Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Eve:

About forty-five years ago tonight I went to Mid-night Mass for the first time.  At that time I was a struggling professional musician and a public school teacher in Dallas.  And like all struggling musicians we made most of our money during the Christmas season.  I have played the Messiah so many times and various Christmas oratorios that I could probably play the 2nd French horn part in my sleep. 

A fellow French horn player invited me to play at the Mid-night service at her convent.  But this wasn’t a paid gig.  I was just doing a favor for a friend.   Sr. Lorene and I had become friends while we were playing in a local civic orchestra.  We liked the same kind of beer!  And we enjoyed talking about the same things.  But she had something I did not:  faith.

The evening began with a quiet processional with the sisters entering singing Gregorian chant in Latin with a darkened chapel and only candles lighting the faces of those around.  Some of the students of the nuns and their families were there.  Some of the families of the sisters came to that service too, so the place was full and warm.  And something changed in this rather jaded professional musician.  This was no longer a gig—it was worship! I had never been so nervous in my musical life!  There is a difference in playing a job and offering your gift to the Christ of your faith. 

Somewhere in that service, the world changed for me that night.  And my prayer tonight is that this worship service can be that same experience for you.  For I want you to know that your gift of worship to the God who loves us more than life, changes you.
All too often we go to our worship services seeking to receive something from God or the community.  We want to receive our Lord in the Sacrament of the Altar.  We want to hear a good sermon. We want to celebrate with our friends and family. We want to experience the delight of our children’s faces in the light of the candles.  We want to revisit the excitement of our childhood naivete about Christmas.  We want to experience that family richness that we remember or wish we remembered.  But less often do we realize that what we do tonight is “our bounded duty.”  It is our gift to the Christ child.  We are here to bring ourselves to the God who loves to celebrate God’s gift to us in the Christ. 

The whole purpose of Christmas is for us to remember that God had the temerity to come live with us in Jesus the Christ.  In this person who came and dwelt among us has lightened our darkness, has given us ways for us to walk as the children of light.  This child was destined to change us forever. 

The whole of the Incarnational event is about where God and humanity meet.  It says to us that holiness is not just for other people.  We touch the greatness of God in the simplicity of our lives and we are ennobled by it.  No longer are we the lump of clay, or the sin-filled soul.  We have been raised to the greatness of God in this service tonight to give us a glimpse of what we are called to if only for a moment.  

In Eastern Christianity, the Orthodox churches know that it is through worship that we brought to that newness that is symbolized by the Christ Child.  Through the enactment of these holy mysteries we come to a newness in ourselves.   Things change; the earth moves under our feet and our actions are turned into gift.  The gift of God in the Christ becomes also the gift we offer to God in our hearts.

I know that some of you are here tonight because Mom or Grandma wanted you to come.  Or it is the thing you do on Christmas Eve.  But if the earth does not move under your feet tonight, keep coming back.  It will.  Worship does that.  When the service becomes gift, it changes one’s whole perspective.  When life becomes a gift, our lives change. 

It is in the touch of the Holy that we can see the goodness of life.  It is in this gift-giving that we know that change is possible no matter how old we are or how entrenched we are.  It is in this night that we come to live into the grace that God gives in the sacrament of living this ancient story of God constant saving grace of God’s presence every moment of our lives.  Our lives change when our lives become gift, when our actions become offerings of our humanity in the face of God’s holiness.  And they and we are transformed.

So my prayer for you tonight is that you allow yourselves to bring your gift to the altar.  Bring your hearts to the Christ Child tonight.  Come to Bethlehem and see this remarkable gift that has been given us, but do not come empty handed.  Offer the Child your heart.  You will be changed.  Amen

Saturday, December 15, 2012

It is time---

I had planned to blog today on Advent.  But I must admit I did not sleep well last night.  The visions of news reports from Newtown, CN kept replaying.  I couldn't watch my usual TV programs of whodunits.  I couldn't even read my ever-present mystery to put me to sleep.  The tragedy of children being murdered in their classrooms and the insanity that perpetrates such acts sadly is not unimaginable.  It images lie all around us in classrooms and college campuses.

Nothing helps that pain.  Nothing helps the loss.  The grief is so beyond our ability to express that I border on anger because I cannot express it.  There is no way to be rid of it save ignoring the world and plunge ourselves into shopping--that great salve for all anxiety.

