Thursday, April 30, 2015

Αἰθίοψ εὐνοῦχος

Oh my, I love being alive, my Lord, what a morning! 

Her nets up, a shrimp boat heads in to St. Andrews after the night out, let’s hope she has a good catch. Over near the Pass a research vessel steams out into the Gulf for a busy day’s work at sea. Sure enough, the lights we saw far out last evening are a large ship offshore, probably waiting for clearance to enter port. And the firmament keeps changing colors and hues, and doing the same to my Bay.

Yesterday we had beloveds over for lunch, shrimp rolls made with a large bowl of fresh caught. Rolls left over this morning, breakfast is a sardine roll. Smear of mayonnaise and a smudge of mustard. Cup of hot black. Tasks for today: finish drafting the worship bulletin booklet for Mothers’ Day, work in the attic at my house (with a sales contract and closing set for late May, I need to resume clearing out personal), and decide about Sunday’s sermon, whether to preach graphically about the Ethiopian eunuch or pause coming down the aisle and anoint someone to come up and preach the word to us. 

Homiletics professors at theological seminary advised us not to mix our lessons, that sermon or homily would serve best that worked only one of the day’s four readings, best for hearer and most manageably for preacher. That’s generally been the case, though now and then I’ve stirred two or more. 

What then for Sunday, to do with the Acts 8 reading for Sunday? Luke the apparent author of Acts tells a great story, though Paul’s adventures in Acts don’t always coincide with Paul’s own reports about himself, great stories from start to finish. Sunday’s story is about Αἰθίοψ εὐνοῦχος, whom Ἄγγελος δὲ κυρίου orders Philip out onto a wilderness road to encounter, preach Christ to, and ultimately baptize. What’s the lesson? That we in the church waste time of our lives instructing people in the meanings and nuances of the Holy Mysteries, when all we need is to hear the excited cry, “Ἰδοὺ ὕδωρ,” and down to the stream we run. 

Today is April 30. On this day forty years ago I sat in my exalted fifth floor corner office in CP5 staring across the room as the most ignominious military defeat in history unfolded before my eyes. I think my friend was there, in a warship offshore.

Pax. Bitte, mein Herr, Pax.

Early morn a small ship deploys for her next port.


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Don't mention it.

We are studying ΚΑΤΑ ΙΩΑΝΝΗΝ the Gospel according to John in our Tuesday Morning Bible Seminar. Instead of “In the beginning was the Word,” we started appropriately at the end with chapters 20 and 21 because we’re in the Easter Season with the post-resurrection appearances. We then went to the beginning with Gospel John's awesome Prologue and the baptismal scenario where John the Baptist acclaims Jesus as “Lamb of God” and John’s disciples follow Jesus. Andrew is first, and to use a modern evangelical notion, “brings his brother Simon to Christ.” That’s the purpose of the gospels anyway, isn’t it.

Yesterday morning we finished chapter 2, where like a teenage boy who dreads being made the center of attention, Jesus expresses frustration with his adoring mother at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. “Motheeerrr!!!” then does as she hopes anyway, his first “sign” as he turns the water into wine. As the story has it, the wine he creates is perfectly divine, the best.

All four canonical gospels are fun to study, Mark my favorite, John a close second, maybe because it’s such a contrast to Mark and the other synoptics. Besides the immediately obvious such as Jesus’ long discourses in John, and that John opens with the Prologue of the Word before going to the baptismal scene, instead of with a nativity narrative as Luke and Matthew do, John’s post-resurrection memories are different. And of course, there’s “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” who is not mentioned in the synoptics, and the raising of Lazarus (Lord, he whom you love is ill). Driving moneychangers out of the Temple appears right up front in John but all the way at the end in the synoptics, and the two stories (two because Matthew and Luke have Mark as their source) Mark and John have different precipitating causes for the Judeans to crucify Jesus.

Most notably to me, each gospel writer has a different agenda, each at a different time and place and for different audiences, Mark and the synoptics proclaim a traveling preacher and compassionate healer, while John proclaims Logos the creating Word. 

I see two distinctive features in John, both peculiar to his story. 

One is that instead of just happening on a scene and doing a miraculous work of power as an act of compassion, John has Jesus doing semeia, “signs” purposely so that people will realize who and what he is, including identifying him as the prophet of whom Moses spoke in Deuteronomy. Also to an extent, the gospel writer counts them for us, eg, “this is now the second sign that Jesus did ...” to make sure we're paying attention.

The other feature is Jesus’ deliberate and astonishing use of the sacred Name I AM in referring to himself. I am the good shepherd, he said last Sunday. This coming Sunday he will say I am the vine. Variously he says I am the bread. I am the living water. I am the way, truth and life. John’s gospel has Jesus tying himself to God in metaphors that unmistakably identify himself with I AM, the deity who spoke to Moses from the burning bush. We’ll explore that a bit at next Tuesday’s gathering.

Not to mention my own agenda of rescuing Lazarus from oblivion and restoring him to his rightful place as the disciple whom Jesus loved.

What? Lazarus the beloved disciple?

Weren't you listening? I said not to mention it.

Walk along E. Beach Drive this morning, looking past Redfish Point.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015


flowers ...

Twenty-odd years ago at a highlight of life ... when I used to drive Nicholas back and forth between the Panhandle and South Florida, there began to be at some point in the trip, seemingly more sudden than gradual, awareness of change, that change had occurred; not was occurring but had occurred: plants were different, flora, the vegetation. Unfamiliar, even foreign, I didn’t belong here. Flowers, still Florida, but not, not home.  

