Wednesday, September 30, 2015

a cor-or-ker

My gal’s a cor-or-ker, 
she’s a New Yor-or-ker,
I buy her everything to keep her in style.
She drives a Buick Six,
I ride a mule that kicks,
Yes, boys, that’s where my money goes.

Up too early this morning. After falling to sleep sitting up at six-thirty, sent off to bed at seven-thirty, and zonked until two-fifteen. Up, black coffee, small glass of milk and thought to blog but wandered off online reading cover to cover the Buick full-line catalogue for 1923. In my day Buicks were all straight eights, but the brochure would have been the age of the song we sang some mornings at Cove School. “My gal’s a corker,” one of my favorites because of the Buick verse. 

A 1923 Buick Six. Among the marketing boasts, a 124 inch wheelbase throughout the Buick Six line,  

and a tough frame of selected oak and ash, in which carriage bolts have replaced the wood screws commonly used. The trunk and trunk rack are standard. 

The four-cylinder touring car for 1923 has a 109 inch wheelbase. 

Automobile windows in those days were plate glass. Which, I remember mama saying, was why my grandfather stuck to open cars, because of the record of crashes in which people were stabbed and mutilated horribly on huge glass shards. My recollection from other reading is that safety glass wasn’t the industry standard until 1925. 

Finishing the Buick brochure, I browsed online for liver pâté and braunschweiger until realizing I was asleep in the chair. Pay homage to Father Nature to prevent nightmares, then back to bed and sleep from 4:15 until after seven o’clock -- except for the dreams, not a bad night and night’s sleep.

Late night, predawn dreams are not good. In one dream my mother from as I remember her thirty or forty years ago walked into the room and when I broke into sobs the dream wakened me. Only time that has happened, but I reckon we never quite get over some losses, even the most natural ones. Back to sleep and caught up in a dream in which my two high school girlfriends were roommates, and Linda, though not jealous, dismissing the other girl as too flirty, grabbing my arm and steering us out the door. My gal is a cor-or-ker. Dream also a waker-upper and arise for Father Nature and coffee. I hesitate to tell these things, but what the hell, I’m eighty years old.

So foggy this morning that Shell Island and even Davis Point are invisible. A few yards offshore in the Bay seven floors down, two pelicans floating, a solid brown one and one with a white head, could be a baby? The large flocks of pelicans disappeared suddenly one morning a couple weeks ago, gone, migrated. I wonder where they winter?

Last night’s sunset.

Thos+ in +Time+

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


Recently my friend Mike McKenzie from Atlanta sent me several old photographs of my ancestors, family from two and three generations back. There's a picture of my great-grandmother Emma Amanda Look Weller,
 my grandfather's mother who died, as I understand, when Pop was born in 1872.

A picture that especially interests me is of my great-grandfather Reginald Heber Weller sitting with his six sons. Alfred, Pop to me, was the youngest, sitting at the left, and I think he was twelve, which makes the picture perhaps 1884.

Standing behind Alfred is his next older, and close, brother, my Uncle Charlie. Charles Knight Weller, who was almost four years older than Pop. Until Mike sent the pictures, I'd never realized because I only knew him in his seventies and eighties, but there is a very close resemblance between Uncle Charlie at sixteen, and me at the same age.

In the picture are three Episcopal priests. Sitting, my great-grandfather Reginald Heber Weller, who was called Heber, was rector of St. John's, Jacksonville, Florida, which is now their diocesan cathedral. In the center and standing tallest in the picture is my Uncle Heber, R. H. Weller, Jr. who was in the Diocese of Florida for awhile before being called to a parish in the Diocese of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, where in 1900 he was elected bishop. Uncle Heber, who died in 1935 about the time I was born, has been discussed in my blog before, and isn't my main interest at the moment; which is Uncle Charlie, the third priest (to be) in the photograph.

Looking at Uncle Heber and Pop, though, brings to mind Pop telling me about the time, I think he went for a year, as a teenager, when he went to Wisconsin to visit and live with Heber and his family. Pop remembered, which entitles me to my own memories, the day, probably a Sunday afternoon, when he took the horse and sleigh out into the snowy day with a girl he was in love with, had a terrible crush on her. And he kissed her. He said, "It was the first time I ever kissed a girl."

Noticing our resemblance as teenagers, I explored Uncle Charlie online. He was born in Kentucky, 1868, died in 1954 while I was a freshman at UFlorida. My father said he “read for Orders,” meaning instead of seminary he studied for ordination under a mentor. He was ordained deacon at St. Philip's Cathedral, Atlanta and assigned to the church at College Park; where in 1909 he was ordained priest, with his brother the bishop of Fond du Lac assisting in his ordination. The 1915 journal of the Diocese of Georgia lists him as having been transferred (letters dimissory is the term), and the 1915 journal of the Diocese of Alabama lists him as rector at St. Michael and All Angels, Anniston. Linda's great-grandfather and his family, the Nobles, who had come from England, built that church after the Civil War
for themselves and their employees who had come from England to work in their iron works. Anyway, Uncle Charlie is there in 1915. This rings a bell, stirs a memory. 

