Saturday, December 27, 2008


There are twelve days to Christmas, so it's never too late to wish everyone here a Merry Christmas!

If you want to get a taste of what the meditations for the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day serivces, you can find them at the link below.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Thought for the Day

Friday in Advent 3, December 19 2008

By Jan L. Richardson, in Night Visions, United Church Press. (c) 1998 (out of print)

This restless hope
is what drives me
beyond the weariness
beyond the discomfort
beyond every thought
that what I carry within me
will never come to birth.

This restless hope
beyond all reason
flutters beneath my heart
and grows within my soul.

It is beyond me,
and it is of me,
and it is delivering me

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Upon moderating comments

Dear friends,

I am an old woman, a crone, in fact, and as such I am protective of those who are so kind as to read my aged ramblings. This blog recently attracted a commenter who saw fit to use the slightest excuse to post extensive comments regarding the sex life and death of gay and lesbian persons. The comments are cut-and-paste jobs from a discredited "textbook" on the subject.

In fact, I remember witnesses reading straight from the text while testifying against a bill that would include people merely perceived to be gay or lesbian among those protected by an existing civil rights bill, in Delaware. I testified in favor of that bill, wearing my clergy shirt and all, and received hate mail and anonymous threatening phone calls.

I can take it. But there is no reason you, gentle reader, should have to. So, I regret to say that I have switched to moderating comments before allowing them to be posted.

This will not last forever. I thank you for your patience, and I appreciate your visits to Ramblings with Lois. May you have a blessed what-is-left-of Advent, a Happy Christmas, and a joyous New Year.

Peace be with you all.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


I've got vague thoughts of Christmas trees and decorations running around in my head. The magic but not the substance. The glitter but not the Light. This is the time of year I give in to my longing for magic. For St. Nicholas to be rea. For God to set all things right.

Another report of cancer in the blogosphere, and a second woman waiting for a diagnosis of a mass near her uterus. This stuff sucks. There's no excuse for it. It makes me crazy trying to make sense of it and a loving God at the same time.

I read a mass email recently that claims God is not a being, God is all things. If God is all things, is God the cancer, as well? A friend said not to think so much - it just gets a person all tangled up and depressed.

I don't think what I get is depressed. I think I get determined, resolute, still believing (crazy), still living faithfully (crazier still), asking questions, waiting for answers, expecting them, and forced to trust that in the all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.

Magically. With a sleigh pulled by reindeer across the moon, and a saint who defies time and space, and deepest dreams made flesh.

Thought for the day

Why the hell didn't Aquinas write down his vision? the one that made him laugh at all his great theological work. the one that made him stop writing his great "sum of all thinking about God". I find it bloody unfair not to know what he saw.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Advent - Christmas Trees or Christmasfreeze?

This week I learned a new word: Christmasfreeze - like ice cream freeze, that brain numbing shot of lighting that happens when your mouthful of ice cream hits a certain spot on the roof of your mouth and ZING - ice cream freeze. The only way out of it is to warm the roof of your mouth slowly with your tongue, which you hope isn't as cold as the ice cream.

Christmasfreeze is the brain numbing shot of lightning that happens when the expectations of this season of December, known to some in the Christian world as Advent - "something is coming" - pile up and come crashing down all at one time and there is no defense against it.

I had Christmasfreeze once. I was serving a church in Boothwyn, Pennsylvania. Two days before Christmas Day, on December 23, the bishop phoned and said, "St. Martin's will have to be closed. We'll try to re-deploy you." (Whatever re-deploy means, it always makes me feel like a stealth missile aimed at some unsuspecting congregation, the purpose of which is to demolish the old and start everything over again.)

Well, to say the least, that phone call took all the Christmas out of me. I wanted none of it. The call was tantamount to being fired, and since I was a Priest-in-Charge, an appointment by the bishop rather than a choice of the congregation that was on the verge of closing when I was appointed anyway, it was indeed a firing. I've not been fired since I had my first job at the soda fountain in still-segregated Lewes, Delaware in the 60's. I was an outsider and they kept me only a week. I said or did something that was outside the culture and I was fired.

The Christmasfreeze was severe. I told my husband I didn't want to deal with any of the stuff we usually did. Forget the annual trip to a tree farm on Christmas Eve to buy a tree, put it up, decorate it...I convinced him to get a small artificial tree. That was my concession to the season. I let him put lights on it. I ignored all my boxes of decorations.

The antidote to Christmasfreeze could not come from me. I didn't want an antidote. So two angels came to visit on Christmas Eve, a few hours before the late night service. They had been turned out of their church for being a gay couple who wanted to be acknowledged as a couple. Could they come in to the church just for a few minutes and pray together?

I wasn't there. My spouse was practicing the music for the service. He let them in and stayed out of their way while they went to the steps of the altar and knelt together and prayer. Then they left.

My spouse came straight down the lawn to the rectory to tell me that two angels had visited. He told me the story, and my christmasfrozen brain and heart returned to what for me passes as normal. After Christmas I went and bought four ornaments for the small artificial tree.

Christmasfreeze is nothing to laugh about. It is real. It is serious. Those of us who do not suffer it don't have any idea how we contribute to it. Our "Ho-ho-ho-ing" and our shopping and singing and cheer send a message to others that this is expected of them, whether they feel that way or not. Imagine what it's like, then, to be a priest, to whom people look to, in a sense, make Christmas happen for them? Those two days between the bishop's announcement to me and the arrival of the angels was just plain hell. How was I going to get through that Christmas service, with all its expectations.

In the end, I did get through it, and enjoyed Christmas Day. We didn't do the family thing. We just had a quiet few days together. It was six more months before St. Martin's did indeed close. I was not "re-deployed" in that diocese. Instead, I was called (a far cry from "deployed"!) to Norwalk, Connecticut.

This is our third Christmas here. For those first two Christmases, I was still haunted by the Christmasfreeze of that one awful December. Last weekend, my spouse and I were returning from going out to lunch, and there was the gardening center, on a corner in our neighborhood. And I asked, "Can we stop here and get a Christmas tree?" And we did. Not on Christmas Eve. That day. And we put it up and put lights on it. Spouse brought up one of the big boxes of ornaments, but I haven't put any on. I'm just enjoying having a real live Christmas tree again.

And I took out my favorite, ancient Christmas jigsaw puzzle and spent most of the week putting it together and warming my heart with Christmas.

The difference is I'm not responding to any cultural or religious or community expectations. I'm doing what delights me. That includes what I do for and with the congregation I serve. In the end you can't meet people's expectations, nor the culture's or religion's, because you can't please everyone. Trying to do so just makes me a miserable person to be with and to work with. If I do what delights me, then occasionally doing some of the things that don't give me life or that drag me down can't keep me down for long. For, lo, there's one of the things that gives me delight, outside of the realm of expectations, and it's there before me.

I guess that's all I have to say this eve of Advent Three. This Sunday used to be called Gaudete Sunday: Joyful Sunday. A break in the Lent-like expectations of Advent. Happy Gaudete Sunday.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Advent or Christmas 2

It's snowing. It's 10:40 p.m. and there is already a decent dusting on the ground.

Yesterday we bought our Christmas tree. This is the first real tree we've had in 4 Christmases. When we have a real tree we usually buy it just before Christmas Eve, in keeping with our families' traditions of putting up the tree on Christmas Eve. But this year I want the lights and the tree now. I'm not denying myself this treat anymore.

I love this season, the season of November and December. I love the darkening evenings and the promise of lights reminding me that one day the sun will return. I've been an Advent scrooge for long enough. I'm 63 and 1/2 years old and from now on I please myself.

The artificial tree we used for three Christmases has been put up in the back yard, and lights strung on it. I looked out just now and there's snow on the little tree, with the red and white lights shining through it.

It just doesn't get any better than this.

I'm a priest and I say, if you want to put up your tree and your lights and play Christmas carols, you go right ahead and do it!

And while you're at it, make an early start of going around doing nice things for people as well.

Tomorrow is Advent 2. Enjoy!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Advent has arrived, or is it Christmas?

Over at Mad Priest's blog OCICBW... we are celebrating "You don't have to be a Christian to celebrate Christmas!", as a response to those in our own Episcopal church nationwide as well as those in the Anglican Communion who have been for years now declaring us liberal types non-Christians. We're celebrating with links to Christmas tunes since if we're not Christians, then their rules about Advent and Christmas carols are right out.

Christmas tunes are forbidden during Advent, for those who are observant Anglican Christians. We can't sing them in church, while the rest of the world is inundating us with tunes everywhere else we go, and not the really good tunes, either. We have to wait until December 24 in the evening, and then, with the rest of the world putting a stop to all Christmas music after December 25, we get to keep singing, out of step, for twelve more days.

I have been a stormtrooper as a priest, with regard to this practice of not letting my congregations sing a single Christmas carol, except Silent Night or Away in a Manger if the Christmas Creche/Pageant takes place during Advent, which of course it always does.

But to tell you the truth, I start playing Christmas music on Thanksgiving Day.

A long time ago, when I was ten, my mother took us to Radio City Music Hall for the annual Christmas Show. She bought an album of the Nativity music, with carols on the reverse. At around the same time we acquired an album of German Christmas carols, all in German. From that time on, on Thanksgiving Day, we were allowed to listen to both albums, and keep playing them until Christmas.

Every year we wanted to listen to the albums at odd times - summer, for instance - but we had to wait until Thanksgiving Day. To this day I begin to listen to Christmas music - the good stuff, not the Frostie or the Rudolph stuff - on Thanksgiving Day. This year we played a cd of "Celtic" Christmas music on our way in to spend Thanksgiving with my niece, and on Saturday we played a cd of Christmas carols from Kings College Chapel on the way home.

So who have I thought I am, refusing to let my congregations sing Christmas carols in church during Advent?

