Saturday, January 24, 2009

TV Alert

Prayers for Bobby

I know this news made the rounds a while back, but it's happening tonight, and I wanted to post it here in case any of you friends missed the early announcements.

The Lifetime cable channel is premiering a movie tonight, Prayers for Bobby, that sounds very good. Here's the blurb from the Lifetime site: "Sigourney Weaver stars in this emotional true story about a 1970s religious suburban housewife and mother who struggles to accept her young son Bobby being gay. What happens to Bobby is tragic and causes Mary to question her faith; ultimately this mom changes her views in ways that she never could have imagined."

Never mind that I could happily spend hours just watching Sigourney Weaver read the phone book! :-)

It sounds like a powerful story about a Christian fundamentalist's conversion. Her Bible-thumping certainty, her efforts to "save" her son, and finally her efforts to move beyond homophobia.

Here's the 2:14 trailer:

The movie will premiere on the Lifetime cable channel tonight (Jan. 24) at 9 pm ET, with encores Sunday (Jan. 25) at 8 pm ET and Tuesday (Jan. 27) at 9 pm ET.

Sounds like "must-see TV" to me.

Friday, January 23, 2009


On Inauguration Day, I was still lying on the sofa with ice packs. I kept dozing in and out. My heart sang. I am so glad Bush is gone! And I wasn't an early supporter of Obama, but now it feels like he is bringing a new dawn of hope to America and a return to our constitutional republic.

So ... here are some doozies from PunditKitchen (daughter of ICanHasCheezburger) that pretty much sum up my thoughts from the day. Yes, they are irreverent.

I remember how I loathed seeing the Shrub. Could not wait for him to be gone. These images worked for me.

The End  of an Error
see more funny political pictures

I could barely wait for the Bushes to get the hell out of Washington.

see more funny political pictures

By contrast, my heart was filled with joy and hope at Barack Obama's inauguration. This one works for me.

see more funny political pictures

Now that we are three days into the Obama presidency, I keep hearing more good stuff. Each day, he is signing executive orders that wipe out little bits of the the Bush oligarchy. I like this image.

Dear America, Thanks. I've got your back now.
see more funny political pictures

I feel so much safer with President Obama in charge. And I am becoming proud to be an American again, after these long eight years of shame.

Self Portrait

Like many of you, I am a huge fan of ICanHasCheezburger. When I can't keep up with goings-on in the Episcopal/Anglican world, I still check that site daily.

Now ... you know I've been whining for the past five days about my fall and my battered head and face. This one just cracked me up.

Yeah well  Yu shudd see teh uddr guy
see more crazy cat pics

Here's the good news: Yesterday, my doc told me to quit using Neosporin, let the wounds dry, and begin applying the "juice" from vitamin E capsules twice a day. When I showed up at the office today, people were astonished. One said it looked like I had healed two weeks in just 24 hours. It's true. At the beginning of the week, people who saw me gasped and/or gagged. Today, they're simply asking, "What happened?" I am delighted with this progress.

I think I am still having some after-effects of the concussion. Occasional nausea and dizziness. Occasional lapses of concentration or losing my train of thought. And I continue to have a huge hurt in my skull. (But I'll take care of that soon, with codeine when I go to bed.)

But I am optimistic tonight ... and no longer looking like this battle-scarred kitteh. So ... I hope this is the last time for me to write about this stupid accident.

It's time to move on.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Dioceses of Missouri & Lui (Sudan)

Several of you are aware that I chair the committee that oversees the covenant relationship between the Diocese of Missouri and the Diocese of Lui (in Sudan). Episcopal Life Online has posted a story about our recent work with the people in the Episcopal Diocese of Lui. I think the ELO reporter did a pretty good job with the story. I commend it to you. (As you get to the end of the ELO story, you may appreciate that a lesbian is coordinating Missouri's side of this covenant relationship. That often bemuses me.)

Note: I'm copying ELO's text below, but I've added some of our photographs that weren't in the ELO story.
= = = = =

MISSOURI: Deep Wells, Deep Relationships in Lui

[Episcopal News Service] Eight Missouri Episcopalians left family, friends and holiday traditions behind to spend the Christmas season in Sudan. The mission trip was the latest chapter in the companion relationship between the Diocese of Missouri and the Diocese of Lui in the Episcopal Church of Sudan, now rebuilding after more than two decades of civil war. It has also provided the opportunity to develop close and lasting relationships that are invigorating faith communities in both dioceses.

