Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Church of the Future - the Future of the Church

The church of the future?
Saint Hilda's House in New Haven, Connecticut.
People living in community, with the community in which they live, serving Christ who is already there.

The priest of the future?
David of Wales.
It is said of David that he would tramp about the countryside visiting each farm in his charge. When he entered a house, he went to the kitchen and sat at the table with the family. Bread from the oven and wine from the cellar were put on the table and the Eucharist, the Holy Communion, was celebrated there with everyone sitting together.

The future of the Church?
God's mission is, and has always been, the reconciliation and restoration of all people to God, one another, and creation. This means God is at work forgiving us so we can forgive one another and so we can find God in one another's faces and live together in peace.

Between these two images, Saint Hilda's House and David of Wales, the Holy Spirit of God can rebuild the church as people seeing God at work around themselves and joining God in that work.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Saturday before Advent 2

...and I have no sermon for tomorrow. I have no idea, and I have too many ideas. I really hate Saturdays with no sermon for tomorrow.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Probably best left unsaid

I'm feeling so irrelevant today.

Oh well, tomorrow is my day off and I have a massage scheduled. Today I shall indulge myself with self-pity. Tomorrow all shall be well.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Mako and Xena: The Movie

Silent? Actually, the sound is on - you will hear one bark in the middle. All the action, however, was indeed soundless. Friday, then Saturday.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

So far so good with the guest doggy

Night two and we all slept through! Not a waking or barking from one or from two.
The doggies are playing and rolling about. They're nipping and pushing but no need to shout.
Xena will not let that pup put her down. Oh yes, there goes Mako, on his back on the ground.
Xena is standing right over that dog. And he dares keep trying to treat her like a broad.

The humans are anxious. Why are not the dogs? It's Xena's house after all. And Mako knows.

O dear, they are coming right into my room! Both dogs in the office. Newlin, lower the boom!

Mako back to his kennel. Xena back to her room. A long weekend coming. May dog friendship bloom.

Watching a video of the two of them sparring. Suddenly, Mako makes it his job to protect the property from a truck coming into the parking lot. Xena backs right off. Mako stands his ground facing the truck until it's gone. Then the two of them go into detente. And when it gets rough, in the house and back to their respective quarters.

Mako is accustomed to spending the night in his human's basement, in the crate, alone. So I feel a little better that he's in our basement with his crate. But it is cute that he lies down on the landing in front of the kitchen door to the stairs, and that Xena knows he's there and sometimes whines a little his way.

Just for the record: Xena has had Mako on his back, dominating him, at least four times now, and Mako's score is zero. He has never had her off her feet. That's my pack leader girl!

Four more nights and three days, plus the rest of today, for our sins. Pray for all four of us!


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Remember Bring Your Daughter to Work Day with Xena?

Work has come to visit Xena at her home! Yes, Mako-the-shark-lab-pitbull mix has come to stay with us over the holiday. That's six nights and five days monitoring the behaviors of two dogs who have met one another exactly once. Yes, they spent that entire day together, if not companionably, at least in a state of detente. But in Xena's home? Where her job is to "Guard the House, Xena"?

I imagine by the end of the weekend all will be well. I think Newlin may be dossing down in a sleeping bag in the basement with Mako who is supposed to sleep in his crate. If only I weren't a natural born worrier and instead were a positive thinker...

Photos tomorrow? We shall see.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Lewis Hamilton Wins!!!!

The first Grand Prix on U.S. soil since Hamilton won in 2007 at Indianapolis, and Lewis Hamilton wins again, in the first U.S. return race to the Formula 1 Grand Prix circuit in Austin, Texas.

The Circuit of the Americas road race track is totally brilliant. It and the drivers gave the fans a show not to be forgotten. The place was packed with spectators. And the job Texas did on this track is something to be proud of as a United Statesonian. Well done, y'all.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Xena's Day at Work with her Dad - Meeting Mako

Mako's dad was surprised to find that Mako is not the dominant one of this new duo! Mako: blue collar. Xena, red collar.

 Who are you?

 Separate corners
 Nap time in Xena's dad's cubicle


Well, qualifying for the first United States Grand Prix in ten years is over. Vettel on pole, folowed by Hamilton, Webber and Grosjean in the next three slots of 24 starting cars. Grosjean will take a five space penalty for having had to change the gear box after practice, so he'll actually start 9th. Raikenon will move up to fourth.

 The new track in Austin, Texas is brilliant. The Formula 1 drivers agree it's the best of the new tracks. Bernie Ecclestone was asked, "What about a track in Mexico again?" to which he answered, "Build another track like this down there and it's a done deal!"

It's a very exciting track. Vettel is slow as dirt on the straights but he's very fast, fearlessly fast on the turns, and this is a good track for him.

Tomorrow, the race. Mi esposo will have to record it for me because I'll be presiding over the Spanish language mass at Grace for Iglesia Betania. I can't wait to see the start!

Friday, November 16, 2012

What do Formula 1 and Texas have in common?

Austin Texas, a brand new 21-turn Circuit of the Americas makes its debut appearance on the SPEED Channel beginning today with practice on a track only just completed in time for the return of Formula 1 to the U.S.

Formula 1 racing made its debut in the U.S. in 1959 at Sebring, and called it a day in the U.S. with a final race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1999 in 2007, when Lewis Hamilton won the last U.S. Grand Prix - until this weekend.

Qualifying tomorrow on SPEED at 1:00 p.m. EST.
And then, Sunday, at 1:30 p.m. EST - Turn up the sound! for the start of the Grand Prix of Texas!

And it will be some race - this new surface is a bit slippy with colder temperatures than the teams expected. So, fingers crossed!

It's "Take your daughter to work" Day today for Miss Xena

Today Xena, Lab-mix Warrior Princess of Norwalk, goes to work with her dad to meet Labrador retriever Mako. Mako lives at Xena's dad's work in Ramsey, NJ. Mako needs a place to stay over the Thanksgiving weekend so today the two doggies get to meet one another to see if they will get along for three or four days.

The mind boggles.

Actually, though, Xena likes boy dogs, and both she and Xena are neutered, so this might work. I do so hope so. Xena's first play date - it's like sending your kid off to school for the first time. What will I do all day in an empty house?!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Why blogging?

I have been silent much lately, I know, because I don't really know anymore about what I might blog in the first place. Especially since my "portfolio" on the Episcopal Church's Office of Transitional Ministries website has a link through to this blog. I am torn between writing the mundane - "Today I had a cup of tea. Assam." - to great, deep essays on things theological. In the middle of those two, I do nothing. And sometimes, many times, I have nothing to say that I think is of any moment.

And there's the daily work of ministry. Sometimes there is just too much I'd like to write about and I'm stopped by not having time while the mostly-but-not-always loving demands of ministry in and with a congregation keeps unfolding through the day.

On Facebook I've discovered how to share things I find on my news feed to the church's Facebook page, so all I have to do is write a small preface, or nothing at all. I spend time twice a day, morning and evening doing that. Blogging, however, seems to me to be another matter.

I am torn. Do I need to be timely, up-to-date, pithy, and constant in blogging in case some church's search committee finds their way to my blog to find out what I write and get some insight into who I am? Or do I continue my take-it-or-leave-it approach - this is my blog and I'll use it for whatever purpose I want to use it whether or not anyone else clicks through to it and finds it immaterial - who besides me and Deanb cares how much I love Formula 1 racing?

And yet, here on this blog, if people search through the entire body of the work here, 418 posts, they will indeed get to know me - from the reason for the name of this blog, to Formula 1 racing, to my theology on marriage equality - I'm for it and for good reason.

And, I suppose, theologically speaking, all I write points to a person who sees God's love in and through everything, even the crap of life - not a God who gives us crap as part of God's big plan, but God who lives in the crap with us.

And, dear reader, make no mistake about it, God loves the thrill of the ground-pounding sound of the Formula 1 cars and the massive skill of the people who drive them! How could God not?!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Opening up

Only a week ago, at our annual convention of Episcopal churches in Connecticut (called a Diocesan Convention), I heard, yet again, the refrain that says so much about why at least the Episcopal churches, and maybe even others, is experiencing some death.

The refrain goes like this: "Well, there are three Episcopal churches in Norwalk and there are just not enough Episcopalians to go around for three churches." I first heard that refrain at my first meeting of the vestry of the church I currently serve in Norwalk. Can you spot what is the problem with that refrain?

If you said, "It assumes we are only here in order to serve people who are already Episcopalians," then you are right.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Shameless family self-promotion

My niece, Kirsten Thien, has been on tour in Europe for it seems like months now. This weekend she has been in Saltburn on the Sea, in the UK. It's between York to the south and Newcastle on Tyne to the north. Here's a link to the map.

Her website has not been updated during the tour but you can click "tour" and see that today she will be at the Beverley Blues Fest, in England. This stage of the tour she's sent her band home and is performing with local bands. I hope some of my online friends in the UK have had a chance to catch her act.

