Thursday, May 31, 2007

Idée d’jour

The sound of water says what I think.
— Chuang-Tzu

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Ideé d’jour

Butterfly listens
 at the flowerpot:
  true teaching.
— Issa

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Idée d’jour

Underground nuclear testing, defoliation of the rain forests, toxic waste ... Let's put it this way: if the world were a big apartment, we wouldn't get our deposit back.
— John Ross

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Muffin Joke

[Overheard at lunch]
Two muffins were baking in the oven. The first muffin said, “Gee, it's hot in here.”

The other muffin said, “EEEK! A talking muffin!”

Idée d’jour

Scripture says, “No one knows the Father but by the Son.” Therefore, if you want to know God, you must not only be like the Son, you must be the Son.
— Meister Eckhart

Friday, May 18, 2007

Friday Five: RevGal Meet-Up

As confirmed by the link in the left column, I am a lay member of the RevGal blog list. Last summer, this group officially incorporated as a non-profit organization. One of the goals of this group was to organize and fund a large-scale "meet-up". In this spirit, Songbird requests responses to the following five questions:
  1. What would the meeting be like?
    The model that immediately comes to mind is the “Nurturing Weekend” sponsored in my Diocese by our Christian Formation Commission. This event is intended as a retreat for people involved in Christian Ed/Formation throughout our Diocese (which encompasses the state).
       This event takes place over three nights and two days. It includes some of the elements mentioned by Songbird in her original question: slumber party, workshops, care and share, etc. For example, there is an on-site beauty consultant, a massage therapist, and craft opportunities. People also bring DVD's to share following dinner, in true slumber party fashion.
        In lieu of a key note speaker, there has been a chaplain who offers a number of meditations throughout the weekend on a central theme (more on this below).

  2. When in 2008 might you be able to attend?
    July or August would be best for my work schedule.

  3. Where would your dream meeting location be?
    Far from the madding crowd. New Mexico sounds appealing. Our Diocese (Oklahoma) just happens to have a pair of rural retreat centers that I can heartily recommend.....

  4. Who would make a great keynote speaker?
    I join my voice with those who recommend Rev. Atkinson, aka Real Live Preacher. Other names that come to mind are Fr. Jake, and Mother Sarah Dylan. None of these people are, to my knowledge, members of the RevGal group; yet all of them are supportive of women in the ministry.
       In the chaplain model I mention above, the chaplain announces the theme the first evening, then gives a brief (20-30 minute) meditation on this theme. My memory is there are two mediations per day - one in the morning, and one in the evening.

  5. Did I leave out something you want to suggest?
    Since our group is international in scope, and some may not be able to attend, I suggest we be intentional in including them in some fashion. A dedicated chatroom immediately comes to mind. We might have a space and computer/lap top dedicated to a chatroom where local participants could chat with those unable to attend due to distance or economy.
       Which raises the issue of scholarships. Are there currently funds available to assist those of limited means? If so, who will decide the disbursements of those scholarships?
       Finally, do not neglect times of corporate worship. Perhaps different orders have daily worship could be selected from each of our representative denominations.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Jerry Falwell, RIP

Jerry Falwell, founder of the infamous Moral Majority, died Tuesday afternoon. He died at the age of 73, which is relatively young. The latest reports have not detailed the cause of death, although the on-line Guardian Unlimited quotes his doctor as saying Rev. Falwell had a history of heart problems.

Photographs of Rev. Falwell suggest he had a weight problem. So a heart attack may have been a natural outcome of various life-style choices. Or to paraphrase an infamous comment Rev. Falwell made on Sept. 14, 2001, his death was a sign of God's judgement on those who do not honor their body as a temple of the Holy Spirit.

Here's what Rev. Falwell said: "I really believe that the pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America; I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped this happen.' "

He said this on Pat Robertson's TV program, The 700 Club; both men seemed to agree the attacks were a sign of God's judgement on a "secularized" America.