The Venerable Robert Anton Franken, a member of the Missouri team, helped launch the relationship between the dioceses in 2006, a time when there was no running water, sewers, electricity or telephones in Lui. During seven trips to Sudan in the past three years, he has seen a lot of rebuilding in the war-torn country and notes that Missouri Episcopalians have played a key role.

Efforts by members of the Diocese of Missouri have provided a computer and satellite access for the diocesan office in Lui, enabling communication by telephone and email. A $19,200 grant from United Thank Offering will help to establish a grinding mill, which will be a project of the Mothers Union. Missouri also hosted a Sudanese priest, the Rev. Stephen Dokolo, for two years of theological education, enabling him to return to Sudan to teach other clergy.

Another gift from the Diocese of Missouri has eased the burdens of daily life for hundreds of Moru families: the convenience and benefit of clean water.

Deep Wells

Since 2006 the Diocese of Missouri has provided for the drilling of six wells in Lui, each at a cost of approximately $17,000, according to Franken, who worked with Lui Bishop Bullen Dolli to select locations for the wells.

Franken explained that they are "deep water wells which don't dry up during the drought season." He said the wells have ranged in depth from 165 feet to 360 feet, all drilled through solid granite, and that the water is drinkable without filtering.

The wells are also about witness, said Franken. "They are all drilled on church property, but open to the community, so it's a real witness about what the church is doing."

The Rev. Joe Chambers, Episcopal campus ministry chaplain at the University of Missouri, Columbia, wanted to join the mission team so he could make a direct connection with the people who are using the wells—one of which he helped to provide.

Chambers was a part of the 2008 Waters of Hope bike ride, a joint project of the Dioceses of Iowa and Missouri. The ride raised $65,000 which went to provide for clean water making devices for the Diocese of Swaziland and for one deep water well in the Diocese of Lui. A similar ride through Missouri in 2009 will seek to raise additional funds for clean water projects.

Chambers says that Missouri's goal is to provide a well for each of the seven archdeaneries of the Diocese of Lui. That goal will be exceeded by the time the next mission team from Missouri arrives this May, as arrangements have been made for three new wells to be drilled, paid for with funds already given by Missouri Episcopalians.

Missouri missioner Debra Smith said the team witnessed first hand why providing clean water is one of the Millennium Development Goals.

"We saw how much healthier the people in Lui look, especially the children," she said. "And because they no longer spend time at water holes spooning water into containers, some women have had time to enter adult education classes to learn to read their own language."

Deep Relationships

Smith's husband, Missouri Bishop Wayne Smith, told the diocese's 2008 convention that mission transforms the missioner. "That's the great secret," he said, "missioners then scatter transformation among the communities who sent them in the first place."

Debra Smith said the transformation generated through the relationship with Lui has "spilled over" throughout the Diocese of Missouri and that there is "an awareness of the vastness of creation and how small the world really is."

No place has this been more true that at the Church of the Advent in Crestwood, whose rector, the Rev. Dan Handshy, was a member of the Missouri team, making his first visit to Sudan.

In 2006, the Church of the Advent established a sister relationship with the congregation in Lozoh, in the Diocese of Lui. One Sunday, Handshy announced to his congregation that the church building in Lozoh had been destroyed in a grass fire. After church an eight-year-old boy came up to Handshy and said, "Why don't we have a bake sale?" They did and raised $450 from the sale of hot cross buns baked in large part by children. The money was sent to Lui along with a large ceremonial check signed by Advent's Sunday School children.

Upon entering the one-room diocesan office in Lui, Handshy said he froze and tears began to run down his cheeks. There was the large check, framed and hanging on the wall. Bishop Bullen reported that the check is taken out and used in catechism classes as concrete evidence that the Diocese of Lui is part of a larger family, the Anglican Communion.

"That's what this relationship is about," said Handshy. "We now have very young children who have a real sense about what the Anglican Communion is."

Smith said the trip was more than a project, "it was a visit to friends, the only real way we have to check in with some people we have come to love."