Last year all that changed. We still sing Advent music - there are Advent purists in this and every congregation - but the congregation's offertory hymn is a Christmas carol. Yesterday we sang "It came upon the midnight clear". Next Sunday we'll sing "Love came down at Christmas", then Advent 3 will be verses 1,2, and 6 (the non birth verses) of "While shepherds watched their flocks" and on Mary Sunday (yes I know the tradition of celebrating Mary on Advent 3, but since the Mary reading is always on Advent 4, come on now folks, get real!) we will sing "Lo, how a rose".

Now Lent is another thing altogether! I know churches that use Easter bulletins all during the Lenten season. I bet they sing "alleluia" songs as well. But not here - that is a country too far for me to go.

But Christmas carols during December, why not? (and that's a rhetorical question, of course!)


Thursday, November 20, 2008


Dear friend,

Recently, you asked me how to pray. You said you want to pray but you don't know what words you are supposed to use.

The disciples asked Jesus the same question. He gave them the Lord's Prayer (although he didn't call it that!): God in Heaven, you are all-holy. May your heavenly kingdom reign here on earth. May your will be done in all things. Give us what we need for life - bread, water, clothing, shelter. Teach us to forgive others, so that we can recognize your forgiveness of us. Keep trials and temptations away from us, but if they come anyway, deliver us from them. Help us stand up to them, and find you with us in them. Amen.

Those are the basics of prayer: Acknowledge God's holiness, state your desire for God to reign everywhere - God's love, God's justice, God's mercy - then ask God for the things you need, and what you desire for others. Recognize where you have fallen short - see your own sins and not those of others. Learn forgiveness from your own sins, for they have been forgiven. Surprise!

If you still don't know what to say, or how to say it, turn to the Psalms. There isn't anything you could think of that hasn't already been said thousands of years ago. These are prayers that let it all hang out, even hateful things, while recognizing the total reliance on God in all things at all times.

I think you are more worried that you won't get the prayers right. There is no right or wrong in prayer.
Pray with or without words.
Pray your feelings - your tears, your laughter, your despair, your joy are prayers.
Take a walk and enjoy what God has created around you.
Notice how your body feels - let it be your prayer.

Most of all, pray what is in your heart. The words don't have to be right. When you're done, fall silent for a spell. Let your heart catch up, and open itself to God, for you to see, or feel or hear. And know this, you are God's prayer for the world. Your whole life is a prayer with God.

Peace be with you.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Trilogy: Out of the Depths

canoeing on a mountain
cold, deep, vast
a rock
long and side
looms just ahead
just under the water
terrifying me
we pass over safely
i can't forget the terror

the reflection
clear but not quite
there but somewhere deeper
sinking into the depths of the shallows

that sheer cliff of rock,
plunging into the pond at the shoreline
goes who knows how deep
and frightens me

(Mad Priest, if he reads this blog today, will have a field day with these! So might you.)

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Dear friend,
I know you remember your failures. I know it is hard to start again, to trust once again in the future, to risk that this try will succeed and not fail. This time, no words of mine about failure can possibly outdo those of Dame Julian of Norwich from her Revelations of Divine Love: Julian reminds us that while our own earthly mothers intend the best for us, sometimes they, too, fail. But Jesus is our own true Mother, and when those times of failure come - whether it is failure to love him or failure to love one another, or failure of some project on which we as as Christians or churches pinned so much hope, he never deserts us.

Julian writes, about those times when our failure makes us feel scared or angry or ashamed, "Our patient Mother does not want us to run away...His desire is that to Him for help as fast as we can...with the humility of a child, saying, 'Kind, thoughtful, dearest Mother, do be sorry for me. I have got myself into a filthy mess, and am not a bit like you. I cannot begin to put it right without your special and willing help."

Even then, Julian writes, as a good and loving Mother it may be better for us to mourn and weep a bit before consoling us - "with pity, and sympathy of course...because he loves us...And he wants us to trust his Mother-love...through thick and thin".

Dearest friend, this holds true whether it is a personal failure of the spirit or a failure of the church to manifest God's love. We must trust that Jesus means us only good, learn from what we experience, and return to him, running, as a child to its Mother.

This holds true, as well, for fear and any kind of trouble in which we may find ourselves. Peace be with you.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Does Your Desire Make You Whole?

Desire to sit on a dock
reaching out into still water
with long lawns of green grass
stretching behind
and deep woods on the other side.

It's a sunny day
clear, a touch crisp
I can wrap up in wool
and dream

(Written at work, in the church office,
with afternoon sun
pouring through the window
on my back and the
side of my face.

My art for Monday in the
first week of Advent 2006.
Lois Keen)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The week that will always be remembered

On Sunday, Lewis Hamilton earned the world championship of Formula One grand prix racing, on the last corner of the last lap of the last grand prix of the season, in Brazil. He is the first person of color, and the youngest, to win that title.

Those last two laps were the worst of my life of watching Formula One racing. When Newlin told me, "He's got it!" I couldn't believe it. But it was true, and it made my Sunday.

Tonight, Barak Obama has won the presidency of the United States in the Americas. He is the first person of color, and African American, to do so. When I started watching coverage at 10 pm I was anxious. It looked way too close to me, and I was afraid. And then, at about 11 pm, as I was watching the Daily Show coverage, Jon Stewart calmly announced that Barak Obama is the next president of the United States.

I cried. I was so relieved and happy. And when I saw Jessie Jackson, crying, in unbelief of what had just happened, I started to believe it was real.

What a week. What a night. Thanks be to God, and may God bless Barak Obama.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

This Worship is for YOU!

Dear reader,

Are you
Under 35
looking for a place to worship God in the Christian tradition?
Nothing and no place working for you?
Want to be part of creating a place and a worship that makes your soul sing?
Contact me now at
I want to open a new congregation and I want you to be part of making it happen - for you.

revLois Keen

Monday, October 20, 2008

Monday October 20 Take This Bread

Tonight is book group at Grace Church in Norwalk. We'll be discussing the book by Sara Miles take this bread (the title is actually all in lower case letters, not a typo). Against the backdrop of this book, we'll be asking the following questions:

Who are the hungry, and for what do they hunger?

Have the ideas in this book altered your understanding of the sacraments and how we celebrate them?

Who is NOT called to ministry?

Has this book altered your comfort level of who and how you are in this life?

These questions have intrigued me for a month, since I first saw them. I wonder how the people in the book group will answer them? I do know the book has piqued interest in beginning anew the food pantry at Grace, but without the regulations. And the part where the author's food pantry distributes the food from the altar and worship space of her church has caught interest.

I know I'm not telling you anything about the book, and honestly, I'm only halfway through it. But I know this much about what I've read so far: Sara Miles is an activist who once worked in restaurants, and who once was a journalist in Nicaragua during the wars there. Never baptized or raised as a Christian, she found herself one day at St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco. When the invitation was issued to receive the bread and wine, the communion of Jesus's Body and Blood, Sara went up and received for the first time and her whole life changed in the moment when she put the bread in her mouth.

I'm hoping that this book will encourage - as in, give courage to - the people at Grace who have read this book to go and do what Sara eventually did at St. Gregory Nyssa. I will support them totally. They will have no work to do to convince me to let them distribute food to the hungry from the altar. I'll help them move it to the floor to make it easier. I'll be there with them as often as I can be.

A bishop is quoted in the book as saying, "There's a hunger beyond food that's expressed in food, and that's why feeding is always a kind of miracle."

Who are the hungry? All of us, every one of us. For what do we hunger? For touch, for community, for some sign we are not alone, even for someone on whom to vent our anger and our frustrations and rage, all part of the desire to know we are not alone.

Who is not called to be a minister? No one.

Has the book altered my comfort level of who and how I am in this life? No - it's kept alive the activist in me that is still trying to find out how, and with whom, I can go out and be and do and lead people into the ways into which I want to go.

Have the ideas in the book altered my understanding of the sacraments and how we celebrate them? No - They confirm and affirm my vision of the sacraments. There is a story of St. David of Wales, that he would go into a farmhouse, in his non-clergy type clothes, and take bread from the kitchen, and wine from the cellar, and sitting at the kitchen table with the household, make communion with them with the stuff from their own home. I have done this as often as I can in my ministry, and I thirst to do it more, to open to people the vision that their own dining table is the place where Christ is met and shared. That anytime bread is broken, anytime and anyplace, with or without special words, Christ is made visible.

I wonder how many households I could get to host an evening in Lent, of companionship followed by Eucharist around the dining room or kitchen table, with the leftovers of snacks and drinks still there? I wonder how many people would come? I wonder what people would think of it? And if they would understand - every table presided over by them is the Lord's table?

Am I going to far to say that? I thought about that before I wrote it the way I did. I believe it. I believe it is true. I wish I were not so encumbered by the need to earn my living at being a parish priest, and I wonder how far I can, without losing my job, stretch past fulfilling the expectations of the congregation I serve to doing, to being about doing the things toward which I am agonizingly pulled.

Perhaps more about this at a later date. Meanwhile, what are your answers to the original four questions above, whether or not you have read the book take this bread?

Sunday, October 12, 2008


Today was the 10th anniversary of the death of Matthew Shepherd. Matthew was an Episcopalian. He died, tied to a fence on a hill on the high plains overlooking Laramie, Wyoming. He had been beaten and left on that fence all night. He was murdered because he was gay.

I was in Laramie in 2002 for the Episcopal Youth Event. Some of us made a pilgrimage to the site of Matthew's death. Of course, even then, it had been made impossible for people to reach the fence, or the area where the fence stood. A gate kept us from going any closer than the roadside; houses were being built up around the area. Some day the place will disappear.

Many in the world would like us to forget what happened in Laramie. Many would like Matthew to disappear forever. I ask, on behalf of our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered brothers and sisters all over the world, do not ever forget that hate kills; it has the power to kill the body as well as the spirit of the hated, and to kill the soul of the hater. I ask that our LGBT brothers and sisters never be allowed to disappear from our hearts and minds, until the day when it is safe for them to live as they want in this world, just as those of us who enjoy the unwarranted privileges allowed to heterosexuals get to live - without even thinking about it but taking our way of life for granted.

