Friday, December 26, 2003

Keeping the church together

There's a new site listed on my links -- I didn't list them just because their name is almost the same as my blog address! It's a new group called Episcopal Voices of Central Florida, formed with the purpose of "keeping unity in Christ in a changing world." They issued the following press release:


ORLANDO - A group of Central Florida Episcopalians has formed in an effort to keep the local diocese from leaving the national church.

Episcopal Voices of Central Florida is a group of lay people and clergy from all regions of the diocese, which extends to both coasts. Although group members are of differing opinions about sexuality issues now creating a rift within the church, they are dedicated to remaining in full support and union with the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

"We are mainstream Episcopalians who represent the middle ground, the place where everyone is welcome and we can find unity despite our differences," said Donna Bott, moderator for Episcopal Voices. "We oppose and will continue to oppose any attempts to take our churches, our property, our congregations, or our diocese out of the national church. Our bishop, John Howe, has stated that he wishes to remain in the Episcopal Church and we are here to support him."

Bott noted that Episcopalians have weathered other controversies, staying unified in its faith as revealed in scripture, tradition and reason.

"The current situation is polarizing the diocese and diverting its attention from such critically important issues as mission, poverty, hunger, and caring for all as Jesus commands," said Bott, a member of the diocesan board and a resident of The Villages.

Episcopal Voices formed following a September special convening of the diocese convention. During that meeting, resolutions were passed that put the diocese in a posture indicating a possible break with the national Episcopal Church, a situation that alarmed members and led to the group's creation.

"We know there are many people who don't want schism but haven't been able to find their voice. Episcopal Voices is here for everyone," Bott said, adding that the group is very enthusiastic about its mission.

"Anyone is welcome to join our group," said Winter Park attorney Chan Muller. "We represent all points of view with a common goal of staying together in Christian worship and service."

With the annual diocese convention set for the end of January, Episcopal Voices is beginning a petition drive to assure that the diocese remains part of the national church. Anyone interested in joining the petition drive is urged to contact the group's website at or e-mail directly to . You may also contact Leslie Poole at 407-647-3492.

It's going to be a tough battle. I'm guessing the Bishop's number one order of business at the diocesan convention will be an attempt to make the diocese an AAC-affiliate. It has already been announced, in fact, that our diocese, along with 12 others, has joined the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes.

Bishop Robert Duncan, convener of the new network made the announcement. He was also quoted in a New York Times article, "Thirteen dioceses are coming together to guarantee that the kind of Anglicanism that is authentic Anglicanism throughout the world is represented here in the United States and has its own voice."

Ah, yes. The one true church and spiritual leader, the AAC, not that pesky Episcopal Church of the USA, with its bunch of heretics.

Our Bishop Howe admitted to signing a "Theological Charter" for the network, but apparently Duncan jumped the gun in making the announcement, for Howe stated the bishops could not include their whole dioceses as members until diocesan committees had been given a chance to approve it. "The cart is way, way ahead of the horse, and I'm not sure it's the right cart or horse," Howe was quoted as saying in the article.

Oops, and the AAC had already gone and changed its website to reflect this new deal. Then they had to change it back. (This info thanks to my friend M who monitors all these websites and kept me up-to-date on these developments while I was working overtime the last few weeks.)

I guess the slow, parish-by-parish attempt at AAC-affiliation wasn't working out too well (not that many parishes have affiliated, even in our conservative diocese) and they decided to just go for it at the diocesan level. Too bad they have to wait for votes. I just hope our January diocesan convention doesn't go like the special convention in September, an orchestrated event with ringers placed in with the delegates to vote on such goodies as a statement of unity that left ECUSA out of the equation -- we here in Central Florida were apparently in unity with the rest of the world, but not with our own church.

It should be an interesting new year. My prayers will be that the Voices of Central Florida will be heeded at the convention, and that Howe will act as though he means what he says about not wanting a break with ECUSA.

Thursday, December 25, 2003


A Shepherd’s Story

I. Advent

I am a simple man, a shepherd who tends my sheep.
I know where to find good grazing ground,
But these hints of miracles and mysteries deep?
Lord, I have no mastery of things profound.
I cannot understand the signs You gave me--
I only pray that in Your mercy You’ll save me.
Sleepless, I marvel at the star being birthed this hour;
Oh Abba, what is this terrible thing I await,
This Holiness of such unyielding power
that on shaking knees I beg my fear abate.
I can do nothing but pray. On You, Oh God, I wait.

II. Christmas

Hosanna! For in the deep of the night
The Lord brought to us this Holy Light!
To God’s Glory my human spirit yields,
To His Son, whose sign I witnessed from the fields.
He is among us now with extraordinary grace,
A gift from the Father to save our mortal race.
I have seen my Savior -- this night my hope was born
In this baby whose radiance outshines the morn.
My knees tremble yet with fear and awe
For tonight, in an infant, it was God I saw.

Merry Christmas, everyone. May you find many blessings waiting for you.

Monday, December 22, 2003


Jingle bells, jingle bells...What do you want for Christmas, little girl?... On a one-horse open sleigh...Frosty the Snowman...

I grew up in a very secular household. Christmas season was all about the anticipation of the gifts under the tree, especially the ones (the biggest and best ones) Santa would bring on Christmas Eve. It was about baking Christmas cookies and decorating the tree. I remember the weeks of aching anticipation I spent as a schoolgirl, waiting. Wondering what I would get.

I heard the stories about baby Jesus and the three wise men and the stable, but they were just stories, with a message about love.

And at last, Christmas Eve would come. We would usually open one gift each, but not the "best" ones -- those were held for Christmas morning. I could hardly sleep on Christmas Eve for the excitement of it all. One of my earliest and best memories is of being at my grandmother's house for Christmas. She calmed me down enough to get me to sleep by lying down on the bed beside me and telling me to be very still and quiet so I would hear the reindeer landing on the roof.

Then Christmas morning finally arrived. The Santa gifts were always left unwrapped under the tree and we checked them out first, trying out the bicycle or junior chemistry set or doll carriage, then we ripped into the wrapped gifts. Paper and ribbon and stick-on bows went flying. We examined our loot. We had brunch. Then it was all over. Another Christmas bit the dust. There was a sense of let-down, after all the anticipation, after all the Christmas adrenaline -- it was over. The day after Christmas had a little cloud of depression hanging over it, in the knowledge we'd have another whole year, a very long time for a child to wait.

I see roots and parallels in my enjoyment of the Advent season, with its sense of anticipation, of waiting for something wonderful to come, and my childhood anticipation of Christmas, but there the similarities end. The older I get, the less I care about gifts and the exchange of them. They're usually something bought under pressure by someone desperate to find SOMETHING and get this holiday shopping over with.

No, the specialness of Christmas is its Easter message. I know my Lord's a-coming and I'm waiting for Him. In my unsaintly theology, Christmas is the first coming, then Easter, bringing our resurrected King, is the second coming (I guess that means we're actually awaiting his third coming and alleluia, He is coming -- yet He is here. Emmanuel.). I'm rejoicing in His birth.

And Christmas Day is just the beginning of the celebration, not the end.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Not going gentle

In my posting of Nov. 28, I wrote about my mother wandering away from the assisted living facility (ALF) and being detained by the police. Unfortunately, Mom continued to try to wander off. The last time, the nurse reported, she stood in the middle of the street and resisted efforts to bring her back. She was moved into the skilled nursing building, where the doors are secure, a few days ago.

Mom has never accepted that she needs any assistance -- she just wants to go back home, sure she can take care of herself. "I could get a job slinging hash or something," she said, on several occasions, though what the connection is between that and going home is clear only in her mind. Does she think she was put there because she was broke? "Debtor's prison?"

Anyway, she complained of being put in "with those old people" in the ALF, though her own age was certainly not below the median. She complained that they mostly all had something wrong with them and needed wheelchairs or walkers or something. Clearly, she did not fit in with them, her thinking went.

Now she is in the Alzheimer's ward, with the vacant-eyed, slack-jawed, shuffling and sad people. The director said this is the only opening they have in the secure area right now, but hopefully an opening will come up soon in the regular skilled care area. I plan to hold him to it. Mom isn't so far gone that she is unaffected by her environment. She is angry at being placed there. It has to seem horrible and depressing for her there. There's no recreation room, no living room, just a room with a hospital bed. There's not even a TV for her to watch -- I'm going to buy her a portable tomorrow.

