Monday, April 30, 2007

'Nothing is far from God'

Monnica, Mother of Augustine of Hippo
4 May 387

Augustine takes leave of his mother, Monnica

Monnica gives us one of the greatest examples of intercessory prayer of all the saints. She prayed her whole life for her son Augustine's conversion to Christianity, along with her husband's. She made a number of mistakes along the way, but we see through her story how God will redeem our mistakes.

Augustine not only became a Christian, he became one of Christianity's greatest thinkers and theologians.

Methinks he got it from his mother. Monnica's simple statement, "Nothing is far from God," is one of the most succinct statements of faith and trust in God I have ever read.

James Kiefer's bio:

We know about Monnica almost entirely from the autobiography (the Confessions) of her son Augustine, a major Christian writer, theologian and philosopher (see 28 August). Monnica was born in North Africa, near Carthage, in what is now Tunisia, perhaps around 331, of Christian parents, and was a Christian throughout her life.

Her name has usually been spelled "Monica," but recently her tomb in Ostia was discovered, and the burial inscription says "Monnica," a spelling which all Ac (Archaeologically Correct) persons have hastened to adopt. (On the other hand, it may simply be that the artisan who carved the inscription was a bad speller.)

As a girl, she was fond of wine, but on one occasion was taunted by a slave girl for drunkenness, and resolved not to drink thereafter. She was married to a pagan husband, Patricius, a man of hot temper, who was often unfaithful to her, but never insulted or struck her. It was her happiness to see both him and his mother ultimately receive the Gospel.

Monnica soon recognized that her son was a man of extraordinary intellectual gifts, a brilliant thinker and a natural leader of men (as a youngster he was head of a local gang of juvenile delinquents), and she had strong ambitions and high hopes for his success in a secular career. Indeed, though we do not know all the circumstances, most Christians today would say that her efforts to steer him into a socially advantageous marriage were in every way a disaster. However, she grew in spiritual maturity through a life of prayer, and her ambitions for his worldly success were transformed into a desire for his conversion. He, as a youth, rejected her religion with scorn, and looked to various pagan philosophies for clues to the meaning of life.

He undertook a career as an orator and teacher of the art of oratory (rhetoric), and moved from Africa to Rome and thence to Milan, at that time the seat of government in Italy. His mother followed him there a few years later. In Milan, Augustine met the bishop Ambrose, from whom he learned that Christianity could be intellectually respectable, and under whose preaching he was eventually converted and baptised on Easter Eve in 387, to the great joy of Monnica.

After his baptism, Augustine and a younger brother Navigius and Monnica planned to return to Africa together, but in Ostia, the port city of Rome, Monnica fell ill and said, "You will bury your mother here. All I ask of you is that, wherever you may be, you should remember me at the altar of the Lord. Do not fret because I am buried far from our home in Africa. Nothing is far from God, and I have no fear that he will not know where to find me, when he comes to raise me to life at the end of the world."

PRAYER (contemporary language)

O Lord, who through spiritual discipline strengthened your Servant Monnica to persevere in offering her love and prayers and tears for the conversion of her husband and of Augustine their son: Deepen our devotion, we pray, and use us in accordance with your will to bring others, even our own kindred, to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

A morning walk

Some of the things Betsy (the best dog in the whole world) and I see on our morning walks.

Morning has broken, like the first morning

Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird.
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning.
Praise for the springing, fresh from the Word.

Sweet the rains new fall, sunlit from heaven,
Like the first dewfall, on the first grass.

Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden,
Sprung in completeness, where His feet pass.

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the one light, Eden saw play

Praise with elation, praise every morning
God's recreation of the new day

("Morning Has Broken" from a poem by Eleanor Farjeon,as sung by Cat Stevens)

Friday, April 20, 2007

Lord, Have Mercy

I just heard the rant-message actor Alec Baldwin left on his 11-year-old daughter's cell phone. Lord have mercy on them both.

What damage parents inflict on their children. The pain in Baldwin's voice is obvious. He's in agony himself.

Yet, his tone is so ugly and menacing, as he accuses his daughter of hurting him (by having her cell phone turned off when he called), and calling her a "pig" and telling her he's going to "straighten her out" when he sees her.

Hearing it made me cringe, and I'm a grown woman.

