Monday, December 15, 2008

Off to a slow start ...

I read somewhere recently that some people are "Christmas" Christians, while others are "Passion" Christians.

I must fall into the latter category -- I find Lent more meaningful than Advent, and I am completely absorbed by the time the Triduum arrives. That's the most important time of the year for me.

By the time Thanksgiving is over, I am ready for a break. But here comes Advent! There's no place to hide! Overnight: total-immersion Advent!

At the mall, yesterday, when I finally began the little bit of Christmas shopping that I am going to do, I kept hearing that Christmas song on the loudspeakers, the one that insists that Christmas is the happiest time of the year.

So I must be missing something. Christmas wears me out. A local radio station began all-Christmas-music-programming *before* Thanksgiving! It's the middle of December and I've already been caroled to death!

And merchants must be truly desperate, because at least 80% of my email this morning was from online sellers wanting me to know about drastic sales. Sigh.

Now Easter has largely remained beneath the commercial radar. I guess that's one reason I prefer it.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Turkey tales

Pride goeth before a fall.

It began with the turkey. The turkey had to be better this year!

I went to the market on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, and bypassed the frozen turkeys in favor of a fresh one, a nice little 13-pounder. I have trouble getting frozen turkeys defrosted in time, no matter how soon I put them in the fridge. So this year would be different. The turkey would be fresh.

If I noticed the words organic and free-range, they failed to register.

Until I got to the register, I mean. Imagine the deer-in-the-headlights look on my face when that turkey rang up at $41.11. I stared blankly at the bored, gum-snapping teenage cashier. How could I admit to her that I wanted to trade in my organic and free-range turkey, unpolluted by antibiotics, used to the happy, carefree life outside the coop, for a deep-frozen, overfed lump of turkey which would end up, even after days of defrosting, in my sink on Thanksgiving morning with me cursing at it?

Naturally, I lacked the nerve to trade in the bird. Once in the car, I hurriedly peeled the price label off. Whew! What J. doesn't know wouldn't hurt him.

On Thanksgiving Day, I roasted the bird just as I normally would. All seemed well. Before dinner, I carved the breast meat: nice and juicy and tender. Then I went for the drumsticks -- J.'s favorite.

They wouldn't detach from the bird. I got out my electric knife, and ground away at them, the blade singing loudly on the bone. I pulled and tugged with my carving fork. I grabbed hold of one leg and twisted viciously. Nope. They weren't going anywhere.

"Where are my drumsticks?" J. asked, as he sat down. I had to admit I couldn't get them loose.

"What's wrong with this turkey?" he asked from the kitchen. "Are you sure you cooked it long enough? The legs don't want to come off."

In the end he got one loose, with a loud snap.

At the table, as the rest of us enjoyed the tender white meat, J. looked like that painting of Henry VIII, while tearing at the drumstick with his teeth. And glaring. Glaring at me. "I've never had a turkey this tough," he sulked.

After dinner, J.'s habit is to carve up the rest of the turkey, so we can dispose of the carcass, while I rest in the living room from my labors. "The meat doesn't want to come off," he yelled. "Why is this giving me such a hard time?"

"I don't know," I yelled back. It must have built up its muscles running on the free-range. You know, where the deer and the antelope play.

"Please don't buy a turkey like this again," he shouted.

Trust me.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My eye is on the sparrow

Actually, that's all I'm seeing at my backyard birdfeeder. Sparrows.

Back in the summer I had quite a variety of birds: cardinals, tufted titmice, chickadees, and a bird which I think was a type of woodpecker. Now? Sparrows. I know all the birds haven't flown to warmer climes. The question, then, is: where are they?

I posed this question to my friend, who looked at me with pity before asking me what I was using as feed.

"I don't know," I said. "Seed. I get it in bags at the grocery store."

My friend winced, and gave me the address of a nearby birdseed emporium. I found my way there, and was suddenly in bird wonderland.

There I found every birdfeeding and bird-watching accessory known to man. Ground feeders. Pole feeders. Squirrel baffles. Birdhouses of all sizes, even bird apartment-buildings for purple martens. High-powered optics for viewing birds. And a puzzling array of foods: nyjer seed, peanuts, corn, you name it. Plus several seed blends, in enormous 20-pound bags.

After browsing around in delirium, I hesitantly approached the woman at the counter. She was a friendly-looking type, a little older than I am, with a pleasantly outdoorsy outfit of flannel shirt and jeans. I explained that I needed new birdseed, because I was only attracting sparrows.

Her demeanor changed slightly. "Are you buying your seed at the grocery store?" As if this were a destination of ill repute.

Guilty as charged. "Well, um ..."

"Millet!" she snapped, as if leveling a curse at me.

"Excuse me?"

"Those blends are full of millet. That's garbage, filler. Only sparrows will eat that." She patted my hand. "Let's get you some real seed."

I trailed in her wake, ashamed to have been feedy garbagey food to those little, brown garbage-eaters. Twenty minutes later, I staggered out of the store with a 20-lb. bag of pricey mixed seeds. No filler here! Nothing but the best!

When the birdfeeders became empty again, I filled them with the new mix. How exciting! I waited for the birds, in their wondrous variety, to descend on my little buffet.

And waited.

And waited.

This morning, first thing, I heard the dogs barking by the window. This was a very good sign, as their mission in life seems to be making sure I am alerted every time a bird enters the yard.

And there they were, in throngs, at least twice as many as I'd ever had at my feeders before, and ... they were all brown.

They were sparrows!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Why am I not surprised?

OK, the election is history. The lawn signs are gone. I am sleeping like a baby, in the knowledge that Obama will be our next President. It's now time for me to turn to the other issues that matter to this blog.

One is the Prop 8 fiasco that has taken place in California, where a slender, 52% majority voted to deny a basic human and civil right to a significant segment of the human population. What next? It's a slippery slope, ladies and gents. It's not much of an imaginative leap from marriage to property ownership, enfranchisement, and other basic rights. Are you going to take those away from the LGBT folks as well?

Of course, speaking prominently on the question of Prop 8 was one of its major supporters, Saddleback Church's Pastor Rick Warren, who appears on this blog from time to time whenever I need an example of a wolf in sheep's clothing, or a portrait of an aquatic bottom-feeder. In justifying his views, Pastor Warren had recourse to the Bible, a 2000-year-old collection of documents written by many authors in a tribal civilization where cultural paranoia was often in evidence. Of course, Pastor Warren believes that the Bible and all it contains is the inviolable word of God, from the depiction of God's six-day labors in Creation to the quaint story of Adam and Eve. In fact, he states, God has told us what to think in the matter of marriage:

"For 5,000 years, EVERY culture and EVERY religion -- not just Christianity -- has defined marriage as a contract between men and women," Warren wrote. "There is no reason to change the universal, historical definition of marriage to appease 2% of our population. This is one issue that both Democrats and Republicans can agree on. Both Barack Obama and John McCain have publicly opposed the redefinition of marriage to include so-called 'gay marriage.' Even some gay leaders, like Al Rantel of KABC oppose watering down the definition of marriage. "Of course, my longtime opposition is well known. This is not a political issue, it is a moral issue that God has spoken clearly about. There is no doubt where we should stand on this issue."

Rick, Rick, Rick. It must be wonderful to be able to go through life without doubts, leaning on the the Bible in every situation. That way you don't ever have to think. You can just agree with every opinion expressed by a mainly illiterate, nomadic people who lived several millennia ago. Forget any reference to the modern world. Forget that the LGBT population totals far more than 2% -- probably 10-15%. It's not about appeasement, Rick. It's about justice.