"Maybe we go to inspect wells or photograph a chapel or check on the grinding mill progress, but the real purpose in our visit is to see our beloved brothers and sisters in Christ," she said.

Deeper Understandings

The Christmas trip to Lui, including an unexpected meeting with Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul, the primate of the Episcopal Church of Sudan, provided an opportunity to talk about the issue of human sexuality—an issue that has caused controversy throughout the Anglican Communion with some repercussions in Missouri this past year.

On July 22, 2008, while attending the Lambeth Conference for Anglican bishops, Deng held a press conference during which he called for the resignation of the Right Rev. V. Gene Robinson, the openly gay Bishop of New Hampshire. He said Robinson should resign in order to preserve the unity of the Anglican Communion.

Deng also said that homosexuality is not "approved by the Bible" and "is not part of my culture." He said there are no gay or lesbian people in Sudan.

Following Deng's comments, a number of people in the Diocese of Missouri called for the termination of the companion relationship with the Dicoese of Lui, some of them members of Handshy's parish, which is an "Oasis" congregation that has been explicit in welcoming and involving gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons.

Yet, Handshy reported that the Advent congregation was so involved in its relationship with Lozoh that it could not see severing its relationship with Episcopalians in Sudan, despite the hurt caused by Deng's remarks. The parish submitted a resolution to the 2008 convention of the Diocese of Missouri that affirmed the commitment of the diocese to the "work of inclusion of all the baptized in the whole sacramental life of the Episcopal Church" and also affirmed Missouri's commitment to the Episcopal Church in Sudan "despite the sometimes painful differences with Archbishop Daniel in our understandings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ."

In the rationale for supporting the resolution, members of the Church of the Advent said, among other things, "we cannot afford to do without the gifts we received from our fellow Christians in Sudan." The resolution was adopted overwhelmingly.

On the second day of the trip, the Missouri missioners attended the dedication of new offices in the neighboring Diocese of Mundri. There the group encountered Deng, who was on hand to preside at the service. Handshy said that within five minutes of the group's arrival Deng brought up the remarks he had made at the Lambeth Conference, saying they were "the feelings of my people and I was there representing my people."

Handshy reported that Deng also said that the feelings of his people were not necessarily his own feelings. To Handshy, Deng's remarks seem to leave open the possibility that this own views about Bishop Robinson might be different or more complex than his people.

Whatever his beliefs, Deng made it clear to the group that the Episcopal Church of Sudan is staying in the Anglican Communion, even if they disagree on some issues.

For me to hear that," said Handshy, "was worth the price of admission."

Smith reported that she had the opportunity to have "a really good conversation" with Bishop Bullen about issues of homosexuality, including the belief held by many in the United States that they are born that way. She reported that this seemed to be "new information" to Bullen, who asked "hard and honest questions." Smith said there are significant cultural differences that make it difficult for the Sudanese to wrap their minds around how we see this issue.

"What's important is that we are talking about this with them and that is not derailing the relationship," she said.

-- Joe Bjordal is Episcopal Life Media correspondent in the dioceses of Provinces V and VI. He is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Good Report

Just back from the doc. With all the wisdom that years of medical training can confer, she determined that I had fallen. [Hardy-har-har!] And that I did all the right stuff. She says there's no infection. Hooray! But that I probably do have a mild concussion. She told me to let the abrasions and cuts dry up, then apply vitamin E a couple times a day, and we'll how it looks when it heals.

[Just for you, Kirkepiscatoid: You'll be pleased to know she's a graduate of your fine institution.]

While out, I also got my eyeglasses fixed. They were quite bent out of shape in the fall.

Thanks to all y'all for your concern. I'm at work at the moment, and will reply more personally to your comments on this thread and last night's when I get home this evening.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Face and Body Update

Since Monday evening, I have spent my energies on Facebook rather than my blog here. I've had some requests and harangues that now force me to post a bit of an update over here.

Monday evening, I was carrying a heavy bag of trash downstairs to my garbage can. I tripped on the last step (at the unlighted porch) and took a miserable fall. I fell onto the downstairs porch. It is an old wooden porch, with much rough paint and splintered wood. My face went sliding over that rough wood, along with the bones and muscles that landed hard.