[Warning to comment posters: Only supportive comments will be posted. I feel no obligation to post, or even read, comments from those who do not agree with me on this issue. I ask, instead, for blessed Matthew to pray for you.]

God's Peace to all.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

In Memorium Paul Newman

The checkered flag is at half staff here at "Ramblings..." in honor of the death, this morning, of Paul Newman. Paul's love of road racing, and his participation in the sport, is legend among those of us who ourselves love the sport and/or who love driving really fast around a closed track under controlled, supervised conditions.

I was at Lime Rock race course on the day Mr. Newman took his last ride around the track. In fact, it was on my track day. We gladly gave up some of our time out there to let his car follow behind the pace car for a few laps. Newlin refused to take photos - it seemed a violation of privacy. He wanted also to remember Paul Newman as he was, dressed, helmeted, behind the wheel of his Datsun 200sx in which he won all eight races he entered in 1979 in that car, or his later Corvette.

For photos, see
For the skinny on how Paul Newman got into racing, and his early years, see
(hope the links work. Otherwise, put Newman Sharp racing for the history link, or Newman Haas racing for the photos, in your search engine.)

Rest eternal grant to him O Lord, and may light perpetual shine upon him, and may there be abundant road racing in his new life.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Rambler is Home

Well, vacation is over. It's funny, I want the posts on this blog to be decent, at least, literature, not simply posts for the sake of posting. At the same time, while I haven't made the time to formulate what I want to write here upon my return, I feel a responsibility to post something so you won't lose interest!

First, vacation was excellent. Newlin and I camped out three times - twice at Housatonic State Park, which I just love, right down there on the river, and once at Cascade in New Hampshire, also on the river, which is lovely, but the campground itself is a bit creepy. Oh, by the way, I'm talking about tent camping, not camper camping, cooking on a white gas stove on the picnic table, making tea on a really cold wish-I-had-my-gloves morning so I can warm up my hands.

The first day we were at Housatonic, we had just pitched the tent and gotten everything inside, and were arranging our space, when the rain came. It didn't pour, it deluged, if I may coin a verb. And it deluged for over an hour. When it finally stopped, the campground was water logged. There was three inches of water in the fire ring. We survived.

The next night, it rained all night long, but this time we didn't wake to standing water in the campsite. So, better. And still I love camping. Maybe for me it's a reminder of playing at camping when we were kids, even though we never really camped out overnight, tying together all our tricycles and wagons to form a "wagon train" and traveling what I recently found was only a few yards down River Road to the side of the Passaic River in Millington New Jersey to "camp out". Regardless of discomfort, the camping part was the best. On second trip to Housatonic we woke to a great horned owl hooting across the river. In my book you can't beat that!

Now to the good stuff: Yes, I did drive Lime Rock Race Track! Wow, what a great day, a great experience. Now let's face it - I was driving a Saturn, so you know I was not nearly as fast as the Ferraris that were on the track with me, but I was faster than the driver of the Lotus, which should have been faster than me and everyone else, but we were all novice drivers so you have to make allowances.

I learned stuff about myself; I learned stuff about my car. What I learned most was I can trust both of us - myself and my car. Cool.

And as I write this, I realize there's no way I can describe the experience, and maybe I don't even want to try. I'll say this, though, I may just want to do that again someday.

I've been back a week. Lots to do last week to catch up, and wonderful first Sunday back. Now I return to my routine: office at 10 a.m., Starbucks at 2 p.m. with a doctor's appointment at 1:10.

This week I have an MRI - this is to check to see if the breast cancer has returned. I've already seen my radiation doc - she's leaving so I don't know who I will see at my six month check up. I see my GP today, my chemo doc next week. The MRI is being done at my surgeon's request. It's the month for follow ups.

I find I resent the amount of time I have to spend with doctors post-cancer. I also hate it when people try to change the way I feel about it by saying such unhelpful things as "You survived! It's good to have them keep checking so they can catch anything else early." blah blah blah. Do me a favor: If you run into me, and I choose to share my anger at the, don't try to make me "feel better" about it because your attempts just make me feel a. guilty b. pissed that I shared anything with you c. even more angry because you just don't get it. Thanks for helping me by honoring my feelings just as they are instead of trying to turn them to what you think are the appropriate feelings, because, my friends, there ain't no such thing as appropriate feelings. There are just feelings.

Except for all the doc visits reminding me of last year's hell, I'm feeling pretty good, looking forward to the months to come at Grace Church, and slowly getting the yard and gardens back in shape after four weeks of neglect. But more on that later.

For now, this will have to do. Be talking at you later! Peace.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Time for a Vacation

Two days until vacation begins - one and a half if the last reference on a potential nursery worker comes in today! - but who's counting?

Last year I continued to work throughout months of chemotherapy. When vacation came, I still had to report to the infusion unit every week for chemo, and although the taxol didn't cause the nausea the previous chemo drugs did, it was taking a day longer each week to recover from the ill effects of that drug, and there was less and less food I could stand the taste of, so my vacation was simply a time for chemo when I didn't have to serve the church.

I did get a new camera that summer, and spent time getting to know it. Newlin even used some of my photos on his website, (I think that's right!), and one young man bought the CD of the photos I took as he drove his ferrari out of the garage at Watkins Glen for his first time ever on the track. Last year I learned that I am a natural at taking panning shots of cars driving fast on a road course. And last year I had my second experience as a passenger in a high performance car going fast around a road track. Last year it was a ferrari, and the track was Watkins Glen, on the day, the very day, before my last ever chemo infusion.

So last year's vacation wasn't a total washout. But this year, I really need this vacation. And of course the gospel for last Sunday, my last one in church until September, began, "[Jesus] withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick." !!!!!

Well, as I wrote previously, during my week as chaplain to Arts Camp at Camp Washington a couple of weeks ago, I was renewed in my writing, drawing and painting. When I got home, I found that week had fed me more than I had thought. I rose early and wrote all sorts of things. I produced a number of pastels - a medium I have seldom used - on a theme I have not yet exhausted. And I'm really looking forward to vacation to do more of that sort of thing.

It will begin with three days on the banks of the Housatonic River, camping in a tent, and becoming a vegetable. On Wednesday I have my first track day as a novice driver at Lime Rock, with SCDA. Then up to Watkins Glen to shadow Newlin as he works various track events for driving clubs. There will be a trip to New Hampshire International Speedway in the middle of the month - more camping by a river - and ending the four weeks at Watkins Glen, giving the invocation for the annual reenactment of the first ever road race on the streets of Watkins Glen, to kick off the vintage auto weekend. Newlin's working on getting me listed as "crew" for one of the teams - I'd be doing photography.

So, four weeks of doing things I love, vacating my mind, turning everything on this end of the world over to God and the people of Grace Church and having fun.

Did I mention the bag of books I'm taking along to read as well? Oh yes, this is a true vacation.

This blog will be in hiatus. Feel free to leave comments. I'll read them when I return. See you in September!

Friday, August 1, 2008


This is a test to see if this blog fell into the blog-block-troll-hole of blogger

Thursday, July 31, 2008

We're STILL settling for too little, even in Worship

I spent last week as chaplain at our Episcopal Church camp, Camp Washington, with children age 9-12. I returned wonderfully exhausted. The campers for whom I was chaplain were there for a week of the arts - writing, drawing and painting, and dance. I participated in all these areas - dance, at age 63, with my knees already shot from years of dance in my youth, was the most challenging, since even now I can't keep from dancing but it wreaks havoc with my legs. I learned to salsa, which puts more strain on the knees than the dance the young people were learning over the week, but it was worth it!

I learned excellent techniques for jump-starting my writing when writer's block hits. I even started a young people's "chapter book" on Billy the Spacegoat ( the class decided on the theme!).

I drew, painted, charcoaled, pasteled. It was a very fruitful week.

The highlight, however, was of course the kids. Challenging, broad spectrum of behaviors, gifted. Reminds me of how tired I get when people say "Children are the future..." of whatever. They are not the future. They are not our future. They are not the future of the church. They are, here and now.

They are themselves. They are the church. They are the world. To say they are the future gives us unwarranted permission to set them aside until they grow up and take over. To put them in Sunday School classrooms, often in the basement, during church because they cannot "behave" properly in church - to which I am tempted to use a British epithet, "bollocks".

And so, off I go again, dreaming of the church that could be, if only I could figure out how to break through the decades of conditioning of church people who see Sunday worship as their quiet time, as personal time, private time with God.

I blame the years of Morning Prayer as the primary worship in the days of my youth! When I was in elementary school, we worshiped at All Saints in Millington, New Jersey. George Rath - Mr. Rath we called him - was the minister - we did not use the word priest in those days. Morning Prayer was the norm on Sunday. Holy Communion, we called it, was once a month. Morning Prayer is appropriate "private time" with God, private in community.

Holy Communion, Eucharist, is not private time. This is the big Thanksgiving Dinner, the feast, the party. The whole family is there. It is noisy and even raucous. Children are appropriately present in all their messiness and frankness and antsiness and spontaniety.

Now that Eucharist is the norm for the principal worship of the week, there is no service, at least in the churches which I have attended since 1981, for that private worship time. And the people of my generation and earlier have been conditioned by Morning Prayer services to view all church attendance as private time with God, sedate, proper, well behaved, orderly.

And so, I'll be frank with you - children really are not welcome at Episcopal Church services of worship - unless of course they can behave themselves.

The service of Eucharist is the primary formational instrument for shaping Episcopalian Christians in the church. It needs to start with infancy and baptism. The child needs to experience being at the Thanksgiving Table every week. They need to experience the joy of being part of the family of Jesus, who ordered that the children be allowed to come to him in the midst of the adults and put no restrictions on their behavior in doing so.

