Monday, March 28, 2005

Idée d’jour

If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all.
— Noam Chomsky, linguistics professor and political activist (1928- )

Friday, March 25, 2005

Happy Blogday to Me!

Chevaux de Bataille
(shuh-VOH duh ba-TAH-yuh) 1. A favorite topic; hobby horse
1. Ordinary, everyday
Wednesday was the two-year anniversary of this blog. Put another way, I posted my first entry in this space on March 23, 2003. That entry, and many to follow, were political in nature. In July of that same year, I started writing poetry again, and posted that work here. And through it all, I've often returned to one of my life long passions: faith & spirituality.

Those are the themes I continue to focus on and cycle through: poetry, politics, and religion. I don't seem constitutionally capable of focusing on just one, although I have been told this space might be more successful (in terms of hit rate) if I narrowed my focus.

About this time last year, I created a "Best of 2003-2004" page. I invited nominations for the "best of"; receiving none, I simply selected entries I like the best, or felt still held up. I've read through the entries through the past year with a somewhat jaundiced eye. The last few months have been marked by serial entries, which makes the selection of the "best of" problematic.

However, I am taking nominations for the "best of" 2004-2005, and hope to have a page up sometime next week. Any series, or part of a series (e.g., the "Pictures from Winfield") may be nominated. As well as any "stand alone" entries or poems.

Any poem, or sequence of poems, may also be nominated. Most of the poetry written the past year is collected on these pages: April 1, 2004–Sept. 9, 2004, and October 6, 2004–March 23, 2005. Strikingly, there were only two poems from the ill-considered "12 Days of Poems" that I felt worth archiving. If you'd like to nominate others from that series, I'm open to suggestions.

According to one source, I have an average of 21 visitors a day. So I feel relatively safe in making this offer: the first five people who e-mail me their nomination will receive a copy of the Bolivian Postcard chapbook. Write me at jacsongs, and include the word "Nomination" in the subject line. Be sure to include your postal address if you want a copy of the chapbook.

Many thanks to my regular readers, and especially to those faithful who leave comments. The feedback is a large part of what makes this exercise worthwhile.

Good Friday Cat

Close up of the lady

Crow Moon

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Holy Thursday

by William Blake

Is this a holy thing to see,
In a rich and fruitful land,
Babes reducd to misery,
Fed with cold and usurous hand?

Is that trembling cry a song?
Can it be a song of joy?
And so many children poor?
It is a land of poverty!

And their sun does never shine.
And their fields are bleak & bare.
And their ways are fill'd with thorns,
It is eternal winter there,

For where-e'er the sun does shine,
And where-e'er the rain does fall;
Babe can never hunger there,
Nor poverty the mind appall.
from Songs of Experience, c. 1789

Haiku d’jour

In the light of flowers
I travel
Just for the sake of traveling.
— Soen Nakagawa

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Quote d’jour

Soon silence will have passed into legend. Man has turned his back on silence. Day after day he invents machines and devices that increase noise and distract humanity from the essence of life, contemplation, meditation. Tooting, howling, screeching, booming, crashing, whistling, grinding, and trilling bolster his ego.
— Jean Arp, artist and poet (1887-1948)

The Vagrant Daughter

Her eggshell diary lay in sawdust amber
then ascended to rosy fingernails.
Grey-browed dawn memory
sat next to her smallest gesture.

I rest in the shadow of her wings;
she has dreamed me awake.
I batten empty windows
and tie down the flood gates.

Her milkweed hand in hourglass relief
paces the paper's consonants,
then birdsong vowels dance
on the fragile precipice.

I am the hermit son
of this vagrant daughter.
I wash my tiny face
then walk back into her sunlight.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Quote d’jour

Since everything is none other than exactly as it is, one may well just break out in laughter.
— Long Chen Pa (Zen Calendar, Workman Press, ©2005)
[Note this message has been lingering in cyber space between my e-mail program and Blogger since Thursday, March 10. Deep irony there, nu?]