I thought I laid there a while, making sure my bones were ok. But today I went down there and saw a significant pool of blood where my face landed. So I have a hunch that I must have lost consciousness for a while, while my face bled.

I was astonished when I got back upstairs and saw the state of my face. I kinda looked like Rocky after a miserable fight. I was surprised. And I was scared. Several folks offered counsel Monday night, for which I was grateful. I took the advice to keep ice on my face, as well as Ibuprofen, to combat the swelling. And I had Tylenol #3 to deal with the pain.

I spent Tuesday doing the same. Ice and codeine, my new Best Friends.

After a day of dozing with icepacks and codeine, my sleep cycles were out of synch, so I couldn't get onto a regular sleep cycle. But I went to work at noon today.

It was rather miserable today. I tried to keep the right side of my face toward people. But sometimes I failed, and they were horrified when they saw the left side of my face. I didn't have an easy or lighthearted story to share with them.

And things got kinda miserable for me. My face wounds have gotten worse-looking. It feels like my brain is foggy. And the pain grew throughout the day. Not just in my face, but in the other body-parts on the left side of my body that took the fall. And my skull hurts. Day-um, it hurts.

So … I finally broke down and called my doc this afternoon. I have an appointment tomorrow morning. I worry that the swelling isn't diminishing. I worry that perhaps I didn't clean the wounds well enough. I worry about the scarring that will occur if I tend this on my own, without a doctor's attention.

I am grateful to those of you who have harangued me to get myself to the doctor. I probably should have paid attention to you earlier. But I'm finally going to do it tomorrow. I thank you deeply for your concern and advice.

I am sorry to take a blog-post with my personal crap. I hope to post soon about more important issues.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Finding Jesus

I was truly heartened by your comments here and on Facebook after my "Birthday Wishes" post. Yeah ... sometimes ... oftentimes! ... I overcomplicate things.

This one from LOLcats just cracked me up. Sometimes we search and search ... only to find that God ... or Jesus ... or the Spirit was "there" all along.

funny pictures of cats with captions
more delightful cats

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Birthday Wishes

I am grateful for those who are sending me birthday wishes/greetings over on Facebook. Truly grateful.

I expect my birthday will be like every other Wednesday. I will go to work. I will come home. I will feed and love on the cats (Scotty and Jamocha). I will reply to e-mails and surf the Web. And I will go to bed.

But a new friend caught me up short today when she sent me early greetings and asked me: "What would be the best birthday gift you could receive this year?" It didn't take seconds to know my answer. I would wish for either of these:
(1) An abililty to pray -- and deeply feel connected -- with a God/Spirit I felt was listening.
(2) An ability to believe what Elizabeth Kaeton [aka TELP] periodically tells me: that I am beloved by God beyond my wildest imagining.
If I could have either of those, I could live and die happy.

Mind you, I am an Episcopalian -- not a wackadoo charismatic. I don't expect God to come sweeping into my house, blowing all the papers off the desk and rearranging the furniture. I know that God will probably speak to me as he always has in the past: in a small but passionate voice.

That's all I want for my birthday and for my future. Just a connection with that small, passionate voice of God. Just the assurance that I truly am beloved of God.

Monday, January 12, 2009

What S*** is This?

I've puttered at home throughout this long, grey day. Imagine my surprise when I got up from the laptop a little while ago, looked out the window, and discovered that my little bit of Missouri is now covered in a blanket of white stuff.

Mind you, I am very grateful when we get a blanket of snow to cover the unrelenting brown/gray that characterizes Missouri in winter.

This snow is a blessing. I hope it remains.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Off to St. Louis

I'll be in St. Louis tomorrow. Our diocese has a covenant relationship with the Diocese of Lui, in Sudan. I chair the committee that coordinates that relationship. [Yeah, I recognize that's fairly ironic, given the garbage that the Archbishop of Sudan said about gay/lesbian people during Lambeth. But I remain committed to reconciliation … even reconciliation with Archbishop Daniel.] I spent a couple of weeks in Lui in 2006 and it changed me forever.

Over the past three weeks, our diocese has had a team of missioners in Lui. They have blogged here and here. My heart has been with them, even as my mind has had to be here.