Lord have mercy on them both. They both need healing. Perhaps daughter Ireland, in the middle of her parents' ugly divorce (her mother is actress Kim Basinger), should be in the custody of neither. Ireland's mother apparently released the tape, as ammunition in her custody case. Doesn't Basinger have a clue this harms her daughter even more?

How many times a day do scenes like that play out, unheard because the parents are not famous?

God have mercy, and heal all the hurting human beings who hurt each other.

God, please don't let parents wound their children so.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Technolgies come and go, war stays the same

Mark Twain wrote/dictated this in 1904, late in his life, when he was already considered a literary lion. Yet, his publisher refused to publish it, and his family was even afraid of it going into print -- afraid the author would be accused of sacrilege.

Twain said, "I have told the truth in that -- and only dead men can tell the truth in this world."

Twain died in 1910, and the piece was finally published in 1923.

The War Prayer
by Mark Twain

It was a time of great and exalting excitement. The country was up in arms, the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and spluttering; on every hand and far down the receding and fading spread of roofs and balconies a fluttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun; daily the young volunteers marched down the wide avenue gay and fine in their new uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and sisters and sweethearts cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as they swung by; nightly the packed mass meetings listened, panting, to patriot oratory which stirred the deepest deeps of their hearts, and which they interrupted at briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears running down their cheeks the while; in the churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country, and invoked the God of Battles beseeching His aid in our good cause in outpourings of fervid eloquence which moved every listener.

It was indeed a glad and gracious time, and the half dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and cast a doubt upon its righteousness straightway got such a stern and angry warning that for their personal safety's sake they quickly shrank out of sight and offended no more in that way.

Sunday morning came -- next day the battalions would leave for the front; the church was filled; the volunteers were there, their young faces alight with martial dreams -- visions of the stern advance, the gathering momentum, the rushing charge, the flashing sabers, the flight of the foe, the tumult, the enveloping smoke, the fierce pursuit, the surrender!

Then home from the war, bronzed heroes, welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory! With the volunteers sat their dear ones, proud, happy, and envied by the neighbors and friends who had no sons and brothers to send forth to the field of honor, there to win for the flag, or, failing, die the noblest of noble deaths. The service proceeded; a war chapter from the Old Testament was read; the first prayer was said; it was followed by an organ burst that shook the building, and with one impulse the house rose, with glowing eyes and beating hearts, and poured out that tremendous invocation

*God the all-terrible! Thou who ordainest! Thunder thy clarion and
lightning thy sword!*

Then came the "long" prayer. None could remember the like of it for passionate pleading and moving and beautiful language. The burden of its supplication was, that an ever-merciful and benignant Father of us all would watch over our noble young soldiers, and aid, comfort, and encourage them in their patriotic work; bless them, shield them in the day of battle and the hour of peril, bear them in His mighty hand, make them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset; help them to crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and country imperishable honor and glory --

An aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up the main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister, his long body clothed in a robe that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a frothy cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even to ghastliness. With all eyes following him and wondering, he made his silent way; without pausing, he ascended to the preacher's side and stood there waiting.

With shut lids the preacher, unconscious of his presence, continued with his moving prayer, and at last finished it with the words, uttered in fervent appeal, "Bless our arms, grant us the victory, O Lord our God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!"

The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside -- which the startled minister did -- and took his place. During some moments he surveyed the spellbound audience with solemn eyes, in which burned an uncanny light; then in a deep voice he said:

"I come from the Throne -- bearing a message from Almighty God!" The words smote the house with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he gave no attention. "He has heard the prayer of His servant your shepherd, and will grant it if such shall be your desire after I, His messenger, shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say, its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men, in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause and think.

"God's servant and yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused and taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him Who heareth all supplications, the spoken and the unspoken. Ponder this -- keep it in mind. If you would beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon a neighbor at the same time. If you pray for the blessing of rain upon your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse upon some neighbor's crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it.

"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the pastor -- and also you in your hearts -- fervently prayed silently. And ignorantly and unthinkingly? God grant that it was so!

You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. the *whole* of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant words. Elaborations were not necessary. When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory--*must* follow it, cannot help but followit. Upon the listening spirit of God fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their
humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it -- for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts.

(*After a pause.*) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak!
The messenger of the Most High waits!"

It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was
no sense in what he said.

