Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Peace on Earth ...

... and mercy mild ...

... God and sinner reconciled

A good Christmas was had around the UnSaintly household. The animals enjoyed the treats from the Cornish hen I baked before Christmas, and I baked a lot of cookies to give as gifts.

One of the local pastors invited me to his house for a Christmas Eve get together, then I chaliced at the midnight/ Christmas Eve service -- my favorite -- and spent Christmas day with close friends.

I think some of my church family members were concerned that it would be a difficult Christmas for me, in the wake of Toby's death, but he was never around at Christmas, anyway. I grieved a bit in a general way over the disintegration of my family, and Toby's death was a part of that, but over all, it was a good Christmas.

I appreciate all the Christmas invitations and the love that surrounds me at my church and from my friends.

Some of the things I like about the Episcopal Church are the seasons of Advent and Christmas.

I grew up with the secular version. I'm so tired of the hype that starts in October and culminates just before Christmas, with even the television news giving "news" reports on where to shop, then it all just stops dead, as if once the packages are ripped open, Christmas is done.

Now, Christmas doesn't start until Dec. 25, and it lasts until Epiphany, on Jan. 6, giving me to consider and celebrate its real meaning. And that month before Christmas is Advent, a time for reflection and preparation for receiving Christ into my heart anew.

It isn't all about hitting the stores.

May New Year's be good!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The great Bleedin' Jesus controversy

Central Florida is an odd amalgam of native Crackers and transplanted Yankees, of conservative and liberal. Especially in my little burg, where most of the churches are conservative. There are a few who advertise they are open and affirming, where even liberals are welcome.

The local Christmas parade is a mixture of small-corporate self-hype, small businesses striving to be noticed, police- and fire- department vehicles on noisy display, school, church and civic groups, and, of course Santa Claus. Better throw in some ROTC and Veterans groups dressed in camo.

The church floats have always been fine. They celebrate the birth of Baby Jesus. Church choirs balance precariously, singing Christmas carols as their floats bobble down Main Street. Kids dressed as shepherds grin at the crowd. Peace and joy is the message of the day.

This year, one new/young independent-church minister decided to impress on everyone the true meaning of Christmas: that Christ was born to die for our sins. A traditional manger scene was dwarfed by the pastor himself, costumed as a bloody Jesus, writhing, moaning and dying on the cross.

For once, even a lot of conservative Christians and I shared the same viewpoint, that this is not an appropriate theme for a Christmas float. I covered the controversy for the newspaper, and asked for community discussion on it.

Most of the letters from conservative Christians supported the erstwhile pastor, who said he really didn't mean to offend anyone or make little children cry, as some of the letters to the editor and calls to parade organizers complained. He just wanted to get out the true meaning of Christmas.

After interviewing him, I don't cast aspersions on his motives. He just didn't get it that not everyone at the Christmas parade is a Bible-study member with a good grasp of the meaning of the Crucifixion. I'm sure he expected some attention for his fledging home church, and kudos as one standing up for "real" Christian values in this age of calling Christmas the holiday season and taking the 10 Commandments out of the courthouse. He didn't expect complaints from angry, offended parents of small, crying children.

Heck, The Passion is the stuff of full Lenten-season studies. A depiction of the Crucifixion on a Christmas-parade float isn't going to win any converts.

And Christmas parades are a time of fun and celebration, aimed at toddlers and young children -- not the place for such heavy subjects.

So, now, the questions arises, should the parade sponsor, a local civic group, screen floats more carefully? Do we increase censorship?

I don't like that idea, either.

p.s. -- I promise to post more often.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Gospel of fear

Pat Robertson. Peter Akinola. The Bishop of the Diocese of Central Florida. Many in my parish, and other parishes around.

All "Orthodox." All "traditional." Not all are as hateful in their comments as Pat Robertson.

The Bishop, when he made his visitation to my parish recently, made a strong effort to appear center of the road, although he used AAC/ANC rhetoric like, "If the Episcopal Church decides to walk alone..." His take on the Windsor Report is that it's intent was to rebuke the revisionist Episcopal Church and make it behave -- not, apparently, to find a path to reconciliation.

He tried to walk a tight rope, not committing to staying or going. He intimated that some parishes may join AMiA.

If you allow homosexuality, he said, the next thing you know, you'll have polygamy and bestiality.

Well, then, I guess we'd better not have any sexuality at all. If you have heterosexuality, that opens the door to homosexuality and the path straight to hell. Paul had it right -- we should abstain from relationships and wait to be beamed up in the rapture.

. I look at the "Orthodox" element and wonder if fear controls their lives. Do they fear inclusiveness ?? Do they fear no longer belong to a special, exclusive elect?

Do they fear loss of control, that the people around them will run amuck, fornicating and otherwise sinning, if they don't keep a short leash on them?

Are they afraid they themselves will run amuck? What secret lusts lie in their hearts?

Are they afraid they will lose their own faith if aspects of it are questioned, if they have to examine it?

I wonder how afraid they really are.

That doesn't mean the Pat Robertsons and the Peter Akinolas aren't dangerous. They are. They want political and spiritual control of people's lives. They harden prejudice and incite discrimination, leading to harm of gays, women, anyone who thinks differently and anyone else they consider lesser beings.

I'm praying our Episcopal Church leaders will have the sense to stay away from their mentality.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Please spare me

Pat Robertson is at it again. He had this to say to the Dover, Penn. Citizens who voted out the school board -- the school board which instituted the "intelligent design" policy that led to a federal trial.

"I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: If there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God, you just rejected him from your city. And don't wonder why he hasn't helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I'm not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that's the case, don't ask for his help because he might not be there."

First: Robertson forgets that God is the one to make judgments, not Robertson, who equates disagreement with Robertson as a vote against God. What an ego. What hatefulness. Disagree with Robertson and burn in hell!

Second: God is much more loving than Robertson. (Obviously. Thank God!)

Third: How does Robertson know God's intelligent design of the universe didn't include "scientific" matters such as evolution, an expanding universe, etc? God is infinitely more patient with creation and in the process of creating than we are. He has all the time in the world, after all. And his sense of time is not ours. A millennium is to him is as a watch in the night (three hours) is to us.

It's people like Pat Robertson, with this kind of mean-spiritedness, using the name of God to bash their enemies and maintain their strongholds, who kept me away from religion most of my life.

Go away somewhere, Mr. Robertson, and meditate on the Gospels. Quietly. Please.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Disease or suicide by drink? You decide

I've been thinking about my brother, Toby, the past week, as All Souls day approached (it was yesterday). I attended a great church service last night, done in candlelight, with time to reflect on those we've lost in the past year.

In the coming Sunday service, the Necrology will be read. It's a listing of all those who have died in the past year — members of the parish or loved ones of members in the parish.. I entered Toby's name in the book, and delivered his photo to the church. It will sit on the altar, with the other photos, Sunday.

I've been thinking about his death. He pretty much drank himself to death. He shouldn't have died at the age of 48, but he did. At times, I think of his death as a suicide, because he knew the drinking was killing him, but he didn't stop.

I think, really, he couldn't stop. Toby had a lot of demons, but alcohol is a demon of its own. Toby couldn't live without it, but he couldn't live with it, either. Liver and stomach problems run in the family, even forteatotalers. Toby didn't stand a chance.

It's true Toby struggled with himself all his life. He was ashamed of being homosexual. I knew nothing about any relationships he may have had, because he wouldn't talk about such things, period. He was secretive. I doubt he had many personal relationships, especially the last few years.

On top of that, he struggled with the same hypercritical family crap I did, with the sense of not being acceptable, of being unable to do anything right or well enough.

Still, was it suicide, or was it a disease that killed him?

Either way, I believe he now has joy and peace, in the love and grace of God. I can only hold to God's promises.

If it were not so, he would have told us.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Calling a spade a spade

or at least calling it a digging implement

The Old Testament reading in church this past Sunday was Micah 3:5-12:

Thus says the LORD concerning the prophets
who lead my people astray,
who cry "Peace"
when they have something to eat,
but declare war against those
who put nothing into their mouths.
Therefore it shall be night to you, without vision,
and darkness to you, without revelation.
The sun shall go down upon the prophets,
and the day shall be black over them;
the seers shall be disgraced,
and the diviners put to shame;
they shall all cover their lips,
for there is no answer from God.
But as for me, I am filled with power,
with the spirit of the LORD,
and with justice and might,
to declare to Jacob his transgression
and to Israel his sin.
Hear this, you rulers of the house of Jacob
and chiefs of the house of Israel,
who abhor justice
and pervert all equity,
who build Zion with blood
and Jerusalem with wrong!
Its rulers give judgment for a bribe,
its priests teach for a price,
its prophets give oracles for money;
yet they lean upon the LORD and say,
"Surely the LORD is with us!
No harm shall come upon us."
Therefore because of you
Zion shall be plowed as a field;
Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins,
and the mountain of the house a wooded height.

I'm proud of the sermon I heard Sunday in church. Hearing the reading brought tears to my eyes, but I thought the sermon might focus on the Gospel and leave this politically charged prophecy alone.