Forget that we have brains, and we're supposed to use them -- along with our hearts. Forget that Jesus stood for inclusion, for the power of love against hate, for the dignity and value of every being.

That muffled sound I hear is Jesus weeping.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I want the shiny, red leather jacket!


I've been thinking ... about Sarah Palin and her $150,000.00 buying spree, financed by the RNC.

Since Palin's clothes are going to be donated to charities after the election, maybe she could send this red jacket my way! I might even, eventually, lose enough weight to fit into it! If not, I could simply admire it on the hanger.

Of course, some people will say I should stop whining and just buy my own jacket. So I did a little online sniffing, and though I could not find Sarah's exact jacket, I did find a similar one at Neiman Marcus. Isn't it just divine? And the best thing is the price tag.

It's only $1,395.00! I should snap it up!

Oh, but wait. I forgot I'm paying $653.40 every month for my son's health insurance. Just in case he needs another hernia repair. Or gets into an accident. I'm such a worry wart!

Maybe I could put it on layaway -- I hear that's the next big thing, since none of us has any money left. Let's see , $1,395.00 ...

That's $10.00 per month for the next 11.6 years. Or, I could just shop where I normally shop.

Old Navy.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Lament for an oak tree

I'm a tree-hugger -- I'll admit it. And when we bought our house ten years ago, one of its many selling points was the mature oak tree standing on the front lawn, along with equally lovely maples and locust trees spotted around the property. So it was with dread that I read, a few years ago, about a blight that was striking oak trees in my state.

I took a good look at my tree, and, in truth, it didn't look so well. The leaves turned brown early, but not because it was fall (it wasn't). Over the next two years, the tree looked worse and worse. I lamented -- I grieved -- and I called the department in our borough responsible for trees located within four feet from the street: the Shade Tree Commission (I kid you not). I connected with a nice man named Jim, who came by while I was at work, and reported that my tree "needed pruning," but that I would have to get in line with the 20,000 other shade trees in the borough.

Sigh. A week or two ago, I called Jim again.

"It's dead, Jim," I said, paraphrasing Dr. McCoy on Star Trek.

"No, it just needs pruning," he replied.

"Jim, it has dead branches dangling over the road," I mentioned helpfully. "They could fall on anyone's car, or child," I elaborated, hoping to instill the fear of litigation.

"We'll get to it eventually," he assured me.

Right. "It's an eyesore!" I exclaimed finally, hoping to appeal to his feeling of responsibility for falling property values. "It's dead!" I exclaimed again.

"Like every other oak in town," he replied, and I finally gave up.

Later, walking two of the dogs, I noticed that other, clearly dead, oaks on my street are marked with a red X. I assume this means they are to be cut down.

I'm off to the hardware store for red paint.

It's dead, Jim!!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

This kind of says it all ...

"US Republican presidential nominee Senator John McCain (R-AZ) reacts to almost heading the wrong way off the stage after shaking hands with Democratic presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) at the conclusion of the final presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, October 15, 2008. REUTERS/Jim Bourg."

Debate night chez Midget

As your resident political junkie, I have been glued to the TV for all the Obama/McCain debates, and for the Palin/Biden debate, which was arguably one of the great comedy shows of all time. I have not been able to get J. interested in watching, however -- he says he knows who he's voting for already. So he goes out to run 5 miles, and I snuggle down on the bed surrounded by dogs.

Last night, fortified with a glass of wine and a big bowl of popcorn, I settled in. Shadow waited patiently for an occasional piece of popcorn. Amber reclined on her back, legs in the air, in what a friend of mine calls her "slutpuppy" pose. And Max growled occasionally at John McCain. I think he just doesn't like the squeaky, whiny voice.

He didn't like Sarah Palin, either. She probably said "Doggone" one too many times for his taste.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

The ABC speaks out

I have often been critical of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, particularly in his dealings with the ECUSA and his treatment of Bishop Gene Robinson vis a vis the recent Lambeth meeting. The ABC has really nailed the financial crisis, however. He has this to say on his website. The entire piece is excellent, and details how modern people have lost sight of the fact that the global economy, and its financial products made by men, have the power to desperately hurt real human beings. The paragraph that most struck me, foe of any kind of fundamentalism that I am, was this one:

Fundamentalism is a religious word, not inappropriate to the nature of the problem. Marx long ago observed the way in which unbridled capitalism became a kind of mythology, ascribing reality, power and agency to things that had no life in themselves; he was right about that, if about little else. And ascribing independent reality to what you have in fact made yourself is a perfect definition of what the Jewish and Christian Scriptures call idolatry. What the present anxieties and disasters should be teaching us is to 'keep ourselves from idols', in the biblical phrase. The mythologies and abstractions, the pseudo-objects of much modern financial culture, are in urgent need of their own Dawkins or Hitchens. We need to be reacquainted with our own capacity to choose — which means acquiring some skills in discerning true faith from false, and re-learning some of the inescapable face-to-face dimensions of human trust.


Monday, October 06, 2008

Pet blessing service

At the Church on the Hill, pet owners got together this past Saturday afternoon to remember St. Francis, and to receive the annual blessing on our pets.

The weather was splendid, cool and crisp, as we gathered in the lower parking lot. At my former church, we did this service inside, but the Church on the Hill is barely big enough to accommodate people, much less furry creatures!

I took my three standard poodles: my geriatric Shadow, who's 12, and Max and Amber, who are 2 years old. Shadow is a little blind and a little deaf, and approached the whole thing with a zen-like resignation. Not so the youngsters! They had never before been on the split lead, so they spent a lot of time figuring out that they had to walk nicely right next to each other. It was very funny to watch!

We had about 15 dogs in attendance, and one bird. One of the dogs was a chihuahua, and totally adorable; unfortunately, Max suspected she was a rodent, and made every attempt to eat her! Her owners were very understanding, and there was no harm done; after all, her owner pointed out, poodles are hunters, and she does resemble prey!

We stood in a big circle, and after the brief service, the Rector asked us to introduce our pets as she blessed them. Each pet was blessed individually; some appreciated it, but some were wary! As the service finished and the crowd about to leave, someone recalled that we have a horse living behind the church. We looked over the fence and down the slope, and there she was, in the gully. Her owner was also there, and led her up to the fence for her blessing. He told us her name was "Georgia Peach," because that's where he bought her. Georgia Peach got a little skittish when she saw the dogs, and ran back down the slope. So she had her blessing from afar!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Heartbreaking pet story

My canine-loving heart is just breaking over this story in today's Philadelphia Inquirer.

I want to run right up there, fill my car with dogs and cats, and bring them home. The kennel operator potentially faces over a million dollars in fines -- but apparently no jail time.

I say lock 'im up and throw away the key.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Post Turtle

I just got this joke on email, and I can't resist posting it (pun intended). This will leave you no doubt where I stand, assuming you had any.

While suturing a cut on the hand of a 75 year old rancher, whose hand
was caught in the gate while working cattle, the doctor struck up a
conversation with the old man. Eventually the topic got around to Sarah
Palin and her bid to be our next Vice President.

The old rancher said, "Well, ya know, Palin is a post turtle." Not
being familiar with the term, the doctor asked him what a post
turtle was. The old rancher said, "When you're driving down a
country road you come across a fence post with a turtle balanced on
top, that's a post turtle".

The old rancher saw the puzzled look on the doctor's face so he
continued to explain. "You know she didn't get up there by herself,
she doesn't belong up there, and she doesn't know what to do while
she's up there, and you just wonder what kind of dummy put her up
there to begin with."