I have here, under my twin-masted schooner Annie & Jennie, is my uncle's textbook, Outlines of Greek and Roman History, William C. Morey. Inside the front cover it's inscribed in his hand, Alfred Daniel Weller, Jr., St. Michael's Parish School, Anniston, Alabama. I'd forgotten why Alfred was there, and now it returns to mind: Mom and Pop sent him there to school because Uncle Charlie was there. The end of that story, as I recall from my aunt Evalyn, was that Alf did not do well with his studies, and soon returned home. Seems to me that EG said that as well as not an especially brilliant student, he was extremely homesick, longing for home, where he was the golden boy apple of his parent's eye. I also heard my father use that phrase about Alfred, "he was the apple of their eye," and his death nearly destroyed Mom and Pop and our family.

But Uncle Charlie. If he and I looked alike as teenagers, I wondered what he looked like later. Online I came across a photograph of him in vestments, and I'm going to say he must have been sixty-five to seventy-five.

Linda says it does resemble me in an excellent photograph that Arthur Reedie took of me in the pulpit a year or so ago. That picture is on the same shelf with A&J, and I especially like it.

What ignited this morning's interest was sitting at my desk in my office at church yesterday, thumbing through the prayerbook Uncle Charlie gave me on my 14th birthday, looking for something about Francis of Assisi. The prayerbook is one of my treasures. In my teen years I memorized it during sermon time. 

Sitting here at my Bay window where through the clearing fog and cloud, I can barely see Davis Point, around which the A&J sailed into the beginning of my own life.  

Thos+ in +Time+ 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Greater Sin

Grouchy Monday?

Some years ago a television program documented chimpanzees fighting off other, murderous chimpanzees who would snatch infants, tear them apart and eat them. The eerily horrifying inhumanity of animals with whom we share 98% of DNA returns to mind as a political movement wins followers by murder and unspeakable cruelty, speaking horror of the human race. Let me off the bus at the next stop.

Volkswagen perversion. Power, greed that perverts technology designed to protect us, perverted dangerously against us for profit. Resignations, forced retirements, AYFSM? Lengthy prison terms, crushingly bankruptive fines personal and corporate. Or check how such crime would be punished in China or Iran. Caught, pervert, hold out your hand for a light smack on the palm. Disturbing to find the evil character of a company whose products I’ve loved, trusted and owned but will never again consider. GM’s deadly ignition switch? Toyota’s sticking accelerator? Ford’s Firestone tires? Who to trust? Schwinn?

Preaching the gospel as Vicar of Christ, and leading by example, this pope is against greed, oppression, economic manipulation, abuse, selfishness, not only across society, but within the greedy, oppressive, abusive, manipulative, selfish, Church obsessed with medieval laws, that he sees around him. For? What is he for? He is for mercy, generosity, nonjudgmental lovingkindness to each other, beginning at home in the family, as we personify Jesus.

Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world: this Bread means Jesus loves you, as you accept it, you accept Him and He becomes part of you, inspiring you to become what He is. Unconditionally, you are invited and welcome to receive the Bread and Him. Baptized, you acquire an inalienable right to the Body of Christ that not even a piously overzealous parent has the right to deny. My scenario of Sin: a baptized child eagerly holds out his hands to receive the Bread, only to have his parent slap his hands in and cross his arms for a blessing instead of Bread, saying, “I want him to understand it first.” My response, “Hell, man, it’s the love of God: I’m eighty years old and I don’t understand it myself.” My testy, impatient temptation is to give the child the Bread and refuse Communion to the parent, who clearly does not understand it. Who is guilty of the greater sin? The parent who denies Christ the love of God to the child? Probably me, the certitudinous old priest. 

"Inspiring" means the infusing of the Spirit.

Up on the wrong side of the wee bed this morning, were we, Father? 

Thos+ a rainy Monday, and still mucking along

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Most Important Things

The Most Important Thing

Sunday morning. Never start with I. But I'm afraid. For this wonderful world as I knew it, have known it. Having scanned NYT headlines this morning, I'm afraid. Someone in one of the bestselling apocalyptic novels wrote prophetically about the ending of the world beginning in the Middle East, and it has done. 

The world is best of all when the most important thing is college football. Walking down University Avenue, jeering hostilely “Yankee go home” as a top down convertible loaded with cheering Miami students speeds by minutes after the Hurricanes beat the Gators 20-7. December 1, 1956 and they beat us all four of my years at Florida. It was real. It was the way it was. It was the most important thing. Where's that time-turner?

Football season welcomed back after the hottest summer on record, and to see Harbaugh start rebuilding MGoBlue and target Ohio State, CFB today is an escape from what is real into that world that was. BTDT, want to go back. Platform 9 3/4 and where's my time-turner? Where's that Wardrobe?

All three of my teams won yesterday, but because I'm shamefully, congenitally profane, and a heart patient, and when they lose I'm like, “It's the big one, Elizabeth,” I no longer watch the Gators play football. Especially on Thanksgiving weekend. I read, and Linda yells to me from the next room, where the TV is blaring the most important sounds.

Read the Sunday morning sports page . Don't read the headlines, they'll scare the hell out of you. The world needs to return to the important things. Ranking the Gators in the Top 25. Next Saturday in the Swamp. Next year in Jerusalem. Keep those prayers going up.

