"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Paul to the persecuted at Philippi (2:5-11)

29 December 2012

Stuff to read

My stocking, like so many of yours no doubt did, included an Amazon gift card this year.  Now, I think gift cards are impersonal and lacking in thoughtful creativity, but when it comes to books, I'm happy enough to receive.   So I'm contentedly mulling over how to spend ye olde gift card, courtesy of my mom.

So I thought to ask you, dear readers, what should I read?  Fun stuff especially, as I've gone through a number of novels this year without finding more than a couple worth finishing.  You're welcome, of course, to post anything from "brain candy" to a healthy mental main course.

And since several of you are no doubt in the same boat, here are a few books I've read in the past year or two that are worth passing along for your consideration:

North of the DMZ: It's a little dated now but a classic text of modern North Korea.  I've been reading one or two brief sections before I go to bed in the evenings, which has occasionally made for some funky dreams that I'm actually IN North Korea (on vacation, in the snow, and they took my passport and kept it.  Seriously.) 

There are several good books out right now on North Korea, but a lot more of what is coming out has a poor signal to noise ratio.  The problem with North Korea being so much in the news these days is that everyone feels the need to publish something, which makes the good books a little harder to find among the rubbish.

New Testament in Antiquity: I have finally found an introductory New Testament textbook that I like.  I'm looking forward to teaching from it next semester.  Again, textbooks are another area with a poor signal to noise ratio.  The average reader is probably not in the market for a textbook, but this one is worth having on the shelves, for those of us who have a geeky side.

I'm frustrated that I can't remember the title of the novel I read while I was in Alaska this summer.  I picked it up at a local bookshop there and read it so intently that I was finished with it in time to pass it along to another book seller once I got to Anchorage.  She was interested in the book, so I gave it to her.  Rats that I can't remember the title because it was good... the life story of a fictional but not far-fetched woman captured in Africa and taken for a slave in the US.  The writer was listed as a "best new writer of 2011" or some simliar award.  Rats and rats that I can't recall it.

**Later addition: I found the book.  It's Someone Knows My Name. I think I'll toddle off to Amazon now and see if the author wrote anything more.**

Trying to google whatever that book was brought up Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl which I read many years ago and still have on my shelves and is a very worthy read indeed.

I've also been reading through Our Little Korean Cousin and if you find the title condesending you should probably avoid it.  If you can mentally file the title as dated and quaint, then its an interesting image not only of Korea at the end of the Choseon Dynasty but also of how western eyes saw anything foreign.  Yes, its condescending.  It is also quaint.  And its free on Amazon for Kindle.

But another interesting portrait in time of Korea is Korea: A Walk Through the Land of Miracles which was written in teh 1980's and Korea's come a long way since.  Still its an image of that time of transition from war-torn third world to the globe's eleventh largest economy. 

So what should I read next?  Fifty dollars, free shipping... how to go about enjoying the bounty?

20 December 2012

Some things you just can't legislate

Okay, let me say at the outset that I don't have a horse in the gun-control race.  I have friends and loved ones on both sides and my personal, individual status with regard to gun ownership has nothing to do with what I think of public policy in regard to the same.

In other words, its not about gun control.

The fact of the matter is, if a crazy man wants to kill you enough that he's willing to die trying, the government will not be able to save you.

What happened last week in Newtown CT would not be reversed by adding new laws on the books.  No criminal thinks to himself "I'd really like to commit murder, but guns are illegal, so maybe I'll just go out for a beer, provided I'm over 21, and rethink it."  Murder is illegal already.  If criminals cared about obeying the law, they wouldn't be criminals.

You can't legislate people into sanity.
And you can't legislate people into compassion.
And you can't legislate away Genesis 3.

We have the same problem with welfare, health care, airport "security"  and social programs of all sorts.  The government tries to help by legislation, and in doing so removes the compassionate individual just a little farther from being able to be part of the solution.

What happened last Friday is horrific and the people involved will carry it for the rest of their lives.  But no legislation can ever stop it. 

The problem is not one of government action or inaction, but one of the heart.
It is a credibility problem when our president says we are failing to care for and protect our nation's children when he has repeatedly gone on record saying that he supports the organized and systematic murder of children in utero.
Its a heart problem. (Abortion won't be legislated away either, not really.... even if we did cover it under our existing murder laws.)
Its a credibility problem when everyone who has a pet issue emerges from the woodwork to use this tragedy to gain attention for their projects before a week is even over.
Again, a heart problem.
Its a wisdom problem when we try to pass laws on the already law abiding gun owners to try to reduce criminal actions by those who have no regard for the law... instead of asking as a community how we can better engage the needs of our local schools, our suffering neighbors, person to person.
A heart problem.
Its a heart problem when we think that brutality can't happen to us, when we hold it with such a deep conviction that when evil does emerge we are shaken, as if the evil had not been part of every era of history all along, as if this horror is something new and unshared across time and space.

Part of the heart problem lies in American "exceptionalism"... this Protestant idea that God has particularly blessed America and protected her.  We shudder because as a culture we believe our nation is special because of its supposed works righteousness, the percentage of the founding fathers that gave some degree of lip service to God, the Pilgims and the Great Awakenings, and almost two centuries of isolationism.  Now when our works fail, we think the works-happy God has removed his exceptionalism, and all sorts of blasphemy and heresy ensues from otherwise respected protestant teachers (and also the wackos out there... yeah, I'm looking at you Westboro Baptist) and suddenly the heart problem is that many otherwise dear Christian people begin to think we somehow deserved this.

And the same dear Christian people turn just as much to legislation as do the gun-controllers, gun encouragers, mental health advocates, and compulsory educationalists... only the drums they beat are different timbres.  Legislate piety, put God back in the schools, say the Pledge with "god" getting the nod.

Same song, different verse.

I'm reminded of God's word to ancient Israel: Egypt won't save you.  Allies won't save you.  Governments won't save you.  You cannot stop sin with an alliance, a law, a government. 

Its a heart problem.


In a related thought, that's the Gospel, isn't it.  That Jesus comes in the midst of our heart problems, our social problems, our brutishness, our sin, our occupying and oppressing governments, our rebellion, our messiness... and puts down the mighty from their seats and exalts the humble and meek.

He comes and turns the world upside down, bringing light in darkness, life out of death, dying for us "while we were yet sinners"... filling the hungry ones with good things and sending the rich away empty.

This is the world to which Jesus came.  A broken, Genesis 3 world, a darkness so deep the human mind cannot fathom it, pierced by a single light.  To show the strength of his arm, and to scatter the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

That not one stone in our own temples of self righteous idolaty be left on another.  That our world be wholly upended.  In order to put things in right order and solve our heart problems.

29 November 2012

On teaching history

When my first was in early elementary school, people gave him strange looks because he knew things that weren't in the ordinary elementary history curriculum. First grade, for the classical model schooling experience, means ancient history for little kids. So my little guy knew about the ancient Assyrians and Babylonians and Canaanites(get it? The ABC's of Ancient Mesopotamia) and Egyptians and Greeks and Romans. That knowledge became less impressive as he grew older. Never having been overly enthusiastic about these things (though tolerably so), his liking for history slowly faded as he grew older and a single encounter with a difficult teacher was pretty much the end of it. Bummer.

Now, tenth grade, he's back on the ancients. Assessment: well its better than last year, modern history with the difficult teacher.

Second Assessment: Homer. Meh.

My eldest at the Palace of Knossos

I am teaching, at three vastly different levels, ancient history to all three boys this year.  The middle child, off of whom history seems to bounce as if he were made of some sort of intellectual teflon (the fate being shared by handwriting lessons as well) needed the review.  He had pretty much forgotten everything from the previous cycle. 

But this year he gets to take his ancient history online so his assessment is: well, I get to use a computer.  That's cool. 

Secondary Assessment: when do we get to where gunpowder and rockets were invented?

Its all brand new for the third child.  And he's the embodiment of why classical homeschoolers start teaching this stuff in first grade.  The idea is that they learn some, then cycle back a few years later and dig deeper, and then when they get to the really hard stuff the concepts will all be old hat, so they can dig more deeply still.  Read a kiddie version of Canterbury tales in second grade, a more advanced version in sixth, and by high school the complex language won't matter amid the familiar story.

But really, I think it may also be about harnessing the enthusiasm of a seven year old. 

