Sunday, May 30, 2010

Blog Less, Study More

Dear friends –

It has generally been my habit to spend Saturday catching up on some of your blogs. But I unplugged Friday night and didn’t turn on the laptop Saturday until very, very late. I hope to stay mostly unplugged through most of this long weekend.

And why?

Because – God help me! – I am preparing to preach.

Some of you will recall that I preached in another parish of our diocese last year. I enjoyed that experience. I enjoyed the experience of study and prayer and preparation. I mostly enjoyed the writing… even though I found it gut-wrenching and had my moments of panic in the last few days/hours. And I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of being in the pulpit and preaching after all that preparation.

After that experience, I began to explore with my priest the possibility of preaching here at home. She is letting many different people with different perspectives preach. I expected she would be open to including me in the rota. The question was whether I was ready. It took me a year to get to "yes."

Being who and what I am, I was very hesitant to preach in my own parish. I am vividly mindful that a few people walked out on the Sunday when the Bishop announced his support for LGBTs in the diocese. I am aware that some will see my presence in the pulpit as something akin to the Abomination of Desolation. But I've remained in the church (and managed not to levitate off my pew) when one of our fundamentalist members preached. I hope he and the other "conservatives" can extend the same courtesy to me. As a parishioner and a LEM, I have experienced the grace of being at the altar with those few in the parish who adamantly reject who and what I am. I hope that, when I preach next Sunday, they will hear the voice of a sister in Christ who is just as "orthodox" as they are. ... But I really hate it that I even have to think about and be aware of these "political" issues. I hope those issues will disappear soon.

To tell the truth: I probably would have been timid even aside from the questions of who and what I am … for preaching to one’s one community of faith seems especially daunting to me. I know some of you have done it, and you priest friends do it regularly.

Well ... I finally decided I was ready and willing. I met with my rector in early May, and we settled on a date: June 6.

Only when I got home that evening, after setting the date, did I see the lectionary for June 6. And it’s a barn-burner. [We're on Track 2, BTW.] What great stories and readings!

Over this month, I’ve been reading the stories and letting them wash over me … trying to discern themes and patterns and threads.

Today, I delved into the serious commentary and study phase.

Later this weekend, I will begin writing.

So I will try to disengage for a few days from the blogosphere and keep my focus more theological.

If any of you want to point me toward online resources for Pentecost 2 (Proper 5), I’ll be grateful. I would be happy to talk here about the readings for next Sunday … if any of you seem so inclined. I have some hypotheses and themes … but also many questions. If you’re preaching next Sunday and want to chat, please chime in. I would welcome the dialogue.

BTW, having the grace of a month to prepare, I'm reminded again: I just don't know how you priests do it ... preparing a sermon every week! I am in awe.

Rowan Williams … Burning Bridges

I have already written to thee, most excellent Theophilus and Theophilians, of the utter hypocrisy that Archbishop Williams appeared in Washington, D.C., last week leading a conference on “building bridges” between the Christian and Muslim faiths, while doing his best to destroy all that is best within the Anglican Communion.

The Apostle Matthew has done a fine job of documenting Rowan’s miracle of bridge-burning in his story here.

Thanks to the Apostle Catherine, I am now privy to the prophetic words of Apostle Diana Butler Bass. The Apostle Catherine reports that the Apostle Diana posted this on Facebook:
Does anyone think it a little odd that ABC Rowan Williams issues a Pentecost letter essentially kicking American Anglicans off all ecumenical commissions while he was in DC attending a conference called "Building Bridges"? So many layers of inconsistency and irony that it leaves me breathless...
To which, I can simply add, “Amen.”

P.S. Can you tell I’m studying Luke’s Gospel?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Archbishop Williams Building Bridges

Episcopal News Service reports that "Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams is chairing the ninth annual Building Bridges Seminar in Washington D.C. from May 25-27."

Quick! What do you think may be the important bridges that Rowan Williams might need to help build?

This is the Rowan Williams who took less than 12 hours to condemn the election of Mary Glasspool as a bishop suffragan in the Diocese of Los Angeles.

This is the Rowan Williams who refused to criticize Uganda's "kill the queers" legislation -- which was backed by Uganda's Anglican leaders -- even after most civilized governments and the United Nations did so.

This is the Rowan Williams who refuses to whisper a word of criticism against Bernard Malango, the retired primate of Central Africa, who protected Nolbert Kunonga (now deposed bishop of Harare), despite considerable evidence that Kunonga’s ardor for Robert Mugabe had led him to commit various crimes, including incitement to murder.

This is the Rowan Williams who declines to question the role of Nigerian ex-primate Peter Akinola about his role in genocide against 700 Muslims in Yelwa in 2004.

This is the Rowan Williams who threw his friend Jeffrey Johns under the bus, after nominating him for the position as Bishop of Reading.