Idée d’jour

The mind creates the abyss,
and the heart crosses it.
— Sri Nisargadatta (from Workman's Zen Calendar)

Monday, March 21, 2005

Re: Terri Schiavo

The average person could be excused for believing our national legislature does little more than have posturing hearings on drugs in professional sports and on passing legislation that affects the continued existence of one person.

Gosh, don't we already have laws on the books that cover illicit drug use? And gee, we get a special session and legislation for the Schindler family (Terri Schiavo's parents), but we have to wait a while longer for a budget resolution?

For me the comic high point came last Friday, when Congress issued a subpoenae for Mrs. Schiavo to appear before it. I should think they have sufficient ghouls in their chambers, what with the existence of Zell Miller.

Yes, the temptation to weigh in on the Terri Schiavo case is just too great. Knowing little more about the facts of the case than our representatives in Washington, I feel I am at least equally qualified to express an opinion.

The political question is bigger: by what right does the Federal Government insert itself into the life of one family? Two different local courts have ruled in favor of removing Terri's feeding tube. It seems to me that this federal action unduly subverts the notion of "state's rights".

What is the motivation?

Here's the first motivation, as reflected in a memo distributed to Republican Senators obtained by ABC News and reprinted here in Saturday's Washington Post:

This is an important moral issue and the pro-life base will be excited that the Senate is debating this important issue. This is a great political issue, because Senator Nelson of Florida has already refused to become a cosponsor and this is a tough issue for Democrats.

Another motivation was made clear by our Handsome Leader when he signed the bill: "our laws and our courts should have a presumption in favor of life." This seems to me to be a pretty clear message to the President's Fundamentalist Base: Abortion is next.

CNN quotes our Fearless Leader as saying, "We in government have a duty to protect the weak, disabled and vulnerable." There is a deep irony in this statement, as Congressional Republicans had moved to cut SSI benefits to the disabled. There is certainly some hypocrisy here, as Mr Bush approved the execution of at least one mentally challenged person during the period he was Emperor of Texas.

I wonder whether the president and Congress would give this issue so much attention if it were not in Florida, home of the presidential brother and potential heir? I wonder why a similar case, in Mr W's "home state" of Texas, did not receive equal attention?

As Andrew Cohen, legal analyst of CBS News has noted, the only good that can come of this tragic affair is that more people might be moved to create "living wills" which clearly define what "quality of life" means for that individual.

I would only add that said "living will" best be an air-tight legal document. And, even then, there's no guarantee that some future Congress won't seize upon your continued existence as a political football.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Belated Cat

Click for larger image

This picture was taken last night, a Friday, so I think it counts as a "Friday Cat". Here, we see the demure young lady hiding in hopes of renegotiating her contract.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Cat Friday

I have fallen down on the job. I do not have a new digital image of her royal felineness, Dame Julian.

Truth be told, I've hardly been home long enough to take her picture. I had rehearsal Tuesday evening, church stuff on Wednesday, and a farewell gathering to attend last night. The lady has been left on her own for most of the week.

I feel appropriately guilt-ridden.

I suspect that Ms Julian is poring over her contract right now to see if there's a clause that releases her from the need to model if I miss a week. Happily, I wrote the contract in such a way that her food supply is tied to her modeling gig. She's not likely to forego the food bowl.

So — we may have a belated digital image later this evening or early tomorrow morning.

In the meantime, picture this: I've pulled out my trusty Seagull guitar, and I'm practicing music I plan to perform at a Peace Walk on Sunday. DJ starts running all over the house. She literally runs up the door jambs! She hides in my bedroom.

Hard not to take this as a form of criticism. I suspect there are overtones in the guitar that disturb her sensitive ears. I don't think it's my singing; I sing to her all the time, and she doesn't seem to mind.

Just the other morning, I was commenting that I hardly need an alarm clock. Julian has been very regular, waking me up around 4:45 every morning.