The sad part is that no one is talking about the elephant in the living room: the preponderance of automatic and semi-automatic weapons in the hands of those who are depressed, homicidal, or suicidal.  And to the politicians that are afraid of the NRA, it is time!  It is time to stand up to the gun lobby for the sake of our children.

Back in my teens and twenties, I was a shooting buff.  A neighbor got me into a rifle program where I learned hunter's safety, shot in matches and got medals for my prowess. The NRA still runs great programs for young hunters. I too became an instructor and even taught marksmanship at a summer camp.  I had learned in my Junior High Days of the  potential danger of guns:  a popular school chum had killed his best friend in a hunting accident.  I grieved then for the boy who was killed and I still grieve for the man who has carried that death in his heart for over 50 years.  So I learned the proper respect for firearms.  But these were single shot .22's, not assault weapons.

Growing up in TX, in the late 40's and 50's, we were even then a part of the American if not the peculiar Texas gun culture.  It was our right to have weapons so we said.  It was the way that we maintained our freedom, we told ourselves.  We could go to our gun closets and be prepared for any attack upon the US of A, or so we thought.  Of course most of my growing up was after the nuclear weapons that were dropped on Japan.  It was the time of the duck and cover madness of the Cold War.  We began to dream of such noble defense of our nation with movies such  Red Dawn (the first one) and other guerrilla heroics.

Throughout 80's and 90's this gun culture grew to include various militia craziness in parts of the country because the disenfranchised were drawn to paramilitary games led by ideological wing-nuts that played war games in the unpopulated West.  Add to all of this paranoia the drug culture that makes humans lethal at almost all levels, it is not surprising that we are experiencing gun violence at a level that wrenches the hearts of us all.  We are not alone, in this country.  We need but remember the Swedish killer, the bombings of various terrorists or 'freedom fighters' who strap explosives to their chests to kill as many as they can.

But there is one way to end much of the carnage in our world.  Bring a halt to the production of guns.  Curtailing the large magazine automatic and semi-automatic guns is one way of addressing the gun violence in our nation. Limiting accessibility to assault weapons and large magazine hand guns can save lives.  But I wonder if we have the nerve to do it.  We have become a culture that is so centered on 'protection' that we have made our world unsafe for our children, our most vulnerable.

It is time--it was time 10 years ago after Columbine, it was time 50 years ago when there was a gunman on the University of TX tower.

So today I mourn.  I mourn for the loss of lives and the trauma to so many families rather than prepare for the coming of the Christ child.  Whenever faced with the evil of our world, it is hard to sleep.  We know that the human propensity towards great evil is there, but we do not have to feed it.  We do not have to feed that evil with weapons of mass destruction.  In our nation we maintain great vigilance on those who would misuse explosives at home and abroad.  My question is why we do not have the same confidence to face up to the gun culture of this nation and address the gun laws?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Friday Five: Advent

Pat Raube, a fellow liturgical snob, has posted a Friday Five on Advent.  Now that I am back in the bible belt where Christmas decorations go up before Halloween, I have been rebellious about being 'out there' with Christmasy stuff.  I tend to be rather Christmas phobic anyway. Pat even posted a youtube of Sting singing Gabriel's Message which I refuse to post.  Can't stand his voice.  So here is my take of the season.  ~  Muthah+

Those of you who are my friends on Facebook know I've been trying to post Advent music in this season, which is no small trick because, as you well know, it's been "Christmas" since Halloween in the world out there! So today we focus on Advent and its music-- the good, the bad, the new and the as-yet-unheard!

1. First, do you come from a tradition in which the Advent season is embraced? This is not true for all of us. If you do, what is your personal preference? Do you love it or hate it? Embrace it or want it to go away already? How enthusiastically does your church enter into Advent?

Oh, yes.  I am an Episcopalian who lives with a cradle-Episcopalian.  I am also a former Roman Catholic so I LOVE Advent.  It is my favorite season because of the readings.  The anticipation is exquisite and the sense of quiet is such a refuge from the nutzy Christmas buying frenzy.  I really am rather phobic about Christmas.  But Advent makes the whole time beautiful.  

2. What is your favorite Advent music? (A tiny hint about mine can be found above.) Link to a favorite piece if you can.

I have never learned how to link music but I love Creator of the stars of Night, Wachet auf (in harmony and auf Deutch ) and Prepare the way, O Zion.  

