Saturday, August 30, 2008

A confession

OK, remember when I said that political conventions give me the heebie-jeebies? Well...I kinda liked watching the DNC. I thought it was Must have been the string. And commenting on the Rhetorica live blog coverage. And lots of Daily Show redux. I'm afraid now that I might become a political junky. Convention speeches: the gateway drug. Soon I'm going to be wearing funny hats and swaying to "God Bless America!" Why didn't anyone warn me?

I need more political coverage! Get me to Minnesota!

Friday, August 29, 2008

The "What Do I Know" report on Sarah Palin

Which is, just as my prior entry, more a comment on John McCain than on Sarah Palin who sounds to me like she's doing a fine job as governor of Alaska. But what it immediately said to me is that John McCain wants Hillary's voters and figures that putting a woman in the #2 slot will help him get them. It feels a bit patronizing. I'll be curious to see how she does, catapulted onto the big stage like this. I don't envy her a jot, is all I have to say.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A no-drill liberal

For some reason, I got an email this evening from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which was especially odd since I also got two emails this evening from I don't think they share the same mailing list.

Here's most of it [with commentary]:

Our nation stands on the brink of taking a disastrous turn to the left.[brink makes it negative; cusp would be the positive form of the word. Why is that?]

If you don't believe me, here's what the Democrats' leader in the Senate had to say about destroying our firewall in the Senate:[firewall also an interesting choice of words; apparently, anything that is less than adamant and fortified is going to be destroyed.]

"This campaign is going to make history. Not only will we put Barack Obama and his running mate, Joe Biden, into the White House, but we're going to elect a filibuster-proof Senate majority that can and will pass the Democratic agenda.[If your goal is to keep up the Republican agenda, it makes sense that this is a terrifying proposition.]

"This is the once-in-a-generation chance we've been waiting for."

Every liberal special interest group from to Big Labor [I've never heard it called "Big" before; makes me aware of my own standard rhetoric, ie "big business"] to radical anti-drilling environmentalists [oh, heavens, not those!] are laying it all on the line in 2008 with one goal in mind: to seize total control of our government. [seize? I mean they do understand how control of government is "seized," right? It's through getting more of the popular vote. Meaning more people like what the other guy is going to do.]

Will you help stop them? ["Them" being radical anti-drilling environmentalists, et al. Got to make "them" sound scary and irrational.]

If the Democrats get their way, we will be powerless to stop the far-left's pet agenda [oh, where to start. How about here: Health care issues are not exactly a "far-left" agenda]. And, Big Labor, anti-drilling environmentalists and will be rewarded for spending hundreds of millions to attack Republican Senate candidates.

We need your help to stop Barack Obama and these high taxing, big spending, no drilling liberals! [And the war in Iraq was economical, was it?]

In 2006, we lost three Senate races by just a few thousand votes. In each of those races, at the last minute, liberals flooded the airwaves with nasty, misleading attack ads. [LOVE the word "nasty."] Don't leave 2008 to chance.

We need to fight back. [Oh, I'm sure you will.]

You are the only thing that stands in the liberals' way.


Senator Orrin Hatch
Vice Chairman,
National Republican Senatorial Committee


It's that lovely old divisiveness, isn't it? I don't know if Barack Obama will be able to do what he says, but I sure hope that at the very least the tenor of American politics can change to a less nasty way of doing things. It's bad enough to proclaim Iraq the enemy. One thing I do know: I am not the enemy of my country.

Evil thought of the day

I wonder if the meteorological people were tempted to name the current hurricane "George."

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Watching the Democratic National Convention

Watching the convention gives me the heebie-jeebies. Comedy Central has given me the tools I need. Thank you, Comedy Central News!

I'm bringing lots of string!

The Gallaudet family

Today is the feast of "Thomas Gallaudet with Henry Winter Syle," which is important to me in a lot of ways because of my background as a sign language interpreter. It also drives me crazy because I think they picked the wrong Thomas Gallaudet.

The Thomas Gallaudet we commemorate is the son of Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, also an Episcopal priest, who founded what is now the American School for the Deaf and is the Gallaudet for whom the University is named. Gallaudet senior is the one who went to England to learn educational techniques for the Deaf from the Braidwood School. Braidwood comes from the oral tradition, which in this case means teaching the Deaf to speak and read lips. In the Deaf community, this tradition (for those who went to oral schools) is full of stories of teachers binding their students hands or punishing them if they use sign language.

Braidwood (blessedly) wanted a fee for its techniques, which Gallaudet senior didn't have. He instead went to France where he met Laurent Clerc, a Deaf faculty member at l'Institution Nationale des Sourds-Muets in Paris. This school was of the signing tradition (and is featured in the French movie "Ridicule" to good effect). Clerc came back to the U.S. with Gallaudet senior, who learned sign language from Clerc on the long Atlantic sea voyage.