But the Father made the connections to the war in Iraq and the current administration, and "those who cry 'Peace' when they have something to eat, but declare war against those who put nothing into their mouths."

He did it gently and without ever using the Bush name, but made a point about war and reasons for going to war. This to a largely conservative crowd.

I'm proud of him.

Do you think the President & Co. are aware of Micah's warning? The Prez claims to read his Bible.

It is the living word.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

And don't let the door hit you on the backside

Now that Hurricane Wilma has come and gone, pushed rapidly through Central Florida by a cold front, my attention has turned to church politics.

Remember when, after the ordination of Gene Robinson, the ultraconservative-fundamentalist leaders in the church decided they were "Anglican" and not Episcopalian? The focus was on being Anglican — paugh on this "revisionist" Episcopal Church!

Now, the ultracon mouthpieces aren't too happy with Anglican things, like the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Church of England or Robin Eames, either. They just aren't following the program.

What to do, with the threatened break away from the Anglican Church, and Archbishop Peter Akinola writing snippy letters to Eames and all?

Maybe since our Network bishops are forming alliances with Southern Cone (Southern Hemisphere) bishops in Africa, the Caribbean and Asia, they can change their name for at least a third time.

Yes, they can go from "American Anglican Council" to "Anglican Network" to ... "American Conehead Council (ACC)," demonstrating their true allegiance.

Just imagine. They can have special Conehead decoder rings to decipher the Bible's one, true and Conehead interpretation.

For fundraisers, they can sell special Conehead x-ray vision glasses, guaranteed to detect any homosexual tendencies on the part of clergy or prospective clergy, and vestry members and lay leaders.

Clergy and parishioners will have to sign the "Conehead Covenant" instead of the "Windsor Covenant."

It will be a brave, new world.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Waiting for Wilma

Hurricane Wilma is like her sister, Ophelia. She likes to keep everyone guessing. She continues her dance on the Yucatan, a guest who coyly declines to say when she'll leave.

When she does, she'll leave her hurricane calling card: death and misery. My heart goes out to the people there.

Wilma's shy about her plans. We're not sure when she will leave the Yucatan or how fast she will make tracks across the water toward Florida, when she'll hit, where she'll hit, and how hard she'll hit. The waiting is nerve-wracking for hurricane-weary Floridians. Some figure they survived everything last year, and they'll just ride it out, whatever comes.

Not the right attitude.

The storm will likely be much weaker before she hits Florida, but she will still be a menace, especially to areas still trying to recover from last year's storms. The southwest coast is the most vulnerable, but even here, in Central Florida, we're still dealing with too much water and damages left from last year's unprecedented three hurricane hits.

We have to keep watching ... and waitng. And praying.

God, please bless the storm-wracked with evidence of your presence, and tend to the fearful, the dying and the grieving. Give them comfort and peace, and show the survivors the way to safety. Prepare your relief-workers for what they must do, trusting in you and your goodness. In Christ's name, Amen.

The joy of vinyl

Compact discs are handy. They're obviously compact and portable. Most of them don't skip.

I have a confession, though: I miss those spinning discs that were called "LPs," or long-play albums, that have mostly disappeared from record-store shelves.

Maybe the nostalgia for LPs is because it seemed more exciting to buy recorded music in my youth. I would rush home with my purchase, carefully remove the cellophane wrapping, and smell the sweet scent of new vinyl.

The little hiss from the speakers as the needle made contact with the album's outer grooves was the sound of anticipation; then the music began.

Album covers were big enough to display real art. Many albums had double covers to open, and inside were lyrics to read along with the music, and memorize.

When I reallly "grooved" on a song, I could pick up the needle's arm, put the needle back to the beginning of the tune, and listen to it over and over again.

A biography of the performer(s) was usually printed on the back of the album cover, so I learned tidbits about these favorite artists. I never bought fan magazines.

Ah, the days of Simon and Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, Marianne Faithful, and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Folk-rock. Motown. The Beatles.

Then came the years of infamy, a black mark on the history of music: no, not disco, but eight-track tapes. Oh, horrors. They tangled. They dragged. Suddenly, voices descended three octaves and sounded like utterances of doom.

Nevertheless, the cool kids all had some kind of eight-track players in their cars. Never mind if they had to stop and deal with tape spewing from the players like spaghetti from a pasta maker, or if the machines' batteries died.

I refused to have anything to do with these afflictions on the ears and psyche of humanity.

A little later came cassettes, and for a long time, I was convinced they were just slightly different versions of eight-tracks, and not to be trusted.

Then came compact discs (CDs), just when I had finally installed a cassette player in my car. Sigh. I still drive around with a portable CD player plugged into my car's cigarette lighter, and I enjoy loading up my CD player at home.

Sometimes, though, I go to my old record player, relegated to the back room, and play some of my elderly albums. I still have the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Bob Dylan's Nashville Skyline among a stack of albums that have survived the years.

I think I hear Cat Stevens' Tea for the Tillerman calling me. Catch you later.

Betsy and Jack the Brat follow me to the back room to see what I'm doing. Would you believe my little baby Jack now weighs 11 pounds? He went to the vet today for his annual.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

So close your eyes

Hold Demi at Pilgrim's Progress in your prayers -- she lost her father Saturday morning.

She blogged about hearing the song "Stardust" in a dream and realizing it was about her dad's life and death.

It reminded me that I had a song in my head, from the time in June, in Honduras, that I learned of my younger brother's death, all the way back to the States. It was James Taylor singing "Close Your Eyes"

So close your eyes
You can close your eyes
It's all right
I don't know no love songs
And I can't sing the blues anymore
But I can sing this song
And you can sing this song when I'm gone

Monday, October 10, 2005

Blessing the animals

Sunday, I took two of my pets to church for a Blessing of the Animals.

For those who are unfamiliar with Episcopal traditions, the life and ministry of St. Francis of Assisi is observed on Oct. 4. Along with his ministry to the poor, the sick and the downtrodden, St. Francis was known for having an affinity with animals, and the legends say even the wild animals of the forest would come to him peaceably, Thus, the Blessing of the Animals is done near this date, in St. Francis' honor.

I took Betsy and Jack the Brat. I had to leave one of the cats home because I only have one pet carrier now, and Elvis ended up staying home this time -- not that he minded. They won't both fit in the carrier; Elvis can hardly fit in it by himself. I'm going to bless him tonight with my stash of holy water, and he can get a priestly blessing next time.

Betsy, a very social dog, enjoyed the whole event and the chance to visit with other dogs, particularly a Rottweiler who was giving her the eye. She was most appreciative of the blessing she received, and gave the Father a big, slurpy kiss in the face to show her appreciation.

Jack the Brat had a dimmer view of the event, and stayed curled up in the back of his carrier. I flick water on him to chase him off the kitchen counter, and I'm sure he took the holy water sprinkled on him in the same light -- only, he had no place to run.

Oh, well, he needed a special blessing.

Let me digress: Last weekend, I found two tiny black-racer snakes dead on the floor next to the sliding doors. Jack had apparently pulled them through the tiny space above the runner. He spends a lot of time there, watching lizards on the patio through the glass, and scrabbles his paws along the tracks, somehow getting hold of a tail once in a while with his sharp claws. Maybe I need to keep them trimmed very short.

How my little hunter did it, I don't know, but I don't think the snakes got in by themselves. My guess is they got up around the door to get out of the rain that night and got their tails in the space under the door that runs back and forth. They were probably dead by the time he pulled them under the door. I found them with one's head bitten off and one's tail bitten off, and a blotch of blood next to the door. Yuch. Anyway, it's lucky they weren't pygmy rattlers -- I might have a dead cat. So, Jack needed the blessing for protection.

Anyway, people brought dogs and cats of all sizes, shapes, and degree of furriness for blessings, and there were two big birds, as well. After the blessings, people were served animal crackers and pets were served people crackers.

What fun! Then Jack, Betsy and I took a ride to the beachside.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Goodbye to old friends

I was sad to learn of Don Adams' death yesterday. It seems that all the characters and personalities I grew up with have been departing this world.

Don Adams, in his character of Maxwell Smart, brought a to life a sneaky, campy, delightful humor. Would you believe I named a cat "Maxwell" after him? Maxwell the cat had the same pointy features and enjoyment of life that Don Adams seemed to have.

Sorry about that, chief.

Although he had been out of the limelight for a few years, I was still grieved by the death of Johnny Carson. I didn't really have a social life when I was in high school, but Carson brought his wit and his funny, talented friends into my room and it was as if these fabulous people were sharing their evening with me.

I miss Jimmy Stewart, George Burns, and all those wonderful men of my early life who are gone now.

Lord, thank you for Don and all the people who brought joy into our lives and are here no longer. I know they live joyously in you now.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Pet delight

The heck with all the bad news. Here are pictures of my pets.

This is Elvis

This is Jack the Brat, when I first got him.

This is Betsy

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Which way will they jump?

Network or Episcopal Church?