Thos+ mucking through +Time+

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Saturday Brunch

Brunch after walk down to St. Andrews Market


Last evening

With the blessing of decent health, this is the cap of life. Venus, Orion and Sirius in a black sky. And is this final Saturday in September at last that morning I waited for all summer, that long awaited dawn when it's a bit too cool to stay outside on the porch without an extra shirt? Not quite: a comfortable 64F but 95% humidity. Not quite yet. Soon, very soon.

Blather personified as TheD shifts his aim from Jeb! to Gator. Substance? Is there anything to TheD but ego and arrogance? How much do you weigh, TheD? Why do you want to know? So that if you ever fall into a vat of xxx we will know how much to dip out. Henry II, where are you when we need you?

Angry fingerpointing as Mecca deaths go over 700. Something about us is compelled to find someone to blame, someone, anyone, anyone else. Easier if there's already someone we hate. Who went to the cowboy movie at a Saturday morning kiddie matinee at the Ritz Theatre and watched a cattle stampede saw that when panic ignites, animals go instantly out of control. Cattle range, hajj, soccerfans, or fleeing a battlefield, when we panic, we regress to animals. 

Unending and endless wave after wave of migrant tsunami as anti-immigrant demonstrations erupt in Finland. In South Carolina, “The possibility of a wave of refugees … critics worry they will burden services and alter the character of communities” (NYT). In a civilized world, crisis and human need must be fed, clothed, housed; but “burden the services and alter the character of communities” hardly begins to touch the magnitude of the arising and looming sociopolitical catastrophe. To wit like it or not: free immigration in the British Empire.

Fool me once, shame on you. Volkswagen hopes the world of fools will soon trust VW again. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Having brought shame and disgrace on FIFA, Sepp Blatter target of criminal investigation. Is Sepp simply dementia incompetent or just one more greedy power-lusting corporate crook.

As John Boehner sits behind the pope, tearfully watching, listening and hearing, his childhood upbringing surfaces victorious. For the first time in memory, self-reflection on the Christian message has shamed a politician into resigning and going home. If only every sermon could be so moving. If only there were more former Altar boys in Congress. We can thank John for his service, but those who want to come after him overzealously believe that this is war not politics. The proper art of war is unconditional surrender. The reality art of politics is compromise.

Dawn today

At this age and stage, one of my favorite poems is Lewis Carroll's

"You are old, Father William," the young man said,
"And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head—
Do you think, at your age, it is right?"

"In my youth," Father William replied to his son,
"I feared it might injure the brain;
But now that I'm perfectly sure I have none,
Why, I do it again and again."

and so forth. Carroll's poem is parody, a somewhat sarcastic take-off on Robert Southey's pious original:

"You are old, father William," the young man cried,
"The few locks which are left you are grey;
You are hale, father William, a hearty old man;
Now tell me the reason, I pray."

"In the days of my youth," father William replied,
"I remember'd that youth would fly fast,
And abus'd not my health and my vigour at first,
That I never might need them at last."

"You are old, father William," the young man cried,
"And pleasures with youth pass away.
And yet you lament not the days that are gone;
Now tell me the reason, I pray."

"In the days of my youth," father William replied,
"I remember'd that youth could not last;
I thought of the future, whatever I did,
That I never might grieve for the past."

"You are old, father William," the young man cried,
"And life must be hast'ning away;
You are cheerful and love to converse upon death;
Now tell me the reason, I pray."

"I am cheerful, young man," father William replied,
"Let the cause thy attention engage;
In the days of my youth I remember'd my God!
And He hath not forgotten my age."

Unsure whether I see myself more vividly in Southey or Carroll.

Sign of peace this dawning?

If not peace, hope?

Thos+ in +Time+

Friday, September 25, 2015

One God

After all these centuries, this pope could draw me back toward a uniting catholic church. Except that the status quo, what is among Christians today, denominations including nondenominational, seems to suit the feisty, quarrelsome, combative nature of man: we can never agree, there will always be wars, it's the ancient nature of our being, our way of settling issues. Don't graze your sheep on my farmland. Have we deluded ourselves as a race, “image of God”, surely God cannot be like this, like us?

Or maybe God is: who has read Joshua, the Book of Joshua, Adonai murderously enraged with Achan and his loved ones? Deuteronomy 21:18f: the Word of the Lord? You say so. Literal and inerrant? The obtuse simpleton who says God's definition of marriage is one-man-one-woman self-servingly skipped Genesis, Deuteronomy 21:15 et al to carve her own god. One God? Which one?

Ronald Hals says God's one characteristic is grace. What about jealousy? Anger? Which of all God's biblically apparent characteristics, actions, preferences, loves and hates, are truly of God and which are our human projections, God created in our image? One God? Do I know the cruel, hating deity worshipped at Westboro Baptist Church, carved in the image of the self-loathing closeted homophobe Fred Phelps? Would I recognize your god? Perhaps. Or maybe not. Knowing me as I do, and as I fear He does, Elohim will not recognize himself while I'm shaving this morning.

But I do see the image of God in this pope.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Can I give out the crackers?

