Saturday, December 30, 2006

Another goodbye



This is an entry I've put off writing until after Christmas Day.

Father J made the announcement he will be leaving, going to a parish up in the Midwest, where he's from.

Sigh.

I've become fond of him over the past three years, and though his leaving will leave me sad, I can't help thinking, "Good for him."

Apart from any desire to be closer to home, this isn't a diocese in which it's easy to head a parish, except maybe for Network types who just march to the tune with blinders on. The average rector gets headaches and heartburn, I suspect, trying to hold his or her parish together.

In this parish, people have left because Father J hasn't stood up to the bishop. People have left because he hasn't made a firm conservative stand (even though his views on sexuality are pretty conservative), and he's even had female clergy in the parish. He voted against joining the Network.

In a polarized diocese like this one in Central Florida, it's hard to take a moderate stand.

Friday, December 29, 2006

What is the sound of one refrigerator door opening?



It's never opened in solitude.

Great mercies



We had barely gotten through the Christmas-Day twister when there was more bad news: a forecast for more severe weather, including tornadoes, to usher in the New Year.Now the forecast has changed, and while we're still expected to get some thunderstorms, the National Weather Service says there's little chance of tornadic activity this weekend. Yaay! Thank you, Lord.

The weather has been schizo this week, going from a low of 40 to a high of 80 within a day. Warm, chilly, hot, chilly.

Cleanup from Christmas twisters has really just begun. We don't need any extreme weather, thank you.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Tidings of good cheer



When I need a smile or good-cheer restorer, I always head over to MadPriest's, and tonight I wasn't disappointed. Among the delights are a most interesting interpretation of "Good King Wenceslas" and more wonderful Christmas music.

Check out Of course, I could be wrong...: The DVant Disco Presents
A St. Stephen's Day Special
.

I feel much better already.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

No atheist in the twister's path



I was on the scene of the twister's path today, and saw the devastation the tornado wreaked. More than 50 homes were totally destroyed, and another 150 damaged. No one died. There were few serious injuries.

It's almost unbelievable.

Stuff like this makes me think God is indeed merciful.

People will suffer a lot of hardship as they try to rebuild their lives. Some will bear emotional scars; an event like this is an injury to the soul. With God's grace, and the help of their friends and neighbors, they will recover.

Images from the aftermath







Christmas-Day disaster



Just after I finished posting the blog entry below, a thunderstorm came through, and knocked out the power at my house all Christmas afternoon. We've had warm, wet weather all week, with 80-degree high temperatures. A cold front collided with the warm system Christmas Day, bringing the storms.

I was lucky. While I only lost power, an F2 tornado ravaged several mobile home communities to the north of town, ripping homes to shreds. I haven't heard of any casualties, but I hear unofficially there are up to 50 families unaccounted for.

Of course, on Christmas Day, many of these families may not have been home, but away, visiting friends or relatives.

Please join me in prayer that no one died. Pray for those who suddenly found themselves without a home, without any of their possessions.

Dear God, we pray you hold these storm victims in your mercy. Comfort the mourning, the frightened, the injured and hurting. Grant them peace and the courage to get through the coming days. Guide the rescue workers and searchers; keep them safe, and bless their efforts. We ask these things in the name of your son, our savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

****

Update 8:04 a.m. Dec. 26 -- Still no fatalities reported -- great non-news! Thank you, Lord.

Monday, December 25, 2006

A dog for Christmas



I don't think I've told the story of how I came to own Betsy, the Best Dog in the World.

The very best dog in the whole, wide world



I had moved into this house, and hadn't owned a dog for years, after living in apartments. I had Zsa Zsa, a cranky apricot-Persian cat, but I wanted a dog, too. I decided I would go to the local Humane Society and find a cute little lap dog -- that's what I had in mind, anyway -- one who would be 10-15 pounds when fully grown.

My plan was to take off work early, and hit the local Humane Society. That morning, just before Christmas, however, I heard a report on the television about how the Humane Society in the county just to the north had been inundated with dogs. Staff at the overcrowded facility would be forced to start putting down dogs soon.

I changed plans and drove northward through the back roads to that shelter, instead of the local one.

The place was overflowing with dogs. Most of them were big bruisers, though, and I didn't want an aggressive Rottweiler or pit bull. (There are a lot of people who live in the back woods up there, who like big, aggressive dogs. I won't use the "R" word.) The few smaller dogs seemed to have poor dispositions, not good pet quality or to be trusted around a rather sickly elderly cat, either.

After walking back and forth, looking at the howling horde, I decided I'd made a mistake driving north; there wasn't a dog for me there. I'd have to visit another shelter.

One of the workers said, "Did you see the little border collie?"

I hadn't. I like border collies.

She took me back to one of the pens, and there, sitting quietly behind some big bruisers was Betsy. Betsy was three-and-a-half months old. She had been adopted out from the shelter, then returned, her owners stating they had to move and couldn't take Betsy with them.

This may have been true; I generally consider such statements to mean, "We decided we didn't want that dog."

What foolish people, if so. I walked Betsy around the grounds, and her forlorn demeanor turned cheerful.

I brought her home, and Zsa Zsa, who disliked most people and hated all other cats, took to Betsy immediately. She would wash Betsy's face for her.

Betsy tenderly took care of Jack, who came into the household as a tiny kitten with a clawed-up face and punctured, infected eyeball. Jack loved Betsy immediately.

Elvis took a little longer to adjust -- he came out of my mother's house, where there was a dog who used to tyrannize and terrify him. Betsy won over Elvis after a while, though, and now the two of them sleep side by side.

Betsy had been partly house-trained, and it took little work to complete the job. Betsy is a smart girl, and caught on quickly. She's a very social dog, who gets along with other pets and loves to be around people.

She's been my constant companion these seven years, always greeting me at the door when I come in, staying at my heels as I move about the house, and sleeping at the foot of my bed. She's snoozing, inches from me, as I write this.

Betsy's very favorite thing is going for walks. Going for a walk in a Christmas parade is even better, in her book.

Betsy: "Let's go for a walk!"


Her exuberance, her zest for life cheer me when I'm down. Her loving nature touches me when I feel all alone.

She is the Christmas dog, a wonderful gift from God.

I've noticed my little puppy-girl is looking middle-aged these days. The white that used to just touch the end of her muzzle has spread upward toward her eyes, and she's getting the loose skin of a middle-aged dog around her eyes.

She still dances with joy over a walk, praise, a treat, a trip with me in the car, or a visitor to the house, and she still races around playing games with Jack.

I pray she'll be my companion for many years to come. All 46 pounds of her.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Of cats and Christmas trees



WARNING: Advent purists, cover your eyes. Yes, a CHRISTMAS TREE!!!!

The tree's been up for a week now -- the first one to grace the semi-saintly household in six years.

I retrieved the big box full of tree parts from the attic last Sunday afternoon, and sneezed as I sorted out branches of various sizes, pipes and footings. The tree came up. I fluffed out its branches, sneezing a little more, and opened boxes of ornaments that had been waiting so long for me to pull them out.

A new, dollar-store, lighted star went atop the tree, and I pronounced it lovely.

Wisely (I thought), I put the more fragile and precious ornaments higher on the tree, out of Jack the Brat's reach. This worked well all week; I would come home from work to find four or five of the sturdier ornaments on the floor. Jack likes to pull them off the tree with his claws, as well as use them, as they dangle from their branches, like a boxer uses a punching bag.

The tree, slightly worse for wear



I have some ornaments from my childhood, obtained when, about 10 years ago, my mother decided she didn't want her Christmas tree ornaments any more, and she would buy new ones. Not a lot were left from my childhood, but some, and some from many years of Christmas past.

My mother was never a sentimentalist. She would hold onto old butter tubs for 10 years, but family keepsakes would bite the dust, labelled "old junk."

There was one lovely blue ornament, with the words "Silent Night" in white-and-silver frosted lettering floating above a little village. I had it high up, out of Jack's reach.

Last night, Jack apparently decided he would climb in among the tree branches and wait, like a crafty leopard, for some poor, hapless cat like Elvis to come sauntering by, and pounce!

I could see the holes in the tree where the freshly fluffed branches were mashed down.

The blue ornament apparently came flying off the tree, hit the edge of the coffee table, and slid to the floor in a smithereened heap. One of its kinfolk met a similar fate. More ornaments lay still on the floor, casualties of Christmas carnage.