This is the scuttlebutt I've been hearing: the clergy are being polled in the Diocese of Central Florida, to see which way they're going to jump. Do they plan to stay with the Episcopal Church, or go with the Network?

Apparently the Network wants to be ready to jump ship at General Convention 2006. Apparently, the bishop wants to know he'll be surrounded by a posse of AAC-types before he goes for a break. Maybe he wants to force fence-sitters into a decision.

The clergy are being reminded they'll lose their pensions if they go. I'm not sure if this just to help the clergy see the ramifications of their decision, or likely, if the Network leaders can get enough Network wannabes worked up about it, to push for some grab of the pension fund.

There's already been a precedent set in the Diocese of Central Florida for letting break-away churches keep the property, by "selling" it to them at very low cost, at very good terms.

For a good while, the Web site for St. Lukes Cathedral in the Diocese of Central Florida has been referring to the cathedral only as a member of the Network, and nowhere does it admit being a part of the Episcopal Church. You can go to www.stlukescathedral.org and take a look.

At least the diocesan Web site still calls the diocese "Episcopal."

How crummy, though.

Two good things
p.s. -- a big, bad thing

Two good things happened yesterday: Hurricane/Tropical Storm Ophelia finally headed east and out to sea, away from Florida, and Michael Brown was removed as director of FEMA's Hurricane Katrina response effort.

Both have qualifiers.

Here in Central Florida, we still have to keep an eye on the fickle Ophelia, to see which direction she'll go when she loops back. The predictions are she might hit the Carolinas, but the weather people have been very unsure in predicting her movements. Maybe she'll fizzle out in the Atlantic -- the best-case scenario.

Michael Brown still heads FEMA, just not the Hurricane Katrina response. I caught him on the news saying he didn't understand why he was pulled off Katrina. I guess he ain't no rocket scientist. There's been so much ill will toward him, I don't see how he could work with any of the people or groups in the Gulf Coast. I'm sure Bush had no option but to remove him.

He should be removed from FEMA, but the prez is just too much into cronyism. Look at "Know-Nothing" Chertoff, head of Homeland Security. With all the vast resources at his command, he said he didn't know about the levee breaking and New Orleans flooding until fully a day later, when he read it in the newspaper.

With this kind of intelligence gathering, no wonder we can't find Osama bin Laden.


Oh my God. I just read an e-mail from one of my ultraconservative acquaintances. It appears that the horror in New Orleans wasn't because of lack of action by the Bush administration. No, what was really going on in New Orleans was that the people who didn't leave when told to evacuate were the shiftless types in the projects, along with crimiinals the police just let out of jail, because they couldn't evacuate them. But the criminals all came from the projects, so they're really all the same people, the e-mail explains.

These "thugs," as they're described in the e-mail, are compared to the good-for-nothing towel heads in Iraq who shouted obscenities at the U.S. soldiers who came to save them. These "thugs" or "parasites" spent the time of crisis in New Orleans raping, looting, murdering and thugging.

The situation was caused by 40 years of "welfare state," not by inaction and incompetence on the part of bushie and his henchmen/political appointees. No, the e-mail says, "The welfare state--and the brutish, uncivilized mentality it sustains
and encourages--is the man-made disaster that explains the moral ugliness that
> has swamped New Orleans. And that is the story that no one is reporting."

I think I'm going to be sick. Excuse me for a minute.

This e-mail is being sent all over the place, and I got it many generations from its origin. I know where it came from, though.

We're going to be lied to about the body count, also. They're only reporting 154 bodies found in Louisiana so far. Of course, the bushie government is controlling the morgues and the body counts that come out of the search operations. 154? That's a big fat lie. The body count will be minimized, just like the casualty count was in Viet Nam. And it's going on in Iraq, too, certainly for the civilian count.

This blame the victim -- they deserved it anyway -- tactic is totally beyond the pale. I'm more convinced than ever that a bunch of Nazis and their goons run our government.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Stalling around

Hurricane Ophelia is hanging around, stalled just off the coast of Central Florida, and the experts aren't sure what she's going to do. She was dubbed "hurricane" about 24 hours earlier than expected.

Forecasters now think she might head to the northeast, then loop and come back toward Florida, with winds of up to 100 mph (sigh). But, they warn, even a temporary shift to the west could give us some nasty weather now.

It's Murphy's Law: we, as we should have, sent law enforcement officers, medical teams, firefighters and supplies to the Gulf Coast, leaving us more vulnerable here in Central Florida.

Our local Salvation Army's pantry is bare, and they're out of money to help people with rent and so forth. There's a great need now, and there will be an even greater need if we get even tropical storm force winds here. We're in great danger of flooding if we get much rain at all -- we already have too much water to deal with.

We've still got nothing to complain about, comparatively -- 100 mph winds at the worst pale in comparison to Katrina's destruction.

Here's praying we get nothing of Ophelia but a few more rainstorms. Just go on out to the Atlantic and fizzle, Ophelia.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

I hear you knocking...

Tropical Storm Ophelia has parked herself off the coast of Central Florida, and it looks like we're in for a blow and a lot of rain the next two days. Thank heavens she's just a tropical storm - nothing like Katrina - yet, we have to go through the drill of preparing for power outages, flooded streets and wind damage. I went to the store last night and stocked up on pet food, milk, bottled water and camping-out fare. I already have a stash of batteries.

Flooding is the biggest potential threat to my area, where the ground is already saturated. A number of subdivisions around here have been dealing with overflowing retention ponds, street flooding and some house flooding all summer. This is partly due to some of them not being built according to their approved plans, we're finding out. But the flooding is mostly due to three hurricanes last year and some heavy rains this summer.

Just let us off easy, Ophelia. No need to linger and turn into a hurricane, or move on then double back on us.

But thank God you're not Katrina.

This is

Jack the Brat

who came to live with me just before the 2004 trio of hurricanes hit Central Florida.


Too many dead, too little done

There’s plenty of blame to go around for the catastrophic situation in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Both Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and City of New Orleans officials can take bows for making a catastrophic situation worse.

As people began to die in the Superdome and New Orleans Conference Center, I watched both FEMA Director Michael Brown and his boss, Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, act as if they were oblivious of the horrendous situation.

To approximate one incredulous newscaster’s question to Brown, “Haven’t any of you at FEMA been watching TV?”

On the Sept. 4 broadcast of NBC’s Meet the Press, Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff acted equally clueless, and unaware people had been instructed to go to the Convention Center. According to him, people went there "spontaneously" and on their own, so they shouldn't have expected shelter supplies.

Uh, Mr. Chertoff, people were being told to go to the Convention Center for shelter, as well as to the Superdome.

Everyone else in the country knew what was going on in both facilities: no water, no food, no sanitation, no medical care, and people were dying. FEMA and the rest of the feds were the only ones who seemed to know nothing. They're the new "Know Nothings."

Chertoff said the difficulty wasn’t lack of supplies. It was getting them to flooded New Orleans. Yet other groups were getting in and out. Wal-Mart, apparently better at crisis management than FEMA, could get trucks into the area. Katie Couric could get in.

Meanwhile, bodies piled up and the people of New Orleans got mad and charged racism, all the way up to the White House.

I don't know how racist Bush is, but for the past few years, I've been certain he doesn't care about anybody but himself and his "have-more" friends. Maybe if Halliburton had been ready to come in and charge the federal government $50 per boxed meal and $5 per pint bottle of water, the federal response would have been quicker.

It isn't as if they didn't know the hurricane was coming. I knew someone in the Gulf Coast was going to get it as Katrina approached South Florida, and I'm no meteorologist. I know from experience these storms scoot across the tip of Florida, get into the steam bath of the Gulf of Mexico, intensify rapidly, and go north. Everybody from the bend of Florida to Galveston should have been on alert, and FEMA should have been deploying wherever it hit, within a day.

And they knew New Orleans was Katrina's prime target a couple of days out. And they knew New Orleans to be the most vulnerable city of any. And they sat around. They thought New Orleans was fine, 'cause the newspapers said Katrina's eye missed the Big Easy, and they didn't know about the levee breaking until they saw it later, in the newspaper, they said.

I guess it's a good thing neither Cherthoff or Brown are in charge of the CIA. I guess Bush is.

FEMA’s in there now, and so are the troops, in the thousands, although there are only maybe 10,000 living people in the city, and maybe that many dead.

But what about local government?

I watched a lot of television coverage of the crisis, and saw no New Orleans city officials helping residents get food and water or a way out. I saw one city truck sent out by a city official, to check on his own home, not to help anyone. But the truck did end up rescuing a few people, due to the television spotlight on it. I'm unimpressed with Mayor Nagin. I don't know where he rode out the hurricane, but he sure didn't come back to the Superdome to give leadership in a crisis.

In contrast, I saw our local city engineer and city crews working on a lift station as Hurricane Frances approached, and other city and county leaders working furiously before and after the storms.

Why the City of New Orleans didn’t stock at least the Superdome with survival basics is beyond understanding. New Orleans’ emergency-preparedness plan seemed to consist of telling everyone to evacuate, without any plan to help the sick, elderly and poor who had no transportation.