It’s more than geographical. It’s chronos. At an hour of hoping — more optimistic than expectant and not at all realistic, so might as well have coffee — that sleep may yet return, what comes instead of sleep is uneasy sense of hazy, murky, not line, between eccentric and weird. Writing. Thinking. Dancing fingers. A zone. Twilight maybe. Caution: others may notice, and that would not be good. Or is it kairos? And is it just me, or am I not alone by this window? Green light across the Bay, is that you, Daisy? Jay here. Wait. Wait for me. Or send Xapov for me.

Seldom do I watch television. I’d rather read. Bloom still, about J’s Moses now, and this should finish the book, because Adam to Moses, J’s earthy story begins in a Garden and ends on a Mountaintop. But last evening the distress sets in and I put Bloom down because of what’s on the screen, live. Realtime. Terrible, terrible scenes in Nepal, suffering and fear. Children. A building collapsing. Rage in Baltimore, before very eyes I watch a CVS store go from people running out carrying armloads of — what? candy bars? cough drops? condoms? chocolate-covered cherries? toilet paper? Kleenex? What the hell's to loot in a CVS? And wasn’t this their neighborhood store? — to smoke pouring out the door and off the roof; to the block an inferno. Sirens. Troops.

Twilight now, light fading over the Bay and shrimp boats chugging back out, takes me to other times and places, war zone. Danang harbor, late night, flash, whump, concussion as an American jet swoops up after firing into a target high on a mountain in the distance to my right. Today a drone would have done that, eh. Zone: in a campground somewhere on Blue Ridge Parkway I listen as Walter Cronkite, in tears, describes the assassination by a hate-crazed madman, of a hero. By the time I arrive back at work, the city skyline across the Potomac is ablaze, flames leaping high. What’s wrong with us? Anger, hatred, certainty, rage, power, insanity, selfishness, force, violence is our only road to change? P was wrong, earthlings are not in the image of Elohim the divine chorus at all, but dirt, mud-dolls. J has it right and we are still in the Wilderness. Dirt. Dust. … Ellipsis. Flowers. How do I get out of here? In the darkness, who will write the history?


Monday, April 27, 2015

Monday Madness: A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol

“Mind the Gap” cautions this morning’s coffee mug with a map of London’s underground. Summer 2009 we gave Malinda and Kristen a week in London, and they returned with a souvenir that brings it all back. The trip, the trains, the recorded voice at each stop, 
the sign confronting as one steps from subway car onto platform.

It gets personal too. On the balcony last evening as the light faded and the pelicans flew west and the shrimp boats appeared, I sat down and read. First in The Story of J toward the end, where Bloom expounds on J’s Joseph character, a tattletale brat who ends up a dream come true. Bloom writes well if quite at length, whether because the Joseph tale is the longest of all or because a professor knows to fill ex number of pages to have a book to sell.

Second read, a piece a friend emailed linking to an NYT article where I found myself hiding among the bad guys. Not as good or as smart as I may appear to be, wearing the black shirt, white collar and enhallowed but not wizened by a head of white hair. “Good morning, Father.” It’s almost as good as ”Good morning, Commander, may I bring your coffee, sir?” But not quite. At ease, it’s only me, Carroll the ancient yuletide troll, neither as good nor as smart as thinkle peep. Wisdom or Folly: the chasm between persona and the Bubba, the “Mind the Gap” sign recalls Huck Finn and Jim with the King and the Duke that third night of The Royal Nonesuch. It could happen any Sunday morning Bubba is billed as preacher: Huck’s recollection, “I smelt sickly eggs by the barrel, and rotten cabbages, and such things; and if I know the signs of a dead cat being around, and I bet I do, there was sixty-four of them went in.” Take up the collection and head for the raft.

Shorter walk this morning, but good. Before leaving here I meant to snap the Bay with ominous clouds, but forgot so over the Bill Lloyd Building of Cove School HNES about  6:45 AM. 

Some places are more holy than others' temples. Walk down Linda Avenue, round Massalina Drive past that old Tahoe that’s sitting there gathering leaves. I want it. It recalls 1947 postwar when vehicles were short and my father was having troubling getting a new truck. He’d had a Chevrolet on order from Bubber Nelson, waited a year or more, finally went to Karl Wiselogel and ordered a Dodge, both on order and he’d take whichever one came in first. Prejudiced then and now, I said, “I hope the Chevrolet comes first.” “So do I,” my father said. But it was the Dodge, and it was okay. Red with black fenders in pre-war style, headlamps sitting on top of the fenders like bug eyes. That turn of events cycled our family through the green 1948 Dodge sedan when my mother and I wanted a Buick Super, then the 1949 Plymouth woody wagon of many fond memories. 

How did I get here this morning. Back to the theatre. “We never showed a light till we was about ten mile below the village.” 

Why does The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn require a rewrite. Because it was politically incorrect, OMG is it. Well, it’s not possible to tar Mark Twain as a 21st century liberal, but the PC edition is no worse than updating the King James Bible.

Time for shave, shower and staff meeting.