We started studying ancient Crete today.  Seven year old thinks the very concept of bull jumping is hysterical.  What if the bull killed you?  What if you landed on your butt?  They practiced by jumping over smaller animals? Goats? that's silly.  How about chickens? I can do a sommersault and a cartwheel.  Wanna see? Right NOW????

We played, coincidentally, the Lego Minotaur game tonight for bedtime games.  What's a Minotaur?  Did the Minotaur really eat people?  Could the Minotaur knock down walls?  Roar!

There was a lot of roaring.

His assessment of ancient history: Minotaur! Roar!

Secondary assessment: Assyrians were tough! Cool!  Roar!

Maybe history would be more interesting if it were more about "Roar" and less about "Homer. Meh."  All three kids encounter the Greek Minotaur legend this year.  Don't be alarmed if you hear my kids roar.

19 November 2012

Black Friday

I am wondering how to redeem the Black Friday phenomenon in our culture. I'd think that such a huge gathering of people lined up in annual pilgrimage to pay homage to the gods of WalMart, China, Apple, and their ilk... that this would be an opportunity to be countercultural, to preach a different message, possibly transcending words. I guess its too late in the season to organize a movement, but there's always next year. Maybe we could band together to give something away. Or to serve folks, push their carts, load their cars for them, bag their baggage. Or maybe we could have a ministry fair in the WalMart parking lot where the masses could see and adopt Compassion children, donate to food banks, pick up a few packages of warm woolies for the homeless ministries. Wouldn't it be cool if WalMart had less of a run on GameBoys and more of a run on scarves, hats and socks?

I am, of course, boycotting China again this Advent. I try to not buy much Chinese plastic during the year, but Advent is an all out ban for me. I'm also considering boycotting chocolate, though that may be just me --not buying chocolate for me or eating any-- and not boycotting it in my gift giving, since I have kids.

As an aside, for those of you who say "why chocolate?" The vast majority of chocolate in the world (Fair Trade offerings being the exception) are made by the labors of exploited and even enslaved children. Every time you enjoy that Hershey bar, you're encouraging slave labor. Not so sweet.

Advent, in the Eastern Church, is seen as a lesser Lent, a time to repent and get ready for the great works that Christ has done for us in the Incarnation and the Resurrection (and all points between, before, and after). Of course in our culture its the opposite, party and buy. A month of gluttony and greed.

How about buying local, giving handmade gifts when you can, keeping Christmas small and meaningful, and saving the party-season for the Twelve Day Festival of the Incarnation, instead of jumping the gun and skipping the real reason for the Advent/Lesser Lent season.

16 November 2012

Secrets to Happiness

The secrets to happiness that occurred to me in the grocery store today, as I dropped by to pick up a gallon of milk on the way home:

1. Take life exactly at the speed it comes to you, never faster.

2. Like everyone unless and until they give you a very good reason not to. My dad always said that "95% of the people in this world are good people."

3. Explore often.

I'm not always good at those things, but there they are. Wondering what secrets to happiness you all might add. I guess its kind of like having a rule of life (Pray, Work, Study) but more Tao (watch the river go by, always changing, always the same.) Oh well, I don't mean to be theological, just "hey, these are good ideas." So there they are.

And I do like most people. I think just about everyone I've ever met is pretty cool, at least in some way or another. And I'm not always good at taking life at the speed it arrives. I get impatient mostly. And I do like to explore, though I get timid when I don't want to be sometimes.

So I guess I'm not good at my own advice.

But my dad had another saying... "Do as I say, not as I do."

08 November 2012

More (probably stupid) thoughts on racism...

A friend (and the youth minister for my teen's youth group) posted an article on facebook today in which a bunch of teens were saying all manner of ignorant, racist, and rather inarticulate things about the re-election of Barack Obama to the White House.  I posted back to her this:

 Americans are so weird about race. We're afraid to mention it. We want to say it doesn't matter. We have "white guilt" and we forget that there are other races than just black and white.... race does matter but not in the ways we want to think it does. It matters in the wonderful scope of human cultures and foods and stories we can enjoy and explore. It matters in the sheer fun of foreignness. It matters in who, statistically, gets what diseases and to my cocky littlest kid who thinks its funny that he doesn't sunburn as easily as his white-boy older brothers. It does not matter in who makes a good president, employee, neighbor or friend. I just fail to see how our country misses that memo.

Most people responded that they were "heartsick" or otherwise saddened by the post.  (To clarify, she posted this to show the state race relations among those who are young enough to know better, rather than having been indoctrinated into the racism of the past.  She was not endorsing the racism, rather she was pointing out that it still exists.)

And the more I got to thinking about her post, the more I want to say: "of course racism still exists!"

Racism in America is no longer cool. 

That's a good thing.

But because racism has gone so rapidly from being a social norm to a social stigma, we've not had a chance as a culture to process out our real thoughts.  We've had institutions, people, society and such all jumping at the chance to re-educate our racist selves, whether or not we actually are racists, without regard to the fact that real racists won't respond to this sort of re-education.  In short, we've not eradicated racism so much as driven it underground.

And so it is no longer kosher to notice race.

And so it is no longer kosher to say "how cool! You're different!"

And so it is no longer kosher to ask "what is it like to be you?"

And it is no longer kosher to wonder "what is out there that is new, exciting, foreign to my worldview?"

Its probably no longer kosher to say "kosher" because it might be offensive to Jews.  Or liberals.  Or the politically correct thought police.

Because we've come to express equality as sameness.

And it becomes scary to wonder about difference.

And because we've made race a no-man's land...

and so thoughts are thought in isolation.

And there is no safe place to ask innocent questions, make mistakes, step unknowingly on toes, and learn something in the process.

And every Tom, Dick, and Harry, and Jane, is subjected to anti-racism training whether they want to grow in this area or not, that feels like an accusation, that requires an investment of time resources that may seem unavailable, that is forced on them from the outside and that, therefore, like it or not, breeds resentment which in turn breeds racism. 

I am thankful that I have a couple of Asian friends who allowed me to safely ask my impertinent questions when we adopted a Korean child.  I know friends who have children of African descent who are thankful for friends who have offered them similar safe havens for questions about culture, language, life, and yes hair (or in the case of my Asian kid, ears... oh, nevermind).  They don't assume I'm some sort of ignorant racist, they assume I'm a white person with white person hair (and ears), who had never eaten kimchi, never tied a hanbok, and never been asked in my own country whether or not I spoke English. 

I'm thankful for the chance to be that safe friend when people ask me stupid, seemingly racist, innocent questions about my Korean child who does happen to be good at math, and martial arts, and is admittedly on the short side, hates his hanbok like most Korean boys... but doesn't like kimchi and doesn't speak Korean and his English is just fine thanks.

Sometimes we have to air our ignorance to grow.  That's called humility.  And sometimes we have to put up wiht others' ignorance and assume the best, that's called relationship.

And the reason the anonymity of the internet causes real racism to bubble up is that so few people have had the chance for humility and relationship where they can process out their thoughts in a healthy way.  

I'm not sure how to cure the problem, except that the society learn to extend to one another a "freedom to fail."  I guess its a start.  I guess.

06 November 2012


Four years ago, I was cajoled into voting against my convictions because I allowed some people to convince me to vote against one candidate, because this candidate *could* do all manner of evil if elected.  I cast my vote "for" one candidate, who did not bear my support, in order to vote against another.

Today many of my friends have tried to convince me to act in the same manner again.  Vote for one, in other to vote against the other.  The other is evil.  The other is scary.  The other is, well, other.

Apparently, candidates have thus vilified one another since the beginning of America.  They point fingers, accuse, paint propaganda, spin, sling mud, and act like children to try to convince us that they are the person most fit to secure peace and prosperity in a free land.  And the only reason it works is that they succeed in stirring up irrational fear of the other candidate.  Without that, the propagandizer would just look like a spoiled, whining child.

This election has been marked with media frenzy, wild image, flamboyant language, entertainment without substance, debate without logic, invasive advertising, and baseless theorizing. 

No more.  At some point, America needs to draw a line.  Candidates who treat us like we're stupid will not be tolerated.

So today I cast my vote.
Me, I, myself, cast my vote.
Fear did not cast my vote.
Propaganda did not cast my vote.
The media did not cast my vote.
Intellectual laziness did not cast my vote.
I cast my vote. 
I researched,
kept my opinions mostly to myself,
as I sorted out what seems to be the best for the whole,
and quietly,
I voted.

That, folks, is how democracy is supposed to work.