Now they are home at last. We are going to have a "welcome home" get-together. That's where I'll be Sunday. I yearn to meet and talk with our missioners.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Rick Warren … Again

I'm a devoted listener of NPR. It's my primary source of news and analysis. (I listen to it during the day, then flip over to PBS at night.)

On All Things Considered this evening, they announced they have asked poets to write on the upcoming inauguration of Barack Obama. The first poet up was Calvin Trilling. He read his poem this evening, and you can hear or read it here. Now, I must say this poem did not strike me as great literature. Nothing like Maya Angelou's powerful "And still we rise." He seemed to make a game of finding lines with something that could rhyme with "ay." Doggerel, actually. But there was one part that made me laugh. Here's a snippet from the beginning:

Inauguration is the day
The nation's hopes go on display —
When through one man we all convey
Our dream that things will go our way.
His résumé we can't gainsay.
In politics, we know, his play
Is worthy of the NBA.
He proved that in the recent fray,
Though he had help from Tina Fey.
And now this solemn matinee
Awards the winner's bright bouquet.
First, Pastor Warren's going to pray
For everyone who isn't gay.

Obama then will stand and say,
"I take this oath that I'll obey
The statutes of the U. S. A."
It goes on and on. It ain't good poetry. In fact, it's very bad doggerel.

But I loved his line about Rick Warren's invocation. "Pastor Warren's going to pray / For everyone who isn't gay. " That's the only thing that matters about Rick Warren: that he hates gay people. That has become Rick Warren's trademark. Even the mainstream media is beginning to characterize him as "the anti-gay pastor."

And then my friend Ann alerted me to this news snippet. Rick Warren is actively supporting the Anglican schismatics yet again. You may recall he wrote that fawning hagiography of Nigerian Archbishop Akinola a while back in Time. [01/10 update: A belated hat-tip to Mark Harris for providing the link to the Time article; it's here. And thanks to one of the commenters at Mark's site for reminding me that Warren was one of the keynote speakers at the ACN's "Hope and a Future" shindig in Pittsburgh in 2005.] Now Warren is offering his huge facility as a haven for the orthodites. In the week that the California Supreme Court said the schismatics don't have a leg to stand on, Warren is giving them haven. Here's part of the letter he sent to "leading conservative Anglicans":
... [The Episcopal Church has] already considered me an adversary after partnering on projects with Kolini, Orumbi, and Nzimbi, and writing the TIME bio on Akinola.
But since last summer... I’ve been on Gene Robinson and other’s attack list for my position on gay marriage. ....[Our] brothers and sisters here at St. James in Newport Beach lost their California State Supreme Court case to keep their property.
We stand in solidarity with them, and with all orthodox, evangelical Anglicans. I offer the campus of Saddleback Church to any Anglican congregation who need a place to meet, or if you want to plant a new congregation in south Orange County.
I'm not surprised. Let us remember that Warren is an avowed enemy of the Episcopal Church and of gay/lesbian people. He hates queers, and he hates the mainstream Episcopalians who might accept queers.

That much is clear.

Now … I remain hopeful about the inauguration of President Obama. But my zeal and joy is significantly reduced by the knowledge that Obama has embraced this hateful Christianist "pastor" and given him such a cameo role at the inauguration. That decision has reduced my hopes for Obama as "just another politician." Time will tell what his leadership will reveal.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Apply as Needed

Choral Evensong

This evening I attended choral evensong at my parish, celebrating the Epiphany. It was a small, quiet service. (Our folks still aren't accustomed to attending weeknight services!) I got to serve as crucifer, so you know I was happy. And our parish hasn't done a sung evening prayer very often, so this was a special treat.

But here's what struck me: Another layperson served as officiant, as the Prayer Book rubrics allow (or even urge). Our priest sat in a pew far back in the nave, letting us laypeople lead the service. I liked that. There are not many times when our clergy get to sit in the church and just worship. I was glad that we could give her that opportunity.

As it happens, I am now reading George Wayne Smith's Admirable Simplicity. I am enjoying it. Just today, I had read his chapter about the daily office, and it enriched my experience this evening. I heartily commend his book to you.

Size Matters

I've been watching the discussion on the House of Bishops/Deputies listserv over the past week. They are talking about what size of parish is viable and what constitutes "acceptable" growth in a parish.