Well, this is another of those things, like in the previous post, which I would like to be part of before I retire or die - the primary worship (not relegated to "The Family Service" or "The Children's Chapel" but the primary service of worship) as the entire family gathered around the table - not in polite, school-like rows of pews but around the table - singing, dancing, telling stories to one another about Jesus and the prophets and Jacob the Trickster, sharing what their week has been like, where they have seen Jesus and crying together over the parts where Jesus has been absent, and then, all together, shouting, yes shouting, the Great Thanksgiving, lifting up the gifts of God, the bread and wine, and dividing it among themselves and feasting. Children might pay attention, they might be playing or running or dancing over in some other part of the room, they might all of a sudden hear what the priest is saying and ask the crucial question, "You mean, he DIED?!!!!" for which everything would stop and we could have a teaching moment - all of it is still part of the celebration.

And trust me, you have no idea how much children absorb when you think they are not paying attention.

Is there anyone out there, reading this, who also hungers for worship like this? How do I find you? How do we get together?

And as for that private time with God, well, this fall I'm initiating "Practicing Prayer", 45 minutes after Eucharist, once a month, for that very thing - private time, in a group, with God, practicing prayer, learning ways to pray, on an adventure together toward God.

As a priest I'm supposed to take people as they are, care for them, not rock the boat, because church people have become what they are honestly; they are what they have been taught and conditioned to be. I get that.

At the same time, I have this hunger, this dream, this vision, and I cannot believe that such a dream will have to die with me without my ever living it out in a community that will embrace it, mess and noise and all.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Why do we settle for so little in our religion?

Do you want God? Do you really want Jesus? Do you want God in your life, Jesus as an integral part of your life? Do you even know what that means, to have God in your life? Why do you want God in your life? What is God for, for you?

This morning, with the Black Dog, or at least its pup, yapping at my heels, these are the questions I ask. I have long known that the God we worship, the God to which we pray is too small, not God at all, even though GOD accepts our worship and hears our prayers and cares for us insofar as that would be good for us in the scheme of things, even when helping us, which is what we want, impedes the fulfillment of God’s dream which is all creation and all life.

We could reach for the stars. We can become all fire. We can, in this life, be so united to God that we are consumed with transforming our world and the lives in it. All I want to do is be a priest – to lead people into meeting GOD, while I myself search for GOD beyond the God we worship. To teach, to listen to your stories, to help you see GOD in the midst of the cares and worries – the flesh, one woman put it – that gets in the way, leaving only Sunday morning as the one chance to be more than our rest-of-the-week self.

We have settled for too little. It is right that we should pray for the Church, and for those who are in need, for those who are sick and for the dead. It is too small a thing to then expect God to fill our requests while not asking for and expecting God to transform us into people who will make a difference – in the Church, with those in need, those who are sick, those who are dying, those who mourn the dead. It is too small a thing because GOD, the true god, is waiting, hoping, dreaming of us praying to be made all fire, all flame, a light to the nations, and the glory of GOD’s own self in the world.

I’m going to say this, and some may be hurt by it, for which I am deeply sorry: I desire to serve a people, before I retire or die, who want to be all flame. I want this more than anything. We don’t need a church building, or high overhead, just people with dreams of being more, of being useful, of making a difference. People who are willing to take into themselves the constant cry of the angels and Jesus himself, “Do not be afraid!”

Are you out there? How do I find you? I would give up everything to lead and serve you (although of course I haven’t run this by Beloved yet, Newlin that is, or thought about how we will support ourselves or where and how we will live – details, details, details!)

But there it is – I dream, and I dare to think that dreams can come true, can be real, and I dare to believe that it is dreams like this for which GOD keeps waiting, and hoping, and dreaming. And even then, my dream may be too small a thing, and so I put myself in GOD’s hands to enlarge the dream as much as my aged body and soul can take.

I have to go into the office now. Do you want to know why I go into the office, really – in addition to the two appointments I have? I live in constant hope that in doing so I will one day meet GOD, the true God, face to face, in someone who wants to be all that GOD dreams us to be. There is always that chance. I have that dream, and I don’t think dreams are given lightly, especially the dreams of becoming all flame.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Art and the Spirit

A few weeks ago, on a thread on Jake's Place, a blog that is now closed because sometimes a person has to move on, I posted the following comment:

"Art - looking at it, singing it, playing it, listening to it, reading it, painting, drawing, writing it definitely drives my spiritual growth and is, in a real sense, my spirit. My connection with God, with Christ, with the Spirit, with the Trinity is not there without art. Art is like my primary language - the language of my spirit. I have never fully understood this until [recently]. I will have to write about this on my blog - maybe tomorrow. There's so much of art wrapped up in my awakenings, or are my awakenings wrapped up in art?"

Last week, June 30th, was my 63rd birthday. Newlin and I spent it with our friend Christopher in New York City (known hereafter as "The City"). I wanted to see The Waterfalls, four water installations by Olafur Eliasson, on the East River, at Brooklyn piers 4 & 5, pier 35 in Manhattan, Governor's Island and under the Brooklyn Bridge.

I'm not big on astrology, but I am a Cancer, which is a water sign, and all my life, even long before I knew about water signs, I knew that I had to be near water - always - preferably ocean water but rivers and lakes will do, especially big rivers. The East River does very well.

Add to the East River these four scaffolds of different sizes, heights and orientations, with water cascading over them being blown about by the wind and I was in seventh heaven.

At first, from the foot of pier 17 we found a place from which we could see all four waterfalls at once from the land. They're not close to one another. One is on the Manhattan side, another on the Brooklyn side, one on the side of an island in the river near the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, and the other between the first two, at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge, facing the Manhattan side.

I am at a loss as to why these waterfalls are so important to my spirit. We spent almost the entire day seeing them. We took a Circle Line boat out on the river just to get close to them. It was even more magical to be in a spot on the river from which we could see all four at one time. This was the best of all worlds, to be on the water, looking at water pounding down from great heights, falling in sheets, cool, independent, taking their life from the river and giving it back again, but never the exact same life. The river water that is drawn up at this moment is not the same water that will be drawn up in the next second. The river keeps flowing away from the waterfall.

I wish I could say some really profound thing that would make sense of all this, but I can't. All I can do is gaze in wonder and delight, and, now, today, to remember that wonder and delight still with me, part of me, living in a place within me that will feed me in ways I don't yet understand.

I hope the link works. Go have a look. The photos are nothing like being there, but they're close. Enjoy.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Strength of Memory

I'm an untidy gardener. I simply cannot be ruthless with volunteers in the garden nor with weeds in the lawn.

The garden plot where I sowed zinnia and cosmo seeds last year is this year a vegetable and herb garden - beans, lettuces (now gone by), cucumber plants, parsley, thyme, basil, camomile, carrots and radishes sown together (the radish seedlings break open the ground making it easier for the feathery carrot seedlings to push through), golden beets. But before any of this came to be, there were the obvious volunteer cosmo seedlings - seeds which matured and dropped to the ground last year, wintered over and voluntarily germinated this spring.

Volunteer plants seem to me to be much stronger than those sown on purpose. These are vigorous cosmo plants, with thick, strong stems. They have just begun to bloom. Fortunately I love cosmos. Unfortunately, if I were not at least a little ruthless, the vegetables and herbs would not stand a chance, so I pulled some up and replanted them to what became the zinnia bed this year, and others I just plain pull up and throw on the compost.

Still, there are an awful lot of cosmo plants. However, some of them I can put to good use - lettuces don't like the hot, sunny days of summer. They bolt (go to flower and then seed, turning the leaves bitter). The cosmo plants are casting shade on the area where I would like to reseed lettuces and arugula. I can use that shade for the time being, to extend the season for these luscious leafy greens.

But even at that, as I sat on the flagstone patio this morning, sipping my Earl Grey Tea with Lavendar, and saying Morning Prayer and reading the psalms for the day, I looked over the gardens, and I realize that the veg/herb garden could stand for me to be a little more ruthless still - and I could stand to do with a few fewer cosmo plants.

Meanwhile, I gazed at the lawn between the garden and the patio, the lawn I haven't mown for two weeks now, which, since I'm using a reel mower, the kind with no power source except my feet and arms, is creating a problem. But, you see, there are English plaintain in the lawn. Now, as a teacher, I am not going to succumb to posting a link for you. You must go and find out for yourself what English plaintain look like. They have long, slender leaves, which stay close to the ground. Long thin stems rise above the surrounding grass, topped with small, scruffy heads given to tiny whitish flowers which themselves grow on tiny threads in a crown around the flower head.

They are not beautiful flowers. But one morning last week, I looked out on the lawn and was transported back to the days of my childhood in Millington, New Jersey, and the yard of Mrs. Brunowski and her daughter. The early morning sun fell across the lawn, the humidity made just a little haze to heighten the magical effect, and the heads of the plaintains, tipped just a tiny bit by dew, shone. From them arose those little gaggles of gnats, the hatch of the day, swirling in little tiny groupings about the flower heads. It all felt just like I remembered the magic of being in the Burnowski garden on River Road, where Mrs. B., who was not strong, would sit in a wicker chair in the grass, which was always a little untidy. I wish I could describe it for you, but I can't, and you must trust me that it does not matter.

What does matter is that because of the strength of that memory, I cannot bring myself to mow the lawn, not just yet, just in case I will again be sitting on the patio at just the right time of morning to have that same set of circumstances occur which will transport me back to a memory which now owes more to my vivid imigination than fact, and is far more important than fact.

For the health of the plants in my gardens, I do have to take a few minutes each day to pull up a few weeds. But truly, I have no intention of pulling up the nonfactual memories that give richness to my spirit, weeds though those memories may be. One persons weeds could very easily be my wild flowers. I will not part with them until the day comes when I must, even if it means living with an untidy garden.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Mid LIfe Crisis?!

