Tuesday, March 31, 2015


All Of It 

Delightful out, 64F at the moment, slightest movement of air up here on the seventh floor, not enough to call a breeze, but not deathly still either. 32401 Weather site says “clear” but 96% humidity and there's a haze that I can’t call fog yet, on the otherwise clear Bay. Haze now fog later maybe, but it’s my jewel box of rubies, emeralds, and a few diamonds, sparkling on black velvet. I thought a searchlight was playing on the channel to the west of me, and expecting a ship watched a minute until nothing came round the corner of this tall building, so not. 

This may only be a perfect spring morning for a native Floridian. If there were a bell ringing on a harbor buoy, I’d be thinking of Newport again. The mind goes there often; I never know whether it’s the harbor, the lobsters and clams, the ferry, or the memories. We had two Navy tours of duty in Newport, RI and they were the best. In fact, I was so taken with Newport when I was there for OCS and subsequent TDY in 1957 and early 1958, that on my preference for duty card I requested a destroyer homeported in Newport. My detailer assigned me a Norfolk destroyer. He got the “N” right, seven letters, and one “O”  but okay, that sea duty turned out so well that on my first ship I transferred from USNR to Regular Navy, got an impossible below zone promotion to 0-3 out of it, a tour in Florida, my choice of Harvard, Stanford, or Michigan MBA, and eventually another assignment to Newport for the Naval War College.

Would I do it all again? Probably not, I’d give up early and go on to seminary; but then I wouldn’t have lived in Washington, DC and Pennsylvania, and would have gone to an Episcopal seminary instead of Gettysburg Lutheran. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world is the way the song goes, ὁ ἀναγινώσκων νοείτω. So yes, I’d do it again. All of it. 

At this hour on my Bay the mind doesn’t wander, it drifts. 

There’s that green light. If there were a land like Narnia, I could go there for a lifetime of years like the Pevensies did, and then be back here in my chair before typing the plus on my T. 

Got to go, my lasix is ringing.


Monday, March 30, 2015

March Monday

Another wonderful weekend, with Tass and family here. Why does a house full of noisy girls make PapaDad so happy, I must be nuts. But no, I am nuts, about them. The downer hits as they start packing up after Sunday lunch, takes its nosedive as they drive off, stirring memories of leaving Tassa at college so far away. That leaving turned upside down.

If there’s an up side, it’s Jeremy leaving tea in the brown betty, best tea imaginable, hot or cold. Hot with a touch of milk. Cold just ice, never sugar. A large glass last evening with a bowl of cold green peas and lima beans, teaspoon of mayo stirred in, supper outside on the porch looking out over my Bay. Clear and cold, light corduroy jacket. By then the armada of Sunday afternoon sailboats retired. 

Now Monday in Holy Week, those lights way out on the dark Bay must be a shrimpboat. Yesterday in Sunday School we discussed the Christ Hymn in Philippians 2, our Second Reading for Palm Sunday, Year B. The hymn's been misunderstood and misused by the Xn Church all these centuries, as a high christology assertion of the divinity of Jesus. It’s only such if taken out of context. 

With six other letters, Philippians is uncontested as a genuine letter of Paul, but scholars aren’t sure whether Paul wrote the hymn at 2:5-11, or maybe borrowed it to make his point in the context calling the Philippians to be humble as Christ was humble. That’s what the verses are about, part of his call to humility, that’s all; but theologically the Church has made it more and other. If Paul wrote the hymn, the christology is not meant to be high, because Paul was a thoroughgoing monotheist Jew for whom the notion of a divine human being would not surprise the Greek world around him but would blaspheme the God of the Shema. Even if Paul did not compose the hymn the christology is still not meant to be high, because Philippians was written maybe about 50 CE, perhaps half a century before the Holy Spirit had inspired Xn theology to that christological height asserted in the Gospel according to John, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” So I would say that anyone who insists the hymn is meant to assert the divinity of Christ must consider it a later addition to Philippians, and I’ve never read a scholar who suggested that; it's too perfect in the letter, beautifies and perfects the entire epistle. 

Theologically, some scholars say the hymn reflects Christian adoption of the Suffering Servant of Isaiah; some say it contrasts Christ the Second Adam (as Paul writes) with the First Adam of Genesis. Maybe both.

At any event, the hymn as Paul uses it was not meant to assert the divinity of Christ. Mind, anyone lurking to bring heresy charges against me, I am not teaching that Christ is/was not divine, the Nicene Fathers settled that for the Xn Church some seventeen hundred years ago; I am saying that Paul did not teach it. At least, not here in Philippians.

Of his letter to Philippians however, scholars do show persuasively that the letter as we have it is not a unity but three -- a thank you note for a kind, helpful and much appreciated gift of money brought by Epaphroditus; a warm letter from prison (perhaps in Rome but not sure), that includes not only the Christ Hymn but Paul's call to rejoice in Christ; and a sharp tirade warning against those who teach that Gentiles coming to Christ must first be circumcised into Judaism.

Monday, a walking day. Come August, I may look back appreciatively on this extra cool spring that we are having. 

Kona and a stuffed egg.