Thursday, September 18, 2008

OK, I spoke too soon ...

I knew I couldn't stop blogging for long.

Just call me Ladel Torque Palin.

At least, that's what the Sarah Palin Baby Name Generator suggested. Now you give it a go!

Sqeegee Jester Palin?
Thor Surprise Palin?

Oh, no, I'm going to need a 12-step program for this also!

Confessions of a political junkie ....

Yes, it's true.

I have been neglecting my three faithful readers while remaining glued to CNN. I repent!

But with the debates beginning next week ... I may need a CNN 12-step program!!! Or new eyeglasses, at the very least.

Bear with me!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Joe Biden and I go way back ...

Just kidding! He doesn't really know me, of course.

But I was 19 years old and working as a student Radiologic Technologist at the Delaware Hospital (another career, another lifetime ago), on December 18, 1972, when the word got around that newly-elected Senator Biden's family had been involved in a devastating car crash outside Wilmington.

You could have heard a pin drop. I recall the day had been slow otherwise; we waited for more news.

Biden's sons, Beau and Hunter, arrived for x-rays; I wasn't on the case, but lingered with my colleagues in the hallway. I don't remember hearing anything about the boys' condition (they survived and are fine!). But I do remember, as if it were yesterday, when the news arrived that Neilia Biden and the Bidens' toddler daughter, Amy, had been killed instantly in the crash.

Delaware mourned -- truly. I moved away in 1977, but the memory lingers. We all felt terrible for the Biden family.

Well, time passes, and I moved to Pennsylvania, then to New Jersey. Politics wasn't much on the radar as I raised my kids. But I am just delighted to see Joe Biden on the ticket with Barack Obama. Joe has worked so hard to get this far.

I may not have voted for him the very first time I was old enough to vote (memory fails me, and I come from a staunchly Republican family). But I will certainly vote for him this time around!

Monday, August 25, 2008

On crickets and spiders ....

This weekend someone at church happened to mention he'd heard that crickets and spiders usually first appear at the same time during the summer. I'd never heard this; it sounded like a old wives' tale to me.

Last night, sitting on my porch, listening to a medley of cricket-songs, I recalled what he had said. And, yes, at the far end of the porch, there she was: the orb-weaver, or her descendant, swinging gently in the light breeze, backlit by my neighbor's garage light.

Well! this is a nasty development! The hair on my arms stood straight up. Her body is at least an inch across. Her legs are red-striped. YUCK.

I know, I know -- she's part of God's creation. But so is toothache, and I don't have to like that, either!

She'll be fine as long as she stays at the other end of the porch. I'll try to appreciate her. I'll try to list 5 reasons for liking her ....

You go first.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Is it fall yet?

OK, I know I'm rushing the season.

But I am SO OVER summer. Not that I am a real enthusiast in the first place.

After a blistering July, we are having a relatively mild August here in the Delaware Valley. Even for those who like to complain about heat (that would be me), there hasn't been that much to complain about. And the days are getting shorter; the nights have a first hint of coolness. I should be rejoicing.

But I am exhausted all the time. I have so many projects that I planned to undertake this summer. So many small improvements I wanted to make at home, things taking no more than 10 minutes, things as small as changing a light bulb. Have I done any of them? Noooooooo ....

I know this will be a familiar lament for any of you who suffer from summer SAD (seasonal affective disorder), as I do. And I am fortunate to have only a mild case! Even so, I'd like to curl up in a dark room and sleep till about the middle of September.

But I'm going to stay out of direct sunlight and soldier on.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Lambeth. Sigh.

I don't know what I really expected from Lambeth 2008.

I gather, from my reading, that lots of talk and prayer took place. That new relationships were forged, and multiple points of view expressed in love. That the Holy spirit was palpably present. This is all to the good, of course -- nothing to sneeze at. I suppose we are lucky there was no outright schism. Of course, the bishops who really can't stand us weren't there.

Progress? I don't know. The idea of an Anglican covenant is still very much alive. We are still urged to refrain from ordaining LGBT folks, and not to bless their unions. So what has changed?

My new hero is Bishop Marc Andrus of California, who says the following on his blog:

In not abiding by the moratorium on same-sex blessings I take it as incumbent on me and on us in the Diocese to actively labor to both understand the position of those to whom that moratorium is important, and to convey the reality of our life together to the world. I must redouble my efforts at inhabiting a deeper unity.

A deeper unity would be wonderful, but not balanced on the backs of those who feel excluded from the Church. Bishop Andrus, to his credit, understands exactly that.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Bishop Robinson's Lambeth Blog

I've been engrossed lately in reading Bishop Gene Robinson's Lambeth blog, which you can find here. I recommend it to everyone. Though he has been, sadly, excluded from the formal proceedings, Bishop Robinson has managed to connect in a positive way with many, many people who are showing support. Please join me in praying for a successful journey for him, and a bit more tolerance on the part of certain Bishops I will not name. But we all know who they are.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Big Read revisited

I just found this on Closeted Pastor's blog, and thought it might be fun to pass along. I will never live long enough to do all this reading, I am sure!

And, before you ask, just seeing the movie doesn't count! I was already tempted by that!

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Underline the books you LOVE (I’ve used an asterisk instead)
4) Reprint this list in your own blogs


1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien*
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee*
6 The Bible*
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens*
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott*
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy*
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier*
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien*
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger*
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot*
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy*
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez*
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy*
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan*
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel*
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez*
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold*
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy*
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt*
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens*
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro*
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare*
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

I guess I should start reading now!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

And now for something completely different ...

I'm hastily getting ready to go to Portland, Oregon, to a professional convention ... so I thought I would leave a little musical fun for you all while I'm gone. The group below is known as Joe Trio (I'm not sure why, because none of them is named Joe). They're based in Vancouver, BC, but tour all over. Check out their web site, which is is lighthearted and full of animal noises.

The Youtube selection below is described as "a Joe Trio take on Led Zeppelin's Black Dog and various JS Bach themes combined." The performers are, from left, Cameron Wilson, Allen Stiles, and Charles Inkman. Charles is my neighbor's brother, and a lot of fun to hang out with.

Enjoy!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

What I did on my "staycation"


That's the new buzzword now, right? "Staycation"? The word for time off when you can't afford the gas to go anywhere ...

Well, I recently took a week off, having realized that I was going to max out my vacation time and stop accruing new days otherwise. J. took a few days off, too, and we did day trips. We didn't especially save on gas, but at least we could sleep in our own bed at night and save a lodging fee.

The first day trip was to Cape May, NJ, an old Victorian resort still largely undiscovered by the condo builders (shhh!...). This is one of my favorite places in the world. The "boardwalk" is made of concrete. The carnival rides are nonexistent. It's very quiet. The picture above was taken as a storm passed by offshore. I love the dark sky against the sea!

We had a nice lunch (far too much food, but what the heck!) in a restaurant located on a pier.

Later in the day, it cleared up a bit. J. doesn't much care for the beach, so he went blissfully to sleep on a blanket while I roamed the shoreline, picking up the inevitable stones. The shoreline is segmented by jetties, I suppose to prevent erosion of the sand, and some surfers were attempting to ride the (rather small) waves near one of the jetties. My image of the surfer-boys did not turn out, but here is one of the jetties.
The waves are, admittedly, somewhat minimal, even with the storm offshore. But that's the East Coast, I guess. Not too many Hawaii-style waves are to be found here.