03 November 2012

Obligatory Political Post

From one of the few people who has said anything worth reading:

Dear Friends in Christ,
Very often over the course of the last several weeks, I’ve gotten the question: “What should I do on Election Day?” My answer is always the same: “VOTE!”
To be sure, some people might be looking for a bit more, even to the point of wanting me to tell them who the best candidate might be from my perspective, or from the perspective of the church.
That, I won’t do. That, the church won’t do. That, neither the church nor I can do. The church is not a political party nor any part of government. Neither am I. The church is not here to gain political power. Nor am I!
What the church does, what I attempt to do over and over again whether in the midst of a campaign for a president, or for a senator, or for a member of Congress, or for a governor, or for a county or a city council member, is to at best teach what we — you and I — believe, and then to encourage that we reflect that belief in the public arena and especially in the voting booth.
If we — you and I — do not bring the perspective of our faith into how we cast our ballots on Election Day, we are failing ourselves, failing our country, failing our church and failing even God! If we buy into a twisted mantra that “separation of church and state” means that the voice of faith is to be silent on public issues, or worse to buy into the schizophrenia that I can espouse one thing in church but another in the voting booth, we have accepted a second-class citizenship never intended by our Constitution, and worse an abdication of our religious freedom given to us by none other than God himself.
As bishop, my responsibility is not to tell you for whom to vote. My responsibility as your bishop is to reflect with you on the Catholic principles that must inform our political voice, our political action, our “faithful citizenship.”
The most basic principle is a commitment to uphold the sacredness and dignity of human life from conception until natural death. That principle is the primary (not a secondary, not a compromised) moral obligation to respect the dignity of every life, of every person as a unique creation of God. To do less is to give license to evil, intrinsic evil, for which we, as members of the church, bear no small responsibility.
Under this umbrella of respecting human life are these egregious attacks on human life: (1) abortion; (2) euthanasia; (3) embryonic stem-cell research; (4) human cloning. To support any of these practices and to vote for any candidate for the deliberate purpose of adding support for these attacks on human life is a denial of the sacredness of human life, and worse, an act that cooperates with evil.
At the very core of all Catholic social teaching — whether that teaching concerns issues of poverty, justice, economics, religious freedom or human rights — is the sacredness and dignity of every human life.
The church has the obligation to help build a culture where the dignity and sacredness of every person — particularly the innocent, the poor and the vulnerable — is recognized as a paramount virtue.
The Gospel does not accept silent witness to the truth because Jesus was outspoken about the truth! The church, as the body of Christ, is required:
• To speak out for innocent human life, particularly the right to life of the unborn;
• To speak out for and with the sick and the dying;
• To speak out for marriage between husband and wife, between one man and one woman, and the sacredness of the family;
• To speak out for the poor, the unemployed and the underemployed;
• To speak out for the immigrant and the imprisoned;
• To speak out for victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation;
• To speak out for all who are vulnerable, hurting or suffering;
• To speak out for peace and for justice.
And, finally, and certainly not the least of it all, the church must speak out for religious freedom, whenever and wherever it is threatened, for freedom is the cornerstone of all our liberties given to us as human beings created in the image and likeness of God. Religious freedom is far more than just the right to worship. It is the right to live our faith freely in our homes, in our neighborhoods, in our workplaces, in our country, in our world, and especially to give voice to our beliefs in the voting booth. No one has the right to take away that right, the right of religious liberty, even if they think they have the power to do so.
Over these last few weeks, I have tried to share with you the perspective of faith as we approach Election Day. My recent columns in the Pittsburgh Catholic, all five of them beginning with the Oct. 5 issue and ending with this week’s, looked at the many issues that describe what it means to be pro-life in a month focused on pro-life. I hope you found them helpful. (If you didn’t see them, they are available on our diocesan website at www.diopitt.org.)
And so again — on this Election Day: “VOTE!” And when you enter the voting booth, don’t leave your faith, don’t leave your Catholic principles and beliefs, outside. Vote with a clear understanding that you have not only the right, but the absolute duty to do so as a responsible citizen of this country and as a cherished member of this church.
What will serve our nation, no matter what the outcome of the elections, is if you and I do the best to exercise our power to vote with the power of the truth.
Godspeed! God bless you as the faithful of the Church of Pittsburgh! God bless me as shepherd of the Church of Pittsburgh! God bless the United States of America!
Grateful for our belief that “Nothing is Impossible with God,” I am
Your brother in Christ,

Most Reverend David A. Zubik
Bishop of Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh sure has an abundance of good bishops!  Thank you, Bishop Zubik for once again daring to say the hard words; to be a voice for the unborn, the suffering, and the poor;  to be a consistent and faithful shepherd of the faithful.  I am honored to call you my brother in Christ, my fellow Pittsburgher and beloved bishop... even though I'm not of your particular part of the flock.  I'm pretty sure we're going to punch different buttons on election day (though maybe not... I am not even a hundred percent certain who I'll vote for on Tuesday... ) but I am honored to stand with you in your Kingdom mission! 

21 October 2012

How Did I Miss This News?

Archbishop authrorizes a Theological Task Force on Holy Orders Archbishop Duncan has appointed the Rt. Rev. David Hicks, Bishop of the REC Diocese of the Northeast & Mid-Atlantic to lead a Theological Task Force on Holy Orders. The Task Force will lead the College of Bishops through a thorough study regarding the ordination of women to Holy Orders.

The rest of the article is here.

This looks to be fairly new, judging from its placement on the Province's website, but I've not seen any discussion of it in the church media. Probably because the South Carolina situation rightly takes the spotlight.

Some of you may know that Forward in Faith North America recently called for a moritorium on women's ordination to the priesthood. I found the request sad on two fronts... the first is that it didn't come from ordained women, who should have an interest (see earlier posts) in the integrity of our orders and the consciences of our brothers who can't accept us (even deacons, my friends, even women deacons are not universally accepted) and second because of all the women whose process would be adversely affected by a moritorium. Nobody wants to see anyone hurt further. The damage has already been more than enough.

Nonetheless, I fully supported FiFNA's request, moritorum aside, its the right thing to do. Its the necessary thing, for the sake of the church and all who are in ministry together. And so I'm encouraged by this news.

I'm encouraged that Archbishop Duncan has placed an REC bishop in leadership in this group. The REC, you may be aware is not a body which ordains women as deacons or priests. Most folks would trust that Archbishop Duncan would place someone in charge of this committee who is favorable to women's ordination to the priesthood, and so I suspect that and REC bishop approved by Archbishop Duncan is about the closest you can get to someone who will give a balanced ear to the Scripture and the Tradition of the Church in this regard.

I'm encouraged that a request has been made for women to serve on this committee. (Anyone want to convince them that I need this job???) Women need to be represented for the results of the study to be credible to the pro-women's priesthood segment of the church.

I'm encouraged that we seem to be ready to take the risks required for deeper unity and community, while maintaining respect for varied opinions on the subject, at least while the theology is sorted out.

Hopefully, we'll read, mark, learn and inwardly digest the work of Bishop John Rodgers and the AMiA on the subject, but also pray and exegete and think for ourselves, under the guidance of the Spirit. I don't know what the answers will be, but I'm so glad we're no longer fearing to ask the question!

15 October 2012

American Neuroticism and Greek Cynicism

I just returned from a trip to Greece (with stops in Turkey and France) and I have learned two things, perhaps things I already knew.

1. Americans are neurotic. Greece, a country with some serious unrest over the economy and a half step away from the Arab world was pretty much business as usual. Most notably, I breezed through security at the airport (and likewise in France) with little fuss and bother. At one point I needed to retrieve a passport, set my bag on the floor and was told by the Greek agent that I needn't bother, I could put my bag on her desk. Really? In America that would likely trigger alerts. Enter not the TSA agent's space. We all know that.

Meanwhile, my fellow Americans were taking off shoes and all manner of unnecessary hoopla, while the Greeks looked on amused. I did have to toss out a bottle of water at Charles de Gualle, but otherwise, security was not a problem. My bag did not go through security in France... it just showed up later in Athens like magic. Funny, I felt no less safe there.

Passport control was also not a problem. Greece happily accepted that I'd been through passport control in Paris, no need to re-visit the issue. Have a nice day. Paris ran a mob through passport control (in English for those of us non-French folks who so preferred, though I am marginally capable in French) in no time. New York (JFK) kept a somewhat smaller mob in line for over an hour and fifteen minutes... for citizens! Form a line here, join a line there, wait, wait, wait. Answer these silly questions, retreive your bag, drag it across the room, recheck your bag for your next flight. Seriously America? Seriously?

