Friday, November 30, 2007

Keeping Advent

At Snow on Roses, Tandaina has taken my Christmas is an Obscenity even further and more thoughtfully. Go read that.

She asks what Advent discipline I plan to adopt to avoid the wacky-craziness of "Christmas" in the U.S. I don't have an easy answer. Here are my snippets of an answer.

First, I plan to keep the television turned off except when it's absolutely needed (e.g., to watch the PBS Newshour, Charlie Rose, or football). I sense that the major fuel behind the American "Christmas orgy" is TV advertising; so I'll just spare myself.

Second, our parish distributed a little booklet this week of Henri Nouwen's Advent meditations. I'm going to set aside daily time to read and reflect and pray from them.

Third, I'm going to be in church as often as I can. In addition to the Sunday and Wednesday Eucharistic services, our new rector is offering Thursday evening sessions for meditation and intercessory prayer, followed by compline. I'll attend as many of those as my schedule allows. I have a hunch that being in church is the best possible antidote to the crazy Christmas orgy that is infecting so many of our people. It worked for me during Lent and into Easter earlier this year.

Here's another little rant about "Christmas" as it is practiced in my little town. In my office, there's a thing that has the shape and substance of a "Christmas tree." But it's decorated in red, white, and blue balls, with a few little "Uncle Sam" figures on it.

The city last night had the "official lighting" of a city "Christmas tree." All the ornaments and all the lights are … you guessed it … red, white, and blue.

And tomorrow, our little town will have its "Christmas" parade. And what do you reckon the theme of the parade will be? According to the local newspaper, the "Christmas" parade theme will be "A Star-Spangled Christmas." And all of this is occurring in the city whose official name is "The City of Jefferson" after Thomas Jefferson. I have no doubt that the sage of Virginia, who urged the "wall of separation between church and state," must be rolling in his grave.

I am sickened and troubled by this identification of Christianity and American patriotism. It reeks.

Me, I'm gagging on the notion that patriotism is some sort of Christianity … or that Christianity is somehow patriotic. (I can't tell which way they're spinning it.) But I believe it is sick, sick, sick.
Go over there to Tandaina's place. Read her words. She's more insightful and patient than I.

A Preview

Of Life in the "Realigned" "Anglican" Parishes in the U.S.

Remember that story a couple months ago about the "Anglican" parish in Illinois that had to disinvite an African speaker, by order of their new African primate? This little clip was sent by a friend, and it struck me as the future of the new Southern Cone Heads and other assorted "realigned" parishes.

Click (probably twice) on the little arrow in the middle of the screen.


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Advent Calendar – Highly Recommended

If you read my "Christmas rant," you may have a hunch that I am yearning for Advent – a time of reflection and waiting and anticipation.

The Diocese of Washington is again posting an online Advent calendar, available on December 1.
It features photos of the beguiling little figures from Washington National Cathedral’s crèche exhibit, daily meditations chosen by Vicki Black of the Speaking to the Soul blog on Episcopal Café, and links to giving opportunities culled mostly from Episcopal Relief and Development’s Gifts for Life catalog.

This year the diocese has added audio. There’s a daily carol from the choir of Trinity Wall Street, and weekday podcasts from a team of young preachers led by the Rev. Lonnie Lacy, the Episcopal chaplain at Georgia Southern University.

Don't rush Christmas. Settle into Advent. The Diocese of Washington site is a good place to begin.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Christmas is an Obscenity

I am sick and tired of "Christmas" as it is practiced (not observed) in the U.S.! It's hideous that Christmas "goods" were on display in retail stores even before Halloween. Back in early November on our local NPR affiliate, one "sponsor" was trying to sell cars with the tagline "it's not too early to think about Christmas," followed by the suggestion that we run out to their car dealership and buy our loved ones a new car for Christmas. [And don't get me started about NPR stations like ours that pretend to be "commercial-free" while carrying such plugs as that.]

Stores in my little town were opening as early as 4 a.m. on the day after Thanksgiving, in a frenzy to kickoff the "Christmas season." As far as I can tell, "Christmas" in our nation means "Go charge as much as possible on your overloaded credit cards to show people you love them."

Well, I quit.

Over the last few years, I have become increasingly uncomfortable with the guilt tactics that are played out in television, radio, and the print media. Once I spent a few days among the Episcopalians in southern Sudan, I finally decided "enough is enough." Simply by virtue of my being born in the U.S., I am one of the wealthiest people in the whole world. There is almost nothing I "need" (so long as my paycheck keeps arriving). And, thanks to my friends in southern Sudan, I find that I "want" less and less. Given the choice between drilling a well in southern Sudan that can provide clean drinking water or having one more gadget in my house, the choice is pretty simple for me.

Last week, just before Thanksgiving, Michael Russell (Rector of All Souls' in Point Loma, California) posted this on a listserv to which we both subscribe. He gave me permission to post it here. His tone is angry. I'm with him all the way.

Friday is "Black Friday" – the midpoint of the winter holiday consumer frenzy that characterizes our cultural observance of the birth of our Lord and associated PC Winter Holidays. Between the beginning of November and the 24th of December Americans will spend approximately $439 billion on the holidays or $1,600 for every man, woman and child (though this may not include undocumented people) in the United States. This is a little down perhaps from the $450 billion spent in 2005. In the first three years of the Iraq war we spent a total of $439 billion.
Get that? Last year, people in the U.S. spent more on Christmas fripperies than we had spent on three years of the obscene war on Iraq. Does that not make your blood run cold?

Michael continues:

One billion people, the extremely poor, live on less than $1 a day which, if we round it up, would be $356 billion for the year. $439 billion for our Christmas ... $356 billion for a billion people to live, in extreme poverty, for a year. In 2006 humanity managed to watch fewer than 10 million children die from preventable causes for the first time since records began being kept in the 1960s. 9.7 million died. One every 3.25 seconds.

The United states has balked at committing $25 billion dollars a year to eliminating extreme poverty in the world or 1/17th (7%) of what we spend each year on ourselves to celebrate Christ's Mass. Say just $110 dollars of the $1,600 we will spend on ourselves.

Let those numbers sink in. The MDGs ask us to give to the world just 7% as much as we spend (on average) on Christmas gifts. Doesn't this make it clear how easy it would be for us to end global poverty?

Michael continues:
So as we Anglicans wrangle about appropriate intimacy, thinking somehow this is worth tearing a Communion apart over, children are dying as well as their parents. Our moral compass is so out of whack it is hard for me to even find an appropriately caustic metaphor.So as we enter the season of consumer madness, I pray we might spend our energy redirecting cash towards those most in need in the world.
I'm with Michael in this. Our priorities are profoundly, deeply out of whack.