Sunday, April 26, 2015


Oh my goodness, pick one, choose, choose today, choose a disaster to write about 

Devastating earthquake in Nepal, 
Chaos and riots in Baltimore as peaceful demonstration for Freddie Gray turns violent, 
Buses on Sabbath in Israel, 
CIA drone program, 
Mass firing squad execution of foreign drug convicts in Indonesia, 
Russia hacking Barry’s email,
Bruce Jenner has news.
Dear Leader with Bad Haircut: what’s it cooking up? Something fer sure, something fer dang sure, as it can’t stand being ignored, longs to be center of attention, photographed grandly riding its 1950s submarine while its generals take notes. Pop quiz. Why isn't its submarine yellow? Because it doesn't know the tune. Why didn’t it scarf up Gaddafi’s wardrobe. Because one of the uniforms had holes in it. Why are all males in DPRK required to wear the goofy haircut? Because there’s a CIA drone with DL’s picture on it.

Sunset last evening --

Today is the Fourth Sunday of Easter, Xn irony Sunday when the lamb is the shepherd and the shepherd is the lamb. Our final confirmation class, what to teach? Come and chat. 


Saturday, April 25, 2015

Oysters & Blueberries

Blueberries for supper last evening, bowl of blueberries. Frozen, large berries from Sam’s, had them before. Earlier in the week I had two packages of buy-one-get-one-free fresh blueberries from Publix, tiny ones recalling wild blueberries we enjoyed in Maine summer 2008. Fresh or frozen, blueberries are one of my favorites, learned the first time my mother made blueberry pie for me as a child. Golden Corral's dessert display has “unsweetened blueberry pie,” which I tried once, thought delicious, had again the next time. Blueberry pancakes are my favorite, best was years ago, breakfast at Webers Motel & Restaurant in Ann Arbor. We were there for Nick’s high school graduation, Kristen with us. We went up by AmTrak, and the ride from New Orleans to Chicago is the swayingest track imaginable, roughly side to side all night long. We returned via either Washington or NYC and down to Jacksonville, a much better ride. 

Thursday evening supper was oysters. Now and then I buy a pint of oysters at a local fish house and am blessed to be the only person here who eats them, so whether there’s a pint or a gallon I get them all. A gallon is too much, takes three or four days to eat a gallon of oysters. Best breakfast, oysters on whole wheat toast from the toaster oven. For supper, as Thursday, half a pint in a bowl, plastic cover, microwave sixty to ninety seconds: bowl, fork, two fingers of Islay single malt scotch with one ice cube, go out on balcony porch, sit facing Shell Island, eat oysters and sip scotch while watching Bay traffic. 

Before that, supper for two nights was a bowl of fruit, buy one get one free. Fine though watermelon seems to be a diuretic which makes for an active night’s sleep.

Yesterday morning’s task at the house was to take the blower up on the roof and blow off a couple months accumulation of leaves from roof and gutters. Later as we relaxed on the front porch, our buyer came up, introduced himself and we had a visit. Meeting him, I feel much better and can relax about my house. 

Last evening as I sat on my balcony porch working on the Confirmation Class lesson for Sunday morning, I counted twelve shrimp boats running out on St. Andrew Bay in my line of sight. There should be fresh shrimp in fish markets and restaurants this morning.

Task for this morning, finish prep for our third confirmation class tomorrow. Topics: history, organization, thumb through the prayerbook.


Friday, April 24, 2015

gēargemynd at MLP


Later this morning I will work at my house. There is extensive clearing out to be done, the attic, some closets, my heart. Clothes, papers and files, pictures, memories. There are many, many pictures to bring, even more in history, memory, my own and family history that has become as much part of me as if I had lived here a hundred years. Pictures of children, grandchildren, grandparents, great-grandparents. And there is that I can not bring with, and even so, no place to store but a crevice of the mind with embers that won’t quench.

What's so special about this one,

I have wandered through vacated houses before, a California house in sight of far mountains, a house in Ohio where Tass came into my life, in Northern Virginia a house overlooking a stream where Civil War bullets could occasionally be found, a creekside house by the Conodoguinet in Pennsylvania, a century old rectory in Apalachicola where Tass grew up too soon; why such wracking grief this time, this house. My grandparents built this house in 1912. It left the family in 1923 and my parents bought it back in 1962. I've owned this house since 1993, twenty-two years. "Kristen was here," I raised and loved Kristen in this house, every room is filled with memories of her growing up with me. And oh! what to do with the garage out back hiding its couple of cars, that Oldsmobile Cutlass, and the yellow 1951 Cadillac I never got to drive; the window for peering in from time to time, door still ajar. And gēargemynd the corner of the back screen porch where I sat this moment a year ago, read news and wrote a blog post: only a madman conspires how to bring the corner of a back porch, but I can’t possibly leave that, can I, it has to come with, where’s my chain saw. No, the contract says leave it intact.

Yesterday morning I became Esau. After signing a contract to exchange my heritage for a bowl of red beans, I stood on the front porch of my grandparents house and watched my uncle Alfred walk by and down the front steps into eternity.  Snapped a picture of where I stood in 1962 as my father pointed to the fireplace in the living room 
 and said, “My brother’s casket stood right there,” winter 1918. 

My father’s memories are mine now, aren't they, he passed them on to me, or did he, maybe he took them, I’d rather believe that even if I don't. Here in the old kitchen at the table by the back door is where seventy-five years later I sat and held his box of ashes. And eighteen years on almost to the day, my mother’s. Sat right here, same identical spot while my brother mixed their ashes before we took them out in the boat to spread upon what Adam and the Priest called “the face of the deep”.

These azaleas I planted when I was twelve and thirteen, the pink ones, faintly fragrant. That White Empress that my mother grafted and I planted. And years later she had Anderson dig up and move here from the house on Massalina Bayou. You can't dig things up, it's not in the contract.