Turkey, by the way, was totally casual, too... despite that on another of their borders they're exchanging bombs with Syria. If we were bombing Mexico, I doubt the even the more distant New England states would be as relaxed with foreign visitors as was Turkey.

2. Greece is getting tired. There's graffiti all over Athens and Thessaloniki. But on the whole, nothing was interrupted, our tour ran smoothly and I only visited one going out of business sale. Our guide told us most of the graffiti was with regard to the economic situation. Some of the graffiti was in English for international attention.

We learned that a lot of Greek woes are coming out of misappropriation of funds and overspending on the Olympics in 2004. There were some similar patterns in entitlement spending, lack of accountability, and patronising crony-corporations (think Rapiscan, folks) leading up to collapse. Greece can't limp along much longer and will need to pay the piper.

Wither Greece goes, so goes America.

Anyway, I'm a bit jetlagged (getting better every day) but glad to be back. It certainly is true that travel gives you a better perspective on your own home. I'm not sure its one I'm proud to see, though. Not sure at all. And unfortunately, none of the monkeys stumping for office next month seems capable of resolving anything.

26 September 2012

Things Heard

Driving through Sewickley, in the rain, I looked over and saw (not heard, not over my radio giving me the daily news) a guy playing a violin. He stood there alone under an awning of an empty storefront (unusual to find an empty store in upscale little Sewickley) and played the violin. Its also unusual to find "street performers" in such a small town. It felt like he was just there to practice or something. I couldn't resist turning off my radio, putting down my window despite the cold rain, and listening while I waited for the light to turn green. Whoever you are, thanks. Then on my way home I heard a commercial for the Libertarian presidential candidate. That's the first time I think I've ever heard a third party candidate broadcast on the mainstream media, even if it was just the radio. Cool. Its about time some alternatives got some steam in this country. Of course the two, the violin and the election commercial couldn't be more different. Except that both were unexpected enough to be a little out of place. And both made me smile. Not everything in America has to fit the mold. Yeah, that's encouraging.

19 September 2012

How it is done....

High school students boycott school cafeteria over new lunch restrictions

Published September 18, 2012


With new federal guidelines dictating what is served at school cafeterias during lunch time, school districts all over the country have reworked their menus to accommodate the new rules. The changes include serving more whole grains, daily doses of fruits and vegetables, less sugar and salt, and only low- or non-fat milk.

For the first time, school lunches must have age-aligned calorie maximums, capping the amount of calories high school students eat to around 850 calories. The new restrictions all come from the updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and are funded by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 – legislation promoted by Michelle Obama.

While the changes may seem like a step in a healthier direction, not all students are finding them so tasty. On Monday, about 70 percent of the 830 students at Mukwonago High School in Wisconsin who typically buy their lunch boycotted the school’s cafeteria, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. The high schoolers were joined by middle schoolers in the district, reducing the number of lunches sold by half. ... One such student from Mukwonago High, Nick Blohm, said the healthier food is not so much the problem as it is portion size. A 6-foot-3-inch, 210-pound linebacker, Blohm said he burns around 3,000 calories during three hours of football practice and weight training. He’s also the class president, and he’s taking various Advanced Placement classes. But the new caps, he said, are making it harder to perform both physically and academically.

"A lot of us are starting to get hungry even before the practice begins," Blohm told the Journal Sentinel. "Our metabolisms are all sped up."


This folks, is how it will increasingly be done... government regulates our lives and Americans quietly opt out causing government regulations to become non-viable. Its how we did it in 18th Century Boston and its how we'll do it in 21st Century Milwaukee. I don't know if these kids have learned their history, but they're certainly repeating it.

Don't tell me what to feed my kid. Don't tell me what to eat. I'm an adult (and biologically so are those high schoolers that the government is calorie counting all over) and I know when I'm hungry, what I need, and whether or not what I'm stupidly shoving in my mouth is suitable. Amazing that they would limit kids, in the prime of their metabolic and athletic lives to a cookie-cutter calorie count. Amazing that they'd think for an instant that they wouldn't have competition from the old fashioned lunch box.

So good on you, Milwaukee. Empower your kids to take their health into their own hands, rather than relying on a nanny state. That, after all, is the only way to beat down obesity, anyway. And while they're at it, tyranny.

(end rant... promise!)

18 September 2012

Well now... no comment... just talk amongst yourselves.

“The America of my time line is a laboratory example of what can happen to democracies, what has eventually happened to all perfect democracies throughout all histories. A perfect democracy, a ‘warm body’ democracy in which every adult may vote and all votes count equally, has no internal feedback for self-correction. It depends solely on the wisdom and self-restraint of citizens… which is opposed by the folly and lack of self-restraint of other citizens. What is supposed to happen in a democracy is that each sovereign citizen will always vote in the public interest for the safety and welfare of all. But what does happen is that he votes his own self-interest as he sees it… which for the majority translates as ‘Bread and Circuses.’

‘Bread and Circuses’ is the cancer of democracy, the fatal disease for which there is no cure. Democracy often works beautifully at first. But once a state extends the franchise to every warm body, be he producer or parasite, that day marks the beginning of the end of the state. For when the plebs discover that they can vote themselves bread and circuses without limit and that the productive members of the body politic cannot stop them, they will do so, until the state bleeds to death, or in its weakened condition the state succumbs to an invader—the barbarians enter Rome.”

― Robert A. Heinlein

15 September 2012

Where I've Been

My friend and fellow blogger David asked me the other day why I'm not blogging lately. I haven't forgotten, I've just been free-ranging all over the place. Most recently, I have returned from Alaska, where I avoided being TSA-Cancerified by virtue of traveling with a small dude. I was kind of surprised Alaska puts up with that, since they rely so heavily on air travel up there. Anyway, Anchorage otherwise seems to be radiating everyone, as was Denver and Knoxville this summer. Another reason I hate flying.

That, and the current state of my luggage... after checking five bags on the return trip, four were returned to us damaged, two badly and possibly beyond repair. Thanks United. And did I mention they charge extra for that service? Yeesh.

Anyway, I don't feel like posting anything political... a pox on all their houses! I'd best not blog about baseball (being a Cincinnati fan in Pittsburgh). The church is mostly behaving itself (with the delightful exception of some recent talent displayed at clergy conference). That leaves homeschooling and y'all don't want to hear about that.

So I'm not blogging because I'm either too busy or too cranky. Take your pick.

02 September 2012

You have got to be kidding me!

If I ever disappear (okay, I admit, I did not post the entire month of August... that is one thing for which I cannot in any way blame the government. I was on vacation in Alaska for part of that time. For the rest of that time, I was just lazy) then you'll know that our local overloards have found this blog. Seriously, what the heck is going on. I did a little snooping to make sure this was not a hoax, its that out of control, orwellian, creepy. Let's see, that's first, second and fourth amendment seriously under fire in this country... guess the rest are basically a matter of time. Good thing the economy will likely collapse first, eh?

21 July 2012

New Old Friends

I’m currently at my mother’s house, worn out, after a weekend of aggressive reunion-ing with my high school… um… people I thought I knew.

If you have a class reunion coming up and haven’t been to one, go this time.  Its not at all weird and kind of refreshing.  All in all it is a second chance to make a first impression, or so they say.   Surprises, well, some… like the super shy, kind of freaky goth guy… who turned out to be level-headed and fascinating and someone I wish I could spend more time with.   Some non-surprises, normal people in high school (rare though they were) are still normal and rather likeable.   People I grew up with who weren’t friends got the chance to become friends.  Twenty years, it seems, is time enough to heal wounds and calm raging hormones. 

Turns out, nobody enjoyed middle school, not even the “popular” kids.  And we all thought more highly of one another than we expressed then.  Now we know how to say so. 

And maybe that’s the most important change in two decades, we’ve learned to appreciate people and are free to enjoy one another.  We all left wanting to see each other again, sooner this time.  

Oh, and my middle child found a kindred spirit… he called him “the Tennessee version of me” on the ride home.   I’m sure play dates will be requested whenever we visit Grandma.  Funny, I’ve known “Tennessee-Me’s” parents since we were even younger than the kids are now.  At middle boy’s age I was playing on the soccer team with his new pal’s dad.  