Sunday, March 29, 2015

in a Plane

With all that Life Is Good (and I do affirm that life is good and still good, and good nevertheless and notwithstanding, and anyway), one who has lived into life and through life and knows (as my dog or cat does not know) that this is it and it’s about over and done, might wish that life could have been lived in a day and age and planet, galaxy, universe of beings brained for goodwill and lovingkindness. That is to say, instead of having lived with, among and as creatures, animals, things, godlike humans whose basic drive is reptilian -- are we created in God’s image, or is our god imagined in our image -- would have lived in a Plane without hatred, Newtown, racism, Holocaust, greed, My Lai, selfishness, Shock & Awe; thinness of spirit, substance and being; ISIS, certainty. Mainly certainty. A world with mentality so dark as to slam an airliner filled with happy schoolchildren into a mountain leaving parents and the world bereft, but a world still not ashamed, because in the ages of man, we have learned nothing but to grapple for our rights.

That where is imagined, I reckon, in our dreams, in the passages from Isaiah and Revelation that Christians read to each other, and like to hear, at funerals and feel temporarily soothed and assured. Except that I don’t mind the physical pain and death, and the three score years and ten of Psalm 90. It’s the disappointment, isn't it; it's the sadness, the cosmic pain of what we do to each other, the realization of what we could have been and done.

Maybe next Time. There.

Beyond the Eastern Sea with Reepicheep.

After The Last Battle.

TW +Time   

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Tom 'n Jay

How do I come across these things, it happens as I search for -- not answers, there are no answers only findings, opinions, views, conclusions of scholars who devote their lives and earn their livelihood from exploration and sharing and publishing, and publishing mandatory new editions with colored pictures replacing black and white graphs -- as I search, sometimes feverishly lest +Time run out before I know everything, to find out whatever is to be found and contemplated. Maybe the joy of the search is an answer to the nonplussingly obtuse question “What difference does it make?” 

Yesterday in searching for sumpmnother about Anthony Bloom I found The Satirist with Dan Geddes’ review of The Book of J by Harold Bloom. Actually, it’s Harold Bloom working over J translated by David Rosenberg; it looks to me like David did the work and Harold the thinking. What they did was browse the Pentateuch, cull out everything by the J writer, which Rosenberg then translated from Hebrew into English. The result, with J freed from E, P, D and the Redactor, is a fellow who comes across as mischievous, self-contradictory, somewhat irrational and self-defeating, obstructionist, Geddes uses the word impish. I might add machiavellian, self-centered and arrogant, confounding, capricious, sometimes inhuman and rather maliciously seems to enjoy it. But as Mr. Beaver said, "Safe?! Who said anything about safe? Course he's not safe. But he's good." Geddes writes such an intriguing review that I ended up doing two things. I subscribed to The Satirist free online (if I don’t like it or if Geddes overwhelms me I’ll cancel) and I ordered a penny copy of The Book of J, hard-cover, very good condition, via Amazon. 

What the hell am I doing ordering a book? Leaving Apalachicola seventeen years ago, I orphaned more than half of my personal library of beloved books, not easy for one to whom each book is like a child; and just now moving from eighteen rooms to three I parted with 95 percent of the rest, there’s no room here for a new book. No, there is room in my mind, and when I’m not reading it I’ll keep it here by my chair under my coffee cup. When I’m done I’ll take it to the office or to the church library.
 My Tuesday morning Bible Seminar folks seem as curious as I am, and this Fall 2015, God and +Time willing, I may want to start again with Genesis if I can find my copy of Understanding Genesis (Sarna), which along with Christine Hayes’ lecture transcript is my best reference for it, and use Bloom also as a new POV on Jay.

An example of J’s complex nature is He pats out a mudpie and breathes life into it to create Ish, a mud doll, an earthling; cultivates Ish as a walking buddy; fixes up a lovely garden for Ish to tend, farm and feed himself; has him live in a world with talking animals like Narnia; plants a tree with luscious fruit right in the middle but tells Ish not dare even touch it, then when Ish is tempted and tastes it anyway goes into a rage and punishes Ish all out of proportion to his sin. He thwarts not only Ish, but Himself. That’s Jay alright. 

Even my middle-school seventh graders “got it” eight or ten years ago when we were studying Genesis, when they asked, “If He didn’t want Adam to eat the apple, why did He plant the tree in the middle of the garden in the first place?” The only correct answer is “Exactly!” Yep, that's Jay.

And the difference it makes is the search and discovery v. being content with knowing not and knowing I know not, which as the 1940s radio song said, "It pays to be ignorant."

Hey, BTW, ich heiße Tom, not to be presumptive and I should have asked earlier, but may I call you Jay? I have another buddy named Jay who is equally puzzling, maybe it’s the Name. Like me, he’s obsessed with the flashing green light across the Bay. Like you, he too is somewhat of an enigma.


Friday, March 27, 2015


It has degenerated to a diary, hasn’t it, a daily rehearsal of personal nonsense, tripe and trivia that no longer lights even my own fire. Time to give it up, but gradual or bam? It's a habit addictive as the morning cigarette I never smoked. 

Sitting here on my balcony gazing left, east, the eye tripped first by Mabel’s brick house (nineties, Mabel has been relocated to Tallahassee against her will and fuming), then by Landmark (sticking farther out into the Bay than private property should be permitted), then bounced to the clouds by the city skyline. Friday is dawning, no red in the east, no orange or yellow either, but some thin clouds are white because the sun is shining on them. Cool and pleasant out here, out here and up here, promise of a sublime spring day. 

Tuesday I missed Cardio Chuck, and again this morning because today I must think and do, whereas I come home from Chuck’s sweaty, enervated and collapsing for a nap of untold hours. There was an age when rigorous exercise was energizing, no more. Even the Monday and Wednesday walks are tiring, only the company, conversation and shared memories inspiring.

