Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Getting ready



It's almost Christmas, and the Saintly household is almost ready. Not that we will actually be ready, but Christmas comes anyway.

Saint Pat and Molly wish you a Merry Christmas









The Saintly social secretary does, too



And Shamu (AKA Elvis) says, "Peace on Earth, Baby!"



We should have an interesting Christmas. More to come ...

Saturday, December 12, 2009

When a cat and a dog meet: forbidden love


He walked into the house. Their eyes locked, then so did their lips. It was love at first sight.

That was more than five years ago, and they're still in love — Jack the Brat cat and Molly McGuire, the Best Dog in the Whole Wide World.



She was an older woman who cared for the injured young cat, like in a Hemingway story. He vowed to stay by her side forever.

His kin sniffed at the relationship. Her kin would have liked to have him for breakfast. Society frowned. The church refused to bless their union.

Yet, here they are, still together, after all these years. They are a bit older now. Molly's face has grown whiter. Jack is entering middle age.

Their love remains steadfast.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Cattitude




"What? Are you talkin' to me???"

Jack the Brat

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

St. Matthew tells it like it is


You go, Matthew.

That's one saint who sometimes went on a rip.

The hypocrisy Matthew talked about is still alive today. Shockingly, some can even be found in pulpits. Yes. Our parish is fortunate that the poor matter, and not just the people who can make the big contributions.

For, it's not the tithe or the gold or the check that's brought to the altar that is holy. Those things are not to be worshipped. It is God, who inhabits the sanctuary, who is holy. He will sanctify us and our offerings.

Meanwhile, we strain out a gnat, but swallow a camel. Yes, our priorities are skewed.

Hypocrisy is alive and well these 2,000 years later. I see it on the dais at city council meetings - the council member who delights in telling the audience how he is there for "the people," but treats people badly and makes it nearly impossible for them to contact him with their cares and concerns.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Here's today's reading from the Gospel of Matthew:

Matt. 23:13-26 (NRSV)

13 'But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them 15Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves 16'Woe to you, blind guides, who say, "Whoever swears by the sanctuary is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gold of the sanctuary is bound by the oath."

17You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the sanctuary that has made the gold sacred? 18And you say, "Whoever swears by the altar is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gift that is on the altar is bound by the oath." 19How blind you are! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred?

20So whoever swears by the altar, swears by it and by everything on it; 21and whoever swears by the sanctuary, swears by it and by the one who dwells in it; 22and whoever swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by the one who is seated upon it.

23'Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. 24You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!

25'Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean.

The Word of the Lord.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Waiting in faith


Yesterday, I lit the second Advent candle.

This is another version of "O Come Emmanuel," with some beautiful art to remind us of the magnitude of the promise.

My soul sings; my soul waits in silence


Yes, my soul does both in the span of a day.

Zeph. 3:14

Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!

Canticle 15 The Song of Mary
Magnificat Luke 1:46-55

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; *
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed: *
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him *
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm, *
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, *
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things, *
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel, *
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
The promise he made to our fathers, *
to Abraham and his children for ever.


From Psalm 62 Nonne Deo


1 For God alone my soul in silence waits; *
from him comes my salvation.

2 He alone is my rock and my salvation, *
my stronghold, so that I shall not be greatly shaken.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Christmas parade



It's the annual small-town spectacle of tradition: the Christmas parade. Molly (AKA Betsy, the Best Dog in the Whole Wide World) and Saint Pat were ready for it.


Saint Pat and Molly: ready to roll



Molly loves parades - especially being in them, but she likes the spectacle in any manner in which she can participate.


We met Mr. T at his office, and fortified with a shot of expresso fortified with antifreeze to ward off the unusual chill, headed to the Boulevard.



Mr. T heart Molly, too
:


You won't see huge balloon-animals or hundred-thousand dollar floats. It's no Macy's parade. Instead, you see kids, kids, kids - school groups, bands, gymnastics classes, ROTC, you name it.. And politicians. And church and civic groups. Veterans. Animal groups. Dance groups. Just about anybody with a pickup truck and a flatbed. Or a big convertible.
It's a lot of fun.


Kids and manger scenes:



The middle-school band


One float featured the barking dog version of "Jingle Bells." Molly woofed along with it. She also barked at every dog she saw. She got loose one time, and ran out into the parade. The spectators weren't good disciplinarians — they applauded her.
Molly had a great time. So did we.

The Christmas holiday season now has begun officially.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Waiting ... o please come, o Lord



Here's an interesting version of my favorite piece of Advent music.



From this morning's Daily Office reading, Amos 5:

For thus says the LORD to the house of Israel: Seek me and live ... The one who made the Pleiades and Orion, and turns deep darkness into the morning, and darkens the day into night, who calls for the waters of the sea, and pours them out on the surface of the earth, the LORD is his name ... Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and so the LORD, the God of hosts, will be with you, just as you have said. Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the LORD, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

I know you, oh Lord who made the Peiades and Orion. I wait for you with joy building in my heart and hope fluttering like a bird in my soul. I know you will be gracious, o lover of souls.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Giving thanks for the Earth, and mending our ways?



From today's morning prayers, a reminder that the Earth belongs to God — all of it, from the seas to the deep caverns of the earth.

We're gonna have some 'splaining to do about the way we're treating the Divine Real Estate, I think. Can we mend our ways?

And let's give thanks for his goodness and mercy:

Venite Psalm 95:1-7

Come let us sing to the Lord; *
let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation.

Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving *
and raise a loud shout to him with psalms.

For the Lord is a great God, *
and a great King above all gods.

In his hand are the caverns of the earth, *
and the heights of the hills are his also.

The sea is his, for he made it, *
and his hands have molded the dry land.

Come, let us bow down, and bend the knee, *
and kneel before the Lord our Maker.

For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand. *
Oh, that today you would hearken to his voice!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Midnight music



"I want a shot at redemption."

Paul Simon

Monday, November 30, 2009

The advent of Advent


Now we're in the season of Advent. Advent means a coming. In the liturgical calendar, it's the season preceding Christmas. We're awaiting Jesus' coming or birth. It's a time of expectant waiting, of anticipation and preparation.

It's a time of affirmation, too. Of saying "Yes!" to God.

Mary did. The first chapter of the Gospel of Luke tells us of Gabriel's visit to Mary. He told her of the child she would bear:

"How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?"

The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.


Some translations use "hover" instead of overshadow.

I picture the Holy Spirit hovering over Mary, as a parent hovers over a child at a crucial moment, tenderly tending to her, preparing her body and strengthening her spirit for what was to come. Then, the divine reaches into Mary, who inmost being is well known, and touches something. There! It begins. This new life on Earth, planned since the beginning, begins.