Transcribed by Steven Orso (

Monday, April 16, 2007

Time to say, 'No more'

I've been thinking about the Don Imus firing and how my only comment would be, "Well, let's see if NBC and all its affiliated stations and networks will be straight up enough to pull music with the kind of lyrics Imus used, and pull programming with that kind of message."

My guess: probably not. As long as there's profit to be made pandering to the lowest common denominator, the hucksters will seek the money and justify themselves by saying what other people do is not their fault. And there's a bit of truth to that.

Imus' use of insulting and demeaning words to those young women is just a small part of the picture, though. The shooting at Va. Tech today puts it all into context.

We can't wait for the hucksters and panderers to quit selling their crap. We, as concerned parents, children, brothers and sisters, and members of this society, have to stand up and say "No more."

No more to this culture of violence.

No more to music that calls women hos and makes violence against them look like a normal part of life. No more of ultra-violent video games in which players spray characters with gunfire, leaving them in pools of blood. No more glorification of violence.

No more culture of violence.

It's not funny. It's not cool for young women to call each other "bitches" and "hos" because they're trying to be hipper than hip.

Kids don't need to be fed lies that life is only about getting just what they want, regardless of the cost to others. They don't need to be fed lies that dissing other people is what makes them powerful, while other people dissing them in any perceived way is punishable by violence - or death.

No more culture of violence.

We have our president as cultural icon. How does he handle problems? Go kick some Arab butt. So what if a few hundred-thousand civilians die?

No more, no more.

I went to school in Virginia, not at Va. Tech, but at another college in the state's rolling hills. It's not the kind of place where you expect anything like that to happen. No place is, I guess, but it keeps happening in all these small towns and places where you just don't expect mass murder to happen. It shouldn't happen anywhere.

No more, no more. If we don't stand up and say no more, then we deserve it. We're letting it happen.

Addendum Tuesday, April 17

Dear Lord, please hold those who perished yesterday close to your heart, secure in their new life eternal. Also hold close the families and loved ones, for they are coming through shock into grief now, and need your consolation, and need to hold onto your promises. Surround them with the right people to comfort them and help them through this time of grief. Pour out your blessings on them. We ask this in the name of your compassionate son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

A day at home

I got up, showered, fixed my hair and makeup, and got dressed and ready for church. Then I didn't go.

I got worried about the weather. The frontal system that's played havoc with so much of the country is passing through Florida today. The bad weather was forecast to move through in the early-morning hours, and a bit to the north of us, but it moved slower and farther south than predicted. The weather people were talking ground winds of 40-60 m.p.h., heavy storms and tornadoes.

Not wanting to be caught on the highway in such weather, and especially, knowing I'd just worry about my animals (my babies) while I was gone, I kicked my shoes off and stayed home.

Luckily, or as an answer to prayer, we escaped the nasty stuff that went to the north and south of us. It turned really dark for a while, and rained hard. We had some strong gusts, but no sustained high winds. According the weather radar, the squall line has passed us now, and the tornado watch is off for my county, but the cold front is still approaching, and high winds and thunderstorms are forecast all afternoons.

A few years ago, I wouldn't have worried about it too much. I'd have headed for church. With hurricanes, tropical storms and tornadoes and more tornadoes ripping up the landscape around here in recent history, I've become a little gun-shy.

I've had a nice day at home, listening to music and catching up on the blogosphere.

Now the lights keeping dimming a bit, so I'm posting this before I lose it, then I'll add some more.


Wow, some strong winds.

Anyway, it turned cold in time for Easter, last Sunday (See related story at Fashion Fizz), but I refused to turn on the heat, because it was supposed to warm up again after a couple of days. It surely did, but I refused to turn on the A/C until Friday. Now, it's supposed to go down into the 40s tonight, after this front comes through.

Aaaiiieeee! I'm convinced it's global warming messing with the jet stream and weather patterns.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Stories of the down and out

The last few weeks, I've been a little distracted because of interviews and stories I've been doing. It's part of a whole series on the local homeless I've been writing for the paper.

There are those who would like to bus the street people to a camp somewhere, or maybe force-march them to Montana, as long as it removes them. It's hard to dehumanize someone, though, once you've seen her or his human face, and that's what I've been trying to do -- show the face of humanity through these people, and show the forces that bring people to homelessness.

The first few segments have run, and there are a few more to go, already written up. The response to what's been published has been positive.

These people have poured their hearts out to me. Tales of abuse, alcohol, drugs, violence, mental illness. Homes, families, careers, dignity, all lost.