It makes me miss small town life.  Some of them are still in the same place where we grew up.  They see each other, some work together.  Middle boy’s new buddy even has an older sister who goes to the high school where all those reunioning adults graduated.   Its kind of rhythmic to see life going on in the same small town. 

And if any of them are reading this… thanks for giving me a second chance too.   Hopefully I’m less insecure and obnoxious now.  But I’m not counting on it.

16 July 2012

Posted for all you students of the diaconate.

Roman Catholic Deacon William Ditewig has the distinction of being my favorite author on subjects relating to the diaconate.... no, that's not saying enough since those of you who know me in real life know that I'm not fond of most published material on the diaconate.... so let me rephrase... Students of the Diaconate, Deacon William Ditewig is the only writer on my must-read list.... Here are a pair of great blog posts (part one is just below part II on his blog) for your edification.

Deacons Today: Musings on Diakonia and Diaconate: Women and the Diaconate: Part II

10 July 2012

Why I'm not a Priest, part two.

Okay, so here is a part two... again, don't assume that this completes the reasoning, but it needs to be said.

Women's ordination to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church was an act of rebellion.  (Note, none of the argument that follows applies to traditions unrelated to the Episcopal Church, but they do heavily apply to those of us who are related by the fact of our corporate ecclesiastical ancestry... like it or not, we need to deal with this.)

Just because the governing body of the Episcopal Church looked the other way and allowed the rebellion to run wild does not make it less rebellious.  These women and their bishops broke the canons of the church, acted on their own in rogue fashion, and unilaterally denied the authority placed over them.

And this practice has recently leaked out among a few other churches (most notably some rogue Roman Catholics who repeated this action a few years ago right here in Pittsburgh, attempting to make Roman women priests... the Vatican doesn't seem to have so easily glanced the other way). 

And every woman in the Episcopal Church or the continuing/realigned Anglican Church in the US (and possibly also abroad) has since profited by (and therefore participated in) that act of rebellion.

Its cruel to the authority of the church.
Its cruel to godly women in ministry.
Its cruel to those who can't accept women's ordination.

And the only way I see to overcome that cruelty is to cut off the blind acceptance of women's ordination as a carryover from TEC and re-engage in the risk-taking high-stakes theological study that would lay the foundation for our own considered response to the issue within the ACNA.  That means we all have to be willing to risk being wrong, so I doubt it will happen any time soon.  But I'd be willing to risk everything to ask the church to reconsider the ordination (at all levels) of women and abide by the theologically demonstrated conclusion. 

I'd be willing to take that risk because I see it as the only way to give women a chance to serve God free from the act of sinful and cruel rebellion that we have dragged in from the wastebaskets of TEC.   And its possibly the only way to resolve some of the bitterness between those who are for and those who are against women's ordination and let us finally  move forward together in ministry, for the good of the whole Church.

So again, part two... talk amongst yourselves.

09 July 2012

Why I’m Not a Priest… part one

Honestly, I don’t know if I’ll write a part two or not.  This may just be in the spirit of Mel Brooks’ History of the World Part 1; there may be no part two.  But the title stands, lest the good reader assume that the reasons given here are the only reasons.

There’s a lot of brouhaha right now, ever since Provincial Assembly, possibly before that, about women’s ordination to the priesthood.  Some (with whom I vehemently disagree, most of whom we left behind in TEC) seem to think this is an equal rights issue.  Scripture is interpreted for them in such a way that, lacking a specific” thou shalt not ordain girls” seems to strive to explain away (way away) prohibitions against women in ministry.  They don’t wrestle with the text, they wrangle it.  That’s of course one extreme, but they can be vocal and their methods are not responsible exegesis, so they are a force to be reckoned with. 

There’s another vocal group, which remarkably has a similar motivation in fear (fear that the next archbishop won’t agree with their position… funny how both sides are alike in that presupposition) that believes that women simply cannot be ordained priests.  Ordination bounces off women like teflon and thereby endangers the spiritual wellbeing of the people because all female celebrated sacraments would be invalid.  I can sympathize with this position, as it is rooted in depth of concern for biblical authority and the spiritual wellbeing of the people.  It is a position that comes out of a sense of continuity with the historic church and puts the burden of proof on anyone who wants to change the tradition.   While “we’ve always done it that way” is poor theology, there is authority in the church’s Tradition.  While I don’t share their opinion, I sympathize with it, and I think we should stand up (especially those of us who happen to be women) to defend our brothers and sisters who hold this opinion, particularly as their strongly held convictions open them to accusations of misogyny. 

Sure there are a few misogynists among them.  There are jerks on all sides, always will be.  But for the vast majority, this is simply a theological conclusion, on the way to faithfully following God.  I’m cool with that.

In the middle are all sorts.  Including me.  I’m pretty convinced that the Bible allows for women to become priests.  (I am convinced that biblical affirmation of women deacons is blatantly obvious, less so though for priests.  Anyone who tries to base an argument off the unclear debate whether Junian was a woman or a man is probably barking up an unsteady tree… but the text seems open to the idea of women priests, though a touch ambiguous, certainly not firm… and the Tradition of the Church is not to be left voiceless… so I just barely fall on the pro-Women’s ordination to the priesthood side… just enough to recognize and work with women as priests, but not enough to really think its a preferable notion for the church today.)   Real wrestling with the text leaves us with as many questions as it solves, and those who like pat answers don’t seem to find satisfaction. 

I’m convinced that its allowable, but I’m not convinced that its preferable.  A lot of the Scripture defines Christian community as setting aside our own freedoms for the sake of the Body.  And I am not convinced that, aside from a few extreme cases, women priests are good for the larger Body.  I know some awesome women who are priests, don’t get me wrong.  I could name a score of names in as many seconds.   But I am simply not convinced that these women are not exceptions to the general rule as well as being exceptional.   All things being lawful, this may, at this time in church history not be always helpful.

I do know this, its not an equal rights issue.   Nobody, male or female has a right to be ordained.  None of us is worthy.

And as for me, I spend a lot of time in ministry among those who are against women’s priesthood.  Not being a priest gives me the flexibility to serve among them in a fuller, richer way.  Becoming a priest would, in that way, be a liability, and its not a liability that I have felt called to take on (though I acknowledge that some women may have felt called to take that liability on, fully knowing that it does limit effectiveness in some circles.  God sets the limits, I get that.  I’ve just been given one set of limitations instead of another.) 

So why am I writing this… well because a few people have asked me to write about women’s priesthood.  Because I see fear on both sides, and fear is anti-Gospel.  Because our canons are clear (women priests at the bishop’s discretion, but no women bishops because that would impose women’s ministry on those whose theological convictions oppose women priests), but our hearts are not… that the needs of the church must be placed before the needs of the individual.  That just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.

There aren’t many people I can talk about this with, since I probably annoy both sides equally.  But I’m pretty sure I am where God wants me to be.

And maybe I’m pushing my luck by publishing this… but unless given a reason otherwise, comments are open.  Be respectful.  Talk amongst yourselves.

05 July 2012

An theme song in honor of the folks over on StandFirm

Don't know much church history
Don't know much theology
Don't know much about the prayer book
Don't know much about the Greek I took
But I do know that Gene likes dudes
And I know that if they’d bless that too
What a Schoriful world this would be
Don't know much hagiography
Don't know much Cranmer and Ridley
Don't know much about liturgy
Don't know what a maniple is for
But I do think that we can rewrite truth
And if we could just make the church a spoof
What a Schoriful world this would be
Now I don't claim to be a great bishop
But TEC’s not charging me
So maybe by keeping my mouth shut, Katie
I can tolerate your heresy.
Don't know much church history
Don't know much theology
Don't know much about the prayer book
Don't know much about the Greek I took
But I do know that Gene likes dudes
And I know that if they’d bless that too
What a Schoriful world this would be
La ta ta ta ta ta
(Church History)
Ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh
La ta ta ta ta ta ta
(Prayer book)
Ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh
(Greek I took)
But I do know that Gene likes dudes
And I know that if they’d bless that too
What a Schoriful world this would be

Vestments for the TSA

Sorry folks, but I just had to post this... truly an atrocious lapse in judgment on behalf of the vestment designer.  I'm not sure who is supposed to want to wear this vestment... unless the deacon is bivocational, serving both at the altar and the airport.
  Rainbow/Hands Deacon Stole

27 June 2012

Funeral for a Friend

Actually, that was the title of a song we played one year in, of all places, high school marching band.  I don’t remember many of the songs we played, but that title stood out.  At fifteen (wow, the age my own eldest child is now) the idea of a funeral for a friend seemed surreal.  It made me think of people my own age dying, and that seemed both possile and impossible at once.  It conjured images of funerals with empty caskets, because who on earth would be in there at fifteen.