My mom wanted me to become a famous opera singer. All I want to do is to chant the Exsultet at the Easter Vigil in church. My dream has come true. And my mom's dream? Kirsten rocks!

Thursday, October 25, 2012


Well, poor Xena got skunked tonight. In the back yard. Now the whole house smells of skunk. I think we might not be able to get to sleep tonight! I have never smelled anything like it. Nothing like the smell left in the yard when a skunk goes through it. This makes your eyes water. And it's too late at night to go to the store for Febreze!

Thinking of giving up?

What do you do when the odds are five to one against you? Roll over and play dead? Wait passively for someone to save you? Give up and go away? No! For even though we die, we are still the Lord's, and that is victory enough. So, if we die, we die standing, on our feet, singing and praising God for all good things. Long live God in Christ Jesus our Lord!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Changing times

UPDATE: Michael Schumacher will retire - again. Not a stellar season this year, but he's a real pro, and a great driver.

Well, Lewis Hamilton is leaving McLaren. Next year he will drive for Mercedes. Michael Schumacher will leave Mercedes and so far we don't know what he will be doing. Perez will become McLaren's second driver, to Jensen Button.

Now I'll know whether my loyalty is to Lewis, or to the McLaren mark.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Friday nature surprise

Wow. Nothing like watching an accipiter swoop out of nowhere into a tree in front of the church office, and emerge, about three minutes later, just as suddenly and silently with its prey dangling from its feet!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Open Doors and the Church of One's Youth

Go to this link to see a picture of the church in which I grew up.

I was raised in All Saints' Episcopal Church in Millington, New Jersey. When I was 14, we moved to Lewes, Delaware and joined St. Peter's Episcopal Church, which is the subject of the above link.

I remember St. Peter's with great fondness. When I was there, through high school, college, and my first wedding, the organ was on the opposite side - the left of the current picture. The altar was not detached as it is now, so the priest faced the altar with his back to the people.

Father Moon was rector then. St. Peter's was "low church"; Father Moon was more anglo-catholic. Every Sunday, in low church style, he wore cassock, surplice and stole, as my priest in New Jersey had worn. But on Easter and Christmas he was "allowed", as the mother of one of my friends put it, to dress up - alb and cope up until the Eucharistic prayer, when the cope came off and was replaced by a chasuble.

And we had incense. My piano teacher was the choir director. She taught us how to not have incense interfere with our singing. She said, "Breathe it in, really breathe it in, just one time, and after that it won't bother you." It worked for me!

For a couple of weeks around Easter and Christmas I was the organist, giving Mrs. Albertson a vacation. I'm not an organist. I'm a pianist. But Fr. Moon would work with me, set up my stops for me, and I was even able to put in a pedal once in awhile.

I taught Sunday school. I played the piano for the Sunday school service. My brothers were acolytes. I wanted more than anything to be an acolyte. But I was a girl, a young woman, and it was not allowed. So I had to teach Sunday school and sing in the adult choir with my mother. Meanwhile, once  in awhile, I would sneak into the priest's sacristy and read the prayers for vesting and the order of putting on the Easter and Christmas vestments. I remember, once, sitting on the floor, outside that vestry, out of sight, watching Fr. Moon pray and vest.

Now I'm a priest. Fr. Moon was still alive when I learned I was going to seminary. I was not entirely sure he approved, but he was kind.

It's a pleasure to see that photo of St. Peter's Lewes and to reflect on from where I came. The article by Fr. Mark Harris, however, makes my heart ache. St. Peter's was always open. I serve a church that is open only when there are people in it. The building is open at times all during the week, but the front doors are only open on Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings and early afternoons. I want more than anything to just leave everything unlocked 24-7-365, like St. Peter's.

What would it hurt, compared to what good it could do? Vandalism? Theft? Fire? So what, compared to a sacred space, open and inviting to all comers. My church may close in the next twelve months, unless there is a miracle. Why not take a chance and throw those doors open, with a permanent sign:

Monday, September 17, 2012

Not cute anymore

It's 6 a.m. We've been up since 5, Xena and me. I go downstairs, turn the porch light, take up the flashlight, tell Xena to "Stay", and go outside. I check the perimeter of the porch - the front yard, the area between the porch and the next door fence. I go into the back yard. I check out everything, inside and outside the fence.

All clear. Xena can come out and meet her immediate needs. But no walk until full light. It's hard on Xena. It's hard on me - anxiety producing. That first time I saw the skunk waddling down the back yard, in April, I thought is was cute. It's not cute anymore.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Wow! The Great Skunk Confrontation!

So, porch light on (at just before dawn, when I can see the light on the eastern horizon), flashlight in hand, I let Xena out for her morning pee. I scan the yard to make sure the skunk isn't there. All clear.

Then, with Xena already in the yard, I scan the parking lot, just to make sure.

Yow! There it is, just on the other side of the chain link fence, next to the rectory garden! I shine the flashlight in its eyes, but Xena is already on it - thank God for the fence!

Then follows the drama of Xena running from one end of the fence to the other trying to control a skunk on the other side. The skunk clearly wants to get into the yard. It is its goal. Every time it retreats and we run to the other side of the garage, our blind spot outside the fence, to see it slink off, I return to the garden gate and there it is! Teeth bared, tail up, but backing away in the glare of the flashlight.

Finally, it runs, yes runs!, across the parking lot to Berkeley Street and disappears, but not before turning its butt toward us a couple of times as if its spraying.

Funny thing: I did not notice any skunk spray smell. Maybe it had already used it all up earlier. I don't know. But that much adrenalin first thing in the morning can't be good for a girl!

Clearly, this is a skunk that has taken up residence. Where, I don't know, but I do know that night before last I woke up at around 2:34 to the smell of skunk in my bedroom, just over the porch. That's not the first time, either. And its worse when I have the window open.

We'll take the full walk in the full light of day, thank you very much.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Letting go

I graduated from seminary in 1997. I have kept all my old class notes and handouts because I have referred to them from time to time.

Today I tossed them all.

There was a stack of old exams, papers and handouts over two feet tall. I kept two pieces of paper.

There were 8 ring binders, most of them 3". I emptied all but two - I kept Intro to Ministry and Advanced Studies in Ministry.

In the fall of my senior year, Michaelmas Term 1996, I was the exchange student to Westcott House, one of two Church of England training colleges in Cambridge, England. Westcott House was broad church and Anglo-Catholic. The other was Ridley Hall, known as low church and evangelical. (Westcott House anglo-catholic students, when we had Federation Eucharist, with all the denominational training colleges together, and the Ridley Hall clergy were the celebrants, would genuflect before the low church priest - or, I should say, before the bread being held out for consumption, before receiving the host, to get up their evangelical noses.)

I still had my notes from the lectures I sat - Pauline Epistles with Morna Hooker, Postmodernity with Graham Cray of Ridley Hall, Hesychasm, Church History, and others, which befuddled my Westcott House tutor. He expected me to just have fun for a term. Never occurred to him that academics was, and still is, my idea of fun. I also submitted three essays - evidently unusual for an exchange student. One, "For Moltmann, How Can God be Crucified?", was read in the university as well as The House and got me a "Distinction". It was also read at my seminary, Seabury-Western in Evanston, Illinois, and got me the Casserly Prize for Contemporary Theology - a nice $25.00 check!

Today I threw it all out, including the A4 folders in which I had kept all my Westcott House stuff. Gone to be recycled.

I also threw out pocket folders with materials from a multitude of continuing ed things and workshops. Outta here. I have a slight headache from all the dust and paper mites I've stirred up.

Writing this, I'm feeling a bit mournful, like I really have walked away from those wondrous seminary years and experiences. But they still live in my core. They are still a place inside me where I can go for rest and renewal.

And quite frankly, I've internalized all that stuff I learned, much of which is even now outdated but formed the core of what The Episcopal Church has become and does.

Now, all I have to do is bag it all up for putting out on the curb next Wednesday for the recycling truck. I pale at the thought - I shall need help, I think!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Living with Wildlife

Miss Xena, Lab-mix Warrior Princess of all Norwalk, and I have changed our morning routine. I check the backyard when we get up, with the flashlight, and the porch light on, to make sure the coast is clear. Then Xena uses the back yard for her immediate needs.

Two hours later, at 7:00, after it is full light and there is no chance of nocturnal visitors still out for that last grub before a good day's sleep, we go for the full walk together.

Let the skunks have their time. We will adjust ours for them.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Saga Continues

When your dog has to go, she has to go.

So at 5:45 a.m. Xena and I went out for our walk. It was only just barely getting not dark (as opposed to getting light). The walk was successful. No challenges along the trail. We returned by the parallel street to home and encountered another dog - not a big problem.

We crossed to our side of the street and continued toward the house.

We both saw it at the same time - our now-obviously-resident adult skunk. Yikes!

Thank God it was on the other side of the street, at the corner of the across-the-street neighbor's house. It had even less interest in getting to know us than we did in it. It walked along the fence to the walkway to the kitchen stairs of the neighbor's house and looked very like it was going to go up those stairs to escape!