I have to admit I've felt a little angry with her for being so uncooperative with the staff at the ALF and for not listening to me, either. (She's been angry at me for being placed there. I "told tales on her to the doctors.") They treated her very kindly at the ALF, and most of the other patients tried to bring her into the social circle. Most seemed pretty cheerful living there, despite their infirmities. But Mom just wasn't having any of it. Her wandering off was due to her mental confusion coupled with her own hard-headedness. Mom has always been determined to do exactly what she wants to do. It worked to her detraction in this case.

I'm afraid this move might send her downhill mentally and emotionally. At the same time, I recognize she had to be moved. The Florida newspapers are full of stories about people wandering away from nursing homes (or their own homes) and being found dead. Mom could have easily been mugged when she took off -- a frail-looking, skinny little-old lady walking down the street with her pocketbook clutched in her hands.

I wish Mom could find it in herself to reach out to the people around her. She has passed up so many chances -- in the ALF was just the most recent. There are people in this Alzheimer's ward with whom she could socialize, who aren't any farther gone than she is. She could even reach out to help or comfort another person, and in so doing, maybe entertain an angel unawares.

Be praying for her and for all the people in nursing homes.

Thursday, December 04, 2003


Advent is the time of year of waiting, waiting in expectancy, aware of our human frailty but with the promise of something new to come from God. It's both solemn and scary (the shepherds were sore afraid of they knew not what) and full of excitement and mystery.

Here's a poem I wrote last year for Advent and Christmas. I'll just post the Advent part now, then post the Christmas part.

A Shepherd’s Story

I. Advent

I am a simple man, a shepherd who tends my sheep.
I know where to find good grazing ground,
But these hints of miracles and mysteries deep?
Lord, I have no mastery of things profound.
I cannot understand the signs You gave me--
I only pray that in Your mercy You’ll save me.
Sleepless, I marvel at the star being birthed this hour;
Oh Abba, what is this terrible thing I await,
This Holiness of such unyielding power
that on shaking knees I beg my fear abate.
I can do nothing but pray. On You, Oh God, I wait.

Saturday, November 29, 2003

All it takes...

The idea of any political action group setting up shop within my church is anathema to me. It doesn't matter which side they're on--conservative, liberal, pro- this or anti-that. I don't like them. They're divisive by their very nature. They want you to think your choice is limited to either them or their opposite number, which is, of course, they tell you, evil incarnate. They don't want you to recognize that you can choose neither them nor what they decry; you can choose a third, fourth, fifth, sixth alternative.

There's a group like this in my diocese that I don't like one little bit. They've been sniffing around my parish, in fact, they've got a foot in the door and their fingers clenched around the door frame. I'm resisting them with all my might, along with some other people, but this is a battle I will probably lose because of their clout in the diocese.

This group is the American Anglican Council, or AAC. If you're a member of the United Methodist Church or the Presbyterian Church, read on, though. The same people backing the AAC in the Episcopal Church are backing political groups in these churches, too.

The AAC grew out of a small group of Episcopal bishops who were just plain mad over the ordination of women and all these other newfangled social changes of the last 40 or 50 years. They want to go back to an "orthodox and traditional church" without any of these innovations. They especially don't want any homosexual priests or bishops. That really makes them grind their teeth. And they want to run the show.

By "orthodox and traditional," they mean the (heterosexual) men in charge. Some will allow that women can be deaconesses but not priests, while others feel that all these Godly women deserve to be put out to pasture in ... say the kitchen, or some such other place befitting the fairer sex.

They say they believe in biblical law. I'm not sure which law that is. Is it the Ten Commandments? Hmmm. That didn't say anything to the effect, "There shall be no female priests among you, nor homosexual ones either." Okay. Check out the Great Commandment. Whups. That doesn't address these thorny issues either, in fact it tells you to love these people as you love yourselves. Fine, then, let's look at the part in red in the New Testament, what Jesus said. Uh-oh. Why, could it be that Jesus was a gay-lover? He didn't say one thing against them! And he was always talking with women, even some o' them furrin ones. Dang.

Okay, let's do it this way. Let's go all through the Bible, especially chapters like Leviticus and Deuteronomy and Numbers and such, and pick and choose some biblical laws we want to uphold. We can't deal with them all, cause there's like over 600 of 'em, and some we don't care about, like wearing clothes woven of two different fabrics or eating dairy products and meat at the same meal. But we're gonna enforce the laws we like!

Now, anybody who disagrees with us is the Anti-Christ, pure and simple, against families and marriage and the American Way and the War mean, the current peacekeeping stabilization mission in Iraq. Heretics and apostates, all of you. You know what the law says to do with you! We can have a BIG bonfire in the church parking lot.

I know, I know. I've taken poetic license. They don't all talk like this. Many are very well-spoken and subtle.

I oppose any political action group trying to flex its muscles in the church, whether it's the AAC or its opposite numbers. Groups with an axe to grind serve the forces of divisiveness. There's just no middle ground, they say.

The truth is, of course, that there is middle ground. There are acres of ground in between. And guess what. You can oppose the ordination of actively or otherwise gay clergy and NOT EVEN BE A MEMBER OF THE AAC!!!! But this is the nature of extreme political groups. You're either a card-carrying member of their camp or you're supporting the enemy. There's no toleration of dialogue, no desire to even attempt any kind of reconciliation or to come to the table together. The AAC position is, "The opposition isn't fit to sit at the table with us. They've already kicked themselves out of the union," and the ever-popular, "The bishops who voted to ratify Gene Robinson should be punished."

The AAC has ties to ultra-right-wing political action groups. In fact, it shares an address and office space with one called the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD). This little group of chummy people has strong connections to right-wing military/governmental/industrial interests (and has had, at least since the Reagan era when it was involved in activities in South America), with people like Diane Knippers in charge. Yes, that's the same Diane Knippers who wrote a position paper on just religious causes for war in preparation of our recent excursions into the Middle East.

Then there's Howard F. Ahmanson, Jr., who just a very short time ago espoused the kind of biblical law I was talking about above, including the death penalty for apostasy and disobedient children and all sorts of other things. Of course,
now that he's a big contributor to the AAC and his wife (ever so coincidentally) sits on the board of the IRD, he says he doesn't really believe this any more; after all, they don't want to scare off the more moderate people! Howard F. Ahmanson also has interests in companies that make the majority of computerized voting machines in the country, ES&S and Diebold. Guess who they plan to keep in office next presidential election? Guess which voting machines seem to get funny results and these results can't be validated?

Why would we want all this mess in our churches? Most of don't, I believe.

Why do they want in our churches? These are the mainline protestant churches, the churches from which a large number of our national leaders come. The voice from the pulpits in these churches is respected in this country, even by the majority non-churchgoers. What a political coup to control this voice. Find a divisive wedge like the sexuality issue, then divide and conquer. They plan to do it parish-by-parish in the Episcopal Church, since they've found out they can't break away from the national church and take the real estate with them--it really does belong to the national church. They have similar plans for the Presbyterian and United Methodist Churches.

Do we want to let them do it?

Friday, November 28, 2003

How I spent my Thanksgiving

I had a great Thanksgiving this year. I'm still recuperating from it.

First, I got up a little after 6 a.m. and started doing the cleaning I should have already done, and the cooking. I baked pumpkin and pecan pies. I made a sweet potato casserole. I roasted a turkey and a ham. I cleaned and cleaned because my house has been a grubby mess. I took a break long enough to write the preceding blog. Straightened up, took a shower (figured I'd better, before people started showing up).

And they started showing up. One brought a folding card table for extra seating, as I just have a little cafe-size table for two, and a bag full of homemade rolls. One came with wine and beer and went to work peeling potatoes for the mashed potatoes. I mashed the potatoes and put dressing and the sweet potatoes in the oven. More came, bearing wine and string beans with onions.

One went over to pick up my mother from the ALF for me. I had picked her up after work Wednesday and brought her to my house to spend the night and Thanksgiving day with me, but she decided she didn't want to stay overnight, so I ended up taking her back.