Last year, the people in this country spent an average of $1,600 apiece for every man, woman, and child in the U.S.

Let that fact sink in. $1,600 for every man, woman, and child in the U.S. on "Christmas" gifts.

Is this not an obscenity?

Christmas is supposed to be a holy day – not just a holiday, not just a day off work with a great feast, and certainly not a national orgy of consumerism.

I remember Michael posting something similar a year ago, and it spoke deeply to me. It put numbers to the growing unease I'd been feeling about the consumerization of Christmas. As a result, I asked my family and friends to donate to our diocesan relationship to Lui (Sudan) or ERD instead of giving anything to me, and I asked them what causes I could support in their behalf. I'm doing the same this year.

We have it in our power to end abject poverty and disease on this planet, if only we could get our priorities straight. Or we can receive yet another gadget we don't need, another sweater or tie we won't wear. To me, it seems like an easy choice.

Thanks to MadPriest, I learn there's a group that demonstrated for a "Buy Nothing Day" in New York on "Black Friday." I gather he found them pointless – maybe even silly. Indeed, their tactics may have been silly. But I wish that we Christians could observe something like a "Buy Nothing Advent" in the coming weeks.

Later, MadPriest has reported: The Bishop of Hulme, the Rt Rev Stephen Lowe, said that the celebration of Christ's birth had descended into a "great orgy of excess." (Full details in the Telegraph.) I concur 100%.

I tried last year, and I will focus more intentionally this year, on observing the season of Advent in my church while ignoring the hysteria to just buy something! that pervades our pitiful culture.

If you, too, are sick and tired of the consumer orgy that has come to characterize the American observance of "Christmas," please join me. Let us make it a holy day again.

Please join me.

Brick of the Blogosphere

MadPriest introduced me to the term "brick of the blogosphere." The accolade is for those heroes who stand truly firm and brave.

I do not know how I have managed to miss Josh's Gay Spirit Diary until today. Hie thee hence. But be forewarned: it's edgy, and he doesn't pull any punches. I just today discovered his blog, by way of the posting in which he had the nerve to take on the Bullies on Viagra. He's also trying to envision a spiritual retreat for LBGTQs. He talks religion and politics, and he's sick and tired of the "religious right" hijacking this nation.

There's much at Josh's site for you to enjoy. Go over there and give him some encouragement.

He's my latest Brick of the Blogosphere.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Tragedy Overload

When the national news started this evening, the headline on the backdrop was "Football Tragedy." A young pro-football player was shot during a home invasion and has died. What a very sad situation. (BTW, then the news anchor moved to talk about "President" Bush finally trying to launch Mideast peace talks.)

Half an hour later, the local evening news came on, featuring a horrible wreck this afternoon on the highway going through my town, where a driver lost control of his fuel tanker truck; it exploded, and he died. The news anchored introduced the story by intoning something like, "A tragedy in Jefferson City today."

Would somebody explain this to me? When did every death and mishap in our country become a "tragedy"? I studied Greek literature and Shakespeare. I have some sense of what tragedy is.

My mother died last month. It was sad, and I'm still dealing with the effects. But "tragic"? I think not.

Back in the summer of 1977, a dear friend of mine was grabbed while riding her bicycle home, down a country road. She was viciously slashed to death by two teenagers, for whom she (according to their confession) continually prayed until she died in the back seat of their car. Horrible. Unspeakable. It threw me into a tailspin that took a very long emotional recovery. [Sometimes, I suspect I'm still not over it.] But "tragic"? Only for those of us who knew and loved her.

I saw what happened in New York City in September 2001; it was unspeakably terrible for the families and friends who were directly affected. And one might argue that our current maladministration has made of it a national tragedy, as they have stripped the constitution bare.

On tonight's news I heard stories of two people of died – both of them untimely. Their deaths will bring horrible, unspeakable, personal pain for their families and friends.

But when did every unfortunate event (such as fires or earthquakes) and every single individual celebrity death that manages to make the evening news become a "tragedy"?

Is it any wonder that some folks suggest Americans are suffering "compassion fatigue"? When the massive genocide in Darfur and the death of a football player or local truck driver are all called "tragedies," what are we to do? It seems to me that we have ripped all meaning from the term "tragedy."

By the way, that truck crash today was weird. The diesel fuel it was carrying drained into the sewer system, traveled a few hundred feet through the sewers, and blew out flames in my neighborhood. Without a doubt, when I checked the local news and saw this photo with black smoke so near my house, it scared me. (The church steeple on the extreme right is across the street from my home.) Fortunately, no homes were damaged. I could have lost my home today. But I still wouldn't have called it a "tragedy." I would have called it a terrible thing personally, and I know my friends would have rallied around me. But "tragedy"? I think not.

I wonder what the rest of you think. I think that the news media are whoring the real meaning of "tragedy." Am I just being hard-hearted? Or is there something weird going on, when each individual or area-wide tribulation gets labeled a "tragedy"?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Work of the Evil One

I'm pleased to post this photo with Bishop Griswold, when he visited our diocese in early 2006. I post this in full awareness that the Bullies on Viagra and the Virtueless One believe he's the AntiChrist. But back in 2006, he was the one voice holding firm for the faithfulness of TEC. And I observe that he's really photogenic, whereas I am the opposite thereof.

Writing this piece about Bishop Ingham's statement reminded me of an insightful post from the Admiral of Morality: The Work of the Evil One. He begins:

Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold on more than one occasion characterized the disputes over sex in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion as the work of the Evil One. It may be impossible to state with any certainty that Bishop Griswold was correct in his view but there can be no doubt that he was certainly on the right track.

Consider for a moment the words and actions of so many of the Episcopal dissidents. Though they consider themselves to be acting in righteous indignation, by their fruits we know them. In Virginia and other places, often with the aid of overseas bishops who consider themselves equally righteous, they have proceeded with lies, subterfuge, and doublespeak, along an arc of division and hostility. That they consider themselves in the right, does not alter that they proceed with lies, subterfuge, and doublespeak, along an arc of division and hostility.

Also in this country, the bishops of Pittsburgh, Fort Worth and San Joaquin regularly insist they are doing nothing to divide our Church yet work actively and vocally, to foster this very thing. Their relishing of hostility and confrontation and their eagerness to heap scorn, and their lies, are perverse. That they remain bishops of our church is an outrage.

The Admiral has no problem naming the lies. Bishop Ingham has no problem naming the lies. When – oh when? – will the bishops of the Episcopal Church summon the courage to do the same? So far, all I see from our bishops is their dastardly cowardice (most recently in New Orleans) or their willingness to engage in litigation. I am glad they are working to protect our churches. But we are engaged with true evil. I think it's time for our Presiding Bishop and the rest of our bishops to start calling it what it is: evil, and the very opposite of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.