Okay, I’m a fool for Signs, you know so much, you are so wise, you translate it, what does this sign mean: inexplicably, my picture of a 1916 Hudson touring car 
has popped up on the screen. 

And suddenly, dawn.

I love this place and time.


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Crumples and Dies

Crumples and Dies: Eschaton, the End of the Age

“Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away. But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.” (Mark 13:31-33 KJV)

Probably no immediate cause for alarm, but startling to read what evidently is the far end of Time, which isn’t going to last forever as blithely we thought. And apparently the Father isn’t the only one who knows when after all: scientist have a yardstick on Time, the stable earth, the deep salt sea.

Tucked away in Delanceyplace this morning, an extract from The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science (Natalie Angier 2007), discussing yoctoseconds and zeptoseconds. “By contrast, our seemingly indomitable Earth has completed a mere 5 times 10 to the 9th power orbits around the sun in its 5 billion years of existence, and is expected to tally up only maybe another 10 billion laps before the solar system crumples and dies. ... In a very real sense then our solar system is far less 'stable' than particles like the heavy quark.” 

I’ve wondered what this seaside stretch of St. Andrews, Florida from Frankford Avenue to Bayview Avenue was like two thousand years ago when those feet in ancient time were walking upon England’s mountain green. And I often wonder what it will be like in a hundred years, and a thousand and ten thousand: peace and goodwill, or will earth and sky be dark and hopeless as Cormac McCarthy graphically has it in The Road, unspeakable savagery and the sea gray and lifeless, even my Bay. Or green and lush, taken over by vines and growth, crumbled, disintegrated, swallowed up and gone as in that TV miniseries Life After People. After eons, unearthed by curious alien pilgrims from a far galaxy. 

But I see my house, in even better shape today than when first built over a century ago, still standing in 2115 and looking out across St. Andrew Bay, beyond Davis Point and Shell Island, to the sea. And remembering.

To Puddleglum and the children in the underworld on Aslan’s quest for Rilian, "That is old Father Time, who was once a King in Overland. Now he has sunk down into the Deep Realm and lies dreaming of all the things that are done in the upper world. Many sink down and few return to the sunlit lands. They say he will wake at the end of the world."

T +Time and counting

The Silver Chair, C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

opaque, translucent, transparent


A haven, the Episcopal Church is to me an interesting phenomenon among religious groups, characterized by the quip “you don’t have to check your brain at the door.” It’s a community where thinking is encouraged, not forbidden, even the Nicene Fathers are up for the turkey shoot. They are in fact my favorite target, but as the affirmation is “We believe” not “We know,” and restored from Credo to Πιστεύομεν I can hold them up and join in speaking for the church.

This is not a church where one can be muted, silenced, as I’ve seen done to prominent and brilliant RC theologians who didn’t toe the line, some of whose books I have and have read.

Good walk this morning, not our longest, but 57 minutes including two brief sitdowns. With the new construction, the courthouse will soon be out of sight from 4th Street Bridge. But then, if memory hasn’t failed, when I was a boy the county jail was there, so it isn’t as though we’ve always had a pristine view of the courthouse. What I remember is, from our house the other end of Massalina Bayou near Hamilton Avenue, hearing the sirens go off at the county jail and the bloodhounds start barking and howling when there was a jail escape, and my mother running out into the yard to shoo us inside, then shutting and locking all doors and windows. That was before air conditioning, too. Seems to me the escapees were usually short on planning, and apprehended under the bridge.

Pause on the bench on Tarpon Dock Bridge, view of the Bay.

Heresy, the minority view, fighting over which many good men murdered each other in early days of the church -- WTH it wasn’t just the early days, Queen Mary burned at the stake English bishops including our hero Tom Cranmer who had helped her father Henry the Eighth I Am I Am and her half-brother Edward the Impotent escape from Rome -- indeed, the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church have split with judgment and bitter hatred in my own generation over sexuality issues deemed heretical by some -- is pretty much an archaic notion in American mainline Xnty these days. Although this morning I read a piece in Christianity Today by an outsider-looking-in slamming our Presiding Bishop

“In her opening address to the Episcopal Church's recent General Convention, the Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, the church's presiding bishop, made a special point of denouncing what she labeled "the great Western heresy"—the teaching, in her words, "that we can be saved as individuals, that any of us alone can be in right relationship with God." This "individualist focus," she declared, "is a form of idolatry."”

So, okay, the Hebrew notion of salvation was not personal, an individual keeping the Law and being as sure for heaven as if you were already there a la modern evangelicalism that says accept Christ and when you die do not pass Go, go to heaven, go straight to heaven; but that in the end God would save his people Israel, and as in the soteriological cycle that’s manifested throughout the Book of Judges, perhaps before the end.

I did like this piece, lifted as I recall from RevRay’s FB page. It seems to contrast with our Constitution and Canons I.17.7 that says “No unbaptized person shall be eligible to receive Holy Communion in this Church” notwithstanding that the Celebrant has invited the people saying, “The gifts of God for the people of God.” Truthfully, we are not really as welcoming as we like to pretend where an unbaptized hungry person is not a person of God. Neither are we as welcoming to Sunday visitors and guests as we like to pretend, when guests are not greeted at the Peace nor engaged ad incorported at coffee hour.  