Here's the normal routine: sometime during the night, she falls asleep in the bend of my knees. Then, somewhere between 4 and 4:45, she wakes up. I can feel her stirring. She sallies up to the head of the bed, with a purr as big as the morning sky. I generally roll over and start petting her. She'll find a comfortable spot (for her) and settle down for the fitting ministrations of her companion and servant.

She'll nip at my fingers when she's had enough, then wander off. In short order, she returns ready to play. She has gone off, you see, to retrieve one of her mouse toys. She drops it in the middle of the comforter, and often tosses it up in the air and pounches on it.

Did I mention that all this takes place near one of the softer and more sensitive areas of my anatomy? Let's just say the playground extends from just below my rib cage to my pubic area.

If I'm not awake by this point, there may be no hope for me.

Well, I guess she was on strike this morning. Or, I was so tired from last night's festivities that I would have slept through anything.

Stick It Game

This is the latest meme I've encountered. Saw it first on Mike Snider's web-log, then noticed it on a few others. I thought about answering the questions on my own, but then Sam "tagged" me.
  1. You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451; which book do you want to be?
    It may help to remember the set-up of Ray Bradbury's novel. It is set in a dystopian future in which all books are banned. There are renegades on the margins of society who have memorized the classics of western literature (one book per person). Obviously, if you memorize a work, you would come to know it pretty well. And wanting to memorize a work would imply a special love of it.

    I'm tempted to be coy, and answer Fehrenheit 451 (which I haven't read since junior high school). But I think the Selected Poems of Emily Dickinson would be more satisfying over the long haul.

    By the way, I do remember the opening line of Fahrenheit 451, as it's one of my favorite first lines of all time: "It was a pleasure to burn."

  2. Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?
    I liked Sam's answer, "Everyone I've ever had a crush on has turned out to be fictional."

    Does Betty, from Archie Comics, count? There's a number of actresses I've had crushes on, as well, which certainly counts as fictional. As for a character from a novel, none comes to mind.

  3. The last book you bought was:
    The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. I intend to lead a reading group on this book in the near future.

  4. The last book you read:
    The Rabbi of 84th Street : The Extraordinary Life of Haskel Besser, by Warren Kozak; I'm pretty sure that's the last book I finished reading.

  5. What are you currently reading?
    The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Doestevsky
    A Great Deliverance, by Elizabeth George
    It's rather fun, reading two mystery novels at once. Don't ask how I manage to keep them straight, though.

  6. Five books you would take to a desert island:
    1. Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson
    2. Mister God, This is Anna, by Flynn
    3. Oxford English Dictionary
    4. The Dharma Bums, by Jack Keroauc
    5. A blank book, and Waterman pen

    Of the responses I've read to date, I'm the first to consider taking the means to create my own book. I should think that would almost be a necessity, for us inveterate scribblers (whether that scribbling be on blog or on paper).
If they choose to play the game, I nominate Michael Wells, Augustine, and Reverend Mother. I was happy to play, because – frankly – I've had a bit of writer's block lately, and it was helpful to have a topic.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Doctor Soon to Return

If my stats server is to be believed, my number one referrer is the "Nun of the Week", one of the many sub-divisions at Dr. Omed's Tent Show Revival. Others come by way of his "Scissor Dances" or T-Shirts.

There is an element of irony here, even more so than usual, because the beloved Atheistic Pope has not posted a new entry since February 7. Seems he tried to tweak some elements in the background, and the Radio XTML gods took offense.

However, even without updating, the Tent Show is ranked #3 on today's Salon list (as of 4 pm CDT), and number 18 overall. According to Salon's "Rankings by Page Reads", the good Doctor has had 314, 182 hits since he started his little venture. If Site Meter is accurate, I've had a little over 9 thousand page views.

Can you tell that I'm jealous?

I have long imagined folk who have gone to his site to view the salacious nuns coming here and feeling disappointed. They probably feel even more disappointed since no new nuns have been dancing at the tent show for the past month.