Yeah. This would do it for me. (And, yes, I am anthropomorphizing.)

Funny Pictures

I'm glad I found this website. Some sweet and lots of very, very funny pix -- mostly of cats.

But I hope Rowan and Clumber don't find this one.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Blogger Trouble

This is really fryin' my grits. I know many of you have Blogger sites, and I'm hoping somebody can help.

I compose a post in Blogger, but I'm not quite ready to post it, so I click on the "Save As Draft" button. And then it disappears forever. It's never available from my Blogger dashboard. I've tried this time after time after time. I save. Then I save again. And absolutely all my "drafts" just disappear from Blogger. [Yes, I have learned to save a copy of the text in Word before entrusting it to Blogger.]

I've had it happen often enough that I now write all my posts in MS Word, and I don't go into Blogger until I'm absolutely, positively, really ready to post it. But it's rather frustrating. I'd like to be able to do all the formatting that Blogger allows, and "Save as Draft" so I have time to consider the posting before hitting the "Publish" button.

Have any of you all had this problem? Could you give me any tips or workarounds?
Update: Blessed Tandaina solved my problem, and now all's right in my blogging world again. Many, many thanks, Tandaina!

Responses to the Report of the Joint Standing Committee

Oh, looky. Archbishop Rowan sent a little giftie to the Episcopal Church on the U.S. Thanksgiving Day. (Reckon he thought we wouldn't notice it while we were gorging on turkey and dressing?)

The Response of the Primates of the Anglican Communion and Members of the Anglican Consultative Council to the Report of the Joint Standing Committee is here in HTML format. There's a PDF version that's easier to read.

I've given it a cursory read. It's not as bad as I might have expected.

Only 10 primates give us a thumbs-down. According to the report, all 10 are from the "Global South"; no surprise there. 12 primates give us a thumbs-up. Twelve primates didn't reply. Hmmmm ...

I'm particularly encouraged by the ACC members' responses. Of the few who responded, many express concern about the primates' power-grab.

Several of the respondents note that TEC has been subjected to an unprecedented intrusion in our provincial life. I have no doubt that, had the Anglican Communion tried to dictate terms to the Anglican church in Nigeria or Uganda, there would have been a huge outcry. But at least a few respondents observed that the attack on the Episcopal Chuch is unprecendented and unconscionable.

And I observe that only two of the primates repeated that hackneyed suggestion that Lambeth should be cancelled because there's dissension within the Communion. {Yawn!}

The Admiral of Morality seems to have read it about the same way I have. Check out his analysis.

BTW, the Bullies on Viagra are very unhappy. I was especially struck by Stephen Noll's claim that the lack of TEC-bashing is because the Global South was too backward to respond. He writes:

People in non-Western cultures are not quick or savvy in responding to questionnaires. Communication, to be sure, has improved, but it does not surprise me that 12 Primates, mainly from the Global South, did not respond on time. Furthermore, they prefer to make decisions on a face-to-face and corporate basis.
He makes this claim despite the clear fact that the report itself says [page 2, point 5.b of the PDF] regarding the 10 negative responses: "All of the Provinces that have responded negatively to the conclusions of the JSC Report belong to the Global South alliance." Noll is nominally a TEC priest, canonically resident in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, now teaching theology in Uganda. Am I the only one who hears his comment as more than a little bit racist?? "Those poor Africans can't answer the Archbishop's request, though they have no trouble sounding their trumpets." Uh-huh.

I think it was back in February, in a report presented to the primates at Dar, that somebody characterized the state of the Anglican Communion that 1/3 were clearly supportive of TEC, 1/3 were totally and adamantly opposed to our actions, and 1/3 might have objections but didn't see it as a communion-breaking issue. It seems to me that this report says absolutely nothing has changed. So what now? We are no closer to consensus than we were a year ago. Those who hated us still hate us. Those who supported us still support us. Those who just want to get on with it still feel the same.

Here's how it looks to me: About 2/3 of the churches in the Anglican Communion are willing to keep walking and praying and worshipping and discerning together. A dogmatic 1/3 – along with some of their North American allies – have had it, and are going their own way. That little, vocal minority will continue to scream, "We didn't leave! You left us!!" while they walk away. Yeah, right. Whatever. As that Kaeton woman says, "Dead wood splinters." Let 'em.

The Archbishop's Tea Party

I suspect several of you are as frustrated as I about Archbishop Rowan Williams' vacillating. I am definitely among those who – following Jesus' parable – believe he should hold Lambeth and invite everybody.

But go see Padre Mickey's delightful dramatization of the whole thing.

This whole business of who will be invited, who won't, and who will boycott if others are invited is just completely silly – and, by the way, totally contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Of course, they don't get that.

Bishop Ingham Calls 'em as He Sees 'em

[That's a Texas phrase, y'all.]

According to an article on the website of the Diocese of New Westminster (Canada), Bishop Michael Ingham has urged members of his diocese to take the long view and the persistence of faith through the failures of human discipleship. “Above all, let’s get on with the normal work of being the church,” he stated on Nov. 23 in a memorandum sent to his 125 active clergy. The story goes on to say:
His letter followed the announcement by a breakaway group, the Anglican Network, announcing in Burlington, Ontario, that it was setting up a parallel Church structure in Canada, but attempting to maintain Anglican ties through a South American Province of the Anglican Communion.
Bishop Ingham said the announcement was not surprising, for there have been signs of today’s developments for years.
At least ten years ago some groups have been laying the groundwork for separation from their national Anglican Churches, stating their intention to be in communion only with those who held their view of human sexuality, the bishop said.
For the groups to attempt now to lay blame for their departure on the Diocese of New Westminster’s actions in 2002 or the US Episcopal Church’s decisions in 2003 is “a denial of history and an avoidance of responsibility.”
“The seeds of this breakaway movement were laid long before same sex blessings were authorized in [the Diocese of] New Westminster or a partnered gay bishop was elected in New Hampshire.”
Thank God for his truth-telling. The schismatics have been plotting this move and looking for an opportunity to shake the dust off their oh-so-pure sandals for over a decade. The consecration of Gene Robinson and Canada's authorization of same-sex blessings are merely a handy excuse to carry out the schism they've been planning for a long time. The ultra-pure have been looking for this exit opportunity for a long time. Many have been looking for a High Holy Way Out ever since the first women were ordained in Philadelphia.

Thank God that Bishop Ingham is willing to expose their lies.

And I'm impressed by the final points in his memorandum. He's clearly more Christian and generous than I am.