The thing I really admire about Gallaudet senior is that he did not suppose he already knew everything; instead, he spent a lot of time learning about and entering into another culture. It seems to me that Deaf people were his friends, not his clients. He married a Deaf woman named Sophia Fowler (a student of his...but we'll let that pass). No pushover, she, she played a part in lobbying Congress to establish Gallaudet University.

The Gallaudets had eight children, two of whom worked with and for the Deaf. Edward was the first president of what was then called the Columbia Institution for the Deaf and Blind and is now Gallaudet. And then the younger Thomas, whose ministry, founding a church for the Deaf, seems only natural under the circumstances. An amazing family.

Henry Winter Syle was mighty amazing, too, and I'm annoyed at the "with" clause that recognizes him today. He was the son of a priest himself, born in Shanghai where his parents were missionaries. He was the first Deaf person to receive a degree from a hearing university -- namely Yale. I guess you could say that both Gallaudet and Syle were following in their fathers' footsteps. I think Syle had more challenges along the way.

Monday, August 25, 2008

To laugh or to cry...

Breaking headline news:

Security bust: Berkeley woman misses flight when bra triggers alarm.

From SFGate.

God and Money

I dunno. I'm still wrestling with the sermon I heard yesterday that tried yet again to make the point about giving money back to God.

The preacher used the familiar image of the Sea of Galilee being fresh because water flows in and flows out, and the Dead Sea being dead because water flows in but it doesn't flow out. Therefore, he reasoned, we need to give money back to God in order to stay fresh and whatever. I simplify unfairly.

Nevertheless, I found this problematic for a number of reasons:
1) Money flows out all the time, not all of it in life-giving ways.
2) If we're talking about giving money to the church, I think we can agree that the church is not God. So how exactly do you give money to God?
3) Finally, I thought to myself, sitting there in the pew, I'm not sure that God gives us money.

Let me look at this last thought a little bit.

Here's the thing: if God gives us money, God does a really lousy job of it, distributing money in a completely inequitable way. Partly I think I am changed by my short time in Uganda, seeing up close and personal people with no money at all. But I am no longer so sanguine about this notion of God giving us money.

I understand the thinking behind it: God is the source of all good things; money is (or can be) a good thing; therefore, God is the source of money. But money seems to me to be a human creation rather than a divine creation and so I am not sure that the same principle applies. The thing is, I don't have a better theology or a more thought-through principle to offer. Just a vague uncomfortable feeling that this model doesn't quite work. Or at least it isn't working for me right now.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The "What Do I Know?" Report on Joe Biden

All I know about Joe Biden I've read in the past two days, and actually, this isn't about Joe Biden; it's about Barack Obama. And that's to say, I admire Obama for being willing to pick someone even after that person said he didn't think Obama was ready to lead.

Obama's no fool; he must know that McCain's campaign will use that against him. Heck, I know they'll use that against him. And maybe Obama is foolish for picking a running mate that will allow the McCain campaign to bring up the charge of Obama's inexperience again and again.

But on a personal level, what that choice says to me is that Obama doesn't need worshipers, and I can't help but think that's a good thing.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Bernard of Clairvaux

I'm still dubious about St. Bernard, no matter how they try to gussy up his bio. He sounds like a person more admired than loved. No soft cuddly beast, he. He sounds like he would be right at home in the more rigid of our fundamentalist churches. Very big on whipping people up with emotions and loading them down with rules.

Not that he was a hypocrite; he was rough on himself, too. "The beginnings of Clairvaux Abbey were trying and painful. The regime was so austere that Bernard became ill, and only the influence of his friend William of Champeaux, and the authority of the General Chapter could make him mitigate the austerities." But how can any regimen that makes a person ill be considered...healthy?

I'm dubious about his use of the Virgin Mary, whom he claimed as an intercessor. I'm dubious about his denunciation of Peter Abelard, which is of course my very modern reaction against establishing only one right way of thinking. I'm dubious even about his writing "On Loving God" in which I hoped to find some comfort, but find only a guilt-trip: "Those who admit the truth of what I have said know, I am sure, why we are bound to love God. But if unbelievers will not grant it, their ingratitude is at once confounded by His innumerable benefits, lavished on our race, and plainly discerned by the senses. Who is it that gives food to all flesh, light to every eye, air to all that breathe?" Answer? God does, so we'd better love him. Not an appealing argument.

But I am particularly dubious about Bernard because he used his position to whip up interest and recruits for the second crusade. "Bernard found it expedient to dwell upon the taking of the cross as a potent means of gaining absolution for sin and attaining grace," according to Wikipedia (in a rather mediocre entry, I must say). This got a lot of recruits, but didn't lead to a "successful" recapture of Jerusalem from the Turks. Instead, we got a lot of anti-semitic violence, which Bernard, to his credit, worked to stop. I don't know if it's to his credit that he worked to dissociate himself from the second crusade, especially since he claimed it was the sins of the crusaders that caused the campaign's failure.

I find Bernard a bitter pill to swallow in the calendar of saints, but in Bernard, I reluctantly admit to finding the grace of God. Sins were absolved and grace attained even with the failure of the second crusade. Sins are absolved and grace attained not through our perfections or attempts at it, Bernard's and mine.