I shudder to think what fans of naughty nuns hope to find at a web-log titled "Love During Wartime."

Anyway, good news, folk. The good doctor and anti-pope is reportedly performing the traditional sacrifices even as we speak. Let the man speak for himself:

I am still among the living. I hope to fix the self-inflicted glitch I created on the blog server this weekend, goddess willing. Doubt it not, His Loveliness the Pope of the Seven Day Atheist Aztec Baptist Synod will return in fire and wrath (refreshed from his virtual sabbatical) to smite the heretic Bushites...

Ego Pater Omed. Da lifnei mi atah omed.

Dr. Omed with Crow
Your public awaits, mon frere. And more than a few nuns.

Pilgrimage to the Wichitas

It rained Monday morning. The rain washed most of the bug remains from my windshield.

Alexandria and I drove to the Wichita Mountains this past Saturday (12 March). It was a very pleasant trip, with a lady who I feel is sure to become a good friend. Part of my motivation in going to the Wichitas was to show Alexandria that Oklahoma is more than the flatness that seems to dominate the metro area. The other part of my motivation was to visit an area which Oklahoma's indigenous people considered sacred.

Prior to the American holocaust called the Trail of Tears, there were already Plains Indians living in Oklahoma. As has been explained to me, these plains people would consider any high place special, or sacred. A mountain, even one as modest as 2700 feet, would provide protection from winter winds, shade during the summer, and a means to survey the plains for game or potential enemies.

So, we drove south-west on I-44, a major portion of which is H.E. Bailey Turnpike. I had a state map, and had bought a compass especially for the trip. I took it on faith that exit signs would let me know when I was close to the Wichita Mountains. And I was right.

We got to Mount Scott with no problem. This is the tallest point in the Wichita range, at a little over 2700 feet. We drove most of the way up, and walked the last few yards to the look-out. Then we walked around the edge of the parking area at the top of the mountain. We found a little path to the side and wandered off onto the side of the mountain.

At this point, I rediscovered my acrophobia. I could sit on a boulder, but I couldn't stand on it. And I definitely could not look over the landscape without overpowering vertigo. Alexandria was both sympathetic and indulgent.

We went from Mount Scott to the Visitor's Center. There, several hiking paths were recommended. We chose the trail to Elk Mountain, which was reportedly about 2 miles each way, on a gentle incline up a 2400-foot mountain.

Well, I'm out of shape. I was huffing and puffing to keep up with Alexandria, who is in terrific shape. We weren't in a rush, though. We stopped a couple of time to clamber onto boulders (Alexandria clambered higher than me).

Alexandria found a boulder which had an area which formed a natural recliner, and sat down. I found a similar space, slightly above her. The temperature had gotten into the mid 70s by this point. This, combined with the exercise, got us plenty warm, so we appreciated the cooling wind.

When Alexandria first sat down on her natural lounge, it looked like there was only room for one. But she moved over after a few minutes and invited me to join her. We sat quite close, which felt very pleasant. My left arm was a slightly softer pillow for her head than the boulder. We looked out across the eastern horizon, and breathed in the wind.

The whole hike took us a couple of hours. Once back in the car, we shared snacks (Alexandria's were a little better than mine). We were about ready to head back to OKC, but were blocked in for a few minutes by a church bus.

A friend had suggested we stop by Meers on the way home. Meers is a little mining-camp town about six miles north of the Wichita Wildlife Refuge. I looked at my trusty state map, and it seemed simple enough: drive north on Scenic Highway 115, stop in Meers, continue north on 115, then go east on 19. It looked like Highway 19 would eventually connect with 277 north, which would then connect with the turnpike.

Wichita Wildlife Refuge & Meers vacinity

Click above for more pictures from our hike

Meers is an intersection. Well, the visible part is, anyway. Two restaurants, side by side. The one that had been recommended shared the town's name. Their specialty seemed to be burgers. So, we each ordered a variation on the “Meers Burger”. Alexandria learned that the burgers are made from longhorn beef, which is reportedly leaner than average. The “Meers Burger” tasted great, and is highly recommended — should you be in that part of the world.