Giving out the Crackers in Heaven

13 People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. 14 But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. 15 Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them. (Mark 10:13-16 NRSV)

Part of the Gospel for October 4 - not to jump ahead, but why not? - summer ends and fall begins with Jesus welcoming and loving children. Many children, all ages, at our church. From down the street, the two little boys who adopted us weren’t at Wednesday evening service last night, they’ve been showing up, but they may only do things together, and someone said one of them was with his father in Alabama. What an interesting church where and when children just show up, wander in sans parents, from the neighborhood. All it took to bring them back again was a smiling question, “did you boys get a cookie?” and the next week they’re back and’ve become part of the children’s group with other children at the supper table. Is this what Heaven is like, children wandering in sans parents, all children, one Father? Or is this Heaven?, Jesus isn't apocalyptic, he has a "realized eschatology," I'm thinking this is it.

Wednesday evenings a child reads the Gospel, we banter the Gospel back and forth, have our prayers, then the priest says “come on up, kids,” and whoever wants to, toddler to teen, generally a dozen or more, come up and circle round the Altar for the Communion service. A quiet commotion while we sort out which four want to help serve the Bread and Wine. 

So as children and youth were crowding round last night, a tiny girl who shares a birthday with me but seventy-five years apart, came behind the Altar and asked, “Can I hand out the crackers?” I glanced around for the older girl whom I could trust to lovingly help her, oversee and say the words. With a squirt from the hand cleanser bottle, everybody washes hands, and away we go, “The Lord be with you,” out the back side of the Wardrobe.

It took fifty years, but somehow, slowly, over the past ten years, especially on Wednesday evenings, this church that we helped start sixty years ago has become the Kingdom of God; or as Matthew has it, the Kingdom of Heaven. Whoever comes on Wednesday evenings needn’t be concerned about saving themselves into some future Heaven, this is it, you walk down the aisle into the Kingdom of God right here. 

W+ in +Time+

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

whoof of Aslan

Wednesday morning: I'm going to spend it – -- Time is “spent” and when it's spent it's gone. In fact, it's gone whether one spends it or not, and it can't be saved up for later. Use it or lose it – -- on myself, which despite promises to self I've not yet done after the rush of last week and weekend, which for me as an old retired priest was like Advent and Lent squeezed into a few days! I'm going to do as I DWP, reading a book. The preface stole my heart and the first few chapters snared me. C. S. Lewis A BIOGRAPHY by A.N. Wilson, 1990. A birthday gift. So far, right from the preface, it's like going back in Time starting before my grandfather was a young husband and father. Time will change, because it brings Lewis right through 1963, when he dies within days of his 65th birthday, six months before Pop died at 92, actually. 

I love Lewis, not so much for his Christian apologetics, for which I think he was too intelligent. Rational, rationalized, it was a leap and a decision. 

Other Lewis: when I read it in my fifties or sixties, Perelandra was too weird, though if it survived the move I may try it again in my eighties decade. I love The Great Divorce, as anyone knows who's ever d
ozed off while I was in a pulpit. Best of all are the seven Chronicles of Narnia. Like getting on the Hogwarts Express with Harry for the first time, Lewis' first chronicle is the most captivating, and I just found out that the Wardrobe is real, made by Lewis' grandfather, on display in the museum at Wheaton College. Why for hero worship would I consider traveling to Illinois to be in its presence when I wouldn't consider, nor especially want, to visit Jerusalem or Capernaum? Perhaps because Jerusalem and Capernaum still exist in my mind as Jesus knew them and not for disillusionment as tourist councils have them. I'd rather be illusioned.

Of course, I did get goosebumps the first time, 1947 I suppose, I stood and looked at Lincoln's tall hat in the Smithsonian. And I would like to go back to Maine, this time to Broad Bay, now Waldoboro, and wander where Andreas Wäller came from Germany in the 1700s. Not to mention lobster and clams.

With Lucy, High King Peter and the others, I'm full aware there's something beyond the winter fur coats in the back of the wardrobe, even if like the professor, I'm too old to go back there, and Digory Kirke was but 52. Still and all, it's magically possible that what I see beyond my porch railing is actually the picture on the bedroom wall,

 into which Lucy, Edmund and Eustace were pulled into Narnia.
 It's a picture
 of a sailing ship, and by a whoof of Aslan, just a puff of His breath or a note of his song, I might be able to get aboard the A&J, meet Alfred and join the voyage.

Still, for all the excitement in NarniaTime between the Wardrobe, the lamppost, and the train wreck, my all Time favorite is The Last Battle.

Thos+ in +Time+

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


Imagine That

Human, including my own, decisions, indecision and preferences make no difference to Mother Nature. But this morning I find myself undecided about the predawn hour; that is to say, which is most wonderful, (i) the perfection of total silence with clear sky, stars, moon if it’s out and sailing across, a shrimp boat working the Bay, and seasonably cool, dry weather such that I need an extra shirt or light sweater; or (ii) lightning too distant for thunder in huge clouds moving east or west on the horizon far south over the Gulf, magnificent in the predawn; or (iii) a morning with threatening thunder and lightning flashing, rumbling, low clouds drawing closer until, sky covered, rain pours down and rain all morning. If weather fluctuates, so does mind, decision, and preference. The experiences in a house were far different to living high in a tower. On the ground was to hunker down, take whatever is, and wonder what’s coming next. Living up here, I’m an overseer: in upper management we get to help decide what is, which helps me appreciate the folks of Genesis 11:4. Wishing everyone could be so blessed as to live on the seventh floor, I'm thinking of a child's book, We Were Tired of Living in a House. 