3. What Advent music makes your skin crawl-- or at least annoys you and makes you wish it were Christmas already?

I am pretty tired of O Come, O Come Emmanuel.  I love the whole thing but I really love when they can be sung as they were intended as O Antiphones for the Magnificate the last 8 days before Christmas, but alas we don't live in community of singers and say the Divine Office daily.

4. Any Advent discoveries or re-discoveries? Again, we love links-- share your music with us!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zeKvNxYMDxE   This isn't quite Advent but it is quiet and meditative on the whole season.

5. Tell us how your Advent is going this year. Lost in a haze of church busyness? Finding ways to sit quietly in the darkness and wait? Give us your tips for a really rich Advent experience.

We have a remarkably vigilant neighborhood association where we live now.  We have only put a wreath on the door and a single string of lights up.  The neighborhood is ablaze however.  I know all of that will be down and packed away by Christmas night while we will only put on our lights up during Advent IV.  I will keep them up until Epiphany and perhaps until Ash Wed. if the association doesn't get crabby.  I am staying out the frenzy of church stuff although I preaching both Advent IV and Christmas Eve!  Our rector loves giving us what we like to preach on and I love preaching Christmas Eve.  I am actually going to be able to sing the mass at the main service.  I feel really blest in this parish after being in my previous diocese where I couldn't even celebrate for 8 years.  God is good for those who wait.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Fight or Flight

I have generally been a fighter.  It is my first response when faced with threat—to fight.  It is not the reaction that most expect from a priest.  But I guess that people do not get to choose our fight/flight reaction.  It may be like being left/right handed or even being gay or straight.  Acute stress response is programmed by the part of the brain that is pre-human.  I am sure it is rooted in our DNA.  But because we are human, we are able to moderate how to respond to stress thereby making the natural instinct more confusing.

Even as a small child I was called ‘pugnacious’.  It was the way that I could get my ideas heard.  And even today, while I don’t get physical, I love a good fight.  I learned how to fight with words.  And many of us who are preachers have learned to fight this way too.  I love a good theological argument.  I love turning a topic over in my mind finding  good ways to describe my point and the perfect statement that not only describes my ‘side’ but often destroys the other’s argument.  Verbal fisticuffs are as much of part of my fight repertoire as any politician or any backyard bully, I am sad to say.  I am drawn to verbal warfare.  I love to do it; I love to hear good arguments. I love turning phrases over in my head to combat another’s riposte. I love listening to good debate.  I love to listen to Rachel Maddow and John Stewart on politics just as surely as I love to listen to the Prophets of Hebrew scripture.  And yet…And yet….

Such fight reaction is ultimately self-defeating.  And it certainly defeats the message of the Gospel Jesus Christ.  I might add that flight is as debilitating to the Christian message as is fighting.  It keeps one from entering into relationship.   Fight/flight ultimately denies our humanity, our ability to know the other intimately and live peacefully.  Fight or flight may be natural to organisms and necessary for our continuance as a species, but it ultimately denies the integrity of the Incarnation—the godliness to which we are called.

Advent began yesterday with that wonderful collect:              

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of
darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of
this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit
us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come
again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the
dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives
and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and
forever.  Amen.

Christ’s coming was the route for God to show us that human life is not about living ‘naturally’.  And even though fight/flight is a natural reaction, the call of Christ to live fully into the Incarnation is to overcome our ‘natural’ state.  As those embraced by a God who chose to ‘visit us in great humility’ we are empowered by the Spirit to overcome that which makes us bellicose, argumentative, or even competitive.  During Advent it is incumbent on me to challenge myself to put away tendencies that take me away from the vision of Peace that Christ embodies.  I cannot allow myself to choose to fall into ‘fight or flight’ simply because it an inherent way to live. 

The unrest that marks this age cannot continue to be the order of the day. Whether on the national and international level or in my own home, my faith must call me to a different way of looking at the world—not in competitive ‘we-they’ images, but in communal ‘us-us’ metaphors.  And as I look at my own vocabulary, it is hard to envision a non-competitive world.  What is it about life that says I MUST contend in order to know what it is to be human?  I must find ways of looking at and describing the world with images that replicate the deep call to oneness that Jesus’ life proclaimed.  The earliest depictions of Christ we have is not the cross or of the King of Glory.  Christ was known as a shepherd—one who cared for his sheep. 