Right after he left to fetch her, I got a call from the police--Mom was in a restaurant downtown and had been there about a half-hour--they wanted someone to come pick her up right away, could someone be there in the next ten minutes. (I never did get what the "or else" would be -- would they take her to the police station? Book the old lady, Dano! Or to the psych ward at the hospital?) Anyhow, I called the ALF and they hadn't noticed her missing yet. They dispatched security posthaste to pick her up, THEN my friend brought her over to my house. Mom said she thought she had been sleepwalking. She had laid down to take a nap and dreamed about going somewhere.

Well, what's a holiday without a little drama?

Not quite as many people made it to my house as I expected, but we ended up with six. A good number to enjoy food and conversation. Sat around in the living room after dinner and help with clean-up, and talked more. I had a great time. I think everyone enjoyed themselves.

I have been worn out today. Went back to bed and took a nap this afternoon. Laid around the house, nibbling on leftovers. (I'm going to freeze some ham and turkey.) Thought more on things for which to give thanksgiving, like my spiritual director. She picks and gets me to examine my motives and why I feel and act the way I do. I'll hear, "And where's Pat in all this?" in my head for the rest of my life. But she does it with caring, understanding and humor.

Thank you, God, for all these special people, and all the other special people in my life.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Things for which I am grateful

1. For my faith. I came into it later than most, but I have come into it deeply. I thank God for taking the reins and leading me into a relationship with Him. I've written about faith before. Thank you, Father, for the gift of your son.

2. For my health. As I creep through middle age, I receive more and more intimations of mortality. I feel the joints creak and I can't spring out of bed in the morning like I used to. Now, it's more of a slow roll and a hoist. I am grateful that I've never been hospitalized, never needed an operation, never needed to walk with crutches or a walker. Thank you, God, and when my time comes, may I bear it with dignity and trust in You.

3. For my friends. My family has disintegrated over the years, but I've developed deep friendships that have sustained me through difficult times. There are people to whom I'm much closer than my blood family, and I give thanks for them. (You know who you are.) I pray that my own family may grow closer, but I have a suspicion that God has put new people in my life because my family isn't going to be there.

4. For the call to ministry. God has used me in various ministries. I'm working and waiting for the Holy Spirit to reveal how this call is to go deeper, because I believe it is. I have felt that it will include ordination, but this remains to be determined at this time, given the climate in my diocese. I trust Him to show me what, where, when, how.

5. For freedom. We still live in a country where we can worship as our hearts and consciences call us. We still live in a country (I think) where we can vote freely and elect our lawmakers. I am grateful for being brought to the awareness of how easily those freedoms can be lost and how important it is to protect them, and to realize that all it takes for evil to triumph is for good men and women to do nothing. Therefore, I am not to do nothing. Thank you for this awareness, Lord.

6. For my home. I believe that God brought me into my little home and I'm to use it to His purpose. Today I'm having a big Thanksgiving dinner with friends, available family and co-workers. Some of them would not have much of a Thanksgiving otherwise (me either), and I just realized this morning that I am ministering by bringing together these dear people of diverse ages and backgrounds to break bread and celebrate together, to share with each other. Thank you God, for this gift.

7. For the abundance of life God has given me. He's always provided for me, one way or another, even when I was doubtful about it. He's given me the capacity for joy and love and to enjoy life. I am profoundly grateful for these gifts.

8. For the gifts yet to come.

Thank you, Abba, for all the blessings of this life. Make me worthy of these gifts and anoint me to Your purposes.

Monday, November 24, 2003

The light of a city on a hill still gleams

There are several things I want to write about tonight, all interrelated. First, I haven't blogged all week because (1) it's been excessively busy at work and I've been putting in some extra hours and (2) I've been hit by a little down-draft of depression.

That Old SOB, Death, has been hanging around a lot lately. With facilitating a bereavement group and being involved in the kind of ministries I am, it's inevitable that I'll run into him often.

A few weeks ago, Mary, about whom I wrote back in September, died after a valiant and sustained battle against cancer. She beat the odds and broke the doctors' diagnosis because God heard her prayers and those praying for her and gave her the extra time she needed.

I was in the throes of my own family crises and hadn't even seen her in a few weeks when she died. Mary was the light of a city on a hill--her spirituality and her trust in God radiated through her. I told her that a couple of times and I'm very glad I did. The last time I saw her, I told her that her son would remember her, and I'm glad I told her that, too. The look on her face told me she needed to hear it, and it is true. She lived long enough that he will remember her. I wish I had followed through with plans to see her again, though. She was gone before I knew it.

Mary, your light will always shine.

Another lovely woman, from my parish, confined to a wheelchair for the last while and no stranger to pain, died a couple of weeks ago. Though her body failed her, her spirit did not. She was cheerful and had the kind of genuine sweetness, despite her pain, that is rare. I will miss her kind and gentle presence very much.

A man I knew from work died this past week. I didn't know him well; he worked from his home and came into the office occasionally. I have a number of co-workers who knew him well, though, and took his sudden illness and death very hard. It's been an emotional week at work.

Then there's the little premature, stillborn baby I baptized one Sunday morning.

It's enough to piss me off. What is this deal, God? Why so much suffering and death in this world? Why do you put us through all this? I think of all the other deaths and the illnesses, misery, hatred, sin and evil I've seen in the last couple of years. Some local and some not.

It's not an academic question. I've been thinking about it a lot. Why?

Tonight, weary with all the things I've been grappling with, I heard the words come out of my mouth, "God, please pray with me about this."

Not revolutionary words. We're often told to pray to know God's will for us. This was a form of asking God to direct my prayers, but also to be a direct partner in them. I thought about it for a minute, then repeated my plea.

I've heard that physical activity is a very good way to clear the mind so that we can hear God talking to us. Monks do it a lot--the simple acts of kneading bread, crushing grapes or scrubbing a floor help them free their minds. My plan for tonight was vacuuming and shampooing the carpets. As I worked, a few meteors of ideas blazed through the blackness of my mind:

"God is Great and God is Good." Even on my darkest days, I can't believe God lets us suffer out of indifference or cruelty. These are the earliest words of prayer I can recall learning and I guess they stuck with me. There must be a purpose to what we call history.

A few years ago (pre-9-11), I was teaching English to some foreign students, mostly Arab, and explained this belief in a discussion of story we were reading. Shocked, one of them said, "But that's what WE believe." I'm not sure exactly what his take on the Christian view of God had been, but I saw something change.

"Our God is an Active God." God is neither dead nor sleeping. He didn't wipe the dust off his hands and retire a couple of thousand years ago. He is still intimately involved with the human race. He is calling us as individuals and as a race to new understandings, new insights. He's still working on us.

I was struck by the image of Peter, forcing himself to eat at the same table with unclean, uncircumcised gentiles who didn't even practice the dietary laws. This went against his grain and most of what he had learned through scripture, yet he did it, because he realized God was calling him to something new. God is an active God. To be open to the new things God is doing, because he is still creating, doesn't mean we disrespect scripture. In fact, we find the things God is doing He has already planted in scripture. We just get caught in our ruts and don't see it.

"God Has a Plan." And if God is great and God is good, then so is His plan. We can't understand much of what God is doing. We just don't have the capacity for it. I just have to believe that He is working a plan of redemption that takes time (at least to us) to unfold. There is a point to all this. I can't offer up proof of this, I just feel a reinforcement of this after my prayer time tonight.

All the hurts we endure will be redeemed/have already been redeemed. I was reminded of God's promise of this tonight.

God, please pray with me again.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

A welcome Correction

One of the great pleasures I'm finding in blogging is reading and interacting with other bloggers, especially some of the other newbies. I just added a link to Matthias' blog, called "Correction." He felt a calling, started seminary and is using faith and reason to try and sort it all out. His postings are clear and thoughtful. Please take a look for yourselves.


Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Great stinkin' cat shit

Okay, I have to admit it. I'm a sucker, at least for animals. I moved into my little house with just one pet, a temperamental Persian-type cat I'll call "Zsa-Zsa," because she'll slap you in a heartbeat. She'll also climb into my lap and twist herself into contortions of ecstasy at being petted.