A mess of potage. My God, what have I done. Belt it out, Frank, sing it, Blue Eyes

The way your smile just beams.
The way you sing off-key.
The way you haunt my dreams.
No, no - they can't take that away from me.

T at My Laughing Place

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Efficacious Finger

The Efficacious Finger

Nobody needs an early morning weather report from some Nutty Bubba, but it’s four o’clock and pitch black dark out here on the north shore of St. Andrew Bay, humid with a slight cool breeze, looking from east to west and south, and now and then a flash of lightning way out over the Gulf of Mexico.

Could that be, it seems too clear, stars in the sky, no clouds. But yep, there it is again. Sure enough, the map of the Gulf on my iPad’s Titan program shows a long east-west cloud with a spot of yellow-orange in the trailing west end of it, a hundred miles south of me and moving southeast toward Tampa: could I really see lightning from a cloud that far away? 

What stirs in memory about distance out here is a rainy night, in my upstairs front bedroom with the windows and door open and a radio on, nothing but sea between me and Cancun, listening to the weather report of a hurricane forty-five miles south of Panama City and moving westward. That would have been in the middle nineteen-nineties, after my father died.

A couple years before that, August 1992 it would have been, eh, a similar experience enjoying a week’s vacation in friends’ Gulf-front house on St. George Island. The friends were seasonal parishioners from Pittsburgh, he an architect, very generous with us about using the beach house. Worrying about Nicholas, watching the driving rain as Hurricane Andrew moved into South Florida and crossed into the Gulf of Mexico, and barreled toward New Orleans. Our friend Jocelyn died that week after years struggle with breast cancer, as I watched the rain. And dreaded the week’s passing, because it was coming up time to take Tass to Baltimore for her flight to London and college year abroad. Sitting out here in the dark this morning, it all returns, specific feelings as I watched the plane lift from the runway. Nothing in my life has been as wrenching as my transitions into the next stages in the life of daughter. 

My scientific observation is that hurricanes are generated when a TV star meteorologist turns officiously to a weather map of the Atlantic or Gulf, touches fingertips to a harmless blob, and makes a counter-clockwise circling motion. That’s what gets a hurricane started, statistics prove it. As I live and breathe and witness.

The same power in a meteorologist’s fingers that in a priest’s fingers transubstantiate bread and wine into Flesh and Blood. At that point of consecration, the F and B must be capitalized. Just so, harmless cloud becomes TS Aloysius and growing: it happens every time.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

don't read it

Clear, cool, lovely Wednesday. Walk, breakfast on the back porch at Big Mama’s on the Bayou. Up earlier than intended, I got distracted online with Die Deutsche Wochenschau from early to middle 1940s, and those enormously long Mercedes-Benz cars, touring car bodies heavily armored, parading officials of the Third Reich.

Besides Adolf Hitler this morning I watched Joseph Goebbels the propaganda minister sit down at a microphone in a broadcast house. Also Goering, Herr Reichsmarschall haughty and arrogant, resplendent and self-important in his white uniform, with his marshal’s baton. Cars always with top down. Goering with huge smiles, on tour, working the crowds. I always hope there are none of my cousins in the saluting arms and beaming, adoring faces around him. I see no innocence whatsoever.

One of those huge MB cars made the US tour in the 1940s on a flatbed trailer, billed as Hitler’s car. It was parked for several days or a week on Harrison Avenue in front of Walgreen’s at the corner of 5th Street. Must have been 1946, maybe even late 1945, right after the war.  

Another display there was a baleen whale, I think it was a blue whale, a huge creature, also on a long flatbed trailer about the same place. It too was making the rounds, and by the time it arrived on Harrison Avenue it seemed to have been out of the water for some weeks, because it was going off putrid.

Back to Youtube and DDW, the German newsreels. The propaganda was horrendous, vicious, inciting hatred and violence. Of course, our propaganda also was quite effective, seventy years ago this month including newsreels of our soldiers liberating the Nazi death camps, the effect on me still grips my feelings about Germans and Germany. I’ll never understand how people could treat each other so. Throughout that horrific chapter, we knew Americans could never do such, and I honestly believed that truth until our My Lai massacre of the village in Vietnam, with Life magazine photos of the murdered including infants. And years later, Shock and Awe with it’s fallout, including ISIS. I’m reading a book that makes the case, points out, that war and warring is our nature and has ever been so, from before history. Beyond sad. What to do? 

Just enjoy the view, I suppose? Seems rather weak. Seawall at E. Beach Drive this morning.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

It's what's for lunch!

It's my blog afterall, not some theological or spiritual enlightenment for mankind, so if the first thing that stirs me mornings is nature, all well and good, it's my blog, for me. Clear and cool, 64F and a gentle pleasant breeze, this is the clearest morning since we arrived here at our home just under the clouds. But there aren't any: the sky is as velvet black as my Bay, and full of stars. Two shrimpboats are moving in my sight, but far enough across to be silent, and they are. They must find the shrimp in the shipping channels. Across to the southeast are the lights of what I take to be the Tyndall bridge, though I haven't been able to settle that with binoculars in the daytime. 

The inky blackness of the firmament brings to mind a piece I found on Vox last night, "11 images that capture the incredible vastness of space." My unsettling habit is to stir such things into my theological mixing bowl, only to be caught up short when the cupcakes aren't plain vanilla: they're licorice. Or, like one of Harry Potter's jellybean flavors, earwax. Looking at this is so faithboggling that I have to keep rearranging my apprehension of Deity. Faith is not certainty but confidence in things unseen, and the Vox presentation shows me yet one more time again that what is unseen is beyond incomprehensible. "And yet," as the quinque vult says, "they are not three incomprehensibles but one incomprehensible." And here I am in a petty world where conservatives and liberals on this side of the planet hate each other more and more viciously like unto the shia and sunni on the other side as we speed through space on our way to oblivion. We could have done and been so much for each other, but here we are, fighting ants, oblivious to both seen and unseen.