It is this question that faces me in the first week of Advent this year:  How may I make Christ known without it being a competition?  How can I find a way to teach Christ without playing ‘one-up’ in my verbal descriptions?  How can I live more as if life isn’t a struggle for dominance?  May this question be the theme for the Coming of God in my life during this new liturgical year.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday Five: Corner Shops

There's so much going on right now...holidays, weather, politics, church politics, Advent!  Let's think outside all of those boxes today.  Who knows, maybe when we retire we can all get together and open someone's dream store...

Corner shop:  Via San Francesco, 21/2380067 SorrentoItaly
Photo courtesy of TripAdvisor 

These Friday Five questions courtesy of Friday 5:

If you suddenly received a ton of money and could open up some kind of store or service just for the pleasure of having it (assume it wouldn’t have to be too financially successful!), what would it be?

First of all, I could never work retail because my math acumen is so dyslexic that I would be in bankruptcy before I began. 

2. What service or store that no longer exists do you miss most?

Butcher shops,  small bakeries with good bread and local produce stores.  Most of all a good fish monger.  I refuse to pay the prices of a Central Market or Whole Foods.

3. What local business do you think you could make better if you were to take it over? And if you don’t mind sharing, what changes would you make?

Nearly all the medical industry 'shops' that have been set up.  I would return to the single doctor's office with a single or perhaps 2 nurses who care for the patients and a secretary/scheduler.  

4. What spot nearby seems to be impossible for businesses to survive in?

This is not a gift I have.  We have empty strip malls all over the place. I would like a restaurant that served good coffee and nice sandwiches in a local book store.  

5. We’ve all seen stores that combined books and records, beer and laundry, or coffee and whatever. One of my favorite places to get coffee in Honolulu is a cafe and florist, and there is a car garage that’s also a diner in a town nearby. What would be a cool hybrid of two disparate ideas for somewhere you’d like to hang out?

In my area we now have a numerous starred restaurant in a gas station because the chef could only get a permit to run a gas station that served food, but could not get a restaurant permit.  (TX, go figure.)  It has been on the food channel and advertised all over.  

I want a 'women's space coffee/tea shop with good books, not a "Christian book" store where I could take a book to read and have a glass of tea and chat with the clientele.   

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Christ the King: Sermon for Nov. 24-25

Today is the Feast of Christ the King, the last Sunday of the Church year.  It seems appropriate to end the church year with a feast celebrating the coming of Christ, but if we look at the history of the feast we see that the images of Jesus of Nazareth and Christ the King are different. And they have been used throughout history in subtly different ways, so it is difficult to understand this feast.

As a principle feast of the Church, Christ the King was only introduced in 1925 when the Vatican had lost its territory and many of the European states after WWI were being converted to other types of governance than monarchies.  My ‘hermeneutic of suspicion’ gets a bit raised when I think of how to preach on the kingship of Christ.  I think that we sometimes err when we make too much of Christ’s kingship without understanding what it meant.

Jesus was not a king. He was an itinerant rabbi or holy man in the boondocks of the Gallilee.  But according to John’s gospel, he is accused of having kingly aspirations by Pilate.  What did Pilate mean? Pilate was in Jerusalem in order to keep the peace during the time of pilgrimage of Passover.   It was a volatile time in Jerusalem; there was political unrest.

 Jesus preached a relationship with God that freed people from earthly powers.  Jesus’ message was of a spiritual liberation that called people to remember their rootedness in the God of David and Solomon.  He taught a type of faith in the Holy One of Israel that would unite people to recognize that the God of Israel was still present to them and not merely the arbiter of the Law or the receiver of sacrifices.  Jesus was teaching a type of understanding of their faith that was outside the realm of the Pharisees or the Sadducee parties that kept the whole of Judaism in turmoil.  He taught about a God who was readily available to all people by virtue of their trust.    But Jesus was not teaching about a personal savior.  God saved nations.  People in Jesus’ time did not think of society in the terms of ‘what can it do for me?’  The type of individualism that we recognize today just was not part of the way that people thought in those days.  Personal salvation meant little—they thought of themselves as a “People”.  And that God was the God of their set of tribes, or peoples even though their government had been coerced into the Roman Empire. 

The Messiah was both a spiritual leader in the minds of the people as well as a secular leader.  It was that secular leader that the Romans feared, and it was for the crime of inciting riots that Jesus was wrongfully crucified. 