Here's the full text of Bishop Ingham's memorandum to the clergy of his diocese, posted with his permission:

+ + + +

To: All Diocesan Clergy
From: Bishop Michael Ingham
Date: November 23, 2007
Subject: Individuals and Groups Leaving the Anglican Church of Canada

Dear Friends in Christ:

By now you will have heard the announcement from Burlington, Ontario, by the Essentials Network of a formal separation from the Canadian Church. You may well be asked about it this on Sunday and for some time to come, so I thought I would offer you my own preliminary reflections on what should be our principal responses.

First, this development, while not unexpected (the signs have been therefor several years, see below) is both unwelcome and unnecessary. Unwelcome because it violates both the ancient traditions of our church and also the consistent urgings of Scripture for unity among Christians. Unnecessary because no Canadian Anglican is being compelled to act against their conscience in matters of doctrine or ethics, and so there is no need for‘safety’ from ecclesiastical oppression.

Second, Anglicans in this country do not want to see their church at war with itself. The prospect of costly and bitter litigation will rightly be regarded as a waste of the church’s precious resources given for mission.Further, our efforts at evangelism and outreach will be hampered by the media’s coverage of our organization in conflict. People searching for a spiritual home will be wary of involving themselves in a place of turmoil.Sadly, these consequences will be increased by the Network’s announcement.

Third, it has been the cry of every breakaway group that “we haven’t left them – they’ve left us.” Apart from the tiredness of the cliché, it is an attempt to avoid responsibility for personal choices. Every effort has been made, both in New Westminster and across the Anglican Church of Canada, to provide space for genuine differences of conviction on non-essential matters of faith. We have recognized the difficult place in which those of minority opinion find themselves (and there are several minorities, not just one) and have sought to foster mutual respect and mutual support. The vast majority of conservative and traditional Anglicans in Canada understand and accept this, and will stay with their church. This is not, therefore, a conservative breakaway. It is a decision to leave by those who feel uncomfortable with reasonable accommodation within the Body of Christ.

Fourth, the Network blames the church for its own decisions. Let us remember a brief chronology. It was ten years ago in 1997 that we first heard the term ‘global south.’ This was from the Kuala Lumpur meeting of certain bishops prior to the Lambeth Conference the following year. They issued the “Second Trumpet From the South” stating their intention to be in communion only with those who held their view of human sexuality. At the 1998 Lambeth Conference a well financed and organized lobby succeeded in raising this position to the level of Resolution 1:10, effectively marginalizing a careful statement prepared during the Conference by abroad spectrum of bishops.

We saw the development in North America of groups called the ‘Anglican Mission in America” and the “American Anglican Council” and the irregular and provocative consecrations, in Singapore in 2000 and Denver in 2001, of‘missionary’ bishops to serve in the United States against the wishes of the Episcopal Church. During this time, congregations in the US and Canada were being urged by these groups to withhold financial contributions from the church.

Thus the seeds of this breakaway movement were laid long before same-sex blessings were authorized in New Westminster or a partnered gay bishop was elected in New Hampshire. The attempt now to lay blame for this development on events that took place in our diocese in 2002 and in the US in 2003 is in my view both a denial of history and an avoidance of responsibility.

Lastly, I think we need to respond to the Network’s announcement in several ways.

Pray for the unity of Christians, for a spirit of charity towards those with whom we may disagree, and for God’s forgiveness of our mutual failure to honour the prayer of Christ in St. John’s Gospel “that they may be one.”

Give particular support to those conservative and traditional Christians who remain with their church and grieve the departure of friends.

Teach our members about the genius of Anglicanism and its balance of Scripture, reason and tradition within the boundaries of common prayer.

Emphasize in our preaching and leadership the centrality of mission and its priority over ecclesiastical politics.

Challenge the false stereotypes that foster polarization – e.g. the ‘heartless conservative’ or the ‘unbiblical liberal.’

Give thanks that our church, for all its messiness, is honestly and openly facing issues some other bodies cannot.

Press forward in ministry and evangelism at the local level.

Deepen our study and immersion in Scripture. Place ourselves under the authority of the Christ it reveals. Avoid both an empty relativism and a harsh literalism.

Encourage both local media and the non-churchgoing public to understand the deeper roots of this development.

Take the ‘long view’ – i.e. remember the consistent triumph of the Gospel over the historic fragmentation of the church, and the persistence of faith through the failures of human discipleship.

Please remember our diocesan and national leaders in your prayers too. And above all, let’s get on with the normal work of being the church.

Kindest regards,
The Right Reverend Michael Ingham

Cat Tree Blogging

I'm inspired by Caminante to share this photo from a few years ago. Caminante has a delightful photo of her dad's cat on the cat tree he made.

My housemate made a few cat trees. Here's one she made for our cats back in 2005.

I still think it's an awesome creation. It was more like a "jungle gym" than a "tree."

There were two things the cats seemed to enjoy about it. First, it had lots of texture: sisal wrapping the posts, some carpet pieces, some very soft fleecey bits. Second, it incorporated many dangly "toys" for their batting and killing entertainment. You just don't find those design elements in the store-bought cat trees.

In our 5-cat household, it was important that there be many places to snuggle. And, of course, it was important that there be one "high spot" for the "top cat" to inhabit.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Homo-socksuals and Hetero-socksuals

A Deep Theological Reflection

Finally, someone has uttered wise, simple words about this battle that is raging within the Anglican Communion.

I'm grateful to Liz and Ann, who sent this to me. It is a reflection offered on the resolution to bless same-sex unions in the Canadian Diocese of Montreal. It is by the Rev. Canon Tim Smart, a self-described loose canon, of the Parish of Sutton and the Centre for Lay Education. You can read the original here.
The Blessing of Same-Sex Unions
Diocesan Synod, October 19, 2007

The Rev. Canon Tim Smart, Parish of Sutton
and The Centre for Lay Education

(I dream of a Church that joins in with God’s laughing…)

Where do socks go after you put them in the washing machine? This deep theological question has been plaguing the human mind ever since the invention of the wash and spin cycle.

Who among us has not been befuddled and confounded when, having made the transfer from washer to dryer, and begun to sort through the clean laundry basket, been confronted with the spectacle of one lone sock?

For many of us, the remedy has been to put the lonely sock quietly away in the dresser drawer and forgot about it; claiming that singleness is now its true vocation.

But for a significant minority, the answer has been not to consign the single sock to the everlasting darkness of the drawer, but to mix their socks: gray with black, brown with beige, blue with navy blue. We now call such people Hetero-socksuals – people who wear different kinds of socks at the same time.

Understandably, this situation has caused huge stir in the Anglican Communion. Until recently, we only blessed people who wore the same socks on their feet; black with black, white with white, blue with blue. We call these people homo-socksuals. Same-socks wearers.

Most of us have been reared in a culture and a religion which has blessed homo-socksuality as the norm. The idea of people wearing different kinds of socks at the same time has sounded perverse and unbiblical.