Of course, now I’ve gone to a few funerals for friends, but always older friends.  One person who was a college classmate died, but she was far away and I never considered her a close friend when we were in school.

All this is the roundabout way of saying, a friend from middle school and high school died tonight.  We were the same age… six of us who moved together from middle school through graduation (with the exception of one who joined us in high school), we thought ourselves inseparable.  One of them wrote in my senior yearbook “they say college friends are the best friends you’ll ever have, but I can’t think of any better than you all are.” 

The person who wrote that didn’t keep in touch in college, but in recent years she’s returned to my closest circle of friends.

Another friend disappeared halfway through college and only comes back when she wants money, which I don’t give her and she disappears again.

I was a bridesmaid for another one of them, but lost touch within a year after her wedding and haven’t heard from her since.  Its been seventeen years and I do miss her.

Another lost touch for years but we re-found one another on Facebook.  I’m glad we did, we have a lot in common.

And she re-introduced me (also on Facebook) to the sixth, with whom I’d lost touch.  We talked on the phone some after that, but not face to face.  Still, I’m thankful, without the little gift of modern communications, I’d have never known what became of her and I’d have never heard that she passed away tonight.

We used to talk about “deep thoughts” that gaggle of six girls… Carliea wanted to live until the End Times and see Christ return.  The rest of us thought that sounded a bit intense for our tastes.  Now we’re still here and she’s gone.  Carliea’s church taught that the soul “sleeps” until the end times.  Clearly not consistent with orthodox Christianity but not a matter of salvation either.  Now she’s awake and alive indeed with Christ.

It still seems surreal, a funeral for a friend.  I don’t know if that feeling goes away as we get older.  But I don’t know that she’s the one I’d have picked to be the first of the six to go.  

Ah well.  Rest in peace… “Walter.”

08 June 2012

Day 2: Activities, Speeches, and Games. Oh my!

Today was a splendiferous day. (So surprised that the spell-check didn’t pick up on that.) That pretty much is the best possible word to describe it. No other word counts.

Mom and I kicked it off with the old-school early dilemma; almost missing breakfast. We got up rather late, and it took a little while to get out the door. As we finally did, I turned to Mom and told her, “See, everyone; Tara and Isaac shall have no bread, for they slumber still,” in my most sarcastic but serious-sounding voice. But it was almost true, as we got in the last line open for breakfast. Good thing we didn’t get there later!

After that, the youth and I went off to do some activities, and sing some songs. After the latter, I slipped out to listen to the Baroness Cox give an extremely moving speech about the Southern Sudanese, which I described in Dystopia Here. (see below) After this, my mom and I stayed in the exact same spot for a short noonday prayer, and then went to have lunch.

Soon afterwards the youth and I spent some time hanging out together in one of the conference rooms. I got a small workout in that time.

After evening prayer, we went down to the dining hall for a very nice salmon dinner. It wasn’t nearly as nice as Mom makes it-she makes it fall apart to the touch and makes it so flavor-full it tasted more like candy flavored fish- but it was food, and I ate.

I must wrap this up, for I have another session to go to, as well as some time to hang out with youth at the bonfire!

~~Isaac, Guest Writer.

Dystopia Here

They smile still. Even though the people hate them and want them all dead, they all smile still. Even though there have been invasions with shoot-to-kill policies in mind, they all smile still. Even when everything they ever had has been taken away from them, they smile still. While obtaining medication and aid is physically impossible for them to do, they smile still.

Why do they smile still, and who are they? For starters, they are the people of South Sudan. These people are mostly Christians who have experienced all of the things listed before and much more than that. Those people are people who don’t have anything in their recent past to smile about. They have been discriminated against by the people in the Sudan who follow Islamic beliefs, making it impossible to get aid to South Sudan.  This is still  happening to them today.  They have nothing in their past or present to smile about.

So why do they smile?

The reason they smile is not because of their past. It is about their future. The people of South Sudan smile, because they have the hope that things will be made right soon. They have people to lead them in the worship of Jesus and refresh that hope, and people like the Baroness Caroline Cox who will make their current plight known to the people who can do something about it. But in order for what is happening for them to end, we have to do something about it.

So what can we do? For one, we can pray for the South Sudanese people. We can pray to God that what is happening to them will end, and that the South Sudanese people can live in peace. A second thing to do is that we can help. We can go down to the South Sudanese people and help them build homes, worship, and basically give them the aid they need, but is extremely difficult to get.

If we do these two things to help them, the people of South Sudan will most certainly have something now to smile about. Let us help our brothers and sisters in Christ.

~Guest blogger Isaac in response to a talk by Baroness Caroline Cox  For more information about how to get aid to the Sudanese visit Anglican Relief and Development Fund.

07 June 2012

News from Ridgecrest

I have to say, I never went to an Episcopal General Convention.  But I’m told that its profoundly not like this.

The majority of our time here together is intended for program, not legislation.  And indeed, we heard a great talk this morning by Ed Stetzer about engaging people in meaningful ministry.  I’m all about the things he said, I dare say the whole assembly of the faithful here would agree, that if you are a Christian you have gifts, and the duty of the leadership (lay and ordained) is to equip the saints for the work of ministry. 

The mood here is very much like a family reunion.  Greeting friends we haven’t seen in years, making new friends, and engaging in exchanges of resources, the better side of what the world calls “networking.”  I get to run around visiting with and encouraging friends and talking about the diaconate, so I’m in my personal little hog-heaven.   I’ll be presenting an ‘interest group’ on Saturday, and am looking forward to it.

Legislation happens tonight but having already read the documents at hand, don’t expect any earth-shattering headlines. 

The only real news happened a few minutes ago, at the close of the opening Eucharist, when the Primate of Rwanda released to us a number of bishops, priests, and deacons, formerly of the Anglican Mission in the Americas.  He noted to them that they have moved simply from one room to the next of the same house, at which words (and in honor of receiving these dear faithful friends) the congregation responded with a standing ovation.

I am hoping my son will report again on the Youth Assembly now that things are fully underway.   The teens/young adults have joined us for many events, but there’s a lot of youthful fun to be had too, and some great talks,  I was encouraged to see that the teen schedule included positive and healthy talks about sexuality and homosexuality.  For those on the outside who think we are some sort of anti-sex anti-gay church, as well as for our youth who are growing up into maturity in all areas of their lives, it is so important to see healthy sexuality taught openly in our Church.  They’ll also be teaching about social justice, and politics, and also retelling the Gospel consistently for these young leaders.  They should have a lot to take home.  I’m glad to see material directed especially for them without separating them from the comings and goings of bishops and other leaders.  As I said to my son, the purpose of this event is in part to get them addicted to leadership.

Anyway, that’s all the news that’s fit to print!  Needless to say, I’m feeling really positive about our church and the direction in which it is going! Thanks be to God.

06 June 2012

First Day at Assembly

After arriving at Asheville from a long day of flying, we finally got a ride up to Provincial Assembly. The place was really cool; we had our own room to stay in, a bunch of old friends and tons more new ones, Mom and I knew we were going to have a blast.

I personally am really looking forward to what Provincial Assembly will offer tomorrow. All sorts of craziness awaits us starting early tomorrow morning, and I can barely wait to see what it will be.

~~Guest Blogger Isaac

04 June 2012

Taking This Show on the Road

Yep, that’s right, I’m putting the “Free Range” to business this week as I’ll be travelling to Provincial Assembly in Ridgecrest NC.   I’m sure I’ll blog a little, maybe even snap a few pictures.  My teen will be joining the youth assembly, so if we’re nice to him maybe he’ll blog a little from that event.  And if you’re going to be on site, stop in on Saturday’s deacon breakout group… its not just for deacons but anyone who is interested, and I’m leading the group, so if you want an easy chance to poke your head in and say hello, there it is!  I’d offer to sign autographs, but no one would care.

31 May 2012

A Little Good News for Once

I think this is a sweet story, worth watching for all you frazzled homeschool moms out there….
But admittedly I have a little personal interest here; Bobbye Pointer is my cousin.  