One of my listserv friends is in a huge urban parish. He wrote today:

I'm fortunate to live in a large city with a whole variety of Episcopal churches, almost one for anyone's liturgical or political tastes. . . . . In the big churches [here] people more or less pick their circle and their involvement. … People who attend [this parish] drive past several other Episcopal churches on their way downtown. They have myriad reasons for doing so, but I don't sense a great deal of competition among the big parishes for members.

I was struck by the contrast between his parish and mine. Here in my little town of 40,000, we are the only Episcopal Church in town. If you are an Episcopalian here, you can't go "parish-shopping" for a parish that will meet your liturgical and political taste. If you want a different flavor of Episcopal church, you must travel at least 30 miles … and none of the parishes within 90 miles will have a very different liturgical or political flavor than ours … though some will be even more low-church and conservative.

From time to time, I get to spend Sunday morning in St. Louis. When I do, I always go to a parish that is more politically progressive/liberal than mine and more Anglo-Catholic in its liturgy. I love it when I get to visit them. And I'm there often enough that some joke that I'm an "adjunct member" of that parish.

I am thankful that I sometimes get a "fix" at that urban parish that matches my liturgical and political sensibilities. … But I also think it's probably good that my home parish forces people to compromise and accommodate. In my home town, there is no option to "ghettoize" into like-minded Episcopalians. We are forced every day, every Sunday to live with tension.

I have shared this story with many of you. My priest preached a knock-out-of-the-park sermon on that Sunday in 2006 after General Convention had consented to Gene Robinson's election to the episcopate. My priest made the point that we had been forced into tolerance, because we in my parish cannot seek out parishes that reflect our particular politics and liturgical preferences.

I am of two minds. I can see the value in our perforce-tolerant parish. But I love it when I get to visit my "adjunct parish" in St. Louis. I see value in both.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Something Positive to Do

I received this press release today from Episcopal Relief and Development. I expect several of you received it, too. It gives us something positive we can do to ease the suffering in Gaza. One of the wonderful things about ERD is that they have connections all over the world. They even have ways of getting money into nations/provinces that "officially" don't accept money from the Episcopal Church. I commend this to you.

Episcopal Relief & Development Supports Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza

Since the recent upsurge on December 27th, the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict has left more than 550 people dead, and 2,500 injured. Episcopal Relief & Development's partner, the Ahli Arab Hospital, reports devastating civilian casualties and a rising death toll in Gaza City.

During this time of crisis, Episcopal Relief & Development remains in close contact with its partner the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. Episcopal Relief & Development has responded to an urgent appeal from the Diocese by sending initial emergency funds to the Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza.

"We continue to monitor the needs of the Diocese of Jerusalem and are preparing to send additional emergency funds. Please pray for the people of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem and the Ahi Arab Hospital as they risk their own lives to provide lifesaving emergency care to people injured in the ongoing conflict" said Rob Radtke, President of Episcopal Relief & development.

Ahli Arab Hospital, located at the heart of Gaza City, has treated more than 100 injured civilians since the beginning of the December attacks. The hospital continues to provide essential emergency health care to injured civilians. Ahli Arab Hospital has not turned anyone away despite increasingly dire conditions. The staff and volunteers at the hospital desperately need medicine and emergency supplies to continue their life saving work.

"We join Episcopalians around the world in a prayer for peace," said Radtke. Read the Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Shori's statement here.

A bulletin insert is available online at To help people impacted by the conflict in Gaza, please donate to Episcopal Relief & Development's "Middle East Fund" online at, or call 1-800-334-7626, ext. 5129. Gifts can be mailed to: Episcopal Relief & Development, "Middle East Fund" PO Box 7058, Merrifield, VA 22116-7058.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Five Hundred to Five

Like so many of you, I have followed the news about the war between Israel and Palestine. I am appalled by Israel's invasion into Gaza. So far, over 500 Palestinians have been killed by Israel. And five people in Israel have been killed by Palestinian bombs. 500 to 5.

To Israel, apparently this qualifies as "equal justice." I am appalled. This would be like the U.S. bringing all its force and technology to bear in a war against Cuba. It seems completely unjust to me. It seems to me that the Palestinians are the tiny David against Israel's Goliath. For the life of me, I do not understand how the Jewish state can behave in such a barbaric way against a small, beleaguered people. I read in the Hebrew scriptures the wish that justice might flow down like a mighty stream. I recall God calling Israel to "love justice and do mercy."