Anyway, I don’t remember who was credited with writing it, but this is spot on.

"Eucharist is presence encountering presence--mutuality, vulnerability. There is nothing to prove, to protect, or to sell. It feels so empty, naked, and harmless, that all you can do is be present. The Eucharist is telling us that God is the food and all we have to do is provide the hunger. Somehow we have to make sure that each day we are hungry, that there's room inside of us for another presence. If you are filled with your own opinions, ideas, righteousness, superiority, or sufficiency, you are a world unto yourself and there is no room for "another." Despite all our attempts to define who is worthy and who is not worthy to receive communion, our only ticket or prerequisite for coming to Eucharist is hunger. And most often sinners are hungrier than "saints."

+++   +++   +++

Browsing about heresy this morning looking for the name of Bishop James Pike, who was censured by the church a couple generations ago for his heretical views and writings (Pike would be mainstream Epsicolopian today), I came across an article by Beth Moore in her article, “When A Big God Escapes Us.” She’s recalling the church of her childhood. “All who filled the pews had secrets. Though my family’s could have qualified for daytime television, I know now that no one there was what he or she seemed.”

I certainly am not what I seem, not what you see, not what you think or hope I am. GOK and Kyrie eleison. But at least in TEC I can be translucent.

On the way home from our walk in the Cove and around Massalina Bayou, I stopped at the house for a cup of coffee on my beloved front porch, visited MLP for a few minutes, then donned my new gardening gloves and took joy in snatching potato vine out of the azaleas. About gone, but they were lovelier this year than ever in my memory.

Finally, what set me off on a blogpost venture into heresy and creeds about three o'clock this morning was the thought for the day in Anu Garg's a.word.a.day; but after my morning walk I neglected to return to it as my base. A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it. -Flannery O'Connor, writer (25 Mar 1925-1964). Creeds, theology, doctrine and dogma notwithstanding, it calls to mind my own vernacular slogan, "Just because you believe it, that don't make it so."


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Anonymous and Not Proud

Nobody, myself included, gives a hoot, gosh-darn or worse about the social political inclinations of some fool preacher; and as my call and mission supposedly are not stirring up hate and discontent, but spreading peace, tranquillity, and blessed assurance, I try to keep my mouth shut. Biting my tongue doesn’t always work, sometimes I have to excuse myself and pretend I need to go to the men’s room. My early morning rule is Type First Read Later Think Never, but it doesn’t always work: my mistake today was checking email for replies from members of our Tuesday morning Bible Seminar, and scrolling down Gmail getting caught by NYT Today’s Headlines and CSM Daily Newsletter.  

Life or death for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Of Boston residents, 62% favor life in prison, 27% death. All my life I have struggled that my convictions about capital punishment come out of my Southern heritage rather than my church’s position on capital punishment. When captured a couple days after the atrocity, the boy looked like a confused teenager. Now I’m back to my terrible deadly damnation of anyone who hurts or kills a child. In relief and reality, as a priest I’d never be kept on jury for a capital crime anyway, for which I’m thankful. 

Iran’s hard-liners show restraint on nuclear talks with U.S. because the supreme leader wants to find a negotiated solution. Peace with compromise, even peace for a time, will let many Iranian children grow to adults. Iran was once America’s friend, and will be again in time. Germany, Japan, Vietnam. More Buicks are made and sold in China than in the USA. Iran is fighting ISIS. Congress, stop kissing up to Netanyahu. WH, stop pouting about him.

Afghan militia leaders, empowered by USA to fight Taliban, inspire fear in villages. Problem without solution. Americans as a mindset think there’s a solution to every problem: there isn’t. No matter what we do, it will be wrong. Further, why save a nation whose mentality is self-righteously to beat a young woman to death because of a rumor she trashed a book. There are places in the world where their justice is more evil than any conceivable crime.

Seven children killed in a Brooklyn fire reportedly caused by leaving a hotplate burning all night and day so as to keep Sabbath by not building a fire from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset. One wonders what deity is pleased by criminal stupidity. Religious extremism abides. 

Politicians starting to declare as candidates for the 2016 presidential race. Oh God. Here we go again. Eleison. I still say my solution is best and will solve much. A constitutional amendment for senate, house and white house. One term and go home scot free with a full pardon. Two terms and then to the wall.

My problem is that, in this new bedroom sleeping on the other side of the bed than I did the last 57 years, I now get up on the wrong side every morning. 


Monday, March 23, 2015

20150322, Fifth Sunday in Lent: Hallelujah, my Father! Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Amen!

Hallelujah, my Father
For giving us Your Son
Sending Him into the world
To be given up for all
Knowing we would bruise Him
And smite Him from the earth
Hallelujah, my Father
In His death is my birth
Hallelujah, my Father
In His life is my life

My theme-song for today, this praise song we have sung here so many times over the years, is rolling through my mind this Sunday of the Cross as Jesus tells us in John’s gospel, by what death he will die. But the song is personal for me, as I pray that you bear with me through my story. +++

A hundred years ago there were no trees on the beach down front, only white Florida sand. That was still true half a century later, fifty-odd years ago, in a picture I found of my little son and my father playing on the beach together down in front of our family home. It would have been summer 1963, just before the Navy moved us to Japan. Because my house by the sea is for sale, we’ve taken most everything out, so I no longer have a table and chair on the upstairs front screen porch, and I miss that view, and that spot. I miss sitting there musing, thinking and being grateful -- for life and death, for the lives and love that circle round me.