A couple of days after this trip, I got it into my head to go canoeing, because I know how J. loves the woods and lakes. So I rented a canoe from a rental service in Chatsworth, NJ. After an hour in the car, we finally found the place. The canoe rental fee was quite reasonable, and they hauled us out to the launch spot and picked us up three hours later.

We were canoeing the Wading River in the Wharton State Forest, part of the Pinelands National Reserve. If you're interested in the history and ecology of the remaining wilderness in South Jersey, be sure to read The Pine Barrens, by John McPhee. I read this many years ago, when I first moved to the state. It may be out in a new edition.

In any case, the Wading River is aptly named, because under normal conditions it is never more than three to four feet deep. This is fortunate for me, because I managed to lean back to avoid an overhanging branch, and dumped myself into the water! I still have the bruise on my leg where I hit the edge of the canoe on my way out. It was an occasion of great hilarity for both J. and me, and in view of the heat, a great relief to be standing in waist-deep water (even with things -- snakes? fish?-- slithering around my ankles).

It was so quiet there. I could almost imagine myself a member of a Leni-Lenape tribe, paddling silently along. All we heard was birdsong. A large buck came down to the water to drink, but by the time I got the camera out, he had retreated in haste. He was lovely -- with a full set of antlers.

We canoed for the full three hours of the rental. I was surprised at how well I did, not being very athletic. I guess a little weight loss did not hurt! When we saw the second bridge, we knew it was time to beach the canoe and wait for our ride. This was the scene at the end of our journey.

Our ride back to the car came promptly, and before we knew it we were headed home. we stopped at a rural diner on the way, and talked about how we would like to have our own canoe, and do a lot more exploring of the Pine Barrens.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

House for sale

My house is for sale. Again.

I visited my hometown today, to help a friend and her dulcimer-playing husband celebrate the launch of his first CD. On the way back to the interstate, I cruised past the house where I grew up, and was dismayed to note a For Sale sign on the lawn.

This will be the second time the house has been resold in the 11 years since I inherited it and sold it after my mom and dad died. Nobody stays long.

As you can see from the picture, it's a compact little brick colonial, and at 1600 square feet, I guess it's not the McMansion of anyone's dreams. My parents built it in the postwar exodus to the suburbs for a whopping $16,000. That was big money at the time, I guess. I was in high school when they paid it off.

They lived there for 45 years. I don't think "moving up" ever crossed their minds. My dad had been a POW, and was happy to be alive. My grandparents lived there, too, and my grandfather, a handyman and carpenter, enclosed the screen porch, built bookcases of knotty-pine, and turned the room into a den. My mother painstakingly selected the delft tile which surrounded the fireplace.

Well, the realtor's website told the whole story. The bookcases in the den are gone. It's been turned into an exercise room. The living room has been painted in neutral colors. My mother's vibrant, blue tiles are gone. The fireplace looks like a gas fixture now. My tiny bedroom still has the white shutters at the window, but has become a computer room.

Nothing stays, does it? Soon my husband may have to contemplate the sale of his own family home, as his mother grows increasingly frail. I haven't much good advice for him. Except, perhaps ... maybe you don't want to drive by very often. Cherish the memories. We both love the poetry of Robert Frost, and this poem of his popped into my mind today, as I was driving home:

'Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay."

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Only connect!

I know that's a quote, up there in the title, but I can't recall who said it. Anyway, I went to the Order of Julian's annual JulianFest this past weekend, and spent two marvelous days doing just that. What a treat it is to see old friends, make new ones, learn more about Mother Julian, and have a change of scene.

Southern Wisconsin is so beautiful this time of year! There are flowers in bloom there that have been gone for weeks in the Middle Atlantic. Unfortunately, we also had heat, humidity, and impressive storms and heavy rain. And this Jersey girl experienced her very first tornado warning, on Saturday afternoon, as we all left our meetings and hurried into a lower hallway of the retreat center, where there were no windows. Thunder boomed overhead, and those of us who are locals made tornado jokes -- black humor on this subject apparently abounds among midwesterners -- while the rest of us waited somewhat nervously. As a certifiable "weather geek," I was dying to go outside with my camera -- but I had left it in my room!

The tornado passed south of us and went into a lake, we were told later. So we resumed our schedule of music, fellowship, and prayer (8 services in 48 hours!). Next year I hope to be there for the Affiliates' Retreat as well.

Hopefully without tornadoes!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Unprovoked

My former Rector has been letting loose on his blog again, complaining about a former church member who continues negative blogging about Rick Warren "even though they left our church four months ago!" One of his responses to this is to quote again from Uncle Rick:

“If you wrestle with a pig you’ll both get dirty.”

A couple of months ago, this would have elicited a blistering response from yours truly. Now? A giggle and a yawn. I have said what I had to say. I am so out of there!

To paraphrase Dorothy Parker: "Loving my new church is the best revenge."

Friday, May 30, 2008

Sticks and stones ...

I've been reading and thinking lately about eco-theology, a topic I've just become aware of, though it may have been around for years.

J. and I consider ourselves environmentalists-in-the-making. We recycle everything. Last month I recycled the gas/electric bill before I paid it (this was the source of much hilarity when I had to call them up and ask for the amount due). Last year, when the plight of the honeybee was in the news, J. called our lawn-care company and had them eliminate anything non-organic from their applications to our lawn (so now we have weeds; oh well; I'm the one who wants to turn the front lawn into a meadow anyway!). But we have miles to go before we make any impact, if we ever do!

So I've been reading Thomas Berry, who echoes my feeling that everything belongs, and that we and the earth and all its inhabitants are all interconnected. I could quote from every page of Evening Thoughts (but I won't, so I'll still have some friends left!). I cannot even begin to select a quotation from this book. Reading it was a marvelous experience. Go and buy it right now!

This may be the right time to talk about rocks. Years before I read Iris Murdoch's The Green Knight, I was bringing home rocks and stones from my travels. Mine don't move around on the shelf, unlike those in Murdoch's book, but they all seem to be individuals. And certainly they are all unique, like all humans. I would feel a real loss if any of them were gone.

Well, there you go. We all have our secrets! I like the solid feel of rocks in my palm. One fits perfectly in my hand while I say prayers at night. It makes me feel some elemental connection with places I've been, with people I've known, with God. Eventually I forget which rocks represent which places, and I think that's probably a good thing.

So I recommend rocks and stones as a way of connecting -- go collect some! And may yours move around on the shelf!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Diet Report

Sigh.

After almost 4 months on this diet, I have managed to lose .....

(Drum roll, please) ....

12 pounds.

OK, it's 12 pounds I didn't need. And if I stopped having a couple of glasses of wine in the evening, it would be more. Maybe.

What I really want is a

HUGE BOWL OF PASTA!

and a

WHOLE BAG OF POTATO CHIPS!

But that's not happening. I shall continue with Lean Cuisine frozen dinners. My husband is enormously proud of me.

Because he doesn't see me sneaking peanut butter!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Three cheers for the California Supreme Court!

Cheering for anything a typical Supreme Court does is not a normal reaction of mine, but there you go!

California rocks!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Taking the long, calm view

I will freely admit that taking the long view is not something I'm good at. When I see an injustice, I want it fixed --- right now. And since we know God's time is not necessarily our time, I am often left waiting, with empty hands.