Yesterday evening, NPR's All Things Considered interviewed Paul Weyreich, who had co-founded the Moral Majority with Falwell. Mr. Weyreich described the late Rev. Falwell as a man who showed compassion to those with "alternate lifestyles" (code for gays). Mr. Weyreich's estimation suggests the late preacher was able to "hate the sin, but love the sinner".

You sure wouldn't think so based on Rev. Falwell's pronouncements concerning homosexuals. For example: "AIDS is the wrath of a just God against homosexuals." In other words, in his view, it was not enough that gays burn in hell; they had to suffer extended agonizing deaths as well.

In brief, Rev. Falwell gave Christians a bad name. Any time I say I'm a Christian, I'm tempted to say I'm not the same sort of Christian that Falwell was, or that Pat Robertson is.

It's easy to judge people who act or believe differently than I do. I struggle against judging the late Rev. Falwell, against picturing him enduring the eternal punishments he would have wished on others.

Problem is, I proclaim myself a hypocrite the moment I make that judgement. The late Rev. Falwell deserves as much compassion as anyone else. Jesus might have called him "a white-washed tomb", as he did certain judgmental religious leaders of his own time. But, I suspect, Christ would accept Jerry Falwell into the Kingdom of Heaven.

That's assuming, of course, that Falwell was willing to enter once he learned that Heaven was full of gays, lesbians, transgendered individuals, ACLU members, and Democrats.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Rose for all the mothers

This rose is for all the mothers
whose sons will not come home
from the war.
This is a rose for the mothers
whose sons will lose their limbs.
This rose is for the mothers
whose daughters learn to kill,
whose daughters close their wombs
because of the blood they've shed.
This is a rose for the mothers
who want to forget vengeance
and seek to learn forgiveness.
This rose is for the mothers
whose daughters have lost husbands,
whose husbands are torn by shrapnel,
by nightmare murders, by broken speech.
This is a rose for the mothers
who would study peace and compassion;
who refuse to study war.
This rose is for the mothers
who close their ears
to murderous lies.
This rose is for you.
This rose is for you,
pray to practice the beautiful path.
Pray to study peace.
Pray to walk with compassion.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Friday Five: Potato, Po-tah-to Edition

This week's polarizing theme suggested by Reverend Mother.
  1. Mac or PC?
    While I'm well aware that this is a profound theological question, my choice was determined by environment. Somewhat like my initial "choice" to be a Christian.
       The first computer I used at work was an "IBM clone." Shortly after, I took a series of classes at the local Vo-Tech, also PCs. When we could afford to buy our own computer, PC made sense for the simple reason that my former wife and I were already familiar with it.

  2. Pizza: Chicago style luscious hearty goodness, or New York floppy and flaccid?
    Afraid this choice is quite capricious. Sometimes I want thick crust, sometimes I prefer thin. Past few times I've bought frozen pizza, it's been doughy.

  3. Brownies/fudge containing nuts:
    There are pure fudge brownies, solid fudge that has the effect of mainlining. It is an offense to the Lord of Chocolate to add anything to this type of brownie.
        Then there are "cake" style brownies. These are less intense than pure fudge brownies. Depending on the consistency of the cake (I prefer a little fluff), some chopped nuts can add a pleasing textural note.

  4. Do you hang your toilet paper so that the "tail" hangs flush with the wall, or over the top of the roll like normal people do?
    The tail must be closer to the toilet than to the wall. Therefore, over the top.
       The additional challenge is the fact that the roll is directly above the air conditioning vent. The loose end flaps when the system cycles on, making a very attractive target for her Royal Catness. She doesn't shred the paper; she simply unspools a significant portion of the roll.
       Thus, the loose flap must be on top of the roll. That is, if I prefer not to re-roll the spool every few days.