Last week I went to Sam's to buy beef tenderloin steaks. In a whiff of conscience I noticed the streaks of fat and bought eye of round instead, half the price, heart-healthier, and so lean that tenderizer doesn't help. But it was beefsteak, which generates an occasional craving. I'll have a thin slice on my 40 calorie whole wheat bread for breakfast.

There’s an art to it, and even Giada doesn’t have it, my grandson Ray knows better than anyone how to quarter-turn a steak on a grill so it has perfect grill marks. When cooking my steak even Chef Ray needs me standing there sipping a couple glasses of red to scream “take it off” before it turns pink inside. 

Back in the news from wherever he has been working out, our beloved star Gator quarterback Tim Tebow is a witnessing Christian, but he’s so obsessed with his own self that he seems to have no notion whatsoever of what we in this vocation term a “call” from God, listening for God. I think that's a missing ingredient in his Xnty. Tim has been out improving his discipline, movement, control and throw, and now the Eagles are giving him another chance in the NFL. If it weren’t for Manning he might still be a Bronco, but that’s not where life has taken him, and after Denver it was a humiliating debacle. With any sense of “call” he would have known to go into college coaching as his ministry to help youngsters, instead of being so obsessed with getting rich making a name for himself. I’m losing patience. I pray Philadelphia turns out well for Tim, but it’s too late, it’s not going to happen and at some point he’s going to be selling insurance door to door and asking Why did you forsake me. The answer will be I didn’t, you didn’t listen, but he won’t hear that either. Nevertheless, God bless, TimBo.

Having begun by reading the end of the story because it’s Easter, today we’re continuing with the Beginning of the Gospel according to John. I love this! We’ve recently finished Mark and, gospelwise, John’s as far from Mark as it’s possible to get. Except if we put Secret Mark back in Mark chapter 10 where it belongs, an unquestionable similarity to John creaks out of the closet like an old family skeleton.

For anyone interested, Tuesday Bible Seminar, Holy Nativity Episcopal Church MSP Library across from the church office building at 1011 E. 3rd Street. All invited, all welcome, poodles included. Gather at convenience anytime after 9:30 for chat, coffee, and a crispy thing. After 9:30 but before ten, because we sit down at 10:00 and convene with prayer at 10:05 sharp. I’m not the teacher and no scholar, but I am simply the convener. We adjourn at 11:15, you can plan your lunch date by it. 

Speaking of, today we're broiling Spanish mackerel for lunch. Like they used to have at Morrisons Cafeteria.


Monday, April 20, 2015

If you look for it

Waves lap softly against the shore just below, but the main sound is the roar of surf from the Gulf of Mexico, what, some four miles directly across the Bay. 

Mornings at the house I walked down front for Linda’s PCNH, either down the concrete steps and path, or out the back door and down Calhoun Avenue. There were always the chirps of early birds trysting, don’t hear that up here except now and then from the park trees, may be seagulls screaming; but more, it’s flights of six or eight pelicans flying by the balcony almost reach out and touch close. Clearer here but sometimes I heard the Gulf surf then too. 

Regardless, my eye always counted on the green light of a channel buoy across the way and stirring. Stirring because sometimes a thing, sight or sound takes on a being of its own, a friend you can greet and be glad to see again. Daisy? Daisy? It may keep you mindful of who you are or bring present who you once were. Sound of the Gulf surf puts me at the jetties, it’s 1953; seventeen, I’ve finished my finals for graduation and escaped to the beach for a long afternoon that’s still available more than six decades later. Three score and two. Still there, I can see it from here, it’s just beyond the leftmost light this morning.

Knowing better, from prior experience, than to open my eyes in the tight enclosure, that’s where I went the hour or so I lived in the MRI tube at Cleveland Clinic that morning, to seventeen and the jetties. Despising the treadmill and recalling that place, I sometimes still close eyes and go there while plodding, hoping the clock keeps on ticking while I’m gone. We’re not walking this morning, so I’ll go downstairs to the gym and may get off at that same bus stop. Or I may climb down that cliff to the shore of Narragansett Bay in sound of the bell buoy. It’s all there if you look for it.

Monday: looking good.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Sunday: Windy

Good morning, self. Strong wind coming off the Gulf and across the Bay, weather 32401 says 14 mph though up this high feels more like 20 or 25, quite a breeze. 75F 95% humidity, clouds fast and low, headed northeast. Weather says 100% precip but I think it has passed, is passing rapidly. Loud thunderstorm about 11 pm: instead of getting up to watch, I went back to sleep. My most exciting Tstorm recently was last fall at High Heaven, more than twice this high and right on the Gulf, well inside the storm cloud itself. That whole generous experience totally sold us on loving condo living and we are forever grateful.

Looked out bedroom window yesterday morning to see flashing lights and multiple police cars, Beck Avenue blocked off from 11th street north two blocks. Crime scene, man carrying a rifle or shotgun, engaged police, shot, died. What do you expect? Comes to mind deranged. Typically ridiculous exchange of comments below the online PCNH article this morning sniping back and forth at each other. With anonymity, courtesy and common human decency take flight in a cloud of windy derangement.

There’s that shrimpboat, what a stormy night to be out. 