But after finishing Bishop Gene Robinson's new book, In the Eye of the Storm, I feel a deep sense of calm and peace about the turmoil we Anglicans find ourselves in, even if I think I know what to do to fix it -- right now. The exclusion of GLBT folks may not end right now, but it will surely end. After all, we have been through this before:

Our Anglican difficulties today aren't really new. They're just a new chapter in a very old conflict that started a couple of thousand years ago, and the Holy spirit has been there in the midst of every battle, large and small. People often ask me when this infighting will end. My response is always a rather pessimistic "never." Because just as soon as we make some serious progress on the gay and lesbian issue, God will point out somebody else we've been overlooking, just as God pointed out that we'd been excluding women and people of color and those who are differently abled. Remember that a lot of people said we didn't need to build handicapped access ramps because we didn't have anybody in wheelchairs. But when we built the ramps we had disabled people coming out of the woodwork. God won't be finished with us until we do what God wants, which is to embrace all of God's children. It's just that simple. (p. 161-162).

Not that it will be easy, or even linear. Bishop Robinson points out that we should expect reversals along with progress. But, even in the face of events like the 2006 General Convention, which I personally found extremely disappointing, we need to maintain a feeling of hope:

In the end I believe that the Holy Spirit shows up in the formal deliberations of the church and its councils. To the degree that we open ourselves to that Spirit, we do God's work. When we are too frightened to do the right thing, we sometimes do the wrong thing. Through it all the Spirit of God does not abandon us, but rather keeps coming back to inspire us and to lead us into all truth. (p. 166)

These are inspiring words from an inspiring man. Not only is the the best exposition I have read lately of the need for full inclusiveness, but it has made me hopeful for the first time in a long time.

Now if I could just be more patient ...

Monday, May 12, 2008

And De-Skunked!!!

As I write, our daughter, M., whose nose is not as tolerant as mine, is de-skunking Amber with some substance she purchased at Petsmart. This process will culminate in a shower for Amber (in my shower). I have to admit I'm smiling as I imagine my slender, petite daughter wrestling a 50 pound dog into the shower. I hope I still have an intact bathroom to come home to!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Skunked!!!

J. called me on his cell phone from the nearby woods, where he had taken the three dogs to run.

"Amber got skunked!"

'OK, how is she?" I asked.

"She wiped her face on my pants," he said.

"Well, her eyes were burning," I suggested. "How is she now?"

"She's rolling in the dirt," he replied. "What should we do?"

"Not much, necessarily," I replied. "We'll leave her outside for awhile. Maybe bathe her in peroxide. Let's see how she is when you get home,"

Of course, he was unconvinced, not realizing that dogs have been skunked for thousands (if not millions) of years.

When they got home, Amber was mostly herself (aside from smelling a little funky). Skunk smell has never bothered me much -- it's a sign that I'm (finally) in the country. I took J's jeans and proceeded to the basement, to put them in the wash.

And all the time I was thinking, "You weenie! What's a little skunk smell among friends?"

He's the country boy, I'm the suburban hothouse flower -- go figure!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The End of Faith?

I've just finished reading The End of Faith, by Sam Harris, which I picked up in a bookstore on Dupont Circle while traveling on business in DC last week. Sam Harris is apparently a philosophy grad who is getting a Ph.D. in neuroscience, "studying the neural basis of belief, disbelief, and uncertainty," according to the back cover.

He writes an impressive book, I must say. Since I am married to an agnostic who is the son of an agnostic, I figure it behooves me to pay attention to the opposition, even if I start off as a hard sell.

The basic tenet of the book, as I surmise, is that religion -- any religion -- that cannot prove its claims scientifically has no claim to anyone's belief. Harris also claims (correctly) that religion has become an inappropriate subject for criticism in the modern world ... a taboo subject, particularly as far as Islam goes (he presents a rather devastating summary of Islamic beliefs, which I am not qualified to critique). And he states, again correctly, that what's wrong with religious fundamentalism of any sort is its fundamentals: belief in the inerrance of its sacred texts, belief in their divine authorship, and rigid adherence to norms and rules which are essentially tribal in nature.

I cannot disagree with any of this, except the requirement of scientific proof. I think it is unlikely that we will ever have scientific proof of God's existence. I have also been reading Bishop Spong with great attention recently, and I agree with him that the gospels are unreliable as narratives of fact.

But is it all about fact? As homo sapiens, conversant in whatever languages we speak, we should be comfortable with simile and metaphor. With symbols.

I think something important happened on Easter morning. I'm not sure what it was, but I'm not sure that matters.

I think the Buddha was enlightened beneath his tree.

I think most religions have a slice of the pie. But I can't "prove" any of it.

But that doesn't impede my intuition, my belief.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Chomping at the bit

Calendar-wise, it's spring. In terms of temperature, it's spring (68 degrees today, 74 tomorrow, in the high 60s or low 70s for the extended forecast).

The frost/freeze tables have me hamstrung. The popular wisdom I absorbed from my granny is that you never, never plant outside until May 15th. She was a great storyteller, and one story she loved to tell was the one about Pop-Pop's planting 60 tomato plants on the 20th of April, and how they perished in a late-season snowstorm.

But that was before global warming, I guess. The frost/freeze tables I consulted today suggested that our last freeze will probably occur by April 15th.

This would not be an issue, were the morning-glory babies not taking over my basement. I started them on March 15th, under lights, and they're now a foot tall, curling around each other and looking somewhere, anywhere, for an anchor to latch onto. I really want to plant them outside.

In the end, it's a judgment call, just like when I took my kids out of Catholic school and sent them to public school (this worked brilliantly for my daughter; not so much for my son). So tomorrow night will probably find me installing the babies on the porch in their container, training their tendrils around the garden obelisk which stands 84 inches high above them.

Or, maybe not. I might chicken out!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

From the sublime to the offensive!

I've just finished reading Thich Nhat Hanh's Living Buddha, Living Christ, his comparison of Buddhism and Christianity. What a delight it was -- I want to read more of his work. I felt elevated to a new plane of ecumenism! I've added a new link to the Plum Village Practice Center, where I got the photograph to the right. I'll be doing a lot more reading on Buddhism. I know I have lots to learn to learn from all religious traditions.

Well, maybe not all.

Thanks to MadPriest for his post on 3/29, alerting us to more words of wisdom spoken by my own personal nemesis. Pastor Rick Warren's enlightened stance on LGBT issues was quoted in the Monitor, published in Uganda, in the issue for that same day. I looked it up in Westlaw, and I think it's worth quoting in full (just for that full, rancid, fundamentalist flavor):

Famed American pastor, Dr Rick Warren has said he supports the decision by Ugandan bishops to boycott the forthcoming Lamebth [ sic] conference in England, United Kingdom.

The conference brings together Bishops of the Anglican Communion from all 38 Provinces of the Communion every 10 years.

"The Church of England is wrong and I support the Church of Uganda (CoU) on the boycott,"Dr Warren said on Thursday shortly after arriving in Uganda.

The Bishops are protesting the Church of England's tolerance a
[sic] homosexuality. Announcing the boycott in February, Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi said that Uganda's action had been prompted by the invitation of bishops of The US Episcopal Church (TEC) who in 2003 elected as bishop, Gene Robinson, a divorced man living in an active homosexual relationship.

Rev. Orombi said the Archbishops of all the 38 Provinces of the Anglican Communion strongly opposed the election of Gene Robinson as bishop - and in a meeting shortly after the election "warned that, if they proceeded with the consecration, their action would "tear the fabric of the Anglican Communion at its deepest level."

Dr Warren said that homosexuality is not a natural way of life and thus not a human right. "We shall not tolerate this aspect at all," Dr Warren said.