30 May 2012


I read this in the news recently:

“Diane Tran, an 11th-grade honor student at Willis High School near Houston, was sent to jail for 24 hours last week by Judge Lanny Moriarty and ordered to pay a $100 fine for excessive truancy.

It's unclear how many days Tran missed, but state law reportedly permits only 10 absences in a six-month period.

Tran, who works full-time at a dry-cleaning business and part-time for a wedding planner, has been supporting her brother and sister since her parents separated and her mother moved away.”

Oh my, we have a lot of problems at play in this one.  First, if she’s in jail, isn’t this kid going to end up missing school because of it?  But what is school preparing her for if she can maintain honors grades whether or not she is present and already has  a productive adult life in the workforce for which school is supposed to prepare her?  So she misses a few days, clearly they weren’t really necessary for her anyway.

But Texas presses on.   They put a kid in jail.  A non-violent kid who does no harm to society and in fact has taken her place as a responsible and productive citizen.   Proud of yourself, Texas?

But it gets better….

“Tran, who is considered an adult under Texas state law…”

Yes, folks, you read that right.  The law says she’s an adult.  She can pay taxes, she is tried as an adult, she is sent to adult jail.  And yet she apparently doesn’t have the adult right not to submit her time and attention to the demands of the state indoctrination system.  Phenomenal.  She is an adult for trial purposes, but by law in Texas she’s not allowed to excuse herself from required public schooling until she’s a year older. 

The news is going on and on about this unjust judge who simply followed the law.  Sure the judge comes off like a unthinking petty bureaucrat.  The bigger problem here, though, is that he’s just following the rules.

Just like he no doubt learned to do in public school.

And to his thinking, why would he excuse this wayward youth from just such a lesson.

Folks, there’s a lot more wrong here than just one judge.

28 May 2012

Memorial Day

Okay, so I’m not into flag waving and rah-rah.  I’m offended that our country confuses patriotism and pep rally.  I don’t say the pledge.  I don’t think we have ever fought a war justly, at least not since the advent of the technology of the last century, and I don’t know that we have even entered most of our wars for just reasons.  And thanking people “for their service” strikes me as trite, especially when that service was given under oppression in the form of conscription.

So, late born hippie that I seem to be, I started my memorial day pondering the right to vote.  Is there such thing as a right to vote when the options are so limited and downright lame?  I’ve often thought of giving up my “right” to vote but until this year I’ve never actually considered simply failing to exercise that right.  I will vote in November, mostly because I do have that right, use it or lose it, and I do honor those who sacrificed (not just in war) so that all Americans (regardless of unorthodox political and uberorthodox religious leanings) could have the right to vote.  In part, I’ll vote in order to maintain the right.

But the frustration with the same old choices is a legitimate one.  You might say, don’t like the options, run for office.  I would, except for that part about how I don’t and won’t say the Pledge.  I am glad I have the right to run for office in this country, but it kind of strikes me as wrong to try to lead a country which does not have my whole allegiance.  (As Christians we are citizens of another kingdom first.)  I’m thankful for the genuine article when they do appear on my ballot (however rare, and however unelectable they tend to be) but for someone like me it would be a compromising position. 

So how does someone like me honor a veteran, celebrate Memorial Day?  I don’t know.  Honestly, I don’t.  It seems false to just go along to get along, it seems a betrayal for those who did fight and die for our rights to vote to blindly and quietly (and knowingly) vote for such a pack of losers and crooks.   It seems a farce that every public office is bought with a price paid to the media.  But how to make a faithful stand?   It seems a farce also to go on about those today who “fight and die to protect our freedoms” when our freedom has almost never truly been under attack since the War of 1812.  The accurate phrase is “to protect our interests.” 

And I don’t fault those who do fight… I know a few of those guys.  They’re impressive.  If we were really in imminent danger, I’d gladly trust my fate to them.  And some of the older guys, the ones who fought decades ago, they are some of the most upstanding, warm, and selfless people I know, older but much the same as the younger ones still fighting.

And most who have served seem to have a sense of being bound together, generation to generation, that the rest of us could learn a lot from.

But it all leaves me not really knowing what to do with it all. 

25 May 2012

Moving Forward


Our friends at the former St. David’s will be moving out of their building this weekend!  These brave souls are willing to walk away to be faithful stewards of their resources and of the Gospel entrusted to them.  David Wilson, their rector, has posted a letter from the Presiding Bishop of the REC over on his website (anglicanyinzer.blogspot.com) and I thought to myself… wouldn’t it be cool if Christians they’ve never met, from all over internet-dom, would take the time and bless these faithful folks on their way.  I’m on my way over there in a moment, but if you feel like wishing them well, the comments section on Presiding Bishop Riches’ letter is up and running and a good place to add your fond wishes for the new congregation of Christ the Redeemer!

Sometimes it is incredibly easy to make your voice heard!

19 May 2012

Bramble Flowers

delicate white flowers

dotting my landscape



amid the thorns

tart dark fruit


A poem for my friend Beth, who has often reminded me of the simple value of the poetic.  And for her daughter, whose appreciation for the wild berries on the edge of my yard a few summers ago makes me think of her every time I look at those promising buds.

15 May 2012

Busting Loose

I had the privilege of visiting a little guy at Children’s Hospital on Saturday.  I long ago became convinced that hospitals are one of those places where the secular and the sacred collide, with noticeable results.  God is at work, bidden or unbidden God is there, as they say. 

Being a patient in a hospital, aside from whatever reason put a person there in the first place, is boring as all heck.   Boredom is probably worse than pain for a kid.  I think of every little kid I’ve ever known who would rather risk a spanking for misbehavior than sit still while waiting for an appointment or keep quiet while mom’s on the phone.  Boredom stinks. 

But I marveled at the hospital at how little the children’s hospital feels like a hospital.  Its colorful, for one thing, and whimsical.  And it has places where the kids can get out for a stroll (complete with tubes and equipment and wheelchairs and whatnot), a little library, a play room, a giant statue of a robot holding the Stanley Cup (for you robots and Penguins fans) and some sort of funky projected image that little kids seem to like to stomp on.

On the way out of the hospital I came across two healthy siblings of a hospitalized child, going bonkers in the foyer.  I passed a patient room where I heard a child crying, and gave thanks that he or she was healthy enough to squalk a bit.  I met a little mop top child running like mad while being tailed by tubes, parents, and one of those medical “trees” on wheels.   It was a thankful thing, that some architects somewhere had made space for kids to bust out, even if their bodies weren’t exactly able to co-operate.

Even the little guy I was visiting, when his mom was out of the room (shhh… don’t tell), had fun with our adventures to turn on the light switch (which I will sacrifice my adult and professional dignity to confess involved lots of “vroom, vroooooom!” sounds and unnecessary little detours around the room with his wheelchair) and some silly reading of Cat in the Hat (which we didn’t quite finish… I owe him one).   Strolling about with him and  his mom, we had a great view of the city.  Things look different a garden from six floors up.

In the end, I think its easy to underestimate kids who are hospitalized, to dehumanize them into needy objects, especially those who are severely ill.  But they’re still in there, just aching to bust out, even when their bodies don’t wholly co-operate.  They’re still contributing to our world, even when we are too self absorbed and busy to notice their quiet ways. They’re still active, even when so attached to tubes and medical trees that the activity is veiled, when pain or loss of control demands that the activity be slow and deliberate. 

And it makes me thankful for their witness.
And for whoever thought a garishly hot pink ladies room was a good idea. And for the person who painted a six foot Statue of Liberty black and gold for the sixth floor atrium.  And for the garden designer who put a mosaic sun in the middle of the winding wheelchair friendly little paths.   And for the little kids who, heedless of pain and medical accoutrements were busting loose on the path and in the atrium and in countless other corners of the hospital and our world.

If play for children is more important to them than pain or discomfort or risk… what for adults has the same value?

02 May 2012

You’ve got to be kidding me….

I heard on the radio the other day how Romney has the worst ratings of any candidate in the history of history, even worse than Mondale.  Mondale, of whom my devoted Democrat-voting grandmother said “I might even consider voting for Reagan this year.”  She didn’t but I guess she considered it.  For her, that was virtually heresy.  Romney is lower than Mondale!

The press speculates that maybe he should pick Condoleeza Rice as a running mate to perk up his campaign.  He won’t, surely, because what presidential candidate wants to be upstaged by his VP? 