In a funeral homily last Saturday morning, I thought of Barbara Crafton’s little book The Courage to Grow Old, which since then I have gone ahead to finish. At the end, her final essay is about life and what comes next after this, and especially about Time. Time with its TimeLine, and Eternity with no such. Starting with Einstein saying “time is what we have so that everything doesn’t happen all at once,” Crafton thinks about the stars, far distant stars whose light that we see in the heavens in our present is actually reaching us from their past, from years ago, decades, centuries, thousands, millions of years ago as earth circles the sun and even as light itself travels through space. Light from stars that may no longer exist but that are there for us to see in our present. 

With that scenario, Crafton does a fascinating trick with Time that could have come from the mind and imagination of C. S. Lewis or Madeleine L’Engle. She reverses perspective and plays with Time. On planets in far distant space are beings, humans like us, scientifically more advanced than we are, in that they have telescopes so powerful that they can peer at us and see us moving around in our daily lives. Of course, like the light from the stars that we see right now in this morning’s dark sky, what they’re seeing in their present is our past. Our near past or distant past, or even from ancient times, it would vary depending on how far away from us their planet is. So, out there, the folks on one planet may at this very moment be watching me muddle through my teen years of confusion as I wonder and deal with decision and indecision. What will I choose? What, who will choose me? Going to the telescope in a slightly more distant planet, they may be watching and wagering the outcome of the Battle of Gettysburg as they watch it live. General Longstreet will shake his head “no” when Pickett asks; and if not, with the far advanced communication capabilities on that planet they can get word to General Lee to change his mind before it’s too late to stop the charge and its carnage. On another planet a bit farther away, they are watching live as an innocent man is nailed to a cross while some bystanders mock and taunt him, and others weep. How that will turn out remains to be seen — moment by moment, as it happens, because from there the story is unfolding, live and in their present. It’s all in the mind of God anyway. From a more distant planet they are watching a TRex rip to pieces as it tears out chunks and consumes a huge, lumbering lizard.

In her scenario of life here and hereafter, Barbara Crafton stirs the thought that when we die and our here and now crumbles away and we find ourselves in that state beyond Time, we will be in Eternity where there is no Time Line and all these things are happening. It will be a matter of perspective, and we will be able to see not only what was, but what might have been, what could have been. She teases with the possibility that we’ll be able to check out and perhaps even live into various different realities. For one thing, I’m going to see how I look in that admiral’s uniform that I longed for in my twenties but for sundry reasons, decisions and choices I never got to wear in my forties: hey, if Crafton is right, no problem. If I do it, I hope I’ll be able to find my way back, because all that is for me now is because of my TimeLine. But imagine that. In that TimeLine, where am I this 2015 morning? 

From another perspective in Eternity we may be able to stop that crucifixion after all. Imagine that. Just imagine the possibilities. 

Are you saved?


Monday, September 21, 2015

Whoever welcomes one such child, and we pass

Nevermind CFB, season not going as hoped, Saturday a stunner, not going there this morning, my teams are off the chart, and yours dropped. SEC sunset.

Muslim questions in the GOP tussle. Before 1960 people said a Catholic could not be president. A black person could not be president. A woman could not be president. At least one GOP candidate says a Muslim could not be president. Don't say stupid things. In the evolution of politics in a democracy, whoever the people elect can be president.

Faced with disciples arguing about who is the greatest, Jesus takes a little child into his arms, answering the question for all time. J would really like our church, where children are first on Sunday mornings, most on Wednesday evenings, and two little boys from down the street have adopted us and we them. Six and seven years old, they come and go on scooters, shoot baskets, responded to our smiles, kindness and welcome, attended both services yesterday and came to the Altar for communion twice, came up for "Children's Time," helped or at least watched cookies baked. Not sure but I think they're half-brothers. Taller boy is six years old, his brother seven. “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” It’s a gospel practicum with the ultimate in innocence and response to smiles, and we pass. 

This morning dawned to my realization that one of life’s busiest weekends was history, as well as the build-up to it, prep for it. Need a break of some sort besides just yesterday afternoon’s glass of Malbec and a nap! Maybe I'll stop at Gandy's for mullet after this morning's walk. It's time, roe season at hand, schools of huge mullet are jumping in the Bay right off my porch, and porpoises having breakfast.

Dark chocolate birthday cake, slice of wedding cake, and blessings upon Elise and Lucas!

Nice dawn, LOGOS, I'm wondering whether the firmament was this bright the morning of the Big Bang?

Thos+ mucking along through +Time+

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Pay Attention

Pay Attention. Pray. Do Something.

A short sermon in Holy Nativity Episcopal Church, Panama City, Florida on Sunday, September 20, 2015. Proper 20B. Mark 9:30-37. (verses 36,37). The Rev. Tom Weller

36 Jesus took a little child and put it among them; and taking the child in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

Long years predating the internet, these are not “urban legends,” those outrageous and credible but sick lies that circulate on the internet and get people so upset. Not urban legends, these are true war stories. This morning I’m thinking of two events from my own lifetime; two events and three. If my sermon this morning should be rated “for mature audiences,” I’m sorry about that, it’s just the way it is.