We went on north from there, on Highway 115, which was indeed very scenic. There were many signs of spring coming — blossoming dogwoods, the occasional butterfly, and redbuds in bloom. Oh yeah: and all those bugs who got splattered on my windshield as we drove the back roads.

We turned east onto 19, and it suddenly occurred to me that this trip along Oklahoma's “Blue Highways” was especially appropriate, because the day was Jack Kerouac's birthday. Yep, he was born on March 12 in 1922.

This wasn't an episode of Route 66. I wasn't driving a convertible, I didn't casually slide my arm behind her shoulders. I didn't have a cigarette dangling from one side of my mouth. The only jazz playing was the wind whipping through the car.

But Jack was with us in spirit. We had the windows open and quiet smiles on our faces. We were relishing the journey more than the destination.

Looking back, I think I took a wrong turn at a junction of Highways 19, 277, and 58. The signs were a bit confusing, and I turned east to continue on Hwy 19 rather than staying on 277. In retrospect, I think I should have stayed on 277 which I believe would have ended up connecting with the turnpike soon enough.

Instead, according to the compass, we kept going south. South! When we wanted to go north!

This went on for another half hour or so. Finally, we pulled over, Alexandria consulted the map, and we agreed on a north-bound highway to follow.

We had one more detour after that, but we got home fine. Alexandria got to see thriving rural towns, as well as the ailing ones. It was fitting that she get the full picture.

I know it's generally a bad idea to compare the one you're with to someone from the past. But sometimes it's unavoidable. In this case, I couldn't help but think back on how Mary Ellen reacted whenever we got lost. She would panic. She would castigate my navigational skills. She rarely would suggest, however, that we consult a map or ask for directions.

Alexandria remained calm. She seemed to just enjoy the ride and the companionship. I really liked it when she said, “You know, it's better getting lost with a friend than it is getting lost by yourself.”

We got home about 8 o'clock. Tired, but refreshed and renewed.

If you make it home ok, were you ever really lost to begin with?

Pictures from our hike.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Quote d’jour

Friend, hope for truth while you are alive.
Jump into experience while you are alive!
What you call "salvation" belongs to the time before death.
If you don't break your ropes while you are alive,
do you thing ghosts will do it after?
— Kabir (Workman's Zen Calendar)

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Jonah Is Here

Jonah is humbled by god
Jonah is here
Jonah is conservative
Jonah is an article
Jonah is fiction
Jonah is turning 21
Jonah is inoperative
Jonah is coming
Jonah is here
Jonah is angry at god
Jonah is a freeware
Jonah is temporarily inoperative
Jonah is praying with his back to the audience
Jonah is on a physical journey
Jonah is the first
Jonah is a allegory
Jonah is a parable
Jonah is studying the lemurs and working to save their habitats
Jonah is on the shore
Jonah has ran away from god
Jonah is responsible for the storm
Jonah is very authentic
Jonah is available for download
Jonah is now very much on the move
Jonah is not an angry prophet
Jonah is a set of scripts
Jonah is still being sent stuffed animals
Jonah is clumsy
Jonah is a frightful mess
Jonah is back
Jonah is weeping in a good day or two
Jonah is a Midrash
Jonah is trying to runaway from his responsibilities
Jonah is your man
Jonah is reproved
Jonah is a friendly and caring Kiwi
Jonah is not a happy guy
Jonah is on a mission to Nineveh
Jonah is a Hungarian Jew
Adapted from a Googlism of my nom de blog

Monday, March 14, 2005

Idée d’jour

What I like in a good author isn't what he says, but what he whispers.
— Logan Pearsall Smith, essayist (1865-1946)

Friday, March 11, 2005

A Special Message from DJ

Don't end Social Security!