Padre Mickey is much kinder to Bernard, and more informed to boot!

Monday, August 18, 2008


Like everyone else, I cannot understand why NBC is showing endless rounds of beach volleyball. I was hoping that we might get to see women's triathlon in prime time, but no dice. I watched the replay online, and it's kind of good that way, actually, complete and uninterrupted. You can see the 2 minute highlight reel here. It's a beautiful venue at the Ming Tomb Reservoir, with the temple in the middle of the water. I couldn't help but think how lovely it would be to do a triathlon there. Isn't it gorgeous? Wouldn't you love to swim in that water?

It's strange to watch triathlons now that I have done them. I know what it feels like to get your number marked on your arms and legs. I noticed the time chip on their ankles and didn't need to ask what that black strap was. I thought how easy that transition ramp from the water would be, with that smooth blue ramp out of the water (rocks under bare feet were my bete noir; I would take forever at the first transition, making my way gingerly out of the water). I thought the bike transition stations were wonderful with their bins for their stuff. I knew why they didn't put their feet in the bike shoes until they were up to speed before the commentator said so. I know what your legs feel like when you go from the bike to the run (jelly-like comes to mind).

I actually know a sport, know it intimately from the inside out, and it's a strange feeling.

Growing up, I was lousy at every sport I tried. I'm not particularly coordinated or fast or agile or strong or flexible, which knocks out a lot of possibilities, as you can imagine. I don't have a big competetive drive. I'm not very aggressive and shy away from physical contact. I hate falling.

The thing I found when I was in my mid-thirties is that my athletic gift is endurance. I may not be fast, but I can keep going. And the more I worked at it, the further I could go.

I did my first triathlon in May of 2003. And here's a little secret that triathletes who want to impress you are not going to admit: it was fun. I had lunch with a friend of mind a couple of weeks ago who also did his first triathlon recently. I told him that the reason I enjoyed triathlons is that first you take a little swim, then when you're tired of that, you take a little bike ride, and when you're tired of that, you go for a little run. It's actually very pleasant. Or at least it is for me, because endurance is the physical ability I can build on. For someone whose gift is strength, triathlon may be torture.

I'm grateful to the triathlon for showing me that I am an athlete. Watching that Olympic event reminded me of that.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Baseball pitcher Dottie Collins

That's the headline for the obituary in the Chronicle, and kudos to them: not modifying it to "pitcher of women's baseball league," as the NY Times did. Just "baseball pitcher." With a lifetime ERA of 1.83.

My favorite story that I found poking around was that she, Dorothy Wiltse as was, met her husband, on shore leave from the Navy, when he came to a double-header where she pitched and won both games for the Fort Wayne Daisies. He and a buddy brought her and her roommate a case of beer. He asked Dottie if she'd like to play golf the next day. And so she took up golf and got married in 1946.

Oh, and in 1948 she pitched until she was four months pregnant. Or six. Accounts vary.

Who you callin' heretic? - or - Meditations for Women who Blog Too Much

As many of you know from reading this blog, I am an Anglican blog-o-holic. Which is one reason why I was so amused to read this today (names removed to prevent early disclosure of source).

The bishop is severely ravaging and persecuting us and moving against us with every evil. Thus he drives us out of every city like godless men, since we will not agree with his public statements...

Since E. and T... and all those in the East say [this], they have been condemned, except for P. and H. and M., unlearned heretics.... We are not able to listen to these kinds of impieties, even if the heretics threaten us with ten thousand deaths. But what do we say and think and what have we previously taught and do we presently teach?

This is a very familiar sounding rant for anyone who reads blogs too much, which is why it made me laugh.

The author of this letter is Arius, writing to Eusebius of Nicomodia in the year 318. (You can read the whole thing here, if you're a church history geek like me.) Arius is the central figure in the heresy known as Arianism, a belief that says that Jesus is not co-eternal with the father, "But we are persecuted because we have said the Son has a beginning but God has no beginning. We are persecuted because of that and for saying he came from non-being. But we said this since he is not a portion of God nor of anything in existence. That is why we are persecuted; you know the rest."

These horrible heretics of whom Arius writes are the party we have long considered "orthodox," the ones who made sure the Nicene creed stated that Jesus was "of one being with the father."

God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten, not made.

A position I happen to hold. In some ways I find it very comforting to know that this belief, too, was once and by some considered heretical. In other ways, I find it disturbing to be accused, even at this great distance of time and space, of persecution.

Olympic parents

The highlight of the Olympics so far for me was the look on Debbie Phelps' face when she saw that Michael had won his 7th gold medal by out-touching Cavic by 1/100th of a second. That look of shock, the hands frozen, and suddenly disappearing into her seat while her daughter was screaming and crying behind her, practically strangling her.

I couldn't find a still shot anywhere, but it's here in the NBC archives at about 03:20.