Gosh! My head is spinning! From Nhat Hanh's book on the best attributes of Christianity and Buddhism to the prime example of Christianity at its worst (equaled only, perhaps, by the crusades and the Middle East policy of the Bush administration). How does this troglodyte continue to get into print? Why go to Africa to combat HIV/AIDS, if you're ready to throw other people under the bus? It's enough to make Jesus weep.

Go to MadPriest's post mentioned above to see some very unflattering pictures of Uncle Rick. Pastor Warren, crawl back into your primordial muck-hole, please, and take your offensive attitudes with you. The Episcopal Church does not need your help. I already know of a perfectly good one you've ruined!





BOTTOM FEEDER

Thanks to a dear friend (you know who you are!) who did the Photoshop stuff above!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

An evening with ... Thich Nhat Hahn

I have a good friend at work who has just introduced me to Thich Nhat Hanh -- his books, I mean, though I wouldn't mind meeting him in person. I have read only one so far: Living Buddha, Living Christ. I found it lucidly written and valuable for its comparison of Buddhism and Christianity. It has made me want to read more on Buddhism.

One especially thought-provoking excerpt is below:

"Some waves on the ocean are high and some are low. Waves appear to be born and to die. But if we look more deeply, we see that the waves, although coming and going, are also water, which is always there. Notions like high and low, birth and death can be applied to waves, but water is free of such distinctions. Enlightenment for a wave is the moment the wave realizes that it is water. At that moment, all fear of death disappears." (p. 138)

In a Christian context, if I were able to remember, every minute, that I am God's beloved child, that he is never separated from me, that I am never far from his watchful eyes, what troubles I could endure with a calm heart!

But it's remembering it that's the difficult part!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Easter Vigil: I get it!

After many years of attending an anemic Easter Vigil, I finally understand what it's all about (proving that it's never too late to learn).

Our Easter Vigil started after dark. The Rector appeared on the church porch with a medium-sized pyrex bowl, into which she proceeded to pour a large box of epsom salts. I was perplexed, standing in the back of the nave with the choir -- I had never seen this before. Into the bowl she then poured rubbing alcohol. Moving back from the bowl, she set it afire with a barbecue lighter.

Wow! The flames rose up. It was our Easter fire. The Rector blessed it and lit the Paschal Candle from it. Then she extinguished the bowl by putting on its lid, entered the church, and began the Exsultet. As we processed down the aisle, the person on the end of every pew lit a candle from the Paschal Candle, then passing the flame to his neighbor's candle.

The first half of the service, the reading of lessons (including my favorite, "The Valley of Dry Bones") and the singing of hymns, was illuminated only by our candles, the light over the organ keyboard, and the light at the lectern. I read one of the lessons, and found it so dark that I had trouble navigating from the choir-stalls to the lectern. But that made it all more poignant somehow.

After the reaffirmation of baptismal vows, the Rector suddenly shouted, "Alleluia! He is risen!" The lights came on, we blew out our candles, and the organ launched into hymn 207, "Jesus Christ is Ris'n Today," my very favorite hymn from childhood.

And I got it, after all these years. We listen to our salvation history in the dark of despair. Jesus is in the tomb. Hope is gone. We search for clues, for a ray of hope. And then we get the good news.

The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The price

Today I reached out on email to two women who were my close friends at my old church, asking after their families, giving them the news of my own, and wishing them a blessed Easter. It was a chatty little note, with a little news from my new parish mixed in. I thought it was a cordial note. I suggested lunch some Saturday.

I got back, "Happy Easter" from both of them. One line, more or less, including good wishes for my new life. I guess this is what it feels like to be thrown under the bus. I guess it's the price for being honest about what I saw happening at the Church on the Pike.

But sending that letter to my bishop was (as the commercial says).... priceless.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Dona nobis pacem


Five years ago today I sat on my bed and watched the "Shock and Awe" campaign of the U.S. military against Saddam Hussein. Against the night sky over Baghdad, fatal blooms of yellow and orange erupted as we dropped bunker-busters. Take that, Saddam! And we were going to find his weapons of mass destruction and put him out of business, not to mention out of the presidential palace(s).

It didn't quite work out that way. The WMDs were MIA.

But it was OK, because we knew anyway that Saddam had been in cahoots with Al Qaeda, right? That Al Qaeda had been in contact with him prior to 9/11?

Nope, wrong again.

We had it all wrong from the beginning. That's the Bush administration: often wrong, but never in doubt. And people on both sides are still dying.

Kyrie eleison.
Christe eleison.
Kyrie eleison.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Palm Sunday: Pansy Attack!

Palm Sunday dawned raw and drizzly here, with a thick layer of morning fog that had mostly burned off by the time I picked up my rider-to-church, a lady named Dorothy who is not able to drive right now. It was a rainy drive, but by the time we had arrived at church the drizzle had nearly stopped. We were able to have our Palm Sunday procession, from the parish hall down to the intersection, across the street and up to the Church on the Hill. This is the first Palm Sunday in years that it has not rained out a procession! We had a full congregation, and most of them processed. We even had a local police officer as our crossing guard!

After the service, the sun came out, and I developed an itch.

Well, it can't be holy week without flowers, right? Even a Holy Week as early as this one.

Soon I found myself at the garden center, almost against my will, having a real pansy attack. I love pansies -- I love the deep, pure colors against the spring-green leaves and the gentle way the flowers nod in the wind. I bought 4 pots: 2 in varying shades of blue, one in bright yellow and orange, and one in a deep, variegated burgundy. At home, I popped them into a pot on the porch that I had already filled with new soil.

Naturally, on Sunday night the mercury plummeted to near freezing. But the pansies seem to have endured it cheerfully -- much more cheerfully that I do. They're willing to wait for spring.

Me, not so much.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

What I said ...

Here's a copy of the letter I sent to the Vestry of the Church on the Pike, edited to protect everyone's privacy. Where I refer to recent parish history, you should know that we suffered periods of tumult resulting in "dissolution of the pastoral relationship" (meaning we fired our Rectors) twice in the last 20 years. So we have a history of conflict, but had been through a long period of healing. Until the recent nonsense!

My original email had some attachments, but I couldn't figure out how to attach those documents here. But you'll get the general idea of their content.

"Dear Vestry Friends,

This afternoon my letter of transfer arrived at St. [ ]'s. Forgive me for not saying goodbye to you all in person, but last Sunday was a difficult day for me. Moving to St. [ ]'s is the decision I reached following a process of discernment that began with the first departures from St. [ ]'s, back in September. After 5 months of prayer, tears, help from a spiritual director, input from my friends in the Order of Julian of Norwich, observation of certain trends here at St. [ ]'s, and a very painful meeting with Fr. [ ] in December, it still seems to me that St. [ ]'s is going down the wrong road -- at least, the wrong road for me and many others.

This is not simply a matter of my "not being able to change," which seems to have become Fr. [ ]'s mantra here in the last few months, nor is it simply that I "don't like" Rick Warren and his programs, though that is certainly the case. I have always been open to change, when I see the point of it and agree with the direction. I have particularly resented Fr. [ ]'s suggestion that those who do not agree with him have character conflicts, as he wrote in an email to one of us, and more recently, his assertion that a good leader must have a "strong character" (cf. Feb. 3, 2008 Annual Report, p. 13), which insinuates that those who have left have a fundamental character flaw. What an easy cop-out that is.