Just say it, and poof, everyone's evacuated.

After News Orleans is cleaned up, its officials should consult with our local Emergency Management Services people, who can advise them about hurricane preparedness.

Our people know about being prepared — watching the weather, keeping shelters stocked with enough food and water for several days, tracking road conditions, coordinating services, and providing transportation for those without it.

If lessons are learned, maybe the next Hurricane Katrina won’t bring so many deaths.

I've learned my lesson: If we get a category 4 or 5 hurricane heading toward my part of Florida, I'm putting the animals in the car and heading for the Georgia mountains. I don't care if we have to camp out somewhere. Hurricane Frances was plenty enough for me.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

On the great church divide

Whee-yoo. Take a look at some of the discussions going on at Father Jake's and Salty Vicar's sites (see links at right). It's pretty hot between the fundies and the...True Anglicans, I'll call them, because I take Fr. Jake's and Salty Vicar's sides.

As I may have mentioned once or twice or a dozen times, even though I live in an ultra-conservative diocese whose leaders seem to be thinking of going the way of the foreign bishops, I won't go. The Diocese of Central Florida can go do what it feels called to, but I'm just not going in that direction.

Like Fr. Jake, I find the Pat Robertsons and the Archbishop Akinolas and the Bishop Duncans and the IRD cut out of the same cloth of intolerance and fascist thinking. Nothing doing.

There's a nice Methodist church here in my town, some nice UCC churches who are welcoming of everyone, there's home church. Maybe even just watching a preacher or two on television on Sunday mornings.

What I'm really anticipating is there will be plenty of other people who won't go if the diocese is foolish enough to pull this. Even many of the more traditional believers won't be pulled out of their church.

We'll just have to see what happens.

God and me

I've stepped back from church activities the past couple of months. That's partly because I need some time to heal from all the family stuff I've dealt with. It's partly because I was exhausted before I went on the June mission trip and need time to rest, too. And maybe partly because I just don't trust what my diocese is up to.

But I have been spending time meditating, thinking and praying. And I've felt myself moving closer to God. I've been pretty angry with him/her/it/The Almighty at various times in the recent past. I've felt distant from my creator.

This time alone has been good for me. I've gotten away from excessive business. I've been reading scripture. I've even watched a television preacher or two. I've even (shockingly) been reading St. Augustine's Confessions.

I've been reaching out to God, and that presence has surrounded me. I'm healing, though the process seems slow.

I like having some time alone with God. I cherish it.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

A year of Jack

Last week I was going through files and found photos of the vet bringing Jack the Brat into my house. That was Aug. 5. It's hard to believe I've had this little guy for a year.

Last year, just before all the hurricanes started to hit, he turned up at the vet's door. She was preparing to go out of town. She was new in practice and didn't have much place to leave him...but she remembered I'd just lost a cat a few months ago and would be an easy touch.

She was right.

Tiny little Jack, barely old enough to be weaned, came with a torn-up face and a punctured eyeball. Something had seriously gotten hold of him. With antibiotics, prayer and Jack's natural resiliency, he recovered, and was able to keep the eye. The only sign left of Jack's early trauma is a black spot on his eye.

He fell in love with Betsy the dog, as soon as he came into the house, and Betsy mothered him and took him on as her play buddy. They still tear around the house, playing chase. I gave up long ago worrying about him getting hurt. He's the one who starts the games with a 45-pound dog.

Jack's still a small cat. I don't think he's grown any the past two or three months, so I imagine he'll stay small. But he's maybe six pounds of muscle, bone and claw.

Elvis, the big black-and-white cat, (try 20 pounds to Jack's six) has always been a big baby, one who used to run away crying when Jack would jump him. Now, though, he seems to enjoy a bit of roughhousing, and I'm treated to a nightly Clash of the Titans on the living room floor.

Jack's my little sweetie. He loves on me and loves for me to rub his back. He's always right there, in the middle of whatever I'm doing.

For all his swagger around the house, he's terrified of anyone besides me, and hides under the bed when visitors come in.

Jack is the brat who loves to tear up cardboard boxes, and tear into unopened bags of cat food. He's the one I hear getting into things in he middle of the night, knocking things over just for the fun of it. He's the brat who tries to crawl into the refrigerator with the shrimp I put there, but won't eat it when I offer him one; he's the brat who tries to help himself to what's on my plate.

Jack's the brat who weaves in and out between my ankles, the one who tries to stop me from going out the door.

Ah, Jack, you're such a brat. And you're a cutie-patootie.

Thursday, August 11, 2005


I am almost asleep ... drifting.

Drifting ... oh, God, hold me safe in the palm of your hand. And my bed becomes the hand of God, and my pillow the soft flesh joining the palm of his hand and his thumb. I am warm, safe, secure, comforted.

Drifiting ... my bed becomes a boat on the Mediterranean, far from shore. The dome of the sky is clear, blue, and a million miles away. The boat, stroked by slight, warm breezes, rests on crystalline water. I can see the grains of sand on the floor of the sea, and swimming fish. It's a moment of God's perfect peace.

Drifting ... my bed moves through the cosmos, through the dark night sky and the Milky Way. I see stars as big as silver dollars. Comets flare across the blue-black depths of space. The belt of Orion, novas, nebulae and exploding universes all contribute to the spectacle I observe, the beauty of God's handiwork.

Drifting ... I'm aware of my dog and two cats curling up at my knees and at the foot of my bed, my special craft.

I am asleep.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Oh me, oh my

Ha, ha. Hee, hee. It's surreal pie.

First, the Church of England comes up with a "Kiss, but don't tell" policy regarding certain sexual unions among its priestly types. That's strange enough. It's ok to have a gay civil partnership, same-same as marriage, just no sex.

At least, they better not admit to it, as they share lives, households and bedrooms.

I have to admit, that's a bit surreal.

Next, the good Archbishop Peter Akinola, aka "The Man Who Would Be Pope," jumps on that, citing the Windsor Report (which has become the right-wing justification for everything, somehow).

Archbish Petey wants to kick the C of E and the Archbishop of Canterbury out of the Anglican Communion, or suspend them at least. Let's see, can we still call it the "Anglican" communion? Surreal.

That's a rather neat and simple way to handle those who disagree with you -- just kick them out.

ECUSA and the Canadians shouldn't have agreed to a suspension, I think.

Well, we'd better keep this all very quiet. What if Prez. Bush gets wind of this -- he'll kick all those pesky Democrats out of Congress! Just a few years' suspension, he'll tell them. They can appear at some [obviously, who else will be left?] Republican-led hearings to explain themselves.

Maybe it isn't so far-fetched or funny after all.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Tainted journalism

The July edition of the diocesan newsletter, The Central Florida Episcopalian, makes it clear the direction our bishop is determined to take us.

The lead article is called "On Ice - ACC asks North American churches to withdraw until 2008 Lambeth Conference."

Inside, 10 pages are devoted to the Network, with articles like "ACN states it purpose and its passion," the ACN take on the Windsor Action Covenant, the ACN take on the state of the Anglican Communion, and a report on the Anglican Consultive Council meeting by one of the diocese's most arch-conservative Network-pushing priests.

At least they did print the Archbishop's speech.

It's obvious the direction the Bishop is determined to go. He wants to jump the Episcopalian ship, bewailing, as ever, how the Episcopal Church has sailed away from him.


Well, this is the second attempted coup he's been part of. The first one was the old PECUSA try to replace ECUSA in the late 1990's, which included an attempt to grab the pension funds. The then-Presiding Bishop put his foot firmly down on that, and the parties skulked back to their lairs to lick their wounds and plot some more. So the crying doesn't get any sympathy from me.

The Episcopal Voices group has galvanized over this latest issue of the newsletter, and they've written a response to it. At last, the scales seemed to have fallen from their eyes. It wasn't long ago most seemed taken by the Bishop's charm and manipulations, believing his line that he isn't really pushing the Network, he's just an innocent victim of circumstances, being blamed for what the people want. I'm not hearing that any more.

Who knows if the Voices response will be published. It should be, if anyone at the top is really interested in a dialogue. Somehow, I don't think they are.

I haven't kept up with everything going on this summer, mostly just read Father Jake's postings about the meetings and machinations. I've been wrapped up in my own stuff and haven't had the psychic energy for it.

The Bishop and his other bishop buddies can do what they want. I'm not leaving the Episcopal Church. If it's taken away from me, I'll go somewhere else, but not into any Network-Southern Cone whatever. Many of the people who might follow them into it, where they'll feel safe from gay bishops and other "innovations," will regret it before long.

I'm sick of the heavy-handed tactics in this diocese.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Sighs too deep for words

God knows I've been put out with him, lately. God, that is.

I call God a "him" because I've had the evil thought that God must be a man: demanding proof of my love for him, while offering me naught but promises. Last week, I shocked (priest) Mother Marvelous with this insight.

(She told me I'm beyond my mother's words now. Do I want to hang onto the stuff from the past and be miserable, or reach out to God's love and acceptance?)