Friday's Cat

Click for larger image
Here, we see the special lady bravely guarding the south-east corner of the living room. She is standing on a DVD rack, and that's a speaker on her right.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Reading the Clouds

Clouds watching hammered streets as he sings by
He's like intimate watercolor fog in alleys
He's like tender cut glass on parking lot margins
He's bending toward Osiris' effigy
He's got daffodils growing in dreamscape

There's sunrise on her waterlilly hair
She's like whispered drink orders at midnight
She's like rumors of stained glass gallerys
She's kneeling at Isis' feet, sweet cousin,
She's got daffodils in her weary right hand

Clouds paint the whole sky Thursday grey
They're like hints of male-pattern baldness
They're like infinte concrete ribbons
They're bowing before each other
They've got daffodils burning in their hearts

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Snapshots ...

... from a week ago.

I'm still decompressing from the Educational Conference I attended in Kansas City, MO, a week ago. I've promised not to be as obsessive in recording my activities there as I was in detailing my annual trip to Winfield, KS, last September, but here's a few snapshots.
Early on, I was asked why I was there. And I talked about how I've taught a number of classes at church, and especially focused on the prayer classes I've done at St. Paul's. Someone asked why I chose that topic, and I said, "I'm trying to pass something on that was given to me. Much of what I'm doing is based on a series that was offered by Fr Spaine around the time I started attending church again." That bedrock of prayer has provided a foundation for everything that followed.
I take it as a given that I am an introvert. When I am with large groups of folk, especially if it's noisy, I tend to withdraw. I also tend to bond with someone friendly (typically a woman), who then becomes my sole society for the time I'm with the group.

It would have been easy to hide in this fashion during this conference. Maggie was very friendly, and we seemed to bond in the most platonic manner possible. It would have been easy to "puppydog" Maggie for the two and a half days of the conference. But, somehow I sensed this would not be fair to either of us.

So I made a conscious decision to meet new people. To sit at different tables every chance I got. I did end up returning to the same three or four people, but I always met new people in the process. I think it was surprisingly comfortable because we shared common interests. It was a treat to share ideas with these people, who treated me like an equal.

That's how I met the priest who had served in Newark, NJ, when John Spong was their bishop. He did not have kind words for the bishop; not because of the man's theology, but because Bishop Spong seemed more interested in promoting his books and ideas than in serving the diocese.

That's how I met Dawn, the sole African American at the conference. She is serving St Paul's Cathedral in downtown Detroit. Things are as bad there as ever.

That's how I met Judy S—, who attended seminary with Canon Joplin – Rev. Joplin is my favorite minister at the Cathedral. Small world, nu?

All this helped me feel at home. People listened to my ideas; they honored my thoughts. No wonder the time was energizing.
Saturday, when I was visiting with Rev. Yeager, she asked me what I thought my ministry was. At first, I responded with my customary response that I wasn't sure. Then, I told that story of passing on what I have received. Ultimately, as if out of the blue, I said, "I'd like to lead people to a deeper sense of prayer."

And, just like that, Sophia spoke my ministry for me.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Listening for a Theme

Has your life ever had a theme?

I don't mean a theme song. Many of us have a soundtrack which accompanies us through our day. I don't mean that. I mean a theme. A persistent word or phrase that pursues you for days, weeks, may be even months at a time.

Sometimes I do.

Often, this gets worked out in my poetry. In highschool, as I've mentioned before, a great deal of my poetry was soaked in "blood". The summer prior to highschool, I had walked in on someone after they had attempted to slit their wrists, so all that blood made sense.

In college, I got stuck on crows. Then Saturn.

You get the picture.

This time the theme began the first weekend of February. I was reading a synopsis of the Windsor Report (I've written more about the report under "Day One", here). The Windsor Report is, roughly, divided into three sections: where we've been, how we've come to this crisis, and how do we heal following the crisis. In the "where we've been section", the report seems to praise prophetic action. In the second section, the report seems to chide the US Episcopal Church for taking prophetic action too soon. I wondered, as I read this synopsis, what was the means by which one discerns the proper time for a prophetic action.