36 Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking the child in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

The first war story, the first event in my mind, that never quite leaves my conscious, was 1968, our My Lai Massacre, the horrifying story, with reports and pictures and facts that shade the atrocities of ISIS, put ISIS to shame, of an entire Vietnam village slaughtered, photographs of the dead, every human being in the village, old men and women, young children, toddlers and suckling infants murdered, pictures of their corpses spread in news reports and magazine covers across the globe, an unspeakable atrocity that changed the Moral Being of America as we had always believed ourselves to be.

36 Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking the child in arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

The second story was 1990. In an intelligence gathering mission of the First Gulf War, American special forces were dropped into Iraq north of Kuwait. Their covert mission was highly classified to protect military plans and the lives of American servicemen, and they were strictly and absolutely ordered to kill anyone who saw them, kill any witnesses to their presence. As it happened, they found themselves in an area where little children came to play, and the children were surprised to discover American soldiers in their playground. Reflecting on his strict orders and deciding deliberately to disobey them, the American officer in charge of the mission ordered his small reconnaissance force to withdrawn, out immediately without harming one child.

36 Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking the child in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

As I said, there are “two war stories, and three.” In the war story of September 2015, the civilized world is appalled, horrified at reports and photographs and videos that we are seeing of the refugee crisis, the greatest humanitarian disaster since World War Two: untold thousands of human beings fleeing toward Western Europe from the east, and from across the Mediterranean Sea from the south, thousands upon thousands of people every day, oh my God, the humanity. And as I look at the pictures, I look into the eyes of every trusting child, and into the terrified faces of their parents traveling toward the western world with hope ahead and death behind. The magnitude of it staggers the mind. Incredible, incomprehensible: no country on earth, not even ours, is prepared to meet such catastrophic need.

36 Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking the child in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

Don’t freak out: this is not an effort to stir your tears and break your will to resist this human onslaught, which quickly and soon will challenge not only Europe and every decent European nation, but America, our cities, and small towns, and neighborhoods. Our schools, our local governments, our social support infrastructures, resources, utilities, police, public safety, medical facilities. And will confront and challenge our culture even as diverse as it already is and is becoming. Illegal immigration, or “undocumented” to be politically correct, is already a major issue in our developing presidential campaign that grows more and more heated by the day as the press fans the flames and we breathe in the hot air.
The daily growing refugee flood from their south and east into southern and central Europe with their hopeful destination of prosperous and safer Western Europe, is overwhelming, and as it reaches across the Atlantic to our shores and our cities, as it most certainly will, quickly and soon, the notion of a wall across our Mexican border will seem like Trivial Pursuit. 

I do not have an answer. God bless him, speaking as the Vicar of Christ, the Pope’s answer is for every parish to adopt one refugee family (even as we did across America after the Vietnam War, including the parish that Linda and I came from in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania — and including right here, Holy Nativity Episcopal Church, Panama City, Florida, the most loving and child-oriented parish I have ever served). I do not have answers. I am not Jesus Christ. I did not write today’s gospel. All it takes to steal my heart is a child lifting his arms for me to pick him up. And looking at pictures of this human catastrophe, all I can see is the faces of children, the eyes of a child.

In this humanitarian disaster, our bishop, Russell Kendrick, reminds us, as we look at the pictures, that “there is no such thing as ‘other people’s children,’ they are all our children.” And the bishop asks that we do three things: Pay Attention, Pray, Do Something.

36 Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking the child in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

We remember before you all poor and neglected persons whom it would be easy for us to forget: the homeless and the destitute, the old and the sick, and all who have none to care for them. We remember especially the refugees and migrants in our midst and far away, who are looking for your face of love. Help us to be mindful of all those who are in need of care and those who are seeking to help. We pray for the people of Syria and an end to the violence in the Middle East, an end to unjust governments, and for the care of those who are without a country. We pray especially for the children, that they would not be lost in the darkness of this time.

Life Is Short

Life Is Short

Homily: Celebration of the life of Maxine Mahone (1919-2015). Grace Episcopal Church, Panama City Beach, Florida. Saturday, September 19, 2015. The Rev. Tom Weller

I begin with a benediction from the end, because that’s where we are this morning as we celebrate life and its ending: My friends, life is short. And we haven’t much time to gladden the hearts of those who travel with us. So be quick to love, and make haste to be kind.

This has been the week of my eightieth birthday, I turned 80 on Monday, September 14th, Holy Cross Day. Eighty years old instead of “39 again” as my grandfather Walter Gentry once teased me. We called him “Daddy Walt,” and he loved Jack Benny’s weekly radio show, and Jack Benny’s old Maxwell car that Rochester drove. 

The Gentrys, my mother’s family, lived in Pensacola, and Daddy Walt rode a bicycle to and from work every day until 1923 or 1924, when he bought the family’s first car, a brand new Maxwell touring car. My mother said it was blue. Every year on my birthday I hear Daddy Walt saying “39 again,” especially for some reason, this week, this year, this time around as I turned 80, twice the 40 that I was when Daddy Walt died.

Eighty years old, and out of nowhere for some reason this week, there appeared on my bedside table a little book, The Courage to Grow Old. It’s a kind of book I especially enjoy, a book of essays, a favorite style of reading and writing. These essays are by the Reverend Barbara Crafton, an Episcopal priest and pastor who is more recently retired than I — so recent that Barbara probably is still in the stage of daily surprise at waking up every morning to what she does-not-have-to-do today — a surprise that stirs up both good news and sad.

