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.


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.


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


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.