Xena and I did not hang around to find out. We retrieved our morning paper and went into our own house. Skunk escapade over.

But our poor neighbors - I wonder where that skunk was going to go to hole up. The neighbors have small children. The skunk is really skirting the edge of nocturnalism. We shall see what the next chapter is. Clearly, the wilderness is making the city its home. Will we have enough sense and care for life other than ours to live with the wild among us?

Friday, September 7, 2012

A.M. surprise?

So, this morning, about 5:45, I was about to walk into my studio, upstairs at the back of the rectory, when the thought went through my mind that, it was on a morning when it was just this time of not dark anymore but far from light yet, in the spring, April I think, that I went into my studio and looked out the back window onto the rectory lawn and saw an adult skunk waddling along down the lawn to the back of the yard, and disappear under or over or around the chain link fence, I forget which.

So, I was thinking this as I walked again to the window, and looked out at the lawn to see if there was a skunk there again this morning. There was not. What there was, however, on the other side of the fence, that runs along the right-side end of the office wing of the church, something white moving on the lawn along the asphalt path along the back of that wing, perpendicular to the rectory back fence. As I looked harder, I realized it was, yes, an adult skunk. It was very busy in the lawn at the edge of the path. Every once in awhile it would shake itself like a dog. It slowly worked its way toward the fence, then veered to my right, and disappeared.

I went outside to see if I could tell where it had gone. So far as I could tell, it had not gone over the fence and under the tarp covering the canoe in that corner of the yard. It probably climbed the little bit of retainer wall to the yard next door, at the back of the dentists' building. Good place for it.

Then I took a look at the lawn in the back of the office wing. It had done a great job of ripping up and uprooting bits of grass and digging. My best guess: grubbing for grubs. I'd call that a public service, except it made a mess of the lawn. The good news is - add to that another recent sighting of a bobcat in addition to mine in the church parking lot two months ago, and continued sightings of deer, raccoons and possums, and we can conclude wildlife is taking over the city. That should be a message to us humans: we aren't in control of anything.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Creek

Even in the still-dark before dawn I could see the creek was full.

We must have had an awful lot of rain last night, and we all slept through it. The creek is full, for now, which means that the Montour waterfall will be running, at least for today. And all the little falls along the roadway.

Of course, there's a reason why the creek is a magnet for plovers, sandpipers and herons when it is shallow. These are waders, some of whom feed on the organisms in the mud at the edges. As my eyes became accustomed to the dark, I could see one of the green herons trying to stand in the middle of the now-rapidly running waters, and not being able to do so. The great blue heron had a better time of it. With much longer legs, even though it will be harder to spear the small fish it feeds on in the shallows, it stands in the running water facing the shore, waiting for a frog to come within its reach.

Blessing and curse, all in one small creek, that eventually empties into Seneca Lake. Shallow, it gives life to some. Full, it gives a different kind of life. The green herons are now huddled on the banks just at the edge of the water. While my heart fills with joy at seeing the creek full, those smaller herons, with shorter legs, will they be able to find food?

I am even more amazed at how green everything looks now. The grass and other green vegetation that makes up the lawns are no longer brown. Yesterday the only green was along the creek bank. This morning everything is green and lush - over night. It's shaping up to be a beautiful Tuesday here.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Vacation week three

I'm standing on the deck, watching the creek behind the house shrink day by day.

It was drying up when we arrived. Then we had several days of thunderstorms and heavy rains. It never was completely full but it looked healthy.

Now, well over a week of dry weather, not always sunny like today, but partly cloudy, with no rain at all.

Now, every morning, the dry line on the opposite "shore" (a creek, not a river) is wider and wider.

As shallow as the creek is just behind the house, it is less shallow further downstream. There are small fish and frogs. Green herons and great blue herons fish here every day, just beyond the deck. Two evenings ago, just before dusk, a pair of sandpipers - dowitchers, actually - joined the small family of killdeer - members of the plover family. Belted kingfishers also depend on this little creek.

Along the bank on this side of the creek grow joe pieweed, now in flower, purple loosestrife - an invasive invader, queen anne's lace, purple vetch, butter-and-eggs, mint plants growing wild, and one lone plant of cardinal flower in bloom. The grasses grow tall. We wear wellies walking Xena, Warrior Lab Mix Princess of all Norwalk, because she prefers to walk in that tall grass on the off chance she might be allowed to hunt and catch a frog - fat chance!

I sat on the deck this morning from just before the sun came over the mountain due east on the opposite side of the creek. I stayed there way past its rising, with Xena on a blanket beside my chair. She and I had our morning tea while I said morning prayers and read from the Apocrypha - the Wisdom of Solomon, chapters one through three on my iPhone - and from Kathleen Norris's The Cloister Walk.

There is no rain in the forecast until next week sometime, and then only thundershowers. This creek has been here for a very long time. We can assume it has seen drought before now. Herons, plovers, sandpipers, kingfishers and other wildlife have made their home on its grasses and fed on whatever is living in the water forever. Droughts and rains come and go. Life continues. The lawn grasses and weeds are so dry they crunch when we walk across them. The tall grasses and wildflowers along the bank are green and lush. They must have some source of sustenance deeper in the ground beneath them than the lawn has.

Eleven more days here. Here in paradise. Xena is asleep on the living room carpet. I'm reading Norris, Lauren f. Winner, and Agatha Christie. Tomorrow we'll go to the track and watch and enjoy the roar of high performance street cars from the top of a mountain that looks down on Seneca Lake. Unwarranted privilege. Unearned blessings. All of which I wish for everyone, everywhere.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Birding Vacation

Tuesday we awoke to the raucous cawing of crows. I didn't think much of it, but it continued. Now, crows will mob around a predator to chase it off, so I looked out the dining room window to see what the fuss was all about.

It was early in the morning, the dull gray light just as dark begins to give way, with thick cloud cover to boot. First I saw the crows, flying in, hanging on, trading places with other crows, on the utility wires just outside the window. Then, just to the right, on the top of the utility pole itself, perched an owl - a great horned owl.

We watched the drama for about ten minutes. The owl had to duck a couple of times but nothing served to chase it away. Finally, it just had enough and, spreading its wings, it soared off the pole, toward the house, and over and away.

Later I took Miss Xena out for her walk and found the crows mobbing around a great, tall, broad tree in the back yard. I knew the owl was there but the foliage was too dense for me to see it. A little later, on Xena's second morning walk, Newlin witnessed the route of the owl by the crows. By 9:00, as we left for our walk on the Catherine Trail, we could see and hear the crows mobbing the tree down the canal and around the bend from the house, the one into which Newlin had seen the owl escape.

The trail we took is located between the river on the right and a wide marsh on the left. Catbirds and cardinals abounded. We also saw a caspian tern, twice, on its way upriver, and then back down. Chickadees, cedar waxwings and bluejays joined a number of sparrows which were too quick for us to ID properly. We walked only 30 minutes of the trail, then turned around and came back.

The trip to Montezuma Refuge yielded four bald eagles - Montezuma never disappoints. Also a pectoral sandpiper and a lesser yellowlegs, plus a multitude of members of the sandpiper family too distant to ID. A great trip down Cayuga Lake and then back to Seneca and Montour Falls.

Friday: New Hampshire International Speedway, then a flying run back to Montour Falls for a track day at Watkins Glen on Saturday. We have Porsche, BMW and Audi clubs coming up, with a possible screaming run back to Limerock for one day with Sports Car Drivers Association, then back to WGI for the Ferraris. A spectacular vacation!

Monday, August 13, 2012


Highlights so far, from the Finger Lakes district of New York State, in wine country and home of Watkins Glen International Speedway:

Day 1, saw Richard Petty, as close as 6 feet away! Richard Petty, retired, is what NASCAR was once all about.

Sunday, spectacular end to the NASCAR Watkins Glen 355. Once a year NASCAR goes road racing at Watkins Glen instead of the usual oval track racing. Road racing is real racing and this was a really good race this year.

The Lakes: Seneca and Cayuga - wine tastings at several vineyards, lunch and wine tasting at the Thirsty Owl overlooking Cayuga Lake. God, I love these lakes!

Monday, Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge - at the northern end of Cayuga Lake, near the home of Women's Rights, Seneca Falls. Late lunch at a diner overlooking Cayuga Lake.

About 25 years ago my partner in life and I passed through Seneca Falls and camped nearby. We went into Seneca Falls to do our laundry in a now-gone laundromat there. On the wall was a plaque noting that the place was once the site of the first meeting for women's rights. Today there's a full Women's Rights Center on that street.

Xena, Lab Mix Warrior Princess of all Norwalk goes with us everywhere. She is exhausted already after a day on the road to Montezuma and back. Meanwhile, we have photos of her guarding the grape-laden vines of the Thirsty Owl Vineyard. She looks right at home.

Tomorrow we'll walk part of the Catherine Trail, starting right in our back yard. Then Wednesday, back home to do laundry, on our way to New Hampshire for an overnight, then back to New York.