But I’m sitting on the downstairs front porch now, looking across beyond Davis Point to Shell Island and the scene my family would have loved when they lived here a hundred years ago after building this house. My father’s brother, my uncle Alfred was written up on the front page of the local newspaper, St. Andrews Bay News St. Andrews, Florida, June 22, 1916.

“Delightful Gulf Party” the article reports. “Monday evening a party of young people with large baskets well filled boarded a launch and sped across the bay to the Gulf where several hours were spent very pleasantly bathing, emptying those baskets and enjoying themselves only as young people can.

“Those constituting the party were --” and it names, besides the chaperone so obligatory in that day and age, ten girls and nine boys including Alfred Weller, my father’s older brother, my uncle Alfred.

“They returned to St. Andrews,” says the article, “in the wee small hours of the night, feeling that time had passed only too soon.”

My father missed it, he was only four years old at the time, four nearly five! But Alfred was sixteen when that front page party happened. I’ll bet he was in love with one of those cute girls. I certainly was in love with a cute girl when I was sixteen! 

+++   +++   +++
The sea seems eternal, doesn’t it, nothing changing, the same waves washing up, lapping ashore on my beach now as then.

My grandparents and their son Alfred and two daughters, Evalyn and Ruth, had moved here to St. Andrews from Pensacola in 1908 or 1909. My grandfather owned Bay Fisheries, located where Landmark Condominiums is today, at Beach Drive and Frankford Avenue. Bay Fisheries was part of the fishing industry that was St. Andrews before Panama City even existed. Bay Fisheries with half a dozen or so 70-foot twin-masted schooners called “fishing smacks” that brought in enormous catches of red snapper and grouper from far out in the Gulf of Mexico.

Some of you know the story, my story, the center of my gospel testimony this morning. One of the schooners, Annie & Jennie was caught in a storm in the Gulf, her rudder was damaged and she had to be taken to Carrabelle for repairs. Imagine having to take anything to Carrabelle for anything, have you been to Carrabelle? I have, many times, it’s the end of the earth. But the world was very different then.

About two o’clock the bitter cold morning of Monday, January 7, 1918, the fishing schooner Annie & Jennie sailed for Carrabelle with Captain Caton and his crew of five including my uncle Alfred, aboard as the owner’s son, because he wanted to go and my grandfather over-ruled my grandmother and let him. A worrier, my grandmother asked Alfred to go to Carrabelle by train the next day: but teenage boys are immortal and all parents’ fears and worries are silly nonsense. A teenager knows everything and Alfred scoffed and laughed. Mothers are supposed to worry about sons growing up into the world. If you are a mother, or a son, you know that.

So, the Annie & Jennie left the wharf in St. Andrews after midnight, I suppose to catch the tide, I don’t know, my father never told me why the dark night hour of sailing. I do know, because my grandmother told me the story many times, that the night was bitter cold.

1918 was before the Pass was cut across the peninsula, creating Shell Island; so, boats went between the Bay and the Gulf by what we call the “Old Pass,” it’s closed now. Rounding Davis Point and heading out the Pass that night, at least one of the channel navigation lights was not operating, making for dead reckoning, risky navigation at night. In the Pass the vessel hit a heavy squall, a storm creating high waves and huge breakers. An account of it is on the front page of the January 8, 1918 St. Andrews Bay News, available online. In the Pass, before entering the Gulf, the schooner was lifted high by a wave and smashed down on a sandbar, breaking her keel, and causing her to start breaking up. Within a few minutes she was gone. Of six men aboard, two men survived; in the heavy seas, everyone else was swept away and drowned, including my uncle Alfred.

When the news got back to St. Andrews the next day, my grandparents were crushed. Devastated beyond anything I could say to you. It was written up as the worst tragedy in the history of St. Andrews. 1918, Alfred was eighteen; my father six and a half years old. +

Five years later, 1923, the desolation, my grandparents’ grief, and my grandfather’s guilt, had not even begun to heal. They sold the house, Mom & Pop’s house, Alfred’s house, my house, packed up and moved to Georgia to get far away from the sea. 

+++   +++   +++
But there’s something about the sea that draws a man and you cannot escape. The family stayed a few years in Georgia, then moved to Central Florida; then eventually to Valparaiso and then to Pensacola where this journey of life and death had begun. And there in Pensacola, my father and mother met as neighbors in East Hill, and as students at Pensacola High School, and fell in love -- before my grandparents finally moved back to St. Andrews to stay.

My mother and father married June 11, 1934 and fifteen months later I was born. +++

This is the Sunday of the Cross. We got a hint in today’s Gospel of how Jesus is going to die for us. We’ll hear the story in its horrifying entirety next week, Palm Sunday, and again on Good Friday, and I hope you will be here; but today Jesus tells how he’s going to die for us, that we might live. 

This is the Episcopal Church: we preach Christ crucified because Jesus gave his life a ransom for many. Because he died, you have your birth, and life, and eternal salvation. Jesus died that you might live. That I might live. In his death is my birth. As an EfM mentor and student off and on for the past nearly thirty years, I have learned and done Theological Reflection and learned to reflect theologically on the events of my own life. Theological Reflection lays on me a humbling gospel, not easy to grasp until I reflect on how personal it is: I have my life solely because another man died; in his death is my birth. If Alfred had not died that night, I would never have been born. My life is born in death and tears, because of love.