This is the Rowan Williams who excluded only one duly elected bishop from the Lambeth Conference, while inviting possible murderers. Of course, Gene Robinson was the one bishop who was excluded. Apparently, it's worse to be gay than to collude in murder or genocide, in the view of Rowan Williams ... who is about to lecture religious leaders on building bridges.

So there are certainly many bridges that Archbishop Williams needs to build or mend. And with whom is he building them in the Washington conference?

According to the ENS story:
Since 2002, Williams has chaired the annual seminar, which brings together leading Muslim and Christian scholars from around the world to explore issues at the heart of the two traditions.
The ninth annual Building Bridges Seminar is titled "Christian and Muslim Perspectives on Tradition and Modernity."
I have a suggestion: Perhaps the Archbishop could engage the Anglican Communion primates and bishops on "perspectives on tradition and modernity." Maybe he would then quit beating up the modern (or post-modern) churches of the Communion while molly-coddling the pre-modernists. Just a thought.

Of course, I could be wrong.

Note: Thanks to Jim Naughton and his marvelous post for helping me so quickly round up several of the Archbishop's more wacky stances in one easy reference.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Is He Gone?

I hear Rowan Williams is on U.S. soil. My little fox-buddy has only one question:

Just Silly

You know I'm a fan of ICanHasCheezburger. This one made me chuckle ... especially since I now have a fluffly little "no no kitteh."

Gays in the Military

It appears that President Obama and the U.S. Congress might actually look again at the "Don't Ask/Don't Tell" [DADT] legislation. I hope they will. I just finished watching a segment on the Rachel Maddow Show, where she interviewed U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-PA), an Iraq veteran, who said it was a non-issue when he was in Iraq.

14,000 loyal Americans have been kicked out of the military since DADT went into effect in 1993.

Latest polls report that 75% of Americans support the repeal of DADT. Apparently, both the military and the general citizenry agree that DADT is just stupid.

My first awareness of this issue was when I saw the documentary, Before Stonewall, a gazillion years ago. (Apparently, you can watch it online for free here.)

Actually, I saw it in the mid-1980s, when it appeared in Atlanta. It's marvelous. And it taught me about the people who lived their lives in the closet long before the Stonewall riots in 1969. Among the interviewees are some gay men and lesbians who served in the U.S. military.

I was reminded of that marvelous documentary when I saw this image today at the ICanHasCheezburger network. No matter what the conservatives say, gay men and lesbians have always been serving in the U.S. military. It's time we ended the witchhunts.

demotivational posters

Remember, America, we've been working alongside you all along ... in the military, in the church, and in every other profession.

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Very Slow News Day at ViagraVille

Times must be tough for those nominal “Episcopalian” fundamentalists who think they are the Guardians of The Faith Once Delivered to the Saints. Despite all the hissy-fits they have offered since 2003, our church has moved forward in ordination of gay/lesbian persons to all orders of ministry and in same-sex blessings.

Apparently, it makes some of them hysterical.

Having lost on virtually every theological and ecclesial front in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion for the past seven years, it seems the flappy jaws at ViagraVille were almost out of grist for their hysteria-mill. But wait! Not quite! In the desperate search for something about which they could again become hysterical in their effort to whip up the faithful, today they discovered my April 12 post about Bishop Christopher Ssenyonjo’s visit to the U.S.

Is that all they have left in their arsenal? A 6-week-old post of mine? LOL! Dear friends, it is clear we have won, if the StandFlabby crowd is digging six weeks back for something to fight about.

Six weeks after the fact, they have decided that I should not have called Ugandan Christopher Ssenyonjo a bishop. And why? Because the homophobic, schismatic Archbishop of Uganda “defrocked” Bishop Ssenyonjo a while back.

Of course, you don’t need to think very hard or dig very deep to remember that these same Viagrans insist on calling Duncan, Schofield, and Iker bishops … even though those clerics have been rightfully deposed.

Duncan, Iker, and Schofield were deposed because they are thieves.

Ugandan bishop Ssenyonjo was deposed because he didn’t hate queers enough to suit the Archbishop of Uganda.

I’ll let you decide which is the worse offense.

For the Viagrans, apparently, deposition only counts if it’s done by a homophobic African archbishop, and deposition doesn’t “take” if it’s done within The Episcopal Church.

It’s rather amusing to watch the Viagrans try to create a reality of their own making.

Unlike those folks who are dreaming up an alternate reality at ViagraVille, I continue to recognize the schismatic ex-Episcopalians [Duncan, Schofield, and Iker] as bishops … while I also recognize they are scoundrels and thieves. Apparently, StandFlabby isn’t bothered by any such need for consistency. To them, the thieving Episcopal bishops are still bishops, but the “deposed” Ugandan bishop is less than a cleric, and perhaps (from the tone of their remarks) even less than a man.

I seldom read the ViagraVille site, but a friend alerted me to their latest effort to create a tempest in a teapot. And now I see that Father Jake has offered his reflections. As usual, he is more temperate and more wise than I.

Of course, when did we ever expect sense or consistency of the Viagrans? Never in my memory.