Some have overcome years of alcohol and drug abuse, and rebuilt their lives, and now have responsible positions in the community. They've opened up about things done to them, and things they've done. I admire their courage, for it's always risky to talk on the record about some of these things, but they did, giving courageous witnesses.

One young man determined to break free of family patterns called homelessness a pit with very high walls.

Some I talked with had been plucked off the streets into rehab, and have won some battles with their demons, but the war is not over. They're still in the trenches. You can still see the demons lurking, waiting for an opportunity to regain control. God bless and help these people.

A common ingredient for success seems to be some kind of faith, and some sort of epiphany that God didn't intend them to be living the way they had been, and was calling them to a new life. "Call it the 'higher power' spoken of in AA, or God, whatever you will," said one man.

One man told me he was walking down the street after a week's binge, filled with self-loathing and rage against the world, when he had an epiphany. He looked up into the sky and realized, he had to choose between good and evil. It was suddenly that simple for him.

For another, it was the earth-shattering realization he had thrown away everything. He had sunk to the point he had the option of either rehab or jail. He began to realize the hurt he had done others. All this, along with friends of faith determined to help him into a better life, made the difference.

Not that gaining sobriety was easy -- another common theme I heard from those who had reintegrated into the community was realizing they couldn't do it alone -- but the will to it was suddenly there.

That's why providing encouragement, rehabilitation (sometimes over and over again) and a supportive community is so important. We can't just step over or around people as if they aren't there, or bus them somewhere else. We can't offer moralizing or a sermon to someone whose belly is empty. We don't have to try and convert anyone, just be there. Feed the hungry; clothe the naked; provide shelter. Provide assistance to deal with demons.

The stories of the people I talked with have been swirling around in my head; they have remained with me.

We have to start treating our homeless and our mentally-ill better. An already poor system of mental-health care here in Florida has gotten worse the past few years. There aren't nearly enough beds in state psychiatric hospitals. There aren't enough emergency shelter beds, or long-term beds for those who can't look out for themselves. The waiting list for residential rehab for substance abusers is often too long (my brother faced this). Case-management services for outpatient treatment has been cut severely.

Of course, the homeless aren't a constituency. They are not pretty, as I mentioned in an earlier post; some are bizarre, some are downright scary in their mental illness, and more are obnoxious. Few vote or donate to political campaigns. They don't have lobbyists walking the halls of the Legislature. Nobody's made much noise on their behalf except a few bleeding-heart liberals who are easily dismissed. And nobody wants the homeless or services to attract more of them in their neighborhood.

I do think the tide is starting to turn. Thank God, and thank God for the ministers who devote themselves to helping the down and out.

As one minister to the street people said, if we're going to call ourselves Christians, we have to start acting like we're Christians.

I've been tagged
It's Six Weird Things

Padre Mickey and his Dance Party Posse tagged me, and Hedwyg, too. (Sounds like they went on safari and tagged the elusive, wild Saint Pat with a tracking device.)

Anyway, that's what I get for having a wild week at work and no time to blog. I've been knee-deep in alligators and municipal scandals (with politicians hurtling accusations against other politicians and accusing them of playing politics -- imagine that!)

Six Weird Things Meme

According to the rules I must:
1. Reveal six weird things about yourself on your blog, and
2. Tag six people to do the same.

Where to begin, where to begin.


1. I have a subsidiary blog (the also neglected Fashion Fizz) at which I refer to myself in the third person and pretend I know anything about fashion.

2. I make coffee nude in the morning. Also frequently do housework nude. (Frequently as in "When I do it, I do it nude" -- not that I frequently do housework.)

3. I recently memorized the lyrics to "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina," for no particular reason -- just kept playing the Joan Baez version over and over again, while I worked on the computer.

4. I talk to my dog and cats, and answer for them. Well, I could be talking to and answering myself = truly nutty. Oh, wait, I do that, too.

5. I usually sleep with the TV on. I got in that habit when I was traveling a lot for a job. It blocked out noise from motel ice-machines, elevators, loud guests, etc. I got hooked on watching late-night TV when I'd crawl in. I tried using a timer to turn off the tube, but the sound of the TV clicking off would wake me up. If I need to sleep somewhere without access to Jay Leno/Dave Letterman/Conan O'Brien and the others, I sleep just fine, however. YES!!! It's true -- I sleep with a bunch of men!