I do have strong objections to Purpose-Driven programming on content grounds. I remarked to Fr. [ ] back in December that I felt it was a simplistic, fundamentalist, "See Spot run" version of Christianity - I have read The Purpose-Driven Life once again since I made that statement, and my opinion has not changed. One priest to whom I spoke felt that he knew less about Christianity after he had read it. For people (including, I imagine, many Episcopalians) who don't have a literal view of Scripture, who don't believe that God designed every minute aspect of their bodies (birth defects included), planned out all the events of their lives in advance, or has an instructional purpose in all the bad things that happen to them, the Purpose-Driven Life is reductive and insulting. It's a myopic, fundamentalist fairy tale. The challenges of real Christian life seem to me to be much more nuanced. The Purpose-Driven Life sells Christians short!

Then there's the matter of the damage done to the congregation, including hurtful emotional damage done to quite a few individuals. Page 5 of the most recent annual report indicates that St.[ ]'s added 16 new members in 2007 (and 6 of those were babies baptized), while 91 (!) were transferred to inactive status, which I believe has to happen before they are removed from the membership roll completely. Has St. [ ]'s not been through enough in the past 20 years? Knowing our history, bringing in a program which is well-known to split congregations (see my first attachment) is an unconscionable lapse in judgment on the part of the Rector. I am also responsible for this, in part, because I was a member of the Vestry senior class that prepared the vision statement, and I accepted what Fr. [ ] wrote (which is the bulk of the document) without realizing what the real source was; I failed to do the research I should have done. On the one hand, many aspects of the vision of purpose and ministry have been implemented without asking St. [ ]'s members to goose-step along with Uncle Rick. One example is the Newcomers' Ministry, which was thriving the last I knew. Prayer Fellowship is also flourishing in its expanded format. But forcing people into one-size-fits-all programming designed for seekers, and attempting to enforce uniformity in belief and opinion seems draconian to me, and is a misuse of the Rector's authority. Uniformity in belief and attitude has never been an Anglican requirement (thanks be to God), and should not be an expectation of all a church's leadership. Vetting people who are to run for Vestry is another example of this uncanonical misuse of authority. The recent absence of Vestry elections (by provision of exactly the requisite number of candidates to fill slots) is also disturbing, and is potentially a violation of state law. This is not a criticism of your good selves; it is an objection to the Rector's iron grip on the process.

I don't know what has happened to Fr. [ ]; he no longer seems to me to be the person who came to us in 2001. I no longer recognize that gentle, patient person in him. I don't feel badly saying this to you all, since I have also said this to him. I am at a loss to understand what has happened to him.

I don't know if you have read any criticism of Saddleback and Willow Creek programming or not. I think you might be unlikely to have any handed to you at a Vestry meeting, so I'm attaching some documents that I hope you will read with an open mind. The first (mentioned above) is a Wall Street Journal article describing the breakup of an evangelical (!) congregation after their church became Purpose-Driven. The second attachment is an Amazon.com web page for a book I enjoyed reading: The Reason-Driven Life, which addresses Rick Warren's book chapter by chapter. It is both scathing and witty, and is written by an agnostic Biblical scholar and former born-again Christian. The final attachment is a review of a new book published by Willow Creek, following their experience with the REVEAL survey. It seems they are ready to admit that they've been attracting seekers but not keeping them, and that their methods are completely flawed. Back to the drawing board for them! If only repairing damage were so easy at St. [ ]'s.

My friends, I will miss all of you. I am very saddened by what I see happening in a church where I worshiped God happily for nearly 25 years. St. [ ]'s will always be in my prayers.

Yours in Christ,

Judy"

Friday, March 07, 2008

UNCLEAN!!!

OK, I left my church and found one I liked better.

But when I left, I wrote a letter to the Vestry, explaining my position, why I left, and what I objected to. I also sent them three attachments, in the hope that these would better explain my doubts: why I don't want to become a fundamentalist; why I don't think everyone needs to agree on every point of doctrine; why the "Purpose-Driven" programs are splitting congregations; and why the enforcement of uniform opinion is not in the least Anglican.

First, I sent the email to a friend on the Vestry, and asked her to distribute it to other Vestry members, since I didn't have everyone's email address.

In a couple of weeks, and following a Vestry meeting, it became clear to me that my friend's best intentions had gotten cut off at the pass -- no one got my letter.

So then I got really annoyed, and emailed the letter to everyone on Vestry for whom I had an address, on the supposition that a few are better than nothing.

And what have I heard back?

Let's see. Zip. Nada. Nihil.

Folks, it's like I don't exist anymore. I'm now a leper. UNCLEAN!!

But, gosh, I can't help thinking that God gave us brains so we could use them. No one at the Church on the Pike seems to be using theirs.

I could be sad. Or I could move on. In fact, I already have, with fond glances behind me ...

Monday, March 03, 2008

My bad!

I've been tagged for two interesting memes, but I've had my head in a dark place and didn't notice one of them till today. My apologies to Psalmist, who tagged me way back on Feb. 8 for this book meme. I may be slow, but I do get there!

Book meme:
Pick up the nearest book of 123 pages or more. (No cheating!)
Find Page 123.
Find the first 5 sentences.
Post the next 3 sentences.

Oh, boy, I hope you're not holding your collective breath in anticipation, because I happen to be at my desk on my lunch hour, and the nearest book is (drum roll, please):

Lieberman, Joseph I. In Praise of Public Life, 2000

And the text, according to the rules of the meme, is:

"American politicians have become so hungry for campaign contributions largely because, as I noted earlier, so much of politics has become driven by and wedded to television, which costs a lot of money. In 1974, which was a midterm election year, a record-shattering total of$356 million was spent by the nation's political candidates (at local, state and national levels) on TV ads. That figure was unimaginable just a decade earlier."

OK, I warned you! And this is one of the more interesting books that has come across my desk lately. I might actually read this one!

The second meme comes from my friend Sharecropper, and fortunately I am not late on this one!

Blogging meme:

1. List three reasons for your blogging
2. List the rules
3. Tag three others with the thread.

1. Why I blog:

I'm a frustrated writer. I love horror fiction, and I wanted to be the female Stephen King, but it never worked out. Always had to make a living. Darned money!

It gives me another chance to try to put my faith to work, whether I manage to do that or not.

I get to meet cool, thoughtful people who care about the things I care about.

2. See above.

3. I'll give some thought to whom I want to tag. But I know how busy everyone is!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Back on track?

Things have settled down a little at home. We have cleared the air, and we have a plan. That's all I can ask for right now.

So ... the diet resumes. I lost three pounds somewhere, but of course there are miles to go yet. I have stopped being hungry and resentful.

At least, I thought I had.

I came home to an empty house, so the only ones who had to be fed were myself and the three canines. Having provided for them, I microwaved a Lean Cuisine pizza (4 miserable points) for myself.

It wasn't bad, even if it did need a chocolate cake chaser. Lacking a chocolate cake, I sat there gloomily regarding my empty plate.

Then I noticed it. A teeny, tiny, nearly microscopic piece of sausage had escaped from the pizza, and landed on the tablecloth next to my plate.

But I was not the only one who noticed. Shadow, my nearly 12-year-old standard poodle, had fixed her beady little eyes on the prize. She looked from me to the sausage, quizically. I moved my hand a fraction of an inch closer to the morsel.

Shadow pounced. I pounced. Having hands, I got to it first. Down the hatch!

Oh no, I could hear her thinking, Has it come to this? She looked at me indignantly, shook her whole body, and walked away.

Has it come to this? Indeed. Will I be eating the Iams dog food next?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Patience among the thorns

"Family troubles" have prevented me from blogging for awhile.