Dear friends, when I am so desperate that I need to find a six-week old post from our worthy opponents in order to whoop up a fight, kindly shoot me and put me out of my misery, OK?

The StandFirm crowd has lost. Surely they know in their hearts they have lost. And all they have left is a desperate need to spawn hatred among their sycophants.

Morning Prayer

I have a terrible confession to make: I don’t think I’ve ever said morning prayer on my own. I admit it’s a defect in my life as a Christian and Episcopalian.

But mornings are generally crazy for me. I set my alarm for 6:30 on workdays and just barely have time to make it to work at 8:00 . I have no leisurely time in which to pray. Generally, it’s a flat-out race to tend the cats, make the bed, shower, dress, grab lunch from the refrigerator, and get to work on time. When I’m lucky, I have time to brew my coffee and enjoy a cup with the cats.

Today was different. For no reason I can explain, I woke around 5:30 a.m., and I felt rested and ready to arise. I could have rolled over and tried to sleep a while longer, but I decided to get up and enjoy a leisurely morning. I had plenty of time to take care of all my morning duties. And I had enough leisure time, so that I decided to say morning prayer.

Now I am envious of you who do that as a daily discipline.

I thought it might feel weird to pray the daily office all alone, with the prayer book that has words for the officiant, the people, and the readers. But I said them all … all by myself. And it didn’t feel weird at all.

I will confess it did feel a bit weird – here alone in my home – to read the words of what “we” believe and what “we” pray and what “we” confess. But I decided that God would understand that the “we” was all the other people praying the daily office all alone, all over the world, offering up their prayers together as “we.”

Something weird happened for me. Not very far into the office, I had to pause and go grab some Kleenex. As Elizabeth would say, my eyes started sweating. It was a profound and special prayer time for me. I love the beauty of our prayers. Opening myself to them as the sun rose did something – I don’t know or understand what! – to me.

This morning prayer time seemed to change my experience of my work day. I don’t quite know how to describe it. But I was more centered all day. I think I was a bit more charitable and kind. I want to believe that the prayers worked their grace in me.

I sure wish I could force my body into a new schedule so that I could do this regularly. I know it probably won’t happen, but I’ll leap at the next opportunity.

Photo credits:
2: Prayer at Dawn

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

What Do You Say To Hate?

I had hoped to be out in Los Angeles for the consecrations of Bishops Jardine and Glasspool, but it didn’t work out. I have watched the news about the event. By most accounts, it was a glorious, joyous day.

By sheer happenstance, our consecration in Long Beach was happening alongside the local gay pride event. So, of course, the homophobic Neanderthals showed up. Apparently, our friends had to walk through a gauntlet of hatred.

Thanks to Box Turtle Bulletin for also showing us the normal human beings who showed up with funny signs and silly costumes. I am grateful for these people who choose to counter hate with hilarity.

Here’s just one of the images.

Go to Box Turtle Bulletin for more wonderful images about how humanity confronts hate, as well as the narrative here and here.

I give deep thanks to the Californians who show up to counter the Westboro hate with humor and hilarity.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Rev. John Danforth

Episcopal News Service reports that the Rev. John Danforth has been honored at the Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest. Some of you may recall he was a U.S. Senator from Missouri. Some will recall his marvelous work in bringing peace to Sudan, which ended the years-long civil war. Those of us in Missouri honor him as a priest; he’s still canonically resident here and is a regular parishioner in one of our St. Louis parishes. While he was Attorney General of Missouri, he frequently preached and celebrated mass in the capitol city parish that is now my home.

Personally, I remember him as the only Republican for whom I have voted since I became eligible to vote in the mid-1970s. I have been proud of his reasonable voice in the last few years, as he decries – as do I – a lack of civility and statesmanship in the U.S. Congress.

Yes, I am also aware that he supported Clarence Thomas for a position on the Supreme Court. Surely, that was the stupidest thing that the brilliant Jack Danforth has ever done – giving us perhaps the stupidest person ever to don the black robes of a Supreme Court Justice. But I believe that’s just an odd blip on an otherwise brilliant career.

All in all, I’m proud to honor the Rev. John Danforth as a priest and grateful for his work as a statesman – especially for his work for peace in Sudan. I’m glad ETSS gave him this award.

Photo courtesy of this site.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Ascension Tears

Today was merely the Seventh Sunday of Easter. The Feast of the Ascension was on Thursday. But our priest preached a knock-the-ball-out-of-the-park sermon today on the Ascension.

[No, you can’t hear or read her sermon, for we don’t post them. It’s a long story. Don’t ask.]

Since I became an Episcopalian in 1998, I have heard priests preach on what a glorious event the ascension must have been. Glorious, indeed. I have no argument there. But I always felt it was a sad story – a story of being left behind by a beloved friend and mentor.

As Paul wrote at the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles (in what may be one of the earliest accounts):
When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.
And that’s it.

Jesus is gone.