In the past, hetero-socksuals had to be discreet. They wore long pants to cover their different socks. They avoided crossing their legs while seated and rarely wore shorts in public.

But today, hetero-socksuality is all around us and many of our Canadian provinces have gone so far as to allow for the legal wearing of different socks.

What is the church to do?

As you know, the former Primate of the ACC called together the brightest theological minds in this country to look at the whole area of human socksuality. After a number of meetings they determined that the question of sock-wearing is a matter of doctrine to the Church, but not core doctrine. The conservatives pointed to a passage from Leviticus which declares that we should not wear materials of mixed fabrics. While the liberals on the Commission, proclaimed that sock wearing is a justice issue, that must soon be settled so that we might go on to tackle other serious issues confronting the Church; such as the wearing of hats, gloves and snow boots.

Meanwhile, our blessed Communion is said to be on the brink of schism. There are wealthy white sock coalitions that have sought moral support from their black sock brethren. Some of these conservative black sock brethren stand by the missionary position that God only blesses homo-socksuality or the wearing of same socks.

This group prefers to call themselves ortho-socks, practicing ortho-socksy.

While the liberal coalition likes to point to the widespread practice of hetero-socksuality in the church in every country of the world as evidence of God’s love of diversity and colour.

What are we to do?

Like many of you, I was brought up to believe in rightness of homo-socksuality. I thought that hetero-socksuals were displeasing to God and would all go the hell.

But life experience has broadened my outlook.

I met a man once who, after I had gained his trust, revealed to me that on one foot, he wore a Harvey Woods sock, while on the other foot, he wore Fruit of the Loom. I must say, you couldn’t have met a finer man – a blessing to both his church and his local community. All he was looking for was acceptance, inclusion and love.

My Lord Bishop, I believe it is time for our Church to embrace all those who wear different kinds of socks at the same time. Let us show our love and offer the hetero-socksual community the same kind of love and acceptance we have offered the homo-socksual community, lo, all these many years.


Glossary of Terms:

Homo-socksuals: those who wear the same-socks
Hetero-socksuals: those who wear different kinds of socks
Bi-socksuals: those who will wear same socks, or different socks
A-socksual: those who wear no socks at all.

Proper Prayers

While I was working to craft the Thanksgiving prayer I wrote about here, a squabble about proper Christian graces broke out on an Episcopal listserv to which I belong. One list member reported that some Thanksgiving graces had been published in her local newspaper. Of the three offered by Christian ministers, the one from the Episcopal priest was reportedly the only one that didn't even mention God. The list member was incensed and even asked whether Episcopalians are "ashamed of God."

That got me thinking about the prayer I offered with my friends on Thanksgiving night.

I did invoke God, but not necessarily as the first person of the trinity. The form of address I used could (I think and I hope) also have been invoked by a Jew, Buddhist, Muslim, or even a pagan. And I didn't pray "through Jesus Christ our Lord." Those decisions were conscious. And I believe I have scriptural basis for those decisions. St. Paul wrote (1 Cor. 9:20-23):
To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.
To every thing there is a season. Sometimes we may pray in public, and sometimes we are counselled to pray in our closets. Sometimes we may proclaim the fullness of our faith in Christ, and sometimes we may speak a part of that faith. For the sake of my friends, I prayed out of a part – albeit a deep part – of my faith. I don't think Jesus is going to go whining to the Father that he got dissed. (See MadPriest's editorial cartoon on that latter point.)

When we are asked to pray in public – outside our Christian houses of worship – what's so wrong with casting the net as wide as possible? Should we not seek to focus on those things that draw us together? Or is that notion now passé, in an era and a country where litmus tests abound?

Another Blessing

I fear it's too late to offer this one. I know what you've all been doing. You had various parts of your Thanksgiving feast on the counter and table for some hours yesterday. Then today you brought out the leftovers while you watched football, put up outdoor lights, visited with friends and family, and so on. So perhaps it's a little bit late, but I share this anyway for your edification.
This is not mine. It was crafted by one of my highly spiritual, sensitive friends.

Blessing Over Leftovers
Bless this food, O Lord we pray
Make it safe by night and day.

Yours with a very big grin, and with gratitude for you readers who have also become friends – Lisa

Praying in Public with Friends

I have a real problem with praying in public extemporaneously. I just cannot do it. I am embarrassed by this disability. A few weeks ago, I was meeting with a parish committee, and the chair said, "Lisa, would you open our meeting with prayer?" [She asked it as a question, but you just know it was a rhetorical question.] I looked sheepishly at her and said, "No." I'm pretty darn certain that I could preach a sermon with two days notice. But to come up with a prayer on my own, without recourse to someone else's written prayer? That's a whole 'nother matter. Alas.

[Long, rambling detour ahead]

I'm reminded of this, which happened a few years ago when the Fox family had its annual reunion in the old hometown. My grandmother – great matriarch of the family – had died several months earlier, but many of us hadn't been able to attend the funeral. So during the reunion, we did what southern families do: we visited the cemetery. It was the first chance for several of us to visit her grave, and it wasn't at all a dreary event. We wandered about, checking the condition of the other Foxes' grave markers, telling the family stories to those too young to have known some of their forebears. … After a while, one of my cousins gathered us all around grandmother's grave, and asked my Uncle Russell, "Would you lead us in a prayer?" You should have seen the cutting glance he cast at her! But he also said "Yes," did a 180-degree turn, and walked off to his car. A few wondered, "What the heck is he doing??" … You need to know that Uncle Russell was the lone Episcopalian in a family of Southern Baptists. So now I bet you can guess what he was doing. He reached into the car, pulled out his Book of Common Prayer, leafed through it for a few moments, then returned to the assembled group and led us in a perfectly lovely and appropriate prayer. … Of course, later there was much tsk-tsking about how "those Episcopals can't even pray from their hearts; they have to read them out of books." … Without a doubt, I come by my extemporaneous-prayer-ophobia honestly.

[End of long detour]

In the past couple of weeks, I've been a bit anxious about what I would do for the two "biggie" family holidays upcoming: Thanksgiving and Christmas. My sister and her family had already made long-distance travel plans for both those holidays, so being with her wasn't an option. I've spent those two holidays alone plenty of times, but I figured it would be a little stupid to try it this year, so soon after my mother's death.

So I was very grateful when my friend Michael invited me last week to join him and his partner for Thanksgiving dinner. And it clearly wasn't a "sympathy invite." I really enjoy them. I work with Michael, but we don't often get leisurely visits together away from the office. So I was delighted. And the fact that they're marvelous cooks didn't hurt a bit! {grin}

On Monday, he surprised me by asking if I'd be willing to say grace at the Thanksgiving dinner. Knowing I'm an Episcopalian (as was his grandmother), he suspected I'd need advance notice. I was a bit taken aback by his request, since they both seem to fit within that growing demographic of "spiritual but not Christian," but I was pleased that he wanted a prayer before our shared meal.