Confirmation class at church this morning, looking forward to it. Anglican Theology and a short Bible Study on postResurrection appearances. 9:15 for an hour. Should be total fun. 



Saturday, April 18, 2015

Wrapping it up.

In The Story of J, my book that I’m reading, Harold Bloom sees J as a woman in the time of Solomon and now Rehoboam. Living in the court as a member of the royal family, she reveres David, perhaps her great-uncle, as almost divine in the golden age of his united kingdom, which was raised to near perfection under her nephew Solomon and is now disintegrating under Rehoboam, her incompetent cousin twice removed. J’s contemporary and perhaps writing associate, even accomplice and they read each other’s stories, is the Court Historian author of 2nd Kings. I'll explore that again, next.

In the book I’ve read Professor Bloom’s lengthy lead up to J, and David Rosenberg’s English translation of J from Hebrew. Currently I’m in the last third of the book reading Bloom’s fascinating character by character commentary, just finished Jacob and now about to start Tamar. 

Professor of Humanities at Yale and professor of English at New York University, Harold Bloom claims not to be a Bible scholar (though he certainly does a lot better than the likes of me), and technically I might have agreed until coming across his line (p.186) “J is not writing a moral tale but a children’s story that ends unhappily. This is how things got to be the way things are, she is saying, and the way they are is not good, whether for snakes, women, or men.” In his imaginative analysis of J and J’s writing, it was the first indication I saw of Bloom seeing anything etiological about the stories, so I was sold, he’s a Bible scholar too. More colorful than the usual, but nevertheless.

In reading the Gospels comparatively, and discussing with others the differences and seeming contradictions among their stories, I like to bear in mind that many historians wrote about George Washington and no two authors saw him just the same way, and their remembrances report what they found and read and heard and believed; and that Mark Twain wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and what Tom does and says and thinks and likes and hates; and who Tom is in love with at the moment, and is friends with and is leery of and is enemies with, is whatever Mark Twain says; so the story depends entirely on the author: what was said and done depends on whose story you are reading. Just so with the Gospel stories when discussed from various literary perspectives and not as modern historians might have told it. 

Albeit both, all, with stories to tell and books to sell.

In The Story of J then, as Bloom has it, here’s Yahweh in Eden, which He has made for no apparent reason but for Adam to enjoy, with no worries, innocent as a child in a child’s playground, and finally with Eve. And rather impishly (Bloom’s word), puts right in the middle of the garden the forbidden trees with the most luscious and tempting fruit, telling the children, “Now don’t you dare touch that,” while I’m gone, then leaves them alone. And the snake, a natural part of creation and the garden, just as innocent as the children if quite a smooth talker, walks by and gets into a chat with them. And it all goes downhill from there when Yahweh returns. What father treats his children that way. Either he was looking for an opportunity to scold them (just wait till your father gets home), or he was as innocent as they, with no idea of the inevitabilities when children are left alone with candy and toys. At all events, they are driven out of Paradise, which actually was the childlike and animal-like innocence of not knowing anything, it pays to be ignorant, including not knowing good from bad and not realizing that they one day will die. Now you know and now you realize, and nothing can ever be the same again. So Yahweh drives them out, not as punishment because they were naughty (he deals otherwise and harshly with that), but so they don’t eat from the other tree and become part of the elohim, the heavenly community. 

Bloom reckons that what we see as their punishment was way out of proportion to what they’ve done, what father would treat his children like that. Bad enough the man has to work as a farmer now, badder that the woman gets a really bad deal, what with childbirth and all; but the snake gets worse in that, although he may have walked innocently into the scene, he sure as aitch doesn’t walk out, and never will again. Yet, who comes out looking worst? Not the innocents, not the three children of man, woman and snake: it’s the impetuous parent. 

I’m not going there. What I am remembering yet one more time again is my brilliant HNES middle schoolers ten years ago, bright, fun, incisive and dearly beloved, asking, "Why did God put the tree in the middle of the garden in the first place?" And again, because there's no point going into etiologies in a classroom of children most of whom are not Episcopalians, the only correct, right and good answer is, "Exactly." 

Bloom does it again with Abram, later Abraham. Only a scuzzball says tell them you’re my beautiful sister so they take you away into the harem and pay me lots of gold and silver and livestock for you, don’t tell them you’re my wife or they’ll kill me and take you anyway; Bloom rescues Abram, but at what cost, whose expense? 

Abram is napping in the noonday heat when he looks up and standing there at the door of his tent are three elohim, one of whom he immediately recognizes as his old drinking buddy Yahweh. They (Xnty rather absurdly makes them trinitarian and equal) are on the way to destroy Sodom because the people there worship other gods. After the visit of feeding them a lunch which is so good and refreshing that Yahweh renews his now comical promise of a son for the old folks and the interplay with Sarai who retorts that she is too old now and besides Abram is shriveled, they head on off to do justice to Sodom; and Abram goes along, ostensibly to show them the way, but actually to try courageously and respectfully to talk Yahweh out of his outrageous intent. Obsequiously Abram talks Yahweh down to agreeing that just ten righteous men will save the day and the city. But even that fails, they can’t find even ten people in Sodom who are afraid of Yahweh. So the next day Abram looks at the mushroom cloud hanging in the sky and the radioactive fallout drifting away and the pitiful upturned faces of the Sodomites. So we look at the story and who comes out smelling like a rose? Sarai because she had the nerve to laugh at the joke even though she’d heard it many times before. Abram, who had the guts to try and talk them out of it, looks like a creature of merciful lovingkindness. But the pilot of the Enola Gay isn't looking so noble. 