Michael Phelps, nothing. I've become a complete Debbie Phelps fan in this past week. It's hard enough for me to figure out my own gifts and how to use them best; how do you do that for someone else who is dependent upon you? How do you encourage without overpromoting? How do you harness discipline without being punitive?

No Olympian is self-made. In very few of the stories I've seen so far has the Olympian's family played as prominent a role as in Michael Phelps'. And that's probably as it should be; it is the athletes' time to shine. But seeing Debbie Phelps on a daily basis and hearing her story brings to mind that all of these Olympians have a family who are there somewhere, whether for good or for ill or (more likely) a mix of both. What are they going through? What is it like for them? I can only imagine that it's an amazing thing, watching your child on this kind of stage.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Feast of John Myrick Daniels

Today is the feast day of John Myrick Daniels who was killed on this day in 1965 in Alabama when he took the shotgun blast intended for 16-year-old Ruby Sales.

I find it odd and infuriating that there is no mention in Lesser Feasts and Fasts that Daniels was valedictorian of his class at the Virginia Military Academy in 1961. Odd because the brief biography says, "From high school in Keene [NH] to graduate school at Harvard, Jonathan wrestled with the meaning of life and death and vocation." I would imagine he might have dealt with those issues while at a military academy as well. Yes, yes, I know the preposition "to" is inclusive, but there's no way to know about VMI unless (like I did) you google JMD and find his cadet picture and bio from VMI itself. This infuriates me because it suggests a squeamishness on the part of the church to be associated with the military in any way.

I may be reading more into this than there is, but I think it would be helpful for Lesser Feasts and Fasts to note Daniels spent four formative years at VMI.

I can't help but think that one reason Daniels was able to push Miss Sales out of the way of the blast and take it upon himself was because of his military training. Among other things, Daniels might show us how military training can be used for peaceful purposes.

My goodness, I'm sounding more conservative every day, aren't I? But Daniels himself supports my hypothesis in his VMI valedictory speech. He says, "Perhaps it is true that in some colleges one may study for four years without ever allowing the environment to intrude upon his consciousness. For better or worse, this is not the case at V.M.I." In Daniels' case, this clearly was for the better, combining the skills and discipline he had gained with clear thought and an engaged Christian ethic. He had obviously learned more than just how to follow orders and go with the status quo.

At the end of his speech he says, "My colleagues and friends, I wish you the joy of a purposeful life. I wish you new worlds and the vision to see them. I wish you the decency and the nobility of which you are capable. These will come, with the maturity which it is now our job to acquire on far-flung fields. The only thing that we can do at this time - is to 'greet the unseen with a cheer.' GOODBYE." And Amen.

A Church for Starving Artists

Added a new blog to my reading list called "A Church for Starving Artists." You've got to like that to start. I particularly liked her post for today: Clearing Out. The whole thing's terrific, though. Perhaps I relate because of my Presbyterian background.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Diving in

A friend asked if I am going to post my sermon. It's just in note form and so I don't know if I'll get it written up in any coherent form to post. But I did want to share what I heard after the service from a parishioner where I was preaching. He told me that his son, a water polo player, told him that the closest experience he gets to that still, small voice -- the sound of sheer silence, as the NRSV has it -- is the moment when he first dives in the pool. Going from the noise and the jangle to the silence that absolutely presses around you. "And then he tells me how he kicked someone in the head," said the parishioner.

I love that image of diving in. I hate diving, myself, even though I've done my share of swimming. The diving more often than not is an awkward flop. But I know that feeling of being in a different element and how things seem completely different there. It's a wonderful image of being in the presence of God.

Also wonderful because that moment is often so fleeting. Watching these Olympic swimming events, the initial dive takes them a lot further than it does me -- almost a third of the way down the pool. But they still come up and keep going.

Then there are the platform dives that involve jumping from a great height -- yikes! I wonder what the experience is like when once you've hit the water, you are done. Very different from the swimming where the dive is only the preliminary to the effort yet to come. And both have their place, it seems to me, in religious life, though I'm not yet coming up with specific examples of the diving dive in religious life. Personally, I'm much more familiar with the diving in that is just a preliminary to coming up again and continuing to move along. A moment of stillness and quiet in the midst of it all.

There's more I could say, but I don't want to stretch this image more than it can bear. Mostly I hope to find that moment of silence and find myself in the presence of God from time to time.

Baseball fan, California style

Yes, that is canteloupe. Yes, he does have a beer in front of him, and a mitt on his left knee. I love California!
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Sunday, August 10, 2008

The still small voice

If you are the type to pay attention to these things, you'll see that I'm posting this at a little after 6 a.m. on a Sunday morning, and that can mean only one thing: I went to bed without figuring out the end of my sermon. Luckily, I've got a big pot of Awake tea right next to me, AND I have finished the sermon. It's in note form rather than manuscript because much of it is simply relating the events in the life and ministry of Elijah, but I went to bed with a question I still haven't answered: What is the still small voice?