That's all for today. Maybe lunch or supper tomorrow at the Red Newt Bistro and Winery - one of our absolute favorite places, and makers of some of our favorite wines. Bye for now!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Katydids, beware!

Oh no! A cicada-killer wasp is digging one of its tunnels just on the other side of the drive from the garden outside the back yard fence. Sometimes I just hate Mother Nature.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

A lazy, hazy, hot August summer day

I've been watching for the katydids for four days, ever since I saw the first small, round holes in the back yard under the pine trees. This evening, at last - the sound of katydids high up in the maples on the other side of the yard from the pines.

The sound of high summer and childhood.

Today I spent the day with clergy in a parish hall in West Haven, without air conditioning. Windows open, fans on, humidity and heat climbing from 9 a.m. right through to our departure a little after 2:00.

The subject was the book by Jeffrey Sachs, The Price of Civilization. We worked in small groups: What does Sachs identify as the problem - with the economy, the working (or not!) of government and democracy, our workings with one another? What does Sachs propose as the solution? What can we, as Episcopalian clergy, do to make a difference?

On that last, after all agreeing we were dissatisfied with the second part of the book - we agree on what he says needs to be done, but he's short on how it is going to get done - the solution part, we charged ourselves with writing the second part for ourselves and committing to one action towards a more civil social discourse, a more fair economy, a more compassionate society. We came away, many of us, pledged to exercise appropriate authority as leaders in our communities to keep fairness, compassion and civility before our congregations and the communities in which we live and serve.

I'll be working on that for a long time - rewriting chapter two, and ways to fulfill the last pledge. But I can't think of a better way to spend a lazy, not-good-for-much-else hazy, hot and humid summer day, than with my fellow clergy, not trying to fix the church or worry over budgets and instead take on the bigger picture by picking over a book we have all read. Many of us would never have read that book without being invited to do so and to come together over it. And we were grateful we had read it, even with all the shortcomings we found in it.

Maybe, for me, it was such a special day and worth the time because, since it wasn't about the church and survival, we weren't our usual anxious, competitive selves. I don't know. What I do know is that for maybe the first, or at best the second time (the first being this year's clergy conference in May), I felt we were comrades in arms, companions on the journey, a band of sisters and brothers who can count on one another.

It seems to me hazy, lazy summer is the perfect time to have that encounter. The sound of katydids is the perfect finish to such a day.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

So many things come from reading the Prophets

My journey reading the Hebrew scriptures straight through is almost over - tomorrow Malachi, the last of the prophets in the canonical scriptures. The Apocrypha, the observed but non-canonical post-prophetic writings, will follow. But for now, I am still steeped in the prophets.

They have worked on me. There are those who wrote before and during the destruction of the two kingdoms, Israel in the north and Judah/Jerusalem in the south. There are those who wrote during the exile or after. The first warn of the destruction and exile to come, with promises that one day God would forgive and restore. The latter write of the destruction that will come upon those nations and peoples who were God's instruments for punishing the chosen people, Israel and Judah.

Yesterday, as I was reading the second part of The Price of Civilization: Reawakening American Virtue and Prosperity, by Jeffrey D. Sachs, I felt the words of the Jewish prophets laying themselves over those of Jeffrey Sachs. I saw what happened in the world, the things attributed to God by the prophets, leading up to, including, and after the destruction of the kingdoms, the exile, and the return to rebuild, and I saw them laid over top of what is happening today.

What would a pre-exilic prophet make of all this today? Climate change, which we are ignoring, the destruction of an economic system which we insist on continuing to worship as the salvation of the all, the purchase of democracy by those who can pay the most, the threat from both climate change and economic decay yoked with the buying of government, to the ability for us to feed ourselves, for the poor to ever have hope, for the common good to ever again make us human - what would those ancient prophets make of this?

And I saw God's fine hand, trying to warn us what we are doing to ourselves, to one another, to the earth. It is not God, any more than it was God in the days of ancient Judah and Israel, who is bringing destruction on us. It is we ourselves. And we seem helpless to do anything different.

Jeffrey Sachs has a game plan in his book that would reverse all this by 2050. The clinker is that it depends on us wanting to do this, unselfishly. I do not have much hope we will be willing, any of us on this planet. We are too invested in our "wants", seeing them as "needs". For this we are willing to give up our government to the highest bidder with one hand while with the other we blame and condemn those who govern us.

We, every one of us on this planet, are too invested in securing ourselves and our pieces of the planet from invaders, and we cast a large net over that word "invaders" to mean anyone, anywhere, not like us, or who threatens or is perceived to threaten us. On these two things the hope of the world and the planet will fall, taking us with it. And it will be we, ourselves, who did it.

The prophets, many of them, acted out the destruction to come. Zechariah, for instance, tends a flock of sheep, with two staffs, one labeled Favor, the other, Unity. Then he breaks his shepherd's crook Favor to symbolize the end of God's favor. Then he asks for his pay and he is given, by the powers that be, thirty pieces of silver, the price of a slave. He then throws this "lordly price" into the temple treasury and breaks the staff Unity, the end of the covenant.

And everyone who saw, knew what this prophecy meant.

I took a vow at my ordination to be a wholesome example to the people I serve.

I pledge today to act out a counter-cultural prophecy. When I want to make an impulse purchase, I will stop, ponder, wonder from where comes this impulse, do I really NEED this, why do I think I need or want this. I think I shall also, then, put this impulse on a list of other wants, and if, over time, I still really want it, I will delay gratification for a time, while I save up for it.

I will not be perfect in this prophetic act. I will have times when I just cannot stop myself. Like everyone in this world, I have become addicted to consumerism. But then I will begin again.

I pledge, also, to continue in my example of giving equal time each to work, play, study, and creativity. I leave on vacation soon. I will not work on my vacation. I will work on being on vacation - I will play! As a prophetic act, this is my prayer that all work will become valued by being relieved by times of play, of study, and of creativity.

As to what happens in the future of this planet and the people on it, I do not know. We can reverse what we have done, if we all start now. It means giving up a lot. And it means taking on a lot. It means becoming responsible, once again, for one another, being appreciative of and tolerant of others, taking time to think through what we need and what we want, and maybe just turning off some of the screaming that tells we really, really NEEEEEED that impulse purchase that advertisers want you to buy to be beautiful, to fit in, to be popular, to be different (really?! like everyone else who has it?!!), to be cool.

I pledge to ignore the adverts on the computer, on Facebook, and on the television. And I pledge to spend less time every day with these things - computer, Facebook, television, putting them in their proper place, as tools, and not necessities of life.

And now, I shall take some time to laugh at myself! Because this is such an earnest piece I have written, and maybe even a little bit self-important.

If only all the rest of the world would take a laugh break, too, maybe, just maybe...who knows?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Cool Sunday

56 degrees this morning - wow! Excellent!

I put on my flannel shirt for my walk. This is my kind of weather. I know people who thrive in the heat and humidity we had the past couple of weeks. I am not one of them. I'm a spring/autumn/winter girl.

At the same time, I have to say I love the lushness that the rains, even torrential rains, since last Sunday have brought to my gardens.

We've been exploring prayer this summer instead of having sermons on Sunday mornings. One of the ways we thought of prayer - "doing" as prayer - was gardening. The gardener who brought it up said that gardening is, for her, praying for the earth. I like it.

This summer instead of oral lists of prayers we have been observing silence as we write our prayers on the paper altar covering at our outdoors services. Last week the people from Iglesia Betania joined us. This was new for them. After the service they asked if it was only the sick who get their names on the covering. I said any prayers could be written there. They picked up pencils and crayons and started writing.

Our second Sunday outdoors it was so cool, and so many of our elderly women came, that we went inside and raided the chest of prayer shawls and wrapped them all  up in warm prayers knitted and crocheted into those shawls. I wonder if we will need those shawls this morning! There could be worse things than a morning so cool we need to wrap one another up in prayers.

As I walked the labyrinth, at the end of my walk around the neighborhood this morning, my mind was full of all my worries. They just keep going round and round. Now, it's darned hard to walk the labyrinth without keeping your eyes on the path. But doing that contributed to my focusing on my worry-go-round. So I walked the second half, walking out, with my eyes focused on the neighborhood, the rapidly changing angle of the sun, the lush vegetation and foliage, the colors, the coolness of the air. I had 75% success in keeping my focus outward and that is a big deal - a very big deal indeed.

A blessed Sunday to you all. Peace.

Friday, July 20, 2012


I wanna dress like Queen Latifa in Beauty Shop. I'm built just like her - well, except for being short where she's statuesque...But oh, she makes no bones about her curves!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

From Lauren f. Winner's "Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis"

"...I am not the author of my prayers; when they come, they come from God." (page 77)

This is my experience. I show up; I participate, sometimes. I have known, sometimes, that I am participating in God's prayer. I never thought, however, that even my cries for help do not originate with me but in God. That blows my mind! (cross-posted from my blog Julian House Retreats)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A word to President Obama

Dear Mr. President,

I just had the most brilliant idea. If Joe Biden runs with you as VP again, he'll be too old in four years to be a viable candidate for President.'s what y'all do.