Seeing the book The Courage to Grow Old under the lamp, on the table at my side of the bed, instantly made me think of Maxine. Of what Maxine brought to life, to her life and our lives, those of us who knew her and loved and enjoyed her, loved being around her. She was like springtime, full of life and love and hope. And courage, Courage is the word. Around the windows in the foyer as you come into the church this morning there are pictures of Maxine for us to look at and remember, and one of them is a snapshot of Maxine, probably in her nineties, on a motorcycle. I wasn't surprised! From the year 2000, when I came here as rector for a while and first knew Maxine, it never occurred to me that she would die, because there was nothing of death about her. Right up until these last days, only smiles: the laughter and sunshine of springtime. The Courage to Grow Old.

I do not know, you and I do not know what comes next after this wonderful life that God has gifted us, the wonder of being alive, and aware, to behold the beauty of creation; to love and gladden the hearts of those who travel with us. Even as Christians with our faith, even as we travel with our focused Christian theology of life everlasting, we do not know. But we hope, and we trust in John’s Gospel: Jesus’ promise, “In my Father’s house are many mansions. ... I go to prepare a place for you. And I will come again to take you to myself, that where I am, there ye may be also.” A powerful promise.

In our prayer this morning you will hear a petition to God: “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.” As I read the prayer aloud, as we pray that petition, I will not be thinking of you, or of us, the bereaved. I will be thinking of Maxine’s courage to live and love, her courage to grow old. As she is laid to rest with her husband in our nation’s most holy ground, I bless God for her courage in life; and I pray that she may truly realize that joyful expectation of eternal life with those she loves.

My friends, life is short. And we do not have much time to gladden the hearts of those who travel with us. So be quick to love. Make haste to be kind. Have the courage to grow old with holy hope and joyful expectation. And the blessing of Almighty God: Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier, be with you and remain with you throughout the ages of ages. 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Dragging my feet

Inevitabobble, isn't it. Not death and taxes, but the sun's track, its orbit. All summer when the earth has tilted so that the sun's path is to the north, it passes over our condominium building here and never shines in our face or in our south windows. Summer is obviously over though, because the sun is moving south: Friday evening for the first time, half the setting sun was still behind the building and half was shining in my face as I sat on my porch looking west. In a few days it will show me no mercy for six months, all day blinding reflection on the surface of the Bay. Fortunately and thankfully, we've bought and Joe installed solar shades that admit 10% of light, cut glare and reduce the sun's heat while still admitting our wonderful view.

Otherwise, the inevitable jumps out at me as this MacBook takes longer and longer to boot. After a full charge last evening, as reported by the green light on the charging cord, it took forever to boot. These things happen and these times come. Considering new computers a waste of money, I bought this one refurbished from Apple in 2009 or 2010, a year or two before going to Cleveland in January 2011, remembered because I took it to Cleveland and used it there. Even used, Apple is pricey, so to replace it I may try MacOfAllTrades. They're cheap, but they come without the software I use. I might rather stick with Apple. There's no emergency or rush, I'm dragging my feet.

We have dragonflies here, flitting round off my seventh floor condo looking for – whatever they eat. Maybe mosquitos, we used to call them mosquito hawks. All the best to them, but I've not seen, felt, heard or scratched a mosquito up here in the 8 2/3 months since we moved in.

Summer's having one last hack at me. On the porch last evening the little machine said 88F 50%. In my school days, school days, dear old golden rule days, my favorite season was summer vacation. Now it's staycation year round and this hottest summer on record has me looking forward to fall if not downright winter. Already, Robert and I've moved our walk start time from 6:00 to 6:30, last week shifting to 7:00. It's minimal exercise that we do to stay alive, and reminisce about growing up in the Cove seventy years ago. We've been friends and classmates seventy-three years. Both eighty, we lived across Massalina Bayou from each other, and attended each other's 7-year-old birthday parties. 

Saturday: a busy one from dawn to dark, and that's not a threat, that's a promise. My father liked to say that. “... and that's not a threat, that's a promise.”

The blog is spontaneous, and for some reason, this triggers the time we were out on a date in the Plymouth woody. I think there were six of us in the three seat wagon, two front seat, two middle seat, two back seat. The brakes were a little soft, going to mushy. Anyone who's heard this before, scroll to bottom and cut off before it goes dark. At some point in early evening that night, I had to start pumping the brakes in order to slow and stop the car, so I was driving slowly, cautiously. Staying off Harrison Avenue, driving north on Jenks Avenue, likely enroute to the Tally-Ho, I saw the light at Jenks and 11th Street go yellow, then red. Or maybe it was a stop sign. Already slow, foot off the gas, coasting, I started pumping, but the pedal went to the floor. I pumped frantically, nothing. The car coasted. Pump, pump, pump. Nothing. Slowly approaching the corner, I looked both ways: cars moving through the intersection in both directions. I opened my door, the heavy wooden driver's door, and started dragging my left foot, trying to bring the car to a halt.
 Slowly, finally, with no rubber left on my shoe sole, I did: the car stopped rolling just short of the intersection. Just short. When traffic cleared, I shifted into low (three on the tree) and slowly headed home to get the other car, the 1948 Dodge sedan in the carport at home. This would have been what? 1952 maybe, 1953? I don't think 1954 when Linda and I had a date alone every night but one all summer (raging story for another time) or as late as 1955, because by then away at college and university we had stopped the double-dating and triple-dating from high school. So 1952 or 1953. Maybe 1951, but I don't think so. 1952.

