Sunday, April 29, 2007

Keeping a Low Profile

A friend recently sent me this. (Sorry I couldn't delete the expletive. I'm not that adept with PhotoShop.)

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The 8th Weird Thing

Some of you will recall that I got tagged by the 6 Weird Things meme recently, and I had a really difficult time whittling my list down to merely six. I added a 7th here. And as I go through my days, I find myself recalling that meme from time to time.

Saturday for me is usually my hunting-and-gathering day – the day on which I run errands and do shopping. Today was one of those. As I lugged my "kills" into my home this afternoon and began putting things away, my hand was frozen as I placed two items side by side in the produce bin of my refrigerator. They were these two delightful signs of spring.

Yes, I'm a fool for asparagus, and I give thanks we're in that time of year when the price becomes reasonable for a while. I can easily eat a pound all by myself – steamed or grilled over charcoal, thankyouverymuch, then drizzled with butter and lemon and a pinch of kosher salt.

And … the weather here has finally moved from winter, so it's fishing time again. Today, the night crawlers went into the fridge. Now I need to move my rod, reel, tackle, and sundry appurtenances into the trunk of my car so that – when the mood strikes and the weather is right – I can high-tail it off to some river, stream, or lake in the blink of an eye.

Spring, it appears, has indeed sprung in central Missouri.

And I'm still documenting my "weird things."

Friday, April 27, 2007

R.I.P., "Daily Episcopalian"

I knew that Jim Naughton was working with some folks to establish the Episcopal Café site. It's now been launched. He has some marvelous writers and news-watchers working with him over there. From what I've seen in this week since the Diocese of Washington launched that site, they're posting some thoughtful pieces.

But I can't help grieving the death of Jim's Daily Episcopalian site. Somehow … the new site just doesn't have the journalistic edge that Jim maintained. I had grown to count on him to be the "Woodward and Bernstein of TEC." That's gone now, and I'm not sure where to go for a replacement.

Any suggestions? Where's a real journalist who's tracking Episcopal Church developments? [Addition 04/28/07: We do have a great one at EpiScope, but there's not so much commentary there. ]

Light Blogging

Is it Just Me?

It's Friday. Not an evening for heavy thoughts. So I'll just share this tidbit.

I receive the updated diocesan calendar via e-mail each Friday. Here's a portion of the calendar that arrived today. Does anything about this strike you as funny? Or is it just me?

May 2007

  • 12 Confirmation, 11 a.m., Christ Church Cathedral
  • 13 Bishop's Visitation, St. Michael & St. George/Clayton
  • 13 Mother's Day
  • 14 Feast of St. Matthias
  • 17 Feast of the Ascension, Ordination to the Diaconate of Janet O'Neil, at St. Timothy's, Creve Coeur, 7 p.m.
  • 19 Confirmation, 11 a.m., Christ Church Cathedral
  • 20 Bishop's Visitation and afternoon Confirmation, Calvary/Columbia
  • 20 Confirmation for West Convocation, 3 p.m., Calvary, Columbia
  • 22 Standing Committee meeting, noon, All Saints, Farmington
  • 27 Pentecost
  • 27 Bishop's Visitation, St. Timothy's/Creve Coeur
  • 28 Memorial Day. Offices of the Bishop closed.
  • 31 Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Elizabeth
It's pretty cool that our bishop is going to visit all these parishes. But how lucky Elizabeth is going to be on the 31st! Or ... maybe I'm the only one for whom this will tickle the funny bone. Maybe this is my 7th "weird thing."

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Six Weird Things

Saint Pat has tagged me with the Six Weird Things Meme. The rules state I must:

1. Reveal six weird things about myself on my blog, and
2. Tag six people to do the same.

It has been difficult to winnow-down my list to merely six weird things about me. But here are the ones that made the cut.

1. I'm afraid to walk over those open-grill grates in the sidewalk. I am absolutely certain that either (a) they are going to give way, sending me down into a cesspool or (b) some creature from the deep will rise up and bite off my legs.