And we read the parallel in the first chapter of Genesis:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.


The Spirit hovered over the deep, preparing it. Then, the Spirit moved. Divine power touched the void. The Earth was formed, the dome of the sky separated from the deep, and life began to bud.

Two beginnings, closely allied, and a God who calls forth new life.

Back to Mary.

I wonder what she thought, as the next months passed. She must have hugged her secret to herself, marveling. Anxiety and excitement must have mixed in near equal portions, though Gabriel told her not to fear.

She was expectantly waiting for a miracle she knew would come. She didn't know just how the future would unfold after she gave birth to the child she was told to name Jesus, but she raced toward it, eagerly.

We now push toward Christmas, eagerly, expecting the miraculous.


Sign of the time


Ah, we are foolish, always seeking signs and wonders, when they're all around us, if we but look.

Look at my Christmas cactus, for example, loaded with buds that are beginning to bloom, heralding the approach of Christmas:

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Giving thanks for a good Thanksgiving



I sit here full from the third Thanksgiving dinner in three days and say, "Thank you Lord."

Thank you for good friends. Thank you for the hearty affirmation to a call to ministry from my parish family, especially some wonderful vestry members and Fr. R. What will happen is up in the air, as the Bish is alarmed by my advanced age. Whatever happens, I will remember the affirmation I got, even and especially from a person or two from whom it came as a surprise.

Thank you that I'm feeling well.

Last year, I was sick and spent the day alone, sacked out on the sofa coughing. I had a virus that got hold of me and didn't let loose for a couple of months. Now, I'm not only not sick, I have more energy than I've had in a while. As a result, my house is cleaner, and I'm blogging more often.

Thank you, Lord for everything. For, all good things come from you.

Here's how Thanksgiving went down: I came home from work Wednesday and cleaned up the house. I cleaned out and baked two pumpkin squash, so they'd be ready to cook with the next morning.

I got up Thanksgiving morning and made pumpkin pies and spicy pumpkin soup. (Yes, I love pumpkin.) I was afraid the thinner pie overcooked, so of course, I had to taste test it. It was delicious, and so was the other one.






Mr. T. brought over a fresh turkey. He wanted to cook it on the grill, so he went at it on the patio, while inside, I started mashed potatoes, dressing, green beens, and a broccoli-peas-and-carrot mixture.




Smokin'




My charcoal kettle-grill was a little small for the turkey. The lid wouldn't close over it properly. We brought it inside after a while; I wrapped it in aluminum foil and baked it in the oven to make sure it cooked through. The turkey came out wonderfully — with the smoky taste from the grill, done through and juicy and tender.

We ate leftovers Friday night.

Today, I spent the afternoon/early evening with friends who always do a big-family Thanksgiving get-together on the Saturday after. More feasting and fellowship. Then, home to my snug house.


Thank you Lord, for so many good things.


And the animals, who got turkey and more attention than usual with me at home for the holiday and Mr. T visiting, said, "Amen."

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Wet dog day


Speaking of dogs, somebody in the Saintly household really needed a B-A-T-H. (It's the word we dare not utter here.)






Luckily for me, the Best Dog in the Whole Wide World isn't one to carry a grudge.

















And often, I find, forgiveness is K-9.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Amen and Bow Wow


Thanks to my friend Patricia, who sent me a link to this — GoD And DoG. Take a look:





Molly/Betsy is my canine daily reminder of God's love and presence in my life. She is a true source of unconditional love:

Of war and peace; Armistice Day and Veterans Day



Armistice Day (Veterans' Day) (11 Nov 1918)

Today, we remember Martin of Tours, who traded his sword for a Bible. May we follow his example:

Martin of Tours, 11 November 397
written by James Kiefer

Martin was born around 330 of pagan parents. His father was a soldier, who enlisted Martin in the army at the age of fifteen.

One winter day he saw an ill-clad beggar at the gate of the city of Amiens. Martin had no money to give, but he cut his cloak in half and gave half to the beggar. (Paintings of the scene, such as that by El Greco, show Martin, even without the cloak, more warmly clad than the beggar, which rather misses the point.) In a dream that night, Martin saw Christ wearing the half-cloak.

He had for some time considered becoming a Christian, and this ended his wavering. He was promptly baptized. At the end of his next military campaign, he asked to be released from the army, saying: "Hitherto I have faithfully served Caesar. Let me now serve Christ." He was accused of cowardice, and offered to stand unarmed between the contending armies. He was imprisoned, but released when peace was signed.

He became a disciple of Hilary of Poitiers, a chief opponent in the West of the Arians, who denied the full deity of Christ, and who had the favor of the emperor Constantius. Returning to his parents' home in Illyricum, he opposed the Arians with such effectiveness that he was publicly scourged and exiled. He was subsequently driven from Milan, and eventually returned to Gaul. There he founded the first monastary in Gaul, which lasted until the French Revolution.

In 371 he was elected bishop of Tours. His was a mainly pagan diocese, but his instruction and personal manner of life prevailed. In one instance, the pagan priests agreed to fell their idol, a large fir tree, if Martin would stand directly in the path of its fall. He did so, and it missed him very narrowly. When an officer of the Imperial Guard arrived with a batch of prisoners who were to be tortured and executed the next day, Martin intervened and secured their release.

In the year 384, the heretic (Gnostic) Priscillian and six companions had been condemned to death by the emperor Maximus. The bishops who had found them guilty in the ecclesiastical court pressed for their execution. Martin contended that the secular power had no authority to punish heresy, and that the excommunication by the bishops was an adequate sentence. In this he was upheld by Ambrose, Bishop of Milan. He refused to leave Treves until the emperor promised to reprieve them. No sooner was his back turned than the bishops persuaded the emperor to break his promise; Priscillian and his followers were executed. This was the first time that heresy was punished by death.

Martin was furious, and excommunicated the bishops responsible. But afterwards, he took them back into communion in exchange for a pardon from Maximus for certain men condemned to death, and for the emperor's promise to end the persecution of the remaining Priscillianists. He never felt easy in his mind about this concession, and thereafter avoided assemblies of bishops where he might encounter some of those concerned in this affair. He died on or about 11 November 397 (my sources differ) and his shrine at Tours became a sanctuary for those seeking justice.

The Feast of Martin, a soldier who fought bravely and faithfully in the service of an earthly sovereign, and then enlisted in the service of Christ, is also the day of the Armistice which marked the end of the First World War. On it we remember those who have risked or lost their lives in what they perceived as the pursuit of justice and peace.