Safely home, I eased the 1949 Plymouth woody wagon into the carport, cut the engine, asked the others to wait in the Dodge, and, not anticipating what awaited me, opened the front door and went into the living room to get the key to the other car. The scene was grim. Grim. Air thick. THICK. My father stopped talking the instant I walked in the front door, and glared at me. My mother looked at me, visibly upset. His jaw set, my father glared. Glared. You did not want the man glaring at you, I hadn't had the hand or belt in years, but a glare could signal the beginning of a (shudder) Talk. My father's Talks were legendary, all three of us had been recipients. Through those years, Walt and I were the silent victims of the Talks, only Gina had courage to mouth back at him, which only raised the temperature in the Northern Hemisphere. Anyway, surprised, I sensed something was coming. 

Sheer coincidence, my father had been in the other car, the Dodge, the car I had come to get, at the 11th and Jenks intersection as I rolled up with the door open, dragging my left foot. Furious, he'd assumed -- what? I said, “The station wagon has no brakes, the pedal's to the floor, I came to swap cars.” Primed for attack, my father was gunning for me and not waiting to listen nor wasting the opportunity. Even if nobody else on earth does, my brother would understand; only my brother and I know and understand from whence we have come to this point in life. Not hearing my explanation, my father lit into me. He was too angry not to do so. Puzzled, I stood my ground calmly and told my mother again, I don't know why he's mad at me, the station wagon has no brakes, the pedal's to the floor, at Jenks and 11th I had to open the door and drag my foot to stop it. It can't be driven, don't drive it tomorrow. I've come to swap cars, everyone's outside waiting. My father stopped talking. My mother said, “he needs the car keys.” I repeated, the station wagon has no brakes, it needs to go to the shop tomorrow, and in his silence before he said oh and, I think reluctantly began to relinquish his anger, I took the Dodge keys and left. Next morning my mother told me that before I walked in the door my father had been so angry at me, raging that I was not to be allowed to drive the cars again.

It never came up. The station wagon went to the shop. The brakes were fixed. The bitter lesson, which is not the destination this morning's blog started out for, was and still is my father's judgement of me that night before asking me, doubting me before trusting me, not easy on a son. Forgiven, yes, and long let go, but there are many reasons why ich heiße Tom. 

A great deal about my upbringing influenced the way I tried to raise my children that I am told I love far too much, too dearly, too protectively, too dotingly. I think my brother has loved his children the same way, maybe from the same history. By far, I did not always succeed in being kind and gentle, but one of them told her mother, "We always knew Dad loved us."

Eighty and dragging my feet


Friday, September 18, 2015

Can I borrow your skate key?

Rewriting History

Opa says my newest coffee mug, Opa is the Greatest, as I take another sip of my second cup for this early Friday. Like birthday cards, the sentiments that sell coffee mugs -- one must take them a bit lightly lest one become overly enamored of one's greatestness. If I were to wish, I might wish I'd said these things to my Opa instead of so reservedly thinking “he knows.” I think one did know. I think the other hurt. Looking back, an octogenarian sees blank spots, empty spaces where words could have been said and a loved one blessed by the hearing, even changing the future, and now the past, history rewritten.

If this were a subtraction problem in second grade math, it's the difference between thankfulness and regret. For everyone, it's different, so work out your own salvation.

We went to Pensacola yesterday to have the free 30,000 mile service for a daughter's car. Mullet and oysters on Bayou Texar. While Linda & Kris tour that gift shop at the SW corner of Cervantes and 12th Avenue, I gas-up the car and drive west on E. Strong Street past The House and through a neighborhood that is part of that History, sidewalks where cousins Margaret and Bill taught me to rollerskate. Don't forget your skatekey. For Sale sign in front of The House, which looks like it needs to be pulled down. Sad to see a "Publix Coming Soon" sign in front of A.V. Clubbs School where my mother went so long ago. 

Driving back was rush hour traffic leaving Pensacola, through Gulf Breeze, through the Eglin AFB area and the new overpass at the main gate, through Mary Esther, through Fort Walton Beach, through Destin and SanDestin. Stop and go traffic through what seventy years ago was a long, deserted two-lane stretch between Destin and the Bay County line at Phillips Inlet; heavy traffic through PCB and double, triple, quadruple approaching and crossing Hathaway Bridge until curving off into St. Andrews at the Beck Avenue traffic light.

Arriving home so exhausted that with a small glass of red, heart meds, horror and Lasix40 at swelled ankles, I was asleep for the night at 6:15 p.m. While the head slept, the kidneys were up-and-at-em with Father Nature ringing at 8:10, 9:30, 11:30, 1:20, 2:15, … Now my cellphone is missing. In my stupor, I must have left it in the car. I'll see when I go down for the Friday walk with Robert.

Today: write & walk, pax & prep. Saturday: funeral, wedding. Sunday: busy busy busy busy busy ZONK.