Once I moved in, I decided I needed a dog. After all, what's a home (a real house, not an apartment) without a dog? I visited the local humane shelter in search of a small dog, maybe one of the little terrier types. Although the pound was full-to-overflowing, there were no small pooches to be found. They were all larger breed varieties, I suppose, because it was near Christmas and all the little ones had been adopted. I looked over these monsters of jaw, muscle and bone and was ready to give up, when one of the workers said, "Did you see the border collie-mix puppy?"

Behind four or five of the big bruisers in one of the pens sat a little black and white puppy, looking lost and forlorn. Of course, my heart melted. Part border collie and part lab, they said. I love border collies. I walked her around the building and she seemed quite happy with me. My vet said maybe there was some lab with the border collie, but definitely some Australian shepherd.

She's the one I call "the Best Dog in the World" (BDW). She's now over four years old and weighs 45 pounds or so. She's smart, friendly, affectionate and my best helper. She frequently sleeps at the foot of my bed, while Zsa-Zsa sleeps beside me.

That was it. I had no intention of getting any more animals. Then, summer before this last one, there was a situation where the owner of a household had died and her old dog had just been left out in the yard. Relatives were throwing a little food at him once in a while. Guess who ended up with "Good Old Boy" (GOB), to make a long story short. (He's the one I was talking about in "Grace in a golden retriever" in my posting of 9/28/03.)

Okay, THAT'S IT. No more animals, period.

Move along to last month. My mother went into assisted living. I forced her two dogs off on ( them find homes with) two of my brothers and the ALF said they'd take the parrakeet. That just left my mother's cat. I'll call him "Elvis" because he's a big, handsome cat, a good 20 lbs. plus, black-and-white loverboy. I reluctantly brought him to my house, just until I could find a home for him.

Elvis and Zsa-Zsa don't hit it off, mostly because Zsa-Zsa hates the guts out of any other feline. She gets along fine with the dogs, occaisionally slapping them on the muzzle if they (mostly BDW, GOB is oblivious) try to get too personal. She even lets BDW wash her ears. Sometimes I wonder how much of that is motherly instinct on BDW's part and how much of it is to have just a little taste o' cat.

Anyhow, Zsa-Zsa's got no problems with the dogs. It's the sight of another cat that makes her snort with rage. Poor Elvis. Zsa-Zsa is smaller and much older, but she has her claws, he doesn't, and she's a whole lot meaner.

On top of that, Elvis is scared of BDW and runs from her, which she takes as a sportsmanslike move to play tag. Elvis just can't win.

I put Elvis up for adoption and a co-worker brought a family to look at him. They fell in love with him and took him, but guess what, their other cat fought with him all night and the people weren't getting any sleep. Elvis returned to the unsaintly mansion.

Now, the thing is, I'm getting attached to him. I've taken photos to run an ad in my little local paper, but haven't done anything constructive toward putting together the ad, partly because I've been so busy and partly because I'm just dragging my feet.

I have to admit, he is now settling down with the other animals. When BDW approaches him, he often snarls like an enraged panther, shows her his huge incisors and boxes her on the head with his paws -- instead of always running -- and BDW backs down.

Zsa-Zsa's attacks on him are diminishing in frequency. I hear a "MeeROWWWrrrARRGhhREHNnh" from the back room only once or twice a day now. They sometimes sit side-by-side in uneasy coexistence.

And, as I said, Elvis is a loverboy. He loves sitting in my lap, at least until one of the other animals scares him off. He loves having his ears, chin and belly scratched. He'll lay on his side and do air kneads (like playing air guitar). He's adorable.

I just don't need any more animals in this small house--I have too many already. And there's something else, The Problem with Elvis.

The Problem with Elvis is the stink. He is the stinkiest cat I've ever encountered, and I've had quite a few cats over the years. He's a huge cat who loves to eat. He has huge, stinkin' B.M.s. Please don't write me about anti-stink cat food--I know all about it. Used to sell the stuff. It doesn't matter what you feed Elvis, it all comes out the same. Big and stinky. Noxiously, nauseatingly stinky. (I wonder how much this had to do with the adoptive family giving him back?)

My house is small and well-insulated, which means it retains odors. I've woken up in the wee hours of the morning with a foul-smelling stench in my nostrils. It was Elvis having another big stinky. The air conditioning system picks up the fragrance and wafts it ever so gently through the house.

I'm going to buy a gas mask to clean out the box. I cleaned it completely this morning, stifling my gag reflex. I came home this evening, wandered near the box and was overcome by cat shit fumes. I don't know how he manages to have so many B.M.s. I don't know how he can stand to stay in the litter box long enough to let them loose.

I've got to find a home for Elvis.

Meanwhile, Elvis is in the building.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003


I've read several comments posted by RiverStone, and being rather thick, it just dawned on me that she has a site. I took a look at it and it's great--please go take a look. (I'm not saying this just because she mentioned my blog.)

RiverStone wrote a posting about being angry. I've been thinking about how angry I was at my brother Toby for rejecting treatment and help (MY help, too), and for lying about it. But the truth is, I can't make him do anything, even stay alive. I pushed too hard in my attempt to help him and he went and hid again. He would have, anyway, I'm afraid. The disease doesn't want any interference with its progress. I'm still praying for him to break out of that pattern of behavior and alcoholism. I'm also repenting over my anger.

This leads to another link RiverStone has on her site--a posting about the issue of homosexuality in the church not being an "issue", but something with two legs-- people the writer knows. I can relate to this with Toby. Homosexuality is just not even the issue for Toby. It's the alcoholism that has destroyed his life and will probably kill him. Feelings of rejection over being gay may have contributed some to his drinking in the initial stages, but alcoholism is a disease that needs no justification. It makes its own. It moves in and takes over.

I'm going to keep praying hard for Toby to find some strength in himself to turn from it and toward God, from where our help comes, and be set free.

If we look at the people around us as people, with gifts, talents, faults, illnesses and humanity, we realize that sexuality is only a part of the picture--whether we're straight or gay. The question is, do we act toward each other in love?

Monday, November 10, 2003


Hebrews 11
By Faith We Understand

1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.
3By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible. (NKJV)

Despite all the turmoil in my family and in my life the last while, my faith is deepening. God's tugging me, pulling me in deeper, closer to Him.

What is faith? Paul talks about it at length in Hebrews. Sometimes the word is used interchangeably with belief, but there is a difference in the two. I believe in things because they can be demonstrated in the physical world -- I can discern them with the senses (smell, taste, touch, hearing) or know them experientially and intellectually and logically, for example, mathematical principles. I know them to be real and true. I believe that the sun will rise in the morning, based on my experience of it rising every morning; I believe in justice and the quality of mercy. I believe in God.

Faith, as Paul says, is "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." I like the New King James Version, with its use of the word "substance."

According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, substance is essential nature or essence, also, the "ultimate reality that underlies all outward manifestations and change," as well as "the physical material from which something is made or which has discrete existence."

Wow. Faith is a perception of reality, or acknowledgement of a reality, that can be perceived with the senses of the spirit, no less real than the things we know by our other faculties. The things that we hope for in faith already have a discrete existence, an ultimate, unswerving reality, despite the changes of the unpredictable world around us.

Faith springs from trust-- not only believing in God, but having trust in his intentions toward us, or "faith in His faithfulness," with a reciprocal faithfulness toward him. It's not just a matter of belief--after all, even the demons believed Jesus to be the Holy One of God. They were faithless, and they were terrified of him.

When we hope without faith, we're just indulging in wishful thinking. I can "hope" to win the lottery, but the odds are 20 million to one. I know the reality, the stuff, the actuality of things hoped for in faith because of God's steadfast faithfulness.

I hope to see God's face and I know that one day I will, because in faith, I seek Him with all my heart. I pray for the sick in the hope that God will respond because I have faith in His will to heal. And even though healing doesn't always occur in the manner or timing that I might expect, it always happens.

Like Abraham, I will follow Him into strange and unknown lands because He asks me to and that's enough to know. I trust the future to Him.