The story I tell you this morning, is not to make you sad or tear up and weep. My story helps me realize and deeply understand the gospel of Jesus Christ, that I owe my birth to the death of another. Don’t get me wrong: I do not accept the shibboleth that “everything happens for a reason,” I do not believe that. I do believe that God can and does bring victory and glory and a blessing out of life’s worst nightmare, even death.

I tell my story this morning so that you can look into your own life: someone died for you.

My uncle Alfred never knew me that night he died. God did not cause that storm and the Annie & Jennie shipwreck so that I might be born. 

Jesus on the Cross suffered terribly at the hands of men. Jesus never knew you as he died on Calvary. But if the gospel is true, and my testimony this morning is that the gospel is true -- then you are here today, you were born, you have your life and eternal salvation, because He died. It’s that simple. 

It’s that simple.

Hallelujah, my Father, for giving us your Son. In his death is my birth. Alleluia! Alleluia. 



Happy In My Black Heaven

Cool and light breeze out here on the porch this morning, and one never knows what to expect, does one. Yesterday it was a large ship arriving silently in the wee hours. Last evening, in spite of my two hour high priestly Sunday afternoon nap, I dozed off after a TV special ended, and Linda watched another large ship departing from the Port -- to add intrigue I’ll say “slipping away to sea under cover of darkness.” We love the ocean traffic coming and going in the daytime, but until yesterday did not realize there’s so much traffic at night as well. Seventh floor is a marvelous vantage point.

Yet I haven’t checked the weather, because once I go online world and national news will start jumping out at me, like Tolkien’s giant spider all bad, and I’m not ready for Monday to be spoiled.

A good vantage point, as I say. To my left from the balcony I look down on Oaks by the Bay Park here in St. Andrews. Generally, the only voices we can hear in this most private area of Harbour Village are people on the park decks, especially children, and the occasional wedding on the beach right below us. There was a wedding Sunday afternoon and they were taking flash pictures until well after dark. Right now though I see flashlight beams playing in the park, including shining up into trees, can’t tell what that’s about at three o’clock in the morning, and no voices can be heard.  The only sound is waves lapping ashore.

If it weren’t for the news then, I’d be pretty sure this is heaven. I’m up high looking down and out and over My Town, no four-square Jerusalem can equal this. Love life while I have it, whatever comes next is assurance, an elusive promise. I can see My Town without being distressed by whatever’s going on down there. Off to the west, that string of high-rise condo lights that I’ve seen before, and still this predawn, a diamond bracelet lying on the Gulf of Mexico. Couple miles away over the black velvet of St. Andrews Bay, that flashing green light speaking to me, calling me as surely as the green light on the end of Daisy’s dock calling Jay Gatsby. Though one of the best, that was fiction, but this is real. 

The flashlight beams are gone.


Postscript this morning, minding my promise to a dear friend to post my sermon texts here, yesterday’s will go up later this morning. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Dear Diary

This nonsense is not journaling, a creditable undertaking sometimes to seek God or to be found by. Although thinking and writing helps keep me sane, when my weblog posts sink to the level of Dear Diary, I’ll see it’s time to quit. Now, for example. About 1:40, wakened, thankfully, from an anxiety dream by Linda rubbing my chest because I was shouting. An absurd dream, dark of night, encountering trespassers in the garage when I went for my car. I remember the color of their clothes, and they were as frightened as I as I picked up a large piece of wood and moved toward them, shouting. The underground garage beneath the house of a friend I’d been visiting. One of you had been with me, headed for your own car elsewhere in the garage. I don’t recall the garage from before, but the house itself has been in my dreams several times of late. An enormous house with a large section that is unused, vacant and unfurnished, ignored. The residents never go there.

So far as I discern, it has nothing to do with my house, but why a new anxiety dream? My other two standard anxiety dreams are about, called up in the Navy, reporting aboard a large warship, summoned over the 1MC to the admiral’s cabin, can’t find my proper uniform, can’t remember what rank I am, don't know if I'm now a chaplain or what, getting lost trying to make my way around the ship, and the sailors I meet in the passageways just stare at me and move on. 

In the other dream I am supply priest at a church, usually a parish I served in the past but they’ve totally changed around, can’t find my vestments or my sermon notes as I hear the congregation singing the opening hymn, searching for a vestment to borrow, can’t find the back door into the pulpit as they finish singing the sermon hymn.

This is a new anxiety dream, empty rooms in a vast unexplored area of a house with a section that is almost like a cave, perfectly accessible, cavernous, empty room after empty room, some only partly finished, where no one ever goes. 

Got up to honor Father Nature, saw lights moving outside on the Bay, went out to watch a very large ship moving past my balcony, the lights of two tugs waiting for her just around the turn in the channel to my right. My copy of the vessel schedule says, if I have the right ship for 22 March, her last port was Panama, her next port Liverpool. Time, 1:48 AM. Back to bed, but couldn’t fall asleep. Nine to two, five hours.

Coffee now, splash of half and half for a change. Why the nightmare, supper was pleasantly sixteen raw almonds because an article in my monthly heart health magazine says it’s a snack recently shown to take off stomach fat, a one-ounce bit of lambpatty folded into a slice of 40 calorie whole wheat bread, glass of cabernet.

After dark last evening someone set off a noisy and brilliant fireworks display across the Bay, perhaps at Bay Point, couldn’t tell for sure. Or it could have been beyond the point at St. Andrews State Park. It was not from the twin-masted schooner, still anchored and waiting.