Joe announces that he is not running as VP this year. He's retiring. Instead, Hillary Clinton will be running with you as your VP. That way the Democratic party has a viable VP to run as President four years from now!

The Rambling Rose

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

This Blog Supports Marriage Equality

It's not marriage yet, but the House of Deputies of The Episcopal Church headquartered in NYC, meeting in Convention in Indianapolis, have ratified the passage by the House of Bishops of resources for blessing same sex unions. Read all about it here, at Episcopal Cafe.

I am personally delighted! Thank you, God. Thank you, Blessed Savior. Thank you, muchas muchas gracias, Holy Spirit!

Monday, July 9, 2012

With great thanksgiving

Today my church, The Episcopal Church, meeting in Convention in Indianapolis, expanded its inclusiveness. Please go to this link at Episcopal Cafe for the story.

This blog supports The Episcopal Church, and this blog supports the passage of today's resolution adding, officially, gender identity and gender expression to the non-discrimination canons of TEC.

Thanks be to God!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Something to think about

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg has compulsory voting. "Vote, or else!"
Verrrry interesting.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Management and Chaos Theory

I am not writing this post as an expert. I'm re-reading a book I last read in 1997 or 8, Leadership and the New Science: Learning about Organization from an Orderly Universe, by Margaret J. Wheatley. I loved the book then, and I'm loving it again. It's very readable, if you're worried by "science" in the title, or the fact that the book is usually found in the business section of your bookstore.

I commend the book to you to read for yourself. I just finished chapter one, and would like to note a few things that apply to the current apparent chaos in which we in the churches believe ourselves to be.

Chapter 1 is titled "Discovering an Orderly World". It opens with Wheatley's revelation as she soaks her feet in a stream. She learns from the stream about adaptability, and the temporary state of solutions as the stream answers its overarching call to reach the ocean. She writes, "There is none of the rigid reliance on single forms, on true answers, on past practices that I have learned in business. Streams have more than one response to rocks..."  "Organizations lack this kind of faith, faith that they can accomplish their purposes in various ways and that they do best when they focus on direction and vision, letting transient forms emerge and disappear. We seem fixated on structures; and we build them strong and complex because they must, we believe, hold back the dark forces that are out to destroy us." (chapter 1, page 15-16, 1992, 1994; Berrett-Koehler Publishers, San Francisco, CA.)

Once, long ago, thanks to Newton and others, we came to believe the world was a machine set in motion by a clockmaker God who then left the scene. The world understanding was that every machine runs down, and therefore we had to scramble to make sure this machine kept going. "This is a universe, we feel, that cannot be trusted with growth, rejuvenation, process. If we want progress, then we must provide the energy, the momentum, to reverse decay. By sheer force of will..." (Wheatley, pg. 17)

And then she writes, "What a fearful posture this has been!" Indeed! And still is.

Wheatley then turns to Ilya Prigogine and dissipative structures in chemistry. Prigogine found that, while structures dissipate, as energy ebbs away, that very dissipation can play a constructive role in creating new structures. "Dissipation didn't lead to the demise of a system. It was part of the process by which the system let go of its present form so that it could reemerge in a form better suited to the demands of the present environment." (Wheatley, pg. 19)

We are desperately trying to control what is happening to our churches. Wheatley describes seeing a moose hiding from her behind a tiny sappling, the trunk of which only covers the moose's eyes. Yet the moose is confident it is hidden. She says that in our passion for control, we are like that moose. "As long as we stare cross-eyed at that tree, we won't see all around us the innate processes of living systems that are there to create the order we crave" (Wheatley, pg. 23).

But it's hard to step away from the tree. Wheatley would have us move away from control and embrace "dynamic connectedness". She writes, at the end of chapter 1, "I want to move into a universe I trust so much that I give up playing God. I want to stop holding things together. I want to experience such safety that the concept of 'allowing' - trusting that the appropriate forms can emerge - ceases to be scary." (Wheatley, pg. 23)

We Episcopalian Christians are in the business of trusting God. And I experience very little of that trust in myself, and see little of it in other Christians. I certainly don't see it in the way we interact with one another in this nation, nor in our government. What would it take for us to trust God? What would it take to trust Jesus, the Christ, our Lord?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

How low can this country go?

Now bans on feeding the homeless in public. Philadelphia - City of Brotherly Love - is among those cities banning feeding the homeless in public. The Ecclesia network of street churches is being hit hard - the core of their weekly outdoor eucharists is a free lunch, outdoors.

I am reading intimations these bans are aimed at the Occupy movement participants. Boy, this country of mine is terrified of dissent, a dissent the founders fought and died for. Just what is it we fear? And what do you, fearless reader, think you might do about it?

Today I'm going to City Hall to join the parents of school children demonstrate on behalf of keeping our school funding just where it needs to be in order to assure high quality education, our primary bastion against chaos. Education guards against ignorance, and ignorance leads to bans like the bans popping up against feeding homeless people outside.

That's what I'm going to do today.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Lightning bugs!
All the stuff - cruel stuff - going on in the world.
All the stuff - stupid stuff - going on in the Anglican churches.
So many substantive articles I could write.
And I choose fireflies.

But seriously! It's almost mid-June. It's still chilly at night. Heck, it's chilly and rainy during the day.
And tonight, up out of the grass, one, then another, then more and more, fireflies.

Syria is killing her own people.
The bishops in the Church of England proclaim state legalized marriage between people (read "men" - they couldn't care a bit about women) of the same sex is one of the biggest threats the Church has faced in centuries.
The failing economy in the U.S. threatens to take down the whole world.
An accounting error (!) in my town's school budget threatens the education of children, free, high quality education being the most important thing standing between humankind and chaos.

And I choose to write about the wonder of seeing fireflies this evening, before it became dark and the playfulness of my dog, Xena trying to catch them and not understanding where that light went. It was just there, wasn't it?!
Magic. The magic of fireflies.

In the middle of that wonder, I find myself standing, suddenly, naked before God, for one blinding second. Just me. Not my job, or my thoughts, or my fears, or who I think I am. But me. And then it's gone, and I'm aware of aware again of all the stuff in my head that I think makes me, me, but I remember that one naked second. And the fireflies, flickering, disappearing, and reappearing someplace else I can't predict.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Work is work

I'm out walking the labyrinth on the church parking lot. On one of my circuits I notice a man pulling some kind of cart. It's piled high with fat, stuffed, black trash bags. He's walking through the park across the street. I'm wondering if this is a cart with all his earthly possessions. That's an awful lot of stuff to haul around the city all day, every day. I resume my labyrinth walk.

Eventually, the circuits of the labyrinth take me back to where I can see the man in the park again. He's sorting through things in the bag. It's not recycling pick-up day, when the gleaners come out early in the morning and pick out all the recyclables for which they can get money in return.

Another circuit. Yes, it is an enormous pile of recyclables. He's sorting them - plastic from glass, the only recyclables worth picking. He had to have been up and out working very early to accumulate that pile of plastic and glass bottles.

On another circuit I can see him, bent over the pile, like photos I've seen of people in the fields picking cotton. He looks just like that, bent over, sorting, picking, separating. I've gardened in that bent over position. It's really hard on the back and knees.

Work is work. He's been up early to go to work, picking, collecting, and now sorting. For how much, I wonder? I think I'll have to take some things to the recycling center at Stop and Shop where you can bring your sorted plastic and glass bottles and get money back. You're only allowed one bag of recycling per trip. That's the closest center I know, and it's quite a walk from the park across from the church. I want to know, roughly, how much he gets per bag, for all the walking he has to do around the city to gather that much recycling, sort it out, and then walk with his precious treasure up to Stop and Shop to cash it in.

Lazy? Maybe it's because you only see men like this one during the rest of the day, when they have already put in a days work trying to make some living from the stuff you and I throw away.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Spring in the City Wilderness

Once, long ago, we lived in the woods, in a house we were building ourselves. We were surrounded on two sides by an Amish farm, and on the third side by a single resident on a country road. There was one house across the street from us.

Wildlife was everywhere. Sometimes, I would wake up and look out at the lawn that was between the house and the woods, and there would be a fox, sleeping on a mossy hummock. We had the occasional black rat snake in the house (ick). There were three ponds. Every year some wood ducks would hang out at the ponds deciding whether or not to nest. We put up a wood duck nesting box, but wrens took it over - yes, tiny wrens, who filled up that box with twigs until it was at the right level!

When I first moved to Norwalk I missed those woods and the wildlife. We lived in a residential neighborhood where the only wildlife was birds (thank God for them!) and domestic animals.

When we moved closer to the church, in the center of town (although I have to say, it's not like any town center I've ever seen), I assumed it would be the same. Since then, we are regularly visited by skunks, possums and raccoons, as well as hawks perching in the trees in the rectory yard and on the church steeple.