I write this with the full awareness that it may be extreme. But I will say it nonetheless: It seems to me that the nation of Israel has become the Nazi nation to the Palestinians, determined to wipe that race from the face of the earth. May God have mercy on them.

The rules of the HoBD listserv forbid me from quoting any member with attribution. But I must say I was gobsmacked by the Deputy who said this:
Belief in Jesus is the only hope to solve the enduring conflicts in the middle east.The answer to the Middle East conflict is the acceptance of the message of the forgiveness centered in deep trust of the Cross of Jesus Christ. He died as a result of Jew-Gentile conflicts in that region 2000 years ago and he died in order to provide for the solution to all future Jew-Gentile conflicts. … There will never, never, never be a lasting peace in the region until Jesus Christ rules the hearts of the people in that region.
Is this man ignorant of the man who most powerfully brought peace and nonviolence to India a few decades ago? That man was Ghandi. He didn't accept Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. But he listened to the voice of God, and he kept India from exploding.

I have a hunch that that Deputy is among the Christians who hope for an apocalypse in the Middle East, so that Jesus Christ can return to earth and bring about the Second Coming. Those people give me the willies!

I was also humbled by another HoBD member who wrote:
In 1986 with the Cathedral deans in Jerusalem, I heard Wes Pepper of UPI tell us: "Everyone who comes here chooses sides. Everyone is wrong."
I am inclined to believe this brother in Christ, to doubt my certainties, to remain open to God's leading.

My passion and sympathy tends to be with the oppressed, and certainly it is the Palestinians who are the oppressed. The superpower Israel has killed 500 people in Gaza, while they grieve the 5 people who have died in Israel. Their idea of "retribution" reminds me of what the U.S. has done in Iraq and Afghanistan – equating each American death with 100 or 1,000 "enemy" deaths. I do not believe this is God's idea of justice.

How 'bout you? How are you coping with this travesty in the "Holy" land?

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Vacation Notions

I've been largely offline for the past few days over the New Year's holiday. I had a delightful time with my friends the Flys down at the Lake, but had to be back at work on Friday.

I had all sorts of vague plans/hopes for today, but I have frittered away the entire day. Why? Because I've been on various travel sites looking for an inexpensive mini-vacation in February. Alas, I have struck out. I have a little window for a vacation from February 12 through 16, but I'm not exactly finding anything that fills the bill. It's only 2 weeks into the official winter season, but I am already yearning desperately for a warm-weather getaway that fits in my budget.

Here are my parameters:
  • It absolutely must be a venue that is reliably warm -- preferably at least 70 degrees in daytime.
  • It must allow smoking. (Yes, I am one of those lepers ... alas!)
  • I would love a beach nearby.
  • I would love a place that offers hiking and/or bird-watching opportunities. Proximity to wildlife refuges would be good. I would love a return to Santa Rita Lodge, but it's probably too chilly in February. The Everglades used to be my home-away-from home, but their lodge is reportedly still closed due to hurricane damage.
  • I cannot cope with bed-and-breakfast accommodations. I don't want to have to engage with any hosts -- no matter how lovely and charming they may be.
  • I would be comfortable with very rustic lodgings, provided the outdoor opportunities are engaging. But I don't have camping gear.
  • I am on a very strict financial diet, thanks to the Dave Ramsey program, which has been very successful for me. So I am not willing to spend more than $700 on transportation plus lodging.
I recognize I may be seeking the impossible.

So far, I've been looking at south Florida, the Caribbean, even Mexico. It seems the venues that have good airfares have very expensive lodgings.

I even looked at spending my five days on a train looking at lovely scenery into the Southwest ... until I discovered that Amtrak is entirely non-smoking. :(

Mind you, I am also prepared to just give up this vacation notion. It may be that there's absolutely nothing that will suit my several wishes and my financial constraints in this little February window. If so, so be it. I'll just save my money and vacation time for something later this year.

So ... I'm turning it over to you. Do you know of any affordable venues that might fill the bill? Do you have any warm favorite places that you might recommend?