Following Him doesn't mean life becomes easy or struggle-free. Look at the apostles--they lived lives of hardship and died painful deaths for following Him. But there is an "ultimate reality that underlies all outward manifestations and change," and it is that ultimate reality that the faithful seek. Call it the Kingdom of God, communion with God, experiencing the presence of God. We obey his voice because it is this reality which gives us hope and upon which we hang our hopes. It makes all the hardships bearable. It brings joy in the midst of adversity, moments of bliss into the struggles of life.

Dear Lord,

I hear your voice in the garden. I can't hear you clearly because of all the noise around me and in me. But I hear You and know the sound of your voice. It speaks to me intimately, tenderly; it convicts me of your love for me.

I mostly can't see you, either. Sometimes the wind lifts the veil of fog and I get a glimpse of you.

I want to see your face. I want to sit with you in the garden, basking in your presence. I want to walk with you in the cool of the evening.

I want to tell you how much I love you, I adore you and want you above all others, above anything else. I want to thank you for the beauty that you put into the world, and for giving me the ability to experience joy.

I want to thank you for the universe you spoke into being. I want to thank you, master of the whole universe, that you do not forget someone as insignificant as me. Thank you for creating me and loving me. Thank you for the means of grace and the hope of glory.

I hope to tell you all this one day, as we walk together in the garden.


Monday, November 03, 2003

Toby's gone

Toby moved out today while I was at work. I caught him in several lies the past few days and made it impossible for him to keep lying--he had to either go along with the plan for treatment or leave. He had the choice, and he chose to leave. I just wish he'd had the guts to do it without sneaking around. I think he'd been planning it all weekend.

Toby's been telling his AA buddies that he'll lose his job (and I'm forcing him to lose it) if he has to take off for treatment. Not true, his supervisor said, when Toby was in the hospital for the DT's, and again today. They will work with employees who have a problem. They want them better and productive at work. Toby can take family leave when he needs to go to treatment, his supervisor said, then come back to work. But now he will be working day shift, where he will be closely monitored for signs of inebriation or absences, due to his past behavior.

Toby also called the alcoholism counselor this morning, trying to put the quash on residential treatment, telling her not to release his assessment information to the treatment facility. I happened to call right after he did and got this information.

Toby doesn't think he needs treatment. He thinks he's been scared straight. "I've hit bottom. I know if I drink, I'll die and and I'm scared to drink," he said. I think that might be true at the moment, but I don't feel that will hold for long without some intensive treatment and therapy. He's had maybe one sober year out of the last 25 or 28. He'll start wanting a drink to take the edge off the shakes and reason that just a little won't hurt. Or he'll be stressed out and want something to calm his nerves and the process will start again.

I hope I'm wrong. I hope he'll go to AA every day and be sober--no drink or drugs. I'll keep praying for him.

Sunday, November 02, 2003

Update on Toby

An update on my brother Toby, about whom I wrote on October 19:

Toby got out of the hospital on the 21st. I had him at the local mental health/substance abuse counseling center the next morning at 8:00 for an assessment. They determined residential treatment to be appropriate for him, however, there weren't any beds open--there was a month to six-week minimum wait for an opening. Keep checking back, they said. Welcome to the wonderful world of substance abuse counseling services.

In the meantime, Toby's been going to AA meetings and staying with me. I really didn't want him to go back to work yet, but he went to the doctor Friday, who okayed him for return to work. The odds are he won't go to treatment when an opening comes up once he's back at work.

I've laid down certain ground rules for him living with me:

* He stays sober
* He attends daily AA meetings
* He attends counseling
* He goes to church with me
* He lets me know where is he is and what he's doing
* I stay in touch with his supervisor at work, who will let me know of any problems
or absences

Toby wasn't thrilled with all the rules. He didn't want to go to church with me today, said he could go to an AA meeting instead. I explained that if I didn't care, I would just kick him out. But I do care, I love him, and I will be tough about what he needs and does. He went to church with me today and attended AA afterward.

We'll just have to see how things go. Toby's behavior patterns are well-ingrained, but I've got good "BS" radar, and haven't hesitated to call him on it. I've spoken openly about my feelings. We both grew up in a household with too little communication, with too little outright speaking about feelings and too much withdrawal and passive aggression. It's okay he got mad at me--I'd rather he show his anger than do the passive revenge stuff.

I'm still praying for Toby. That he was at church is a good thing--the Holy Spirit can get past crossed arms and closed ears! Toby did find out that people have been praying for him. For real!

Oh Lord, open his ears and his eyes to You.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Born to eternal life is in dying that we are born to eternal life. --from a prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi.

I didn't make it to church this past Sunday morning. I'm an on-call volunteer chaplain at the local hospital and I was called twice Sunday morning. The first time was to see two people in intensive care, one of whom wasn't expected to survive, and when I finished, a nurse asked me to see a third. One of the patient's family members tried to pay me for praying for his wife. He just didn't know what to do. After I prayed for his wife, I prayed for him and hugged him.

I left the hospital thinking I would make it to the second Sunday church service, but I was quickly called back a second time. There was a young couple with a stillborn baby, and the family was distraught. The parents wanted the baby baptized.

I've never baptized anyone before. I sat in the hospital lobby for a few minutes with The Book of Common Prayer, looked over the words of baptism and prayers for the dead, then I went to the maternity ward.

A nurse took me into a back room where the infant had been prepared. She said she would bring the baby with a special container of water for the baptism to the patient's room.

I found a very distraught young couple, maybe 21, and their equally distraught parents. I explained that I was from the local Episcopal church and would use prayers and words of baptism from The Book of Common Prayer. They nodded their assent. First, I said prayers with both the parents and family.

The nurses had made the little baby boy look as nice a possible. It was heartbreaking to look upon this little bundle of cold flesh that should have been this couple's baby. The staff him wheeled into the room on a little infant crib, wrapped in a little white receiving blanket with yellow applique flowers. The nurse handed me a sea shell full of water. I prayed the words of baptism, using holy oil and the water, and added in prayers for the dead.

No one seemed to notice that it was not the smoothest baptism ever, and the family, especially the grandparents, seemed to take comfort from it. The baby's mother was still in shock mixed with the beginning stages of anger, while his father was weeping softly, but took my hand in thanks.

It's going to be a long road of healing for them. They called me Tuesday night (while I was facilitating a bereavement group, ironically). When I called them back, they told me they had been fighting, things were terrible, and they had some other problems as well. I am trying to get them connected to counseling, which I hope they will take advantage of. They can't handle this by themselves.

I keep hearing the words of baptism -- "marked as Christ's own." That baby belongs to Christ, and nothing can change that, and nothing can harm him now.

I could not offer any explanations to this mother why God did not intervene to save her child. I could only share my faith that God did not "take" her child from her. We live in a fallen world in which evil roams, and that evil takes various forms--including the death of a baby. God did not take her baby from this mother, but when this baby died, Christ received him into His arms. That baby is there in Christ and will be restored his family in the end, just as Lazarus was restored to Martha and Mary. Christ wept with this family in their grief, just as He wept with Martha and Mary.

There are no words that will comfort this mother right now. Faith has not been a big part of this family's life, but I hope that it may take root now. I asked the young mother to talk to God, to tell Him exactly how she feels and how angry she is. I asked this young couple to lay hands on each other and pray for each other to heal from the awful wounds they've received. They may not be able to do it yet, but I'm praying that they will be able to do so at some point. It will bring them so much healing.

I want to write more about baptism, but I have to go now.


Monday, October 20, 2003

Choosing life

An update -- I talked to my brother's boss this morning. She is willing to help him get disability and come back to his job when he is better -- if he gets treatment. I also called our local treatment center for information and advice, for he will need more help when he gets out of the hospital.

I looked at my posting from last Sunday, October 12. I prayed, "Please bring my family together through Your mediation and Your grace. Bind us up in Your love." God has been answering that prayer. He brought Toby back. Now, the question is, will my other two brothers be able to accept him? They've been angry at him for "not being interested in his family." I'm praying for reconciliation here.

There is help for Toby and there are people praying for him. He will have to choose to accept the help. I can probably have him forced into a treatment center, even if he doesn't want to go, but it won't accomplish much if he's just marking time.

God remembered Toby and brought him back from the land of the dead. Now, Toby will have to choose life. God will not let Toby slip through His fingers, but if Toby chooses to jump from the palm of His hand, God will let him, even as He grieves over it. God gives us the choice.