I thought surely I could come up with some appropriate prayer, given that much notice. I thought wrong. After a full day, and having looked at the BCP "Grace Before Meals" options, I was uninspired – clueless, in fact. So I put out an e-mail "SOS" call to some Episcopal friends. They came through most generously.

Liz gave me the Litany of Thanksgiving (BCP pg. 836ff), which Father Jake and a few other blogging friends posted this week. DUH! How stupid I feel, that I looked at the graces on page 835, but failed to turn the page to 836. Tom (of Turning Things Upside Down) gave me a wonderful creation, and I found one posted on Caminante's blog. I am grateful to all of you who gave me words and inspiration.

So here's what I prayed last night:

O God who lives and moves within all things:

We are mindful today of our blessings, not just our difficulties;
of our strengths, not just our weaknesses;
of our joys, not just our sorrows.

We give you thanks for the gift of friendship and support.

We give you thanks for this time to enjoy it.
We give you thanks for this meal, prepared by gifted hands.

We now ask you to bless this home, to bless this food, and to bless this time of friendship.


The meal was delicious. The companionship was wonderful. And from what Michael said after the blessing, I think I found the right prayer.

For those discerning readers who may wonder: The answer is yes; my struggle in preparing this prayer most certainly does relate to what I wrote a few days ago.

Blame it on Mimi

It's all Grandmère Mimi's fault for suckering me into another online quiz. But here you have it.

Later day, I hope to get back to a little more serious blogging.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Casual Fridays

You may recall that I wrote earlier about the need for and the challenge of reaching out to friends and colleagues about my Christian faith. As I said there, I am hesitant to do the "evangelizing thing" because the right-wing wack-jobs seem to have "patented" the Christian name.

A new visitor has weighed-in on that thread, and I welcome her remarks. As I've pondered them this evening, they led me to this additional reflection.

In my leisure times, and on casual Fridays at work, I typically wear one of my many shirts with the TEC shield or my parish logo or my Manner of Life shirt. Many folks around here know I'm gay. Living in a part of the U.S. where "gay" equals "infidel," "apostate," and/or "heathen," I wear the Christian and Episcopal shirts in hopes that it will provide a "door opening" for folks to ask me about my faith.

I remember a friendship nearly 20 years ago. I had a good friend and colleague, whom I knew to be an Episcopalian, and whose faith and spirituality I knew to be important to her. At that point, I had completely given up on Christianity and the church. I well recall an evening sitting out on the deck where I was vacationing with her and her friend on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, when I blurted out (no doubt violently and angrily and insolently): "How the hell can two such smart women as you continue to worship that old white god?" I was pissed. I was angry and hurt by religionists. But these women engaged my question tenderly and thoughtfully. And they kept talking with me through several years of our friendship – despite my anger and my approach/avoidance belligerence. Several years later, I was confirmed in the Episcopal Church. One of those women was the priest who led me through the catechism and preparation for confirmation; the other sat in the nave that spring day when I recited my promises and was confirmed.

To this day, I credit those two women with saving my life. I was on a downward spiral of spiritual despair. When I blurted out my antipathy at their "old white God," they didn't beat me over the head with a Bible and tell me I had to accept the Lord Cheezus as my Personal Savior. They engaged my question tenderly and respectfully, in a conversation that took place over the course not just of that week, but of several years to come.

And so I think again about my habit of wearing my Christian/Episcopalian shirts. I wear them in the hopes of being an open door. I wear them in the hope that somebody may ask me – as I asked those friends back in the early '90s: "How the heck can you be gay and a Christian?" I keep hoping it will eventually give me a chance to talk with them about Christianity outside the neanderthal mindset that so hideously dominates our American culture.

I think some of those conversations do occur – though perhaps not as dramatically as I might hope. Sometimes, people who are hurting or struggling do seek me out. And I speak with them as honestly as I can, out of my full humanity and out of my full, flawed faith. I can't say that any of them have shown up in church the next Sunday to accept Cheezus Christ.

But I didn't run to church the next Sunday after Nancy & Pam talked to me of their faith, either. It took years for me to talk and listen and slowly be converted.

I want to offer other people – especially the "outcasts" – the kind of faith and hope that I have found in the church. I wish all of them would come to my healthy Episcopal parish this Sunday, and that they would "taste and see" as I have tasted and seen. But I suppose it doesn't always happen that quickly and easily.

So, meanwhile, I will continue to wear my polo shirts and t-shirts and sweatshirts with the Episcopal shield … in hopes that doors will continue to open and that folks who feel beat-up by the religionists may get a hunch that we're not all close-minded bigots.

Know what I mean?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Tremors Abound

Surely I'm not the only one who has had this experience. I learn a new word, and in the next few days, I find myself encountering it all around me. Or I learn a new concept, and suddenly I hear it on the radio, see it on TV, and discuss it with friends.

ET has been like that. First there was this important event: I learned that another parishioner has the same diagnosis. She's one of those about whom I have written before: She and her husband are among the most anti-gay people in my parish. But it turns out that we share a common, seldom-diagnosed disease. When I learned this fact, I actually leapt for joy: Finally, she and I would have something to discuss. Sure enough, I sought her out this past Sunday during coffee hour, and we had a very warm conversation, sharing stories and talking about coping mechanisms. This truly, deeply pleases me. Finally! – at last! – she and I have something to discuss that doesn't have anything to do with the Church's current unpleasantness. I have hopes that – if we can get better acquainted as individuals – perhaps all that "political" stuff can recede (as it should) to the background.

And the tremors abound in this way too: I was in the grocery story this week, and found myself in line behind a woman who obviously has some kind of movement disorder. I could see her head bobbing and jerking. I wanted to reach out to her and ask her whether she has sought medical guidance. But I didn't. I was too timid. From what I read, ET is way-seldom diagnosed. Very many people just don't try to talk with their docs about it. I don't want to become the ET emissary. But it sure is hard to see somebody suffering, and not intervene.

I'm sorry to be so self-absorbed with the ET thing. But, for now, I really am kinda absorbed by it. I suspect that will pass with time. Please be patient with me, as I work past it.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Windsor Compliance

This story from Jonathan Petre has me thinking. He says the Archbishop of Canterbury may rethink the invitations to the Lambeth Conference. He claims the Archbishop

has now indicated that he is prepared to scrutinise controversial bishops he had already invited if there is evidence that they are unwilling to compromise their views.

The Archbishop will seek assurances that they can abide by the broad principles of the Windsor Report, but he has not ruled out barring them from the three-week conference.

This has me thinking again: Which provinces are really "Windsor-compliant"?