So what are we to make of Christ the King?  I think that we need to look at what leadership means.  Initially the People of Israel were a tribal people and leadership was by far more organic.  The leader was often the patriarch of the people who traveled with him whether they were blood kin or not.  But for the safety of the tribe, the leader was one who could care for his people.  The image often was characterized by the role of the shepherd—on who cared for his animals but also protected his wealth.  For the shepherd, his wealth was in his sheep; for the king, his wealth was in his people. 

It was not until the time of Constantine that the image of Christ as King evolves into the richly adorned and magnificently adorned. Christ’s raiment began to look more like Byzantine courtiers than the simple rabbi that he was.  And that image stuck.  Even in our own minds, Christ the King is the resurrected one on the cross.

But what would it be like if we thought of leadership in different terms?  What if, we expected our leaders to sit with the ‘council of the elders’ in our own day?  What if we understood leadership to be one who listened to the desires of her followers and mediated what they needed rather than what would give them payback?  What if our leadership provided direction for us to live our lives freely and with respect for one another?  What if our leaders were persons of integrity rather than those who needed titles and privilege?

I believe that the life of Jesus of Nazareth gives that kind of image of leadership, not the image of king.  We now live in a totally different world than that of Jesus of Nazareth.  But I do believe that the way that Jesus lived shows us the kind of leadership that is expected of Christian leaders and Christian followers. I am not talking about the ‘Jesus, meek and mild’ image that we often grew up with.  I am talking about the leadership of one who saw the suffering of the world as something needed to be addressed and ease wherever possible.  I am talking about leaders that depend not on law but compassion to keep order. 

This parish is full of leadership.  We have people who are very talented and very self-less. We have immensely talented folk here. We are a people who often have to lead in our work and even in our play.  We have everything from leaders in industry and economics and teachers to leaders of cub scouts in this parish.  And at the same time, we are all followers. We follow Christ.   We understand that in order to lead, we also must be able to follow.  And we look upon Christ to be the kind of leader that we can follow in our lives. 

Personally, I have a hard time following the kind of Christ the King that is being portrayed in much of Christian art today.  The kind of leadership I see in Christ my Lord is the one who washed feet and allowed his feet to be anointed.  The kind of leadership I see in Jesus is one who told the truth even when it hurt, but always stayed until the hurt was gone.  The kind of leadership I see in Christ the Alpha and Omega, is the beginning and end of how I want to treat others and how I want to be treated.  It is the kind of leadership that makes me personally and me as a part of the whole, more responsible, more capable of loving and more resilient to the vagaries of life.

Christ is my king but not in the way that others think.  Christ is the center of my universe.  Jesus’ life becomes the pattern for my own.  But I try to live my own individuality washed in the image of Christ’s compassion for the world.  I look for the qualities of compassion, fearlessness and concern for others in those I follow.  And when I must lead, I do not let the Pilates of my life call me king either.  I must not conform to those secular norms for leadership that have accreted themselves to the title “Christ the King.”  If I want a new leadership for the world, I must begin with me. I must ask myself to lead in ways that are compassionate and I must be willing to follow those who are.  AMEN

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Rant

Boycott Black Friday!

The Turkey is not yet cold on the platter as people start to line up in parking lots.  The day of celebrating the family is laid aside so that Madison Ave. can have its way with you for the next month by putting carrots in front of already over-sated donkeys looking for a sale.  I refuse!

I refuse to buy ANYTHING tomorrow on principle.  I will not go near a mall, Wally-world (even though it is the closest grocery), I will not go on line on Monday to buy anything.  It is my one-person blow against the consumerism that is desensitizing our nation to the needs of people all over the world and even in our own nation.

Besides, our family will be celebrating Thanksgiving on Friday anyway.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Friday Five: Thanksgiving Soon!

An old-fashioned American Thanksgiving!

Jan has posted a strange FF.  I am not sure what to make of it.  I guess it is because this is one of the first Thanksgivings I have had without the 'mulleygrubs'. 

The Cure

Lying around all day
with some strange new deep blue
weekend funk, I'm not really asleep
when my sister calls
to say she's just hung up
from talking with Aunt Bertha
who is 89 and ill but managing
to take care of Uncle Frank
who is completely bed ridden.
Aunt Bert says
it's snowing there in Arkansas,
on Catfish Lane, and she hasn't been
able to walk out to their mailbox.
She's been suffering
from a bad case of the mulleygrubs.
The cure for the mulleygrubs,
she tells my sister,
is to get up and bake a cake.
If that doesn't do it, put on a red dress.