Some of the forensic evidence, held for future proceedings



I was somewhat put out. Jack the Brat obviously realized that, and disappeared while I cleaned broken glass from the floor and got ready for the Advent IV church service. He's been extra sweet this afternoon, but couldn't resist trying to climb into the tree once. Sigh.

"Honest, it wasn't me. I didn't do it."


"Yeah, it was Jacko, all right"


Ah well. I spent the afternoon roasting a chicken I'd planned to cook yesterday, but went to the movies instead. Betsy, the cats and I had a little taste, but its about to go into the refrigerator -- I'm having dinner at friends' tonight. The chicken will be good for leftovers tomorrow, and for chicken sandwiches. I used my special recipe of fresh orange, garlic, pepper blend and sage. Heavenly. Crispy skin on the outside, succulent and falling-off-the-bone tender inside.

I like to roast a chicken or turkey at Christmastime -- it makes the house smell so good, along with the pumpkin pie that's in the oven now. It will go out to dinner with me, at the house of some friends. Then, I'll be off to the midnight service, where I'll serve at the altar. This is my favorite service, and time to serve, of the year.

Now, I'm sitting here with a cup of latte, made with my own espresso machine -- my Christmas gift to me. Jack's perched in the chair next to me, his favorite spot when I'm on the computer.

"This is pretty tame, after being a TREE leopard!"



Good times.

Addendum, in answer to Caminante's question.

Stay mad? Who could stay mad at this?

Saturday, December 23, 2006

O Come Emmanuel



The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call Him Emmanuel. Isaiah 7:14

Here's a great site for pre-Christmas perusing: Take a look at the history and prophetic references found in the hymn O Come, O Come Emmanuel, with a midi, too.

There's a whole section on Christmas hymns -- just go to the main page and choose 'topic."

Thursday, December 21, 2006

It's truly, truly awful



Just in time for Christmas -- the mayhem and chaos of Christmas toys past, recalled. It's truly, truly awful. Heed this warning if you choose to visit.

The descriptions of these recalled toys and the damage they've inflicted are so funny, you'll find yourself guiltily laughing at them. You'll have to says prayers of repentance. Perhaps even go to confession.

Feeling truly unsaintly,

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Musings on a Mexican Christmas



One of the neat things about my job is I get to go places and see things I wouldn't ordinarily see. Saturday, I went up the road for my second visit to a Mexican-migrant community of fernery workers, and watched a celebration of Las Posadas.

Las Posadas is a traditional Mexican Christmas celebration. Beginning Dec. 16, nine consecutive days of candlelight processions, prayers to God and parties pave the way for Christmas Day.

Each day, children lead a procession, re-enacting the Holy Family's attempt to find lodging in Bethlehem. The procession stops at a designated house to sing a traditional litany, through which the Holy Family requests shelter for the night. The children are turned away.

The scene is repeated at a second home.

At the third stop, the pilgrims are told that while there is no room in the posada (inn), they are welcome to take refuge in the stable. This time, the doors open wide, all are invited to enter, and the celebration begins, with food, music, and gifts for the children.

Since the homes here in Central Florida are more spread out and along a road busy with traffic, the, the procession went to the front door, then to the rear door, and back to the front door of the same home, three times. This kept the children on the same property all evening.




The group entreating entry sang a litany to the accompaniment of a guitarist, and the “innkeepers” inside sang responsively.
Upon the third visit to the front door, the procession was told there was no room at the inn, but there was room at the stable, and the children bearing the Holy Family were allowed to enter.




Children quickly headed for the tables of toys. Food ran a distant second in this race.







Holding hands and talking with friends made time in the toy line go by more quickly.





I got a fresh-hot tamale. Before the processional started, I went into the house, where a team of cooks was preparing the food. One of them pulled a piping hot tamale out of the giant pot of them and put it on a plate for me.

For the Brits and others who may not be familiar with tamales, its a spicy meat mixture wrapped inside a cornmeal breading. The concoction is wrapped in a corn husk and put into a pot with its brethern and a little water, and steamed until done. It's yummy. Tamales, rice, beans, tortillas and similar fare are staples of the Mexican diet.

After consuming the goody and turning down offers of a second -- not because I didn't want one, but because I was afraid they might run short for all the people they had to serve -- I wandered back outside.

I watched the kids playing tag, weaving between pockets of socializing grownups. It struck me that I saw no children screaming in temper tantrums. I saw no exasperated parents screaming at children. On the contrary, children were frequently picked up and hugged. They are treated as precious.

For all our lip service about the importance of family in the U.S. culture, I don't think we always treat our children as precious. They're often viewed as baggage, or attachments to their parents. I've seen a lot of young-adult parents who see no reason to change their lifestyles just because they have children. So, the kids are left at home while dad's out wherever and mom is down at the karaoke bar, even if the parents aren't divorced.

Even when left with caring people, kids get the impression they're not that important to the people who matter the most to them.

By the time they're teenagers, some of these kids are psychopathic young people who are used to spending a lot of time alone, without adult supervision, and with minimal interaction with adults. These kids know they're "baggage." They spend time on the Internet learning ways to blow things up or shoot people. Or, they're out doing drugs. Doing whtever is antisocial.

An oversimplification, I know, and a lot of other factors are involved, but I think there's some truth there.

I hardly ever see the migrant workers out without their kids. Whether it's grocery shopping, a trip to the laundromat or an occasional meal in a restaurant, their children are with them.

I wonder.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Joy is; joy remembers



As I drove to church yesterday, the first ping hit. I was tooling up the highway, listening to some of those verboten Christmas carols on the radio.

It was as if I felt a hand on me, and heard a voice with my spirit, not with my ears.

"Trust in me," God/Holy Spirit said.

It was not a question, but more of a statement of fact, as in "You do trust in me." It was a request for affirmation. There was delight, satisfaction in it.

I have put my trust more fully in God, after a time of depression and defensiveness, when I felt I had to leap in and do. I've been learning to relax more, to let go and let God -- as corny as that sounds.

I said, "I trust you, Lord," and felt something lift off me.

My eyelids fluttered; I got goosebumps and shivered. It's a good thing there was no traffic around me. I think I barely stayed in my traffic lane.

Joy flooded me; it was joy meeting joy -- my joy meeting God's delight. I was overwhelmed with the Spirit.

Profound contentment stayed with me through the service. Toward the end of the service came portions of one of my favorite spirit songs, by Martha Butler. The second ping:

I looked up and I saw my lord a coming
I looked up and I saw my lord a coming down the road

Alleluia, he is coming
Alleluia, he is here

I looked and I saw my lord a coming
Mary's son, Mary's son.

Alleluia, he is coming
Alleluia, he is here


Tears began to stream from eyes as I sang this song, so full of longing, so full of joy. It acknowledges the now and not yet: past present and future, all wrapped into one. And pain. It is a song most often heard around Easter.

Jesus is coming (again? for the first time ?); he will shed tears for us; he will die for love of us (we know this, even as we see him walking down the road toward us for the very first time), but he will rise. This little baby, Mary's son.

This song has special meaning to me, I think, because it's one I heard frequently as I was first coming into Christ's love, which was as the season of Lent turned to Easter.

Yesterday, I sang with joy, with true joy that acknowledges pain, past and future. Joy remembers; joy takes its moments and lives, in the best and worst of circumstances.

Alleluia, he is coming.

I love you Lord, and I put my trust in you.

Alleluia, he is here. Mary's son.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Confessions of an Advent penitent


It was a short wagon ride



After being chastised by members of the blogging community for my wayward ways -- listening to Christmas music during Advent, and giving Christmas gifts, too -- I resolved to reform.

Saturday, I spent a quiet and thoughtful day at home, shampooing carpets. No music, no pet gifts, no ho-ho-hos.

I meditated upon the symbolism of of everyday life's dirt and grime being whooshed out of the carpets, leaving them fresh, while black, dirty water went down the drain. It's a process that takes willingness and work.

Saturday night, I fell off the Advent wagon.

I went to a party at the home of our associate priest, who lives by the river. We watched the Christmas boat parade, a line of brightly lit boats decorated in various secular and Christmas themes, to the sound of Christmas music: carols and popular Christmas music, both.

Oh, aye, I tried to tune out those Christmas carols, but I found myself humming them under my breath, anyway.

I'm not a boater, but there are few things more beautiful than the line of a sailboat, and one emphasized by lights of the season is particularly beautiful. Here are a few of the boats from the parade, docked by the Yacht Club, where I'm sure they wouldn't let me in on my own. I went there after all the festivities for a nightcap with my hosts, who are members.