I don't need to burden anyone with the details. But somehow I had gotten the notion that, once my kids were adults, their problems would be their own. That they would have sufficient commonsense to solve them (better still, avoid them). That I would somehow be on a higher, "post-parental" plane, looking down benignly (sort of like the Deists' "watchmaker" God), while the kids made their own way.

Yeah, right.

Ain't happening.

I left home at the age of 20, and never looked back. Never needed to be rescued from myself. Never needed to draw on my parents' emotional resources. Never had them up all night, or pacing and muttering to themselves. So, nobody warned me.

No one told me that, when my child made a bad decision that broke his heart, mine would break also. No one warned me that adult children sometimes need more mothering than they did when they were little. That they could do things that would consume me with anger, amazement (not in the good sense), and fear. That I might not be able to sail gracefully into old age, worried only about stiffening joints and the health of my 401(k).

"These are the times that try mens' souls." I have been thinking this all day, but cannot recall who said it. More to the point, from a Christian perspective, Mother Julian assures us that "all shall be well"; and Luke Bell, OSB, a monk at Quarr Abbey on the Isle of Wight, believes that all our errors and troubles, even the most grievous, will end up woven in as bright threads in God's eternal plan:

"He uses the circumstances of our mistakes, and even our sins,
to create the beautiful pattern of his providence. In the radiant and final
beauty of the blessed in heaven, what was at the time a huge mistake
becomes a part of the perfection of the finished picture."
--A Deep and Subtle Joy, p.86.

So I'm holding these thoughts, trying to remain detached enough from my own distress to be able to offer the help needed at this time. And I'm praying that, in the end, the pattern comes out right.

Boy, am I praying.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Saying goodbye to a church

Today was my last day at the Church on the Pike. Ash Wednesday will find me at the Church on the Hill, hopefully with my transfer of membership already in process. I decided it would be good for me to start Lent in a new place. It was hard singing with the choir for the last time, going to coffee hour for the last time, leaving the parking lot for the last time. I'm pretty sure I made the right decision, but it hurts nonetheless. I turned in my church key, said goodbye to a few people I'll keep in touch with, and left quietly. Then I went (I blush to admit it) for a little retail therapy. It takes so little to cheer me up -- a handbag at 75% off will often do the trick.

This morning was the Church on the Pike's annual meeting, however, so I did stay long enough to see what the official spin would be on the many departures this past fall and winter. I was not disappointed. Those who have left were justly characterized as those who could not "buy into" the church's vision. This means, of course, all those who were unwilling to do the fundamentalist goose-step along with Uncle Rick Warren and his "purpose-driven" schemes for growth and glory. Yeah, I guess I have no buy-in. Guilty as charged! Micah 6:8 has always seemed sufficient to me:

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?

I don't know, is this too reductive? Do I have to take classes, sign pledges, and join a "life group" (whatever that is; it sounds like a life sentence) to be a member of the Christian family? Do I have to accept the Bible as literal truth, and believe that God planned out every aspect of my "purpose" before I was born? Isn't it enough to be baptized and try to live like a Christian?

If I have to follow the Saddleback and Willow Creek boys, I am in big trouble!

My new church, the Church on the Hill, is not into the "purpose-driven" stuff at all, thanks be to God. And the Lenten program there, which I've already signed on for, features the history of Anglicanism. It will probably have lots of intellectual content! So take that, Rick Warren! Take yourself off in your Hawaiian shirts and leave me alone!



Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Just call me Grumpy

I went out into the cold this morning to bring in the newspaper, and got an unexpectedl treat. The sun was just coming up behind my neighbor's house, peeking around her garage in a pale blue sky crisscrossed by pink, fluffy ribbons of cloud. The landscape lay under a faint, optimistic, pinkish glow.

I didn't care. I don't feel optimistic. It's hard living with a guy who lost a hundred pounds on Weight Watchers. There's nothing like a convert to make everyone uncomfortable. I have gotten tired of his lovingly pointing out to me that I'm obese.

Not chubby. Not pleasingly plump. Obese. The "O" word.

I come from a whole family of cheerfully obese people, thank you very much. They enjoyed life; they enjoyed food.

They got diabetes in their 60s. They didn't enjoy that very much. So much for my argument.

So here I am, day two of Weight Watchers, glaring balefully at my breakfast of 3 Rice Krispies and a tablespoon of fat-free milk. "I'm so proud of you," J. exclaims, as he munches on soggy shredded wheat. He has been up working out for an hour. I have just dragged my carcass out of bed.

What have I come to? I am so hungry I could gnaw off my own arm. Maybe I'll wait till after lunch, and do it in front of all my colleagues. Can you see the headline? Dieting Librarian Gnaws Off Limb, Inquires How Many Points for an Arm?

My biggest regret of the day: I can't get my tongue all the way into the Yoplait Light container.

Pray for me.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

'Twas in the Moon of Wintertime

Last night the county college/community chorus started up practice again for the spring semester concerts, which will feature parts 2 and 3 of Handel's Messiah. So off my friend Carol and I went in the dark, cold drizzle, vaguely fearing that we could encounter black ice on the roadways.

Now, you've never spent time with Carol and me, so you don't know how we love to talk. We can, and do, laugh about the silliest things. I have nearly driven off the road many times when convulsed by laughter at Carol's humor. Last night, however, I kept my mind firmly on the road. Until ...

Carol pointed out the window, and we saw the sky had begun to clear, revealing tattered shreds of cloud backlit by the most gorgeous winter moon I have ever seen. I stared at it as long as I dared.

When I got home later, it was a still and perfect night, crisp and cold, with no wind. And the moon was still up, hovering brilliantly above. I was reminded of that Huron carol, 'Twas in the Moon of Wintertime, which goes like this:

’Twas in the moon of wintertime,
When all the birds had fled,
That mighty Gitchi Manitou
Sent angel choirs instead;
Before their light the stars grew dim,
And wondering hunters heard the hymn:

Jesus your King is born,
Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria.

Within a lodge of broken bark
The tender babe was found,
A ragged robe of rabbit skin
Enwrapped His beauty round;
But as the hunter braves drew nigh,
The angel song rang loud and high:

Jesus your King is born,
Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria.

The earliest moon of wintertime
Is not so round and fair
As was the ring of glory on
The helpless Infant there.
The chiefs from far before Him knelt
With gifts of fox and beaver pelt.

Jesus your King is born,
Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria.

O children of the forest free,
O seed of Manitou,
The holy Child of earth and Heav’n
Is born today for you.
Come kneel before the radiant Boy,
Who brings you beauty, peace and joy.

Jesus your King is born,
Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria.

I let the dogs out on the front lawn, and we stayed about 5 minutes in the cold. On that still, silent night, I could not stand to be in the house. I'll look again tonight for the brilliant winter moon.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Lunchtime with ... Beatrice Bruteau

"Salvation" ... is not a matter of offering sacrifice to appease God. This is a primitive, not to say barbaric, notion. God doesn't need appeasing. God's "attitude," if we may so put it, is one of eternal steadfast love. What needs "appeasing" is the craving for life of the descriptive self and the fear of destruction in the sinner. Salvation is effected by someone loving the sinner and convincing the sinner of that love. "Greater love than this no one has, that one should lay down one's life for one's friends" (John 15:13). If the convincing gesture is "dying for you," then that gesture can be used because it convinces the sinner of the love. It is the love and the conviction of being loved that is salvific.

Beatrice Bruteau, Radical Optimism, p. 84

Wednesday, January 09, 2008