2. I can scarcely bear to be the passenger in a car. I believe I'm the best driver in the universe. That, coupled with the lack of control, makes it almost impossible for me be a passenger.

3. A "marvelous" Sunday afternoon for me is to turn on the TV and watch an NFC football game while doing all my ironing. (OK. Some of you will say the fact that I even do ironing qualifies as a supremely weird thing. I recognize the validity of your observation.)

4. I do not understand why those to whom I owe money (utility company, cell provider, credit cards, etc.) insist that I actually write and mail them a check when I and they know full well that I have money in my bank account and am "good for" the payment. The drudgery of actually sitting down and paying bills is sometimes (often) more than I can bear.

5. When coming home from a trip of more than a couple of days, I'm always afraid I'll arrive to find that the house has burned down and/or one of my cats has died.

6. I have a great need for systems and routines. For example, my morning routine never varies. I am so completely on auto-pilot that sometimes I find myself walking out the door having little recollection of having showered, brushed my teeth, chosen and donned clothes, etc. Apparently, though, I do manage to do those things each day.

Alas! There are many more where those came from. But that's six.

Now … I am required to tag six more unwitting victims. Here are my selections. Caminante. MadPriest. Elizabeth. Tobias. Dylan. Suzer. Some of you may already have been tagged; if so, I apologize. But I am pressed by Saint Pat to fill my quota of six.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Our governor has declared that "all flags at all State facilities will be flown at half-staff for the Virginia Tech victims and their loved ones" until dusk Sunday.

I agree this was a breathtakingly tragic event. But I can't help but wonder: How many people died today in Iraq and Afghanistan? How many of our soldiers died today … or this week? How many innocent Iraqi or Afghan citizens died today … or this week?

How many people died today in the U.S. as a result of that hideous nexus of drugs and gang violence?

How many people died today because of the lack of adequate, affordable health care in our country?

How many people died on our nation's highways as a result of shoddy roads, DUI, or other causes?

But nobody in this country is dropping Old Glory to half-mast in grief over their deaths, are they? How come?

Life in Missouri

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch posted the breaking news on April 5th. The ever-vigilant Missouri legislature has identified the next great Threat to Western Civilization As We Know It, and they are working on a law to protect us. The headline screams the threat:

"Missouri bill calls for crackdown on sale of ... baking soda"

Yes, indeed. You read it right. Baking soda. The article begins:

First, the state said you must make a special trip to the pharmacy counter to buy certain cold medicines. That was to curb production of methamphetamine.

Now, a St. Louis legislator wants you to do the same thing to buy an even more common household item — baking soda — because it's used to make crack cocaine.

Sales of cold medications containing pseudoephedrine, such as Sudafed, are strictly regulated in Missouri. Customers must show a photo ID when they buy the medicine. Pharmacists must log the names and addresses of buyers, including how much they buy. People under 18 may not buy the medicines.

The sponsor of the baking soda bill, Rep. Talibdin El-Amin, D-St. Louis, said the same approach was needed for baking soda because crack cocaine is often produced by dissolving powdered cocaine in a mixture of water and baking soda.

Click here to read it all.

Imagine the forthcoming headlines:
  • "Award-winning baker nabbed with 4 boxes of uncut baking soda"
  • "Compulsive housecleaner charged with three counts possession of baking soda"
  • "Antacid addict serves 3-5 years for baking soda possession"
As I understand it, this methamphetamine stuff must also be "cooked" somehow. So I expect they'll soon introduce legislation to ban stoves, microwaves, and campfires.

Y'know, you just can't make this stuff up!

Please … I want my country back.


What a hideous, exhausting 10 days! I thank God it's over! Now my life gets back to something more like a normal schedule.

Many thanks for the notes I've received and the support I have felt from many of you.

Our vestry has now completed the two-days-each interviews of the three finalists to become rector of our parish. What an amazing experience this has been! We are not a parish that cultivates some abstract notion of "diversity." But the pool of finalists could not have been more diverse in the usual terms of ethnicity and gender. More striking was the difference in the candidates' styles, passions, strengths, and backgrounds. I think we grew to like them all. And as the process moved toward an end, I don't think I'm the only one who came to realize that we have the power to touch each other and change each other's lives. Once we make a decision early next month and someone accepts our offer, lives will be changed – the lives of the candidates and their families and current parish, and the lives of all those in our parish. It's a humbling responsibility.