Prayer

Lord God of hosts, who clothed your servant Martin the soldier With the spirit of sacrifice, and set him as a bishop in your Church to be a defender of the catholic faith: Give us grace to follow in his holy steps, that at the last we may be found clothed with righteousness in the dwellings of peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


From the Daily Office:

Canticle 11 The Third Song of Isaiah
Surge, illuminare Isaiah 60:1-3, 11a, 14c, 18-19

Arise, shine, for your light has come, *
and the glory of the Lord has dawned upon you.

For behold, darkness covers the land; *
deep gloom enshrouds the peoples.

But over you the Lord will rise, *
and his glory will appear upon you.

Nations will stream to your light, *
and kings to the brightness of your dawning.

Your gates will always be open; *
by day or night they will never be shut.

They will call you, The City of the Lord, *
The Zion of the Holy One of Israel.

Violence will no more be heard in your land, *
ruin or destruction within your borders.

You will call your walls, Salvation, *
and all your portals, Praise.

The sun will no more be your light by day; *
by night you will not need the brightness of the moon.

The Lord will be your everlasting light, *
and your God will be your glory.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

Monday, November 09, 2009

As for me, give me single-payer insurance any day


Health care should be a right in our country

Visit http://Wormwood's Doxy. She has a terrific post on the scummy tactics the health-insurance industry is using in the fight over health-insurance reform.

Let's face it. Insurance companies are not there to help you get needed health care. They exist for one reason: to make a profit, just like any other corporation.

Covering claims cuts into profit. It makes insurance companies unhappy, so they try to avoid it.

The whole idea behind insurance was the law of large numbers. The theory was, a lot of people could band together and put money in a pot. Then, there was money to cover rebuilding the house that burned down, for example.

The insurance companies like the "large number" parts. Only they want large numbers who don't file claims. That's why we have government insurance - Medicare - for the retired. They're kinda prone to needing health care. Never mind all the money they put into the pot without filing claims when they were younger. The insurance companies didn't want them, so it's ok for a single-payer system for them.

It's all about profit.

Even if you have insurance, it's a nightmare. File a claim, and find out about all kinds of co-pays and out-of-pocket expenses you never expected. Call the company to inquire, and get a different answer from each customer-service rep you speak to as to why something wasn't covered, or why you had to pay a lot out of pocket for something that was supposed to be covered.

Get hit with the unthinkable, a cancer that won't respond to any conventional treatments. Go to a respected cancer-treatment center in the U.S. to enroll in promising clinical trials, and find out your insurance covers zip, even though your doctors sent you there because it's your only chance. Doesn't matter - not covered.

Or, find yourself unemployed. Then, you lose your group health coverage, and can't afford to buy it privately. It's one more blow, and one more worry. I volunteer at a local faith-based free clinic for the broke uninsured, and I see them.

First, they got laid off. Then, they lost their home, then got sick. They're terrified.

According to statistics garnered by Associated Press, about 4 million Americans, many of whom never expected to find themselves needing these services, are expected to visit the nation's 1,200 free health clinics this year. At the same time, clinics are dealing with loss of revenue due to the economy.

Even if there's a free clinic for routine health care, you're SOL if you need to go to the hospital, or need treatments the free clinic can't provide.

In one of the wealthiest countries in the world, people can't get basic health care. There's no reason for this.

Health care should be a community service, just like law enforcement or public schools, which we should not allow to be handed over to private companies, either.

Private enterprise is a good thing, for the most part. Life and death and who gets medical care should not be determined by the profit motive.

There won't be serious reform unless we, the people, get mad enough to demand it and vote out of office lawmakers who only give it lip service.

Are you up for the revolution?

Friday, November 06, 2009

Amazing



In the summer, the Central Florida heat and humidity obscure the star field. On these cooler, clearer fall evenings, I get a gorgeous view of the night sky on the road home.

The sky hints at all the stars my Cousin Gary captured in this photo:


This night, the stars are scattered across the dark sky like diamonds on black velvet, large and clear, sparking light at me. Too many to count. So close I want to raise up my hand, like a child, to touch them.

I know a little bit of the science of the universe. The stars have been there for billions and billions of years. Tonight, though, it seems like the stars were put there for me to find.

I stop and sit quietly with God, taking in the beauty of his work.

How marvelous are your works, Lord. Though they are beyond our ability to fully understand, you gave us the ability to appreciate the skill and artistry of your hand. You want us to share in the pleasure you take in such beauty.

Genesis 15:5
And he brought him outside and said, "Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them."

Job 26:7
He stretches out the north over empty space; He hangs the earth on nothing.

Psalm 8:3-5
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.

Amazing. Thank you, Lord.

Friday, October 02, 2009

St. Pat takes a vacation



Yes, it's true! The first in a long time!

I finished up the environmental-stewardship Bible study, which went very well, and took a vacation. It was more of a stay-cation.

My friend Mr. T. had a gift certificate for a stay at a hotel on the beach, which he said he didn't have time to use. He gave it to me.

Delirious view: the sun rises over the Atlantic

It was deliriously wonderful to get up in the morning with nothing more pressing to do than sit on my balcony with a a cuppa coffee and watch the sun rise. Then, I went beach-walking, swimming and relaxing.

Now I'm back at the grind.

My Sandhill Crane friends continue to visit, and they're a treat. I can't complain. Life is feeling pretty good.

video

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Betsy goes to the beach



Betsy is the best dog in the world, despite the fact she stays cooped up an awful lot while I'm away at work and play.

Sunday was her day. She got packed up into the car, and we headed for the doggy beach. It's only about 45 minutes away, but it seems hard to find time and/or energy to make the trip, and Betsy hasn't been in a good while.

Betsy scopes out the water.



She's not all that crazy about water. Sunday, however, she found a friendly Huskey who was playing in the water. I unleashed Betsy, and she splashed out to him.




She would run back to me once in a while, to make sure I wasn't leaving her, then it was back to her new friend. They ran around in the water.





Betsy met several other dogs, got lots of pets and compliments, and just enjoyed herself thoroughly.

She was a tired and happy camper when we got home.

We need more trips to the beach!!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A moment of bragging



My job doesn't pay much, and the benefits are minimal. So I'll take what I can get, and what I got was another Press Association award for writing - first place!

Yay. This makes several first-place awards, along with some second- and third-place awards in my arsenal.

I'd like to thank the association and my mommy and my friends and ....

(Thank you, Lord.)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Life on the river


We're in the heat and heart of a Florida summer. That means it's hot and humid, when it isn't roasting and sweltering.

The great thing about living next to a beautiful Florida river like the St. Johns is spending the evening on it. That's just what I did last night, with a few friends, like Mr. T here, who enjoyed a few brewskis and gator bites, as we sat on the deck at a little restaurant on the river, catching the river breeze and some good music.