Windsor called on provinces not to consecrate any homosexuals to the episcopate. The Episcopal Church (U.S.) has complied. In fact, our General Convention passed a noxious resolution (PU33) saying we wouldn't consecrate anyone whose "manner of life poses a challenge" to the wider Communion. And in September, our weenie bishops passed a resolution making it clear that the targets – the only targets of that resolution – are the queers. They have no problem with thrice-married bishops. [Can you say Beisner?] They have no problem with episcopal candidates who despise our church. [Can you say Lawrence?] But they will "faithfully" and steadfastly bar faithful gay men and lesbians from the episcopate. The U.S. church is Windsor-compliant. The bishops have sold their souls, but – by God! – they are Windsor-compliant.

Windsor called on provinces not to adopt liturgies for same-sex blessings. The Episcopal Church has complied. Interestingly, three dioceses of the Anglican Church in Canada have now approved such liturgies. [Edit/update: Thanks to Malcolm+ in the comments section for clarifying: Only 1 diocese in Canada (New Westminster) has approved SSBs; three other diocesan synods (Ottawa, Montreal and Niagara) have now asked that their bishops authorize them.] The Church of England officially blesses unions of priests who have civil blessings. The U.S. church is Windsor-compliant. Others are not. If Windsor-compliance is the yardstick, I fear Rowan will have to disinvite the bishops of the Church of England.

Windsor called upon provinces to cease cross-border incursions. The Episcopal Church has never done these. Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, and the Province of the Southern Cone have done so. Gomez has participated in these cross-border consecrations, while serving on the "Covenant Design Group." The U.S. church is Windsor-compliant. These others are not.

It seems to me that the Episcopal Church is one of the few provinces that has remained "Windsor compliant" since the issuance of the Windsor Report. Many of the so-called orthodox will have to be disinvited if "Windsor compliance" is the yardstick.

If Jonathan Petre is correct and the Archbishop of Canterbury is going to rescind invitations to Lambeth based on their "Windsor compliance," the bishops of the Episcopal Church are in a sweet position. Many bishops of England, Nigeria, Canada, Uganda, Kenya, and the Southern Cone should find themselves disinvited if "Windsor compliance" is the yardstick. Most of the bishops of the Episcopal Church in the U.S. will get to have tea with the Queen. (Never mind that they sold some of their members down the river to get that invitation.)

Let Rowan use "Windsor compliance" as his yardstick for who he will and will not invite. I dare him!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

For the Bible Tells Me So

You may think that Nashville, Tennessee, is hopelessly locked in the buckle of the Bible Belt. But I lived there for a few years, and I came to love that city. It's not the neanderthal city that some might suspect.

Yesterday, Nashville's Tennessean newspaper posted an article that was a breath of fresh air to me. Staff writer Bill Friskics-Warren wrote, Does the Bible Always Tell Us So? He begins:

The Bible says that eating shrimp is an abomination and that working on the Sabbath is punishable by death. Not even the most devout Christian, though, thinks twice about ordering the shrimp scampi or checking their office e-mail from home on a Sunday afternoon.

Biblical literalists know that the customs and circumstances that gave rise to such injunctions were rooted in historical and cultural contexts very different from our own.

So why do so many Christians cling to the handful of Scriptures that cast aspersions on sexual relationships between people of the same gender? Why, when scholars tell us that these passages have nothing to do with sexual orientation as we've come to understand it, do some people continue to use Scripture as a club to judge and condemn?

"We have a long history of looking to the Bible to confirm our prejudices," said Daniel Karslake, director of For the Bible Tells Me So, a new documentary that explores these questions and looks at how this biblical heavy-handedness is tearing families, congregations and denominations apart.

His article reviews the documentary and discusses the "clobber verses" often used to hate gay men and lesbians. He concludes his essay with this text:

The cruel irony, as For the Bible Tells Me So depicts, is that casting gay people out of church doesn't just alienate them from their own spirituality. It also robs straight people of faith of the chance to get to know and understand vast numbers of their Christian brothers and sisters.

All of which, Armour [Ellen Armour, professor of theology at Vanderbilt Divinity School] believes, points to the need for a new theology of sexuality, one steeped in the values of love and justice, not hatred and exclusion. "I think you can make a case for (love and justice) as a broad theological imperative, certainly in the Hebrew Scriptures and picked up again in many of the New Testament texts, and certainly picked up by Jesus," she said. "That was what his first sermon was all about. Sexual relationships should be judged not on legal grounds but on how they manifest justice and love."

Karslake's documentary represents a crucial step in this direction. After a gay teenager in Iowa saw a segment of what served as the de facto pilot for the project, he sent the filmmaker a note of thanks.

"Last week I bought the gun, yesterday I wrote the note, last night I happened to see your show on PBS," he wrote. "Just knowing that someday, somewhere, I might be able to go back into a church with my head held high, I dropped the gun in the river. My mom never has to know."

It won't surprise you to know that the commenters on the Tennessean site are raking him over the coals. But read the article. It's encouraging to see that mainstream journalists are finally "getting it."


A few weeks ago, the progressive blogosphere was abuzz about the violent language coming from the "right" – with folks on the StandFirm blog threatening to pick up their guns, and one woman saying that our Presiding Bishop "wasn't worth the bullet" it would take to kill her. Even English reporter Stephen Bates was disgusted by those "Christians." I was mightily dismayed by those comments. Father Jake has done a fine job tracking that dialogue in his Who Is Worth Killing?

Now an even more chilling report has been circulating, from an Episcopalian who attended the Fort Worth diocesan convention. She reports:

I'm sorry there wasn't a live webcast for the opening Eucharist this afternoon. Maybe it would have shown the presence of the uniformed police officer in the hallway next to the choir, within a few feet of the altar. Secured in his belt was a loaded gun and a taser. I know this because I asked him after the service, as he stood in the doorway to St. Anne's bookstore. I told him these weapons were meant for me and my friends. What must they think of us?
When I read that story, I was appalled. And I wondered whether it was really true. But the story was soon verified by a person in Fort Worth, who confirmed that he was the one who had suggested that armed guards be at the altar in Fort Worth's Eucharist. And what was the cause of his panic? It's because Bishop Iker received this e-mail message on November 13:
[snipped addresses]
Subject: Presiding Bishop Jefferts-Schori's letter to you

Dear Mr. Iker:

I hope that Presiding Bishop Jefferts-Schori takes you out behind the woodpile and beats the sh*t out of pompous asshole. Your arrogance is beyond the pale and a disgrace to what's left of the Christian Church. Why don't you give the Episcopal Church a gift this holiday season and get the f*ck out of it.