  5. Toothpaste: Do you squeeze the tube wantonly in the middle, or squeeze from the bottom and flatten as you go just like the tube instructs?
    Bottom, and roll it up, of course. This is not mindless fealty to the instructions, mind you, but a matter of practical economy.
       At least, that's my reasoning. My former wife always squeezed from the middle. I finally had to ignore it in order to protect my sanity.
Bonus: Share your favorite either/or.
Work or Play: Play wins (as current behavior proves).
Life or Death: I've become so enamored of the phrase "Life delights in life" that I'm convinced I stole it from William Blake
Poetry or Prose: Both
Beatles or Elvis (c.f. Pulp Fiction): Beatles.
Rolling Stones or Beatles: I lean a little more toward the Beatles, but I like them both (prefer early Stones, before Brian died).

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Dr. Omed Lives

Dateline: Tulsa, OK
Dr. Omed is alive, well, and continuing his ministry. As you'll see via the link, TVRR Doctor recently officiated at a wedding. Thanks to the miracle of the internet, Dr. O is an ordained minister, and may officiate at weddings. Recognized by the state, and everything.

I wish I had known about the wedding, as I have met the couple. The gentleman on the right of the picture is Randy, a fantastic mandolin player. We are the traditional live entertainment at Dr. Omed's annual Winter Solstice gathering.

Idée d’jour

If one could understand a flower as it has its being in God — this would be a higher thing than the whole world!
— Meister Eckhart

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

A New Bishop for Oklahoma

I'm taking a brief break in sharing my travel photos at Jonah 365 in order to share something more recent: a picture from a historic occasion. This is the scene from the election of a new Bishop for the Episcopal Church in Oklahoma.

It is historic for a number of reasons, but primarily because the Bishop was elected on the first ballot. Our current bishop, Robert Moody, was also elected on the first ballot - 20 years ago. At that time, he was the seventh bishop in the Episcopal Church to be elected on the first ballot. I'm sure there have been one or two others in the past 20 years, but I doubt there were many.

Everyone I spoke to express surprise concerning the first ballot election. First, there was a slate of six well-qualified candidates, three of whom were natives of Oklahoma (only one of which is still resident in Oklahoma). Second, there are the issues which are supposedly tearing our communion apart - issues having to do, primarily, with human sexuality.

I had expected this division to be reflected in the election results. All of the candidates pledged to uphold current policy (no ordinations of homosexuals, no same-sex weddings or blessings). None expressed an opinion that the policy should be different. One or two, however, expressed an interpretation of Scripture which would put them in the conservative camp.

One, whose brother was gay, and had died of AIDS, was especially sympathetic to a "progressive" view.

Another candidate was rumored to be involved with the "Anglican Communion Network", which supports a "literal" interpretation of scripture and supports crossing of Diocesean borders by foreign bishops. The candidate in question denies any link to the "Network", but there are hints in his profile that he is sympathetic to their cause.

Given these factors, it was a great blessing to elect someone on the first ballot.

Oklahoma's bishop-elect is the Rev. Dr. Edward J. Konieczny (kun NYETZ nee). I have heard positive reports on "Father Ed" which suggest he has the gifts of humility, compassion, and loving assertive leadership.

Idée d’jour

Never eat more than you can lift.
— Miss Piggy, a character in the The Muppet Show

Monday, May 07, 2007

Idée d’jour

I think all religions are trying to approach the same mystery, and that there are different religions for the same reason that there are different cuisines.... What I find interesting, though, is that religions always tell stories. Religions always have characters and the characters tell tales.... So that's what's interesting about people with religious faith — they interpret life through a story.
– Yann Martel, from interview with Shambahla Sun, May 2007, 26

Tornado Season

It’s tornado season.  As a TV junkie, to me this means most network programming will be pre-empted by local weathermen.  Like political parties, TV stations have discovered the way to keep you glued to their station is to scare you: “Our new Doppler system will tell us when the twister is knocking on your door!  Stay tuned!”