In the water next to the deck, a baby 'gator bided his time, plotting revenge:

"Will you please share a little fish, or shrimp, or ... some ladyfingerrssss?"

Our table included a view of the boats coming in:


Meanwhile, consummate musician-songwriter Rog Lee sang songs of Florida:


A boy fished off the restaurant's dock:


Dusk watercolored the scene:


The colors deepened, as night began to fall:



Ah, the beautiful St. Johns. It's worth protecting.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Me and my rainbow


Or, the rainbow that followed me home


We had a movie night at church last night. It was potluck and Evan Almighty.

I love this movie about a modern-day Noah. I reviewed the movie here when I first saw it a couple of years ago.

A terrific storm moved through just about time the event was supposed to start - the kind with nasty black clouds, tornado warnings and the whole bit. I had to wait out the storm before I could get to the church, it was raining so hard.

At the end of the movie, there's a rainbow, just as in the Biblical story.

As I drove home afterward, I could see a huge rainbow in my rear-view mirror. The rainbow seemed to be following me. By the time I came off the highway to turn toward home, the rainbow was to the side of me, instead of behind me. The end of it could have been right over my house.

I snapped a picture out of my car window as I sat at the stop light, waiting to turn toward home. As evening was falling, the rainbow didn't show up as brilliantly as it did just a quarter-hour earlier, but it was there:


It was a reminder, like the stories of Noah, Moses, Ruth and others - God doesn't speak to just the "perfect" people. He speaks to all of us, and will use even us goofs and klutzes to do his will, in all our weaknesses.

The cynical will say the rainbow's appearance was just a coincidence. That it appeared to follow me, and stay with, all the way home, was nothing special. Just light through a prism.

I know better.

Friday, June 12, 2009

In the world



Here's the thing: I've been going through this calling thing, and talking to God about it a whole lot. It's drawing me very close.

These quiet moments, alone with my maker, are so precious. I want to spend more time like this.

Of course, the world goes on - the job always keeps me busy; I'm involved in a lot of things at church and fellowship with my friends there. Then, there's social life after work - going to hear great music with my friends.

I'm overflowing. It's all good. But ...

Maybe that's the way it's supposed to be. We are called to be in the world, but not of the world.

Sometimes, I'd like to be like Julian, an anchoress — reclusive and spending lots of time in prayer and contemplation. I could crawl out of my hidey-hole now and then, to share my visions.

I think I just have to make sure I have enough time for solitary prayer and meditation.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Who orders the stars, who brings the Milky Way spiraling past in the darkness?



It is only you, God.

From Job 38:

The LORD Speaks

1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm. He said:

2 "Who is this that darkens my counsel
with words without knowledge?

3 Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.

4 "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.

5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?

18 Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth?
Tell me, if you know all this.

19 "What is the way to the abode of light?
And where does darkness reside?

31 "Can you bind the beautiful Pleiades?
Can you loose the cords of Orion?

32 Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons
or lead out the Bear with its cubs?

33 Do you know the laws of the heavens?
Can you set up God's dominion over the earth?

Take a look at this.

Galactic Center of Milky Way Rises over Texas Star Party from William Castleman on Vimeo.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Green water



There’s a new spigot at my kitchen sink. It’s a small one, used just to provide drinking water.

I got it after talking to a friend who owns a water-lab company about the sorry water situation in Central Florida. The discussion evolved into problems with water in plastic bottles.

I live in the county, where I use well water. I’ve always been a little suspicious about drinking it, so I would buy drinking water at the store.

I try to conserve. I don’t water my bahia grass. I hardly ever wash my car. (That’s mainly due to laziness, but I’ll count it as conservation.)

I recycle and reuse.

I reused the big plastic jugs my favorite iced-tea comes in, filling them up with filtered water from the machines at Publix or Wal-Mart. I’d refill individual-size plastic bottles to carry water around with me.

Then, I got worried about the chemicals that leach from plastic containers into the water.

For a quick summary of concerns, go to About.com.

A local conservationist friend alerted me to the problems of estrogen-like compounds, both carcinogenic and messing with one’s hormonal system, that come from plastic bottles.

Plastic is everywhere, including around the water we drink.

It seems there’s no way to win. Everything’s going to do you in.

But the water-lab friend said a simple charcoal-filtration system, installed under my sink, would clean my well water just fine. Water should be stored in glass, not plastic.

Folks, we have become a truly plastic society. It’s hard to find any glass containers, except the old-fashioned jars used for putting up preserves. Everything is plastic.

A truly plastic society



I rooted around my garage and found a couple of gallon-wine containers made of glass, left over from parties several years ago, and cleaned them up. Now, I have cold water in the fridge, and a extra bottle of drinking water in the kitchen, for emergencies, in nice glass jugs.

No more lugging water in plastic jugs from the store.

That left only the problem of how to take “to go” water with me. Those nice chi-chi stainless-steel water bottles are expensive.

I found a stainless-steel bottle for $9.99 at my local Publix grocery store, and a free Publix shopping bag came with it.

I wanted stainless steel, not aluminum, because there have been health complications connected to use of aluminum pots and things. I’ve seen aluminum bottles some places.

I had checked out some of the online ads for stainless-steel bottles. Google the company before you order. Some have complaints about excessive shipping charges. Some have complaints about funny smells, etc. coming from the bottle.

There was no shipping charge for the bottle I bought last night, of course. I’m trying it out today, and there’s no funny taste or odor, and the price was good.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

40 days and 40 nights?



I woke up at 3:30 to the sound of rain, something I usually enjoy. Except this comes after a solid week of rain. More than 20 inches of it has fallen on some parts of the county - more than they got during Tropical Storm Fay.

We needed rain. Red flag warnings have been up for months, because of tinder-dry conditions. Now, the weather has taken us from dry to waterlogged. No moderation.

Pray for the people whose homes are flooding. Pray for moderate weather.

After terrible fires one summer, I promised not to complain about rain, so I'm just asking you for moderation, Lord. Make your face and the sun to shine on us. Comfort the flood-afflicted, and help them through this. Restore balance.

In your name's sake,

Amen.

UPDATE May 26 — The rain has slowed down to the more typical once a day shower or storm. It's giving floodwaters a chance to recede. It's good to see some blue sky and sun.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Hello, Crane!




And now, a break from the depressing news. More crane news!





These magnificent birds, Sandhill Cranes, have really made a comeback the past few years. This fellow (?) is one of a pair that stay around my neighborhood.

He — I think I'll call him Craniac — was in my front yard one morning last week, by himself.

Craniac looked at me inquisitively. I started talking to him in a soft tone of voice, and he cocked his head, as if listening intently. He calmly walked up to within a few feet of me.