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Not Yet

This morning, Saturday, I thought to write other than musing about St. Andrews that won’t release its grip on me. But anchored across the way, across the Bay to my right beyond the red buoy that’s where the channel turns, lies a twin-masted schooner, black hull. For a moment the thought occurred, “Annie & Jennie, come for me.” But Linda sees it too, so I know that’s not yet the case.

Not a good shot, I can see it but you cannot. Photo ops are so spectacular up here that I may have to take photography seriously for the first time, or at least get a cheap camera with photo lens, the iPhone doesn't do it.

St. Andrew Bay takes my breath away regardless of the day around it. 

Here comes a shrimp boat now, returning, across my seascape.

And this, an hour later ->

W in +Time and hoping it lasts a bit longer

Friday, March 20, 2015

not Pax

not Pax

It would be a worthless, boring life that had naught to do but comment on the fog, but here it sits again after a few days’ absence, whitening my view. I can see as far as the shoreline seven floors below and no farther.

Ships in such fog proceed less cautiously now with radar, but there are the bells and horns and whistles. The ordinance my grandfather signed as mayor of St. Andrews, Florida a century ago in the early age of the automobile, brought mariner life ashore with its requirement that automobiles in town have a horn, bell or whistle to warn others of their presence. 

My life is neither worthless nor a bore: yesterday I disassembled the antique ceiling lamp in the front bathroom of my house, replaced a socket that had stopped working, and put the whole thing back together, turned it on, and it worked properly. If I do say so myself, rather an accomplishment for one who knows self as a stumbling bumbler. And without getting shocked too or causing a blackout throughout St. Andrews. 

The fog is thicker just in my two minutes sitting here, now the shoreline below is barely visible. It will clear, though, and I will be able to get on with Friday of a week that’s turning out more frantic than Holy Week. My first moment for the pause that refreshes will be Monday, when we have no staff meeting at church. No, it will be the Sunday afternoon nap.

As well as Sunday preparations, tasks today include using the weed trimmer on the narrow strip right down at the edge of the Bay seaward of MLP, where tall things are sprouting. Must cut them young and tender before they get woody. The receiver inside the housing of a ceiling fan and light stopped receiving the remote signal last week. It’s not the remote, I proved the remote works fine by recoding it to another fan; no, it’s the totally inaccessible receiver, I expected better of Hunter. Matching fans in that room, must replace both then. No, “have both replaced” as I do not do fans. What was that ethnic joke I overheard in Australia nearly forty years ago, “What’s black and crispy and hangs from the ceiling?” An Irish electrician. I never tell jokes, but the thought of changing a ceiling fan and light ten feet up brings that one to mind. My answer is A retired priest trying to save a buck.

We had three “looker” families at the house one day this week, from three different real estate agencies, so maybe that’s promising. Or at least encouraging.

Friday: pox.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Oyster Stew & St. John Evangelist

Several posts on FB last evening after our final Lenten Wednesday service at Holy Nativity Episcopal Church. Each Wednesday evening has been different. Two were our regular Wednesday evening worship, and after supper a short program about something related to Lent. Two were special worship services, one a Taize’ service; last evening we celebrated Lenten Wednesday with the Great Litany and Holy Communion, all chanted traditionally and well-done, and the FB posts of Stacey singing The Lord’s Prayer (Malotte), OMG. One parish where I was rector, we started singing that version of the Lord's Prayer every Sunday, the congregation singing it. I don't remember which parish that was, but they loved it.

My part last evening was reading the gospel lesson, and at the last minute sitting there looking through the worship bulletin I remembered many services of High Mass when without exception the gospel was always chanted.  -- No, come to think of it, we had a service of Solemn one evening at Lutheran Theological Seminary, Gettysburg in the 1980s and the professor assigned the gospel had refused to chant it, which I thought was chicken -- . At any event, just before our service started last night, cloud of incense wafting through the building, I started humming a chant tone and decided WTH, why not, in thirty-something years I chanted many, many services of Choral Eucharist as celebrant, but never chanted the Gospel, go for it. So, did you see that doddering eighty-year-old priest making a fool of himself last night wobbling through a gospel chant? Wobbling, or warbling.

We have no Lenten Wednesday service etc next week because of spring break, but this has been, to my mind, our best Lent yet. With excellent and plentiful soups. Last evening including a superb chili, dark brown and most delicious chili in my memory; a crab soup that was beyond scrumptious, even had the traditional bottle of sherry there for a splash and someone accusing me of having crab soup with my sherry; and Linda’s world-famous oyster stew that she makes just that once a year with a gallon of oysters and a gallon of cream and a gallon of milk and secret ingredients that we’ll never reveal because they change every year and we can’t remember them. 

This year the Apalachicola oysters came from Louisiana because Apalachicola Bay has been harvested extinct by greed and folly and the need of many small-town folks with a boat and tongs to make a payment on their pickup truck. So anymore, rolling in from Louisiana and Texas, maybe Alabama too, large trucks with refrigerated vans arrive loaded with sacks of oysters, and unload at the oyster shucking houses. There, the shells are opened and the little creatures scooped out into containers marked Apalachicola, Florida. In fact, I’m having six of them grilled on toast this very morning, my all-time life-long favorite breakfast. Well, that or fried mullet.

Realtime videoing and posting bits of church services is a new thing, excellent. 