Anyway, the timing was perfect -- just after the boat parade finished, the shuttle Discovery lifted off, and from the second floor of the building, just by the intercoastal waterway, we had a perfect view of it arcing over us into the sky, like a giant Roman candle. I didn't have the presence of mind to grab my camera, but here's NASA's photo of the liftoff. We watched this part on TV before running outside:



After all my dissing of Advent music, the service of Lessons and Carols at church Sunday morning was beautiful. Partly because little of the music actually came from the "Advent" section of the hymnal. We heard the likes of a selection from Handel's Messiah, some Bach and other classical music. The stellar voices of several of the performers, including Father J and his daughter, did honor to the music. We're also blessed with a concert violinist and the talent of our music director, who pulled off a beautiful one Sunday.

Sunday afternoon, my dog, Betsy, and I took part in our second Christmas parade of the year. Betsy loves parades -- not watching, but marching in them -- and she got to prance along my company's business float in two of the local Christmas parades this year. She's a performer! And she loves all the children who want to pet her.

A small-town Christmas parade is more Chamber of Commerce than true Christmas. I prefer the boat parade, where boat owners decorated for the pleasure of it.

Every year, the Christmas-parade committee comes up with a theme for the town parade, and every year, the businesses pretty much ignore it, coming up with themes they can accomplish with their vehicles and personnel, and get their businesses on display.

The churches try valiantly to get the Christmas message out, but they are displaying themselves, too.

I suspect Jesus would be somewhat amused.

***

Lord Jesus, I wait for you in the chill, predawn darkness of winter. I look to the East, and see a glow on the horizon, a sign. I long for you; I mourn your absence. O come now, and bring your light, your warmth, your presence among us. I wait, ready to offer you my adoration and praise.
-- saint pat

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Drunken cats and other signs of Christmas



Faugh on all you Advent-music Puritans! I've been humming Christmas songs since Thanksgiving, and I'm not about to stop! In fact, I may rifle through my music and put on a Christmas CD.

If most Advent music wasn't so dreary, it would be easier to take. I can be reflective and thoughtful without it.

You see, I'm all in the Christmas mood this year, for the first time in a few years. I've worked my way out of the despondency I was in, and zest for life has been creeping back.

I had a little bump -- a mini-panic attack -- the night before I went on the cruise last month, wondering what on Earth might go wrong while I was away. The last time (on a mission trip, summer 2005) I was gone on a Saturday the 11th of the month and returning on the 13th of the month, my brother died on the 11th.

Last year, I finally got in the Christmas mood and started humming Christmas songs right around Epiphany. This year, I'm going all out. I'm climbing into the attic and pulling out the Christmas decorations that have been sitting there for four years.
I haven't had the heart to do much decorating the last few years.

Oh, I know, the grimy-gullies are still out there, and **stuff** is just waiting for its chance, but life happens, anyway. God has gotten me through the bad stuff past, and will be there for bad stuff future.

I went to the Evil Empire tonight (America's largest discount-retail chain) and bought presents for needy families, humming along with the canned Christmas music the whole time.

I got the cats a catnip toy for Christmas, but gave it to them as soon as I got home. In fact, Elvis smelled the catnip as soon as I laid the plastic bags down on the table, and started rooting through them, looking for the catnip.

Catnip! I smell it! Where is it?"













Oh, baby, that's some tripping 'nip.





He rolled around, hugging it for a while, then dropped the toy on the floor. He didn't notice. Jack took over, holding the little mousie close and nipping and biting at it in passion.





Jack: Yeah, mouse. You're all mine, now.



Betsy got a squeaky-Santa pull toy. I had to throw it endlessly for her, after she chewed on it and softened/slobbered it up for me a bit. She would pick it up, run back to me, play tug of war until I wrested it away and threw it across the room, starting the loop again.






A good time was had by all.

More good times to come.


From the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 6:25-27, 34 (NIV)

Do Not Worry

2"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? ... Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.


I'm giving up worrying so much. Not enjoying the good things God gives us is a sin.

Monday, December 04, 2006

A smashing idea



I just had a terrific idea: Bishop Katharine can appoint MadPriest of "Of Course, I Could Be Wrong" fame to the post of Primatial Vicar, in charge of alternative oversight.

He's Anglican, so the Anglican Communion Network can't complain about that. And he's very orthodox. Just read today's entry on Advent versus Christmas music. And he's made noises recently about being in the job market.

Just think of what those Alpo-demanding bishops will be like, after six months of MadPriest messing with their minds!


They'll beg to come back.

Lamentations




Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's response to San Joaquin's Convention, Dec. 4:


I lament the actions of the Bishop and Convention of the Diocese of San Joaquin to repudiate their membership in the Episcopal Church. While it is clear that this process is not yet complete, the fact that the Bishop and Convention have voted to remove the accession clause required by the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church would seem to imply that there is no intent to terminate this process before it reaches its full conclusion. Our task as the Episcopal Church is God's mission of reconciling the world, and actions such as this distract and detract from that mission.


I deeply lament the pain, confusion, and suffering visited on loyal members of the Episcopal Church within the Diocese of San Joaquin, and want them to know of my prayers and the prayers of many, many others.


I continue to consult with others involved in responding to this extracanonical action.



The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori

Presiding Bishop and Primate



It's cold comfort, but good for Bishop Katharine -- she's not letting them get away with the word games. I lament the situation also, though.

What's the next move to be?

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Saturday morning cat fights



It's Saturday morning, and both contenders have entered the ring at the Saintly household. On the left is Jack the Brat, the scrappy revisionist upstart. He's already chewing up the carpet in anticipation of the match (one of the reasons the Saintly household has no decent carpets). On the right is Elvis, the big fundagelical fatcat.


















They tangle. It's fast and flurious.











Jack the Brat uses his famous grab-and-bite technique.















Elvis returns with a mean right hook.







Jack retires to his corner, a look of innocence on his face, though he has strands of Elvis' fur in his mouth.


Elvis inquires, "Other cat? What other cat?"



Unlike people, they quit before anyone really gets hurt.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thank you for this new morning



I woke up early this morning, around 5:30, before the alarm sounded. I couldn't go back to sleep, so I got up and put on a pot of coffee.

Coffee cup in hand, I watched the sleeping earth wake to the rays of the sun.

Thank you, God, for this beautiful, frail island Earth. Thank you for its incredible beauty. Thank you for its incredible variety of life.

From my windows, I can watch some of that incredible variety of life, especially the birds native to Central Florida. Great and small herons, egrets (probably my favorites), sandhill cranes on occasion. Redheaded woodpeckers. Cardinals. Doves. Anhingas. Hawks. Some are just passing by; some have made homes in the little hammocks of trees on either side of my house, along with squirrels, moles, armadillos (hated by my neighbor, but I don't mind them), black snakes and garter snakes. Lots of lizards.

As I get older and realize more the frailty of life, stewardship of the Earth becomes a more and more important concern to me. This beauty, this life, must be protected. We must be the stewards -- the defenders -- of the Earth God intended us to be.

Thank you Lord, for appointing those defenders of your realm who lead us in conservation.



Most everyone knows the lyrics to "Morning Has Broken," (Bunessan), but some don't know the second half of Eleanor Farjeon's poem. It fit the morning perfectly, except there are no mountains in Central Florida. The clouds roll in and peak the tall-sand pines, instead.

This poem fits my mood exactly. The sun has risen and cut me loose from the shadows; it fills me with joy; it fills me with praise.

Cool the gray clouds roll
peaking the mountains,
Gull in her free flight
swooping the skies:
Praise for the mystery
misting the morning
Behind the shadow
waiting to shine.
I am the sunrise
warming the heavens,
Spilling my warm glow
over the earth:
Praise for the brightness
of this new morning
Filling my spirit
with Your great love.
Mine is a turning,
mine is a new life;
Mine is a journey
closer to You:
Praise for the sweet glimpse
caught in a moment,
Joy breathing deeply
dancing in flight.


***

Praise the mystery of each morning. Praise the mystery of God's love.

Thank you Lord, for the gift of life itself. Thank you for the special people around me. Thank you for renewing my zest for life.

Thank you for everything.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Hot off the press

YEEEOWSER! Schori gets tough!