I've already talked about the meeting I attended which addressed the Windsor Report (as linked above). That meeting was held on February 12. The group did not address the question of discernment.

The next day was Sunday, and I was facilitating a discussion of The Brothers Karamazov. One of the questions I asked was "What is a
holy fool?" Many characters (notably the father) claim to be a holy fool; only one or two deserve the title. How does one tell the difference?


Around this same time, I started watching Wonderfalls: The Complete Viewer Collection. The main character is patterned on Joan of Arc, only the voices she hears seem to come from inanimate objects, and their directions are generally ambiguous at best. One of the questions this tv series directly addressed was whether "Jaye" was insane. I do hope to write more about Wonderfalls; but for the moment, let's rest with the question of how one tells whether the small voice one hears is divine, ego, or something else.


Incidentally, a couple of poems came out of this, both having to do with "the voice". Perhaps you remember them: "The Voice in the Dark" and "Loving the Voice".

That brings me to the conference on Adult Christian Education which I attended last week. That theme came up again as I attended various learning opportunities, keynote addresses, and visited with different people throughout the conference.


It was beginning to feel a little like a neon sign that was flashing just before my eyes:
*Discernment* *Discernment* *Discernment*

In the past when I've had a theme repeating in this manner, I've felt a little anxious. Like Jaye in the Wonderfalls series, I have occasionally questioned my sanity. After talking to a few others over the past few years, I've learned that I'm not alone. So this time, I did not feel anxious; I was just curious. Why this word, "Discernment", and why now?

Chaplains were available at the conference I attended, and I decided to take advantage of that opportunity. I met with Rev. Yeager after lunch on Saturday.

We had a good, long talk. In my sleep-deprived state, it seemed to go on forever. In retrospect, it seems like feelings and impressions from the past three years were just flowing out of me. I was moved to tears more than once as I shared.

The chaplain asked about my day job. She commiserated with the stress I experience due to a "peaks and valleys" work load, along with having a department head with a mercurial personality.

I don't remember how the question of ministry came up, but it did. I think Rev. Yeager brought it up first; but if I did, she immediately nodded her head. You'd think I'd remember this detail better, but — as I keep pointing out — I was sleep-deprived, and it was a week ago.

In the Episcopal Church the notion of "call" is two-sided: the person senses a call, and the community senses that the person has a call. There's a technical term for this.

You guessed it: discernment.

At the fitting time, the person works with their rector (in my case, the Dean of the Cathedral) to form a Discernment Committee. This is a group of people who work with the seeker to discern what their call is, and whether that call is to be manifested in the ordained ministry.

Does the community of St Paul's perceive that I have a call? Well, I was asked to attend this conference, which fact recognizes my gifts as educator. And I was elected to the vestry (i.e., "church council"), which recognizes my potential as a leader.

Rev. Yeager had three words of advice:
  1. See a Spiritual Director, or Spiritual Friend.
    Considering my tendency to be a lone wolf, and to try to work through these things on my own, this seems especially good advice.
  2. Ask the Dean about the nuts and bolts of the Cathedral's Discernment process.
  3. Contiue listening.
    She especially commended the practice of Contemplative Prayer, and recommended Thomas Keating's book Open Mind, Open Heart: The Contemplative Dimension of the Gospel.
So far, I've asked a respected elder to be my Spiritual Friend, and I've made an appointment with one of the Cathedral's Canons (a priest other than the Dean). Oddly, I still need to work on that prayer thing.

The word "discernment" still come up in odd places, but it doesn't seem to be flashing at me anymore. Now I can smile at it; it's become an interesting friend.

Idée d’jour

The important thing is to do, and nothing else; be what it may.
— Pablo Picasso

Friday, March 04, 2005

Friday's Cat

At the window
Watching the world go by....