Yesterday morning I took the dog, Miss Xena, Warrior Labrador-Mix Princess of all Norwalk, for her walk on the bike path a block from the house. It was six a.m. exactly. As we proceeded on the path, I saw, up ahead, two deer, on the path. Now, on one side of the path is a high, chain link fence, with a nearly perpendicular hill of trees and greenery up the short distance to the level of the route 7 connector. On the other side of the path are houses and yards. Behind us, across the street, is a small park, but certainly none of this was habitat for deer.

Where did they come from? I don't know. And they had no idea what to do about me and my dog. I turned Xena around and we went back to the beginning of the path, on the fence side, leaving the deer options for escape, because they were not going to be able to leap that fence, given the terrain. But that left them only escape through city-type back yards. One of them came our way, on the opposite side of the path, and, veering through the last yard, and between two houses, it ran across the street and took refuge in the open park. The other ran the other way and disappeared down a side street that is perpendicular to the path.

Where did they go from there? I have no idea. My first thought was will one or the other of them get hit by a car? Fortunately, none of that happened, at least not in my neighborhood. They were young - not fawns, but probably yearlings - long, leggy legs, the rest of their bodies not having caught up with their growth spurt.

Red Tail Hawks seem to have adapted to being urban hawks. Other wildlife - including coyotes - can be found in our city here and there. We destroy habitat in order to make it fit our desires. And still, the wildlife returns and tries to make peace with that - a peace we choose not to make with the wild life. We see them as pests and dangerous. Who do they think we are?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Life (Part 2)

Well, now I understand.
I understand why I am having trouble retrieving words I know like the back of my hand.
I've just been watching an episode of Life (Part 2) on public broadcasting.
It's the fault of the digital age.
First, I am being referred to as a digital immigrant - someone who was later in life when the digital age came to be. I'm not ashamed of that. I proudly refer to myself as an analogue girl in a digital world.
Second, the generations that followed me are called digital natives. Suddenly, I have become a second class citizen. As if being a woman weren't second class enough in a still tenacious patriarchal culture.
Third, it is changing our brains, both native and immigrant digitals, that information and connection is constant and instantaneous.
Even when we walk away from our digital connections - take a day off from email, try not to fret about not posting a blog post for over a week, turn off the iPhone - our brain is waiting, anxiously, and in the process of stressing out, it produces cortisol which -
 - yes, we know, leads to obesity, but what you may not have known, is it - shrinks the memory centers of the brain!
Well, I'll be unplugged for the next three days. I can guarantee, I won't be able to totally not know what's going on. But I'll turn my phone, not to vibrate, but to "off" for most of the day except to check in with mi esposo in the morning and at night.
And now, a real live creature, my dog, wants my attention. At least I can make eye contact with her.

For a Mothers' Day Grouch

I received this email from my doggy, Xena, Warrior Lab Mix Breed Princess of all Norwalk, this morning:

Dear Mom:

Thank you for everything you do for me; food, walks, pets, and a safe place to live. 

I try to be good all the time but sometimes I can't help myself — and MP says that's OK.

I Love you,


What I want to know is, how did Xena know MP? Oh, I forgot, she corresponds with MP's doggies!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Where the Wild Things Are

Maurice Sendak lived near here in Connecticut. His death was in my morning paper.

Rest in peace, Maurice.
May Light Perpetual shine upon you.
May your soul, and the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

No ease for the wicked

Well, my car died last night. Good thing it started when I left where I was last night. But after that, while in the driveway, it would not start. Not even make that rrr rrr rrr sound a car makes when the battery is dying or dead. And the panel, which is supposed to give me a coded message to tell me what's wrong, is not working either.

So, the tow guy is here to take it to Danbury to the Chevy dealer who took over the Saturn warranties and service when Saturn was discontinued.

My poor Saturn Astra. If you want to see one in action, watch Top Gear (the real one, the British version, because the U.S. American version is rubbish) and listen for references to the Vauxhall Astra - same car. A nice little vehicle. Quick. Reliable on the road. Nimble. Please, God, heal my car!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Wilderness in the City continues

Well, actually, it's a report from Watkins Glen, New York. Mi esposo reports that yesterday he had Painted Lady butterflies practically thick on the ground.
Yesterday, also, in the rectory back yard the Painted Ladies were joined by fritillaries. And evidence of skunk early in the evening, around 8:30 or 9.
Today is drismal, and no one except the corvids and icterids are about.  (Now those two, and the fritillaries you must look up for yourself. Take charge of your own learning!)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Yesterday I was enjoying the brilliant, late afternoon sun in the back yard of the rectory when a Painted Lady butterfly crossed my field of vision. As I watched it land, I noticed there was another. After about ten minutes I realized the yard was flittering with several Painted Ladies, all apparently mating. I wonder if they came out of their cocoons in the yard, or somewhere else nearby. It was a delight and I had a hard time returning to reading my Kathy Reichs mystery, Monday Mourning.

Early this morning, about 5:15, just in between dark and the beginning of first pre-dawn light, Xena and I were in the back yard for her first morning constitutional. She was more interested in exploring, focusing on the chainlink fence on the parking lot side of the yard.

Suddenly, she ran, hell-bent for leather, from the far back corner to the gate near the parking lot, barking. I joined her at the gate to try and see what had roused her.

There was, on the lot, a hunched figure. It was standing perfectly still. Yesterday, Sunday morning, as we went out for our 6 a.m. walk, Xena had alerted me to something not right near the church office entrance, but she would not go any nearer the entrance. When, after the walk, I returned to check out what was amiss, I found a raccoon, trapped in the long, large, deep basement window well under the office windows. A wild animal removal company took it away later that morning. But I was wondering, had the raccoon come back?

However, even though it was just barely light, I could not make the shape I saw coincide with that of a raccoon. Suddenly, it took off. It was clearly a cat, but almost twice the size of any cat I've ever seen. It was no coon. It streaked from the lot along the back fence and, as it disappeared in the blind spot in the back corner opposite the lot, it reappeared in the back yard of the dentist building next door.

I remember last year reports of a bobcat in the area, near the bike path, about a block from our house. When it was full light, I went along the outside of the back fence, to the place where it joins the railing at the back of the dentist building. There was a clear, large cat paw print. If it was a household cat, it was really big!

So, raccoons, the occasional skunk, possums, a probable bobcat, and a hatch of butterflies. Who knew that living in the city could be so - wild!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The New Bishop-Elect of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh

The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh has elected a new bishop. As part of the process, candidates were given four questions to answer. Here is the link to the questions and answers. I am particularly taken by the answer to question #4, as follows, from the now Bishop-Elect, the Reverend Dorsey W.M. McConnell:
4. How might you respond if a person who was not a Christian approached you and said, “Why would I want to be a Christian?”
“Years ago, when I was in your position, a friend warned me to think very carefully before becoming a Christian. He said it would ruin my pleasure in my own sin, and I have since found he was right. And there are other consequences as well. It will seriously hamper your self-centeredness and your pride. It will make you love people you don’t even want to like, forgive people you have every reason to hate, and help people without any thought of gain. And it will bring dozens, hundreds, even thousands, of additional family into your life, who don’t look or talk or think like you — brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters. Since most of us can’t manage the ones we already have, that is also something to think about.
“Of course, there are huge advantages. You will finally know who you are and why you are on this earth. You will find endless mercy, limitless grace, compassion without ceasing, love beyond bounds. You will experience real joy, again and again. You will have an abiding sense of God’s care for you, and you will never again depend on the kudos of the world. After years of trying to create your own universe and run it (which never goes very well), you will be released from the endless task of proving your self-worth. You will discover that serving Jesus Christ will use every fiber of your being, every cell of your creativity, talents you never knew you had, in pursuits you never would have imagined. In short, you will discover the grace and truth of God in this life, and in the age to come, life everlasting.”

My response? I intend to memorize this response and make it my own. What do you think?

Friday, April 20, 2012

I hate it! Who thinks this is a good idea?!

I completely and totally hate, hate, HATE the new blogger. I HATE IT!!!!!!

Who out there thinks the latest changes are a good idea? If so, WHY?!

And don't give me that "it's free so why are you complaining" stuff. I still hate it.

And where the heck is my old dashboard? It worked perfectly well. Now it's gone.

Bloody heck.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


I find myself wanting to organize as if I were packing to move.

This is a metaphor for something. It calls up the energy I had yesterday after writing my profile on the soon-to-be-launched website Fresh Springs Retreats.

I try to intellectualize it, figure it out, and it defies that effort.
Sit with it.
It may never make sense.
It may simply make itself.
Whatever "it" is.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Is Advent coming early?

I've opened a new blog. Don't know exactly where it's going yet. I've been wanting to open one for some time. Today I knew what I wanted it to be. Like you, I'm wondering how it will unfold. Much like my life in ministry - where is it going? What will it be like in a year? Maybe this blog will be the one where I track that movement. Maybe Julian House Retreats will be part of what my ministry will be like in a year.

Something is moving. I wonder what it is.

I have friends out there in blogland for whom there seems to be no movement, or even backward movement. I think something is up. Something is happening. Wait. Watch. Listen. Maybe Advent is coming early.