In my case, these fear tactics generate a response similar to the towns’ people to the boy who cried wolf.  I am, in a word, cynical.  I won’t worry until I hear tornado sirens.

The quiet suburban  neighborhood I live in is far from traditional tornado paths.  The infamous May 3rd tornado of 1999 did not come significantly close to this area.  Tornadoes this weekend, along the Texas panhandle, and in southern Kansas, were significant distances from Oklahoma City, which is almost dead center of the state.

There were a number of tornado warnings last night.  The closest I’m aware of was near Wolf, which is almost 70 miles southeast of OKC.  As I say, I’ve gotten skeptical of the constant barrage of mostly redundant information provided by local TV.  I’ve chosen to wait for the sirens. 

Once I hear the sirens, then I turn on the TV to see how close the system is. Otherwise, I refuse to get caught up in their manipulation.

I almost turned on the tube early this morning, even though there were no sirens. I became aware of repeated lightening strikes a bit before 3 a.m. It was a major lightshow, and one could barely say "one Mississippi" between the flash of the lightening and the thunder. This told me the system was quite near.

I wasn't afraid, really, but DJ was. She ran from window to window meowing. She did her own form of feline storm tracking.

Try sleeping through thunder and meowing. It's an effective alarm system. However, I was still groggy enough to lack the inertia to get out of bed.

Happily, DJ and I survived. By the time I got up (around 6), there was only a shallow stream of water down the middle of the street; the water in the gutter was only about three inches deep. Easily passable.

Coworkers' yards flooded. One lives just a mile or so north of me; the other lives several miles south. So, I count myself lucky.

And we're all lucky compared to the people of Greensburg, KS.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Idée d’jour

What sane person could live in this world and not be crazy?
— Ursula K. Le Guin, author (1929- )

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Interview, Part One

I'm borrowing questions asked of Reverend Mother by Mindy. I've requested personalized questions, and will post those when and if received.
  1. What is your favorite word?
    Dance, and variations thereof. It has become one of "fall back" words in recent poems; therefore, I'm doing my best to avoid it.

  2. If there was a movie made of your life, who would play you?
    Michael Gross. This is sort of obvious type casting, as a number of people have told me I resemble him. Mr. Gross is best known for his role as the father in "Family Ties". He's also played a father in recent episodes of "How I Met Your Mother".

    I am not a father, though I was a step-father. I do not currently play a father, even on the blogosphere. I am, however, a decent "Dutch Uncle".

    Mr. Gross is about 10 years older than I am, and seems to be losing hair in ways similar to myself. So, recent publicity shots may give me a clue as to how I'll look in 8 or 9 years.

  3. Paper or plastic and why?
    This is a theological question more potent than the current controversy over human sexuality.

    It's been a really long time since I've been given a choice. Most of the time, the grocery store gives me plastic, while the health food store gives me paper.

    Paper is - generally - recyclable. Both are reusable. I keep a stock-pile of plastic bags which I use primarily for trash can liners. Large paper bags are among my cat's favorite toys.

    Once she has gotten finished with those paper bags, they are especially ready for recycling.

    I don't know if there is a net gain from recycling paper. That is to say, does the benefit of recycling my paper bag outweigh the environmental impact of pollution produced by the recycling plant? Is that a fair trade-off to reducing land fill use?

    My gut feeling is recycling is superior overall to the negative impact of plastic. So, when given a choice, I request paper.

  4. If you could be on a reality TV show, which show would you want to be on and why?
    The question assumes I would want to be on a reality TV show. Since I think so-called reality TV is symbolic of the collapse of Western Culture, I would not be inclined to implicitly endorse it by being on such a show.

    If I had to be on a reality show, I guess it would be "American Idol" - assuming they loosened the age restriction.

  5. What would be your super hero talent?
    My impulse response was "flying", but that's a talent I would like to have. What if talents I already possess were magnified in some way, such that they were considered "super powers"?