- A pissed off and disgusted gay Episcopal priest...who you can't touch because I don't live in your fascist diocese.
Let me hasten to say I find that person's language thoroughly disgusting. I'm doubly disgusted that he would use such language while claiming to be a priest in the Episcopal Church. And I completely disagree with his wish that anyone would leave the Episcopal Church.

But I must ask: Given that all his language was passive – wishing someone else [namely ++KJS] would take action or that Bishop Iker et al would just leave – what in the world made the people in Fort Worth think he was posing an active, violent threat?

To me, it appears that many of the folks in the "Network" are actively cultivating a kind of hysteria among their adherents. It looks to me like they are seeking to whip up a kind of frenzied martyrdom of "True Believers under assault" that gave us Jim Jones and David Koresch. It's frightening to me to see leaders of our church cultivate the kind of victim-under-assault language that urges its adherents to take up arms. We have read the homicidal, violent words on StandFirm, and now we have seen it manifested in the Fort Worth Eucharist. When will this end? Where will it end?

A few folks have argued that Fort Worth's armed guards around the altar are just like Bishop Robinson's kevlar vest. I have now learned that it wasn't just Bishop Robinson in a bulletproof vest. There were also undercover law enforcement agents in the procession and altar party. The reason law enforcement took actions at Bishop Robinson's consecration was because there were death threats. Real, confirmed, credible death threats. Not e-mails wishing Bishop Robinson would leave the church. In New Hampshire, law enforcement officials perceived a credible threat. There's a very large difference.

By contrast, Bishop Iker and his minions remind me of lunatics like Jim Jones and David Koresch. I suppose they think they will whip up the faithful with rumors of violence.

I must agree with those who are beginning to say that the leadership in Fort Worth is sick. Very, very sick.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


I am not an early riser. Generally, if I wake early, it's because something has disturbed my sleep. That was the case this morning, when I woke too early, from a very sensual dream. I found myself remembering the phrase, "For I at most accept your love, regretting that is all . . . ." I found the poem after I awoke. Here it is.

I majored in Elizabethan and metaphysical poetry in my graduate studies. Funny that this one should come rumbling in my brain today. But it is a lovely poem. I commend it to you.

No One So Much As You
by Edward Thomas

No one so much as you
Loves this my clay,
Or would lament as you
Its dying day.

You know me through and through
Though I have not told,
And though with what you know
You are not bold.

None ever was so fair
As I thought you:
Not a word can I bear
Spoken against you.

All that I ever did
For you seemed coarse
Compared with what I hid
Nor put in force.

My eyes scarce dare meet you
Lest they should prove
I but respond to you
And do not love.

We look and understand,
We cannot speak
Except in trifles and
Words the most weak.

For I at most accept
Your love, regretting
That is all: I have kept
Only a fretting

That I could not return
All that you gave
And could not ever burn
With the love you have,

Till sometimes it did seem
Better it were
Never to see you more
Than linger here

With only gratitude
Instead of love -
A pine in solitude
Cradling a dove.

Have you ever been in the poet's position? Have you been in the position of the one who was merely loved with gratitude?


Friday, November 09, 2007

Meeting ET

Some weird physical stuff has been happening. I talked about it here. Starting in the springtime, my motor control "just didn't feel right," and I finally went to my doc in early May. I was afraid I had Parkinson's disease. In the intervening months, it's been a case of running the medical gauntlet. My doc suspected a pinched nerve, so I had an MRI, followed by a series of spinal injections over the course of 3 months. Which did nothing. Then she turned me over to a neurologist, and I've had a brain MRI, EEG, and gave enough blood to satisfy Count Dracula for at least a month.

At long last, I have a diagnosis and a prescription. The neurologist is diagnosing it as "essential tremor." [Doesn't really sound like a disease, does it? But at least it has a catchy abbreviation. I can just see a series of future blog entries titled "My Life with ET."] And I have a prescription for clonazepam, which – it is hoped – will control the symptoms. And I'm to take an aspirin a day as a stroke precaution. [The neurologist saw something in my MRI that has him worried I'll stoke-out.]

"Essential tremor" or ET is "a neurological disorder that causes tremors (shakes) when a person attempts a purposeful movement." In other words, if I'm at rest, there are no tremors. The shakes only occur when I try to write, work at the keyboard, hold a coffee cup, etc.

There's no cure. But 50-75% of people manage the symptoms with drugs, injections, or brain surgery. It generally progresses over time, but one doesn't die of it. The great news is that the earlier it's diagnosed, the better the chances of not really being disabled by it. And compared to what it could be, my current symptoms are really minor; I can still brush my teeth, put on makeup (such as it is), and eat. So I have my Inner Drama Queen [and the nagging from Liz, to whom I give thanks] to thank for getting me to the doctor early. Lots of folks don't even seek help 'til their tremors are visible and interfering with routine daily chores like holding a cup of coffee.

Naturally, after getting this diagnosis, I went to the Web. I found the Mayo Clinic site provides a helpful basic introduction. More detailed information and a helpful discussion forum are available at WEMOVE.

Apparently, I'm not the only one who goes to the doctor fearing it's Parkinsons. According to WEMOVE:
ET patients must be encouraged to learn as much as they can about their disease to help them better cope with the condition's progression. Once a diagnosis of ET has been established, the natural history of the condition should be explained to patients. In addition, because many patients fear that their tremor may be associated with PD [Parkinson's Disease], clinicians may reassure their patients by explaining the differences between the two diseases.
And this is pretty funny. According to the "side effects" notice with the prescription I got today, the drug may cause "unnatural weakness, … clumsiness, or unsteadiness." But wait! I already have all those. LOL!

Here's some good news: From what I'm reading online, alcohol tends to reduce the tremors. I'm beginning my own independent test of that premise tonight; I'll see whether it's true.

I expect some of you are wondering: "So how are you really doing?" That's a hard one. I'm kinda in shell-shock tonight. I'm grateful for the early diagnosis. I'm grateful when I read the WEMOVE forum and realize I'm not yet experiencing the kind of symptoms that many people do by the time they seek medical assistance. And, of course, I'm scared too, about where this might lead. Of the things I fear, dependence scares me the most.

A couple decades ago, a dear friend taught me to love bird-watching. [Thanks, Carol!] Occasionally she laughed at my compulsive need to know the names of the birds. Knowing the names of things seems to be important to me. I don't know why. But I am somewhat relieved that I now know the name of this thing that I'm living with. Despite hating the news, there is some comfort in finally being able to attach a name to this weird conglomeration of "weird stuff" I've been experiencing. "ET." OK. ET it is. Apparently, ET and I will be living together for the rest of my life.

Besides, I know that many of you are dealing with stuff that is much more immediate and life-threatening than this new thing of mine. I do recognize this is only a drama to me. TBTG for perspective and a sense of irony!