I've been all elbows and knees with God lately, pushing him away. Yet, he keeps coming 'round. I feel his soft breath on my cheek. I feel his enveloping comfort.

I hear his words, that I am his beloved, made beautiful and perfect by his love. I am the apple of his eye, a treasured jewel. He, who knows even when the sparrow falls, knows the number of hairs on my head. He cherishes each one. He will never let me slip through his fingers. Indeed, he holds me in the palm of his hand. My name is inscribed on it. He rejoices over me with singing.

For the past few years, these words have slowly been overcoming all the negative ones I learned in childhood and still heard in adulthood. It hasn't been an easy job. I can hold onto hurts.

God's been holding onto me tighter.

While I can't claim to be the poster girl for positive self-image, I know things have been changing and are still changing in me. Not because of my strength, but because of God's unwillingness to let go.

The Gospel reading for today was perfect. Romans 8:26-39:

"The Sprit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God..."

I've been emotional (a mess!) and over-sensitive the last few weeks, not formulating much in the way of prayers. But Spirit, I feel your sighs. I think you've been timing them to mine.

It is not Jesus who condemns. That comes from weak human flesh. Jesus intercedes for me. He is the one right beside me through all this nastiness, pulling me toward wholeness.

"... Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? ... No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Thank you, Lord, for holding onto me and talking to me. Thank you for the healing that is going on in me. And God, thank you for putting marvelous people into my life. You talk to me through them, too.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

A tropical depression

It's summer in Florida. Hot, humid, oppressive. Summer means hurricane season, too. Many people here in Central Florida are anxious at the thought of it, after the three-time clobbering we got last year. It was traumatic.

Even nervous public officials are praying this year.

The ground is still saturated with last year's water, and we've had higher-than-usual rainfall amounts the past few months. Lakes and water-retention areas are full and overflowing already, and there's nowhere for stormwater to go but up. We'll have massive flooding if we get heavy hurricane rains.

Last year's hurricane season was awful -- unrelenting storms, damp spots on the ceiling, trees down, a hole in the fence, bathing in cold water out of buckets and a sweltering house with no electricity for six days at a time -- and I was luckier than many.

Coming home through a dark neighborhood to a pitch-dark, dank, damp house. Trying sweatily to sleep. Leaving the patio door open and windows open all night and all day, an open invitation to burglars. Better than roasting to death, though.

Not one single member of my family attempted to contact me and check on my wellbeing, except for my late father's cousin's widow, many states away. Bless her.

I have even less sense of family this year. One brother is dead, the other two acting mean (the usual). We all suffered from a lack of love from my mother. It affected us all differently.

I wrote a parody last year that included a character called "Sanctimonius." I later realized that in the character Sanctimonius, I had written about my older brother's rage and jealousy toward me and my gay brother, the one who is dead now. My older brother's anger was buried under the surface for many years, though, where the fictional character's was visible on the surface.

My youngest brother acts like a pompous, judgmental Pharisee. A good right-wing Christian, he looks down on the likes of me.

We were each affected differently by the emotional atmosphere in which we grew up. I felt unlovable, unpretty and that I could do nothing right, because that's the message I got. My brothers picked up on that message, too, and treated me the same way.

Now, my mother's Alzheimers disease is progressing rapidly. She can't keep track of what she's saying, or who's who of the people who are around her every day. There's no way to work on that relationship.

The truth is, I don't want to have a relationship with my brothers any more. I won't put up with being bullied, put down or used any more. It's not as if they want anything to do with me, either.

I can only love them with Christ's love: to know that He sees them as sinners, and loves them anyway, just as He sees me in my sins and failings and loves me anyway. I can't go any further than that at this point, except to ask for healing for each of us.

I feel very alone. I'm grateful for my friends and church family, but I'm alone in a way most of them could never grasp.

Things are crappy and it's hurricane season again. I guess I'm strong enough to deal with it all, but I want healing and wholeness and some sense of security in my life.

I'm asking, God. With all my heart.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Mission to Honduras

Here, finally, is the story of the mission trip to Honduras:

I went to Honduras as part of a 15-person mission team from my church.

We went to an orphanage for young boys called El Hogar de Amor y Esperanza (The Home of Love and Hope), near the capital city of Tegucigalpa.

We would help, about 15 miles away, to construct new buildings at a technical school, where the older boys learn welding, auto mechanics and other trades, also as part of the El Hogar Projects.

Our first introduction to the country’s poverty came as we left the airport terminal and started the short trek across the parking lot to a bus waiting to take us to El Hogar. About 10 boys between the ages of 5 and 12 beset us, begging for money.

“Please,” they said, lifting their hands to their mouths as if eating, to explain they were hungry.

“Please,” they implored, looking at us with big sad eyes.

The orphanage staff said not to give them any money. We were told family members send these children out to beg.

The team climbed aboard the bus, and the children surrounded it, climbing onto a wall next to the bus, poking hands and arms through the windows, still begging.

Following the driver’s advice, we put the windows up, and the boys rapped on the windows until the luggage was loaded aboard and the bus began to inch out of the parking lot.

Police and military personnel stand on almost every corner in Tegucigalpa, and in public places like parks and restaurants, armed with semiautomatic weapons.

The government is relatively stable, but crime is high, especially in the larger cities like Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula. Many Hondurans carry weapons for self-defense.

The orphanage, like most buildings in Honduras, is walled for safety. The bus driver honked to get the guard’s attention, and the gate slid back to let the bus enter.

Our quarters were dormitory-style rooms the orphanage provides for visiting teams, with the women in one room and the men next door. There was no air-conditioning, which wasn’t a terrible hardship, as Tegucigalpa is in the mountains, where the air cools at night.

Because of lack of equipment, water is provided to cities only every other day. The orphanage has a cistern, but the wall had been damaged in a recent storm. Our showers were sporadic, and in cold water.

The water is not potable, and we were told to use bottled water, even to wash our faces and brush our teeth. The Hondurans drank bottled water, as well.

The boys of El Hogar

The El Hogar compound in Tegucigalpa houses boys through sixth grade. After that, they can attend Santa Maria Technical Institute at the new location in Amarateca, about 15 miles outside Tegucigalpa, or at an agricultural school, to learn farming and animal husbandry.

The executive director for El Hogar Projects explained, “It would be cruel to take these boys off the streets for so many years, then just throw them back.”

By learning a trade, these boys can earn a decent living, and go back to the barrio or community they’re from, and contribute to it.
About 50 percent of people in the cities live in extreme poverty, the director explained, and more than 70 percent of people in rural areas live in extreme poverty.

The per-capita gross national income is $970, according to Unicef. Honduras is about the size of Tennessee, with a population just over 6.5 million.

Unendurable poverty brings most of the boys to El Hogar. They are not orphans in the traditional sense. Most have parents. The children at El Hogar are the ones who have been abandoned because they represent an extra mouth to feed when there is no food.

Boys are tossed out much more often than girls in a machismo culture, where it is assumed boys can fend for themselves better than girls can. Many of the boys have been told they are trash. A number of them were found going through trash heaps and were brought to the orphanage.

In fact, just about every trash container in Tegucigalpa has someone going through it, even in the poorest sections of town, though what the searchers may find is a mystery. People who have nothing pretty much have nothing edible or usable to throw away.

Gangs are growing in the cities of Honduras, as these boys look for acceptance, belonging and a way to survive. They contribute to the crime.

The El Hogar director old the group about one young boy who was found living under a bridge with his mother. There was no shelter, no sanitation, no food. The mother agreed to let the little boy go to El Hogar, where she could visit him.

Many boys have family members who come visit them, and to whom they go at Christmas other holidays.

When the little boy was shown his bed to sleep in, he said, “Really? A bed? For me?” He had never slept in a bed before.

The three facilities of El Hogar are home to about 200 boys. This orphanage and others barely touch the tip of the iceberg of need.

After a few days in Tegucigalpa, I e-mailed this note back to The Church of Open Arms:

“We all went to Honduras, and guess where we went for lunch? MCDONALDS hahaha. Seriously, it was great. We took a number of the boys from El Hogar there and they had a great time. Any outing is a treat for them ... The kids at the orphanage have nothing compared to our standards, yet they are, for the most part, the lucky kids around here. They have three meals a day, their own beds to sleep in, safety and people to care about them. The orphanage is poor, too, but the staff is very caring.”

That staff didn’t want any of the missionary group fussing over the children as if they were “poor little boys.” They want these children to look upon themselves with pride. They are loved, valued and cared for.

The technical institute

The van ride to Santa Maria Technical Institute is an unforgettable experience. Right-of-way is determined by skill and guts. Drivers honk to let other drivers know the vehicle will be sailing through an intersection. This is done with a short toot. A longer blast means you’ve made the driver mad, and/or “Get out of the way.”

Passing on the mountain highway is an exercise in perfect timing. It was common for us to cringe as we saw a bus barreling around an 18-wheel rig toward us, cutting back into its lane with inches to spare.

Only the brave sat next to the driver, with a close-up view of oncoming traffic.