Please pray for Toby to make the right choices.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

From the edge of the abyss

Psalm 88
3 For my soul is full of troubles,
And my life draws near to the grave.
4 I am counted with those who go down to the pit;
I am like a man who has no strength,
5 Adrift among the dead,
Like the slain who lie in the grave,
Whom You remember no more,
And who are cut off from Your hand.

I have a third brother I haven't talked about in this blog. He hasn't been around much. I'll call him "Toby."

Toby is an alcoholic. He's been one since late adolescence. When he's drinking heavily, he cuts off communication with everyone and drops off the face of the earth. He had disappeared once again the last few months. I tried to find him when Mom went in the hospital, with no success.

He disappeared once for about six years, then turned up a couple of years ago, just when I was starting to think he was dead. I had put his name on the emergency prayer chain at church. There are wonderful intercessors at this church who have kept Toby in their prayers ever since.

Toby called me yesterday. He had gone to Mom's house and no one was there -- not Mom, not her pets. He thought she had died. He sounded like he was in bad shape.

When I got there, I could see that he was indeed in awful shape. He had a bad case of the DT's. Some of the stuff he was saying made no sense, and I realized he was having hallucinations. His arms and legs had gotten thin, while his abdomen was huge.

Toby didn't want detox, but I finally got him to agree to medical treatment. I took him to Burger King for a cheeseburger and coffee, which he could hardly get to his mouth for the tremors, then to a care center, where the doctor arranged for admittance to the hospital.

Toby has been in my prayers continually since Wednesday night. We had a parish (church) meeting to talk about the divisive issues in the church over homosexuality and the election of a gay bishop.

I stood up and spoke about my brother. He has hated himself since he realized he was a homosexual. He spent his adolescence in torment over it. He did not choose to be gay.

If sin is a deliberate and unrepentant disobedience against God, then homosexuality is not a sin. It is not a choice. It causes anguish. My brother always felt he was outside the social pale, an outcast. Toby has been a recluse most of his adult life. Adrift.

Frankly, I was surprised by the outpouring of love, sympathy and understanding for our gay brothers and sisters at this meeting, in this politcally conservative part of the country.

One woman stood up and talked about the Catch 22 gays find themselves in: We heterosexuals seek out loving, committed relationships. We treasure them. Yet, we deny these loving relationships to homosexuals. We tell them having a relationship outside marriage is a sin. At the same time, we tell them they can't have any kind of blessed or married relationship. We expect them to live without a committed, loving relationship.

This stabbed me in the heart. I thought about Toby's loneliness, his rejection of himself. I don't think he's ever had any kind of close and loving relationship.

I think Toby had intended to drink himself to death on this last tout. God heard his cry and the prayers of many and rescued him from the edge of the abyss.

When Toby was trying to avoid detox yesterday, (he's been through it at least twice before), he told me he wanted to find out about Christ. I know he was trying to con me -- to find a hook I'd respond to. I told him I was "his" person to talk to about it, but the first priority was medical attention. I anointed him with oil and prayed for him before taking him to the medical center.

When I left the hospital today, the technicians were getting ready to do a scan of his abodmen. I took his hands, prayed for him and told him again that I love him. I know he was humoring me by letting me pray, but I believe the Holy Spirit is working on his spirit.

I love you Toby, and I will keep praying for you. I will be tough enough to do whatever I need to do to help you.

Today, I've been offering up prayers of gratitude to God for saving my brother, for pulling him back to the land of the living. I am saying prayers of thanksgiving for all those who have been praying for my brother.

Monday, October 13, 2003

My bum and me

I know "bum" isn't the politically correct word today -- we should say "homeless person," or, "street person." But somehow, "bum" just seems to fit him better -- in the tradition of the hobo bums of the depression.

Holding up a sign saying, "HOMELESS VIET NAM VET ~ PLEASE HELP," he has his bit of turf staked out in the median strip by a traffic light on a busy, four-lane road. He gets a good flow of traffic stopped or slowed to make a left turn into a shopping plaza.

A while back, I started giving him a dollar or two when I'd go by. He is always dignified; he doesn't take the money from your hand. He receives it, gently. He doesn't have the disorganized, unkempt look of the schizophrenic or other mentally ill person. He is neat and looks in relatively good health. A short, white beard covers his face. He has the tired, sad look of the down-and-out.

If I lived in a big city (and I have before), I'd be more cynical (and I have before). But I live here, in a little town in Central Florida. I know all the arguments against giving bums money. One of the grande dames of the church lectured me outside the Diocesan Cathedral in Orlando: Don't give them money, it only encourages them. They just spend it on drugs or booze. Send them to the police station -- they'll help them find a place to stay and something to eat.

I gave one of them a dollar, anyway, incurring her wrath. I figured, what better place to hang out and expect Christian charity than in the environs of a cathedral? And I know enough about street people to know they'd rather lay down and die than go to a police station for help. They wouldn't get it, anyway, for the most part (I've worked for a police department before. I'm finding a lot of my checkered career history coming in helpful in ministry).

For example, I know that Florida is tough on the homeless, the addressless. You have to have a mailing address to get most services. You have to have some proof of residency. Women and families with children and an address can generally get assistance -- food stamps, financial assistance and housing allotments, etc. But for men without an address, there just isn't much of anything.

Nor is there really any kind of homeless shelter in my little town. The needy can make the church soup-kitchen circuit and get one hot meal a day, and that's about it. If I did have the resources to do what I want, I would start a homeless mission. And a permanent healing mission. Maybe I'm starting to feel some kind of call in this direction.

I know that my little bit of money would be used more efficiently through one of the church or civic charities. They assign admininstrators and caseworkers to make sure the money is well spent, and used properly. It is used to buy things in bulk. Very economical and efficient.

I'm going to write a check and send it to the national church tomorrow, but this evening, I was in the left turn lane to go into the shopping center, and there he was. I fished in my wallet for a couple of dollars and found only one dollar bill and a five. I left the one in its nest and pulled out the five. As I came alongside him, I handed it to him through the window. He accepted it graciously.

"God bless you, darlin'," he said. Our eyes met, and we acknowledged each other's humanity.

A five dollar bill doesn't get you much in today's economy. but he and I have both been on the short end. When you need it and it isn't there, it can be a lot. It may have bought him a cheap, fast-food meal or an even cheaper bottle of wine. It isn't up to me to say how he spends the money that is now his. He surely won't go laughing all the way to the bank with it. And if he needs the comfort of a bottle of wine to keep him company on this rainy night, that's between him and God.

It was that human contact that was important tonight. Not to be elevated by my own self-interested charity, but to have that connection. That we see and recognize each other as real people with souls. I was on the giving end of the money this time. I don't know about the next time. And who knows, I may have entertained an angel.

I rolled through the evening, wrapped in his benediction, his blessing.

God bless you, too, my dear bum.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

True Confessions

My families are a mess. I wrote about the difficulties in my family of the flesh in the preceding posting. It seems like my church family is in a bigger mess.

I wrote about the threatened schism in the Episcopal Church on September 26. Now I'm seeing the effect in my own parish.

Last week, I tried to get hold of my parish priest for some help getting my mother into a Christian retirement community, only to find out he had gone to Dallas for the American Anglican Council (AAC) convention. He hadn't bothered notifying the vestry that he was going. There wasn't any priest available to help me. With the hospital social worker's help, my mother was accepted into the Christian community without a pastor's recommendation.

I feel a bit betrayed. After talking so moderately in the beginning, Father Dearest has jumped on board the AAC train, following the bishop's lead. First, the Father sponsored a resolution at a diocesan meeting, repudiating the actions of the general convention (he did this without informing the vestry, either). Now he went to the AAC convention.

I'm noticing a difference in the way people act, too. The person who sponsored me for confirmation has been talking very conservative--but not talking to me. Never even asked how my mother was doing, although I've seen her twice in the past week, or put my mother on the prayers of the people list for the hospitalized last week--she's the one in charge of that.

A few days ago, I wrote a long E-mail to Fr. Bojangles, AKA
  • Le Pretre Noir
  • . It was a confession of my anger, with a lot of ranting and raving, but I didn't actually get to the point of asking forgiveness. Now I'm asking God for forgiveness of my anger. And, again, I'm praying for God to keep my heart from becoming hardened.

