listen, just as you will not listen.

I witness to you this morning that God has been, and is, real and alive, present and active in my life.  

I also know, and can and do confess, that life can have long experiences of the silence of God, the absence of God. Times of nothingness in response to prayer, times of near despair when I have wondered whether I had been mistaken, illusioned about God those other times. I have found, with Moses and the prophets, that God has God’s own agenda, and God’s unhurried schedule and timeframe and matrix for life and creation -- and that none of it depends on me; but that I am welcome to participate in God’s plan of salvation and God’s loving purpose in the world. “Open our eyes to see your hand at work in the world about us” says one of our Eucharistic Prayers, a wonderful prayer for Epiphany, and that prayer for me is a gateway into the life that in faith I believe is God’s love for me.

Unlike many Christians, I do not believe that God has a plan for my life, but I do believe that God has had, and still does have, hopes and dreams for my life, including life in God’s service; and that my Free Will ever since Adam chose disobedience in the Garden, is to choose to participate in God’s work in God’s creation, among God’s creatures. 

Or I can choose to be selfish.   

I believe too, with the challenge of this morning’s Gospel, that I -- you, we -- we are called to be God’s salt and light in the world, that those around us may see and enjoy the love of God because of us. And we are salt and light. In this parish alone the outreach ministries are astonishing for the relatively small size of our congregation -- 
  • Our support of Holy Nativity School and encouragement of Holy Nativity students to be active ministers for Christ, 
  • a Backpack Ministry that feeds nearly a hundred poor and hungry children every weekend, 
  • our folks who prepare, cook and serve Supper at Grace to families and individuals, some of them who live out in the woods, who otherwise would not have a hot meal this week,
  • a Food Bank that helps supply groceries to rescue missions and other charities and works of God in our community -- 
and not only powerful outreach ministries, but right here within our parish we are bright and salty, with fun and enjoyable ministries for members of our congregation -- a new one being Wednesdays at Holy Nativity, 
  • quick noontime Communion followed with Bible study and a delicious free lunch, an hour and fifteen minutes of fun the middle of every week.
  • And then our super event of the week on Wednesday evenings, with incredible music, and everybody hashing over the Sunday Gospel for a few minutes, then the children gather round the Altar with the priest for an enthusiastic if not raucous and rowdy celebration of Holy Communion -- then everybody comes into Battin Hall for delicious supper. If you haven’t come yet I’m sorry, because you’re missing what is for me coming to be our main and most fun parish event of the week. Spicy Wednesday, salt and light into the night.
I started out saying that Epiphany Season is my time to look around for God’s hand at work in the world about me. It’s not too late, you can open your eyes too: God is alive and well in my life, and I promise you, for all that God is to me, God wants to be even more for you. And wants you to be more and more and more, salt and light in the lives of others.

The Gospel of the Lord. 

* 1. Open my eyes, that I may see 
glimpses of truth thou hast for me; 
place in my hands the wonderful key 
that shall unclasp and set me free. 
Silently now I wait for thee, 
ready, my God, thy will to see. 
Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine! 

2. Open my ears, that I may hear 
voices of truth thou sendest clear; 
and while the wavenotes fall on my ear, 
everything false will disappear. 
Silently now I wait for thee, 
ready, my God, thy will to see. 
Open my ears, illumine me, Spirit divine! 

3. Open my mouth, and let me bear 
gladly the warm truth everywhere; 
open my heart and let me prepare 
love with thy children thus to share. 
Silently now I wait for thee, 
ready, my God, thy will to see. 
Open my heart, illumine me, Spirit divine! 

Clara Scott, 19th century Christian