May the ultracon bishops who voted for Schori in an attempt to create dissension stay up late with heartburn tonight, after reading this, hot off the press from Episcopal News Service:

San Joaquin bishop sent letter from Presiding Bishop

Monday, November 20, 2006

Bishop John-David Schofield of the Diocese of San Joaquin


[Episcopal News Service] Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori -- concerned by current affairs in the Fresno-based Diocese of San Joaquin, California -- has written to its bishop, the Rt. Rev. John-David Schofield. The diocese, which is scheduled to meet in convention December 1-2, includes an estimated 10,000 Episcopalians in some 48 congregations. The text of Jefferts Schori's November 20 letter follows.
November 20, 2006

The Rt. Rev. John-David Schofield
Diocese of San Joaquin
4159 E. Dakota Avenue
Fresno, California 93726

My dear brother:

I have seen reports of your letter to parishes in the Diocese of San Joaquin, which apparently urges delegates to your upcoming Diocesan Convention to take action to leave the Episcopal Church. I would ask you to confirm the accuracy of those reports. If true, you must be aware that such action would likely be seen as a violation of your ordination vows to "uphold the doctrine, discipline, and worship of Christ as this Church has received them." I must strongly urge you to consider the consequences of such action, not only for yourself but especially for all of the Episcopalians under your pastoral charge and care.

I certainly understand that you personally disagree with decisions by General Conventions over the past 30 and more years. You have, however, taken vows three times over that period to uphold the "doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church." If you now feel that you can no longer do so, the more honorable course would be to renounce your orders in this Church and seek a home elsewhere. Your public assertion that your duty is to violate those vows puts many, many people at hazard of profound spiritual violence. I urge you, as a pastor, to consider that hazard with the utmost gravity.

As you contemplate this action I would also remind you of the trust which you and I both hold for those who have come before and those who will come after us. None of us has received the property held by the Church today to use as we will. We have received it as stewards, for those who enjoy it today and those who will be blessed by the ministry its use will permit in the future. Our forebears did not build churches or give memorials with the intent that they be removed from the Episcopal Church. Nor did our forebears give liberally to fund endowments with the intent that they be consumed by litigation.

The Church will endure whatever decision you make in San Joaquin. The people who are its members, however, will suffer in the midst of this conflict, and probably suffer unnecessarily. Jesus calls us to take up our crosses daily, but not in the service of division and antagonism. He calls us to take up our crosses in his service of reconciling the world to God. Would that you might lead the people of San Joaquin toward decisions that build up the Body, that bring abundant life to those within and beyond our Church, that restore us to oneness.

I stand ready for conversation and reconciliation. May God bless your deliberation.

I remain

Your servant in Christ,

+Katharine

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate



It's going to be an interesting one to watch. I'm betting on Schori.

Things have been very quiet in the Diocese of Central Florida. There's been talk "nothing will happen" and talk that home churches could become the wave of the future for some of the faithful Episcopal remnant.

We're still in "wait and see" mode.

I remember our bishop backed down back in '97, after the presiding bishop came down hard on those bishops who tried to form a parallel church.

Now, he has some right-wing rabble rousers pushing him on, but Schori's coming down hard. She's what we need, I believe. Compassionate and tough.

In the meantime, Episcopal Voices members are planning to make a strong showing at the diocesan convention in January, with some resolutions of our own, like acceding to the canons and constitution of the church.

More wait and see time.

Shocking non-Christian stuff


In church, even



Yesterday, at the Church of Open Arms, we observed one of my favorite days of the year. The day borrows from the Hebrew Feast of Tabernacles, the celebration of the harvest.

A sukkah, a crude temporary shelter with a palm-fronded roof, provides the shelter, just as tents and crude structures provided the only shelter to the people who spent 40 years in the wilderness, searching for the Promised Land. They had to depend on God to cover them with His protection.

They kinda had nada.

A sukkah covered the altar yesterday, adding a touch of leafy green and rough 2-by-four.

After communion, the congregation brought canned goods (representing the fruits of our harvests) to go to the needy, and stored it under the sukkah.

And the needy are really needy -- Central Florida is filling not only with the well-to-do who have winter homes here; it's filling, as it does every winter, with the poor who want to escape the cold, and hope to find work and a new life in Central Florida.

Often, all they find is a hard time and nights colder than they expected.

So this combination of ancient and modern celebration serves a practical purpose. And it's just fun. Prayers and music have a spirited, Messianic flavor on this day, and there's even dancing.

Our Christian roots are in these ancient celebrations. Christianity didn't spring up from nowhere -- Jesus didn't float down to Earth on a cloud. He was born into a human, Jewish family. That was the appointed place and time for him to pitch his frail tent of a human body among us, and fulfill the prophecies.

Lucky for us, we are heirs of Abraham through adoption.

Let's sing, dance, clap our hands and make a joyous noise to the Lord.

****

Father J brought in a bedraggled little two-foot Christmas tree and sat it on the altar rail. Another "heathenish" custom, the Christmas tree.

As I looked at this Charlie Brown creation, I thought, "It's kind of like me."

I was raised in a nominally Christian household, but just nominally, in name only.

Like the pagan Christmas tree, and like so many of the first Christians, I've been brought into the church -- converted -- to serve Christ.

Another adoption.

The Christmas tree, a pagan symbol of the regeneration of life and the promise of spring to come, has become the evergreen symbol of life eternal: Jesus' birth, death and resurrection.

That little tree wasn't much to look at, but it was full of promise. Through Christ, it becomes beautiful.


Mazel tov, y'all!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

I'm baaack



To any faithful readers - sorry to be away from my blogging post so long. It's the result of a combination of good news and bad news.

The good news is, I had a wonderful little vacation. I joined 80-some other people from my church on a three-day Caribbean cruise, and it was wonderful. I'd been looking forward to this for months, and it didn't disappoint, although I never cracked one of the paperbacks I brought with me.

No, I was too busy going to shows on board, going ashore at stops at Nassau and Coco Cay, eating (constantly), dancing, wave running, socializing, and having an all-around great time.

I had good enough time to even plug it: I was on Royal Caribbean's Sovereign of the Seas. It's a beautiful ship, and the service was terrific. The crew was friendly and attentive, the food was delicious and too plentiful for my waistline.

The tiny cabin on a lower deck in what I fondly called "steerage" was barely big enough to turn around in. The shower was designed for Lilliputians and the water pipes screamed horribly, but who cares.

It was a well-needed and well-appreciated vacation.

I couldn't take the digital camera, and haven't even dropped off film for developing, but when I get some photos, I'll post them.

The bad news is, my home computer's in the shop, getting worked on.

I haven't been able to get online at home for the past couple of weeks, since my renter moved out and took his internet connection with him (the nerve). I asked the cable company to hook me up to a cheaper version of the internet, and apparently, the card is bad -- I think from a power surge it got in a previous life.

So, here I am, blogging at the office after pushing for a big deadline for the big Thanksgiving edition, but hopefully, I'll be back in operation at home sooon.

Gotta go now.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Vive la Presiding Bishop



I couldn't attend the investiture in person, and wasn't even able to watch it Saturday on TV. But I'm watching now, via the Internet.

Wow.



Tears came to my eyes as I watched Katharine Jefferts Schori accept the water, wine, bread oil and primatial staff. This is a truly historic and remarkable time, and watching her, I believe Schori will be a terrific presiding bishop -- strong, calm, loving and firm. She was a reflection of Christ.

The message of inclusion, of diversity, of those things which had been thrown down being raised up, and reconciliation came through loud and clear.


I wonder if any other presiding bishops have worn lavender during their investiture?

Lord, grant Katharine the strength, wisdom and confidence to do your work. Let it be a blessing to her, and her a blessing to us all. Lead her to be gentle as a dove and wise as a serpent as she proclaims the Gospel, always, and leads your church. Help her in all things. Amen.

Shalom, y'all!

Monday, October 30, 2006

As promised - in time for Halloween

Terrifying tales of the truly spooky



We hear lots of ghost stories this time of year. It's easy to dismiss them -- unless they happen to you.

This story is true. I know, because it happened to me.

Volume 1: The ghost in the kitchen


This happened a good 20 years ago, in a house on the beachside.

The house was only 10 or 15 years old at the time -- a younger, modern house where the paranormal would not be expected. There had been no deaths or weird things associated with the house, as far as I know.

A gentleman friend of mine (I hate the word "boyfriend" for anyone over the age of 21, and this reserved gentleman was older than me) lived in the house.

Something about that house made me feel uncomfortable, but I didn't know why. Maybe it was the dark red wall-to-wall carpeting against the stark-white plaster walls in the sparsely furnished house. Maybe it was the opaque light feeding in from the green-tinged glass-block windows in the living room.