    In that case, ability to charm with my voice (words, speaking, singing) would be one. That's the gift of Orpheus.

    The other would be the capacity to retain vast amounts of basically useless trivia. Super Nerd!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Can We Agree?

Rev. Sarah Dylan has posted a list intended to find common ground between "reasserters" (sometimes called "conservatives") and progressives within the Episcopal Church. It seems she believes real communication is most likely to occur if we begin our discussion with points we can agree on.
  • Jesus is Lord.

  • Jesus and the God who created the universe are one.

  • The Old and New Testaments were inspired by God, and are useful for teaching and Christian formation (a la 2 Timothy 3:16-17).

  • Jesus of Nazareth was an actual historical person who was born of Mary, gathered disciples and taught, healed, and confronted evil powers in ministry [to]the first-century Roman province of Palestine, and was crucified under Pontius Pilate's authority.

  • Jesus of Nazareth was and is the Christ of God.

  • The God of Israel raised Jesus of Nazareth from the dead.

  • Jesus' disciples met the risen Jesus — some had visions, some corporeal encounters (though Jesus' body was different in some ways — e.g., he didn't seem to need doors to be opened or unlocked to get into a room), but in all cases reported in the New Testament it was Jesus they met.

  • The list of canonical books in the New Testament is a good one. There is no non-canonical gospel that I would have liked to see in the canon, and no book currently in the canon that I'd exclude if I could.

  • The kingdom of God was inaugurated in Jesus' ministry, and that Jesus will come again to realize fully his work among us.

  • The God of Israel has chosen Jesus, the Christ, as judge of the nations.

  • Jesus is really present in the sacrament of the Eucharist.

  • Jesus is really present wherever people gather in his name.
I interpret Dylan's question as being, "What do *you* agree with?" rather than, "What do you think *everyone* can agree with?" The only question I can answer meaningfully, at any rate, is the former.

I agree with almost everything on this list. Like many others (on both sides), I see some challenges in defining phrases such as "Jesus is Lord".

Is it necessary to agree on definitions? Many on both sides have said we *do* need to agree on definitions; meaning, of course, that we must agree on their definitions.

I am reminded, however, of the Elizabethan compromise regarding the nature of the Eucharist. When confronted with two seemingly opposing views, the solution was to say "both".

What I mean to suggest is that unity may occur through agreeing on certain points, so long as definitions are kept as broad as possible (or totally ambiguous). We can agree on the phrase "Jesus is Lord" so long as the implications of what that phrase means are left up to each individual.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Dr. Pierce's Golden Pills

Doc Pierce's Barn
Lilly of the valley sky
where clouds breach
over burned furrows.

My sister has just arrived,
wearing an empire dress.
Her face is sun-burned.

Her hands are idle.
Coquettish clouds halo her hair.
Her eyes are on the barn.

It looks like rain, but rain
won't spoil the dance.
Wind blows from the southeast.

Sister has brought
Dr. Pierce's golden liver pills.
She says they're not fake.

We'll be off
to the green-roofed barn
just after sunset.
Written in response to this challenge.

Commission Report Reflects on Iraq Policy

Interesting news out of Israel yesterday:  the government-appointed Winograd Commission released a preliminary report criticizing Prime Minister Olmert’s decision to enter into a full-blown war against Hezbollah following a Hezbollah raid last July (see NPR article).
Among the commission’s criticisms:
  • failed to adequately assess the Israel Defense Forces' war-readiness

  • did not have a clear exit strategy;

  • did not consider alternatives to a full-scale conflict; and

  • outlined unattainable goals;

  • all of which "add up to a serious failure in exercising judgment, responsibility and caution"
It seems to me a similar report could be issued regarding Pres. B*sh’s decision to invade Iraq.  All that would need to change are the proper nouns.

To whit:
  • The Administration did not assess whether our military had sufficient forces to launch attacks on two fronts while maintaining a presence in Europe, South Korea, and elsewhere around the world. This failure of planning has lead to the need to divert the National Guard to a foreign conflict, and to institute stop-loss measures across all branches of the military.