I spent the weekend working the AFRECS national conference. ENS ran a good story about the conference, and I had the delightful experience of spending some time in one-on-one chat with the ENS staff person, talking with him about my perceptions about how TEC seems finally to be providing better coverage of the news and events and issues in our church. I had a marvelous time working alongside other members of our Companion Diocese Committee (composed mostly of others who – like me – have spent time in Sudan's Diocese of Lui) to "pull off" the site arrangements and logistics for this conference. And it was marvelous to meet other people from the U.S., Canada, and England who are working there.

I'm not doing justice here to what's been happening in these last many days. Oh well. But I'm back now. Back to the regular schedule of working my 8-5 weekday job, and spending evenings on matters Episcopalian. Thanks for your patience and support.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


I know there aren't a whole bunch of people checking my blog. But for those of you who are checking, I want to provide a bit of information ... and an explanation as to why I'm not writing more here.

Some of you know I serve on my vestry and that we're moving into the critical last days of searching for a rector, after a (so far) 21-month interim period. No sooner had the last "Alleluia" rang in the church on Easter than I was immersed into a marathon of meetings and interviews with the three finalists for our rector position. In addition to working a full-time job, I have vestry meetings/interviews every night until next Wednesday, plus working a national conference over the weekend. And, in the midst of it all, I'm preparing an application for a job for which I want to apply.

I will return to my writing here. In fact, I'm quite eager to do so. But right now, my energies and writings must go into these other venues. It'll probably be a week before I post here again.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

What a blessing it was to celebrate the resurrection last night at the Great Vigil of Easter, and again this morning! As I've written here, I came closer to "walking with Jesus through Holy Week" than I ever have before; at times I felt the grief and desolation nearly unbearable. With what joy, then, did I celebrate the coming of this Easter. I'll try to write more about this, but for now I just need something at the top of this page that reflects the joy and freedom of this Easter day.

So, of course, having exceptionally good taste, I went to MadPriest's and nicked this joyful image. (I hope he'll give me absolution.) Go over there and read the marvelous poem he has written for this day.
Also stroll over to Father Jake's place and read his Easter sermon excerpt.

The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Friday, April 06, 2007

Good Friday

This is the first time in my life that I have tried (as a priest friend put it) to "walk with Jesus all the way through Holy Week." From the "hosannas" of last Sunday, day by day, through last night's remembrance of his last meal with the disciples, and now -- tonight -- the recollection of his hideous death.

I sat and stood and knelt tonight in my parish, stripped of all its lovely signs of hope and life. No candles. No beautiful vestments and paraments with all their symbols of life. No glorious gleaming cross -- just the rough wooden one. No beautifully draped altar decked out and draped as a table for feasting; instead, just the naked altar that reminds us an altar was initially a place for slaughtering animals.

In her sermon tonight, our priest made an observation that never occurred to me before: Jesus had no funeral. Instead, this Good Friday liturgy is his memorial service, and she proceeded to deliver his eulogy. Just the way we've all heard priests give funeral sermons over the years. She remembered his life, his loving ways, his forceful ways, and finally his betrayal and unjust, agonizing death.

Our prayer book liturgy allows us -- and our priest tonight allowed us -- simply to dwell with that miserable death. Not so much as a mention of an empty tomb or a glorious Sunday. Tonight we were allowed to realize how much -- how very much -- was lost when human beings murdered God in human flesh. How desolate the disciples and all Jesus' followers must have felt. The man they loved was dead. The man who could make the blind see, could bring Lazarus back to life, who knew and loved their inmost souls, who seemed to promise the reign of God was here and now . . . had died a humiliating death, taunted and ridiculed without lifting a finger to save himself.