6. My reading of Scripture is orthodox. I believe in miracles, the Resurrection, spiritual gifts, the whole nine yards. I get into trouble with the "orthodox" by actually applying what Jesus said to life, instead of applying what the "orthodox" position is on what Jesus said. That's my considered opinion.

Now, I tag the wise but youthful Ann, blogosphere venerable hunk and attempted defender of the Communion, Brother Causticus, co-equal hunk o' the blogosphere, Father Jake, and his lovely wife Demi, the ever-lovely Catherine, the pressed-for-time-but-we're-not-gonna-let-you-take-a-blog-break Lisa, and the effervescent Sharecropper.

I'm waiting.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Deborah: prophet, leader of Israel

Deborah is the latest entry in my 'saints and great Godly women' series. She became a leader when the people of Israel were (again) sent into slavery, under the Canaanites, in a series of cycles of sin and redemption -- straying from God, being sent into exile or slavery, and repenting.

Deborah had earned a great reputation as a judge. This was in the days before there were kings of Israel, and judges were very powerful. God chose Deborah to free the people of Israel. She was a great leader ... and a woman.

Perhaps our Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will too be remembered as a wise and great leader, who hears the voice of God.

The battle Katharine fights will not be with chariots, swords or stakes. The battle will be of hearing and obeying God's word, like Deborah, but using her strength of character, her wisdom, her skills of leadership, her ability to illuminate the Gospel, her diplomacy, to win peace for her church. Pray for her. Perhaps like Deborah, Katharine can lead us into 40 years (too many to count!) of peace.

Judges 4 (New International Version):


1 After Ehud died, the Israelites once again did evil in the eyes of the LORD. 2 So the LORD sold them into the hands of Jabin, a king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. The commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth Haggoyim. 3 Because he had nine hundred iron chariots and had cruelly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years, they cried to the LORD for help.

4 Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading [a] Israel at that time. 5 She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites came to her to have their disputes decided. 6 She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, "The LORD, the God of Israel, commands you: 'Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead the way to Mount Tabor. 7 I will lure Sisera, the commander of Jabin's army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.' "

8 Barak said to her, "If you go with me, I will go; but if you don't go with me, I won't go."

9 "Very well," Deborah said, "I will go with you. But because of the way you are going about this, [b] the honor will not be yours, for the LORD will hand Sisera over to a woman." So Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh, 10 where he summoned Zebulun and Naphtali. Ten thousand men followed him, and Deborah also went with him.

11 Now Heber the Kenite had left the other Kenites, the descendants of Hobab, Moses' brother-in-law, [c] and pitched his tent by the great tree in Zaanannim near Kedesh.

12 When they told Sisera that Barak son of Abinoam had gone up to Mount Tabor, 13 Sisera gathered together his nine hundred iron chariots and all the men with him, from Harosheth Haggoyim to the Kishon River.

14 Then Deborah said to Barak, "Go! This is the day the LORD has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the LORD gone ahead of you?" So Barak went down Mount Tabor, followed by ten thousand men. 15 At Barak's advance, the LORD routed Sisera and all his chariots and army by the sword, and Sisera abandoned his chariot and fled on foot. 16 But Barak pursued the chariots and army as far as Harosheth Haggoyim. All the troops of Sisera fell by the sword; not a man was left.

17 Sisera, however, fled on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, because there were friendly relations between Jabin king of Hazor and the clan of Heber the Kenite.

18 Jael went out to meet Sisera and said to him, "Come, my Lord , come right in. Don't be afraid." So he entered her tent, and she put a covering over him.

19 "I'm thirsty," he said. "Please give me some water." She opened a skin of milk, gave him a drink, and covered him up.

20 "Stand in the doorway of the tent," he told her. "If someone comes by and asks you, 'Is anyone here?' say 'No.' "

21 But Jael, Heber's wife, picked up a tent peg and a hammer and went quietly to him while he lay fast asleep, exhausted. She drove the peg through his temple into the ground, and he died.

22 Barak came by in pursuit of Sisera, and Jael went out to meet him. "Come," she said, "I will show you the man you're looking for." So he went in with her, and there lay Sisera with the tent peg through his temple-dead.

23 On that day God subdued Jabin, the Canaanite king, before the Israelites. 24 And the hand of the Israelites grew stronger and stronger against Jabin, the Canaanite king, until they destroyed him.