Idée d’jour

The wonderful thing about Zen practice is that you get to do it whether you like it or not.
— Zen Saying (Workman's Zen Calendar)

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Lost on My Way Home

Kansas City Dawn
Click for larger image

I didn't get lost in Kansas City, for which I am grateful. As I say, this may not be a great accomplishment, since I chose not to leave the hotel — primarily because I was so interested in the subject matter (not because I was scared).

But I did get lost on the way home.

See, I had used MapQuest to get directions to Kansas City. And, I figured it would be as simple as writing the directions backwards to find my way back to OKC.


I got out of Kansas City, MO without a problem. I crossed the state line with no worries. Well, it was after dark, but I felt confident the MapQuest directions would get me home since they got me to Kansas City ok. I drove west on I-435, just like the directions indicated. The next sign I was looking for was I-70.

I saw a turn-off for I-35 South. I chose to stick with the directions. Still no I-70 turn-off. Now, it's after 7 o'clock Saturday night, I'm essentially sleep deprived, there's no sun to use for directions, and it's too cloudy to see the stars. So you can imagine my surprise when the signs started saying "I-435 East".

How the heck had I started going east? So far as my visual field was concerned, I'd been twisting and winding as much as I had en route to Kansas City. At no point was I aware that I had gone essentially in a circle. By the way, I later learned that I-435 loops Kansas City.

Well, I did the only sensible thing: I turned around. When I came back to that I-35 South exit, I took it. And I was home free from there.

Incidentally, I did buy a road atlas en route to Missouri. I bought one for the nation (the price was right) which had inset maps of major cities. But even this map didn't make clear that I-435 looped Kansas City.

I'm thinking I should buy Global Positioning System next.

Or at least a compass.

Oklahoma City morning
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Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Why Do You Weep?

I want to know why I wept for Phil.

Phil died on Friday, February 18. Phil was Sally's husband. I met Sally when I went to work for the Dean's Office in 1999. She came to be a good friend and confidant. She and Phil loved good music, and came out two or three times to hear Sarah and I perform. Phil was very supportive and enthusiastic.

I went to their house a few times, to teach their daughter Lindsey how to play the guitar. Phil would walk through the house, smile with twinkling eyes, and we'd exchange maybe five words.

Not exactly a profoundly deep relationship.

Yet, last Wednesday, when I asked the rosary group to pray for the repose of his soul, my voice cracked.

And I was weepy several days following.

When Phil married Sally, she had two children from a previous marriage: Lindsey and Robbie. Robbie was three when Phil and Sally married, so Phil was the only father he knew. And although Lindsey still had memories of her birth father, she still thought of Phil as “dad”.

Phil was a respected psychiatrist, who specialized in working with ex-convicts re-integrating into society. He was also diabetic. And an alcoholic.

Those last two can be a lethal combination. While Phil was working, he only had (at most) one drink a night. But when he retired, almost two years ago, his drinking increased.

Phil was not a violent drunk. So far as I know, he never raised a hand — or his voice — to Sally. But she could not endure watching the man she loved slowly kill himself, so she asked him to move out. Which he did, being a decent man.

Because she still cared for him, she would stop by his apartment about once a week to check up on him. Last Friday, she and Lindsey found him dead at his apartment.

Robbie took his death especially hard.

Those who have read this space attentively and on a regular basis are likely to draw some parallels.

Although Phil died sooner than Padre, it would be fair to say he committed a form of slow-motion suicide.

Robbie was a mirror of the grief I experienced when Padre died.
And, all this has come on the heels of my doing intense work (as part of the “Rosary” series which ran in early January) on my father. And that was being done around the anniversary of Padre’s death (he died one week after his 65th birthday).

Yes. Yes. That must be why I wept.

Idée d’jour

He that is the author of a war lets loose the whole contagion of hell and opens a vein that bleeds a nation to death.
— Thomas Paine, philosopher and writer (1737-1809)

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Idée d’jour

When we are not sure, we are alive.
— Graham Greene

He not busy being born is busy dying.
— Bob Dylan