    Rumor has it that Father Dearest is at the top of the list for replacing the canon to the ordinary, who submitted his resignation over the direction the diocese is going. Is F.D. being influenced by that, or truly following his heart? I don't know. Maybe both.

    F.D. had to sign an AAC oath to attend the Dallas meeting. The oath calls for the Archbishop to:

    " a. Discipline those bishops in the Episcopal Church who, by
    their actions, have departed from biblical faith and order;

    b. Guide the realignment of Anglicanism in North America"
    --in other words, a separate province. This is schism.

    A delegation of four representing the Episcopal Church was turned away from the convention. Obviously, reconciliation isn't big in the AAC vocabulary.

    The Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral, which the AAC claims to uphold in their oath, declared willingness " to enter into brotherly conference with all or any Christian
    Bodies seeking the restoration of the organic unity of the Church.." This just doesn't fit the actions of the AAC.

    I know our parish is largely older and conservative, especially the monied people. This has to be a factor in any parish priest's thinking--the rectors all have to look out for the financial situation. So, I had expected him and the rectors of most of the churches to go the conservative route. I just didn't expect this jump on the bandwagon from F.D.

    I don't think most parishioners are aware of what they'll be getting into with an AAC-run province and diocese. Most have only even heard of the AAC very recently. I hadn't paid any attention to them until the general convention, when they started the schism talk. A friend was more aware, though, and said I better do some research on them.

    I found out they are ultra conservative, indeed. They have strong ties to right-wing organizations like the Institute for Religion and Democracy (IRD), which is not a religious, but a political organization dedicated to stamping out anything they consider liberal -- like the mainline churches. The IRD and the AAC share the same address.

    A recent report by Steve Levin in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette revealed the following:

    One major source of its funding [the AAC's] is Howard F. Ahmanson Jr., of California, a $10-million-a-year patron of conservative causes through the Fieldstead Foundation. An Episcopalian, Ahmanson is heir to a savings and loan fortune accumulated by his father. Ahmanson attended St. James Church in Newport Beach, Calif., which, until recently, was run by the Rev. David C. Anderson, now president of the American Anglican Council.

    For many years, Ahmanson was associated with the late Rev. Rousas John Rushdoony, considered the father of Christian Reconstructionism, which advocates basing American society on biblical laws. For 10 years ending in 1995, Ahmanson contributed a total of $700,000 to Rushdoony's Chalcedon Foundation and served on its board of directors.

    Since then, both Ahmanson and his wife, Roberta, have repudiated Christian Reconstructionist philosophy.

    Roberta Ahmanson was recently named to the board of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute on Religion and Democracy, which works closely with the American Anglican Council.

    "The theonomist or [Christian] Reconstructionist philosophy is antithetical to our idea of religion and democracy," said Diane L. Knippers, a new member of the council board and president of the institute. "Roberta wouldn't have come on our board if she didn't agree with us."

    Well, I'm afraid they are too much in agreement. Ahmanson has poured money into groups who believe homosexuality, adultery and apostasy, or heresy (as defined by them) should be punishable by death. They believe in stoning, like in the Old Testament. Howard Ahmanson has ties to a number of religious and political right-wing organizations. Pat Robertson is moderate, heck, maybe even liberal, compared to them.

    Wake up, people. Do you really want groups like these setting church policy? Saying what you are and aren't allowed to do in your parish?

    And watch out if you end up on the opposite side of an issue from them.
    Barking dogs

    My house is quieting down. The Best Dog in the World and Good Old Boy are flopped and snoring on the floor. My mother's little poodle was in the household for about 20 hours. Putting him in with my two dogs started a dogfest of hyper barking, tearing through the house, and more barking. Barking at each other, barking at the neighbor's dog who was barking because they were barking. I vaguely remember telling them to 'shut UP' several times during the night.

    My brother picked up the poodle this morning, to take him to live with him and his family. My mother is now in an assisted living facility (ALF). I've been working very hard the past week, making all the arrangements. I met the hospital social worker to arrange for a good place with good care for my mother, near me, where I can check on her care, visit her and take her for outings. I'm happy to report that Mom is stronger, physically. She doesn't seem to have any short-term memory retention at all, though. I'm praying for improvement.

    I have been in a number of nursing and assisted living facilities in the area through ministry activities. I know the good, the bad and the ugly ones. Mom is in a good one. Not that she wants to be in any at all--every day, she is convinced she is about to go home. I called Friday afternoon and the nurse said Mom had been sitting with her pocketbook all day, waiting for me to pick her up and take her home-- although Mom hasn't been able to remember what her house, where she lived for 20 years, even looks like.

    Getting Mom in the ALF was accomplishment of the biggest step. There were still her pets to deal with. I had been stopping by her house every day to feed and check on them, leaving the dogs on the screened patio with the door set for access in and out of the yard. The ALF nurse said her parakeet could take up residence in the parlor, so I moved him there after getting Mom in (sadly, Mom didn't recognize the bird, although she's had him for five or six years).

    Two of my brothers said they would each take one dog, but they seemed content to let me run back and forth (20 miles one-way) to take care of them for another six weeks, when they would come down for a Thanksgiving family meeting. I nixed this by putting the dogs in the kennel at my vet's. There was a good possibility the dogs would get out of Mom's yard again (they had done this on the day I took my mother to the emergency room and I had to chase them down). They were overdue for their shots, which would incur big trouble with animal control if they should survive long enough to be picked up. And now the poor dogs were increasingly anxious about being left alone.

    So, now the poodle has gone to his new home, freshly bathed, with up-to-date shots, and the other dog should go to hers next week. I'm still looking for a home for the cat.

    It hasn't been easy dealing with my brothers. I feel like they left me all alone with the situation until I had taken care of everything. I hardly heard from them while Mom was in the hospital (neither did she), but as soon as Mom was transferred to the ALF, they suddenly started calling a lot. The brother who hasn't gotten down here yet called me the other night and grilled me about the place where Mom is; is it a good place, and so forth.

    Maybe the tone of self-righteous pomposity in his voice stemmed from a bit of guilt. Of course, he has been much too busy with his life and his job to be here for any of this. I'm working hard at not being angry. He really doesn't know how bad Mom is, because he hasn't absorbed what I've told him and he hasn't been down here. He had seemed content to wait until Thanksgiving to even see her.

    Something will have to be done with Mom's house. It needs to be cleaned up and sold, but I'm not even going to try and tackle that right now. I would need power of attorney (POA) to handle it, anyway. The not-here-yet brother asked about the house when he called the other night. He sounded like he didn't want me to take action to get POA--maybe he wants it. But he'll still expect me to handle the grubby stuff, while he makes long-distance decisions. Wrong. If he wants it, he can have it, but he'll take care of things from that point on.

    I'm praying against a hard heart, and to keep decent relationships with my family.

    Dear Lord,

    Give me strength and courage to deal with the challenges that each day brings. Give me a cheerful heart and countenance. Give me a soft heart, so that I do not harbor resentment or antagonism. Please bring my family together through Your mediation and Your grace. Bind us up in Your love.

    Give me discernment to see the way, and energy to go there, for I am very tired.

    Saturday, October 04, 2003

    My mother's keeper

    I haven't blogged all week because my mother has been in the hospital. Getting her there was not an easy task. My mother is stubborn and didn't want medical attention. I had to offer her the option of calling paramedics into her house to check her (and she hates people coming into her house), OR going to the emergency department. She chose the latter.

    She was in bad shape. She's had heart-related problems for about 10 years that have helped accelerate her into what is now undeniable mental confusion and senility. She had not been taking her medication properly (the main thing necessitating the hospital stay), and she has not been taking proper care of herself. She's been painfully thin; now she's getting that skeletal, emaciated look. She won't bother to eat much, even prepared foods--she says she just has no appetite.

    I've tried unsuccessfully this year to get her to look at assisted-living facilities, but she's refused to have any serious discussion about it. She only wants to stay right there, in her own house.