My brother, the middle child of us five, has written me to ask if my new Saturn Astra, which I will be driving in a track day at Lime Rock, Connecticut in August, is some sort of mid-life crisis sports car.

A mid-life crisis indeed. How kind of him to mention "mid-life" as I will turn 63 next week. So I have another 63 years to go! Assuming I survive the track day.

My brother also taunts me when he writes I'll be afraid to go over 10 miles an hour on the track. Now he may be assuming that my terror that late winter day in the Smokey Mountains of North Carolina, when he drove us in his SUV on snowy mountain trails with sheer drops off the side, was a sign of timid driving. But no...

I have to watch myself when I get in the car - even when I was driving a station wagon - if I had just been watching a Formula 1 race on the television, because some inner racer wants to be just like those drivers.

Newlin has put the Performance Drivers' Association slide show on my computer so I can get ready for the big day. It tells me that anxiety is normal, to stay hydrated, to get off the track if (when?) my mind goes blank ( ! ), teaches me all the language my instructor will use, and provides diagrams of the proper and safest way to drive into and out of turns. I'm also practicing not gripping the steering wheel in my usual death grip. So much to learn. But for me this is like those women who go on Outward Bound type wilderness survival experiences - I will not be the same woman after August 13th.

And you can be sure that afterwards I will be able to link that track day with my spiritual development - wait for it!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


I have been very remiss about posting, and for that I am sorry. Apologies to those who come to visit.

I have a friend who has dared to name the tyrrany that is the world wide web. One day a couple of weeks ago, he turned off his computer, and posted an automatic reply to his email, saying that he was taking a day off from his email so don't look for a reply - he just gets too much email. Last week he noted that as his email increased, personal contact decreased. His phone hardly ever rings anymore. All contact is through the internet.

I am very pleased to have my very own blog. There are also some blogs which I read regularly. In fact, I read them several times a day, and I get quite miffed when there isn't something new there everytime I check! This is part of the tyrrany about which my friend speaks. It becomes, for me, who vowed to myself that a post once a week would be enough, a source of guilt when my real life leaves me without the drive to post even weekly.

Hence, this post about not having posted! (chortle)

But seriously, if you enjoy reading here, that's wonderful. I am glad for it. I'm working on a major essay on art and spiritual development, which is taking some time, of which I have little right now. I hope you'll keep coming back to see if I've finally posted it, and when I do, I hope you'll let me hear from you.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Won't Mad Priest be jealous of this

I've just been advised there is a reservation for me, on August thirteenth, for a day on the track at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut, in the novice class, with SCDA. That's Sports Car Drivers' Association LLC.


Oh God, I'm scared! I want to learn to drive fast around the track, but there will be other drivers out there with me. Who will pray for them? I'll be on the track four times, for a total track time of about an hour and a half. I still can't believe it.

And all because Newlin traded the guy who runs the association one of my photos of the track for his new website for my track day.

Newlin says, we can practice between now and then. What does that mean? (Little does he know that I did just that today during the three and a half hours of drive time I had between home and Lakeside Connecticut and back!

Watch out, everyone, here I come!

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Unremembered

And who will honor those
who, for the love of God,
refused to carry arms
against their enemies,
against their fellow men;
who bore the badge of shame,
of "coward" as their name
unjustly worn?

And even worse than these,
foul traitors, you will say,
the young men of my age
who, burning draft cards, fled
to Canada to live
in protest of a war
they held unjust?

Did these not also fight
for freedom's sake?
Was not their sacrifice
of land and home,
the shame and calumny heaped on their heads
a warrior's price?

Or must they always be ashamed,
as having run away when battle came,
and only those who fought and died
obtain a hero's prize,
laid in the grave?

These, too stood up for peace,
in their own way.
I honor them this day,
though none else will.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Apology, and Lewis Hamilton wins!

I apologize - I can't seem to get the link to the map of the street course for the Monaco Grand Prix to work - maybe it's because it's from Wikepedia.

Anyway, Lewis Hamilton won the Grand Prix de Monaco! I'm a happy camper.

And just because I don't give up, let's try that link one more time

Hamilton in the lead - off to church!

Updated link

Another view of the street course at Monaco for the Grand Prix de Monaco, here showing the names of the turns. Some of my favorites: rascasse, tabac (the tabaconist, named for the tobacco shop that used to be there), the swimming pool (aka the harbor! with the statue of the diver - a live shot frequently during the race which is so beautiful it's hard to believe).

Very frustrating - have to leave in 3 minutes for church, with 30+ laps to go and Lewis Hamilton in the lead with a 21 second jump on the second place driver, Felipe Massa, who started the race on the pole (that's first position - Lewis was in third at the start).

So, off to church. More later.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Grand Prix de Monaco

Tomorrow, Sunday, is the running of the Formula 1 Grand Prix de Monaco. This is, without a doubt, the most romantic of the grand prix series for me. Monaco, the last of the road races on the actual streets of the city, although this year a new one will be added, a nighttime race in Singapore. But Monaco is the jewel in the crown of Formula 1 racing as far as I'm concerned.

Here's the track:

Today is qualifying. Tomorrow the race, on an unforgiving course - tight, no real room to pass, qualifying in the top two positions helps keep the driver out of trouble. Monaco is notorious for crashes at the first turn, Ste. Devote, as the cars clump up on the start. It's brilliant to watch, even on television. The camera placement in the tunnel gives you the feeling of being shot out of a rubber band.

Of course, I'll not make it to the end of the race, which begins at 8 a.m. east coast U.S.A. time (7:30 if you want to watch the cars being readied and talk with some of the drivers and celebs). I'll have to leave at 9:15 at the latest to get to church. But there's always the rerun in the afternoon!

As usual, I'm hoping Lewis Hamilton gets the pole, but I'll settle for the number two position, so long as he's on the front row. UPDATE: Hamilton is in third position. Still, not too bad, if he can stay out of trouble, ahead of the pack at Ste. Devote. Of course, there's an 80% chance of rain in Monaco for the race tomorrow. I can feel my anxiety building already.

AND THEN: there's a Grand Am series race at Lime Rock on Monday at 2 p.m. Another beautiful road race course, on a closed track in the countryside of northwest Connecticut. Only an hour or so ride from my home, but I'll watch on tellie.

What a weekend!

Now, off to compose my sermon for tomorrow. This being a church blog, I really should (useless word, that - "should") I really should make some mention of churchy things, and mention of the need to compose a sermon for tomorrow is it.

Then some gardening in the afternoon. Planted a small hosta patch in a corner of the front yard yesterday - it's lovely, if I do say so myself. (Must get some photos onto this blog.) Today I'm seeding a grubby patch against a fence on the street side with "wildflower" seed. So that's it for today.

If you want to come to church tomorrow, you can't go wrong with Grace Episcopal Church in Norwalk. 10:00 a.m. God loves you. Bye for now.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Heretical Praying - Heretical Worship

Heretical Praying!

What if prayer doesn’t have to be reading the Bible, saying the psalms, praying the prayers? What if prayer doesn’t have to be saying/asking/reading the right things – “Oh holy God, please give me/make me/help me xyz, and I will wqr, while reading scripture and the psalms and the prayer book.”

What if valid prayer is reading a bit in a little book on journalkeeping, like How to Make a Journal of Your Life by D. Price – Please, Lois, grow more and more into your true creative artist self for my sake – or seeing the refracted light of the sun falling through the prism of the window glass onto the page of my journal, and photographing it? Is this not prayer? It is, I say!

So why does my guilt reflex kick in and say If you don’t read the scriptures and say the psalms and pray the prayer book prayers God will be mad at you and won’t give you qxrzp, or whatever?

So, I took up my camera and banished the guilt reflex. I photographed the page of my journal, with the colors of the refracted sun falling on it, and there is no describing the joy of that act of true prayer!


Heretical Worship!

In the past few months, meetings of the Executive Committee (the officers of the Vestry, which in the Episcopal Church functions sort of like the Board), and of the Vestry have become to me more like worship than meetings. We do the business, but woven throughout we share the things that have meaning to each of us, in our lives, in the church, and in the world. Isn’t that worship? It feels like worship. It feels like being in the presence of the Ground of Our Being. The atmosphere has changed and I have independent corroboration of that. We are having fun. Imagine that.

What if we came to church on Sunday and, instead of the usual order of worship, we sang some songs, and read some scriptures, and then reflected on them together, and then we shared with one another the things we have been doing in the past week that felt like God was with us and in our being and doing, and asked help from one another for the doing and being of our lives in the coming week, and then we prayed the prayers of our hearts, and sang some more songs, and then we broke bread and poured wine and prayed over them together and shared them with one another? Wouldn’t that be worship? It would indeed.

Out of the depths of our desire for you, O Holy One, I call to you, O Holy One, hear my voice; let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication:
Send your breath of life from the four winds.
Let your breath blow through this place, through our churches, through our homes, through our lives.
Let it blow through the buildings in which we worship,
Through the rooms below and the rooms above;
Let it blow through the whole church,
And fill her people with your breath,
That we may live only for you,
A light to the nations,
The glory of your saving Son,
And the flesh and blood and bones,
The hands, feet and heart of your steadfast love for all people.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Watkins Glen and Me

Woohooo! omagod omagod omagod I can't believe it. I've been invited to give the invocation on the Friday of the Vintage Festival at Watkins Glen on the weekend after Labor Day, for the reenactment of the first race which was run on the streets of Watkins Glen in 1948. For those of you who are Episcopalians, the winner of that first race was none other than Frank Griswold of Wayne, Pennsylvania, in a pre-war Alfa Romeo 8C2900 coupe, the father of The Rt. Rev. Frank Griswold, previously Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church.