Again tonight, but perhaps more deeply, I was struck by musings similar to last night's: God did this because God so desperately loved (and still loves) us. Somewhere this week [and I really wish I could remember where!], I read that God had tried throughout history to redeem humanity so that we could reach union with God -- through covenants, sacrifices, offerings. And we never did get it right. We never could reach God. So God came to earth and became one of us. Entered fully and completely into human life. Because God truly loves and adores the humans that God had created. Thus, I can never again feel like God just "doesn't get it" when I am hurting in body or mind or soul. God "gets it" because God went through it -- every bit of it.
This is how it feels.

So when I feel that all my dreams and hopes have been smashed to pieces and even the pieces mock my hopes . . . I can know that God understands fully, because God lived it . . . all the way to the cross and death.

It does feel like I attended a funeral tonight. Even now, a couple of hours later, I find tears streaming from time to time. Somehow -- for reasons I do not understand -- my discipline to "walk this week with Jesus" has made a difference. I think it's o.k. to weep for what happened on that long-ago Friday in Jerusalem. For the first time, it seems I have truly taken it in. I'm reminded of that marvelous hymn, "What Wondrous Love Is This," and now I get it.

I get it.

And . . . stepping back now . . . to be a bit more analytical about it . . .

I think one reason this Holy Week has "worked" on me this way is that none of the liturgy this week has dangled Easter Sunday in front of us. None of that talk of the passion with a knowing "wink-wink-nod-nod" assurance that Easter is just around the corner. I have been allowed to fully embrace the gravity and grief of what happened, and the finality that every person in that drama must have felt. I have been allowed, even encouraged, to experience what a profound tragedy occured those two millenia ago.

Yes, living in 2007, I do know how the story unfolded three days later. But -- thank God! -- our liturgy allows us to move in sacred time, in a kind of poetry or theater, where we really can feel that "we were there." The liturgy allows us the paradox both to know and not-know what is coming next. What a gift.

So . . . I was struck today by Barbara Crafton's daily meditation from The Geranium Farm. No doubt, many of you are familiar with her work. Today's "Emo" is vintage Crafton: rooted in daily reality, and rising to amazing heights. So I end with her words, which are so much more eloquent (and spare!) than my verbose and meandering ones.

(Barbara Crafton)

If one is naturally high-spirited and knows how the story ends, it can be hard to maintain the sadness proper to the day. The shopping for Easter dinner still needs to be done, after all, and tomorrow will be a day of baking, egg-dyeing and table-setting for the feast. If you are built to enjoy that sort of thing, you itch to begin.

There are a hundred tasks in which to lose oneself: the washing of dishes, the chopping of vegetables, the making of beds, the feeding of animals. Throughout human history it has been so: into each life, tragedy will come, but the cow must still be milked every day. Upon such mundane hooks we hang the sorrows of our lives. The very plainness of them provides a peculiar comfort.

But it is an intermittent one. The immensity of your sorrow intrudes on your ordinariness, again and again: you suspend an egg above the bright surface of the dye and think of it, stop stirring for a moment and stare into the middle distance, thinking of it. You stoop to dust a bottom shelf and remain kneeling there, thinking of it, blinded by your tears. You plunge into ordinary things, and in their matter-of-fact way they receive you. But they cannot conceal your changed world for very long.

The horrified friends of the slain found each other in the crowd and stumbled home -- which was not really home, only a rented room above someone else's house. Mostly they did not speak. Someone put a plate of food in front of them and they picked at it. They went to bed as soon as they could, seeking the oblivion of sleep. It came in fits and starts, scraps of dreams and then horrid awakenings, to a nightmare that was real.

Those who had lost people before knew that the horror doesn't last forever. You get better in time. This they knew. But they also knew that it was too soon for that knowledge to be of any comfort at all. This would be like all the other losses, they knew: permanent.

We leave them in the upper room, shocked and sick at heart. They do not know how the story ends, because it hasn't ended, not for them. We are the ones who know. Back through centuries we send them love and try to send them hope: Dear grandfathers, look up! Your sorrow is almost over. The feast is at hand. It is coming to you soon!