Deborah ruled Israel with wisdom, settling disputes in her court under the Palm of Deborah. It was Deborah who sent for the military leader Barak, who came when she called, but who would not go into battle without her. Deborah went with him. It was women who brought about victory, freeing Israel from the Canaanites. From the Song of Deborah:

2 "When the princes in Israel take the lead, when the people willingly offer themselves— praise the LORD!

3 "Hear this, you kings! Listen, you rulers! I will sing to the LORD, I will sing; I will make music to the LORD, the God of Israel.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Easter greetings

I think I, like my favorite saint, Mary Magdalene, have spent time weeping outside an empty tomb -- way too much time. The tomb is empty; rejoice!

This Lenten season was a time of reflection for me, and a time of renewal. The joy that's been largely AWOL the past couple of years continues to seep back in, and that's a good thing. We were created to experience joy; our joy delights God, and denying joy is a sin, indeed.

Not of course, that I go 'round joyful every moment. I'm not even under medication. But those moments of joy, sometimes small, and somtimes profound, have been coming back. Creativity is sneaking back in, too.

I read with interest the Lenten dialog about atonement at Father Jake's. What it comes down to for me is love. He loved us enough to come into this world as a frail human, one of us and with us, to live a hard life -- a life of deprivation and physical endurance that we can't really grasp, in a time when life was hard and short -- and to die. For love of us.

Would anything less than the cross have even gotten our attention?

Christ came so we might have life in abundance.

There is a time for everything under heaven, including time to cry, but we shouldn't waste time crying outside an empty tomb. We are to live, in this life, and into the next.

A favorite song this time of year at the Church of Open Arms is this one, and I love it. The melody is upbeat, almost like an Irish jig:

"Lord of the Dance"

I danced in the morning when the world was begun,
I danced on the moon and the stars and the sun
I came down from Heaven and I danced on the earth
At then Bethlehem I had my birth

Dance, then, wherever you may be
For I am the Lord of the Dance said he
And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be
And I'll lead you all in the Dance said He.

I danced for the scribe and the Pharisee,
But they would not dance and they would not follow me;
I danced for the fishermen, for James and John
They came with me and the Dance went on.

I danced on the Sabbath and I cured the lame;
The holy people said it was a shame.
They whipped and they stripped and they hung me on high
And left me there on the cross to die

I danced on a Friday when the sky turned black
It's hard to dance with the Devil on your back
They buried my body and they thought I'd gone
But I am the Dance and I still go on.

They cut me down and I leapt up high:
I am the life that will never, never die.
I'll live in you if you live in me
I am the Lord of the Dance said he.

I'll live in you, Lord!

Happy Easter, everyone!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Back to the middle ages
Don't kiss, don't tell, or don't get Communion

I saw this news story yesterday. The sheer hypocrisy of the priest is flabbergasting -- sin is OK, as long as nobody knows about it?

That's if exercising one's rights as an American, and standing up for one's beliefs is a sin. That, apparently was the sin that got the lesbian couple excommunicated. They dared to write their legislator in support of same-sex marriage, and it got into the newspaper. Terrible. Now everybody knew the couple was gay, and apparently the only sinners in the church, because they were the only ones excommunicated.

Hypocrisy. Gay discrimination. Power play.

Priests like this would like to return to the dark ages, when they had more complete control over people. A word from the priest and people were shunned. Excommunication was a life or death matter.

I'm not just picking on Roman Catholic priests. There are plenty in the Episcopal Church making the same kind of rumblings. Wrong politics, wrong "manner of life" = out.

Last year during Lent, the bishop of this diocese wrote a piece in the diocesan newsletter in which he suggested withholding Communion might be used more often to "discipline" members of the flock. Some gay and lesbian members were afraid they might approach the Communion rails at their churches and be turned away.

See my entry from March last year here

The fuss over that died down, with no one denied Communion, at least that I know of, thank God.

The sin is in using the Sacraments, using the body and blood of Christ as an instrument of power.

God knows our all our sins, public and private, and he will judge us all, priests included.

Here's the story:

Gay couple denied communion after stand
After taking a public stand for same-sex marriage, a gay couple were
notified they are no longer welcome at Catholic communion.