We passed a camp for displaced people, constructed for those left homeless by Hurricane Mitch, which devastated Central America in 1998. The camp is still full of people living in tiny, raw cinderblock homes on muddy paths.

We left the main highway for dirt roads the last mile or two, passing small homes, chickens, horses and mules.

The new technical institute’s administration building is the former home of a doctor, built Spanish-style, with rooms around an inner court. Around it, a classroom building and bathrooms had already been erected, and footers for a dormitory were being set.

Our team was one of a number of teams coming in for one-week terms, each picking up where the last one left off. Some of us painted walls inside the classroom building, while others (mostly the men) worked on the new construction.

They achieved a level of sore muscles heretofore never met. Everything was done manually. Mountainous, Honduran soil is rocky. Boulders had to be split with a pickax before they could be removed for the footers. It rained, and the workers had to bail water out of the holes before they could continue digging.

The Hondurans working alongside the Grace mission-team members were not fazed by the work. They were used to it.

In fact, during the trip, the team noted how hard the Hondurans work for just a few dollars a day at a construction job, or at the backbreaking job of farming on steep slopes on the side of a mountain. There is simply no way out of poverty for most. There is no infrastructure, nor any social services to help people.
Honduras is one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere.

The team would have never guessed all this by the smiling faces that greeted them. A number of the boys who attend the institute were gone on summer break, but the five or six who had nowhere to go enthusiastically helped the women on the painting team. The boys seemed especially enchanted by the team’s younger members.

We communicated with our young helpers — as we did with most Hondurans — using a combination of trial and error Spanish and English and pantomime. Tegucigalpa and the surrounding region are not tourist destinations, and few locals speak English.

The boys at the orphanage study English in school, and we were greeted every morning with: “Hello. How are you?” from the little ones. The older boys continue to study English at the institute, but they were shy about attempting any until they were comfortable enough with us to overcome their fear of embarrassment.

They were curious about the United States and wanted to visit it sometime. They couldn’t grasp the idea of Florida’s flat land.

"No mountains?" they asked incredulously, in Spanish.

Concept of hospitality

The mission team was lavished with hospitality. The typical meal is beans, rice and tortillas.

Yet, we from the land of plenty were served eggs when there weren’t enough for the children. Strong coffee was brewed just for us.
Patricia, the cook at the technical institute, prepared delicious lunches with chicken or beef for us every day.

It was an embarrassment of riches.

Everyone went out of their way to make us comfortable, and they were patient with our lack of understanding about how things work in Honduras.

Sad goodbyes

The last night of the mission, the team served delivery pizzas and soft drinks to the children at El Hogar. This is a customary thing for mission teams to do there, and the boys love it.

The boys presented each missionary with a handmade thank-you card and many hugs. The teenage members of the team, who had spent a lot of time playing marbles (a favorite pastime) and other games with the boys, had grown attached to the youngsters and didn’t want to leave them.

We all came home with a sense of how privileged we are compared to most of the world, and a desire to share what we have with others, as we are called to do.

I will remember the beauty of Honduras' mountains, and her people.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Remembering my brother

Those of you who have been reading my entries for a while might remember my brother Toby (the other brother). Toby felt himself a misfit in this world his whole life.

Toby died in the early morning hours of Saturday, June 11. I was still in Honduras, on the mission trip.

A friend was checking phone messages for me while I was gone. She found a message to call the hospital, but when she did, they wouldn't tell her anything. She called the rector at my church, who talked to the hospital and was able to obtain the fact Toby had died. The rector contacted the priest leading the mission trip, who is also a dear friend, and she told me the news in the early morning hours last Monday, before we departed for the return trip home.

I'm glad I was surrounded by caring people when I found out.

I knew Toby's alcoholism would kill him eventually, because it didn't look like he would ever be sober for more than a brief period now and then. But I was thinking in terms of several years or so, not in months. I didn't expect it to get him this quickly.

Toby had a condition called esophageal varices. It's a complication of cirrhosis of the liver: the organ becomes so scarred that the portal vein and others that flow into it from the stomach and spleen, etc. become blocked. The distended vessels eventually start bleeding.

Toby had been admitted to the hospital a couple of days earlier, then apparently took a nose dive -- started hemorrhaging -- on that Friday evening. He was transferred to intensive care, where he died at 1:58 a.m. Saturday. Someone told me they tried to resuscitate him a couple of times.

I spent a long, hard day travelling. We left the hotel at 2 a.m. EDT, on a three-hour chartered bus from Copan to San Pedro Sula, took a plane to Tegucigalpa, then flew to Miami and Orlando, then travelled by van. I got home about 11 p.m. that night, driven the last leg by a church friend, as they wouldn't let me go home alone. I talked to the hospital, then called my other two brothers and told them the news.

I also suggested they should handle Toby's burial. I was tired and grieving and felt like they could handle something, for a change.

Anyway, they set Toby up to be cremated, then have his ashes shipped up north to be buried in a plot my parents bought when they purchased their own plots.

I went to the crematorium and said prayers over Toby's body,using prayers for the dead from the Book of Common Prayer, and also some words of baptism. (I don't think Toby had ever been baptized, as I hadn't been, either, until I came into the church as an adult.)

I don't think Toby should be just dumped in a cardboard box, then shoved into an oven, without any prayers. Again, a friend from church went with me.

The one good thing that's come out of this mess is I have experienced the love my surrogate family of friends and church members have for me. They have been there for me every step of the way. The priests at my church interrupted their busy schedules, and one came out of a sick bed to celebrate a full memorial/funeral service for Toby. They didn't know him, but they did it out of caring for me. As did other members of the church, my friends and my co-workers.

A couple of Toby's co-workers came to the service, too, and his supervisor talked about how Toby was always friendly and was patient and generous in helping train new staff.

I had attended a brief memorial held at Toby's workplace, and it was obvious they were all stunned by his death. They all liked Toby, although he was private and secretive, and didn't let anyone get close. No one even knew where he lived. His supervisor dubbed him "Secret Squirrel."

A friend of mine who had gotten to know Toby a little talked about him at the service, too, and told of a funny experience we all shared.

These remembrances all made me feel much better. Toby won't just be disposed of, as if his life had no meaning and he had no value. Even the people at the service who never met him will have some memory of him, and they know his face -- I had some photos of him blown up and displayed them in the back of the chapel for the the service.

Although Toby was a restless seeker, I don't think he ever found God before he died. I know though, he has stood before God and seen the truth, and the truth set him free. He is free of all the things that bound him, and he is healed.

Toby has a room in the Kingdom that was prepared just for him. (I chose that Gospel reading for the service. Toby may not have known the way to that Kingdom, but Christ helped him get there.) I chose the second reading from Paul's letter to the Romans: Nothing can separate Toby from the love of God.

About 15 people went with me to a local Mexican restaurant after the church service, to continue a celebration of Toby's life. He would have liked that very much.

I reminded my friends that what we were sharing was just a foretaste of that heavenly banquet of which Toby is already partaking.

Toby, I'm sorry life was so hard for you. At the core, you had a gentle and sensitive soul, and the slings and arrows of life cut such people more deeply than others.

I'm sorry I wasn't there when you died. I wish I had tried harder to stay in contact with you these last months. But I'm sure you know I love you.

unSaintly Pat

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Greetings from Honduras

Hello, everyone. Sorry I haven´t posted in so long. I´ve been in Honduras for more than a week on a church mission. We finished the mission part and now some of us are doing a little tourist bit.

Now, I´m in Copan, where the Mayan ruins are. I´m sending this from an internet cafe and laundry drop-off place combined.

It´s touristy here, compared to where we were for the mission, at an orphanage near Teguciegalpa, but nice, and with hot showers, air conditioning and tv in our hotel rooms, which is a luxury after the orphanage. There, when we could even get water for a shower, it was cold. But the people are just great. I´ll write more about it when I get back.

In the meantime, hasta luego, amigos. Vaya con Dios.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

More of the same old stuff

Well, our Central Florida ultraconservatives are changing their names again. First, they were AAC (American Anglican Council), then Network parishes(and diocese). The latest incarnation is "Windsor Parishes," and they're acting as if the Windsor report totally validates their doctrinal position.

They're suggesting everyone should sign confessions of faith. Next thing, I suppose, will be kicking out all the parishioners who voted for John Kerry.

Maybe they could bring back the rack and the inquisition too. And witch trials.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Seven things I learned about God from my pets

I've been reflecting on the expression of love I had from Good Old Boy, a late, great golden retriever. I wonder if one reason God puts these great animals in our life is so we can learn from them.

Here are some things I've learned from my pets I can apply to my relationship with God:

1. Unconditional love. Good Old Boy showed me this time after time. His favorite thing was to lean against my legs and look into my face adoringly as I stroked him. If I was seated, he would deposit his big head on my knee and do the same thing. This is truly Agape, God's love, that is spiritual and selfless. He just loved me, no matter what.