The NRSV translates it differently (and, according to the much beloved (by me) Interpreter's Bible 1954, more accurately) as "a sound of sheer silence." The Interpreter's Bible (1954) says the Hebrew is "a sound of a gentle stillness." (Here's the passage in the NRSV.)

But the thing that struck me this time reading this passage is that the word of the Lord comes to Elijah both before and after this sound/not sound. It's the word of the Lord that tells Elijah to "Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by."

Now, I can't tell you how many times I have acted under the presumption that in listening for the still, small voice I was listening for the word of the Lord. I was listening for God to speak to me. But this passage -- the actual passage from which that phrase emerges -- completely counters that. The Lord speaks to Elijah all over the place.

No wonder that still small voice is so hard to hear: it's not even there! It's an incorrect interpretation of an incorrect translation taken out of context!

The problem is this doesn't answer the question of how to hear the word of the Lord. But it at least frees it up so that I could hear the Lord speaking in all sorts of places and times and contexts: through Scripture, through others, in sermons and books (and blogs!), on retreat, at work, in silence and in sound.

May the Lord give us ears to hear.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

More on Just War Theory

My friend Elisabeth and I have been having a vigorous debate about Just War theory since I posted on it...was it just yesterday? At any rate, on this, the anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki (a highly non-proportional response), it seems like a good time to say a bit more about it, in what I realize is a very simplified form.

To give a rough overview (thank you, Wikipedia!), the basic principles of classic Just War theory, in terms of going to war (or, if you want to get all fancy and latin, jus ad bellum), are
Just cause
The reason for going to war needs to be just and can therefore be recapturing things taken or punishing people who have done wrong. A contemporary view of just cause was expressed in 1993 when the US Catholic Conference said: "Force may be used only to correct a grave, public evil, i.e., aggression or massive violation of the basic human rights of whole populations."
Comparative justice
While there may be rights and wrongs on all sides of a conflict, to override the presumption against the use of force, the injustice suffered by one party must significantly outweigh that suffered by the other. Some theorists such as Brian Orend omit this term, seeing it as fertile ground for exploitation by bellicose regimes.
Legitimate authority
Only duly constituted public authorities may wage war.
Right intention
Force may be used only in a truly just cause and solely for that purpose—correcting a suffered wrong is considered a right intention, while material gain or maintaining economies is not.
Probability of success
Arms may not be used in a futile cause or in a case where disproportionate measures are required to achieve success;
Last resort
Force may be used only after all peaceful and viable alternatives have been seriously tried and exhausted or are clearly not practical. It may be clear that the other side is using negotiations as a delaying tactic and will not make meaningful concessions.
The anticipated benefits of waging a war must be proportionate to its expected evils or harms. This principle is also known as the principle of macro-proportionality, so as to distinguish it from the jus in bello principle of proportionality.
One of the things I've been thinking about is that I'm not sure I would want to live under a completely pacifist government, a la the Quakers, the wonderful Society of Friends whom I admire so much, who, in the strictest construction, won't fight back even when attacked. I do want a government that would be willing to come to my defense as a private citizen. With that in mind, I have to say I think it is a burden laid upon leadership to defend its citizenry in a thoughtful and just way.

It seems to me that the importance in just war theory is not in proving "why we are right to go to war." Instead it is because in a fallen world, wars do happen and it is important for people of faith to be at the table in some meaningful way, other than saying, "Wars are bad."

The other thing is that Just War theory is actually a theory of interpersonal conflict writ large. One of the reasons I think it would be helpful for us to understand Just War theory is so we can apply it, say, in the case nasty office politics or, you know, church politics. Change "going to war" (or "force")to "confrontation" or "taking legal action" in the jus ad bellum above and see what happens.

In that vein, I remember once running across a parody of Just War theory called the Just Adultery theory. It was supposed to make me see how the Just War theory is merely a pretext for going to war. Unfortunately, even while trying to make it sound bad, the Just Adultery theory makes a reasonable point (i.e. 1. Last Resort. Every other means of getting along must be tried: discussion, advice of a third party, reconciliation of differences, expressions of affection, anything short of adultery.) Given that Jesus says in the gospel of Mark that "A man who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against his wife. In the same way, a woman who divorces her husband and marries another man commits adultery," the Just Adultery theory seems to have very practical applications.

Now, I know I'm being the devil's advocate, here, but believe me, I'm not saying that we should be in Iraq. I don't think we met any of the criteria from jus ad bellum to go to war. Not one. For that very reason, I think people of faith are better prepared to meet the argument of those who claim to be fighting a just war if we know what terms are being used or abused. "War is bad" will cut no mustard.

News from St. Dorothy's Rest

For any of you who don't know, St. Dorothy's Rest is an Episcopal retreat center and summer camp just north of the SF Bay Area. It's a relatively small camp in the middle of the redwoods. I had the good fortune to be the chaplain there one week a couple of years ago and am panting for the chance to go back.

Katie Evenbeck, camp director extraordinaire, sent out a message to those of us who are members of St. Dorothy's Rest Four Leaf Clover Club on Facebook and I asked if I could pass the news along. Here it is:

Dear Friends,

Summer camp season is about to come to a close. We have had an amazing summer, serving over 400 youth.