It was a nice house, but there was something a little oppressive about it.


One evening I was there, with my friend. We were watching television, when I got up to make some tea. I walked out of the sunken living room, across the hall and into the open kitchen, from which the living room was visible, if I looked sideways. I busied myself with kettle, water, tea and tea cups.

As I prepared to pour the tea, I became aware of my friend walking up behind me. I got a glimpse of his white shirt reflecting in the kitchen window. He said nothing, but stood very close behind me. I could feel his breath on the back of my neck.

This silent "game" was totally unlike him.

I felt hemmed in by his lurking behind me, sighing his breath on my neck and standing so close, as he watched my tea-making over my shoulder. I whipped around to tell him to stop it.

Nobody was there.

I quickly looked into the living room, and he sat in the recliner, feet up, watching television -- as he had been when I left him to make the tea.

No living soul was in that house but the two of us, yet I am still, to this day, certain there was another presence within inches of me that night. What its intentions were, I can't say. Maybe it intended to be friendly - humorous - and a little flirty, the impression I had when I thought it was my friend.

Maybe it intended to spook me.


My friend had to travel sometimes because of his job, and he would ask me to pick up his mail and water the potted plants on the patio while he was gone. I could have stayed at the house and walked to the beach every day.

I would stay at the house sometimes while he was there, but something was just not right. I refused to be in that house alone after that, even for an hour.

Something there might have liked to have been alone with me, though.
The spooky side of St. Augustine

We had a great time on our ghost tour of St. Augustine. Tim, our tour guide and native St. Augustinian, walked us down dark streets to some of the old haunted houses and buildings of St. Augustine, and told us their stories.

Tim, our tour guide

Tim's storytelling was quite good, including his story about the haunting of one of St. Augustine's old cracker homes by a lady Tim knew when he was a kid. After she was found dead with a broken neck from a fall from the stairs, new owners would stay for only a couple of weeks, then they would leave and put the house up for sale again, amid stories of objects flying across the room toward the steps, strange noises and things that go bump in the night. And the story of the exploding Bishop Verot.....

I had no sense of any "thing" being with us except at the first stop, the old Tolomato Cemetery. It's possible something joined us there and stayed with us through part of the walk -- or was it just my imagination?

I got some interesting lighting effects in the cemetery's vicinity:

Here, the light from Tim's lantern appears to be rising and turning into the cemetery.







Strange lights















Lights from a horse-drawn buggy do odd things in this photo.






The only lame part of the evening was the last stop, at the Spanish Military Hospital. In use for years, dating back to the time of the Spanish occupation of St. Augustine, the hospital was said to have been the site of death for many soldiers. Medical practices were pretty barbaric in those days, and amputations were common.

Unfortunately, it had been turned into just another "Halloween haunted house," with painted actors, rubber props, noisy sound effects and pulsing lights. No self-respecting spooks would have put in an appearance through all that, but would have lain low until all the noise and confusion was gone, then regained their home.

Maybe it was better it was loud and obnoxious.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

It's my party



and I don't wanna cry! I'm celebrating my birthday this week. Maybe I'm another year older and deeper in debt, but my friends and spiritual family members are treating me well.

I had birthday dinner at Ken and Michelle's on the actual date, then they, Bob and Linda and Evelyn all took me downtown in our little burg last night for a wine-tasting festival, the proceeds of which go to scholarships for women. I wasn't allowed to pay for my ticket, but I sampled more wines than I can remember, and nibbled catered food from just about all the wine stations set up around the downtown.

Afterward, we went to a downtown drinkery (I was all drunk out by this time, and ordered only water) and heard some really good music.

Now, we're heading up to St. Augustine for dinner and a tour of some of its buildings on the "Ghost Walk." Sounds like fun.

I don't expect to run into any real spooks. I have a ghost story or two to tell, though. Maybe I'll get set them down here before Halloween.

Fall falls



Fall is just about my favorite time of year, in heavy competition with spring. One reason I chose to live in Central Florida instead of South Florida is here, we get a taste of the change of seasons.

October brings bright, sunny days and clear, starlit nights. As dying leaves depart from trees, the puffs of cool air on which they drift invigorate body and soul.

Fall is about life and death - even life despite death.

It's children, bursting with life and the promise of the future, who don Halloween costumes and symbolically take a poke in Death's eye.

"We're not scared of you," they say to death, goblins, ghouls and all the unholy horde. "Take a hike."

And so they should say, for we triumph over death through the life, death, love and work of Christ, who told us, "Do not fear; only believe."

It's fitting that as growing-time comes to an end, fields fall fallow, and lush-green trees turn orange, scarlet and golden, October is filled with celebrations of life - Halloween, fall festivals, arts festivals, music festivals.

In November, when many trees are nothing more than bare skeletons reaching toward heaven, and days are chill, we celebrate Thanksgiving, with thanks to God for grace that carries us through times of lack, both physically and spiritually.

Even in the darkest nights, we can celebrate the joy that will come in the morning.

In November, we begin to prepare for the advent of Christ, who brings the promise of life and the assurance of God's love for each of us.

Christmas is the fulfillment of that promise, and a celebration of the mystery: God is here, and he is yet to come.

If you're in Central Florida, and you see a zaftig, middle-aged woman kicking through a pile of leaves with abandon, carving a pumpkin, or whooping as she walks her dog through the brisk morning air, it might be me. Joy falls unexpectedly.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Happy feast day to you, St. Luke!



St. Luke is the patron saint of those in the healing ministries. He was thought to be Greek, possibly trained in medicine as a slave in his youth. He was a traveling companion to Paul.

James Keifer said:

"In Luke's account of the Gospel, we find an emphasis on the human love of Christ, on His compassion for sinners and for suffering and unhappy persons, for outcasts such as the Samaritans, tax collectors, lepers, shepherds (not a respected profession), and for the poor. The role of women in Christ's ministry is more emphasized in Luke than in the other Gospel writings."

Today's reading from the Gospel of Luke confirms Jesus' compassionate nature, and describes one of the miracles Jesus performed.

If you have any "natural" explanations to explain away the miracles, keep them to yourself. Jesus certainly performed them, and still does -- from a different place.

Luke 9:1-17:
He called the Twelve together and gave them power and authority over all devils and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, "Take nothing for the journey: neither staff, nor haversack, nor bread, nor money; and do not have a spare tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there; and when you leavelet your departure be from there. As for those who do not welcome you, when you leave their town shake the dust from your feet as evidence against them."
So they set out and went from village to village proclaiming the good news and healing everywhere. Meanwhile Herod the tetrarch had heard about all that was going on; and he was puzzled, because some people were saying that John had risen from the dead, others that Elijah had reappeared, still others that one of the ancient prophets had come back to life. But Herod said, "John? I beheaded him. So who is this I hear such reports about?" And he was anxious to see him.
On their return the apostles gave him an account of all they had done. Then he took them with him and withdrew towards
a town called Bethsaida where they could be by themselves. But the crowds got to know and they went after him. He made them welcome and talked to them about the kingdom of God; and he cured those who were in need of healing. It was late afternoon when the Twelve came up to him and said, "Send the people away, and they can go to the villages and farms roundabout to find lodging and food; for we are in a lonely place here." He replied, "Give them something
to eat yourselves." But they said, "We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless we are to go ourselves and buy food
for all these people." For there were about five thousand men. But he said to his disciples, "Get them to sit down in parties of
about fifty." They did so and made them all sit down. Then he took the five loaves and the two fish, raised his eyes to heaven, and said the blessing over them; then he broke them and handed them to his disciples to distribute among the crowd. They all ate as much as they wanted, and when the scraps left over were collected they filled twelve baskets.


Thank you St. Luke, for your gifts as a physician/healer and as a writer and chronicler of Jesus' ministry on Earth. Thank you for these glimpses of a gracious and compassionate human and God, who esteemed women, who helped sinners and healed the sick, and who brought hope into the world. We honor your work and ministry, St. Luke.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

SAINTLY NEWS SPECIAL EDITION



Flat Earth group to join CANA



ANCHORAGE (Saintly News Service) - The Flat Earth Society of Anchorage announced today it has petitioned to join the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), an arm of the Church of Nigeria in the U.S. CANA represents itself as a "real" Anglican presence in North America, in contrast to the newfangled and liberal "revisionist" Episcopal Church.

The news took many by surprise.