--Ginger Andrews (from Hurricane Sisters)

So this Friday before Thanksgiving, think about Aunt Bert and how she'll celebrate Thanksgiving! And how about YOU?

1. What is your cure for the "mulleygrubs"?

'Holiday mulleygrubs' is so much the part of the pastor's life that I have been asked this many times.  It isn't just sadness.  It is a form of depression that affects a number of people in the community and my pastoral care schedule when I was 'in harness' would often double or triple.  For those who live in the 'dark states' the winter provides a hibernation mode and it often sneaks up on people.  It also something that I am very prone to.  Now that I am back in a sunny state, the endorphins seem to pumping pretty well and I haven't experienced it.  But one of the things that I did for myself was to avoid Malls and the happy-clappy phoniness of the Holiday season.  And the other is to do something for someone else.
2. Where will you be for Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving Day we will be at home.  T is working nights so she will be asleep.  My family is celebrating T'day on Friday at my nephew's place.  I guess I will grill a steak if I can get the grill to work for J, T and me.

3. What foods will be served? Which are traditional for your family?

I have no idea what will be served at my nephew's.  It will be turkey, dressing, etc.  But I don't know what kind of recipes will be served up.  I have offered to bring things but I haven't heard.  And the few times I have taken something it wasn't well received.  This year may be the last time I do T'giving with them for a while.  I would like to have T'giving at my house with a number of our friends who do not have family here in TX.  My house is not up to my family's 'standards'.  I have invited them but they do not come.

4. How do you feel about Thanksgiving as a holiday?

I love the idea of Thanksgiving but the reality in my family is not quite there.  But 'family' is not necessarily blood kin.  And my family has been the church for so long that it is hard to get back into the 'blood kin' world.  
 5. In this season of Thanksgiving, what are you grateful for?I

I am very thankful for our new home.  I am thankful for the parish I serve and the church in our new home.  I am thankful that the election is over and that we have a compassionate President.  I am thankful that my shoulder seems to be getting better and that we have begun to divest ourselves of much of the crap that we have moved all over the country for years.  I am grateful that we have found a doctor that seems to be providing the kind of care we need.  I am grateful for T and her ministration in our community.
BONUS: Describe Aunt Bert's Thanksgiving.

Aunt Bert will have a T'giving brought to her from 'Meals on Wheels'.  A couple from the church will come to visit them and bring them their dinner and stay and chat for a while.  Bert will sit in Frank's room reminded of all the Thanksgivings that have passed and be grateful for 'Meals on Wheels' and the quiet of the day knowing that she would not have had the energy to attend a family meal after all the care she has given Frank. Bert got a call from her niece. She may complain about how tired she is but she is really grieving that this will probably be the last Thanksgiving that she and Frank will have together.  She isn't afraid of his death.  She is afraid of the loneliness.  But she knows the cure.  She will bake a little cake and put on that red dress that Frank likes and they will feast in the quietness of the bedroom.  

Friday, November 9, 2012

Friday Five: Happy Places

RevKarla has posted a happy Friday Five:  

Dearest RevGalBlogGals and Pals....

Yes, it's true, it's already the second Friday in November.   Lot's has happened--horrible storms, the election, plus, whatever is happening in your own lives....

It's time to take a breather, and so, our Friday Five is to find your happy places, so that in spite of snow (here), in spite of it getting dark by 4 pm (here), in spite of (fill in the blank) you (I) remember the joyful sweetness of our lives! 

Give us five "I haz a happy"s...... for your Friday Five.  AND, bonus points for photos!!!!!


1.  I am so happy to be in a diocese and a parish where we really try to work out what it means to be Christian without having to kowtow to some overstuffed egos or fearful men just to do what is good.

2.  I love our new house.  We are still not completely settled.  The garage is still full of boxes, but we are making progress to be be completely in hopefully by Christmas.

3. I have two happy beasts.  Tyke and Bitty are happy with us.  We are happy with them.  They are NOT happy with one another.  We have to moderate schism in our home but it is better than in the Church!

4.  We have a new doctor, an osteopath.  She is in a private practice in a small town outside of the city.  She is a PK and values the simple things.  Her waiting room is not a fancy place with furniture that I could never afford.  And after my first appointment, my back feels better than it has in 5 years!

5.  Retirement.  I am finally beginning to slow down with my life.  I have finally learned to enjoy waking up with only the computer or boxes to demand my time.  Trying to develop friends that are not part of the Church, reconnecting with my family are the order of the day, not sermons, and hospital calls.  I do enough in the parish to keep me happy and active but I am not in charge of anything.  J. is beginning to make friends too.   All are happy things. 