2. Forgiveness. To have the kind of unconditional love Good Old Boy showed, one needs forgiveness. Good Old Boy came to me from awful circumstances, He had been a beloved pet, then his owner died. He was left in the rain and the wet in the back yard with no one to take him. Most of us humans would harbor some bitterness, but not Good Old Boy. He was just overjoyed to be going home with me, and he made himself right at home with me and the other animals, as if he had always lived there. Joyfully.

3. Joy. Mollie McGuire dances with joy at the prospect of going for a walk or a ride with me in the car. My cats teach me this, too, purring contentedly, taking joy in the smallest things: a ball to play with, a treat, a rub. Take joy in life.

4. Trust expectantly. Both cats, Elvis and Jack the Brat, lie on their sides or back, paws curled up against their chests, waiting for me to scratch their tummies. They leave themselves vulnerable, expecting only good things from me. And if they get what they don't expect, they forgive and forget quickly. See No. 2 again.

5. The Commandments. When Betsy was a puppy, she quickly learned it displeased me greatly if she relieved herself in the house, but she got praise and pets for going outside. Now, she will never mess in the house.

I know the things that please and displease God the most. If I can only apply that knowledge as well as Betsy does.

6. My Master's voice. All the animals are attuned to the sound of my voice and respond to it, to my instructions (well, most of the time). They recognize my moods from my voice.

7. Stewardship. I get the feeling my cats and dogs think they take care of me, and in many ways they do, as when Betsy snuggles against me to comfort me when I'm sick. The cats shower affection on me when they know I'm down. They remind me to take care of everything with which God entrusts me, including my pets.

There are so many things I could list. I want to learn to put them all into better practice.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Yes, I'm still here

I haven't blogged recently (that's obvious). My apologies to anyone who might have been to the site looking for something to read!

My household has been getting back to normal. Betsy moped for a week or so after Good Old Boy's death, then recovered.

The vet took Good Old Boy's body for cremation. I haven't received his ashes yet, but when I do, I will bury them with the roots of a plant in the yard.

There's more to tell about me, and I will blog soon.

Love to all,
the unSaintly Pat

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The last of a Good Old Boy

My old Golden Retriever got down last week and couldn't get back up. I knew this day was coming -- he's been barely able to get up and down even with the help of medication to ease the pain and inflammation in his joints.

Last week, he just couldn't do it any more. The vet came out and gave him an injection to euthanize him as he lay on my kitchen floor. I had one hand on him and one hand on a worried Betsy, my Border Collie mix.

It was a painless exit from this world.

It reminded me that Jesus said he came to heal the sick, bind up the broken-hearted and set free the captives.

Jesus did all that for Good Old Boy, at different times. This was the time to free this beautiful animal from the body which had become a prison for him.

In the three years I had him, Good Old Boy was healed of heartworms by the miracles of modern science (which comes from God); he had two tumors removed from him, and he made it through the last six months only because of the medication that allowed him to get up and down. And my prayers through it all. He was deaf and he was developing cataracts.

Good Old Boy was about 10 years old when I got him. He looked to be a purebred golden retriever. Although already marked by arthritis, he could still prance at times, legs held high in the air. At the end, he couldn't lift his leg high enough to pee. He hadn't been able to lift his tail during the time I had him.

After the vet (who is a wonderful and kind young professional) left, I had a strong vision of Good Old Boy running through the green fields of the Kingdom of God, flowing red-blond fur blowing in the wind, plume of a tail held high, prancing -- and smiling that glorious retriever smile.

Good Old Boy is healed.

I imagine him joyfully reunited with his previous owner, who predeceased him.

I know that when I pass through that door, he will be there, weaving in and out, between the legs of that great cloud of witnesses, moving to joyfully greet me.

To those who say there is no heaven, I say, "Phbbbbt!"

To those who say there are no animals in heaven, I say there is certainly a place for any loving creature in heaven. These pets who are members of our families are beloved and loving and belong with us there, too.

To those who say there's a separate heaven for animals, I say it wouldn't be heaven for them without their beloved people.

In fact, don't even try to talk theology with the grieving. They don't want to hear it. Just give them a hug.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

A new slant on 1984

From George Orwell's 1984 (published in 1949), on the nature of Doublethink:

"To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which canceled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget, whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again, and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself -- that was the ultimate subtlety; consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the word 'doublethink' involved the use of doublethink."

Ron Suskind, in the New York Times online magazine, Oct. 2004, giving rise to the blogger tag "reality based." I count myself one of the reality-based bloggers:
In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn’t like about Bush’s former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House’s displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn’t fully comprehend — but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

The aide said that guys like me were ”in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who ”believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ”That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. ”We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

A word from another Anglican in Africa
God has a dream

This was posted on my Episcopal Voices listserv. Just read: It needs no commentary.

address by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. March 29, 2005

Most of us have read the first few chapters of Genesis in the Bible.
Isn't there a veritable explosion of creativity.

God, it could be said, went on a real spree, almost one might say, an orgy of creativity - where there was chaos, darkness and disorder, now there was order, cosmos and light and what a kaleidoscope of diversity.

There were trees, there were stars, a sun and moon, rivers and seas,
fish and fowl and birds and trees and animals - and what a splash of
diversity amongst the animals, not just one sort but a whole range of different animals, giraffes, elephants, lions, tigers, monkeys, cattle, sheep, goats, and among the trees, would be oaks, beeches, etc. and we could go on and on, and then there was Adam.

Now, that seemed to change the pattern. He was all by himself and then God saw that it was not good for man to be alone. And then we have that lovely story of how Eve came about.

A solitary human being is a contradiction in terms. We say in Africa a person is a person through other persons. We are made for togetherness, for friendship, for fellowship. We are created to live in a delicate network of interdependence and we are different precisely in order to know our need of one another. I have gifts that you don't and you have gifts that I don't have, and God you could almost hear saying, "Voila."

No one can be totally self-sufficient, the totally self-sufficient
human being is sub-human.

Diversity is the law of life. A tree is not just leaves. It has a trunk and branches, and roots and leaves - none can survive without the others. They are interdependent and perform different functions for the good of the whole. If the leaves were to go on strike and refuse to be involved in photo-synthesis and all that, the tree would suffer and the leaves would discover they were really nothing without the branches and the trunk and the roots. And so also with the human body. We say, "I see", not my eyes see - "I hear", not my ears hear - and I am an organism precisely because of the diversity of my organs performing different functions for the good of the whole body. Without this diversity functioning harmoniously I would be nothing.

Diversity is the Law of Life

Now God created us different, some tall, others short, some black,
others white (?), pink, yellow and red. What a fantastic array of
remarkable difference and diversity, different languages, different
cultures, different ethnicities, different this, different that. God
wanted us to glory in our differences, to affirm our differences, to
celebrate our diversities and to know that we are so obviously

Even now no single nation however prosperous and powerful can really go it alone. We must trade with other nations. We may find we don't have this commodity but they have it in abundance but lack what we have and God says I made you to be interdependent, to want to cooperate, to share, to care, to know that an injury to one will end up being an injury to all.

Unfortunately as seems always to happen, we perverted a good, our
particularity, our peculiarity - some then used it as a reason to
justify hostilities. We have used our differences to mistreat one

And so we had obscenities such as slavery where frequently one race
claimed to be superior to those who could thus be bought and sold like so many cattle when families were callously divided, wives from
husbands, mothers from their children and sold separately. They were
regarded as barely human and their dignity was trodden horrendously
underfoot. Even someone as smart as Aristotle declared that slaves were not persons. For him, and so many others, human personality was not a universal phenomenon possessed by all human beings without distinction.

Racism exalted differences that made some superior and others
inherently inferior and so we had the horror of the Holocaust when Jews were systematically eliminated in Hitler's Nazi final solution for being inferior to the Aryan and used as scapegoats to blame for Germany's parlous economic situation in the 1930s.

This kind of thinking justified the brutal and heartless massacre of
six million Jews and gypsies and homosexual persons. There have been other instances of genocide as of the Armenians, or of those who perished in the killing fields of Kampuchea (Cambodia) and more recently in Rwanda and then the so-called ethnic cleansing in of the former Yugoslavia, people being done in simply because they were different.

I come from South Africa which carried the opprobrium of the world for its vicious apartheid policy which was a blatant system of racist injustice and oppression.

In that land they saw nothing wrong with public signs reading, "Dogs
and natives not allowed" - natives meaning black people. There was no subtlety at all. In many other countries racism existed though perhaps in forms that were not quite so blatant and unashamed. In this country you spoke of separate but equal and everyone knew that it was really a fiction, since no white person would have willingly accepted to exchange places with those who were called Negroes, or more insultingly as Niggers, to enjoy the equal but separate facilities. We know the outrages and the atrocities perpetrated by the Ku Klux Klan, burning churches where little girls perished or the several lynchings - it continues to some extent as when a black man can be dragged to an excruciating death behind a truck. Racism is well and alive in so many parts of God's beautiful earth - we know what the neo-Nazis have been up to in Germany, or the National Front in Britain, and France, led by Le Pen, etc.

And we know that racism is totally un-Christian without remainder. It is unmitigated evil and totally immoral.