Very recently, adjacent properties to St. Dorothy's Rest have been put on the market. I do believe that acquiring the properties is essential to the life, protection & growth of St. Dorothy's Rest.

I am casting a wide net during this exciting time for St. Dorothy's Rest and your voice is needed. I especially need a few volunteers who would be willing to focus some time & energy on this project.

I think Rev. Donald Schell says it best,

"It would be an amazing and wonderful gift to many generations to have the additional land, wilderness/more primitive camping, outdoor education, places counselors could take smaller groups of kids to be outdoors in quiet, so many possibilities. Because the big parcel essentially borders the whole of Camp Meeker, it looks to me to imply a different kind of stewardship of the forest. I say that believing it's a huge opportunity and wholly in keeping with our mission at St. Dorothy's and with our Christian responsibility for God's good creation."

Parcel # Price # Acres Location
075-070-003 $275,000 15.22 Path around Lydia

075-040-015 $275,000 18.68 Behind Topside, Farmer & Grace

075-040-017 $899,000 230.38 Behind the second parcel for sale. Includes land surrounding the RESERVOIR!!!!!

075-070-005 $350,000 27.74 Surrounds Boys House

I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Katie Evenbeck
Executive Director of Expanding Horizons


Very exciting news! Any volunteers out there?

Friday, August 8, 2008

Morgan Freeman out of hospital

From today's Chronicle:

Memphis - Morgan Freeman was discharged Thursday from a Tennessee hospital after the Oscar-winning actor was treated for broken bones and other injuries sustained in a weekend car crash in Mississippi.

Just so's you know.

Vague thoughts on war

Here I am, teacup at my side, thinking numerous vague and unformed thoughts despite the late hour of the morning.

Friday morning is often one when I indulge and get a hard copy of the SF Chronicle so that I can linger over the movie reviews and see Bad Reporter in all its full-color glory. Getting the actual paper means I get a much better overview of the news; I never look very deeply when I'm glancing over headlines on the computer screen. So I miss things like stories about the woman complaining that her son's Fisher Price walkie-talkie picked up lewd CB discussions between truckers. Important stuff like that.

But I'm also still thinking about an article I saw online yesterday, in print today, about U.S. deaths surging in Afghanistan. As both my former parish and my current parish pray by name for those killed in Iraq, I'm now thinking about those in Afghanistan and how to remember them. I also find myself strangely affirmative of U.S. troops' presence there while thinking we probably should have focused our attention on Afghanistan from the outset, if we were going to have troops anywhere at all. And how do I reconcile this with my own personal desire to see the U.S. involved in something other than belligerance. I've become far more of a "just war" person than a pacifist as I get older, while hating the easy way in which just war theory is bandied about in self-justification.

Did you know that General Convention 2003 passed a resolution that "urge[d] dioceses and congregations to study and better understand Just War theory and pacifism as they apply to the situation of the United States in responding to contemporary international conflicts"? And further "commend[ed] 'Just Peace Readings' from the Office of the Bishop Suffragan for Chaplaincies of the Episcopal Church Center, and the website,, as an important resource in the continuing study of Just War"? Bet you didn't. I learned about that when our youth Sunday School studied War and Peace a few years back. As a result of that Sunday School, I learned about Just War theory and about this resolution

This was a worthwhile resolution and I'm sorry it was not more widely practiced. At least I never heard it was. Just War theory is a very important and very helpful way to think about war. It should not be dismissed out of hand because it has been used by those who seek justification for war, because that's not what it does. It's not facile. It's not simplistic. And it's worth a deeper look by everyone, and I think especially by people whose greatest and first desire is peace.

I'll come back to this.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A recommendation for "Swing Vote"

Just got this email from a dear friend of mine and thought I'd pass it along.

Dear friends,
Today my husband and I went to the movie, "Swing Vote". We expected to see Kevin Costner, Kelsey Grammer and Dennis Hopper, and we expected the move to be funny - and it was. But we didn't expect that the movie would hit so close to home. In the movie little Madeline Carroll plays a fifth-grader who tries to get her dad, a single parent with serious problems, to vote for president. Lot of laughs and lots of pathos, but we are the parents of a single mom - who is raising three children (one a fifth-grader) with no child support in a small town in the Ohio rust belt - and "Swing Vote" is the story of our daughter and her children, and so many other families across the country. Please go see this movie, and recommend it to someone who isn't likely to vote in November!

I may have to check this out.

Morgan Freeman update!

From the BBC:

Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman is in "good spirits" after surgery for injuries sustained in a serious car accident near his Mississippi home.

Mr Freeman's spokeswomen said the surgery to reconnect nerves and repair damage to his left arm and hand lasted four-and-a-half hours.

She said the 71-year-old Dark Knight star was now looking forward to being discharged "as soon as possible".