We shared a communal moment together. It was a spiritual moment. Craniac tried to share what it's like to be a crane, and I tried to understand.

What magnificent birds!

Peace and joy

I've had many more moments of peace and even joy, lately. It's from making the decision to go forward with a call to ministry.

I don't know if I'll end up ordained. I know the process is bringing me closer to God, a benefit already realized.

I've been spending more quiet time in meditation, seeking God's wisdom and guidance. That can only be a good thing.

Peace and joy, out for now.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

One week, two saints



Arrggh! Here it is, May already. I was about to let two of my favorite female saints slip past - both have feast days this week. They are:

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.


Julian of Norwich

Friday (May 8) is the feast day for Dame Julian of Norwich. You know she's my fav, right up there with Mary Magdalene. I feel her spirit poking around in my psyche, sometimes, trying to find something of her.



Sometimes she succeeds, with teachings such as:

"This blessed friend is Jesus; it is his will and plan that we hang on to him, and hold tight always, in whatever circumstances; for whether we are filthy or clean is all the same to his love."

"Glad and merry and sweet is the blessed and lovely demeanour of our Lord towards our souls, for he saw us always living in love-longing, and he wants our souls to be gladly disposed toward him . . . by his grace he lifts up and will draw our outer disposition to our inward, and will make us all at unity with him, and each of us with others in the true, lasting joy which is Jesus."

When things get tough, as they are wont to do, I quote Julian under my breath: "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well." I say it like a breath prayer, over and over, and it's incredibly comforting.

On days when it all just seems too hard, Julian reminds me about God's will, not mine, and that I'm supposed to hang on tight to him, "in whatever circumstances."

One of Julian's writings I first read was her vision of God holding the Earth in his (or her) hand, and it was something as small as a hazelnut ("a small, brown nut") held in his mighty palm. He would never, ever lose it, but would treat it tenderly.





It takes my breath away how well this mystic of the Middle Ages understood the fragility of our island home, this fragile Earth.

Thank you, Mother Julian. I love you.

Julian is probably the best-loved of all the English mystics. She was born around 1342, and her feast day is observed May 8. She's believed to have died on that date around 1417.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Monday, minor miracles and water



It's back to work today. I'm headed out of town to cover a Water Management District hearing on a request to draw water out of the river for municipal use.

The fight is ongoing. Conservationists will be there to protest it. It's the beginning of a push to draw up to 260 million gallons a day (mgd) out of the little river. The conservationists will likely lose the fight. The matter has already gone before a state-administrative judge, who kicked the case back the Water Management District.

Another project, for a water-bottling plant to draw 500 mgd a day from wells drilled into the aquifer, will probably gain approval, too. That one isn't on today's agenda.

It is lunacy. Local governments are still promoting growth and development, while we're running out of usable water.

Here's the little miracle part:


Thursday, I was coming down with a cold. Friday morning, I was running a little temperature. The cough that hurts began to tear at my chest.

I kept praying, and drinking lots of water. I prayed through the noontime Good Friday service. I sipped water, as a guest pastor preached on "I thirst."

Friday evening, I took communion at the end of the service. I came home tired, but uplifted. I blogged, then to bed.

Around 4:30 in the morning, I woke up. A pervasive sense of wellbeing enveloped me. I lay in bed, luxuriating in it. After a while, I went back to sleep. I awoke with that same sense of wellbeing.

It's hard to explain that feeling. It's like a mountaintop experience -- knowing the Holy Spirit's immediate and enveloping presence, God's love washing over me. My awareness of it kicked up a few notches.

My cold symptoms were evaporating. There was no fever. The painful tightness in my chest was gone. Just a bit of a runny nose was all that was left. By Sunday, that was largely gone, too. I got through the service with repairing to the sacristy once to blow my nose. A miracle. I was able to participate in that Easter service. And it was special. Fr. R was full of the spirit, and it infected the congregation.

Now, this cold business may not seem like a miracle to a casual observer. But it is a miracle to me. It was God, expressing his love through the Eucharist and through water, which is life.

Which brings me back to today's topic: water.

It belongs to God. We are merely his stewards, looking after our master's Earth. He lets us use precious water to sustain life. How can we justify misusing it and destroying ecosystems and aquatic life, perhaps ultimately our own, in blindness and greed?

Lord, have mercy on us. Show us and our leaders what you would have us do.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday



It's a day of sorrow, suffering, shame and grief.

Jesus, God in flesh, speaks his last words, as he dies on the cross.

It's hard to begin to conceive what he endured for us.





Heartsickness awakens other griefs, new and old. I grieve not only Jesus, but all those I love but see no more. Dad, who died too young so many years ago, but who would have turned 85 this Lent. Karen, even younger, who died only two weeks and two days ago. All of them.

Bitterness is the taste in my mouth.

Sorrow is for the things we did to Jesus and the things we do today. Scratch us, some 2,000 years later, and find a barbarian just beneath the surface. We are so capable of the vilest actions.

Yet he loved us. He died loving us, despite what we did and do. He still loves us.

On God's Friday, I grieve. But joy comes in the morning.

Just as Jesus commended himself to his father's hands, so I commit myself and all those I love. In life and death, we are safe in his hands.

Sunday, we will receive a garland of praise and gladness.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, we pray you to set your passion, cross and death between your judgment and our souls, now and at the hour of our death. Give mercy and grace to the living; pardon and rest to the dead; to your holy Church peace and concord; and to us sinners everlasting life and glory; for with the Father and the Holy Spirit you live and reign, one God, now and forever. Amen. -- from The Book of Common Prayer

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Palm Sunday


This morning's service began outside the church. We went inside, waving bits of palm frond for Palm Sunday. Lucky for us, there's plenty of palms around here.

Joy seized me I entered the sanctuary. Joy was just there. I was full of joy, the joy of the Lord. It was amazing and wonderful. I'm still riding on that joy, despite dealing with some difficult things today.

I could picture myself on the road to Jerusalem so many years ago:


The air is a little cooler. I arch my neck into it, as I stand in the scant shade the palm tree provides.

Other than the breath of breeze, the road to Jerusalem is quiet. I am quiet, waiting, still.

I straighten my tired back. I want to stand tall and at attention, for I know he is coming. My savior is coming toward me.

I saw him before. I heard his words, and I cannot forget him. I've been waiting for him.

I watch, hand to brow to shade my eyes, as I peer into the distance.

Nothing. But I know he is coming. He is on his way to Jerusalem today.

At last, see a speck of white. It is a colt. Little puffs of dust raise from the colt's feet and around the ankles of the people walking behind the animal.