I will be giving the invocation, God willing and the creek don't rise, from in front of the court house, on the start/finish line of the original road race, directly across from the spot on which a plaque is placed in the sidewalk with Frank Griswold's name on it commemorating his win. I can't believe it - me, Lois Keen, giving the invocation at what for me is the Mecca of road racing, the reenactment of the first road race on the streets of Watkins Glen. I can hardly contain myself - in fact, I can't! And why should I?! Woohooo! Poor Newlin. There will be no living with me from now on, or at least until it's all over.

Thank you Jesus! For those of you who would like to read all about road racing at The Glen, here's the link.

Heard but not Seen

LGB - little grey (green) bird. BVD - better view desired. HBNS - heard but not seen. Birders have been using these message shortcuts for ages, long before text messaging. LGB is mostly reserved for the fall, when the new hatch of warblers, the immatures, do not have breeding plumage and you can hardly tell one kind from another.

Spring is easier. Last year's immature LGB's are adults now. This morning I had a number of BVD's - the spring warbler invasion is in full cry down at Cannon Creek Park, a decent walk from my house. There they were flitting about the tops of the trees along the creek. Warblers just won't stay still enough for a definite ID that far away, but connected with their songs, I could make a safe guess at two of them - black and white warbler, chestnut sided warbler.

Whatever, it's a delight to be able to walk to the park with field glasses slung over my shoulder, to enjoy the sights and sounds of the creek, and try to catch a better glimpse of those flighty little creatures.

Back home, I took my tea outside, along with a notebook, for some prayer and writing. There was a bird singing. Now it is at this time of the year that I am frustrated by not being able to remember from one year to the next all the songs of the birds that arrive in the spring and leave in the fall. Robins, blue jays, mockingbirds, house sparrows, mourning doves, woodpeckers - those I know. But that clear, bell like series of notes were just on the tip of my brain.

I kept panning my fieldglasses over the trees across the street, from where the song was coming. I caught a glimpse, but the bird was hidden by leaves.

Suddenly, I remembered - May, last year, same thing, I KNOW THAT SONG! The Northern Oriole (formerly called the Baltimore Oriole). The song was all around me - it was either more than one or that bird was flying from tree to tree without me being able to see it. HBNS. It wasn't going to stay still, outside the cover of leaves, long enough for me to see it.

Then, loud, really loud, and clear in my right ear - I looked to the top of the great tree in a neighbor's back yard - there he was. I didn't even need field glasses to see his brilliant orangey chest against the black back with white markings. Back again, at the same time as last year. I wonder, as I did last year, if he will find a mate in the neighborhood and build a nest.

This week I've been wondering if the chimney swifts would be returning to nest in our chimney. This morning I couldn't remember when they arrived last year. I hadn't seen any in the sky. Just as I caught sight of the oriole, I saw the swifts. So they return at the same time as the oriole. The babies will be HBNS, their chirping heard in the living room as food is brought to them in the chimney nest.

On the fence opposite me, a chipping sparrow perches, with his russet cap and clear breast. Overhead, a red bellied woodpecker. After its flyby, I could hear it in a yard a few houses away. Not bad for a morning walk and tea time.

Of course, birding is addictive. I'm wishing I brought my fieldglasses with me to the office. I'm considering cutting my hour stakeout at Starbucks to return to the creek. Why do I have to work at all? I called Newlin, who is in Watkins Glen this week, to tell him about the oriole. He told me that when he was unpacking the car last night he heard the screech owl. OHHHH I was jealous! I said, it's time for me to quit, take early retirement, try to live on the little I'll get from pension, (which is impossible, by the way - it won't even cover the rent on the house!) work supply or half time, but let me be in Watkins Glen whenever I want to be, where I can go to sleep with the sound of the screech and great horned owls. (Don't panic, Grace Church readers! We all have these moments, don't we.)

It's never enough. A great morning, and already I want more, more, more! There is something about birds that I do not understand. Maybe it's something like my quest for the face of God: always just around the corner, but never enough, never quite there, always LGB, BVD, HBNS. But still I show up, with or without field glasses, making whatever connections I can with the elusive and ethereal and wild.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Chaplain to the pit crew

This blog is not intended to be a record of and forum for commentary on the news in the Anglican Communion or The Episcopal Church. The previous two posts were written as commentary on a post on Mark Harris's Blog, Preludium, which I had found profoundly helpful and moving and courageous, and so I responded through this blog, and accepted the comments which came, most of the posters having found my words helpful.

This post is something entirely different. My Beloved and I have been married for over 27 years. In the first years of our marriage, when I was in my mid thirties, he introduced me to road racing.

Now, I cannot abide watching Nascar type, oval track racing. Not my cup of tea. However, road racing, which was originally run on the streets of towns like Le Mans and Watkins Glen, is absolutely my passion. Formula 1 grand prix racing is the only sport I can endure - and enjoy! - watching on television.

Back more than twenty-five years ago, Newlin took me to the road races at Summit Point West Virginia. We camped in a tent for the weekend, in the woods, and there I fell in love, with the cars, with the track itself, with the drama of an auto race the whole of which no can ever see, except from the air, the thrill of not knowing if your favorite will survive the part of the race you can't see, the canvas-ripping scream of the 12 cylinder Ferrari's, the ground pounding sound of the Can Am V-8's, the sound of a hive of angry bees made by the small bore engines just screaming their little hearts out as they drive down the straight. The magic of the insider language - pit row, the paddocks, the esses, the chicanes, the back straight - oh I can't wait to get up to Lime Rock Park here in Connecticut soon.

There is nothing, for me, like posting myself on the infield hill overlooking the esses at Lime Rock. How many times have I drawn that wonderful curve, and the tree to the left of it, just in the center, and it was there I learned how to capture cars racing around those esses with a little point and shoot camera, with which panning is absolutely impossible and absurd.

But in August, ah August, while I am on vacation, I will spend as much of my time as I can with Newlin at Watkins Glen International Speedway, where with a proper Nikon, I learned that I have a natural gift for panning and shooting race cars. Road racing had its start in Watkins Glen on the streets of the town. You can follow the posted signs today to drive that same course, and have your heart chilled by your imagination as you approach a bridge the crossing of which at race speeds must have been daunting.

Watkins Glen and Lime Rock, my two absolute favorite road race courses. Lime Rock, a short, tight course, a real challenge for drivers used to the longer courses like Watkins Glen. And the mystique of Watkins Glen with its guardrails painted "Watkins Glen Blue". I have had the delight to be a passenger on both tracks, driving at race speed. On Lime Rock, I was driven by a former race driver and instructor for Skip Barber. 110 miles per hour on some of the tightest curves around, he told Newlin, "I kept waiting for her to throw up, but she never did, so I just went faster!"

At Watkins Glen, passenger in a Ferrari, averaging 140 mph, for 7 laps, twenty minutes, on the weekend before my last chemo therapy treatment. Absolute triumph!

Newlin is a free lance photographer. His specialty is photographing high performance cars driving at top performance on road tracks - Watkins Glen, Lime Rock, Pocono, New Hampshire. You can find his website at (hope I've followed my linking instructions correctly! This is an experiment.) Newlin is well respected in the field. Anyway, he is at Watkins Glen this week, and he has been encouraged to ask if I, your humble correspondent, might give the invocation for the vintage festival the weekend after Labor Day. Can you just imagine how thrilled I am? Even to be considered...gosh.

Not to go all theological on you, but I wish, sometimes, that I could get that much passion for God or Jesus as I have when I think of road racing, and Lime Rock, and Watkins Glen, and the people and the cars they drive. I have to believe that this is how I love God, through those things which delight God's creatures. I have to believe that my delight is, to God, as much worship as what I do on a Sunday morning, which I also love and in which I also delight.

God Loves You

In a comment in the thread below, a writer wrote that God loves him too much not to change him. I agree, in theory. However, I do not agree in the general.

I agree that the statement is true for that one person. However, the implication of the statement, in the context of the thread and the comment, was that God loves gay, lesbian, transgendered and bisexual persons too much not to change them, change being, I assume, into persons affectioned only to those of the opposite sex, and content with the sex/gender in which they were brought up, or, if remaining other than that, into persons content to live a celibate life.

The commentor knows very well that men and women all over the world, finding themselves not in the acceptable category of persons affectioned only to those of the opposite sex have, for all time, begged and pleaded with God to make them otherwise so they will fit in, be acceptable before their fellow human beings, and not have to drink the bitter cup of the outcast. Most of those fervent prayers have gone unanswered, if we are to believe the premise in the first paragraph above.

Or, the men and women praying to be made acceptable have not gotten their prayers right enough, or their repentance firmly enough, to warrant a positive response from God.

Or, if it is true that God loves us too much not to change us, then God does not love LGBT men and women, or at least the ones whose prayers for change have not been answered.

There is, of course, another way to understand the apparent silence of God: That those who are praying for change in their affections or the body in which they find themselves are being told by God that they are fine just the way they are, that they are acceptable to God even though scripture seems to say the opposite (in which case, the scriptures that are being used as the warrant for isolating LGBT men and women, having been written by human beings and not God, are just plain wrong, even though the big picture of the scriptures is inspired by God), and that God is drinking that bitter cup with them until the day the rest of the world wakes up.

And, that the change God is making in them is to acceptance of themselves, and acceptance of the love God bears for them just as they are.

This post in no way, however, has anything to do with God trying to change people who are involved in criminal activity, rapists, paedophiles, would-be world emperors, people who act on their hate, and so on. LGBT persons are not in this category of those needing change simply by virtue of being LGBT. Criminal and violent and anti-social actions are equal opportunity actions. They are found in the mixed sex as well as the same sex affectioned alike. That's a whole other story.

And even to these others, God says, I love you. If there is any change to be wrought in any person, it will be within the context of those words from God, I love you.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Nothing and No One is Unclean

Over at Mark Harris’s blog, Preludium, he has posted a thread titled “We rise to play a greater part”. I have no idea how to make a link. I will email and ask my webmaster to edit this post in order to add the link to the thread on Preludium. [Link added. The webmaster]

Let me say right up front, Mark has said all I would want to say, and probably better, about why I believe sex between people of the same sex, who are in loving, committed relationships is no more sinful than sex between me and my male spouse.