Bloom finds constant tragi-comedy, irony in J’s writing, and stronger than simply impish in her main character. It’s a good book.

Taken my pills and going downstairs to the gym for a few minutes. Later we’re going back to see the baby again. She's tiny and adorable, watch it, GGP. Yesterday watching Ray do a masterful job of swaddling her, I asked, “Good job! Did Joy teach you that?” Chef Kelly says, “No, I learned this wrapping burritos” and hands her to me.  

Saturday dawning nicely from here.


Friday, April 17, 2015


Born to Britany Smith and Ray Kelly last evening about 8:15, Lillian Belle Kelly, a healthy little girl. Our great-granddaughter. 

As yet I’ve not held her, and somewhat afraid to, long ago having found out that when I hold a baby unexpected things happen inside me, emotions of the heart, feelings taking control. For better or for worse, they never go away.

Maybe later.

Sunset from here the evening of her birth.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Point to Point

Okay, life is different from age to age, season to season, even day to day. Shame to admit, I have not always enjoyed life or been grateful for the breath of divine life within me; but at the moment I do and am as I sit out here on my balcony porch contemplating myself on an overcast muggy spring morning, and loving St. Andrew Bay from Davis Point to Courtney Point, Shell Island beyond, chaos below with its Leviathan, firmament above.

For one thing, it’s 7:21 and there goes one of the large seagoing Navy craft, steaming out to sea for all the world like a warship on it’s way to battle. The local Navy base has at least two of those, yesterday both of them worked in the Bay and out in the Gulf before heading in to port in time for Happy Hour. I love having them here, and watching them, and as a retired Naval officer feeling ownership and being a part of them in a way that those aboard don’t realize. 

From my bedroom window a couple minutes ago, I stood and watched as a fishing vessel, single-masted schooner style, moved out of its berth in the marina and headed out to earn a days wage. Some of their catch may show up in the local fish market, or on the menu at Captain’s Table restaurant -- which I also see from my bedroom window. 

My delicious breakfast, which I ate at my table out here on the balcony. It’s an oak table my mother had made for me as a favor and kindness and appreciation for my being there for her in those days that were so painful for her that 1993 summer after my father died. It’s a round wooden table set on a heavy metal base Linda bought at Penny’s Worth, the church thrift shop that she started while we were at Trinity Church, Apalachicola. She modeled it after our church thrift shop she managed and worked in for years in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. It was The Opp Shop. (Opportunity). Used things that people gave or put on consignment for sale. We named Penny’s Worth after a church member named Penny (except she spelled it Pinny), who persuaded her husband, a Methodist, to sell us the corner house and lot right on the main street, for a pittance. Pinny Knott was her name, and my friend George Chapel liked to call her Piney Knot, at which even after years and years and years of hearing it, she managed to smile patiently.

George is for another time, another blog post another day. A first and close friend our Apalachicola years. Sewanee undergraduate degree, along with Bill Lloyd the smartest man I’ve ever known, George exemplified the difference between the NT Greek words philia and agape’ all my years at Trinity Church. Once, George and I had an angry confrontation in the living room of the rectory, and we came back from it.  

And the breakfast itself, leftovers. A bit of roast pork loin, mixed with dark brown rice, dark brown gravy, made into a salad, slightly heated in the microwave oven, and spooned bite by bite onto toasted 40-calorie very thin whole wheat bread. And the cup of Kona, black and most excellent.

Flying by is something I love: watching that large white bird -- the one with long legs, is it an egret? -- gliding inches above the Bay seven stories below me, not dodging the dock that’s off to my left, but flying under it, between the pilings. Likely headed down to its usual place wading in front of my house a couple block down the beach.

Also (avoid starting a paragraph with “I”) I love preparing my Confirmation Class lesson for Sunday, the real work of it will be making sure it’s not too long for the 9:15 to 10:15 class time Sunday morning. This Sunday my topics will be “Theology” and “Scripture” and will include a short Bible study. As usual, I may try to cram Theology 101 and New Testament 101 into an hour.

Most of all at the moment, maybe I love that it’s Thursday, which at the moment has made itself my favorite day of the week because it’s all mine. Exercise on Monday and meeting; Tuesday exercise and Bible Seminar; Wednesday exercise and evening church supper, program; Friday exercise;. Saturday prepare for SS and church; Sunday, the most exhausting morning imaginable for a man looking at eighty. Thursday alone is mine. Nope, OMG, and gardenia to heliotrope, today a luncheon I’d almost forgot, the “clericus” (a group of clergy who gather once a month to tell each other what meds we are taking). Free lunch though. Chicken something.



Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Not Sweaty and Mad

Interesting seasons we are having, interesting weather; maybe it always was, but I don’t remember it being quite like this. It’s a different perspective, maybe that’s it, having St. Andrew Bay for my front yard. Fog and haze. I once thought it would be good to sell everything and just live on a cruise ship all the time, in fact someone posted on Facebook a “Share” about an elderly person who was doing exactly that because it was more fun than a nursing home, better food and housekeeping, and a lot cheaper. Although I think there’s a point where they won’t take you.

Fog and haze again, and the humidity is solid this morning. 