I found myself saying a prayer this morning for Morgan at the midweek Eucharist. I felt kind of silly about it, but, heck, celebrities need prayers, too.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

A portrait of the artist as an old man

I find this picture of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who died last Sunday at the age of 89, very intriguing. Almost ominous. The man behind him in the good suit is Vladimir Putin. He is visiting Solzhenitsyn in his home outside Moscow in 2007. Doesn't it look like he's about to murder Solzhenitsyn? What's in his left hand? Why aren't they looking at each other?

And then there's this cake just to Solzhenitsyn's right hand. But in the picture it appears difficult for anyone to get to it. The man in the wheelchair, still as a statue, doesn't seem to be in any position to cut and serve the cake, which is on a silver tray on a table against a wall. There are no plates. There are no utensils. Who is going to serve this cake and with what? It appears to have been placed there as a prop to make this seem like a more comfortable visit, but without the actual homey touches that would carry off the trick of giving the image this meaning.

No, I find this picture incredibly intriguing. Here's the Russian president skulking behind the Nobel-prize-winning writer, returned to Russia from exile and now old and frail. Not a smile to be seen from anyone. Pictures can convey a lot that is not true, and maybe the two of them had a wonderful time together. But, oh, to have been a fly on the wall and not just an eavesdropper on the photo op.

Morgan Freeman in an accident!

I hope I'm not sending out negative energy, here! A friend of mine alerted me to this news update:

Freeman still in serious condition after car crash

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Morgan Freeman remained in serious condition Tuesday with a broken arm and elbow after rescuers used a jaws-of-life machine to free him and a passenger from their car after it crashed on a stretch of rural Mississippi Delta highway this weekend.

Freeman, 71, and Demaris Meyer, 48, of Memphis, Tenn., were taken to the Regional Medical Center in Memphis following the accident in Tallahatchie County on Sunday night.

State troopers said the car careened off the highway and overturned twice before landing upright in a ditch.

Donna Lee, Freeman's publicist, said the Oscar-winning actor, who underwent surgery late Monday, has a broken arm, broken elbow and minor shoulder damage "but is in good spirits." Lee said "The Dark Knight" star is expected to make a full recovery.

Makes me think twice about posting on any other celebrities. Am I like the death cat or something? OK, I'm overreacting. I mean, this is only the first time this has happened. Dave Dickerson, aka the Bourbon Cowboy, has noted many times he's watched a movie only to see a lead actor die shortly thereafter. So it's Not Just Me.

Monday, August 4, 2008

A highly unlikely prospect

I've decided that I would like to be Morgan Freeman when I grow up. Or at least the person that Morgan Freeman plays over and over again: self-possessed, thoughtful, cool in a slow-moving kind of way, gravitas with a hint of a smile.

It's the smile, I think, that gets me. I finally did see "The Dark Knight" last week, which I liked but didn't love. I do, however, love Lucius Fox, Morgan Freeman's character--especially in the scene when a Wayne Enterprises employee comes in to demand payment or he'll blow the whistle on Batman. Freeman/Fox looks at him for a beat, slowly sits up and leans forward, folds his hands together and says, "Let me get this straight..."

But it's the smile! Just a teeny tiny bit of a smile. It's not threatening. It's not humiliating. It's genuinely amused. It's a very self-assured authority that Morgan Freeman seems to carry with him no matter who he's playing. I don't know if that's really what he's like, but it seems like a good character to be able to manufacture when the need arises.

On the Internet Movie Database (imdb) Freeman is quoted as saying, "I gravitate towards gravitas." Man, I wish I did. I've got to work on my Easy Readerness. But gravitas: is it born or made?

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Feeding of the 5,000

Sermon from 8.3, Matthew 14:13-21

The Feeding of the 5,000

This is one of only a couple of stories that appears in all four gospels. Another example would be…the crucifixion. And so this means preachers get to preach on it every year, and to tell you the truth, we get very tired of it. What more can you say? People hungry; Jesus feeds. Good thing? Yes. Miracle? Yes –or people really had bread they were squirreling away and decided to share. Or is it just a symbol of the Eucharist? Blah de blah de blah. Sound familiar to many of you?

But here's the thing I noticed this time around reading this version in Matthew: Jesus doesn't talk very much. Maybe that doesn't seem like a big deal, and maybe it isn't, but I found it intriguing. Isn't he going to preach to people at all? No, not here. All he does is cure people and then, later, tell them to sit down. His words to the disciples are minimal. And I was intrigued to see, also, that once Jesus blesses and breaks the loaves, he gives them back to the disciples with no further word of instruction. The disciples go on and give the bread to the crowd with no more information at all.

So I looked at the versions of this story in all the other gospels and realized Jesus's approach with the crowd was slightly different in each gospel. In Mark, "He began to teach them many things." In Luke, "he welcomed them, and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed to be cured." And in John, he skips right to the feeding part. But here in Matthew, "When Jesus went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick." No preaching; no message about the kingdom – not in words. He feels compassion, he cures people, that's what he does.