    So, every day the past four days, I've been making the 20- or so-mile trek back and forth to the hospital and her house, to check on her and her pets and home, while trying to work as many hours as possible and track down her doctors for a discussion. A friend called me "a good daughter." I don't feel like one.

    My mother has always been stubborn. She was the product of a broken home back in the days when divorce was not the norm. She grew up in a financially needy household, never sure about keeping a home. She has always been determined to keep control over her circumstances. She has not wanted to live with any of us children, and I frankly think we would have a great deal of difficulty living with her in the house. She wants to be in control of her own turf.

    I've worried and watched her go downhill. The saddest part about it is that she has been aware of her own deterioration, which has made her panicky at times. She was an intelligent woman who read voraciously and educated herself. She used to be sharper than me. Now, very noticeably since this last episode, she can't figure out even the simplest things, like how to use the hospital-room phone, though I've shown her several times each day. She can't remember what her house, the one she's lived in for the past 20 years, looks like, or whether it has a garage or not. She's not sure where I live.

    I tried to talk to her doctor about her confusion and forgetfulness months ago, after her last hospital stay. He brushed me off then. This time, he didn't, thank God. My mother can't keep up the pretense of doing all right any more. The doctor is assigning a caseworker to her, to see about transfer from the hospital into an ALF. As angry as she will be, she just can't stay in that house alone.

    I'm starting to feel a large weight lift off my shoulders. At the same time, I know I didn't get over to her house to check on her as often as I could have. And I could have done more to help her with household chores, if I'd been willing to sacrifice more time and energy. Should I have pushed harder to get her out of that house? (forced a competency hearing?)

    What ifs and maybes. They're the things that drive us crazy. The tools of the devil to work us over, I've heard.

    I don't feel like the good daughter.

    Sunday, September 28, 2003

    Playing hooky

    ">I'm playing hooky today. I went to a weekend healing retreat, but left early--came back yesterday evening instead of this afternoon. (I'll blog about that experience later.) I'm taking the day off from everything and just staying home. I'm going to write this, that's been on my heart to write for over a month:

    Grace in a golden retriever

    I've had Good Old Boy, a golden retriever. for over a year. I'm not certain how old he is---I 'inherited' him from a woman who died. Her family members didn't want to take him and left him, alone and sad, in her back yard.

    I took him to the vet as soon as I retrieved him from the soggy yard (we had been having daily deluges of rain). The vet wasn't sure how old GOB was, but gave me an estimate of eight, which I knew to be a conservative estimate, and the dog was probably more like 10. The vet was afraid I'd decide to have GOB put down if I thought he was too old, for GOB had heartworms. GOB survived the heartworm treatment and settled right down to life in my household.

    GOB had a little thing on his shoulder, that was at first thought to be a cyst from a tick bite. I kept cleaning the sore and watching it grow bigger. It started weeping fluid. I took GOB back to the vet, and they agreed with me, the thing had to be taken off. The vet performed surgery to remove it. It was cancerous.

    I called the next day about picking him up from the clinic, and was told it would be better if GOB spent another day and night there. He was recovering slowly from the anesthetic, and they wanted to keep an eye on him.

    I called back the next day. The assistant said I could pick up GOB that afternoon, but he was still recovering slowly. They had given him a shot to perk him up, but he still wasn't getting to his feet. They thought he might do better at home, off the slick tile floor of the clinic.

    When I went to get GOB, the vet reiterated this information, but I could see the worry in his eyes. GOB might not ever get back to his feet.

    I pulled my car as near the side door as I could, so the vet wouldn't have to carry him so far, but was still 15 yards or so away. The vet staggered out with all 70 pounds of GOB in his arms and sat the dog down gently on the ground. Standing by the car, I called GOB's name. He didn't hear me--he's almost deaf. I called a bit louder, and he heard me.

    GOB's head came up and scanned the area. He saw me. With deliberate effort, he drew his four limbs underneath himself and pulled himself to his feet. He had a long, Frankensteinlike series of stitches across one shoulder. Never taking his eyes off me, he started a loping, staggering, sideways run straight to me. The vet's jaw dropped.

    GOB nuzzled my hand, went to pee, nuzzled my hand again, went to pee again, came back. I opened the back door of the car for him. The vet tried to help him, but GOB crawled in all by himself before the vet could get his hands around him to lift him into the car.

    I have often reflected on that vision of GOB loping toward me.

    This is like God's grace. Rushing toward me, to meet me where I am. Rejoicing. Loving me unconditionally and unreservedly, though I know, so undeservedly.

    It's humbling.

    Every time GOB leans against my legs--his method of making me stop whatever I'm doing and pet him--and looks up at me with those soft brown eyes, I am reminded of God's grace.

    Tuesday, September 23, 2003

    Faithfulness in the face of death

    "> A quick update--the healing service was amazing. The woman I described in the first posting (I'll call her Mary) made it to the service. Father Dearest, our Rector, is really on when he is on, and he was on Sunday night, with exactly the right, passionate sermon and words of encouragement. We all gathered around Mary and a couple of others who needed prayer and laid hands on them in soaking prayer. The power of God was there.

    Mary doesn't have a lot of time left, and she knows it, but she is triumphant in her faith, and in having succeeded in staying with her family for this extra time--and she may have another month or so more than I think, especially after that service. She should have been dead a couple of years ago, according to the doctors. Mary says, "It's all to God's glory."

    Each day is precious to her and she is grateful to God for His love and what He's done for her. I can't think of any better witness than this. Mary is the light of a city on a hill.

    How many of us could remain so faithful in the face of this adversity?

    Sunday, September 21, 2003


    Okay, I think you can send comments to me now.

    Saturday, September 20, 2003

    Let me start by saying that I am NOT Church Lady. I drink beer. I cuss (though I'm trying to curb that habit!). I laugh at anything that's truly funny--even if it's a little raunchy. God is no prude (check out the Old Testament), and He has a sense of humor. I get mad, but I don't try to get even any more. I try to be a good Christian, but I'm afraid I'm no Mother Teresa--I make no claim to sainthood, at least of that variety.

    That said, I will admit that I'm involved in a lot of church stuff, mostly things that revolve around the healing ministry and pastoral care.

    My healing cohort and friend M started facilitating a bereavement support group last week. It's funny how things work out--the day before the group began I talked with a woman I've been praying for and with the past few years. She was in stage 4 cancer and had been given another year or so when I met her. Between prayerful support and her fierce determination to have every moment possible with her husband and young son, she's held on, and even had a huge improvement in her physical condition (her spiritual condition has been strong through it all).

    Now, hospice is working with her and they don't give her much more time--another month or six weeks. She said she was a little numb, but she talked matter-of-factly. I asked her to come to the next healing service so we can all lay hands on her and pray. She needs this for her body, soul and spirit.

    I know she had been avoiding me, among other people (I spot it 'cause I got it), laying low, licking her wounds, and afraid to face us -- she's afraid she has failed us in some way.

    I called her from work--caught her off guard. After our conversation, I went into the bathroom and cried for a minute. I was so angry at that old enemy who comes to steal from us. He's stealing her life, not only from her, but from her family. Her young son will barely remember who she is. But at least he will be old enough to have memories of her.

    Lately, I haven't felt that I should pray to keep her here, with us, anymore. There comes a point when continued living becomes a punishment. I've been just praying for God to heal her in the way He knows best.

    She's been through all her body can take, yet she will be healed. This I know. She is safe in God's hands. Still, I cried.

    A Christian co-worker tried valiantly to cheer me up by getting a Bible and quoting scripture. All good scriptures, but it was a reminder to me that we need to be allowed to experience our grief. (I love this person, though. She was so caring, so sincere in her desire to ease my grief.)

    We need to cry when we need to cry. Pain and grief are real in this world. I carried this reminder with me to the bereavement support group the next night.

    I have a lot to say (gripe and praise) on a lot of topics, including the church, but those will be for future blogs.

    I've been thinking about blogging for months, almost did once before. I've been posting so many comments on other people's blogs I figured it's time to bite the bullet, get over my cowardice, and just do it.

    I'll invite comments as soon as I figure out how to get them!

    Here are my favorite bloggers (with a big 'thanks'), and there are lots of links to other great sites from theirs:

    Real Live Preacher

    Le Pretre Noir