I have often put myself in the sandals of Jesus’ friends and disciples. Jesus’ circle of friends saw their beloved friend crucified. They stood around and watched him die at the hand of a cruel government. Could I have stood and watched my friend die? Yes, I would have. But it would have torn my soul.

Three days later, they heard of his resurrection, and soon many of them saw him again. Two of the women encountered him outside his tomb. Several of his friends encountered him while they huddled in a locked room. The fishermen had breakfast with him. Some walked with him on the road from Emmaus.

They spent 40 days with him. The resurrected Jesus, back from the grave, cooking, eating, walking, continuing to teach.

I put myself in their place. I would have assumed: This is the new life he promised. Now he’s going to be with us forever.

But no. With what seems to me little warning, Jesus goes away again in the ascension.

Jesus is in the midst of a conversation with them and suddenly: “When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.”

As far as I can tell, none of the gospels really tells us how Jesus’ friends reacted. Most of the biblical accounts jump straight into how they “established the church” and began to witness.

But I am stuck there at the moment of the Ascension. Had I been one of his friends, those 40 days after the resurrection would have had me convinced that he was going to be with us – that he was going to help us figure out how to do this “kingdom of God is among you” thing.

And when he was suddenly drawn up into heaven I would have been bereft. I would have felt more lonely than I had ever felt in my life. The crucifixion was bad enough. But now Jesus has left us again, despite my hopes. I would have felt pretty ticked that he had left my friends all alone to figure things out.

I’ve written here about my difficulties with death and leave-taking. It makes me angry. And it leaves me forlorn.

That’s what Shariya preached today. The sense of loss. How difficult it must have been for those people to lose their friend, their teacher, their Lord, the Christ. And how we all confront loss throughout our lives – whether the death of a beloved mate, the loss of a love, the loss of a job that fulfilled us, the move from a city we loved. So many varieties of loss.

I have had my share of those. Which is why I sat in my usual spot – on the front row, epistle side – with saltwater leaking out of my eyes throughout that sermon. My sense of connection with those friends of Jesus was quite powerful.

The friends of Jesus now had to figure out how to “do it” all by themselves, without their charismatic and inspirational leader – without the man who had loved them so deeply and personally.

From that moment on, they had to figure out a whole different way to relate to Jesus.

Then, we are told in the Acts of the Apostles:
While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven."
So that’s it. We are left here to figure it out … just as Jesus’ friends were left to figure it out.

Photo (from St Peter Mancroft, Norwich) courtesy of this site.

Birthday Funny

You know I am a fan of ICanHasCheezburger. This one tickled my funny bone.

Not that it's my birthday or anyone else's that I know. But I sure can imagine posting this when my birthday rolls around next time.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Barbara Crafton

I was pleased to read that Sewanee will present an honorary degree to (among others) the Rev. Barbara Cawthorne Crafton, an Episcopal priest and founder of the Geranium Farm. I’m a subscriber to the Rev. Crafton’s “Almost-Daily e-Mos,” and I am deeply grateful for her ministry. I love reading her reflections on spiritual and mundane life. I commend them to you.

Our Bishops Will Meet in Phoenix, as Scheduled

Good on Them!

Episcopal News Service carried the story today that the House of Bishops will meet in Phoenix this fall, as previously scheduled. Some will go despite the “Breathing While Brown” legislation, and some surely will go in support of it.

I have abstained from urging our bishops one way or the other. I believed the Bishop of Arizona was in a better position to make that call. And make it he did, according to the ENS story. Arizona Bishop Kirk Smith said:
"It's an opportunity to be educated, to be informed and to make a public statement about solidarity with people that are victims in this, and there are victims on both sides, which is important to emphasize," said Arizona Bishop Kirk Smith in a telephone interview. "We will accomplish a lot more by being here, learning, hearing and responding about it and standing in solidarity with people suffering instead of taking the easy way out by saying 'Let's go meet someplace else.'”
If Bishop Smith thinks this is best, I trust him. He best understands the local situation.

I do hope our bishops will take the opportunity to learn more about the complexities of the immigration situation, as Bishop Kirk Smith suggests in the ENS story.

Of course, I would also encourage them to wear some of the garb I recommended here.

I hope our bishops will listen deeply and exercise their prophetic ministries.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Communion Instructions

I received this recently from my friend Seamus. I Googled a bit, and found this funny bit has been circulating at least since late 2007, but I can’t find an author to credit. I had not seen it before. I hope you might enjoy it ... even if I am more than three years behind the curve.

A Memo from the Rector:

Dear Brothers and Sisters and Significant Others in Christ:

I have noticed with growing alarm a growing state of confusion surrounding the distribution of Communion. As someone with a keen interest in the correct and proper procedures, let me take a few moments and explain exactly how things are supposed to be done.

All baptized persons are welcome to receive Holy Communion as long as they believe in the Real Presence of Christ as either Risen Lord, Rabbinic Authority, Holy Spirit Person, or Great Ethical Teacher.