Associated Press

Leah Vader and Lynne Huskinson, a lesbian couple who got married in
Canada in August, sent a letter recently to their state legislator
decrying a Wyoming bill that would deny recognition of same-sex
marriages. The lawmaker read the letter on the floor of the

Soon after, the local paper interviewed the couple on Ash Wednesday and
ran a story and pictures of them with ash on their foreheads, a mark of
their Christian faith.

It wasn't long after that that the couple received a notice from their
parish church telling them they have been barred from receiving

"If all this stuff hadn't hit the newspaper, it wouldn't have been any
different than before -- nobody would have known about it," said the
couple's parish priest at St. Matthew's, the Rev. Cliff Jacobson. "The
sin is one thing. It's a very different thing to go public with that

Catholics deemed sinners in the eyes of the church are sometimes taken
aside and privately advised not to take Communion. But Cheyenne Bishop
David Ricken, gay Catholic organizations and a national church
spokeswoman said they could not recall any previous instance of a U.S.
bishop denying the sacrament to a gay couple in writing.

Now Huskinson and Vader say they are struggling to reconcile their
devotion to the church with their devotion to each other.

"You spend half your time defending your gayness to Catholics," Vader
said, "and the other half of your time defending your Catholicism to
gays." ...

Friday, April 06, 2007


Again, you call, you call.

Again, I pause my wandering in the dry land

Again, I hear and finally listen

Again, I turn back to you, with tears of repentance

Again, you accept me

Again, you assure me of your love

Again, I beg you to hold me close

Again, I tell you of my love

Again, I promise I will never be unfaithful again

Again, you forgive me.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Bp. Howe responds to Standing Committee's statement
He has 'no problem' with it

The missive from the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Central (see my entry of March 30) is now posted on the diocesan Web site (still with no names attached), but with a comment from Bp. John Howe.

Interestingly, the bishop speculates on whether or not the primates and the Archbishop of Canterbury might proceed with a pastoral scheme or appointing a primatial vicar -- despite the fact the House of Bishops just said no.

I do agree with Bp. Howe's assessment that a primatial vicar would not be welcome in most parts of the Episcopal Church, with good reason.

Here is the bishop's statement:

The Rt. Rev. John W. Howe, Bishop of the Diocese of Central Florida, responds to the Standing Committee

March 29, 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Enough of you have asked me about our Standing Committee's "Statement" released earlier today that a couple of comments to all of you may be appropriate.

No, I was not part of the crafting this Statement; it is a Statement of the Standing Committee, not the Bishop and Standing Committee. Fr. Don Curran (President) did post me last night, before releasing it. He did not ask my endorsement, permission, or my opinion; it was simply a courtesy notification that the Statement had been produced.

I told him that I was not sure the Statement was necessary, but I had no problem with it.

At this point we have had no response from the Archbishop of Canterbury to the House of Bishops' resolutions. I do not know whether the Archbishop and the Primates plan to proceed in establishing a "Pastoral Council," or appointing a "Primatial Vicar," or implementing a "Pastoral Scheme."

In all honesty, I cannot imagine that the ministry of a "Primatial Vicar" would be welcome in most parts of The Episcopal Church, given the way the Bishops distanced themselves from what was proposed in the Communique.

I have told you of my communication with both the Archbishop and the Presiding Bishop, and as soon as I have any clear sense of what is next I will share it with you.

I believe there will be a third meeting of the "Windsor Bishops," and if there is, I will attend. But there may be those who question its importance, given the events of the last few weeks. I do not know whether the Windsor Bishops will be able to act in a concerted effort.

I promise I will do absolutely everything I can to implement the proposals of the Primates in their Communique from Tanzania. But the best I can do may not be enough.

The canons of The Episcopal Church define the role of the Standing Committee in these terms: "There shall be a Standing Committee which shall be a Council of Advice to the Bishop." They do not envision the Standing Committee setting policy for a Diocese. The canons go on to state that: "The Diocesan Convention shall be the legislative Authority of the Diocese." It is the Convention, and in between Conventions, the Diocesan Board, that sets policy for a Diocese.

Thus, it is important to understand that the Standing Committee has spoken for itself, and not necessarily for the Diocese of Central Florida. We will simply have to see how this unfolding scenario continues to unfold. I do appreciate this Statement, and I look forward to our time together next Wednesday when we shall see where all the clergy are on this important matter.

Warmest regards in our Lord,
The Right Rev. John W. Howe,

Episcopal Bishop of Central Florida