  • The lack of an exit strategy becomes clear as one examines the shifting reasons given for invasion. In other words, how can one exit when one has not clearly defined what constitutes the end goal?
        It seems to me that, if "Democracy" were the true goal, the Administration could have declared victory shortly after the first round of elections.
        We are now in the odd position of trying to support a predominantly Shiite government - hardly the electoral outcome we were banking on.

  • The Administration chose to invade Iraq just as it seemed that the combination of diplomacy and the threat of invasion were working.

  • Establishing Western-style Democracy in Iraq has long been the stated goal for invading Iraq (once it was clear there was no need for a "pre-emptive" strike). Anyone familiar with the history of the Mideast in general, and of Iraq specifically, would recognize this was (at least) an unrealistic goal. It's very likely unattainable as well.
As with the Omert's full-scale strike against Hezbollah, this policy reveals "a serious failure in exercising judgment, responsibility and caution."

As I have suggested before, this Administration has offered aid and comfort to the enemy. Weapons being used against our forces are from stockpiles we failed to guard following the invasion. The invasion and occupation of Iraq has proven to be an excellent recruiting tool for al Queda and similar radical movements.

Surely, providing aid and comfort to the enemy is an impeachable offense!

My Time Behind Rock-Star Shades

I was a rock star Sunday morning, ever so briefly.

This past Sunday was the 7th Annual Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. This is among the annual events that commemorate the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. The organizers have local bands perform at different spots along the course to entertain runners, spectators, and volunteers.

Now, Ben and I have been working on an acoustic set since late last year and have actually had a gig. I got an email from Ben while I was visiting Brother Dave, asking if I was interested in doing music for the marathon. I’m the first to admit to being a ham, so I eagerly agreed.

However, by the time I responded, the Ben’s concept had shifted. He had also contacted a group he does rock music with – The Space Heaters – and asked if they were available and interested. The regular rhythm guitarist was out of pocket, so I stood in for him. I don’t know that many could hear my non-amplified (but miked) guitar over everything else, but strumming gave me something to do when I wasn’t singing.

We were told to be at the site – about six blocks from the finish line – around 6:30 a.m. Runners were expected to be coming around the spot around 7:30. Now, I’m an early bird – but even I think 6:30 a.m. is rather early.

It took at least 20 minutes for bleary-eyed musicians to agree on where to set up the gear. Then, about 30 minutes to set up. By the time we had set up, the first runner came by. So, that hour for set up was a good idea.

We played mostly oldies: Great Balls of Fire, Like a Rolling Stone, Lucille, and Fortunate Son. I sang lead on Mr. Tambourine Man and All Along the Watchtower. We hadn’t rehearsed the latter; it’s something I played to cover while the lead guitarist replaced a broken string. Since “Watchtower” is basically 2-3 chords (simplest way to play it is with Am and F), it was a good filler. I also filled time by playing harmonica between each of the three verses.

Guess I did OK. When we were done, Ben said, “We’re definitely adding that one to the set list.”

We did a couple more songs, then it was time for me to sing The Mighty Quinn. I started to tear into it – like Dylan did at the Isle of Wight concert – and suddenly, my mind went blank. For the life of me, I could not remember the first verse.

Next thing we knew, the power was gone.

Did I mention that the site was a car dealership? Specifically, a Jaguar dealership? Did I mention that no one met us to tell us where we could plug in?

There two outlets outside the display room, and we had plugged into one of those. Hard to believe we had blown a fuse. Surely, a Jaguar dealership can afford to pay it’s electric bill.

Anyway, that was my brief moment as a rock star. It was fun, and I hope I can do it again.

Idée d’jour

If you devote your life to seeking revenge, first dig two graves.
— Confucius, philosopher and teacher (c. 551-478 BCE)