George B. Zablonski, leader of the Flat Earth group, explained, "We share so many things in common, like a literal interpretation of the Bible and a refusal to look at so-called evidence. Our credo is, 'Why do we say the Earth is flat, when the vast majority says otherwise? Because we know the truth.' Just so.

"In a like manner," he continued, "CANA and its affiliated groups, such as the Anglican American Council and the Anglican Communion Network, know the truth about God's will, gays, interpretation of scripture and who gets to go to heaven. They know the truth. It's so exciting to have allies."

Zablonski is looking forward to a working relationship with CANA, he indicated.

"The Flat Earth Society has lacked an enforcement arm ever since the Inquisition died out, and people began believing all sorts of scientific rubbish. They not only believe the Earth is shaped like an orange instead of a pancake, they believe the Earth revolves around the sun, instead of vice versa. It's crazy stuff. With this new affiliation, I think we'll be able to count on a little stoning where it will help people see things the right way."

CANA and its affiliates are prepared to greet the Flat Earthers.

The Rev. Canon Rector Bishop Marty Minns of Truro, Falls-Church-Nigeria said, "Wow. This is a spectacularly wonderful development. I know it will be a blessing to the missionary efforts of the Church of Nigeria and CANA. We and our Flat-Earth brethren share so much in common. We'll be able to support each other's efforts."

Archbishop Peter Akinola of the Church of Nigeria said, "My people in my churches were delighted that I accepted this petition, and will acclaim it greatly when I ratify the petition tomorrow. They will fall down on their knees and thank God for me and my wisdom. I think I must go now and write an article for my newsletter, with quotes from my bishops on how great they find me."

Bishop Robert Duncan of the (for now) Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh and moderator of the Network said, "I greet the dawning of this new day with joy. We have longed for an ally in our fight against progressive thinking. I'm right in the middle of drafting a revision to the Network Confession of Faith, adding a paragraph affirming the flatness of the Earth. It was remiss of us not to have included this paragraph from the get-go."

He added, "I've been talking it over with the Flat Earthers, and confiscating all the Bibles from our congregations, as we've recently done, won't do the trick alone. People might not be able to form their own opinion about Scripture from reading the Bible themselves -- instead of taking our word for what it means -- but they can still read books, magazines, and Internet articles. They will still be contaminated by 'progressive' thinking. No, what we need to do is phase out reading.

"We'll start home-schooling all our children, and pull them out as soon as they learn to put an 'X' for their signature on the Confession of Faith. They don't need schooling past the first grade -- it's plain dangerous to them. Instead, they can just listen to their priest in church and to the Flat Earthers outside of church. They will tell the people what they need to know, how to think and even how to vote. It'll be a joyful new day."

Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church Frank Griswold was unavailable for comment, but an unidentified aide who answered the phone said, "Oh, those CANA and Network people? We always figured they were Flat Earthers, anyway."

For more information on the Flat Earth Society, go here.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

I'm sitting in a motel room right now, getting ready to start the long drive home.

I made the 500 mile drive to see my mother, who's in a nursing home. She gets up and around fine, though she moves more slowly than she used to. Her continued mental decline is obvious. She got confused about who I am, and asked, "Are we related somehow?"

The Alzheimer's/Dementia has stolen what was once a sharp brain. Every week, I call her, but she can never remember where I live, what I do, or how far I am. She doesn't have any clue where she is.

It's so sad to see. She had her own house, with a large walk-in closet overflowing with clothes -- she enjoyed shopping, my mother. I had more clothes when she was around, because I'd end up buying something when I'd take her to the mall. I never go there now.

She's in what could be a hospital double-room, with a roommate. It's been made to be as pleasant as possible. She has virtually no personal belongings, and all her clothes fit into a little 30-inch wide closet.

She used to cut and perm her hair herself. She took a lot of pride in her appearance, and was always nicely dressed and groomed, even if she was home alone.

Now, her hair is longer than she would ever have let it get, unkempt, unpermed, and it could have used a washing.

The nursing home staff seems pretty decent, though. The place is clean, neat and smell-free. As a Eucharistic lay minister/visitor, I've been in some that are dogs.

Speaking of dogs, Betsy came with me. She enjoyed getting to go with me, and she kept me company on the drive. I'm staying in a pet-accessible motel.

Betsy got a lot of attention at the nursing home. The residents and and even staff enjoyed petting her. I used to take Betsy to one of the local nursing homes that had a pet-therapy program, but we haven't done that in a long time.

Mom fed Betsy part of lunch, and the rest of it stayed on the tray, uneaten. I brought Mom a tin of butter cookies, which she loves, along with some other gifts. She had eaten a few of those, before lunch. She still has little appetite.

Mom wanted me to spend the night there, in her "spare" bed (her roommate's).

May God have mercy on us all.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A change of name



I'm hereby giving notice of my change of name: I shall henceforth be known as "Saint Pat."

I've been thinking about this a while. I'm cranky, sarcastic and not always easy to get along with. Neither was St. Paul. Or St. Peter.

The "Saints" of church history are hardly any nobler. They're often misogynistic (St. Thomas Aquinas), bullying (just about all of them), nut jobs (St. Francis and his St. Clare - two of my favs, but today, they'd both be heavily medicated), and out of touch (all the mystics, including another of my favs, Julian of Norwich).



St. Thomas: just another frat boy





Many led less than church-sanctioned lives before having religious conversions (St. Augustine), and even after.




Like them, though, I'm passionate about the God who came down from heaven for a walkabout on the planet Earth, in the form of Jesus Christ. My failings don't dim my devotion.

Therefore, I shall claim my title as saint, knowing my place in the Kingdom of God, where I will walk in the Garden and sit at the feet of my master, waits for me.



St. Julian will be my example. I will strive to have her vision, her sweetness of nature, and her understanding.

While I make no claim to sainthood, I am Saint Pat.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Makes a lot of sense, doesn't it?



Sometimes it strikes me anew how fascist an attempt at coup the Network/AAC is perpetrating. No wonder its leaders are aligning themselves with people like Peter Akinola of Nigeria. They think on the same fascist/totalitarian pages.

Now, maybe in Nigeria, the lines of power run straight up and down, and no one would dare contradict the archbishop. What he says goes.

In the United States and many other provinces of the Communion, power is distributed a little more evenly.

We have a presiding bishop, a house of bishops, laity. In each diocese there's a similar structure. After all, we live in a republic, which has always prided itself on due process and the democratic process. Not so, everywhere, of course.

Let's do a little comparison:

For hypotheses' sake, let's say the last two presidential elections were conducted honestly, and there's no question President Bush is entitled to the title of leader of the United States.

Let's say that I am governor of the Great State of Midlandia. I don't like the way things have been going in this country. And besides, I've always cherished the idea I'd be president some day, and I'm really put out that this doesn't seem to be happening. I've had a little grudge thing going for years. It makes me dislike the pres and his predecessors all the more.

I've been forging alliances with leaders of other countries. Ones who are pretty ruthless about getting things done and holding power. Ones whose view of morality I share.

I declare that as the preznit of the U.S. is not a fit leader, and this country is going straight down the tubes, anyway, I don't have to respect the Constitution of the United States or the Constitution of Midlandia. In fact, I'm rewriting Midlandia's constitution to give me the authority to do what I want to do.

I say Midlandia is still a member of the United States of America and I'm still a citizen of the country, with all my rights, even as I go about putting Midlandia under the oversight of the Dictator of New Zeality. So don't think about removing me as governor.

I'm taking the assets and tax monies (local and federal) of the people of Midlandia and putting them into a new entity called the Council of New Zeality in America (CONZA). CONZA, in turn, funnels money to New Zeality, where the dictator has been refusing assistance monies from the USA to feed New Zeality's starving people, on moral principle, calling Americans depraved and not fit to help his people.

Even though I proclaim I can't obey the laws of the U.S. or respect the authority of Congress or the President, I still proclaim I'm a loyal citizen of the U.S. -- while I send delegations to neighboring states to get them to join CONZA and gain support for a plan to overthrow Congress and the President, replacing them with the Dictator of New Zeality, who will appoint me in charge. My henchmen are all assured of positions of power in a new and glorious day.

I'm swearing allegiance to the Dictator of New Zeality for now, because I think he's going to help me become president, down the road. After all, we agree on how countries should be run, and what rights people should and shouldn't be allowed to have.

People aren't able to make the correct choices most of the time, anyway, so they should just accept our choices for them.

We know the tactics of playing on peoples' fears and prejudices to get what we want.

It doesn't seem to occur to me that these agreed-upon tactics can be turned against me.