If you prefer to receive Communion under the conventional species of bread (St.Mary's Convent, Wahoo, Nebraska) and wine (Ernest and Julio Gallo Classic Port, California, 1994), please stand or kneel with your hands by your sides at the rail. If the nitrates in the Port induce nasal congestion, a light Chablis (Sutter Home, 1993) or Zinfandel (Paul Masson, April) is offered, depending on availability. Please indicate this preference by placing your right hand behind your head.

Two non-alcoholic options are also offered. For red grape juice (Tucker's Berry Farms), place your left hand behind your head. If you prefer a white, pasteurized grape juice product, kindly place both hands behind your head.

To express solidarity with oppressed farm workers in the grape industry, place both hands tightly over your mouth and hum La Marseillaise. To receive an ordinary, unleavened Communion wafer, kindly wink your right eye as the minister approaches. For a certified, organic, whole-grain wafer, wink your left eye. For low-salt, low-fat bread, close both eyes for the remainder of the service. For gluten-free bread, blink both eyes rapidly while looking at the ceiling.

Children may receive a blessed animal cracker by showing the minister that they can cross their eyes. Parents who are concerned about the violence implied in eating animal-shaped foods may join a support session that will try to lobby the church for change. It meets in the parish hall on Tuesday evening after the Anthony DeMello reading group.

Unfortunately, we have had to discontinue the distribution of blessed Gummy Bears to the children after Billy Watson's recent diagnosis of ADD. We are sure everyone understands how traumatic it would be for him to receive his toasted rice cake while all the other children were chewing their Gummy Bears.

Next, a word on consumption of the host. If it is your custom and preference to have the Precious Body placed in your hand, please cup them together in front of you. If you are expressing a wine preference, the minister will allow ample time to change postures. If you feel uncomfortable holding the Lord in your hands, simply assume the baby bird position as the minister approaches. Be sure not to extend your neck so far that the acolyte cannot see your eyelids by which you will express your bread preference.

Finally, for those with airborne allergies, you should know that the associate rector wears large amounts of Royal Copenhagen given to him by his mother at Christmas. The rector may or may not be wearing cologne, but her mother has been known to wash her cassock in scented laundry detergent and dry it with a Downy sheet in the machine. The deacon is wearing all-cotton garments washed in pure organic soap and rinsed with mountain spring water. She is wearing no scented products and scrubs her hands with antibacterial soap approved for use in neonatal intensive care nurseries.

At St. George's it is our commitment to see that the worship experience will be as meaningful, efficient, and error-free as possible.

In this vein, an electronic billboard will soon be installed over the altar outlining these instructions. Please note that traditional options flash in blue and organic food options flash in orange for easy reference. If someone has any additional questions about worship, please join me for coffee in the parish hall, where I will be beginning a thirty-two-week series entitled "Identifying Thirteenth-Century Monastic Communities through Hair and Garment Analysis."

= = =
That amused me. It also reminds me of how ludicrous we can become in our efforts to be politically correct. Let’s lighten up, my friends.

In that vein, I offer this from ICHC.

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Discerning the Spirit

How the heck do we discern the Voice of the Holy Spirit in our lives?

I have always envied those early apostles – the ones whose letters we read in the New Testament. So often they talk about “being led by the Spirit” to do this or that. There are even phrases in the Gospels where it says, “Jesus, being led by the Spirit,” did this or that. How the heck did they know it was the Holy Spirit “leading” or “telling” or giving them an idea to do those things? Does the Holy Spirit leave unique postmarks or embedded metadata on the Spirit’s messages? How did Jesus and the apostles distinguish between “being led by the Spirit” and “having a hunch” or “having a yen” or just going off on a wild hare? How did they know what was a nudge from the Spirit and what was just an egomaniacal lark? (Of course, I especially wonder this about some of Paul’s exploits … but I digress.) Credit: Image above courtesy of this site.

1970s Reflection

More than three decades ago, in the summer after college graduation, I was in a time of great emotional distress. I had a full ride to a graduate program. But a dear friend of mine had been most brutally murdered, and I was in emotional chaos. I was a wreck. One evening, as I prayed in a church service, it seemed like God … the Spirit … was telling me to give it all up. I clearly heard the phrase “crucifixion of the intellect.” I had been so proud of and enriched by the intellectual world I had discovered in four marvelous years of a very heady, intellectual Catholic liberal arts education. But I heard that voice telling me to ditch the graduate studies and “go on the road for Jesus.” That “voice” was so antithetical to my own wishes that I thought it could only be from God, because it certainly wasn’t what I wanted to do! And so I did it.

I spent a year with an evangelical revival team. I ditched all my plans, and pitched my proverbial tent with a family I had come to know and deeply love ... and whom I still treasure, though I am no longer in contact with them.

It was terrifying at the time. To give up graduate school. To abandon the intellectual life. To give up my dreams. But, in hindsight, I’ve never regretted that decision. I can see that year gave me experiences and revealed gifts I might not have discovered had I gone directly onto the path I had charted.