Monday, November 5, 2012


No, I am not planning to stay up all tomorrow night to watch the returns.  No, I am not not going to vote tomorrow;  I have already voted.  I am thoroughly tired of the election process that spends billions of dollars of money that is needed elsewhere.  But I AM a voter and I do care about the issues that face this nation.  I also see it part of my Christian duty to vote and be involved in the discussions that face the commonweal.

To just say I am tired of politics does not quite describe what I feel.  When we moved to TX from IL when I was 4 years old, my family found a state that ran with a single party.  Everyone was a Democrat.  It was hard to find Republican anywhere here.  I grew up with my parents complaining that they couldn't vote in most primaries because they were not registered as a Democrat.

Now, my mother's people had come across the Appalachian Trail with the Lincoln family and settled in Sangamon County, IL before Abe was born.  So when Abe went into politics and when the Union divided, the McKinneys voted with the relatively new Republican party which supported the individual farmers' interests, small town values and was anti-slavery.  Of course we were Republicans.  Grandmother had a picture of Ike prominently displayed on the wall of her office.  She served as the county tax assessor into her 80's and was a notary public in the small town in MO where the family had finally settled.  I grew up in Fort Worth knowing that I was different--not because I was lesbian but because we were Republican!

Now that I have moved back to TX after living in NY, MD, CA, MO, LA and in Mexico, I have to get used to living in a one-party state again.  I don't like it.  When there is only one party, democracy gets short-changed.  Upstate NY was a bit one-party too but at least you could talk about politics with others.  Here, it nigh on impossible to talk about the political issues facing government today.  One can only shout politics these days.  Lies abound on both sides.  There is no civil discussion of the issues.  And this has bled into the national scene.

Over the 40 years that I have been gone from TX, the parties have changed so that now TX is Republican and I am a Democrat.  But the politics really haven't.  There is still a deep underlying racism and states' rights that motivate politics here.  Now it has become big business when it was once oil and cattle that moved the economic picture here.  This is a property state now.  The little guy has no voice here and even the little guys vote for the big guys hoping that they will one day be big guys.  It is still a deeply ingrained machoness to politics that leaves women and LGBTQ folks in the dust.

What has been lost in the American political scene over the past 20 years is a discussion of the issues that face us is the ability to discuss issues that face the nation.  Pundits are complaining that we are so polarized that our political system has come to a halt.

If one reads history the way I do, whenever a nation's political system cannot meet the needs of the nation, the populace will overturn it.  It happens every time.  Revolution happens because the government cannot respond to the needs of the majority of the people.  And I believe that we are headed for a revolution because we cannot talk about politics.

This happened to Israel in the 2nd century BCE.  The Pharisees and the Sadducees were so bitter with one another that they had to invite the Romans to come in and keep order for them.  It lead to the complete subjugation of Israel and a brutal destruction of the entire nation for almost 2,000 years.  We all  know the issues that led to the downfall of the Roman Empire.  The loss of effective government under the Republic finally devolved to caesars ruling with clenched fists and continued coups to institute new leaders that devolved into tyrants for about 8 centuries.  It happened in France in the 1700's; it happened in Germany so regularly that Hitler was able to sneak in without anyone noticing because he promised order.

The American 'experiment' is not a government that has outlived its time.  It requires the vigilance and the concern of the majority of the people.  It requires the willingness to think.  It requires the willingness to discuss politics and to hear the truth about what is happening to people around the country and around the world. We cannot afford to outsource our political system.  We have become lazy.  We want others to think for us.  Democracy isn't about platforms or campaign promises. It isn't about big government or small government. It isn't about who can shout the loudest. It is about the commonweal--the well-being of the majority of the people and how we as a nation manage that.  It cannot be about 1% or 99%; it can't be about big or small business.  It HAS to be about how well people can live or have the chance to prosper otherwise the majority will eventually revolt.

So tomorrow is a sacred day.  It is a day that we as a nation say "It isn't about me; it is about US.  It is about the good of the whole.  So even if you have not discussed politics this year, or if you have been shouting about politics for the past 18 months--"Get thee to the polls!"  I have already been.  And let's work with whomever is elected  to be about moving this country off the stalemate we have been in for the past 12 years for the good of the whole, for the good of the United States, for the good of the world.