Why? Because racism says what invests anyone with worth, with value, is something extrinsic, something biological, skin colour, ethnicity. What does the Bible say quite categorically ? It says our worth is intrinsic. It comes with the package. It is part of being human. It does not depend on who or what we are. It belongs to all without distinction. And it is the wonderful assertion that each one of us is created in the image of God. Fantastic. Each one of us is God's representative, God's viceroy. God's standin. Each one of us is a God-carrier, since we are each a temple of the Holy Spirit.

Each one - everyone, whether we are rich or poor, beautiful or not so beautiful, red, white, yellow, black, young, or old, clever, or not so clever, our worth is intrinsic, our worth is infinite. And to treat one such as if they were less than human is not only evil, which it undoubtedly is; is not only painful as it certainly
turns out to be for its victims.

No it is all these things but more, it is blasphemous for it is really spitting in the face of God and we who are believers have no option - in the face of this evil and blasphemy we cannot be even neutral. We are constrained by our faith to oppose it
strenuously, for we can't say that well, it is respectable. No, that
would be to acquiesce in the crucifixion yet again of our Lord and
Saviour for remember he is the one who said, "When I was hungry you fed me, when I was naked, etc", for he is forever to be found with the outcast, the victim of injustice, of oppression.

When someone is the victim of any form of injustice and oppression, look carefully at that person and you will see the features of Jesus, and would we stand idly by when Jesus is vilified and illtreated yet again?

And how could we even have imagined that skin colour really told us
anything worthwhile about a person - does it tell us that you are
intelligent, humorous, compassionate, can I know these things just by looking at you? Of course not.

In the bad old days of apartheid in South Africa they used to have universities reserved only for whites. The main entrance qualification was not academic but biological. So I would say
suppose we changed that and said that this university was for large
noses only. If you had a small nose then you had to apply to the
Minister of Small Nose Affairs for permission to attend that

Totally absurd - it ought to have been something to dismiss with a loud guffaw, except of course that it was no laughing matter for its

God does not give up easily. God still believes that one day we will
get to agree with God that diversity is beautiful - that it is wonderful to have a garden made up of roses, but how much more wonderful one that has a whole array of different flowers, roses, daffodils, chrysanthymums, irises, etc - how wonderful when we see the rainbow in the sky and it is a rainbow precisely because it is made up of different colours.

And so are we surprised that God has a dream ?

On the Resurrection Day Jesus spoke to Mary Magdalene and said some strange words to her. He said, "Go tell my brothers", referring to those so-and-so's who had betrayed, denied and abandoned him - he called them brothers and he must have meant it because he went on to say, Athat I am ascending to my Father and to your Father; to my God and to your God." That is mind-blowing.

God dreams that we will come to realise that we are family, the human family, God's family, made up of all sorts and conditions of people.

I sometimes say I am glad I am not God. To think that God has to accept a Judas Iscariot, a Herod, a Hitler and a Bin Laden, a Mussolini and an Idi Amin as all his children. To say we are family is the most radical thing Jesus uttered, a family of glorious diversity where there are no outsiders. All are insiders.

Jesus said, I if I be lifted up will draw all, not some, all to me - black and white, red and yellow, rich and poor, Christian, Jew, Muslim, pagan, atheist, Hindu, all, old and young, male and female, gay, lesbian and so-called straight, all belong in his family. George Bush, Bin Laden, Sharon, Abbas, all belong, all are
loved, all. You know God has no enemies. Certainly my enemies are not God's enemies.

God dreams that we would realise that we are family caring for one
another as family, sharing with one another as family, concerned for
one another as family, appalled that members of our family could wallow in poverty and squalor without clean drinking water, and adequate health care, enough to eat when we have the capacity to feed them.

We have the means to ensure that all God's children, our brothers and sisters do have clean water to drink, enough food to eat and enjoy good education and adequate health care. Peace can come for all when we live as God's family.

And God says, "Please help me to realise my dream, please. . . .
please. . . . please. . . . .please."

The Bishop's take on the House of Bishops response

From the Bishop of Central Florida's column for the April newsletter:

I believe all of us wanted to signal to the rest of the Communion that we are taking the Primates’ requests very seriously, and this highly nuanced response is truly the most we could fashion together.  It is the result of a greater cooperative effort than I have seen in this House since becoming a Bishop!

Did I vote in favor of the Bishops’ statement?  Yes, because even this rather strange and limited response is better than no response at all.

Interestingly, our Presiding Bishop shared with us an email he received from the Archbishop of Canterbury within a few hours of our statement being issued.  The Archbishop thanked us quite profusely for our “generous and costly” response to the Primates.  So perhaps the glass is half-full, rather than half-empty!

I believe that for the moment we are technically in compliance with the Primates’ requests.  And our work this week may have bought us a year and a half (until General Convention).

What will happen during this time?  A delegation of Bishops and theologians who believe that our decisions in the last General Convention were right will be invited to “make their case” at the meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in June.  There will be much international consultation (as there should have been previously). 

But frankly, I cannot envision any scenario in which a majority of our Anglican partners will change their minds in so brief a time.

The clear expectation of nearly everyone (in my opinion) is that when GC 2006 rolls around, all of these moratoria will be lifted.  General Convention will then have to decide whether to affirm in a clearer way than it has to date the legitimacy of same-sex blessings and the consecration of non-celibate gay and lesbian persons, or to back away and reaffirm the teaching and practice of the rest of the Anglican world.

And then we will have to answer the question of whether we will “walk together” or “walk separately.”  Again, thank you for your prayers.  Please continue to offer them.

The net effect probably is to buy more time. While the Bishop doesn't think the more conservative bishops in the union will change their minds, neither do I think the more liberal bishops in the union will change their mind between now and General Convention 2006.

While the Bishop doesn't think the agreement will stop some bishops from blessing same-sex unions, I don't think it will stop interfering foreign primates from crossing lines, either.

I don't see Presiding Bishop Griswold "making his case" i.e. "making his defense" of the actions of the last General Convention. It's like telling a child, "Explain yourself," implying guilt from the get-go.

Myself, I'm really tired of being told my church has "chosen to walk separately." It hasn't. Others want it to walk separately.

So I guess we're in for general sniping and arguing until the next convention.

It will be interesting to watch, though interesting is not always a good thing.

The Network supporters probably figure they can make more inroads into more dioceses in the meantime. "Liberate" more parishes from the evil liberals. But maybe more people will have their eyes opened about the Network/AAC and the intentions of some of these parties between now and GC 2006.

We can only pray.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The Schiavo fiasco

I have a confession to make: I'm starting to feel sorry for Michael Schiavo.

He's been villified in this sorry, sad, sordid epic, branded as a wife-murderer who wants to collect the insurance money and get on with life with his common-law wife.

But he waited eight years before he started advocating removal of Terri's feeding tube. That's a long time to watch a loved one vegetate. Maybe he found a new life quicker than many would approve, but only God knows his heart.

Terri's parents are sincere, but deluded, I've come to believe, in thinking their daughter reacts to their presence. Her brain has been liquefying these past 15 years. Those couple of seconds worth of video of her blinking at her parents were culled from many, many hours of videotape, none of them recent.

I can't fault them for wanting to hang onto their daughter, though. Losing a child is the hardest pain there is to endure.

I even feel sorry for the doctors, who are damned if they do and damned if they don't. They can't even hasten the end for Terri, to make it quicker for the family, even if she doesn't know what's going on. They would be sued.

If I starved my old, sick dog to death, instead of having him euthanized, I would be arrested for cruelty to animals. Why can't a more humane way to ease the transition from this life to the next be used for human beings? I would certainly want it for myself.

I don't fear death. I don't want a long-drawn out one, so I have a living will and a medical surrogate. Who knows if my wishes will be honored, though.

Anyway, so who are the villains in the Schiavo case?

Those who would use this poor woman as a political football. For example, the Bushes. George W., who has brought about the death of thousands in an illegal and unjust war, talks about a climate of life. Pah. Jeb, our illustrious Florida governor, trying to make some political hay. Trying to stretch their authority into places where they have no business going. Pah.

Jesse Jackson comes down to gain some publicity out it all, snuggling up the Bushes in the process. Pah.

Our local TV news channels, with anchors in place over in Pinellas Park, to give us the blow-by-blow sound bites. Hanging on like a bunch of ghouls. Pah.

All the nut cases who want to kill Michael Schiavo, using the same logic as "right-to-lifers" use to kill doctors (don't they see a basic contradiction here?), descending upon Pinellas Park, too. Trying to sneak into her hospital room. The carnival atmosphere must appeal to them. Pah.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

A thought

There's only one way to solve the mess in the Anglican Union: repentance and resignation.

I hereby call on Bob Duncan, Diane Knippers, David Anderson, Peter Akinola and all those who have abandoned the Gospel message, to repent of their ways and truly turn from their path and return to the loving arms of Christ.

To confirm their sincerity in this, they should also resign from their posts. Organizations like the AAC and the Network should disband immediately and turn their assets over to the Episcopal Church as a measure of their true repentance.

Harken, ye sinners, and turn from the path of hate, discord and discrimination.