I neglected, probably wisely, to mention that I think Lazarus, not John, wrote that gospel and was the Beloved Disciple. Matter of fact, I'm certain.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015


Sometimes the mind sinks into drivel, in my case often is closer, a truer adverb. Rising at four a.m. stirs shame for having wasted an hour of life and I could have gone back to sleep easily, in fact am near dozing in the chair as I stare out into the blackness. What do I see? The red channel light off my starboard bow: maybe I’m headed home? 

In a row, several nights of seven hours sleep, and this morning waking not because of Fr. N, so wondering whether the dozen oysters I cooked for supper -- no frying, I pan steamed them with okra slime -- were more salty than I realized, causing this? Along with it, sluggishness. See what I mean? Bottom of the intellectual barrel.  

Wednesday is a walking day followed by breakfast: eggs over medium and dry wheat toast. Not unbuttered because it’s healthier; dry to better soak up any egg yolk, though a proper medium egg should have soft yolk not runny. Why don't I just eat at home, my eggs over medium are best and I cannot stand scrambled eggs cooked dry, but love them scrambled soft as Linda cooks them for me. Sometimes with cheese.

Something happened to the joy of fried eggs years ago when we started using a drop of olive oil instead of covering them in bacon fat. Something else happened October 2010 when I stopped bacon altogether. 

What rubbish this morning. Utter nonsense. My cranial accomplishments: two colons, a semicolon, make that three; and four question marks, which I use less often than I sleep until four o’clock. No exclamation points, which are signs of insanity; but the text itself is their vicar. 

On the down side, I used sometimes thrice.

Five-eleven o’clock and counting wrong. I'm blaming the solar storm.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Felix calls it parataxis*

And having laid down at eight o’clock to sleep, I wake soon after midnight feeling the summons of Father Nature, sharp. And deciding to ignore Him, return painfully to sleep. And scary visions. And wake again just before three a.m. And feeling His wrath worse than before, immediately rise to discuss the thing with Father Nature. And having picked up the eyeglasses and iPhone (of me) am deciding to stay up.

And immediately having conferred with Him, I turn on the coffee brewer. And waiting for it to flash “choose product ready for use” I slide open the glass door. And step out onto the balcony. And seeing across the Bay the beam of a searchlight, I move to the balcony rail for a close look. And two green lights, moving together, from east to west. And the sound of a diesel engine loud. And thinking if I had the camera of RevRay this would a great long exposure make, green streak in the blackness. And the white above. And the red and green channel marker lights. And immediately going inside, I get coffee. And return to the balcony. And sit down to watch as tug pushes barge round the channel curve and heads north for Hathaway Bridge out of the sight of me. 

+++   +++   +++

What I’m doing is reading Mark chapters 15 and 16, prepping for this morning’s Bible Seminar. I'm going back and forth between Mark’s NT Greek, and a Greek-English interlinear that shows the part of speech, case and tense and person of every single Greek word, and the DLNT, an intriguing new English translation, the Disciples’ Literal New Testament: Serving Modern Disciples by More Fully Reflecting the Writing Style of the Ancient Disciples. We are using the DLNT in class so we can better get how Mark (whoever the anonymous writer we call Mark actually was) wrote it. His use of the historic present that makes the story come alive and present better than the flat past tense that other modern translations use. 

A problem with what I'm doing is that it makes my own thinking drift off into Mark's syntax and eccentricities.

Mark’s frequent use of the word “immediately” that gives a sense of hurry. 

His beginning almost every verse with the Greek word καὶ (“and”) to link sentence after sentence after sentence, making his writing so breathless that by the time you get to the end of a chapter you feel exhausted, that you have been dragged through the story without time to stop and take a breath. 

We should finish reading and discussing Mark this morning --- the climax of his agenda when the Roman centurion, a total outsider, sees in Jesus what those around him failed to see --- Mark’s abrupt ending with the women fleeing the empty tomb in terror and “not saying nothing to nobody” --- the extra ending verses added later by wellmeaning folks who didn’t get it, failed to understand the subtlety of Mark’s clever and brilliant agenda and tried pathetically to make Mark end as conclusively as Matthew and Luke --- and the source of modern snakehandling cults.

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So come and bring your basket of snakes, angry and buzzing. We'll pass them round to show the strength of our faith. First one bitten is a rotten egg. 

We sit down at ten o’clock and open with prayer at ten-oh-five.  

Monday, March 16, 2015

Good Better Best

Up to chat with Father Nature at three o’clock and decided WTH, back to bed and slept till six a.m. At six the day was still way dark predawn. A few minutes later the sky looked like this. That's the moon up there. 

from high above St. Andrew Bay as I sat out here on the balcony and sipped a cuppa black and strong. Watching the clock lest I be late for the seven o’clock walk. 

Just as I left, quarter to seven, the sky had evolved to this, moon slightly farther on.

No time to blog before racing for Linda Avenue. Walk, fill gasoline tank and wash at Kangaroo, order a gallon of oysters for the Wednesday soup. Back now, and on the balcony, call it porch it you like. 

Another cuppa black and strong, with a chicken sandwich, two slices of 40 calorie very thin whole wheat, smear of mayonnaise on both sides, pile of white meat, the meat is falling out, so overlay with a slice of cheese, microwave and slap it together. 

Staff meeting in 46 minutes, no rush.

Freshwater bream for lunch.

Life is Good, Better.

+Time is Best.