Now, how does one resolve the mystic with the lover of Formula 1 Grand Prix racing?! Maybe it needs no resolution. Maybe the clash is in the assumption that the mystical is "up there" somewhere. My experience is the mystical is very grounded and down to earth. Wait. Watch. Listen.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Bible Project

Well, I have been reading the Bible straight through from the beginning, since sometime in January, as have many of our parishioners. I've completed through 1 Chronicles chapter 26. Oh my word, all those names, genealogies, lists of people organized for the idealized kingdom of David. I am faithfully reading through all of this, even though my brain becomes tongue-tied trying to imagine how some of the names are pronounced. I'm committed to this. It meant something to the person who wrote this, so I will honor that. And oh, my brain!

Of interest: evidently the chronicler decided to leave out the story of Bathsheba. Since we don't read much from the chronicles during our three year cycle of readings, I had no idea. So far, the chronicler seems more interested in the organization. Any story elements are there to support the organization. OCICBW...

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Christ is risen! HAPPY EASTER!

The Day of the Resurrection of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus ben Joseph, of Nazareth, the Christ.

Catching up on sermons:

Good Friday

Great Vigil of Easter

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Holy Saturday

The whole world is silent.
Lest we think this is just another Saturday,
Hustling, bustling, business as usual
After the day before,
The day Our Lord died,
We begin the day with prayer.
"O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."
This is a day of rest.
As we labored and prayed and worshipped and mourned in the week past,
so, too, did our Lord labor and pray and worship,
suffer and die.
Last night, in death, he labored on.
He went down into Sheol seeking the dead.
He broke the gates of Hell. He shattered the chains.
He took Adam and Eve and all the dead by the hand.
He spoiled Hell's victory and set all souls free.
Now, today, he rests.
Today, the seventh day of creation, he rests.
So, too, may this day be a day of rest for us all...
...including clergy!

To the clergy,
If our preparations for the feast to come,
The vigil tonight,
The feast tomorrow,
Are not complete,
Let them be.
Do no more.
Let our worship take care of itself.
All shall be well.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday 2012

If only Jesus were a little less perfect; a little more human.
If only the gospelers left evidence of Jesus saying things he wished he hadn't said,
said the wrong things,
did the wrong things,
made mistakes.
If only evidence were left in the scriptures,
of Jesus sinning, as we sin.
Maybe then I would know there was use for me, in ministering in his name.

I think,
I think maybe Jesus did sin.
I think, maybe,
only because he did sin
and had to be forgiven,
does his resurrection have meaning for me.

Holy Week Journal

Last night: Maundy Thursday, "maundy" from a word meaning commandment. Jesus gives us the new commandment, to love one another, so people will see how much God loves them.

Grace Episcopal Church and Iglesia Episcopal Betania (Bethany Episcopal Church) continue their life together by sitting down to supper. The tables are set up in the church, in the shape of a "T" cross. During the supper we hear the story of the Passover, from Exodus 12:1-14. After supper, we hear the gospel of John 13:1-17, 31b-35, of how Jesus washed the feet of the disciples, to show them HOW we are to love one another and all people. We are to become servants of all people. We are not to behave any more highly than our master, Jesus, who, as a slave, washed the disciples' feet.

After, a child reads the words of the institution of the Last Supper from 1Corinthians 11:23-26. We say our prayers for the world, confess our sins, are forgiven, and pass the peace with one another. We hear again the story of the last supper, bless the bread and wine, and share the body and blood of Christ.

The scriptures say, of the disciples after the supper,
"Then they sang a hymn and went out to the garden to pray.
Despues de cantar los salmos, salieron al monte de los Olivos."

So the people begin to read the psalms that would have been traditional after such a supper: 113 through 118. As they pray these psalms together, in both English and Spanish, the altar guild is busy stripping the church of all ceremonial religious items. The tabernacle, in which the bread and wine is reserved for taking to the sick, is emptied - Jesus is not there. They are placed on the side chapel altar and draped. On Good Friday, at the evening service, all of these remains of consecrated bread and wine will be consumed.

On Good Friday morning, the children will come together from Iglesia Betania, Iglesia San Lucas y San Pablo Bridgeport, and Grace, for the Walk to Easter - a pageant from Palm Sunday to the Resurrection, in which all the children participate. Meanwhile, the adults will meditate on the Seven Last Words of Christ.

I wonder how many people realize what was done 2000 years ago, which we remember, which we re-member, relive, every year? It is now a cliche to say that without taking part in the Holy Week services, including the Great Vigil of Easter Saturday night, Easter Day service is just another Sunday service.

All I can say is, no adult who comes on Good Friday morning to the Walk to Easter remains unchanged as the children take up the cross, lay it on their shoulders, and together walk to the tomb. And what they see there will have to wait for another post.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Holy Tuesday

Clergy renewal of ordination vows, preceded by a stations walk from the cathedral to the capital building.

On such a holy day, I deleted yet another creepy "anonymous" comment from the previous post. I wonder what it's like inside the head of the trolls on the internet who troll for blog posts on which they can leave demeaning screeds. If it takes time for you to see your comment on a blog post, it is due to these people for whom I feel terribly sorry because they are so full of anger, and I have to preview all comments in order to filter them out and leave them voiceless because their comments are creepy. Sadly, while I protect readers from them, I'm assaulted by their hit-and-run maneuvers while I am determining their comment must be deleted. And I'm sure the trolls are well pleased that I feel assaulted by their words. That's their whole point.

It's not true that, while sticks and stones may break my bones, words can never hurt me. I learned that when I was a child. It's a lie.

Today we pray in opposition to the death penalty as we walk the stations of the cross through the streets of the capital city of this state. While I'm walking I shall remember the web trolls and whatever it is in them that compels them. I pray Peace for them, for you, Anonymous, that you may stop needing to leave scary comments on blogs all over the world. God's Peace.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Friday before Holy Week

"You are loved. That is all you have to know."

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Thoughts for the day

I think this morning about writing a letter to the editor of The Hour. I watch a documentary on PBS about Rose Mapendo, a Tutsi Congolese woman, separated from her daughter for 13 years because of the war in the DRC, and, having come to the U.S., spends her life between her family and the cause of worldwide reconciliation and forgiveness. She says, when we see wrong, and we ask ourselves "Who will make a difference", we must, always, look at ourselves and say "It is me". And please no snark about the grammar.

She calls on all women to band together for peace and reconciliation. She has since been reunited with her daughter, who joins her and her other children in Phoenix. The daughter cannot understand her younger siblings because she does not speak English. The mother, Rose, came here knowing only two words, "Yes" and "No", and she often used them in ways opposite to their meaning. She can now speak enough English to give talks and interviews about reconciliation. It reminds me of our U.S. American impatience with immigrants who speak their own language and are not facile in U.S. English.

Rose, who saw her husband killed, her twins born in a death camp, who named the twins after the two military leaders of the camp in order to save their lives, she who saw horror after horror, she militates for reconciliation.

And I thought of the Spanish speaking and other immigrants here in Norwalk. I think about how prevalent prejudice still is, we who have an icon in the harbor of New York inviting all the world to come here for freedom, we say, "provided you give up your language, your culture, and blend into us. Oh yes, and you'd better be 'legal' ". I like to level the playing field, learning to speak Spanish and struggling to hold a conversation. I get a feel of what is it like to be an outsider.

But what would I say in a letter to The Hour. Rose says "Without sacrifice, nothing can be done". I would find words to say that I am willing to sacrifice my good name to advocate for immigrants unconditionally. I would say, "In God you are welcome, invited, beloved, and so I can do no less than that with you". I would like to say it is the same for institutions. Change comes hard. Change comes slowly. Fear of the other is not conquered by law or religion. So what can I say?

Dear people of Norwalk, Please embrace with unconditional love all those in this city who are not like you. For God's sake. Do not turn away from even one who does not look like you or speak your language. All who follow God are expected to become servants to those we are accustomed to have serve us. In God, those with the power are expected to give up that power to the powerless. In God, your fear of immigrants can be overcome, if you will allow it. My experience is that people are people, regardless of language, culture, past, present, or future. Please, I beg you, give up prejudice, and the expectations that come with prejudice, that all who come here must become just like us or be looked down upon.

That letter may never be written.

Maybe, instead, I would write, "I have been taking part in being a conversation partner with Spanish speaking day laborers here in Norwalk who are learning English. I have been humbled in my own prejudices and expectations through this work. I am learning what it means to love my neighbor as myself. People are people. For all our differences of culture, language, religion, and world-view, all people are beloved of God; all are equal; all are precious; all are our neighbors. For those who love God, there is no place for prejudice. I am grateful for the opportunity to face down the prejudices I have found in myself. May I become an instrument of peace and reconciliation. Thank you, day laborers, for teaching me this, just by being yourselves. Peace be with you."

As Rose prays, "Holy Father, change our hearts."