We’ve had Peaden out. (1) Saturday afternoon the main downstairs HVAC went out at the house, not convenient ever but especially with the realtor having an open house Sunday. The technician arrived within minutes. A fairly new system, under warranty, needed a part they had to order, they are incredibly reliable and efficient, rang early Tuesday morning as I was leaving the gym downstairs to say the part was ready and the technician was on the way to my house, had the system back on line and running like new before Tuesday noon. (2) Iffy and troublesome from the day we moved in despite having been “inspected” prior to closing, the HVAC at the condo went out for the last and final time Sunday afternoon. I’d already had Peaden out for a look and estimate, as the system was nine years old, on top of a building exposed to the Gulf air, and repeatedly acting up. Monday I called Peaden, Tuesday afternoon they installed a new HVAC system, and we are back in business. 

How did I get off on this? It was because the humidity hit me in the face when I opened the balcony door this morning, and I appreciated Peaden yet one more time again. Someone said “well, they’re not cheap.” No, but my experience was that the cheap outfit never showed up when needed for emergency or when scheduled for maintenance. Choose: cheap, or reliable and efficient. Sweaty and mad, or cool and comfortable. 

This is my blog post this morning because I spent my usual thinking and writing time preparing my confirmation class lesson plan for Sunday morning. It’s almost finished.


Tuesday, April 14, 2015


Dreams are nutty things, generally forgotten upon awakening. Somewhere not long ago, when I had in mind to offer a Dream Group at church -- (I offered a Grief Support Group instead, and it led to close friendship with a man named Don, whose grief was overwhelming because his losses were overwhelming, and who himself is the only person I’ve ever known who died of a broken heart, I think of him often. We were the same age, his November birthday the same as my son Joe) -- I read that dreams are often caused by things that were on my mind the previous day. That may be so, I seldom remember my dreams. But I’ve not discerned that to be the case with the dreams that stick with me -- well, once, with a dream in 2008 that’s still with me, something I’d noticed during the day ignited memories and a long, vivid dream. But the dream I had within the last hour (it’s 3:43 at the moment) doesn’t seem related to anything at all. In my dream I visited Capernaum. Mind, I have no thought of going there, nor wish to go. It’s the little seaside village where Jesus made his home as an adult, maybe from late adolescence, maybe after Joseph had died and he moved there from Nazareth with his mother and brothers and sisters? Maybe Mary had relatives there, maybe the family had visited cousins there when he was growing up. Maybe he just loved living by the sea, I can envision that, it’s almost the center of my own being. It was there in Capernaum that Jesus called Peter and Andrew, James and John, who were fishermen, it's a small town and I think they were already friends.

The mind wanders at will, especially in dreams, doesn’t it, and we aren’t “guilty,” we don’t have to answer to anyone for our dreams, do we, not even to ourselves. So anyway, Linda and I were at Capernaum. Totally surrounded by a wall in my dream, a high wall once you got inside, and made into a tourist attraction. There was the obligatory gift shop, and there were the public restrooms (which likely is what sponsored the dream in the first place, as about one o’clock I’d come to consciousness, refused to get up, turned over and gone back to sleep instead) And the ruins of the village proper. It’s as close to the sea as my balcony porch. There are lots of pictures of Capernaum online, this 

is my favorite.

In my dream it was quite moving to walk round the ruins of the village where Jesus actually lived and walked after relocating from Nazareth. I’ll bet he met Mary there. She was from Magdala, just a few miles down the coast. I’ll bet they met one summer as teenagers when she and her family came up by boat to visit cousins. I'll bet they were summer sweethearts. I’ll bet they walked on the beach together, holding hands and making eyes at each other. I think she was in love with him, maybe he with her. I wonder what happened with their dreams. I know she was in Jerusalem with him for that last Passover, and they were together again on Easter (John 20:1-17). In our liturgy we have a prayer (our prayers express our theology, what we believe about God) that says Give courage and faith to those who are bereaved, that they may have strength to meet the days ahead in the comfort of a reasonable and holy hope, in the joyful expectation of eternal life with those they love. I wonder if that happened in their dream.

Monday, April 13, 2015

that isn't useless

Gazing out the window on the bus to Nowhere, what to say that isn’t useless in the surrounding time-space. Sooth, it isn’t surrounding, I’m part of it. And that somewhat reluctantly, having made my first mistake of the day: reading News online. Why do we bother. 

Indoors now after two hours on the balcony with wind and dark, damp breeze and mist, same slow shrimp boat and its low hum. Lightest drizzle of rain. 

Port light of another craft passing, for sure not Navy, as they don’t head out for their hard day at sea until eight o’clock. Not sarcasm, just observation. Navy lab, I suppose they’re doing scientific work that requires going outside the three mile limit for cigarettes before returning to port by happy hour. 

Second cup of coffee and still too drowsy to walk this morning. Walk anyway, get with it, Buster. 

What to write. No Easter Week off to recoup, Thursday afternoon text “Kristen’s home until Sunday” from her mother, exhausting Sunday morning, Papa’s standard Sunday afternoon tension with Kristen on the road, escalating to extreme panic at 7:44, text at 7:45 “I’m here.” Almost invariably, the panic kicks in moments before the text. Retired priest is not the same as retired naval officer, and there’s no such thing as a retired Papa. 

At my last Washington assignment, one of my assistants was a GS-15 who was a retired Navy captain named Otis: he told me that once you retire the Navy hopes never to hear from you again. But this will be a good week, my one task is prepare for Tuesday morning Bible Seminar, a highlight of being retired. Starting at the end, the post-resurrection appearances, we’re plowing into the Gospel according to John. In the beginning was the Word, and ...

What to say that isn’t useless in the time-space that is Monday morning.

Ahh, "sooth" -- I trashed my overused word "actually" and googled for a synonym.