Friday, September 15, 2006

This explains a lot



After reading Father Jake's doggy post, I remembered this theological debate over cats I read a few years ago.

Jack the Brat says no self-respecting cat would EVER ask for or eat Alpo, while Elvis says, "Well, I wouldn't say never."


From Anglican Media Sydney:

June 20, 2001

The cat sat on the mat...

How would the Church of England deal with the statement that "the cat sat on the mat" if it appeared in the Bible?

The liberal theologians would point out that such a passage did not of course mean that the cat literally sat on the mat. Also, cat and mat had different meanings in those days from today, and anyway the text should be interpreted according to the customs and practices of the period.

This would lead to an immediate backlash from the Evangelicals. They would make it an essential condition of faith that a real physical, living cat, being a domestic pet of the species Felix Domesticus, and having a whiskered head, a furry body, four legs and a tail, did physically place its whole body on a floor covering, designed for that purpose, and which is on the floor but not of the floor. The _expression "on the floor but not of the floor" would be explained in a leaflet.

Meanwhile the Catholics would have developed the Feast of the Sedentation of the Blessed Cat. This would teach that the cat was white, and majestically reclined on a mat of gold thread before its assumption to the Great Cat Basket of Heaven. This is commemorated by singing the 'Magnificat' and 'Felix Namque', lighting three candles and ringing a bell five times.

This would cause a schism with the Orthodox Church, which believes tradition requires Holy Cat's Day (as it is colloquially known), to be marked by lighting SIX candles and ringing the bell FOUR times. This would partly be resolved by the Cuckoo Land declaration recognising the traditional validity of each.

Eventually, the House of Bishops would issue a statement on the doctrine of Feline Sedentation. It would explain, traditionally the text describes a domestic feline quadruped superjacent to an unattached covering on a fundamental surface. For determining its salvific and eschatological significations, we follow the heuristic analytical principles adopted in dealing with the Canine Fenestration Question (how much is that doggie in the window?) and the Affirmative Musaceous paradox (yes, we have no bananas). And so on, for another 210 pages.

The General Synod would then commend this report as helpful resource material for clergy to explain to the man in the pew the difficult doctrine of 'The cat sat on the mat.'

***

Now, go a couple of entries down, and admire the pix of my cats and dog. I'm really wounded that no one's told me how cute and purr-sonality-ful they are. You don't want to make me angry, do you?

Monday, September 11, 2006

Surely they jest



When I first read it, I thought it was a joke gone awry. You know, one of those tongue-in-cheek satirical pieces that got picked up and treated as real. But I keep seeing it, and the Connecticut Six don't seem to have much of a sense of humor.

No, this is really the Network case against Bishop-Elect Katharine Jefferts Schori. It came from the Connecticut Six Web site (www.ctsix.org). The article's called "AN APPEAL TO THE ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY: MUST READ!" by the Bishops of Central Florida, Dallas, Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, San Joaquin, South Carolina, and Springfield (20 July, A.D. 2006)

The bishops believe, "There are effectively two churches under one roof. The common roof is called the (Protestant) Episcopal Church in the United States of America."

No joke. Things they indict Schori with are the things for which I admire her!

You can read the whole schlmiel over there, but here's the Schori indictment:

APPENDIX C

Concerns about the Presiding Bishop-elect

1. We are concerned that the Presiding Bishop-elect embodies the majority's disregard of the
Windsor Report:

• She voted for the consent to V. Gene Robinson
• She permits rites of blessing of same-sex unions
• She has sharply criticized the Windsor Report's "ignorance" of ECUSA
• She has indicated that she will continue on the current path
• She has called the status of resolution B033 into question

2. We are concerned that the Presiding Bishop-elect does not represent our views to the
Communion:
• She has a disregard for the views of the Instruments of Unity or Communion
• She has been sharply critical of members of the Primates' Meeting
• She does not share a clear commitment to the Archbishop's vision of a Covenant
• She has inadequate regard to the consequences of "walking apart"

3. We are concerned that the Presiding Bishop-elect holds theological views that are at
variance with the historic tradition:
• A problematic view of Jesus
• A confused message on the place of Jesus in the Church
• A partial understanding of the Reign of God (Kingdom of God)
• An exclusively social justice view of the mission of the Church

4. We are concerned that the Presiding Bishop-elect has indicated a hostile attitude toward the
minority's faith and witness:
• She attributes their opposition to the prevailing direction as of "the Evil One"
• She has indicated a confrontational stance with respect to these bishops

Citations:
1. Disregard of the Windsor Report:
On consent to the bishop of New Hampshire
"I participated in the vote to consent to his election. ... I believe that the people of New
Hampshire have the right to choose the person they believe is best suited to their particular
ministry needs. I recognize that this election will cause deep grief and pain to a number of
people in this church, and I deeply lament that reality." (Pastoral Letter, Aug 2003)
On blessing same-sex unions
"The nature of blessing a relationship, whether a marriage or a same-sex partnership,
means that the community who stand with the couple also promise to bless them." (2003
Diocesan Convention Address)
"THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED: That the 33rd Annual Convention of the Episcopal
Diocese of Nevada, desiring to support relationships of mutuality and fidelity which mediate
the grace of God between those persons for whom the celebration and blessing of a marriage
is not available, does hereby recognize that ceremonies to celebrate the relationships of such
persons who are baptized members in good standing in this diocese may be conducted by
clergy in the diocese, with the approval of the bishop, respecting their pastoral discretion."
(Resolution adopted by Diocese of Nevada, 2003)
"I said that a parish wishing to do so would have to get the congregation to agree, to show that
it was not an isolated event, divorced from the rest of its activities. The couple would also
have to receive counselling, like anyone getting married." (The Guardian, Jun 2006)
On the Windsor Report
"The Windsor Report contains some significant misunderstandings and errors of fact. It does
not clearly recognize how the polity of the Episcopal Church varies from that of most other
parts of the Communion" (Speech in Seattle, Nov 2005)

On the present course
"I am fully committed to the full inclusion of gay and lesbian Christians in the church."
(Episcopal News Service, Jun 2006)
On B033
Concerning the possibility of consents for a partnered gay/lesbian candidate for the
episcopate:
"[Louie Crew:] 'You don't get much of a choice if a diocese elects a lesbian or gay
bishop.'
"[Jefferts Schori:] 'That's right, and if God brings us to that day, I think we will act according
to how the Spirit moves us. I am sorry not to be able to be more direct.'" (The Witness
Magazine, Apr 2006)
In the House of Bishops, she said, "This resolution will have to be reviewed very soon."

2. Concerning the Communion:

On the Instruments of Unity
"I don't think Jesus is as interested in instruments of unity as he is in whether or not we're
serving his brothers and sisters or feeding the hungry. The Episcopal Church and the Anglican
Communion are going to survive if we manage to work together at healing the world."
(Address, Church Divinity School of the Pacific, Nov 2005)
On ECUSA being, as one reporter put it, "thrown out of the Communion"
"It will be unfortunate if we don't have partners, but the reality is lived at the level of local
relationships, at local levels: folks from Nevada going out and helping in Kenya."
(The Guardian, Jun 2006)

On the Anglican Communion
In an interview: “ … the Anglican Communion is a gift to be cherished, and a gift that needs
to be increasingly valued and appropriated through our own sacrifice, albeit not at the cost of
what this church believes to be faithful response to the gospel." (The Living Church, 2006)

On what she will say to Peter Akinola
"I will ask him what encourages him to see some of God's children as less than human and
less worthy of the dignity that our liturgy believes is the right of all human beings."
(The Guardian, Jun 2006)

On the decisions of General Convention on sexuality
Interview: "[But] these decisions were made because we believe that's where the Gospel has
been calling us. The Episcopal Church in the U.S. has come to a reasonable conclusion and
consensus that gay and lesbian Christians are full members of this church and that our
ministry to and with gay and lesbian Christians should be part of the fullness of our life."
(Time Magazine, Jul 2006)

On the Covenant idea
"[The Archbishop of Canterbury is] very clear that we're not going to see an instant solution.
He's also clear about his role: it is to call people to conversation, not to intervene in diocesan
or provincial life—which some people have been asking for." (Time Magazine, Jul 2006)

On the Windsor Report
"All of this is a very long way of saying that neither this [Lambeth] commission, nor the
Archbishop of Canterbury, nor the gathering of primates, can make rules or laws that bind the
Episcopal Church." (2004 Diocesan Convention Address)

3. Theological Views:

On Jesus
"We who practice the Christian tradition understand him as our vehicle to the divine. But
for us to assume that God could not act in other ways is, I think, to put God in an awfully
small box." (Time Magazine, Jul 2006)

On the message of Jesus
"The Bible tells us about how to treat other human beings, and that's certainly the great
message of Jesus - to include the unincluded." (CNN, Jun 2006)

On her reference to "Mother Jesus" in her sermon after election
"Our mother Jesus gives birth to a new creation - and you and I are His children."
(Episcopal News Service, Jun 19, 2006)
"It was very deliberate and conscious. I was wrestling with the image of blood on the cross,
the image of labour. It's medieval imagery actually, Julian of Norwich. It seemed appropriate
to the text and the hard work we are trying to do in this place." (The Guardian, Jun 2006; NB:
she did not cite the reference of any sort to this phrase in her sermon.)