It is my lord who sits astride the colt.

The group draws closer.

Hosanna! My redeemer is here.

Joy fills me. It's depth surprises me. It fills me; it overflows me; it comes from the center of my being. I can almost feel it drip from my fingertips.

The Messiah is here. Hosanna! Hosanna!

I fall in at the back of the procession. I don't know how this journey will end, but I will follow him.


***

This disciple reminds of the one I wrote about a few years ago. Of course, this disciple is thee and me.


It started as a Maundy Thursday meditation, then grew into a story about a young disciple to whom I can relate -- of strong faith, yet sometimes foolish, and quick to succumb to despair. I think my own understanding grew through writing the story. The disciple is one of my favorite creations.

Here's the story, for those of you who haven't read it.

A disciple's tale


Maundy Thursday: Who will wash these feet?

Prologue, in the spiritual plane:

Feeling pissy, Satan asks, "For heaven's sake. If you're God, how can you demean yourself with their smelly, stinky feet?"

Jesus looks at him with pity, then says, "Humility fosters love, from both the giver and the recipient."

"Oh, fine." Satan says. "Just continue with this 'humble servant' bit. See where it gets you."

"You will see," replies Jesus. He sighs. "Most of the time, my disciples don't get it, either."

***
The Disciple's tale:

It had been a long week. Jesus came riding into the city as an honored prophet. Many accepted Jesus as our Messiah, and some continued their disbelief. Jesus had been saying some puzzling things that we did not understand, but tonight, we would relax and have this supper together.


It is the time of the Passover. As it is written in the Book of Genesis, "This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance."

It is the custom to bathe before coming to a banquet. We arrive clean, except for our feet, which get very dirty on the streets and roads. Usually, a servant will bring water to wash the guests' feet before the banquet.

We came in, and found our accustomed seats. We said prayers and sang songs just as we do every time we come together. Nothing seemed different tonight than any other night except that Judas was gone, and except that tonight, there was no one to bring water to wash our feet, and no one volunteered.

I thought about it, but didn't want to appear lower than my actual station, for I was a disciple, not a servant.

We proceeded with the meal. I was careful to keep my dirty feet out of sight. They discomforted me. I saw Jesus get up and wrap a towel around his waist.

He took a towel, bowl and basin and began to wash his disciples' feet. I drew back in embarrassment. I heard Peter protest, then acquiesce.

I lurked in the back in confusion, hoping to avoid notice.

These ugly feet were no fit offering to the Lord. I kept them tucked back, hidden from his sight.

Jesus approached me.

"Why then, Lord, are you now kneeling in front of me, like a servant? Are you going to wash my feet, too?" I asked. I was shocked.

"No, I can't allow that," I said.

My feet were caked with dirt, for I had been long on the road this day. My toenails were thick and uneven. The nails and cuticles of my toes were grimy. My feet were covered in thick calluses and dry, cracked, peeling skin. And more dirt.

Lord, I thought, I can't let you look upon these feet, much less touch them. You were not meant for this.

Jesus looked up at me.

I implored, "Ask something else of me, Lord, and I will give it, I will do it."

He gazed at me steadily. I saw love and compassion in his eyes, and I was smitten in return.

I knew he understood my embarrassment, my pride that made me want to hide these unattractive members from his sight. But he already knew. He had already seen.

Hesitantly, I pulled my feet from their hiding place.

The water sparkled as he poured it over my feet. I heard a soft murmuring and splashing of water.

Layer by the layer, he washed the grime away. The water was soothing, relaxing. I felt the blood moving through my feet, my hands, my heart. I floated into this renewal.

Jesus' hands healed the cuts and sores on my feet. He held my feet as he carefully dried them with the towel. My feet were clean and warm.

Who am I that my Lord should tend to me as a servant?

No one. Yet he makes me worthy.

I am filled with a deep peace.

Thank you Lord, for this gift.

This is what happened with the Lord on the night of Passover. He taught us.

What I received from the Lord, I hand on to you. Let me look upon you with Christ's eyes, see you with Christ's love, treat you with Christ's humility. Allow me now to follow Christ's example of servanthood. Allow me to wash your feet.

We will be blessed if we do these things for each other.

Saturday morning

Where is my God?

How can it be that my Lord is dead? I thought that cruel execution would be stopped. I prayed for it to be stopped. Yet my Lord is dead.

How could you have left me? How could you have forsaken me?

I am desolate with grief.

People on the streets snicker and say, "Where is your Lord now?"

I don't think I can even stand, yet I run from their sneering faces. I run from the image of the blood-soaked figure, lifeless, as his mother croons over him. That image has the force a thousand knives plunged into my heart. I run from it.

I run like a dog who has lost its master, loping this way then that, pawing the ground, panting with thirst.

I stop in a grove of olives. I rend my shirt. I claw at my chest until I see drops of bright, red blood fall to the ground. Yet there is no atonement for what was done. I am sick in my soul.

My Lord, my Lord, have you left us? How could you abandon us?

The sunlight is dull and wan. I watch until nightfall, and there are no stars.

I cannot sleep. Oh God, grant me death, too. My face is stiff with tears that brought no comfort, and still I cannot sleep.

I stumble back into the city, avoiding the soldiers and the mockers, and ask where they have taken my Lord. I find the tomb. I sit and lean against the stone wall.

Was it only two nights ago that we broke bread? You washed my feet. I look at them now and they are filthy and bloody.

My Lord, where have you gone?

I will wait here for whatever is to come. I lean against the cold stone, and at last, I sleep.


Saturday night, Sunday morning

Listen to my story:

I sleep against the hard stone of the tomb of my Lord Jesus, called the Messiah, who had been crucified and buried. A couple of guards come by and poke at me, but I refuse to move. I am too exhausted and too grieved to care. If they take my life, so much the better. I no longer need it.

I go back to sleep.

"Disciple, wake up. Arise," comes a voice.

I float up to consciousness from a very deep place.

"Awake. Your Lord needs you."

A creature stands before me, luminous in the dark. It is beautiful, the creature, but very strange. Almost like a man, but not. I have trouble seeing it properly. Its glow makes it hard for me to focus on it.

The world is moving in odd ways.

It speaks. "Don't go fainting on me. You have work to do."

The creature touches the stone in front of the tomb. It rumbles away from the entrance to the cave.

Listen. I see the risen Lord.

He walks toward me. He is beautiful, so beautiful. He glows with a luminosity much greater than that of the creature beside me.

It is him.

I can see the empty funeral linens behind Him.

He's dressed in white. He moves with a fluid grace. I don't know how this could be, but it is.

He has risen. He shines in glory. I see it with my own eyes.

Listen to the good news.