At this moment, there are sixteen comments, most favorable and supportive of Mark’s article, one obvious troll, and another who may or may not be a troll but who asks for the scriptural warrants for what Mark writes and what I believe. I say may or may not be a troll because we have given these warrants before, ad nauseum to no avail, but maybe the commenter has never seen them before. Maybe she is sincere.

The reason our scriptural warrants carry no weight with those on the other side of the sexuality debate is that we do not read the Bible the same way; we do not have the same purpose when we engage the scriptures.

I read the scriptures as the collected stories of the people of God and their experiences with the one true God. Scripture is not the final word; scripture is the first word. It points to the final Word, which is a “who”, not a “which” – Jesus, a person. When I read scripture, I am often convicted of failing to love enough, my neighbor, my God, myself. I often find the understanding of the ancient people who wrote these things, and their experiences of God, are far different from mine. They cause me to reflect on my understanding and experience, and serve sometimes as a corrective, sometimes as a reminder that I owe my very life – literally – to God as I have experienced God, as the love of Jesus and the breath of the Holy Spirit, and to honor that experience.

The scriptures are full of things that are good for humankind in any era. They are also full of things that are culturally imprisoned in the time in which they were written. Who among you would refrain from wearing fabrics of mixed fibers, or refuse to fight to free a slave today? Yet mixed fiber fabrics are proscribed, and slavery is assumed as a natural state.

Let me take a tiny break here and say that I am not writing this to convince anyone. There is a request for the scriptural warrants for what Mark and I believe. To baldly give them, without stating how I approach scripture, would buy into an alternative way of approaching scripture from mine, a way that mines scripture for proofs, for rules to follow and rules to hold against others. This is not the way I read scripture, so we will be talking at cross purposes, even as I give the warrants that direct me in supporting the same degree of acceptance, appreciation and support of loving same sex couples as is accorded to mixed sex couples.

In short, I read scripture for the big picture; I appreciate the details; I follow Jesus, not words; I use the words to follow him only when necessary. I do not expect to convince anyone who does not agree with me. I write for those who are hungering and thirsting to hear that they are beloved by God, they and those they love, just as they are.

And now, to do exactly what those who disagree with me do.

The texts.

Mark 2:27.

Jesus is caught letting his disciples pick grain on the Sabbath, because they are hungry. The Pharisees say, see, he lets his disciples break the law! Jesus quotes back to them scriptures where David himself broke the law to feed his companions. Then Jesus says,

“The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”

The Sabbath is a gift from God, a day of rest when the rest of the world is working their slaves and their animals and themselves relentlessly without thought for spending time with one another and with God. It was made for our good, a counter-cultural, revolutionary act, to stop for one day, do no work, have your slaves and animals do no work, do nothing to create, just bask in the glory of creation and of having been created.

However, the gift of Sabbath as law, something for which we were created to keep and obey, violates the very giftedness of Sabbath. Therefore, law can only kill the spirit both of the law itself and the human being who is compelled to keep it. Whereas, keeping Sabbath out of love for God, humankind, and all creation, is a giving and taking of gift between us and God.

If you are hungry, go ahead and pick grain on the Sabbath. God will not smite you for it.

In the same way, the Levitical laws, and those portions of St. Paul which are read as condemning same sex relationships in all times for all cultures, have become death rather than life to people who the writers of these laws never even considered possible – monogamous, committed, loving partners affectioned one to another who at the same time have rich faith lives before God in Christ.

Luke 10:25 and following: The Good Samaritan

It is better to go through life defiled and unclean than to use the law to make fences that keep out the neighbors to whom you don’t want to have to show unconditional love, fences like “love the sinner, hate the sin”.

A lawyer plays games with Jesus, trying to find out where the boundaries, the fence posts are beyond which he does not have to love one’s neighbor. Jesus tells a story.

A man is beaten up, stripped and robbed. He is left for dead. For all the priest and the levite know, he IS dead. Even if he isn’t, without any clothes to indicate what kind of person he is – God forbid, he might be a shepherd, one of the untouchables! – they will not go near him. They will not risk defilement for the sake of common care for a fellow human being.

The only person who will do so is a Samaritan, himself one of the unclean ones the priest and levite wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole even if he were dying. The unclean do what God would do, the loving thing, better than the righteous, those who keep the law.

The God figure in this story is the unclean Samaritan, God who has made him/herself unclean, in Jesus, to save us from ourselves, our sin of fence-building, our sin of fear of God – fear that God will destroy us, yes, if we don’t keep the rules and get everything right, but even more, fear that God might love my hated enemy just as much as God loves me, without any of the conditions scripture gives us a warrants to say “love the sinner, hate the sin”, which is just another way to hate one another.

Tough love is not love.

And now, the text to which the questioner on Mark’s blog herself alludes when she mentions eating bacon,

Acts 10:1-16 Nothing, and no one, is unclean.

It is so tempting to read this story and say, with a sigh of relief, oh thank God, it’s only about what we eat. But remember, that is not the way I read scripture. Already, I have seen more in the Sabbath passage than just keeping Sabbath or not. I have read in the Good Samaritan story that it is better for me to become defiled and unclean before God, if embracing LGBT relationships will do that, and that, in fact, that is just what Jesus is inviting us to do.

I read scripture, initially, especially if it is a story I know almost by heart, just as it is written, the plain bald words on the paper – in the case of Acts 10:1-16, a story about how Peter was taught that no food is unclean, so he can go and visit Cornelius in his house. I miss the “therefore”: Therefore, Cornelius is not unclean, nor is his family.

One day I was reading this passage, as assigned in the lectionary (the rotation of readings of scripture over a 2-3 year period) and suddenly it was as though scales had fallen from my eyes. I was not reading the Bible looking for warrants abrogating the Levitical code or the passages in the Pauline writings that were being applied to gay and lesbian persons in this day and culture. I was just doing my morning devotions.

Suddenly, this reading became much more than about an old taboo we had long given up in Christianity, the taboo against certain foods. Suddenly the passage became real, and alive, here, and now. NOTHING is unclean! NO ONE is unclean! Jesus has set us free in ways I never even expected.

I was very excited. At about the same time, I started to read of others who had had the same revelation about this passage.

And I also had to endure this truth: Nothing in heaven or in earth, in scripture or experience of God in Christ Jesus, will dissuade those who are convinced, or determined to believe, that loving relationships between persons of the same sex are just as holy as is mine with my husband.

The council in Jerusalem, in Luke’s time, didn’t get Peter’s experience, either. They right away built a fence around this law-blowing vision. Read Acts 11:1 and following. Peter has to justify to the council why he went to gentiles. He tells them the vision. The council is silenced.

Later, the council has to give up circumcision of the gentiles as a requirement for becoming a follower of Jesus. So they build the fence: anyone who does right is okay; gentiles can become Christians but they must abstain from things that are polluted.

The fence becomes the law. Humans point to the fence in order not to have to live the mind blowing, law blowing vision. It is not because it is in the scriptures that our fellow humans continue to harp on about the sinfulness of gay and lesbian relationships. It is because these fellow Christians don’t want to see anything different. Humans choose the fence over the vision because it suits us to do so.

There is my answer to the questioner on Mark Harris’s blog, Preludium. It will not convince anyone who does not want to be convinced. I know that. Instead, I have given an account of why I am where I am in my faith journey with God in Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Do not be afraid.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Give me strength!

This morning after church I received a flurry of printed material. One parishioner had been passing on to me his blog notes on a book called Living your Strengths by Albert, L. Winseman, Donald O. Clifton and Curt Liesveld, Gallup Press. I had asked to see the book and this morning he presented me with my very own brand new copy. I had tried to get this from Borders but it came up "out of print", so I was surprised and delighted to receive this new one.

Then, in the hallway, a woman parishioner gave me the April 2008 Gourmet magazine, with the recipe for a pasta dish pictured on the front, about which she had told me on Wednesday night. It did indeed look delicious and I was glad for the chance to copy the recipe.

She also loaned me a brand new book by Sarah Sentilles, called A Church of Her Own: What Happens When a Woman Takes the Pulpit. Previously the same woman had loaned me The Life of the Skies: Birding at the End of Nature by Jonathan Rosen, author of The Talmud and the Internet. My friend did not mind that I was not yet finished with the bird book, which I had received over a month ago, by the way.

I am a voracious reader. I always have been. You can see by just this smattering of titles that I am very catholic (in the "universal" definition of the word "catholic") in my reading. Just last night I had finished an Anne Perry Victorian murder mystery called Buckingham Palace Gardens. The riches I was handed this morning will satisfy me for awhile.

I did two house blessings this afternoon, came home, made some tea, and immediately went online to take the Clifton Strengthsfinder (trademarked), to find out what my strengths are, before beginning to read Living Your Strengths. I can be very obedient, and when a book suggests I take the survey before reading, and my secret code is inside the dust cover, making the whole thing very alluring, I obey.

My Clifton Strengthsfinder Signature Themes are:

In short, I'm inquisitive. I like to think. I am fascinated by ideas. I love to learn. I can sense the emotions of those around me.

So tomorrow I will take the book to work with me and make it part of my Monday office day. Monday is a paperwork day for me, and I don't have much to do this week, so I'll use that time to read, on behalf of my congregation, of course.

The Gourmet magazine, however, I will have to see if I can find for myself and buy, because having paged through to the cover recipe, I passed other recipes I want and found that this particular issue was chock full of recipes I want, which is not always the case. Might as well own it as photocopy nearly the entire thing!