A Day for Donne

At intense moments, I tend to turn to the poetry of John Donne. In college, I spent a semester studying his poetry, culminating in "oral exams" before the faculty, wherein -- without text or notes -- I had to recite, explicate, and analyze other scholars' views of his poems. Even after these many years, whether in the dizzying heights of love or in the soul-crushing depths of despair, bits of his poetry come often to mind. Today, it's this one.

by John Donne

LET man's soul be a sphere, and then, in this,
Th' intelligence that moves, devotion is ;
And as the other spheres, by being grown
Subject to foreign motion, lose their own,
And being by others hurried every day,
Scarce in a year their natural form obey ;
Pleasure or business, so, our souls admit
For their first mover, and are whirl'd by it.
Hence is't, that I am carried towards the west,
This day, when my soul's form bends to the East.
There I should see a Sun by rising set,
And by that setting endless day beget.
But that Christ on His cross did rise and fall,
Sin had eternally benighted all.
Yet dare I almost be glad, I do not see
That spectacle of too much weight for me.
Who sees Gods face, that is self-life, must die ;
What a death were it then to see God die ?
It made His own lieutenant, Nature, shrink,
It made His footstool crack, and the sun wink.
Could I behold those hands, which span the poles
And tune all spheres at once, pierced with those holes ?
Could I behold that endless height, which is
Zenith to us and our antipodes,
Humbled below us ? or that blood, which is
The seat of all our soul's, if not of His,
Made dirt of dust, or that flesh which was worn
By God for His apparel, ragg'd and torn ?
If on these things I durst not look, durst I
On His distressed Mother cast mine eye,
Who was God's partner here, and furnish'd thus
Half of that sacrifice which ransom'd us ?
Though these things as I ride be from mine eye,
They're present yet unto my memory,
For that looks towards them ; and Thou look'st towards me,
O Saviour, as Thou hang'st upon the tree.
I turn my back to thee but to receive
Corrections till Thy mercies bid Thee leave.
O think me worth Thine anger, punish me,
Burn off my rust, and my deformity ;
Restore Thine image, so much, by Thy grace,
That Thou mayst know me, and I'll turn my face.

Cecelia (also a devotee of Donne) offers us something marvelous, too. Go check out her Good Friday offering: "Ikon: The Harrowing of Hell." This poem was new to me.

Lenten Meditation

A Lenten Meditation in Music, Picture, and Prayer

St. Stephen's Episcopal Church (Cohasset, MA) has produced a video Lenten meditation. It is beautiful and haunting. If you're stuck in an office and need meditation time on this Good Friday, here is a good way to spend about 4 minutes.

Maundy Thursday

Activity in the blogosphere has been relatively slow this week. I suppose we are all entering into the activities and contemplations that Holy Week evoke and require. And that is as it should be.

I want to talk about my experience of this Maundy Thursday.

For the first time in anybody's recollection, our parish is holding services every day of this Holy Week. Usually, we didn't do anything on Monday through Wednesday, but just picked up on Thursday with a minimal service.

However, we're in an "interim period," and this week the interim rector is doing some different things. Like tonight. We not only observed Maundy Thursday, but the liturgy included (for the first time in anyone's recollection) foot-washing and concluded with the stripping of the altar. A larger-than-anticipated group assembled. And that's good.

Only four brave souls participated in the foot-washing. I was not among them. I have "foot issues." Not that there's anything wrong with them; I just don't like to show them. Weird. I know.

The stripping of the altar was simple and powerful. The only other time I had seen this, it had been done ceremonially, accompanied by readings as each group was removed (e.g., a reading for removal of the candles, one for removal of the paraments, etc.). Ours was simpler. At the end of the recessional hymn, all lights went out except the ones above the altar. Altar guild members simply, quietly, and efficiently removed everything. Some folks remained standing throughout. Some knelt as soon as it began. Some who had been standing moved to their knees in the course of it -- not that kind of awkward move where you realize you're in the "wrong" position, but the natural one that says "this is a time for me to be on my knees." Several remained kneeling, praying after the last light was turned off.