I remember what He said about the three days. I hadn't understood.

With one scarred hand, He touches my forehead. Peace comes over me.

"Tell the others when they come. Disciple, you will make disciples. Tell your story."

I can only say yes.

I kneel. He puts His hand on the top of my head for a moment, then walks past me in radiance.

My clothes are now beautiful and white. The wound on my chest is gone. My feet are clean and soft, and my skin is as fine as a child's.

He has done many miraculous things. This is the most miraculous.

"Wait here for the others," says the creature who had awakened me. It only can have been an angel.

I sit on top of the stone, waiting and examining my new clothes and my new skin, when the Roman guards come back. I enjoy their confusion over the open tomb.

"Are you looking for Jesus of Nazareth?" I ask in my best and most holy of voices. I chortle at the guards'confusion.

They look into the cave and then look at me in my new appearance with their mouths open, not recognizing the disciple they tried to roust a little earlier.

"He is not here. He is gone. An angel came and moved the stone with one finger. Now he is risen and he is gone."

I am now laughing, holding my sides. I realize this is joy, come back into the world.

"He died, but he rose again. He will never forsake us." I lift my arms. "Share my joy!"

The guards back carefully away from me, then run up the path from the tomb.

I sit rocking myself, singing, praying and praising and laughing through the night. I wait until I see Mary Magdalene on the path, then I jump down from the stone, landing lightly on my feet, ready to tell her the good news.

***

Listen, all of you, to my testimony and we shall make disciples of many, for Jesus Christ is alive. He brings life and salvation.

Hosanna!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A death in the family



The past five days have all run together. My best friends who are like family to me, lost their grown daughter. They still don't have the word on cause of death.

My friends are still in shock and anger. They have been able to count on friends surrounding them and helping them with the details. It hasn't all really sunk in. K had two small children they will be raising, and they've had a lot to keep them preoccupied.

I was fond of K, and haven't even wrapped my own mind around the fact she's dead.

After making the funeral arrangements, her father said nobody should have to do that for his own child. He's right.

Tomorrow, or rather later today, is the funeral. I'm supposed to do a Bible reading and speak, which I'm happy I can do.

Keep my friends and their family in your prayers. The hardest part is just beginning.

God who comforts those who mourn in Zion,
comfort this mourning family.
You know the despair of losing a beloved child;
Help them heal. Hold this family close
and shelter them under your wing.
Give them your peace.
In the name of your son, our savior
Jesus Christ, Amen.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Here I am, Lord



Here I am, awake since 4 o'clock this morning, thinking, praying.

Last night was a milestone. I have been talking to Father R about vocation. Last night, he brought it up to the vestry. Their response was largely enthusiastic.

Many seemed to be expecting it. Or at least expecting something -- a discussion about either the diaconate or the priesthood. I've been hearing priesthood. This has been going on for a good five years. Now, I've been hearing 'NOW.' So, the discussions with Father R and going public.

Now, the tough stuff starts, that whole discernment process. Whether the diocese and a parish discernment committee will hear the same call for me remains to be seen.

It's in God's hands. All I can do is be obedient, and pray for the right outcome. I will go wherever God wants me. Or stay.

Keep me in your prayers.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Bizarro news: Justice, or at least the eyewitness, is blind



The e-mail came in with the subject line "WRONGFULLY INCARCERATED, RECENTLY EXONERATED BREVARD RESIDENT WILLIAM DILLON SPEAKS TO THE PUBLIC SATURDAY, MARCH 7, 2009"

Then, one reads in the text of the e-mail:

The state's case against Dillon was based largely on the testimony of an admitted perjurer who had a sexual liaison with the case's lead investigator during the investigation, a fraudulent dog scent expert, a partially blind eyewitness and an individual whose own charges in a rape case were dropped in exchange for his testimony, which included numerous details at odds with known facts in the case.

Poor Mr. Dillon, who served 27 years for murder.

How bad was this guy's lawyer, I wonder? Or what WAS the deal in Brevard County, Florida? It took examination of DNA evidence to get him off?

How does one become a fraudulent dog-scent expert? What about a one-eyed eyewitness?

Acchhh. So many questions.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Florida: Where the environment will bite you in the butt



I just can't resist this. It made me smile.







It came in an e-mail dealing with very serious issues -- the water shortage in Florida. At this point, it's more perceived than actuality, but cities and county governments are looking down the road and seeing population growth, and at the same time, less water available from their wells.

Alternatives being discussed include tapping a low, slow-flowing river like the St. Johns to building an ocean-water desalinization plant off the coast. Miles and miles of pipe would crisscross the peninsula, shifting water from one locale to another.

The problem is, small changes in the environment can have enormous consequences. Salt and pollutants filtered from treatment plants would be dumped back into the river or ocean, raising salinity levels. Lowering the level of the river-and-lake system will affect plant, aquatic and animal life. What about years of drought, when those water levels are already lower than usual? Who gets the water? The river or thirsty people? (Or their thirsty lawns?)

I could go on, but I won't, here.

None of the politicians want to talk about limiting growth.

Perhaps fortunately for the environment, the tanking of both the economy and the Central Florida housing market has slowed growth -- without political interference.

The population will likely shrink when water from desal plants costs $9 a gallon, I suppose.

Friday, February 13, 2009

More health stuff



WARNING: GROSS STUFF DISCUSSED. NOT FOR THE EASILY QUEASY.

Addendum Feb. 18 - Now the gastroenterologist wants me to come back for lower GI X-rays. Seems there was a portion of my gut, the caecum, he couldn't get a look at. He couldn't find the markers to take a look. And, with the large polyp (about an inch long, he said) removed, he wants to get a look, to make sure nothing else is lurking up there.

Anybody else been through all this?

PREVIOUSLY POSTED

Along with the blood test, which revealed diabetes, (see earlier post) my doctor sent me for an eye exam, a mammogram and a colonoscopy.

Results of the eye exam were good - I have just middle-aged eyes, with no damage caused by blood sugar.

Results of the mammogram and colonoscopy were along the lines of "ok for now, but..." which is good news, all things considered.

Because I hadn't had a mammogram, they want me to get another one in six months, so they can compare lymph nodes in my left breast, to see if they are growing. Sigh. But it could be worse. There's also some "granular matter" which I gather isn't bad in itself.

When I went in for the colonoscopy, I told them they better make it good, 'cause they weren't going to get me back for another one!

The night before, drinking vile solution to clean out my bowels, was a night of hell. The directions said I would have a "bowel movement" after about an hour of starting the stuff, of which I was supposed to drink a glass every 10 minutes.

I didn't have a "bowel movement" (their euphemism for explosive diarrhea) for a good two hours, and thought my stomach was going to pop.