I grew in a lot of ways in that year. I traveled to places I would not have seen otherwise. I learned to meet and connect with strangers in ways I had not done before. It moved me beyond my egg-headed existence – not that I abandoned or eschewed the intellectual life; but it put me in situations where I had to deal with many people in very different situations than my own and learn to connect with them.

And the people with/for whom I worked were a godsend to me. They helped me to heal. I will always be grateful to them and grateful for that time. I had a rich year of ministry and experience. I am profoundly grateful. They loved and accepted me. ... Even though I'm not sure they would appreciate what/who I am now, I am profoundly grateful for them and for that year I spent with them.

I remember that night in 1974 as if it were yesterday. I heard “God,” the “Spirit,” a voice greater than my own telling me to give up all my plans and aspirations. I believed that voice because it was so different than my own voice, so counter to my own ego.

After about a year on that path, I eventually heard another “call” – that this had been good, but it was time to go back to that path that was distinctly my own – on to graduate school. And I did so, enriched by that detour that I still believe was the Spirit’s nudging.


I can write all that now, with some 35 years of hindsight. At the time, moment by moment, I didn’t know what I was doing. I was desperate and confused. I didn’t know what voice I was hearing. I just thought any voice that could break into my single-minded academic focus – any voice that could be so contrary to my own plans and aspirations – must sure be Another Voice, not my own. I believed it was the voice of the Holy Spirit.

I do know it worked out well. I am profoundly grateful for that year between college and graduate school. But was it the Spirit’s voice? Or was it my own desire to crucify the intellect? Was it the Spirit giving me an opportunity to grow in different ways? I don’t know. I just know that it eventually worked for my good.

So how do we know? How do we know whether we are “being led by the Spirit” to do this or that? Or does God – whoever God is – just help us find a good path, no matter our decisions? Does God make good of our well-intentioned decisions, no matter what they are? I don't know.

More Recently

On a much smaller scale, I had a similar moment of decision in the last few days.

I wonder: If one hates “difficult conversations” and recoils viscerally from outright confrontations … then how does one discern whether the failure to have either one constitutes a failure of nerve – just being a chicken – or a careful listening to the Spirit?

Credit: Chicken image at right courtesy of this site.

I’m sorry this post will have to be fairly vague. But there are folks in my diocese who read my blog, and I don’t want to be specific.

In the last couple of months, I’ve been in a rather difficult situation vis-à-vis a diocesan group. I’ve spent quite a bit of time and spiritual/ecclesial angst about whether to withdraw from that group. I had decided to do so. I had come to feel very unwelcome in that group. I had decided that – while I believe in its mission – it was consuming too much of my energy in some increasingly negative ways. I had decided it would be best to focus my energies here in my parish.

As luck would have it, I had a recent lunch date with one of the folks involved in that diocesan group – in fact, with the person from whom I had felt most resistance and belittling. I had intended to state my decision to withdraw.

Instead, we simply had a very pleasant conversation about our parishes, our towns, the Christian formation our different parishes are doing. It was an utterly delightful, relaxed conversation. I had a marvelous time.

And I never got around to saying, “I’m quitting that diocesan group.” It didn’t feel right to do so. What felt right was connecting personally with this other member of that group.

After weeks of working myself up to a resignation, during that lunch conversation I came to question my resignation intentions. I remembered some of the things I value about that diocesan group. New questions occurred to me about whether maybe the problem is simply one of different modes – the different ways people approach a common goal.

I had talked with my rector and a couple of wise friends about my intention to resign from this group. Both agreed it was time. And some offered that it would free me to discern where I could focus more of my energies and ministry here in my parish and community.

But during that lunch, a sense came over me that resigning now would be wrong. Maybe it was just the wrong setting? Or maybe it was the wrong decision? I don’t know.

Spirit Calling?

I know that many of us Christians do what we want to do, and then we justify it by saying “the Lord led me to it” or “the Spirit prompted me.” Too often, I think that is a cop-out.

I wonder: How the heck do you know if it was really “the Lord” or “the Spirit” … or whether it’s your own aversion to conflict … or maybe your own ego?

I think it’s somewhere in the Pauline epistles that there’s a line about “discerning the spirits.”

I wonder: How do you discern the spirits/Spirit?? I mean it!! How do you know what inclination is coming from ego, what’s coming from fright, what’s coming from aversion, and what’s coming from the Spirit?

I have three cats. As I wake in the morning, when I hear one of them speak to me, I know whose voice it is. It’s easy for me.

But discerning the voice of God? That’s not so easy for me.

How do you discern the voice of God/Spirit from one of your own interior voices?

P.S. Some of you who read this know exactly what I am talking about. But please do not get more specific than I have here about the particular group. Please talk about discernment of spirits, not about this diocesan group.

Thursday, May 06, 2010


Thank God, warm weather and long days have come to my little corner of the world. But I still remember how miserable I felt during our too-long winter. Thus, I appreciated this image from So Much Pun.