On the Reign of God
Integrity (reporter): "Can you tell me about the reign of God?"
Schori: "I think of the scripture from Isaiah read by Jesus in the synagogue, the blind see,
the lame are healed. ... Our vision is one of social justice like the vision enshrined in the
Millennium Goals. The Millennium Goals are our vision of the reign of God." (ENS News
Conference, Jun 18, 2006)

On Revelation
We believe that revelation continues, that God continues to be active in creation, and that all
of the many ways of knowing — including geology, evolutionary biology, philosophy, and
arts such as opera, punk rock or painting — can be vehicles through which God and human
beings partner in continuing creation.

On the place of doctrine
"[Q] 'What is your prayer for the church today?' [A] 'That we remember the centrality of our
mission is to love each other. That means caring for our neighbors. And it does not mean
bickering about fine points of doctrine.'" (Time Magazine, Jul 2006)

On doing theology

"Our heritage and context shape our theology. The ways in which we understand scripture and
appropriate gospel response to social realities are shaped both by our roots and our current
circumstances." (Speech in Seattle, Nov 2005)

On making faith decisions
"Making any kind of faith decision is based on accumulating the best evidence one can find -
what one's senses and reason indicate, what the rest of the community has believed over time,
and what the community judges most accurate today." (The Witness Magazine, Aug 2005)

4. Hostile attitude toward the minority:
On characterizing the minority
"I think it is the Evil One who is at work here, distracting us from our central focus, which
ought to be on feeding the hungry, relieving the needs of the poor, healing the sick. This
obsession is keeping us from doing that. To focus on issues of sexuality when people are
dying is a distraction from our mission."

On the minority in the House of Bishops, called 'dissenters'
"I think they need to be challenged, more so than they have been. I see signs of hope in
the House of Bishops, an unwillingness to continue to put up with bad behavior. We
haven't seen any action yet, but I think it is coming." (The Witness Magazine, Apr 2006)
When asked if that would be a 'verbal rebuke'
"It won't be enough in some cases, I am sure. But I have the sense that there is some desire to
hold each other accountable for actions that are not canonical, for actions that have the
appearance of being downright schismatic." (The Witness Magazine, Apr 2006)

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Pat's Animal House


Every picture tells a story. I certainly see the three very different personalities of my three animals. There's Elvis, who spends most of his time stretched out on his side (you would, too, if you had to carry that belly around). There's Jack, nimble and quick, and not camera shy in the least. There's Betsy, whom the camera makes nervous, but who's patient and loving and the best dog in the whole world.


Elvis: cat or Orca? You be the judge.














TIGER, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
















I don't know if I like what's going on here.





Simply the bestus dog that ever was

















Orca, er, Elvis, gets the last word.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Toewalker's back



Our friend Jeffrey, aka Toewalker, took a hiatus after the Archbishop of Canterbury said some particularly cloddish things. He's back, now, thanks to his true grit and the prayers of his friends.

Go take a look at this posting by his partner, R. at Musings of a Toe-walker. It's a gutsy and illuminating piece.

I marvel at the strength and courage of some of the saints.

P.S. I can't make the link work. Just go look at "A Boy and His Church."

Thursday, September 07, 2006



Pirates of the Anglican Communion:
Dead Man's Province, Part Cinq



Note: To read Part 1, go here. For Part 2, go here; For Part 3, go here. To read part 4 ... oh for Heaven's sake, just look back a couple of entries. Criminy. I haven't blogged that much lately.



Sparrow wakes up. His skull feels like his brains will simply pound through it. The floor beneath him is a bit uneven. It's cold, hard and dank.

With a moan, Sparrow pulls himself to a sitting position. His sword is missing, but quick checks reveal his flask, cross and Holy Water are intact in secret pockets sewn into his clothing. Sparrow takes a quick swig from the flask to ease the pain in his head, and becomes a bit more aware of his surroundings.

He's in a cell. A torch on the wall outside the cell provides its only light. Sparrow sees Father Jake in the shadows, and shakes him. Jake comes to, moaning as Sparrow did just moments before. Jake refuses Sparrow's offer of the flask, and pulls himself to a sitting position.

"Where are we?" Jake asks.

"I don't know. I only just came to, myself," Sparrow responds.

They hear slight sounds coming from the wall to the left of the cell door.

Jake puts his ear to the wall, listening. His fingers touch the bricks of the wall like those of a blind man reading Braille. He works out an uncemented brick, and the sounds of soft crying come through the opening.

"Who's there?" Jake asks.

The crying stops for a moment. A small voice says, "It's me. The Pirate Robert Duncan."


Peter Lorre plays the Pirate Robert Duncan




"Duncan?" Jake says. "What are you doing in a cell, here?"

"They took it away. All of it. My lovely church buildings, the pension funds, the tithes. They said they owned everything now, and didn't need me. When I told them they couldn't do that, they threw me in this horrible cell."

He starts crying again.

"Duncan, what is this place?"

"We're in the prison, on the lower level of the castle keep."

Duncan puts a rheumy eye to the rectangular opening.

"On the upper level is where the Gospel's being held prisoner," he says.

"The Gospel held prisoner? That's ridiculous. What are you talking about?" Jake replies.

"The Gospel. Pope Akinola has it encased in amber. He said, this way he knows nothing can ever change. The longer the Gospel stays trapped there, the greater the darkness grows. The farther back we go in time."

Duncan is silent for a moment, then his eye, opened wide, appears at the aperture again.

"Are you here to save the Gospel? To save us all? A prophet told me God will let the Gospel remain there, unless enough people want to save it."

Frowning, Jake asks, "Duncan, where are your pirate cohorts?"

"I don't know. They just disappeared."

Sparrow hears footsteps coming toward their cell. He motions to Jake, who replaces the brick.

The two men hear the sound of metal on metal as a key is inserted in the lock, and the cell door swings open.

"Here, you," a big thug says to Sparrow, and the thugs drag him off, his feet kicking at the floor in protest, and in a vain effort to get his footing.

A half hour later, Sparrow is the one crying.


Sparrow: swashbuckling no more




The big thug looks at him impassively. The smaller one cackles.

"Where is the Schori woman?" he asks.

"I don't know," Sparrow replies honestly, but he summonses as much defiance as he can into his answer.

He realizes his captors don't know where the bishop is, if they're trying to torture the information out of him.

"No one has endured the wheel more than 30 minutes without his head exploding," the short troll chortles, turning the lever, and the platform bearing Sparrow, tied to a chair, glides on wheels into a soundproofed room.

The voice in a video narrating the wonders of the Convocation for Anglicans in North America (CANA) drones on again.

"NOOOO!" Sparrow cries. "MOMMYYYYYYY!"

He feels warmth coming from the pocket holding the cross his mother gave him when Sparrow was just a young lad. The cross she gave him just before she died.

*****

Meanwhile, somewhere past the mists of Province X, somewhere where the sun shines, MadPriest has been fulfilling his mission. People are gathering -- Episcopalian, Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, Congregationalist -- even a few Nazarenes cautiously come out to join the chorus of voices. Pope Benedict prohibits Catholics from joining the ecumenical gathering, but millions, worldwide, ignore this just as they do most papal edicts, and join in.


People clasp hands and sing, "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing." They drop to their knees together, and pray for the Gospel light to be set free.




Even the Amish join in. At Archbishop Desmond Tutu's urging, people all over Africa (except most of them in Nigeria and Rwanda, of course) pour into the streets, singing and praying.

The Dalai Lama chants prayers for his Christian friends, odd though they are.



What is the meaning of this? Where is Bishop Schori?

Stay tuned to find out.