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Obama’s hope n’ change n’at has proven the bust that we social conservatives expected.  We’re on a wild rush toward national bankruptcy and continued erosion of personal freedom.  Yippee.

And if you don’t like Romney you must not like Mormons.

And if you don’t like Obama, it must be because he’s black.

Or at least that’s what the press thinks. 

But in reality, how can we like either of them?  We’re given a choice between dumb and dumber.  And if, like me, you regularly research third party candidates, you don’t get much traction there either.  The Constitution Party candidate (I do like the Constitution Party in theory) spent his entire acceptance speech when he was nominated, railing against immigrants… legal or illegal, he doesn’t care… and threatening to tie America’s companies to a policy of hire American, thwarting creativity and requiring us to select only from a pool of applicants who overall are products of our failing educational system.  Oooh, that’ll be a good plan for the economy! 

I would love to see Ron Paul and Condoleeza Rice walk away from the now defunct Republican Party and run together on a Libertarian ticket…. but I don’t expect the libertarians would go for that, nor the candidates in question.  Alas.

So what are we left to do?  We who live in the most connected society ever in the history of the world, haven’t yet figured out a way to elect “none of the above” and force our political system to go back to square one, nominate new candidates, and start over.  Other countries can do this.  Non-governmental entities can do this.  Why not America?  It would pump a huge amount of funding into the economy, that’s for sure, as campaign spending has already made the presidency the finest office money can buy.  The only troubling detail is who would be president while the first president’s campaign is expired and the replacement has yet to be elected.  Maybe its a use for the Vice President.  Or maybe could have an essay contest among third graders and let the winner have the Oval Office for a while.  Or rotate it among governors, each being president for the day.  Or just shut down the government for a few weeks while we re-elect… nobody would notice anyway.

21 April 2012

More on the election

UPDATE: Dorsey McConnell elected on the sixth ballot.
I think he'll be able to work well with all sides, at least comparably.  Congratulations to TEC-Pittsburgh.  

 Old stuff:
The new Blogger is making this less than simple....

It looks like the third ballot was utterly predictable, as will be the fourth.  We've closed in on a grudge match between McConnells (the somewhat conservative from a liberal diocese) and Runnels (the liberal same-sex-blessing advocate who looks kind of boring, personally).    I'm expecting both Quinn and Woodliff-Stanley to withdraw at this point.

McConnells has momentum, that's something.  It may be that he can manage to get elected if there is anyone willing to swing so widely across the huge gap between him and Runnels.  Maybe a few pragmatic voters and the three who voted for Quinn in the laity.  Hmmm.... three, though, isn't enough to elect him just yet.

Awaiting ballot four, I doubt it will be interesting.  We're probably going to five on this.

 Note: The balloting was more interesting when I was watching Korean historical dramas in which a wicked queen was attempting to usurp and kill the king.  Is this commentary on the PGH election... you decide.

Ballot #4

Clergy Votes Lay Votes
Needed for Election 22 43

The Rev. Dorsey W. M. McConnell 29 37
The Rev. Canon Michael N. Ambler, Jr. 0 0
The Rev. R. Stanley Runnels 13 48
The Rev. Canon Scott T. Quinn WD WD
The Rev. Ruth Woodliff-Stanley WD WD
 Okay, well now we're down to the final round, folks.  Will they elect or stalemate?

Good showing for my friend Scott Quinn.  Best possible outcome for him, if you ask me.  He held strong, got to run for bishop and make a good showing... and not get elected to a post I wouldn't wish on my enemies.  Huzzah.  I know he'll never read this, but I think he did great.

Ballot five is in... agonizingly inching toward a bishop:
Ballot #5

Clergy Votes Lay Votes
Needed for Election 22 43

The Rev. Dorsey W. M. McConnell 30 42

The Rev. R. Stanley Runnels 11 43

They're voting in Pittsburgh today....

Episcopal Diocese will be electing a bishop today. I'm watching closely because I have friends there and want to see them get a good and godly bishop (though I admit I'm not optimistic). I'll post interesting news as I find it. Thus far I've refrained from making too much commentary because one of the candidates is my friend and former rector.
Stay tuned....
Election results Ballot 1 and comments:
Ballot #1
Needed for Election .... Clergy Votes: 22 -- Lay Votes: 44
The Rev. Dorsey W. M. McConnell 16 19
The Rev. Canon Michael N. Ambler, Jr. 2 4
The Rev. Canon Scott T. Quinn 11 18
The Rev. R. Stanley Runnels 9 33
The Rev. Ruth Woodliff-Stanley 4 12
Right now it looks like a split in the conservative (or close to it) vote between Quinn and McConnell. I would suggest the conservative side get their act together behind one or the other if they want to elect one of their own. McConnell looks rather strong, but I'm pleased to see Quinn making a good showing.
Ambler, who some watchers pegged for the next bishop and who tried to pass himself off as a moderate seems to be dead last. This may indicate some polarizing in the vote. Not sure.
Runnels seems to have a strong showing in the lay vote. Runnels is a vocal advocate of same sex blessings.
Woodliff-Stanley, by far the most vocally liberal candidate is certainly not in last place. It remains anyone's election right now.
One thing the numbers really reveal is how small the diocese is now. Wow.
Second ballot is in....
Ballot #2
Needed for Election .... Clergy Votes: 22 -- Lay Votes: 44
The Rev. Dorsey W. M. McConnell 22 24
The Rev. Canon Michael N. Ambler, Jr. 0 0
The Rev. Canon Scott T. Quinn 6 10
The Rev. R. Stanley Runnels 12 45
The Rev. Ruth Woodliff-Stanley 2 7
It looks like conservatives are unifying behind McConnell. I'm wondering if some folks voted for Quinn out of friendship and then switched to McConnell for pragmatic reasons. Not sure if Ambler withdrew or just his few switched over. Looks like its going to be either McConnell or Runnels, depending on which side is slightly better represented. Noticing Runnels now takes the lay vote and McConnell the clergy.
Apologies to all... the new blogger format is making me crazy right now. Will work on cleaning up format here! :)

Dear TEC_PGH... make with the reporting, okay???  Okay, they're having lunch, I'm doing other things here... but seriously, I think this thing has gotten temporarily predictable and would like to get ballot three out of the way so we can go on to the final grudge match between the very liberal and the very conservative.  Nope, no happy middle in PGH today.

Ballot #3

Clergy Votes Lay Votes
Needed for Election 22 44

The Rev. Dorsey W. M. McConnell 25 34
The Rev. Canon Michael N. Ambler, Jr. 0 0
The Rev. Canon Scott T. Quinn 3 3
The Rev. R. Stanley Runnels 14 46
The Rev. Ruth Woodliff-Stanley 0 3        

16 April 2012

With NK much in the news of late

Please watch this…. There’s oh so much more to the story, and much more that we on the outside will probably never know, but here is a good primer on what it is to be a Christian in NK.

15 April 2012

Shooting sports

Okay, maybe I’m a little old fashioned on some gender roles.  I mean, after all, I do believe that someone should be raising the kids, and biology points the finger at the women as the most likely suspects.  And I think smoking cigars is unladylike, though I always have a bit of appreciation for my guy friends who are comfortable inviting the gals out for a smoke or a beer.  (I do occasionally drink beer, but some of you my be shocked to learn that I was thirty before I had my first beer. yeah, thirty.)  But I’m not quite old fashioned enough to have learned to shoot in my youth.  My great grandmother was a renowned shot, not so her great granddaughter. 

Actually, while I’m not exactly anti-gun (in fact, I do rather agree with my friend who noted that taking the right to bear arms away from the people is an invitation to a police state), I don’t find them really comfortable either.  I think the reason is that a weapon and its owner are so easily parted.  Dependence on a gun that can be left at home, taken away by an attacker (or TSA agent), or malfunctioning seems rather counterproductive.  In fact, I’ve come to believe that no one should take up shooting for self-defense unless thoroughly schooled in other methods of defense. 

In some circles, Eastern Orthodox ones  most notably, its not allowable for clergy to own guns anyway.

But since my kids have taken up the age-old little boy hobby of shooting a B.B. gun in the back yard, I have to admit developing an appreciation of the sport.  After all, there are clearly defined goals (which involve shooting holes in stuff), measures of success (holes in stuff) and areas of improvement (locating holes in stuff closer to the center of the target).  Maybe its all the testosterone in my house, but I’ve learned to appreciate destruction, as long as what gets destroyed wasn’t important, useful, or mine.