All this reminds me how thankful I am for our liturgy as Episcopalians. These silent actions spoke volumes of how our lives, our souls would be impoverished if not for the life and death and resurrection of Jesus. The bleakness of the chancel. The bleakness of a life without that hope. Liturgy as poetry.

Here's a confession: All my life I have known the Bible verse "God so loved the world . . ." and I have believed it. I have believed God loves the world, cares about humanity. It's just that I have never been able to personalize it. I've never been able to believe that God loves me … me … personally … specifically.

But something weird happened tonight as I heard the Gospel reading from John – how Jesus "loved them to the end" and how he washed their feet. I keep trying to wrap my mind around this: God in the form of Jesus adopted the role of the lowest servant, washing the disciples' feet as a way of saying "I love you." And maybe he was also saying "There is no part of yourself that you cannot share with me." As I heard those words, the Spirit said something new to me about how God really does love us – each of us, individually. OK, not a novel thought to most folks, but it was a new one to me: not just that God loved humanity which God had created – but that God delighted (and may yet delight) in each of us. God may even care about me . . . personally, individually. A stunning thought.

Even as I try to wrap my head and heart around that thought, I'm aware that we move into the Passion tomorrow. We will see God in Jesus executed, hanging on a cross. And why? With God's ultimate power, Jesus could have done some miracle to escape that pain. He had done even greater miracles. Heck! he had raised Lazarus from the dead! Wriggling free of the cross would have been easy by comparison. But something about his love for us … even for me? … kept him from doing so.

I'm reading some good theological reflections on these matters. They speak to my head, and my head will soon engage these matters. But tonight I'm just overwhelmed that the creator of the universe would wash his disciples' feet, would love them, and would die an agonizing death of crucifixion to show that love. I do not understand these mysteries. I'm no theologian, and I can't parse out the various atonement theories. But I am grateful that our liturgy gives me another season to experience and live through them – grateful for another year in which I can try to comprehend them.

And now . . . on to Good Friday.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Introducing The Book

Some of you know me in real life. Some of you know me only virtually. But since the dissidents on the Episcopal blogosphere did that little exposé on me a few months ago, it's no secret that I work by day in the field of preservation and conservation of archival materials (documents, books, photographs). Over the past few months, I have also begun learning the technology of blogging in my nights and weekends … and moving into this technology has not been easy for me. So it should come as no surprise that this video has become one of my favorites.

No heavy thoughts. Just enjoy.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Eternal Life?!

I serve in several capacities in my parish. I'm proud to serve on the vestry and several committees. Liturgically, I am most happy when serving as crucifer. I also serve as one of our parish's Eucharistic Ministers. You know: the people who get to administer the chalice, following the priest who is giving the host to people at the communion rail.

I've been doing that for a couple of years now, and I've gotten into a natural rhythm. To the folks who drink from the chalice, I say, "The blood of Christ – the cup of salvation." To those who intinct, I say, "The body and blood of Christ keep you in eternal life." Down the rail I go, saying these words to one and all.

The words have never become routine to me. It's an honor to give that chalice to each and every person at the altar. I know the people in the parish. Often, we meet eyes as I say those words just before they drink the wine. It's often a moment of intense connection. It has never yet become routine for me.

Recently there was one especially out-of-the-ordinary moment. In our parish, communion is offered to all baptized persons, including children. The other day, I was serving as Eucharistic minister, speaking those words to each person who drank from the chalice or dipped the host into the wine. I approached a little girl who had her host ready for dipping into the chalice, and I said those words, "The body and blood of Christ keep you in eternal life." She reacted as if this was the first time she had heard those words. Even before she could dip the host into the wine, she shrieked in her delighted little-girl voice, "Eternal life???!!!!" Her words reverberated throughout the sanctuary. Like it was the most marvelous gift she could have been given. And so it is. So it is for all of us. But most of us have forgotten to shriek our joy and astonishment in child-like tones.

As I sat quietly in my pew on this Passion Sunday, I found myself remembering her delight. In our liturgical year, we are marching toward Golgatha, and hoping for the resurrection. May we all have the joy that little girl had – that God has given us the gift of eternal life through the sacrifice we recall this week.