Then I looked through the whole gospel of Matthew and I realized that in Matthew's gospel, Jesus really doesn't spend a lot of time preaching at the crowds. The Sermon on the Mount? If you look closely, you'll see he's preaching to his disciples. He spends a lot of time talking to the Pharisees. But over and over again, when it comes to crowds of people, all Jesus is interested in doing is meeting their physical needs: healing and feeding. The people to whom he preaches, for the most part, are those in power and those who have agreed to be his closest followers.

About a year ago, I spent a week as the Episcopal Chaplain at Chautauqua, in upstate New York. The week I was there, I read a book by the author in residence, Stephen Kuusisto, in which he tells the story of giving $10 to a woman panhandling for money. Stephen Kuusisto is blind, and a cop, seeing what he thought was a pushy panhandler bothering a blind man, came to his aid. Kuusisto kept trying to tell the cop that it was OK. He wrote, "As we walked together, I told the cop that no one knows who is really hungry and who is merely saying it. I told him that's why Jesus fed everybody."

I think Jesus probably had a good idea that everybody there was hungry. One of the many things I learned in Uganda was what it felt like to be hungry on a regular basis when food wasn't readily at hand. Before I went to Uganda, my friends and family had learned that if I didn't get lunch, I would get cranky. They would make sure that we would stop so I could get fed so that I wouldn't be irritable and nasty. In Uganda, however, nobody knew I had this requirement and so people there would do what they would normally do, which is not eat lunch. Maybe a snack such as what they called a pancake, a small round patty of banana bread, around mid-afternoon. Or maybe not. And because I was a guest, I did my utmost not to be cranky and irritable when I was hungry. And suddenly I found that I didn't have to be cranky and irritable when I was hungry.

Mostly what I learned is what most of the world's population experiences: that food is bought in small amounts on a daily basis; that you have to walk or travel by public conveyance to get it; and that it is generally simple and sufficient for your hunger and little more. When I read the feeding of the 5,000 today, it was with that image in mind. Hunger was undoubtedly a regular part of life.

So Jesus might very well have known the people were hungry. But what he didn't know was who could afford to buy food in the villages and who couldn't. And it now seems to me that this was the main reason to keep people there and to feed them, rather than the fact that they were hungry. In parallel to what Stephen Kuusisto said, Jesus feeds everybody no matter their condition in life.

I actually wonder if another reason Jesus kept the crowds there and made sure they were fed was because…he liked them. "They need not go away," he says. Now, again, me getting cranky and irritable, I would have said, "Good, let them go away, I want some dinner and I want some peace and quiet." This is one of the many ways you can know that I am not Jesus. But Jesus, withdrawing (as he thought) to a deserted place by himself, has been dealing with the crowds all day, curing people. And then it is evening and he says, "They need not go away."

There's good news there. Because if Jesus is not going to send people away under these circumstances, it means he is never going to send us away.

I was just reading one of my favorite blogs by a minister who goes by the name of PeaceBang. She was writing about taking over the full-time care of a beagle after the end of a relationship. She wrote, "I realized that my fears about caring for the dog I had adopted were actually spiritual fears that have plagued me all of my life: how much love and care are we allowed to ask for? How much nurturing can we expect from those who claim to love us? When does our need for love and care tip into the category of 'too needy,' and is there any such thing?

"I believe that there is not. I have been told by people I once trusted that there is such a thing as being too needy, and I no longer believe them."

When it comes to one another, we may have to set and recognize our limits. When it comes to Jesus, I agree with PeaceBang: we are never too needy.

This Jesus in Matthew's gospel is a wonderfully pragmatic savior, none too talky, and in that he gives us a wonderful example for those of us already deeply involved in the life of the church: talk amongst yourselves, but for everyone else, just help out however you can in whatever way they need.

But this Jesus also gives us an image of his compassion, a compassion that we may each need in our own way. A compassion that goes beyond what is expected of him and beyond what is hoped for. People came hoping for healing and got fed as well. They were not too needy, too demanding, too much of a bother. And neither are you. When Jesus sees you coming, he feels nothing but compassion. You need not go away. Come and be blessed. Come and eat.

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Feast of Joseph of Arimathea

Looking for an image to put with this posting, I found this, a mural from the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. There don't seem to be that many images of J of A, so I thought it was lovely and appropriate that he's in the nation's capitol, seeing as he's a guy who knew how to deal with temporal authority, serving on the council (but not approving!, Luke adds), and asking Pontius Pilate for Christ's body.

I think J of A should be the patron saint of lobbyists. That's what he did, isn't it? He went to the government to ask for a political favor. Instead, he is the patron saint of undertakers and funeral directors. Well, all I can say is I like my idea better. Let's pretend it's true. Joseph of Arimathea: patron saint of lobbyists. A perfect image for the National Cathedral.

"Merciful God, whose servant Joseph of Arimathaea with reverence and godly fear prepared the body of our Lord and Savior for burial, and laid it in his own tomb: Grant to us, your faithful people, grace and courage to love and serve Jesus with sincere devotion all the days of our life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."