Once I started, I couldn't stop. It was wretched. To add insult to injury, I was supposed to give myself an enema the next morning. I made my best effort.

In contrast, the procedure was a piece of cake. I watched them inject sleepy-time juice into my IV, and I was out like a light. I had a very nice nap, until the nurse woke me up. She told me the doctor removed a large polyp (growth) from my colon.

Waiting for the biopsy on it made this week a long one, but I finally heard the results this morning. I had a tuberovillous adenoma. It's a tumor that isn't cancerous, but could become so if left in place.

I'm to meet with the doctor next week to go over things. From what I googled today, it will mean more frequent colonoscopies to come. Another sigh.

The two "okay for now" things is a little bit worrying. But I think I'm lucky – or it was the spirit at work – that I got so sick and went to the doctor when I did.

Thank you, Lord. As always, you shadowed me under your wing, and protected me. Thank you again for your graciousness.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Parish goes mad, elects Saint Pat



Yes, gentle readers. That was the other thing going on while Saint Pat was discovering the big "D." Saint Pat got elected to the vestry at her church.

There was a whole new slate of us, just about, so it wasn't too hard. A couple of people nominated me, and there was no opposition. It ain't easy getting people to run for vestry, I figure.

It will be interesting. I believe we have a good vestry. We'll have to be able to work together to bring our parish through these trying times. Like just about every parish, we're struggling with dwindling finances and other assorted problems.

Our former rector asked me about running for the vestry a few years ago, but experiences at my former parish were still too fresh in my mind. I ran screaming.

Now, well, fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

I'm praying I'll be a blessing to the parish I've grown to love so much.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Nose-to-nose with the big "D"

Elvis the cat isn't the only one in the Saintly household facing a change.

St. Pat has the big "D" -- diabetes. She's doing the finger prick and glucose check every morning, and taking medication.

It's the type 2 diabetes that can be controlled largely through diet and exercise, and losing weight, which I'm doing.

I'm guessing I've had it for a few years. I hadn't had a real physical in a good dozen years.

Something hadn't been right with me for a while, and it was getting worse. That virus that was going may have spiked it up -- I was sick from the middle of November until after the first of the year.

The doctor sent me off to a lab for some tests, and her office called me a few days after I got them. I was to go get another blood test right away. A follow-up doctor's appointment was already scheduled for me. There was no "Will this date work for you." Just "Get in here."

So, there I was, and here I am.

It could have been the big "C" or something I couldn't do anything about. I can do something about this. It's God's way of dealing with me.

You see, I had been praying for God to help me in my struggle to lose weight and get healthier. I believe this was his wake-up call, to spur me into action.

My blood sugar has been dropping steadily the past 10 days, though it's not quite yet to where it should be. Patience. I'm losing weight and working myself back into regular exercise.

And working to remember to take the medication. That's the hard part - I'm not used to taking prescriptions, just a vitamin when I think of it. But I have to be on a regular schedule with medications and foods.

I was in a Catch-22 -- the more fatigued you feel, the less you want to exercise, and the less you exercise, the more fatigued you become.

Extreme fatigue is one of the symptoms of diabetes.

The diet hasn't been bad. It's a healthy one -- leaner proteins, lots of healthy vegetables -- complex carbohydrates -- and simple ones here and there. I'm dropping weight.

No, Padre Mickey!!! I'm not going to start eating a steady diet of steak tartare! I don't care if raw meat cured Sra. Chompita's metabolic problems!!

I've been curing my chocoholic tendencies by eating a piece of sugar-free dark chocolate now and then, and sometimes, sugar-free chocolate ice cream for dessert.

And I feel a lot better than I have in a good while.

Thank you, Lord, for not putting me in the belly of a whale.

Thank you for looking after me, and getting me to the doctor, even when I didn't want to go. Thank you for the medical advances that are helping me and so many others.

Thank you for getting me on the road to better health.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Cat speaks out about inhumane treatment



It's a new year, and a lot new is going on. First, though, an update from last year. Elvis (see black-and-white cat in previous post's photo) has a grievance to air.

Elvis speaks

I want to tell the world of the indignity inflicted on me and my comrade Jack these past few months.

Now, I know I'm a bit on the portly side, but that's as it should be, for a cat of my stature.

The indignity began when the Saintly One got some wild idea about taking me to the vet, and put me in a defective cat-carrier for transport. As she lifted the carrier to put me in the car, it just fell apart. It was none of my doing. It was clearly defective workmanship in these newer, more cheaply made carriers that just snap together. It was workmanship, not my weight that was the problem.

Anyway, the carrier split apart, and I came tumbling out. The Saintly One quickly grabbed me and put me back in the horrid thing. She drove to the vet's office, where she carried it and me in, holding the carrier in her arms, instead of grasping its handle.

The vet's staff seemed to think that was pretty amusing. Then they weighed me, all glorious 24 pounds of me, and shock spread over their faces.

The vet took on a stern tone and said I simply must lose weight. Humph. The vet used no tact or sensitivity to my feelings. She sold the Saintly One some simply ghastly raw, frozen food for me and Jack to eat.

Oh, it was horrible. Jack and I both curled our lips at this stuff, which was billed as being like what cats in the wild would eat. Yucchhh. We are sophisticated housecats, thank you very much, not some kind of barbarians! We wouldn't even eat it when she cooked it for us.

We planned our strategies. We refused to eat the stuff, no, not even any kibble that brushed past it. Jack was most adamant about it, and lost a noticeable amount of weight. I timed it so I could steal food out of the dog's dish. Despite my efforts, I lost some weight.

Finally, the Saintly One gave up on the vet's stuff, either raw or cooked. She cooked it and fed it to the dog, Betsy, who refused to act in solidarity with us, and ate it like it was good. Paugh.

I eagerly looked forward to the return of our regular rations, but they remained small. My heart soared when the Saintly One came in with some canned cat food, but alas, she added only little bits of that to our diet.

Betsy caught on to my pilfering out of her dish, and guards it vigilantly now.

I've had no chance. I've lost some of my glorious girth.

Oh, I've worked hard to save it. For example, I stomp up and down the length of the Saintly One while she lies sleeping, in a vain attempt to get her to get up and add food to my dish. She just knocks me away.

I eat my canned food quickly and go for Jack's, but I'm not always successful at getting it. Then, I eat the dry food.

I beg and beg, but my normal rations have not been restored. I'm just a shadow of my former self.

Is this any way to treat a dignified, 10-year-old cat? I ask you.

I'm calling on all cats to support me. Start sending cards and letters to the Saintly One, demanding this inhumane treatment stop now.

NOW!