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sermon for Lent 5 March 25 2012

Here is the link to the Spanish version of the sermon for Lent 5 at Grace Episcopal, Norwalk, March 25. I do not have enough Spanish yet to write a sermon in English and translate it into Spanish. At the recommendation of my Spanish speaking co-priest in mission and ministry with a multicultural congregation, I use the Episcopal Church website, Sermons that Illumine, on the Spanish Ministry link. It is regrettable that the author of these sermons are not posted.

Here is the link to the U.S.American English version. This is not a direct translation. I do have enough Spanish to do a direct translation but the idiom is not mine nor U.S. English, so this is mostly a paraphrase written for English speaking listeners.

The text is below. As always, what I preach in English is not entirely word for word what I write. I do not have enough Spanish yet, however, to go off script. I have left the bolding of words with pronunciation accents not just because I'm too lazy to go through and unbold them, but also because I want you to know something about me, and what goes into preparing for preaching and leading a multicultural congregation. When I say multicultural, keep in mind besides Spanish speaking and English speaking we also have people from various Caribbean islands who speak English but whose culture is from various non-Spanish Caribbean islands.

Comments are invited and welcomed.

Sermon, Lent 5, March 25, 2012

The Reverend Lois Keen

Grace Episcopal Church

From The Episcopal Church web site, Archive, Latino/Hispanic Ministries, Sermones que Iluminan.

Quinto Domingo de Cuaresma Jeremías 31,31-34
Salmo 51, 11-16
Hebreos 5, 5-10
Juan 12,20-33

"¡Dame, oh Dios, un corazón limpio, crea en mí un espíritu nuevo!"

Durante las últimas cuatro semanas de esta Cuaresma hemos estado preparando nuestros corazones para lograr un corazón limpio y un espíritu renovado. A veces, hemos estado a punto de lograrlo; en otras ocasiones, hemos fallado miserablemente. Hemos fallado porque no es fácil cambiar de rumbo de vida sin un esfuerzo apoyado por la gracia de lo alto.

Con las mejores disposiciones, oímos la voz del profeta Jeremías que, desde un lejano pasado, nos anuncia que nosotros solos no podemos crear un corazón limpio, ni renovar el espíritu dentro de nuestro ser. Es el Señor Dios quien afirmó que iba a establecer un pacto nuevo con su pueblo, en el cual hubiera una Ley nueva y una relación con Dios nueva, que se inscribiría en los corazones. "Meteré mi Ley en su pecho, la escribiré en su corazón, yo seré su Dios y ellos serán mi pueblo" (Jr 29, 33).

Será lo equivalente a una nueva creación. Lo fundamental de esa creación nueva de Dios radica en que somos conscientes de quiénes somos, de dónde venimos, y a quién le pertenecemos. Según ese pacto, anunciado por Jeremías, tendríamos idea clara de quién es Dios y quiénes somos nosotros. Esa relación nueva nos mostraría una manera de vivir diferente, bajo la ley de Dios, amparados por un amor divino que sobrepasa todo entendimiento.

Sería un tipo de "huella" que identificaría todo nuestro ser. Así como un patito o un polluelo, nada más nacer sigue fielmente a su mamá porque hay algo en su interior que se lo dicta. Según el pacto nuevo todos sabrían que: "Yo seré su Dios y ellos serán mi pueblo".

Al leer esto, podríamos pensar: ¿Cómo sería una sociedad así? ¿Sería posible que dejáramos de idolatrar a nuestro mundo: trabajo, estado de vida, familia, propiedades? ¿Sería posible que sólo Dios fuera nuestro Dios, y nosotros su pueblo? Teniendo en cuenta que somos rebeldes y desobedientes, ¿qué tendría que cambiar para que nosotros fuéramos el pueblo perdonado que pertenece a Dios? Tendríamos que cambiar radicalmente. ¡Qué triste si nuestro actuar durante esta Cuaresma se opone a pedirle a Dios un corazón limpio y un espíritu renovado!

Tal vez actuemos movidos por la curiosidad como los griegos que se acercaron a Felipe y le dijeron: "Queremos ver a Jesús". La fama de Jesús tenía que haberse extendido por el mundo griego para que unos filósofos se sintieran picados por la curiosidad de ver a Jesús.

Felipe y Andrés comunicaron a Jesús que alguien quería verle. Jesús, como si no hubiera oído, siguió hablando de su próxima muerte. Al principio, tal actitud pudiera parecer un tanto desorientadora, pero en el fondo nos revela algo profundo. En primer lugar, desear ver a Jesús supone ya un acuciante en el corazón. Por ello, después de la entrevista no se permanecerá indiferente. Segundo, ver a Jesús no debe ser sólo motivo de curiosidad, sino de estar espoleado por preguntas de grave responsabilidad. Esto es lo que implica ver a Jesús: implica escuchar su palabra hasta conocerle. En otras palabras, implica seguirle hasta dar la vida si es necesario.

Estar en relación con Dios, tener un corazón limpio, tener un espíritu renovado, es tanto como querer ver a Jesús y quedar por él transformado.

Conocer a Jesús es decir con fe "que se haga su voluntad". Eso es lo que implica el pacto nuevo. Esa es la única relación que va a crear en nosotros un corazón limpio y un espíritu renovado. Dicho con otras palabras, es un llamado a morir para vivir. Un vivir totalmente diferente. No de este mundo. Hoy es el último domingo de Cuaresma, que Dios nos dé la gracia de ver a Jesús de una manera nueva, y el valor para abrir nuestros labios y proclamar que de la muerte viene la vida verdadera.

In English:

“Create in us clean hearts, O God, and renew a right spirit within us.”

The English version of this sermon is not a direct translation but my paraphrase of the Spanish in order for it to be in my voice.

In our various ways, we all try to prepare to receive a new heart and a renewed spirit within ourselves, especially during Lent. Sometimes we feel we are making progress. Other times we are certain we have failed miserably. It is not easy to change ourselves without the grace of God. And allowing the grace of God to change us means giving up control of how and into what we will be transformed.

Still, the prophet Jeremiah reminds us it is God alone who does this, who says “I will put my law in your chest, and write it in your heart.” It is God who establishes a new covenant, God who puts the law into our hearts, God who creates a new relationship between us and God.

This new relationship is like a new creation. The essence of this new creation is that we become aware of who we are in God, where we come from, and to whom we belong. In this new relationship we will live differently than we do now. The law written in our heart, the renew spirit in which putting love of God and love of neighbor as the basis for everything we do, will be like a fingerprint, identifying our whole being as God’s possession.

With a clean heart and a renewed spirit, we will be like baby ducklings who imprint on their mother and by instinct follow her around. Under the new covenant everyone will know that God will be their God, and they shall be God’s people.

You might ask how the world will be different under the new covenant. It’s hard to say, since no entire people has given themselves over to God to do this. So ask yourself what truly good things in this world have become idols to you? To us? Work, quality of life, property, sports, March Madness? An idol is something we put ahead of God’s will, on purpose or unconsciously. Even the Bible, or the Book of Common Prayer, or Church or family can become idols, if our use of or participation in them becomes about us and what we want, and not about God as the one and only focus of all life. We are no less stiff necked, stubborn or rebelious than the Hebrew people in the desert after escaping from Egypt. We get anxious when God seems absent and we go about, making golden calves.

Can we let God remake us? How radically would our lives change? I wonder what radical changes would be made in this world that needs those changes so badly. We may actually be living in opposition to God unless we can at least want to want to be willing to let God give us clean hearts and a renewed spirit. Our only hope, in this case, is that all people are forgiven; all people belong to God, and so do we, even though all we may have are good intentions to have God transform and renew us and our lives.

Some Greeks come to Philip and say to him, “We want to see Jesus.” Maybe they are only asking out of curiousity. Jesus’s fame has spread to the Greek speakers and it would not be unusual for the philosophers among them to be curious about him.

Whatever reasons the Greek speakers have for asking to meet Jesus, Philip and Andrew deliver the message that some people are asking for him. And how does Jesus answer?

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it...Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also.”

Jesus goes on as though he hasn’t even heard Andrew and Philip. Instead, he simply continues with his gospel. This seems strange, and yet it reveals something profound for us.

We and the Greeks are curious about Jesus. We and the Greeks want to follow him. He is already pressing on our hearts. So, if we and the Greeks do get an interview with Jesus, we will not be indifferent to what he says.

And what he says tells us we must not ask to see Jesus only out of curiousity. Hearing Jesus is to be known by Jesus. And to follow him means to go where he is going, and he is going to his death.

To ask God to give us a new heart and a renewed spirit is to ask to follow Jesus, even unto death, the death of all in us that keeps us from being seed that bears fruit. To ask to meet Jesus is to ask to be transformed.

Jesus knows where he is going and the consequences, and still he says to God, “Your will be done, not mine”. This is the implication of the covenant God has made with us. We are called to die in order to live. For some of us it means to live differently. For all of us it implies living in this world but not of this world.

Next week begins Holy Week. We will walk with Jesus through the last days of his life. May I not be simply a curious spectator or a bystander. May we all be given the grace to see Jesus’s last days in a new way. May we be given the spirit to understand the great mystery of the good news of Jesus Christ, that death is the true life.