I just hope I have enough readers who also read Shakespeare ... to make this fun.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Arizona Legislation

Louie Crew – who has given everyone carte blanche to quote him – wrote to the HoBD list:
“Is it true that the next meeting of the House of Bishops is set for Phoenix?!
Why should any of our tithes and offerings be spent to support the economy of a state with blatant racist policy?
If they must go to Arizona, let them process along the Mexican border wearing miters with sack cloth and ashes.”

I would be loathe to ask the bishops to boycott Arizona. I have pondered it, but I cannot support an Arizona boycott, because it is most likely to harm the very people who are the target of the Arizona legislation – the immigrants who are working far below minimum wage in Arizona’s overpriced hotels and restaurants. American corporations are growing fat and wealthy off the sweat of “undocumented aliens” who cannot claim the minimum wage and who do not get Social Security wages.

However, before our bishops go to Phoenix, some might want to check out CafePress and their “I Could be Illegal” merchandise for their casual wear, buttons, and stickers.

I first said my piece about the Arizona legislation here.

I was grateful to hear other perspectives on the HoBD thread, especially from Nick Knisely, who is in the thick of it as Dean of the Cathedral in Phoenix. He and Arizona Bishop Kirk Smith have helped me understand the complexities of the situation. I was stunned to read some of Bishop Smith’s stories about the terrorism that Maricopa County is inflicting upon Hispanics in the Diocese of Arizona. That is not the America that I know.

Today, Dean Knisely warned us that other states might be adopting similar legislation. Indeed, they are. Alas! the Missouri legislature actually thinks the Arizona law is a great model. I wrote about that last night here. Apparently, some idiots in the Missouri legislature think that the “brown hordes” are going to high-tail it out of Arizona into Missouri. I would try to characterize those legislators’ idiotic thinking, but words fail me.

I wish that our church and our nation would separate in our minds and in our legislation two very different situations.

On one hand, we certainly do have horrible criminals coming into the U.S. from many different nations – and not just Mexico! – for purposes of crime, drug-running, human trafficking, or terrorism. Of course, they should be stopped! What thinking person would disagree?? And of course, we should check the immigration status of people arrested for real crimes, such as murder, robbery, etc. Who could possibly disagree?

Who could disagree? Only one that I have heard on the HoBD list: One hateful priest in Dallas who cannot tell the difference between murderous thugs and gentle “illegals” who are trying to make a living here. But I hope most in our church can tell the difference.

As several HoBD commenters have said, the Arizona law (even as amended last week) does leave a wide berth for law enforcement to question people for very minor infractions like having a turn signal burned-out or failing to wear a seat belt. I suspect I wouldn’t be so worried about that loophole were it not for overzealous vigilantes like Maricopa County Joe Arpaio. He has demonstrated to all of us what the Brown Shirts can happily do in the U.S.

Let’s separate those two issues. Let’s be “tough on criminals.” But let’s also find a Christian response to those hard-working, tax-paying “undocumented aliens” among us. And – as Dean Knisely suggested – let’s urge Congress to pass reasonable legislation that addresses both.

How Homosexuality Harms Bigots

Blame Ann Fontaine for turning me on to Jesus and Mo.

Today's strip, titled "Issue," is absolutely brilliant! You can see it here, but go over there and leave a comment. Better yet, subscribe to get e-mail notifications when Author posts a new one.

By the bye, Author has a comment on this one. He writes: "Whosoever considers homosexuality to be a moral issue has committed an abomination: they shall surely be mocked." To which I say: "Amen! and Amen!"

Monday, May 03, 2010

Immigration in Missouri

Like Arizona? You’ll Love Missouri!

I was pleased Friday evening to see news reports about demonstrations all over the U.S. against the bigoted Arizona legislation that cannot possibly do anything but target brown-skinned people. It gave me a bit of hope to see demonstrations even in the Midwest, against the Arizona bill signed into law by their Governor Jan Brewer.

So imagine my surprise the next day to find this headline in the Springfield [Mo.] News-Leader: Could Arizona's new immigration law work in Missouri?

The story begins:

Arizona's strict new immigration law has galvanized some Missouri lawmakers to propose similar rules for the Show-Me State.
"I am going to try," said state Rep. Mark Parkinson, R.-St. Charles. "It's another tool to curb illegal immigration."
Get it? With ordinary, more-or-less “white” “mutt” Americans like me protesting all over the country … and with even such whack-job Republicans as Karl Rove saying the Arizona law is just nuts, some of Missouri’s legislators think the Arizona law is a perfect model for our fly-over state.

Now ... let's give due respect to State Rep. Parkinson. He's the genius who actually introduced a bill that our Governor be required to play $2 per paycheck in the Powerball lottery, until our state's deficit is overcome. His bill was reported by the Columbia Missourian and roundly satirized a while back on Talking Points Memo and on NPR's Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me [click on the Feb. 27 "Bluff the Listener" segment]. The guy is a buffoon.

Got it? Rep. Parkinson is an idiot and a demagogue. He loves to introduce legislation that is meaningless.

Let me take a deep breath.

I realize that I sometimes (and perhaps too often) castigate the people of Missouri and of my little city. I don’t mean to tar them with such a broad brush. I should probably clarify. There are a great many people here whom I respect and of whom I am fond. But this formerly moderate state has witnessed a take-over by ignorant, right-wing reactionaries in our cities and in our state And, yes, I use the term “ignorant” in its technical sense. Many of the civic leaders here couldn’t pass an 8th-grade exam in English or history.

On the other hand, let me hasten to add that I am very fond of many of the people I know. Not everyone in my little city or in the state is an ignorant hate-monger. The folks I know are mostly good, reasonable, and educated people. Maybe that’s because so many of them are Episcopalians! {grin} But those who have the loudest voices in my town and in this state just embarrass me.

That said, let’s turn again to the thinking of the Missouri legislature, as reported in the Springfield news story.

Missouri in 2008 approved a string of immigration measures, prohibiting illegal immigrants from receiving public benefits, forbidding public entities from hiring illegal aliens and requiring law enforcement officers to verify the legal status of anyone who has been arrested for a crime.
Republican state Rep. Parkinson says that’s just like the Arizona law.

“You have to have a reason to stop them, like our seat belt law," Parkinson said. "They can't pull you over just because you look different."
Missouri police can only ticket drivers or passengers for not wearing a seat belt if the driver is pulled over for another driving violation, such as speeding or having a burned-out headlight.
Indeed! And that’s exactly the problem. If a cop sees me with a burned-out headlight, the officer is likely to ignore it. Or s/he might stop me to give me a heads-up about the problem. The latter happened to me in Atlanta once. But will the officer then demand to see my papers? Not bloody likely!

The law in Arizona, which Rep. Parkinson wants to emulate in Missouri, would give law enforcement officers almost any reason to make a “lawful contact,” which could then let them harass a brown-skinned person.

Imagine this scenario: I’m a brown-skinned person who has been assaulted or raped in an alley. Am I likely to call 9-1-1? Not on your life! I wouldn’t want the hassle of over-zealous anti-immigrant police to add to the misery I have already suffered.

I can take some comfort in the idiot that Rep. Parkinson is. He doesn’t even care if his proposal becomes law. He just wants to propose it again and again:

[Rep. Mark Parkinson, R.-St. Charles ], vice-chair of the House international trade and immigration committee, sponsored a bill this year that would make it a felony for knowingly trafficking or harboring illegal immigrants.
Parkinson has drafted an amendment for that bill that would adopt many of the controversial provisions the Arizona governor recently signed into law.
Although Parkinson admits his bill is "going nowhere" in the final two weeks of the session, he's trying to get a discussion going now for the 2011 session. If re-elected, Parkinson said, he intends to file legislation similar to the Arizona law next year.
Who is supporting and advising Rep. Parkinson? This was a news-flash to me. Alas, it's another Missourian:

Kris Kobach, a University of Missouri-Kansas City law professor who helped Arizona write the law, also assisted Missouri lawmakers in shaping the language of the 2008 immigration law . . . .
Yes, alas, the nation can thank Missouri “law” professor Kris Kobach for helping craft the hate-mongering law in Arizona.

Lord, have mercy.

But here is the winner in the “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up” competition! Some people who want to clone Arizona’s draconian legislation in Missouri claim to be motivated by the “belief” (and I use that term loosely) that illegal immigrants will flee from Arizona to Missouri. It's more like a delusion. Read this!

Michael Ramon, a former U.S. Marshal who once ran for Greene County [Springfield, Mo.] sheriff, said he expects Missouri to enact the same law, should the [Arizona] law stand legal challenges and should there be an exodus of illegal aliens from Arizona to Missouri.
"Illegal aliens are talking about going to other places," Ramon said. "It encourages other places to enact the same law."
LOL!! Yeah, right! Immigrants are going to race some 1,300 miles from Arizona to Missouri. The “brown horde” is going to come racing straight from Arizona to Bumfuck, Missouri. Of course, they’ll gleefully flee from a year-round building industry to a cold climate where construction can only happen a few months of the year … from an agricultural system that works year-round, depending on hand-picking to a state where harvesting is brief and driven by giant harvesting machines. I’m sure they won’t stop in New Mexico or Texas or Oklahoma or Kansas. No! They’ve all got Missouri on their minds. Yeah, right.


Were these Missouri legislators and “civic leaders” dropped on their heads at birth? Were there born this stupid, or did they have to work to get this stupid?

Just for Fun

Thinning the Herd?

A funny image from Friends of Irony.

Designated smoking area right beside the "flammable gas" zone. Reckon they're trying to thin the herd?

Just for Fun

Apparently, there are a few readers out here who appreciate literature/publishing posts. So this one's for you. From So Much Pun.

I enjoyed one of the commenters' responses: "But I did not shoot the apostrophe."