I've read a good deal of the birding book, the first and last chapters and those dealing with the search for the "extinct", but maybe not, nobody knows for sure, ivory billed woodpecker. Those of you who have read my earliest post will know that I have been an avid bird watcher for 27 years now. The book is wonderful. However, it deals with the, what I consider shameful, past of bird identification, the "bird in hand" origins, which was the basis for Audobon's watercolors. Birds were "collected" by the thousands, identified, catalogued, classified, and "collection", by which was meant killing, or catching even if it led to a bird's death, were the only methods accepted for identification. I've avoided much of the book because I already know way too much about that and I'm not sure I want all the details.

However, I just may have to own the Sarah Sentilles book, A Church of Her Own. Ms. Sentilles writes my truth. Read this paragraph from the Introduction:

"Several years ago, I heard Harvard Law School professor Lani Guinier deliver a speech in which she compared the struggles of marginalized groups in institutions to canaries in coal mines. The experiences of marginalized groups alert us to the racism, classism, misogyny, and bigotry in our world, revealing that there is something toxic in our atmosphere. But, Guinier pointed out, unlike the miners who heeded the canaries' warnings, we blame our version of the canaries, not the noxious gases."

In the church, we blame the women for wanting to become ordained persons in the first place. We blame feminism. We blame civil rights. And we do so claiming the warrant of God Almighty Himself.

In the Anglican Communion, those churches who have their roots in the Church of England, two women recently were named bishops in New Zealand and Australia. That raised up once again the firestorm against "women in orders", women like me who have had the audacity to believe ourselves called by God to lead the church as ordained persons. We are intentionally insulted by the presence of "flying bishops", appointed to protect those who are against the ordination of women. We are expected to make allowances for those who will refuse ever to make allowances for us. We endure the accusation that we are not Christians because we have taken ordination vows. We have been told, "A woman's ordination vows don't make her a priest because she is not of the proper substance. You can baptise a horse, but it doesn't make it human." We are expected to accept this state of affairs with equanimity, like good liberal girls.

The church is the only institution which is allowed to be openly racist, homophobic, and sexist. It is exempt from the law, and it takes as its warrant Holy Scripture. God said it. Therefore it is so for all time, never to be changed, infallible from before time began.

As Ms. Sentilles writes, we can try to argue away the scriptures that give the warrant for eternal, suffocating, abusive bigotry, or we can say yes the scripture says these things and we are going to be ordained anyway. When we do the latter, we are calling all of scripture, faith, and relationship with God into question.

Good. These things need to be called into question. In the Episcopal Church, and until recently in the Anglican Communion, scripture was not the final word; it was the first word. Jesus is the final Word, and the working out of the implications of that Word in the faith communities since his life, death and resurrection are the continuing, valid story of that living Word.

Lest you think that women's ordination is what began the unraveling of the old wine skins and the creation of new ones, the challenge to slavery predates women's ordinations. The challenge to racism, after the end of slavery deepened the unraveling. Women's ordinations is not the last word in this continuing creation of new wine skins or the making of new wine, either. We aren't waiting for the rest of the world to catch up with the end of slavery, the death of racism, or the death of sexism. Slavery, racism and sexism are only three of the forms in which the sin of patriarchy manifests itself.

Scripturally bolstered and warranted homophobia, masquerading as "love for the sinner, hate for the sin", is part of that package. I am sworn, and am determined, to see the end of the legalized practice of homophobia in the church in my lifetime. I wish I could say I will live to see hearts and minds changed before I die, but I'm not that optimistic. However, I would like my church, The Episcopal Church International, to stand up and proclaim that whatever the cost, we will no longer deny ordination or marriage or full inclusion to gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered persons. Of course, I'm talking about a church which is still dominated by men clergy and bishops, and I'm not sanguine about their desire to stick their necks out. I praise and truly admire the male clergy and bishops who do.

I am a Christian. I am following my Lord, Jesus Christ, to the best of my ability to do so. Regardless of what scriptures say to the contrary, that is what I am doing. There are days I wonder if it is all worth it. But then I remember things like the first day a little girl in a parish church in the Diocese of Easton in Maryland came forward with the collection plates. She was grinning from ear to ear. She had just seen her first woman presider, me, and she couldn't get enough of the sight.

It is for you, child, that I and my sisters and brothers continue on. God willing, I will continue to do so to my dying day.

Monday, April 14, 2008



“What is that she has tucked in her sock?” I wondered.

She was a big woman. She was sitting in an armchair in the cafĂ© at Border’s, reading a Rick Steve’s travel guide of London. If she got out of the chair, she probably stood 5’ 8”. She wasn’t fat, she was what I’d call sturdy.

She was probably closer to my age – in her sixties. Her face was lined along the jowl, belying the short, curly brown hair that didn’t have a single streak of gray in it. Dyed, maybe.

She had the look of a woman who was self contained, forceful, knew what she was about. She was unconcerned that she was in public, often looked out the window on the other side of the room and commented with her companion on whatever it was they were seeing, the two of them observing as though unobserved themselves. If they knew I was taking notes on what I saw in them, they didn’t show it. The woman had the bearing of someone who would have a small dagger tucked in the top of her no-nonsense sock.

She wore a pea soup green wool jacket over a v necked red wool sweater, black jeans, black boot shoes, the kind of boot that ends at the ankle, and ankle socks in wide bands of black and gray.

As she sat with her feet planted on the floor, there was a gap between the hem of her jeans and the top of her sock. There, poking out of the outside of her right sock, nearest me, was something with a thin, silver metal edge. What was it? A change purse? A tiny dagger? There was no way to know. I could only guess.

But wait – what was that peeking out from under the hem of her jeans? A tattoo! Not one of those really old ones that has faded to shades of washed out blue. This one still had some vibrancy left to the reds in the design. So, not a remnant of college from forty years ago. One more bit of evidence of a woman who made her own choices based on what she wanted for herself. I could not make out the design. It was only the end of a decorative curve.

There she sat in Borders, reading a tour guide, comfortably resting one hand on her thigh, the other with a finger marking her place in the drooping book, while she and her friend, gazed purposefully out the window, making occasional observations. A woman not to be messed with, who sported a tattoo, and a secret of silver tucked in her sock.


Man and woman each
created in the image and likeness of God.
The creation found by God to be good
becomes, to man, something spoiled,
something soiled.
The belief becomes law.
The fall is required.
The Demon owns our souls.
Only blood, the blood of the spotless one,
will satisfy Him.
The belief is required.
The atonement becomes law.
The man who loved
beyond law
beyond requirement
becomes divine.
The Deity/Man becomes law.
The belief is required.

What if –
God still sees creation good,
man unsoiled,
even by our worst sins
against God, and creation, and
one another.
What if –
there is, really, nothing that
can separate us from the love
of God.
Not tough love.
Suffering love,
that will not punish
but instead, raise us from the dead,
from the death we wish on ourselves,
on one another.
What if –
there is no vengeance
there is no judgment
there is only justice,
and mercy,
and their Name is Love.

But no –
that can’t be.
The evil must suffer
for the suffering they cause.
But who of us has not caused suffering?
Who, then, can escape this justice,
an eye for an eye?

Even the spotless one
was held accountable by the law,
to the law,
and he broke it to pieces,
shattered the gates of Hell,
set everyone free,
made that place uninhabitable,
even for the Demon,
who now has no home,
no place to hold our souls in thrall.
We are set free even before we are born.

And still we are afraid –
what if it is not true?
(Thursday, February 21, 2008)


The gardens are no longer fallow, at least two of them aren’t. In the front garden, in a corner of the yard, against the fence, I planted a hydrangea.

This hydrangea is a homage to one I left behind in Pennsylvania. We had gone to Pennsylvania to help Jesus raise a dying congregation from the dead. We arrived on Easter weekend. I bought a potted white hydrangea from a garden stand near the church. I was very happy to be in that place, called to serve that tiny congregation.

I placed the hydrangea on the front porch of the rectory, which itself stood in the front yard of the church, to the left of it, down a little hill, under a tall maple tree. I remembered to water the hydrangea a few times. But I soon forgot. The next time I remembered the plant, it had dried up. I watered it again, hoping maybe it was still alive under the dirt, but no, it was well and truly dead.

I’ve never been able to throw dead plants in the garbage. This one I dropped, pot and all, into a shallow well made in front of one of the backyard basement windows, and I forgot it.

May was rainy. I think it rained every day in May that year. Eventually the weather broke. I was in the back yard on a sunny day when something green caught the corner of my eye, in a place where there should be nothing growing. I looked, and it was the hydrangea. Its leaves were big, and green, and lush, and I’ll be damned, that plant was alive!

When the ground was able to be dug up, I planted that hydrangea in the center of the garden. The next spring, it bloomed, big white blooms. I left it behind, when the church closed and Newlin and I moved to Connecticut to serve another church. For all I know, it’s still there in the middle of what was once my garden. A white hydrangea.

The hydrangea in our current front yard is blue. I planted pansies around it, and I sowed larkspur seeds to take over when the pansies are gone.

In the back yard, where last year there were zinnias, I planted out two kinds of lettuce seedlings, and seeded in rocket (arugula) and radishes. I have herb plants to go in that patch when it gets warmer – thyme, and two rosemary plants to replace the one that died over the winter. There will also be a compact bush cucumber, a jalapeno plant or two, maybe some other peppers, and some big, Italian borlotto beans – yum! But no tomatoes this year. I still can’t stand tomatoes, post chemo. (If IT reads this, maybe she can explain?)

Against the fence, there will be nasturtiums. In the cracks of the walk, I'll tuck in creeping thyme.

Lest you think I have forgotten the zinnias, they will be in the garden along the driveway. Just zinnias. Nothing else. A narrow, long plot that will make it easier for me to get to the blooms for cutting.

Before things start to take off in the gardens, I hope to find out how to post photos so you can see for yourself. But maybe, just maybe you can let your imagination paint pictures of gardens on the walls of your mind. Maybe that will be better than any photos I might post in the weeks to come.

Christ is risen; Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia!