Sunday, December 19, 2004

Dealing with Shame

This Sunday's lectionary reading is about Joseph and his reaction to his fiance's unexpected pregnancy and how he responded to it. After reading the story, I found myself asking how Joseph must have felt both as he discovered Mary's untimely pregancy or wrestled with the feelings of shame he probably experienced long after he and Mary were married. Did people talk about his as he walked by? Did Mary's parents believe that Joseph didn't get their daughter pregnant?

I believe most of us have experienced shame at one point or another in our lives. Living with shame is tough, and how we go about dealing with it truly marks our character. In any event, here is a portion of the sermon I am going to preach later tonight. You can read the entire sermon by visiting my church's website once I post the sermon online tomorrow (or later tonight).

At some point or another, some of us have been there too: It’s the dead of the night, that special hour when the silence seems spooky, and suddenly you are awakened. On the surface, it could be for any reason: a fragment of a disturbing dream, some stressful remnant from the day before. But as you lie there sinking back into sleep, something else rises up to grasp your conscious mind. It’s more than just an anxious feeling cresting on a cloudy surface; it’s a whisper from way down deep, past the layers of worry, anxiety, and need. It’s a small voice buried in the very center of who you are. And the voice asks, ‘Am I okay? Am I really satisfied with the way I am? Maybe there is something wrong [with me] after all.'

Tower of Babel?

I have discovered an interesting site this morning while doing some cross referencing for a sanskirt thing I am working on and came across this piece. The author is explaining the history of the sanskrit language as well as the theory that sanskrit is among the list of Proto Indo European (P.I.E.) languages that may have all evolved from one source language some 10,000 years ago. The theory is that all the PIE languages share common traits in pronunciation, grammar, and structure thereby supporting the idea that they all have a shared common ancestor-language.

The idea is akin to the Quelle source document (often simply referred to as Q) that is supposed to contain all the sayings of Jesus. It is believed that the authors of the Gospels each had a copy of the Q and then used his sayings to articulate and explain Jesus' life. In a more modern crass explanation, it is like the musical Roy and I saw last week called Mama Mia in which all the songs of Abba were sung in a particular order in which to tell a particular story.

Anyways, back to this PIE language theory, it is facinating and if you have a few minutes, drop by this site here and have a look-see. The idea of an original source language reminds me of what it may have been like in pre-Babel times. I love the idea of a story in the OT being written to explain the various different languages. Even if the story of Babel itself isn't factual (although one never knows), the idea that one language did exist, just tickles my bone of curiosity in ways that other bones in my body are... no wait, I had better just stop typing right now.. Lord knows I'd give just way too much information.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Deskstop Search Program

Wowsers, I have found the coolest new free program going around. It's called Copernic Desktop Search tool and its purpose is to index your hard drive, your email box, your pictures, your music, and a host of other options. Once indexed, all you need to do is type in what you're looking for in the search engine and as fast as you can say, "lickety split" you have your results. And, your results are broken down by date. You'll have sections for 'this week', 'this month', and the last 3 months, and the last 6 months and so on.

I just can't believe how useful this tool has been at work. I am one of those crazy people who gets about 150 emails a day (not including spam); it is just so hard to keep track of what I get and I am often spending more time looking for an old email than I would be if I just picked up the phone and called the sender. Now, I can save some embarrassment. Yesterday I used to feature 4 times!

Anyways, you can download this program by either going to the above link or by going to it this way, if you want to be sure the website doesn't "track itself" from the host site back through your computer: It's not too big a file, you can download it in less than a minute if you're using broadband. Also, keep in mind that it'll take the program a couple of hours or more to index your hard drive (depending on how much stuff you already have on it), I did it before I left work on Thursday and had it waiting for me on Friday morning. I did it on my home system early this morning and it took about 3-4 hours.

Friday, December 17, 2004


Like my fellow pastoral comrades, I have been too busy to post anything of note on my blog this past week. From preparing for court depositions, to planning worship services, to writing sermons, to advertising, to meetings, to yada, yada, yada... and next week looks busier than this week... I have been neglecting this blog and I apologize. However, today something happened that has forced me to write something down.

I went into an eyeglasses store to begin looking at replacing my glasses. I've had them for over two years and am thinking I should replace them with something nicer looking. So, during my lunch break, I went over to a Cohen's Eyeglasses Shop located around the corner from the church.

While I was checking out some really cool frames, I found one that I thought had "me" written all over them. The glasses looked expensive (and they are) but the store is having a 50% off sale on all their frames. So I inquired how much the glasses would cost, including eye exam and the lens. The receptionist said, "Well that all depends, will you be needing bifocals with this pair?"

"BIFOCALS?!! How old do you think I am lady?!", I replied in a rather loud manner.

Unfazed, she (the receptionist) repeated, "If you are going to need bifocals, it'll cost more, that's all I am saying."

"BIFOCALS?!! Good gawd," I replied, coming down from my shock.

Checking out the mirror again with the new glasses on my nose, I thought to myself, "I don't look that old. The gray hair on my temples look sexy. My skin is darn good for almost 40 years old. Thank you very much."

Thinking reflectively, it appears that I am going into older age kicking and screaming. I am glad Roy wasn't there to hear my reaction and rant. My rants tend to embarrass him- I think I was absolutely justified in my response. Don't you?

Monday, December 13, 2004

Inventive Midrash about John the Baptist

This past Sunday I preached a sermon about John the Baptist and used, what I thought would be creative license, to better explain his situation in prison. In the lectionary reading from Sunday, John the Baptist asks his disciples to go ask Jesus, "Are you the Messiah or should I look for another?" Given John's close relationship with Jesus, and his baptism of Jesus where he heard the voice call down from heaven, and given the fact that John had been preaching Jesus as the Messiah, what brought about John's doubts and what lesson might we learn from it?

And so, I thought I'd do something creatively different. I created a midrash story. Midrash is a Jewish literary art form in which a story is taken from the Old Testament and certain details (usually fictional or historically accurate) are added to the story whereby a moral is gleaned that remains somewhat consistent with Hebrew Scripture. This form of storytelling is as older than them Jewish hills- heck, even the Talmud is full of midrash.

Anyways, I applied some inventive midrash to the story of John the Baptist. And certainly, I told everyone I was doing it- I just did it to help clarify John's situation. Some folks absolutely loved it... others though were clearly offended. You'd think we liberal Christians would have more licenses but I guess there are always those who don't want anyone messing with their Christian history- even if that history isn't as complete as we'd like it to be.

Here is a sample of the sermon and the link to read the rest of the sermon at the bottom of the post.

And so, John went to live and study in the desert with a bunch of very bright religious zealots who wore long white robes. The Essene community, as we understand it from the translation of the Dead Sea Scrolls, was comprised of men who had escaped the city life to dedicate themselves to monastic and ascetic spirituality. These Essenes were waiting for certain signs to usher the known world into a new age of religious practice and belief.

I can just imagine the eagerness of John was well received by this community of scholarly but perhaps seemingly very boring men compared to John. With John’s vigor, he delved into his studies with excitement.

As John studied and learned the teachings of this community, something began to come together for him. As the teachers spoke about the true Messiah fulfilling the prophecies of the prophet Isaiah, having been born of a virgin, suddenly a light began to dawn in him. His cousin Jesus was born of a virgin! And doesn’t Jesus’ name mean ‘God with us’? Excitedly, he told his brothers in the commune about his cousin Jesus and that he was the chosen Messiah!

Casting sideward glances to one another, the Essenes nicely but firmly told John that this couldn’t be. “The Messiah would come to set things right, not rise up from the within it,” they said. Or, “The Messiah would bring about a new world order—in a way that crushed the enemy. How could a carpenter’s son accomplish this?” Angered and thwarted, John knew his brothers had to be wrong. As much as he pestered them to reconsider, the angrier they became until they decided that John was no longer
stable enough to consider becoming a brother of the Order. They asked him to leave.

You may read the rest of the sermon here.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

"The 23rd Sigh"

I know the dangers of mixing politics and religion; however a church member just shared this with me tonight and I want to pass it along.

"The 23rd Sigh"

Bush is my shepherd, I dwell in want.
He maketh logs to be cut down in national forests.
He leadeth trucks into the still wilderness.
He restoreth my fears.

He leadeth me in the paths of international disgrace for his ego's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of pollution and war,
I will find no exit, for thou art in office.
Thy tax cuts for the rich and thy media control, they discomfort me.

Thou preparest an agenda of deception in the presence of thy religion.
Thou anointest my head with foreign oil.
My health insurance runneth out.
Surely megalomania and false patriotism shall follow me all the days of thy term,
And my jobless child shall dwell in my basement forever.

God's Special People

I have these two friends who drop by ever so often to chat and say hello. One is a homeless man with severe mental dillusions and the other, a grandmother, who lives up the block who is completely off her rocker. One is named Ted* and the other is Roberta*.

Ted is a guy in his late 40s who sleeps in the park at night and roams the Upper West Side during the day. Wearing layer upon layer of clothes and smelling of both rotten eggs and a combination of human poo and urine, he is quite the odoriferous fellow. Stopping in at various churches, he conjols others for money in whatever way he can muster. With me though, he doesn't ask for money (although he used to, I guess he just got tired of me saying, "No. However, would you like a sandwich?") Every Tuesday and Thursday, Ted comes downstairs to my office and sits down to talk about his life and whatever is going on until its time to hand out the sandwiches. Usually his discussions make absolutely no sense, he jumps from one conversation to another in quick succession. Lately he's been talking about killing his uncle by slitting his throat or by pouring bleach on him and setting the bleach on fire. I haven't told him that bleach isn't flamable--just in case he actually does this. I don't really think he'll ever do this- but I have mentioned him to the local police who smile and say, "Nah, I wouldn't worry about ol' Ted, he's fairly harmless." I think he's harmless too.. although last week he did give me a fright.

I had been relunctant to tell Ted that I was gay because one never knows how a homeless mentally challenged paranoid schitsofrenic (sp?) would handle such revelations. However, the day finally came when I told him because of his insistence that I need a woman to make my nights more enjoyable. Upon hearing the news, he was shocked.. and responded in a loud, "You are going to hell!" kind of way. But that wasn't what was frightening. The next day he came back and to say, "You know, perhaps I can help teach you some special techniques to show Roy (I told him about my boyfriend) and preceded to ask for my home address and when a proper time to drop by so he could sexually satisfy me. Gasp!! I was too shocked to actually answer right away. Gathering myself, I told him that, "No, I didn't need him to do that," that, "No, we will never have sex," and "No, I do not give you permission to talk to me like that."

He stopped in today and apologized for the way he talked to me last Saturday. And, almost as if the conversation never happened, he went back to why he hates his uncle and how he misses his mother (who died last year) during this holiday season. Ted is a bit of a staple around this neighborhood and, seeing him reminds me that life continues on.. day by day.. with all its idiosyncricies.

Roberta is a bit different. She is in her mid 60s, as thin as a rail, and is missing earlobes that look as if they were bitten off by something (or someone). And, she always has painted on her lips the brightest red lipstick you ever saw. Sometimes she tries to sneak a kiss on my cheek just so that she can see the bright lipstick on my cheek. Today she came in (as she normally does) laughing and carrying on very loudly. Screaming, "HOW IS MY PASTOR BO DOING TODAY? I LOVE MY PASTOR BO!" She is someone who knows she's nuts and takes the appropriate medication that really only sedates her.. you ought see her when she's not sedated! Still, she brings a warmth and a smile into the office whenever I see her. Unfortunately she's always looking for money, a cigarette, or a piece of cake. Still, when I see her she lightens my day.

Roberta came to visit me this past Sunday too. Wearing a fancy dress and a bright red wool coat, she asked if I had any change, a cigarette, or a piece of cake. Unfortunately, I had nothing of the sort but we talked and we both got a big kick out of seeing each other. She had to leave shortly after she arrived because her "show" was coming on the television and, as she said, "I JUST GOTTA HAVE MY SOUL TRAIN!" I found at today that Aretha Franklin was on Sunday and Roberta preceded to sing to me some of Aretha's fine singin'. I think Aretha's a mighty fine singer too so we both joined in a rendition of, "You better stop, think, about what you're doin' to me.."

We had a great time.

This past Sunday our guest preacher preached on the times in which we entertain angels unawares. The sermon highlighted the many times in which people come into our lives that enrich us and then, sometimes depart before we have a chance to thank them. I have been fortunate to thank both Ted and Roberta for their friendships.. even when our meetings are odd or off the wall. To me, they are like angles (heck, they might even be angels.. if it wasn't for Ted's horndog-ness, I might really wonder).

Sometimes I wonder if I am not entertaining angels, then who might I be talking with. I say that because of something Jesus said once, "In as much as you do it to the least of my brethren, you do it unto me." Hmm.. whether I am entertaining angels or Jesus, I know that God is calling me to care for the poor and lonely. I wonder if God just said that about the angels or if Jesus just said that about himself, just to make sure I do it. Regardless, I have found people like Ted and Roberta as God's special people and I am sure glad they are my friends.

* Not their real names.

Monday, December 06, 2004

This week's WinXP News

I have been debating about downloading Service Pack 2 for XP. I have heard so many horror stories from folks who did so and am ever so relunctant to experience those problems. Today while reading this weekly eNewsletter, I found a webpage at Microsoft (as explained in WinXP News) that details particular problems to expect and which programs I have that will conflict with the service pack update. As a result, I have DEFINATELY decided NOT to download Service Pack 2.

You can read about this and other exciting computer talk about this month's issue at WinXP News.

Another great quote

"Opportunity is missed by most because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." -- Thomas Alva Edison

Books, books, and more books

I have been told by he who says he loves me, "Pare down your books, all of them.. get rid of the ones you'll never read again, this looks crazy!!"

Getting rid of one's books is a tough thing to do. I mean, each of them tells a story of where they came from, why I bought them, and how much I enjoyed reading them. It's a shame really; surely no one will value them as much as I do were I to give them away. Lord knows I won't throw them in the trash (that just has to be a sin).

So.. I am looking at my bookcases here at home and am wondering, "Where do I start?"

I have been able to make the case for keeping my reference books on liberation theology, the Idiot's Guides to everything (which also includes a few cookbooks), cultural anthropology, teaching methods, and Biblical exegesis. I am left with about 3 shelves that I could honestly discard in their entirety (and probably a fourth shelf, the shelf on cultural anthropology deals with cultures around the globe as they deal with lgbt identities, this is probably a bit dated.)

To make this challenge easier, I have decided what I am going to do with the books first. For starters, I am going to donate by books on a queer identity and other relevant cultural discussions, to the Gay Center here in New York City. Then, I am going to go through the bookshelves and actually trash the old papers, binders, and reports I have stuffed in-between the books.

Finally, I found a bookstore yesterday that will give me a $1 store credit for any fiction book I bring in that they need. The rest will be donated, through them, to other book-related charities. I am pretty psyched that I have a plan. The next hurdle though, is taking down the books and packing them up. I need to get myself motivated and do it all very quickly- I have to "not think, just do" it. But, I'll need to wait until the movitation takes hold of me.. it won't be too long, I've been given a deadline.

Also, I will need to do the same thing at work. While he who loves me understands that my books at work are my responsibility, it only makes sense for me to do a bookshelf cleaning there too. That'll be tougher though.. my best and most favorite books are at work.

Still, as I think about this age of technology I am living in, I realize that most of my important reference books have now been digitalized and that keeping all my hardcover books are now more about sentimentality than actual, "I just know I'll need to reference something in that book someday soon." I am amazed at how seductive sentimentality really is.. and how powerful it is too. I guess I just need a big dose of 'mean as hell cantankorism' to begin and finish this task. Pray for me kind folk, its going to be a tough week of paring down.

Christian Capitalism

Here is an interesting and thought-provoking article on Christian capitalism written by someone who seems to defend it and yet, wants to seem as though he's criticizing the conversation. Still, its worth a read. Here is an excerpt:

I have always found it puzzling whenever nonevangelicals -- whether in the media or in casual conversation -- express shock and surprise over the commercialization of Christian religiosity through popular media and commodities. That shock suggests that even the most secularized among us remain susceptible to an essentially religious axiom: that the sacred and the profane must be kept separate as a matter of proper moral order. Even people who do not believe in Christ the Redeemer still want to believe in a Jesus who throws a fit when money-changers show up at the temple. And they want evangelicals to believe in that Jesus first and foremost, as well.

Go here to read the entire article.

The Emergent Church

I read a great article over at Christianity Today's website about the Emergent Church, what it is and what its trying to understand as it re-evaluates the Christian message from a "been there, done that" evangelical perspective.

I am increasingly interested in the Emergent Church discussion. I have a couple of friends in Oklahoma who are involved in this discussion and it intrigues me greatly. They poke and prod me in interesting and insightful ways (to which I am grateful for in many ways).

I, who lead worship in a liberal pilgrim congregation, find that our message is missing something.. and I would sure like to find what that "something" is. One particular challenge I have in the pursuit of an emergent church within my faith tradition is that many of my congregants are dyed-in-the-wool congregational liberals who have no understanding (or patience) for those who have a message about a personal/devotional faith. How does one encourage others to grow their spiritual lives in a direction towards growth that still honors those who choose to travel more slowly or not at all?

Another challenge is that while we're good liberals in that we do social justice very well.. its just that we don't bring a devotional voice into that justice. We see Jesus as a motivation, and example, to do good- but where does the Christ fit into this discussion? Where does Christ lead us in this discussion? Are my questions simply a post-tribulationist perspective (which I can't say I actually believe, but don't ask me why). Its my odd questions and desire for something more that brings me to the Emergent Church discussion.

Unfortunately many of my liberal collegues do not share in my pursuit- some feel that I am hanging on to that which I had (speaking to my evangelical roots) and can't seem to let go of. A few other collegues are satisfied with liberalism enough that they don't want to change a thing. And still yet, there are a few collegues who are encouraging me to drop this pursuit entirely (for the sake of my well-being and my career).

I say all this to say, sometimes I feel like I am journeying alone (or more alone that I should be) in this pursuit. And that, in and of itself, is very challenging. As a result, I don't pursue this discussion or conversation with the same rigor I could have if I had others to journey with. I am left with only asking those tough questions or doing personal investigations only when I am 'up to snuff' physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Still.. its a discussion I am not giving up on and its something I feel is leading me in the right direction (I do believe that God is in the journey that our questions take us.) It is in articles like the one linked in this profile that feed my inquisitive soul and gives me encouragement for another time when I am ready to continue the discussions of an Emergent Church.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Unexpected Response

Okay, so I've spent the last two days filling out petitions against the CBS and NBC response to renig on their negotiations to air the UCC commercial. I've created my own petitions that will be handed out on Sunday after the service. I'm also one of the organizers for a planned response for NYC's clergy and laypersons- we're gathering names and ideas on whether to have a demonstration or offer a press release. People are calling me, phones are ringing, my email inbox is "running over".

And then, I get an email from the denomination saying this,
1. Please don't over-react to what's happened, the majority of our ads were intended for cable stations; only a small number of ads were going on the major networks anyway.
2. The negative response and the outcry from just about everyone against NBC and CBS have garnered us more publicity than we thought imaginable, so its really been a blessing in disguise.

As of today, over 200 major news houses have printed, emailed, did television coverage, and loads of commentary about our commercial. Each time a news station has reported on the commercial, they've shown the commercial in its entirety. The NY Times did an article on it, practically every news source in England has come out in our favor, and word has spread in NYC like wild fire asking, "Wow, who are the United Church of Christ?! We love what they stand for!"
And so, I am wondering (at 1am in the morning), is a press conference or denomstration really necessary? We've gotten probably 100 times more coverage than we would ever have dreamed; and the commercials were only supposed to air for 3 weeks anyway; now the denomination has decided to continue airing the commercials (if only on the cable stations) well into 2005.

It reminds me of that old addage: "Bad press is still good press- and its free." Needless to say, I am not as angered or frustrated as I was the other day. Me and several of my collegues were still stinging a bit from the election- the action of NBC and CBS seemed to exacerbate the our overall feelings of mistrust and corruption. For those who let me rant while holding your tongue, thank you.

That said though, the petitions are still going out and we'll probably have a press conference of some kind soon enough; I'll let you know when whatever happens, happens.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

The Offending Commercial

You can watch the UCC commercial by going to the UCC's "God is still speaking" campaign website at

Thoughtful Quote

On a completely different note of my tirades against the NBC and CBS networks, I read this great quote in my weekly (or semi-weekly) receipt of WinXP News.

Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.-- Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

Pretty cool, eh?

WinXP News, by the way, is an eNewsletter that helps you navigate through Windows XP and fix all sorts of problems. They have commentary on computer news as well as programming tips (even for those who don't know how to program). It's a free eNewsletter that I highly recommend.

A Shocking Thing to Say

This morning, like about 10 minutes ago, the Rev. Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, KY said on Good Morning America,

The United Church of Christ's commercial "is a diabolical misrepresentation of Christianity."

Good Morning America ran a segment about the UCC commercial that NBC and CBS are refusing to air because of its message that welcomes gay and lesbians into its (our) congregations. GMA had Albert Mohler and the communications rep of the UCC discuss the commercial and why its causing such a fuss.

In a public statement you can read in a post below, CBS specifically refused to air the ad because of the Presidential recommendation to change the constitution to prevent gay marriages. While there are many cable stations who are running the ads, CBS, NBC, and UPN are refusing to run the ad based on its welcoming theme for gays and lesbians. ABC said they don't run religious ads although ABC Family will run the ad.

Last Spring, the UCC ran these ads on these stations in test markets where no local or national station received negative feedback. What has changed since last Spring that these stations would now say are too controversial to broadcast?

As per CBS's own admission, the reason is a political thing and I hope the UCC will take this issue to the courts to get resolved.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

So it IS a political thing!!

This is from the press release from CBS:

"Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples and other minority groups by individuals and organizations," reads the explanation from CBS, "and the fact that the Executive Branch has recently proposed a constitutional amendment to define marriage as the union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable to broadcast on the [CBS and UPN] networks." (italics mine, added for emphasis)

Similarly, a rejection by NBC declared the spot "too controversial."

So our networks are no longer a free agent in the world of news and politics? This just shows how closely our networks are tied with more powerful people who determine what news to report and how that news is viewed or not viewed. Grrrrrrrrrrrrr!!

Double-talk and Hypocrisy A-flame!

I just can't believe it.. I really can't!! The major tv networks, NBC and CBS have refused to allow the United Church of Christ to buy airtime for our first commercial kicking off our nationwide "God is still speaking" campaign. And, they did this on the eve in which the commercials were to air. They decided at the last minute that a commercial that advertises a church that welcomes all people is "too controversial."

And yet, NBC and CBS have ads for drugs that will give a man a four-hour erection; soaps and prime-time shows that portray sexual activity between teenagers, and men & women who aren't married to each other, as the norm; CBS can run a 20/20 episode with the Matthew Shephard murderers - in spite of their plea-bargain, where they escaped a potential death sentence, in exchange for a promise to never, that is spelled N-E-V-E-R talk to the media about Matthew's death.

And . . a mainline church wants to BUY commercial airtime for an add that say 'our church welcomes everyone' - and the networks say no.

It's hypocrisy pure and simple. And, its probably a little bit political too-- a bunch of people not wanting to show a church that is so welcoming might go against their own religious views. Show sex during the day, and thats fine! Oh sure.. but show a welcoming church, "I am sorry, but that is going too far."

Fortunately, the commercial has been accepted and will air on a number of networks, including ABC Family, AMC, BET, Discovery, Fox, Hallmark, History, Nick@Nite, TBS, TNT, Travel and TV Land, among others.

If you want to see the commercial now, you can see it by visiting the website of the United Church of Christ at

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Christmas cards already?!

Great Christmas card, eh?

I was stunned when I opened my first Christmas card of the season. No, I didn't receive the above card (its usually the one I send to several of my more fabulous friends). Instead, I received a very nice and Christmasy card from one of my parishoners on November 27th! Is it already that time of year again?! Well, it looks like I'd better get to planning for it then.Sometimes I've made my own Christmas cards, other times I have used a hobby of mine (stamping) to decorate my cards. Sometimes I've given out two different sets of Christmas cards- one set is the ones you can send to friends and family, the other set is a bit more fabulous, like this one. I used to send the card above because it was so angelic (it's actually their number one selling Christmas card.Hmm.. this year I have no idea what to do, or at least, I haven't spent any time thinking about it. I'll need to hurry though, I've got lots to send out this time.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Who's really responsible?

The Meet the Press discussion, with Falwell, Land, Wallis, and Sharpton is still going over in my head. There was one particular discussion about abortion that caught my attention. I was taken back by another discussion between Land and Russert:

MR. RUSSERT: If abortion is outlawed in the state and abortions are performed by a doctor in that state, who's prosecuted? The doctor?

DR. LAND: The doctor.

MR. RUSSERT: The mother?

DR. LAND: I see mothers as victims. I've worked in crisis pregnancy centers. I've counseled women who'd had post-abortion traumatic stress syndrome. When an abortion takes place, there are at least two victims, the mother and the unborn child. I would prosecute the doctors. And we're ready to battle that out in every state and let the people's elected representatives make those decisions, not people in black robes.

To me, as I try and get my head around the issues, I wonder that if its the mother who is going to get an abortion, wouldn't it make sense to the person advocating against abortion that she should be prosecuted too? The doctor is in a Kevorkian-like position, assisting in the murder. Surely the doctor should be prosecuted but what of the mother? Given how many conservatives favor the death penalty (I for one, do not), it doesn't seem like a far stretch then to wonder why the political conservatives haven't argued for sending mothers who get an abortion to the gas chamber? Maybe that wouldn't be as strong a selling point in the political arena, eh?

Honestly, I think this is what many feminists are afraid of: If we overturn Roe v. Wade, then women who get abortions may get prosecuted (or sent to the gas chamber) if it is discovered that by the authorities that they had one. And now with technology capable of maintaining all sorts of data, it probably should scare the crap of out advocates of abortion.

To me, as I try and find a consistency in the abortion debate, I find myself looking to the Catholic Church (gasp! I know.. I don't do this very often) and look at their position on pro-life. For many within the Catholic Church, the issue of life is of the utmost importance. Whether we're talking about abortions, the death penalty, euthenasia.. whatever it is, if we value life then we should work towards its betterment in all the arenas surrounding those who have abortions, murdering others, or end of life issues. What sort of environments contribute to these situations and how ought we to address them so that in the end, there are less murders, less abortions, and less reasons to "stop feeding dad so he can die peacefully."

Arguments aside, addressing the problems of abortion is a challenging issue. I think Wallis had something interesting to say when he said,

REV. WALLIS: Well, this is a conversation that we're having all across the country now. And it's again about symbols more than--I want solutions here. Pro-life and pro-choice people could unite together around working on teenage pregnancy, adoption reform, supporting low-income women. When you support them economically, the abortion rate falls. The abortion rate is way too high in America.

I remember watching a special on television a few weeks ago when a feminist theologian (can't remember her name at the moment) was explaining that conservative politicians aren't so much pro-life as they are pro-birth. If they were pro-life, they'd be concerned about issues surrounding the life of the birthed child: poverty, drug abuse, and child abuse. To her, the arguments about abortion are more about pro-birth and should be stated as such.

I would like to believe that the Republican and Democratic parties actually want to address this issue in a serious way to minimize abortions and actually do more work than talk. I'd like to think they'd work to create a support network that address all the issues of abortion. If they are serious, then I'd be in favor of advocating an alliance between both Republicans and Democrats to create and foster a program that speaks to all the challenges of unwanted pregnancies: poverty, child neglect, adoption reform, etc. But then, I wonder: is this just talk or is anyone really serious about addressing this issue outside of political platforms on early Sunday morning news talk shows?

Four people to NOT invite over for a dinner party... least, not all at the same time. Can you imagine Jerry Falwell, Al Sharpton, Richard Land, and Jim Wallis sitting in your living room each trying to tell the other that God is on their side and not the others?

This Sunday all these ministers were on Meet the Press for a discussion on morality, the constitution, and the American Presidency. You can read the transcript here. You'll need to scroll down about a quarter of the way.

The discussion began on a friendly note, some bantering back and forth to the other in a nice playful sort of way. Falwell and Sharpton seem to have an odd comraderie and perhaps a secret friendship that sends shivers up my spine. And then, Tim Russert, the commentator for Meet the Press started asking his loaded questions and everything afterwards seemed to have digressed rather rapidly. Land, the president of the Southern Baptist Ethics Commission seems to be getting more public in his self-presentation and really hammered out his religion while Wallis, the really nice and thoughtful editor from Sojourners, seemed a bit "too nice" asking over and over again amid the shouts and self-righteous indignations, "Can't we all just get along?"

You know Meet the Press did this for ratings- and, of course, that is why I stayed tuned in. It was a lively gathering but one that highlights for me the dangers of religion and why so many people are turned off to organized religion and religious leaders who think they speak for God. If I had to take my pick of a favorite, it'd prolly be Jim Wallis and I love his points about finding common ground and compromise.

To me the show was summed up early by a reference to a speech Abraham Lincoln said. Using the reference, Richard Land made a point about how God is involved in politics but it was Russert (who knew his history) that clarified Lands point (or at least, made Land clarify his point):

DR. LAND: seems to me, is very much like Lincoln's posture when Lincoln said, you know, "In this war that we've been in, both sides think God's on their side. Both sides can't be right. Both sides may be wrong. This may be a judgment on the whole country because of slavery. But with malice toward none, with charity for all, we're going to go forward seeking to do the right as God gives us the light to see the right." The president believed that God wanted him to be president, but he was open to the possibility that wouldn't be true. How many people of religious faith who ever ran for president didn't think God wanted them to be president? Jimmy Carter certainly did.

MR. RUSSERT: But as Abraham Lincoln said, "The key, however, is make sure that we're on God's side, not claim that God is on our side."

I think this is the point with religion in politics, let's strive and hope we're on God's side rather than being confident because "God is on our side," in whatever we do. This difference is huge and it explains the difference between pursuing right relations and religious/political coercion.

The Word

I am really trying but for whatever reason I cannot seem to get into the book, The Word, by Irving Wallace. It is supposed to be another Dan Brown-like book about a secret manuscript that might undo two thousand years of religion. The problem is the book is too preachy and hasn't yet "got going". And, I am well over a hundred pages into the book. To me, this is a bad sign. I haven't yet decided if I am going to chunk the book. But, in the event I decide to, I went out and purchased, The Dante Club, by Matthew Pearl. Check out the word from the publisher on this one, it is a New York Times Bestseller:


"In 1865 Boston, the literary geniuses of the Dante Club - poets and Harvard professors Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, and James Russell Lowell, along with publisher J. T. Fields - are finishing America's first translation of The Divine Comedy and preparing to unveil Dante's remarkable visions to the New World. The powerful Boston Brahmins at Harvard College are fighting to keep Dante in obscurity, believing that the infiltration of foreign superstitions into American minds will prove as corrupting as the immigrants arriving at Boston Harbor." "The members of the Dante Club fight to keep a sacred literary cause alive, but their plans fall apart when a series of murders erupts through Boston and Cambridge. Only this small group of scholars realizes that the gruesome killings are modeled on the descriptions of Hell's punishments from Dante's Inferno. With the lives of the Boston elite and Dante's literary future in America at stake, the Dante Club members must find the killer before the authorities discover their secret." Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes and an outcast police officer named Nicholas Rey, the first black member of the Boston police department, must place their careers on the line to end the terror. Together, they discover that the source of the murders lies closer to home than they ever could have imagined.

Regardless if I finish The Word, I know I'll read The Dante Club. I'll let you know how it (or either) turns out.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Thanksgiving Weekend

Well, its finally over... the Thanksgiving holidays. For whatever reason, the week leading up to and including the weekend of Thanksgiving is so frantic for me. And, the crazy thing is that I seldom ever go back home for it so its not like I have an excuse that I am spending time with my family.

Fortunately this year I chose not to participate in the madness of a Friday afternoon shopping spree (or, here in NYC, that madness begins at 6am). I don't think I could've taken the bajillion people within BestBuy or the loons at Macy's (that place is truly insane on the Friday after Thanksgiving).

Tonight's church service went very well. We kicked off a week-long art show showcasing South African artist Shui, who is one heck of an amazing artist. All the proceeds of the art sale are going to benefit the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, so that's really special to us.

And, the sermon was well received even if there were parts in it that I am still mulling over. I find it wild when I preach and the sermon speaks to me even as I preach it. This particular one focused on using hope as a motivator for obedience rather than the fear of being "left behind," when Jesus comes "like a thief in the night." I don't like using fear to draw folks into a relationship of faith with God--and the sermon gave me an opportunity to talk more about that. You can read it, if you're interested, by going to my church's website, and clicking the Sermons link. The title of the sermon is, "Must We Be Afraid?".

Tomorrow I am going to lay around the apartment, write more in my blog (most likely), and begin my Christmas shopping. See you tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

A Redbird Christmas

Okay, so I have found the perfect 'gift book' as a housewarming gift or to give to an older friend. The book is, A Redbird Christmas, by Fannie Flag. It is a charming book about a fellow from Chicago who moves to Lost River, a small town in Alabama. The book is a fast read, something a person could curl up to on a rainy afternoon and read completely through.

It is wonderfully heartwarming; a mixture of teary-eyed happenings that both soothe the heart and comfort the soul, in that folksy 'down-home grandpa telling a good story' kind of way.

One Heck of a Great Time

Well, Roy and I made it back safe and sound from Montreal, Canada. We were gone since last Friday and got back late last night (Monday). We stayed in a cheap hotel along St. Catherine in the Village area of Montreal. We ate like we could afford to do it (but will be paying for it for quite sometime, thank gawd for credit cards, eh?).

I took a lot of pictures but Roy's turned out a lot better than mine. I'll post his pictures as soon as he makes a cd for me. He has a kick-butt camera.

Montreal is an amazing city. The history of the city and the beautiful buildings made for an unbelievable site to behold. The people were among the friendliest I have ever met in any city I've traveled to- everyone, and I mean everyone were pleasant and amiable. And, its affordable. I shutter at the thought of what it would've cost us had we did everything in New York that we did in Montreal. Roy and I promised each other that we'd definately go back- (only this time we'll go in the summer.. this time it was a bit chilly (read: frickin' cold) with stabbingly frigid strong winds.

St. Joseph du Mont Royal in Montreal. This is the largest shrine in the world dedicated to Joseph, Jesus' dad.
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Thursday, November 18, 2004

Montreal Bound

Tomorrow, Friday, Roy and I are heading up to Montreal for a weekend getaway. We won't be back until Monday afternoon. Neither of us have ever been to Montreal and we're looking forward to a real treat.

I'll try and update my happenings while I am there (via the email your posts function of my blog host). If not, then I'll write about our trip when we return. By the way, I just experimented with the post via email function of the blog host and it works like a charm.

Our Faith in the Political Community

We Democrats sure don't like to talk about our very private religious convictions in public. Truth be told, our religious convictions are what motivate us to do what we do (those who are religious or spiritual anyway). When we don't talk about our faith or what compels us to do or vote our conscience, we miss the opportunity to show others, who also vote by their convictions, a different interpretation of the faith.

And so it went on November 2nd- conservatives voted their consciences and liberals voted theirs (read, ours). And yet, neither explained to the other what it meant to them; we only judged each other with vehemenance. Some good that did (continues to do).

I think before we liberals can convey how we believe our message reflects a fairer call to justice, we have to better articulate why we believe what we believe.. and do it in a Christian/religious context, if we are to convince other voters in the future that there is a better way to live out our faith in the political community.

Jim Wallis, editor at Sojourners, has written a piece conveying a similar call to Democrats while pointing out a newer post-election survey that contradicts the original flawed exit poll question that "sparked an enormous and important political debate in America" about the 22% figure reflecting that most Republicans cited their belief that moral values (e.g., abortion and gay marriage issues) were the primary reason for voting for President Bush. Check out the entire article, its a thought-provoking piece.

The reaction to that initial poll has underscored to our nation how important our religious beliefs are in relation to politics and how specifically we liberals have failed to communicate why its important to us. (Let me tell you, my anger totally blinded me to the reality that I too have failed to articulate how my faith speaks to Bush's lack of society concerns. Let our initial post-election reaction be our wake up call to get off our butts and get serious about our public faith.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Editting and re-editting.. and re-editting..

The post that follows this one was very tough to write, as you might imagine. One interesting thing about it though is that once I wrote it, I kept going back to edit it. And edit it. And edit it. In the late morning, I think I finished my edits and that while it does maintain a semblance of what I wrote earlier, it is also a bit different.

I guess thats the crazy thing about writing difficult words- you think it can always be better.. or worse.. or just different. Being a writer must really suck at times.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Another dilemma

There is this particular homeless guy who asked me if he could store 'his stuff' for a day so that he can get some personal issues dealt with. I had told him, "Sure, you can leave your stuff here for a day." Okay, so that was 2 weeks ago. He has been spotted coming in after I have already left to change clothes but leave his stuff here at the church. I saw him briefly last Friday and said, "You have to take your stuff now," but it was raining real hard and he said, "Oh please, its raining real hard, may I leave it for one more day?" The good ol' boy that I am said, "Sure."

Okay, so now I have to tell him, "Take your stuff, it can't stay here any longer," and do it in the nicest Oklahoma-speak and yet mixed with a bit of redneck authority. He's a really nice guy who is just down on his luck (for the past 10 years, I need to add). I hate being too mean to guys like this particular homeless person, not because he is so unfortunate but because being a successful homeless person means that you are also very tricky and sly. Just as soon as I become authoritative, he'll turn what I say into something else and, I'll get emotionally (spiritually) forced to let him keep his stuff just a bit longer here, and then I'll get all mad at myself later for letting him, 'do it to me again.' It's a cycle with me sometimes. Go figure.

Ministry is sometimes fun and sometimes very challenging. This particular dilemma is very challenging.

70's glam rock

You know how there are folks who have those unusual hobbies, like pine-cone shalacking and metal can sculpting? Well, I have an unusual hobbie (actually I have several) but the one in particular is my interest in 70's glam rock. I found this site today about one of the first out-gay rockers in the 70's named Jobriath and low and behold the old boy has his own fan club website(even though he's been dead for ages).

Monday, November 15, 2004

Yet another new subway book

Okay, so I am as happy as a pig in the mud. I found another subway book that I'll get to as soon as I finish A Redbird Christmas. The new book is called The Word, by Irving Wallace. Here is a brief synopsis:

In the Beginning, there was . . . The Word. The classic thriller of an ancient manuscript, a secret society committed to hiding an explosive truth, and the man who must uncover that truth--if he can stay alive long enough.

In the ruins of the ancient Roman seaport of Ostia Antica, an Italian archaeologist has discovered a first century papyrus, its faded text revealing a new gospel written by James, younger brother of Jesus. This discovery will show the world a new Jesus Christ, fill in the missing years of his ministry, contradict the existing accounts of his life--and potentially destroy the foundation of 2,000 years of Western civilization. First published in 1972, The Word remains a classic of brilliant storytelling, authentic detail and breathtaking narrative power.

Call me silly but I just love these spiritual conspiracy books. I still don't know exactly what you call this particular genre- which makes hunting for these books a particular challenge.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Remember that Subway book I was looking for?

I found a great book last night at Barnes and Nobles called, A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg (author of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe). A Redbird Christmas is about a gentlement who goes to live in Southern Alabama following doctor's orders about the man's failing health.

With the same incomparable style and warm, inviting voice that have made her beloved by millions of readers far and wide, New York Times bestselling author Fannie Flagg has written an enchanting Christmas story of faith and hope for all ages that is sure to become a classic.
Deep in the southernmost part of Alabama, along the banks of a lazy winding river, lies the sleepy little community known as Lost River, a place that time itself seems to have forgotten. After a startling diagnosis from his doctor, Oswald T. Campbell leaves behind the cold and damp of the oncoming Chicago winter to spend what he believes will be his last Christmas in the warm and welcoming town of Lost River. There he meets the postman who delivers mail by boat, the store owner who nurses a broken heart, the ladies of the Mystic Order of the Royal Polka Dots Secret Society, who do clandestine good works. And he meets a little redbird named Jack, who is at the center of this tale of a magical Christmas when something so amazing happened that those who witnessed it have never forgotten it. Once you experience the wonder, you too will never forget, A Redbird Christmas.

The book, so far, is a real charmer. It's written in an old style grownup fairy tale kind of way and writes with the charm of your grandfather telling you about life when he was a boy. It's a short book; I'll probably be done with it in a few days, assuming I just don't curl up to it today and read the whole thing.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Seeking to Understand

I was over at Beliefnet this afternoon and discovered an interesting article about confusing the differences between liberals and conservatives. I was attracted to this article because a friend of mine wrote in his blog about this very issue. I think the article is a good read and might help enable a conservative to better understand a liberal (and vice versa). It's good to at least understand those with whom we speak- lest we just get so angry that whatever we say becomes offensive to the other.

The article is called, "Perverted, God-Hating Frenchies vs. Inbred, Sex-Obsessed Yokels Why Can't Liberals and Conservatives Get Along? Because They Fundamentally Misunderstand Each Other."

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Our Vanished Values

Michael Feingold, writing for the Village Voice, a New York City alternative paper (with a huge cirrculation) wrote this piece about our election and how he interprets his faith through it. Here is an excerpt.

"For make no mistake, this is the election in which American Christianity destroyed itself. Today the church is no longer a religion but a tacky political lobby, with an obsessive concentration on a minuscule number of social topics so irrelevant to questions of governance that they barely constitute political issues at all. These are the points of contention tied into what are blurrily referred to as "moral values," though they have almost nothing to do with the larger moral question of how one lives one's life, and everything to do with the fundamentally un-Christian and un-American idea of forcing others to live the way you believe they should. The displacement of faith involved is eerie, almost psychotic: Here are people willing to vote against their own well-being and their own children's future, just so they can compel someone else's daughter to bear an unwanted child and deprive someone else's son of the right to file a joint income tax return with his male partner."

You can read the whole article here.

Justice Scalia

Mr. Conservative says,

"Sexual orgies eliminate social tensions and ought to be encouraged." -- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia speaking at Harvard University Sept. 29, according to The Harvard Crimson.

So he isn't against sex per say, just when gay people do it.

Cooler pictures

If you were to visit my office, you'd find it decorated with paintings (as opposed to pictures). Even at home, I have several paintings (either my own or one's I've purchased) hanging on my walls. So, with that theme in mind, I've changed the photos from long ended television shows and replaced them with artsy paintings. They all have religious/spiritual themes to them; even if you have to look "real close" to figure out what they are. Visit Sandy Frazier's online gallery to view and perhaps purchase you very own original artwork.

Larry Kramer's Speech at Cooper-Union

I had no idea Larry Kramer was giving this lecture until about 3pm the day of his speech, which was a Sunday no less. Although I couldn't make it, fortunately the text from this speech has made its way to the internet. Follow this link to read it.

I should caution you though: If you don't know who Larry Kramer is, then this speech may offend you mightily. Larry is one of the founding members of Gay Men's Health Crisis here in New York City. In his younger days, he was an avid and active member of Act-Up and his views on gay life seem to piss of both gay and straight folk alike. Now he is much older and although he isn't as prolific in his writings and speeches as in his early days, when he does say something its powerful.

I believe his voice is prophetic (even if what he says stings) and I encourage you to read his stuff. This speech is insanely long, so be patient.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Honoring the Memories

The following is from my sermon preached this past Sunday, November 7th for All Saints Day.

This past week, I was talking with a friend about the unique religious rites associated with All Saints Day. I told him about the sermon I was preaching tonight and the fascination from my research of the various religious ceremonies people have performed in honoring the dearly departed. For instance, in Japan, there is the Obon festival celebrated in July. In China, there is the celebration of the Moon of Hungry Ghosts. In ancient Rome, the ghosts of the ancestors were appeased during Lemuia on May 9th.

My friend and I talked about our perception that Americans seem to understand death with scary associations—both of us agreed that perhaps television, graphic novels, and gory movies are responsible for tainting our images of death. As a result, we surmised, some of us confuse
darkness with evil, and approach death with fear—thus the emphasis in American celebrations of Halloween with demons and ghosts, the gory and the grotesque.

My friend Ed is a psychiatrist here in New York City. He told me an interesting parallel to the celebration of death that he observed last year while visiting with friends in Guatemala. There death wasn’t scary—rather it was a celebration. On November 1st, Ed and his local friends participated in a ritual called the “Sweeping of the Graves.”

Each year, families would come together to go and visit each of the gravesites of their dearly departed mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, friends and lovers. As they arrived, they would first spend a time cleaning the gravesite. They would cut down the grasses surrounding the tombstones or markers. They would scrub off the dirt from the stones. Then, having brought food, drink, music and candles, they would sit down around the gravestone.

The food and drink they brought was the favorite food and drink of the person who died. The music they would play would be the favorite music of that person too. Lighting candles as they began, everyone would sit down and eat the food and drink the drink. They talked fondly and remembered the fun and joy of their dearly departed.

During the festivities, the family would then invoke the spirit of their family member or friend that the departed spirit might speak to them with words of wonder and enlightenment.

When they were finished eating and drinking, and talking with their ghosts, they would then visit other gravesites, mingling with those there who were eating and drinking and dancing to the music of their loved ones—each family telling the other about the love of the person they were celebrating. All the while, the spirits of the dead would be mingling and talking with each other and one another.

What an interesting contrast indeed...

You can read the rest of the sermon by going visiting my church's website.

Television that I grew up on

You'll now see some pictures of those old familiar reruns that many of us ol' farts grew up watching after school. You'll find the pictures of the Fonz (I was enamored with him as a boy), Welcome Back, Kotter, Gilligan's Island, Barney Miller, All in the Family, and the Munsters. How's that for being just way too silly? :)

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

some new, some rearranged

If you've looked closely at my blog today, you'll notice I've done some minor updating and rearranging on the right side of the screen. I went through my links, checking to see which ones still worked and while "cleaning up a bit," I decided to add some new blog links.

I fiddled with 'my favorite links', added some and took others away. I wanted the list to be self-revealing and cool at the same time (this pairing seldom works in my life in other situations).

The blog roll call is somewhat divided into sections (although I probably should put the list in alphabetical order). I have listed the liberally-spiritual blogs first, then the postmodern ones, then some friends, and the last few are political in nature.

I also made the advertisements look cleaner, if that is at all possible. I will be adding some pictures to the right column sometime soon- I just first need to find some pictures with my personality spewed on them (I apologize if this particular mental image might make you feel a bit queazy.)

That's it for now, more later.

This is a county-by-county break down of which counties voted for whom in the Presidential election. Look at all that red!! We liberals need to rethink some things, eh?
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Monday, November 08, 2004

God is Still Speaking

I am so excited about the new television commercials about The United Church of Christ. These commercials are all part of our God is Still Speaking Campaign which begins on December 1st. To preview the new commercial, visit Be sure to turn up your computer speakers. :)

New Reading List

I finally finished my subway book, The Magic Circle by Katherine Neville. It was one heck of a great read (if you like that sort of genre). I tend to enjoy those spiritual mysteries in the vein of The Da Vinci Code. I am presently out of ideas on what to read next from that genre so I am going to vear off a bit and look at two new books.

The first book is being read at church about Christian Hospitality. The book, Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition is by Christine Pohl in which she rediscovers how churches in our historical past worked at being as hospitible as possible. We are trying to find new and old ways of being hospitible and from last night's first Book Club meeting, this book is going to be great.

The second book is supposed to be THE textbook on mysticism. Mysticism: The Nature and Development of Spiritual Consciousness by Evelyn Underhill is about the nature of spirituality and how a person might develop a deeper understanding of the interconnectedness of God's spirit around us. Ms. Underhill's book was originally published in 1911 (and has been through many reprints and updates) and is considered to be the starting point for such discussions surrounding mysticism within pyschological, religious, and humanistic perspectives.

However, honestly.. I do need to find another subway book. I need one of those books I can zone out on the subway and read. I'll let you know if I find anything like that later.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Inspiration from a friend's Mom

A friend up in Wisconsin sent me this email that her mom sent to her family and friends about the election. In it, she calls for us all to think and rethink how we go about sharing our faith and how that faith may sound in the next four years. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Dear Ones,

Yes, the elections were a total bummer. Yes, I feel somewhat depressed and defeated. BUT (as always I have my Pollyanna "but"), it is now on Bush's plate - everything. I remind myself constantly of the fact that Kerry would have had such an awful time dealing with all Bush had done. Now Bush is totally responsible, and may the 2006 elections come tomorrow, because there is Iraq, there is the deficit, there is the country's split, there is healthcare, there is the
economy and social security, there is outsourcing, there is the environment, etc. etc. Bush is holding the bag now; let's let him hold it and be accountable. I truly in my good heart hopes he can deal with it. In my nasty heart I hope he has to stew in his own mismanaged soup.

But I do believe we must start taking back the moral high road. If that means taking back God and Love and Justice, let's start talking about it unashamably and forcefully. We must talk about Jesus' justice for the poor, the sick, the elderly, the widows, the disabled, the least among us, and show how that extends to the diverse, the minorities, the unemployed, the single moms, the inner city kids, those not like ourselves but always God's children, etc. Let's start talking, all of us, not just Jeanny (or our liberal ministers), how spirituality informs our lives, and go on to
encourage our embarrassed and reluctant friends to do the same. We need not be embarrassed. The Democractic party need not be embarrassed about talking about Love and Justice, Mercy and Freedom. Freedom, a la Bush, by itself means nothing. Just Anarchy. Freedom with Justice, Freedom with Mercy, Freedom with Love needs to be front and center in our conversations.

Democrats are reluctantly verbal about their spiritual committments. We need to become less reluctant and more verbal. Not so private and more forthcoming. Doing so seems to violate something in our private core, but we no longer have the luxury of tending to our privateness.
We need to frame our talk not in liberal Christian terms or New Age terms that appeal to the already convinced. We need to frame it terms of the cultural right, the Born-Agains, the fundamentalists. We need to show them we care about many of the same things they do, yet,
unlike many of their professed stands, we truly believe in the New Testament, ie the Love of God, the mercy of God, the forgiveness of God, the Joy of God. And we must start to say outloud and vociferously that we take Jesus at his word to go heal the sick, tend to the poor, raise the dead. We need to join our right wing compatriots in a new celebration of Life for everyone. Not just fetuses (because who knows when someone is ensouled), but those who survive birth with no suppport, babies with no families to care for them, youngsters with no insurance with desperate diseases, old people who cannot afford prescription drugs that would save their
lives, helping people with disastrous problems with science through research (like stem cell research. Ask them what are they going to do with those frozen embryos), death row inmates, the people of Iraq who are dying by the tens of thousands, the people of Darfur that we
totally neglect because they have nothing to offer us materially, the people in Haiti whom we have abandoned, the poor all over the country and world with no voice, the disenfranchised around the world, the girls and women sold into slavery, the plight of those living on minimum wage trying to raise a family. I could go on and on, but you know all the neglected peoples in the world and in this country. It's a horrendous situation and problem. To ignore it is totally
unChristian, inhumane, isolationist and selfish.

We must call attention to Greed. It is not Christian; it is not part of our spirituality; it's not part of our cultural beginnings, because we believe in sharing our gifts, be it time or money. We must
point out that Greed is a sin, or a dreadful mistake, and one that is consuming America. Greed is not Biblical. It is not spiritual. It's not in the Quantum Universe wherein something like greed devours emerging systems. It will absolutely be the downfall of this country. Charity, faith based iniatives, etc. will not overcome it. If Greed is our national doctrine, we will sink into the swamp of the Hell we deserve. We must speak this out loud and clear. And we must somehow equate this with the dreadful tax breaks for people like me.

And we must talk about the spiritual need, the God given command to include all peoples in our dialogue, all peoples in our community, even those most unlike ourselves. We must rejoice in the fact and declare it from the roof tops that we want all peoples to fall under the tent of our Constitution. We must state that we are not a white "Christian" America, but a fabulously diverse, multicultural, wonderfully constituted bunch of families of all kinds, that we honor
real love wherever we find it, including the love of David and Jonathan that was Biblically honored.

I urge you to rethink how you talk, how you present your positions, how you ask others to do the same to see if you cannot come up with more inclusive, more compelling dialogue that will reach across divisions, that will translate your vision to those who hold what seems a different vision.

I have always felt translation was the key to communication and now I think we need to translate, translate, more than ever. I think it the most important need in all those of us who wish to see a different America. We can no longer talk in the same old way, assume the same
old symbols or metaphors will work. We must come up with a new way of speaking, of framing the discourse in new terms, languages, dreams, and then learn to manage our new language publically and privately. Please learn to restate, think in different language, different words, so that we can reach across the horrible divide this country is experiencing. Step out of your normal language whether it be Christian, New Age, Coaching, Quantum this and that, or Secular Humanist, and find new ways to express yourself that will touch those who appear to be on some other side.

We can take the high road if we are creative and able to translate our values in to language that communicates, and therefore bring more of us together. God, or a supreme Power, Joy, Love, Caring, Mercy, Justice, Inclusiveness, Truth, Spirit, Freedom, Mind, Life, Principle, Soul, are all there to be imagined and put into language others can identify with. They are real words that identify real values. They are not abstract. They are the fabric of our being. They constitute
our humaness.

I now believe it is imperative for us to find a way to put these word, these symbols, these values into language that is translatable to all.

Go for it!
Love, Mom/Margo

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Dealing with the Frustration

The tragedy that befell us on Wednesday, when Kerry conceded the election to President Bush, has caused me to feel both ill and angry. Wrestling with the emotion that we're in for another 4 years of greed, self-righteousness, and hostility, I've been thinking a lot about how my faith can speak to such a time as this. And then God spoke to me through a friend.

On Wednesday afternoon, I was speaking with a friend while we were commenting on the results of the Presidential election. Trying to keep an optimistic eye on our future, yet worried that our country may experience greater challenges, my friend said that regardless of what happens, his and my hope are not on the citizenship we have in America; rather, our confidence rests on our citizenship with God in the life everlasting. What an inspiring and hopeful way this Christian responded to the despondency many of us felt early on Wednesday morning!

Called as Christians to be a beacon of hope to our world is the responsibility we all share. Whether in times of joy or long-suffering, the words that we use to encourage our brothers and sisters, strangers and friends can provide significant comfort and support. As Philippians 4:5 encourages us, “Let your forbearing spirit be known to all.” In this way, my friend echoed the Apostle Paul in that our words of comfort will show others a patient and controlled restraint as well as hope in perilous times. By honoring the faith and joy of hope we have in Christ, may we find the peace we need to sustain us and those that surround our life.

And yes, our faith confirms that it is still possible to find peace even in a world where George Bush is President.

Monday, November 01, 2004

When lots get done

Whew! I've had a pretty busy week. Mondays are generally my days off from church work, so I have taken advantage of the day by doing next to nothing..all day! I finally remembered that I had a weblog and am now updating it with whats been going on as well as posting a bit from my sermon from yesterday.

I've been spending much of my free time these last few weeks developing a new sermon preparation guide to help me bring some variety to the sermons I preach. I have had great help by rereading Thomas G. Long's The Witness of Preaching. It has been a wonderful aid to help me select particular forms within the sermon to preach the focus and function of the particular Scripture pericope that I am working on. Yesterday's sermon was the first one I've preached using my new prep guide. From what the church folk said it was not only one of my best sermons but it was also seamless (which is exactly what I've been trying to work on these last few months). Sorry for sounding all technical with the sermon thing, if you're used to only hearing a sermon, my kind of sermon prep-talk may sound a bit unspiritual to you. But you know, a lot goes into a sermon and it takes a lot of time preparing (or at least, I think it should).

On another completely different matter, I forgot to set my clock back one hour yesterday. I was supposed to go visit a friend's installation at her new church yesterday morning. Another friend was supposed to have called earlier than he did to let me know the train he was going to be riding (we were going to take a cab together from the train station, and since I didn't know exactly where the church was, I needed to go with him). However, when he did call (I might have been able to make it to the train station) I thought it was an hour later and was thinking, "This guy's nuts, he's going to be very late!" Since I would rather not go as opposed to being really late, I declined his invitation to join him on the train platform for the trip. Later in the early afternoon, I was talking with my brother and when he mentioned the time change, I slapped my forehead and exclaimed, "Holy Shit, I completely forgot about that!!" (Ministers can say, 'Holy Shit'-- it's a perk of the job.)

So that's been my week, well, that and a whole lot of meetings and parties. I've been coming home from late every night and going right to bed to only get up mighty early and going to work. I've enjoyed this lazy day and plan to spend the rest of it finishing the book, The Magic Circle. Sadly though, I don't have any fun book to replace it yet. I oughta go to the bookstore tomorrow and find something new and fun to read. I'll let you know what I find.

When Religion Goes Bad

This is a snippet of what I preached on yesterday. You can read the rest of the sermon by visiting my church's website at

Today our national leaders are standing behind their Christian faith to articulate an economic message that neglects the responsibility to those who were given much in order to care for those with less. When we cut educational programs for the poorest of children, or cut funding to medical hospitals who care for the aged, or we support a government that guts AIDS funding for the very sick in the name of God, we become like the Judeans who used their faith as a justification for their interpretation of divine economic entitlement.

Yet, that mentality is exactly what Isaiah is confronting. A religion that neglects to do good and seek justice for those who have received injustice is a sham. This sort of religious expression infuriates God. Those who use their religion as a justification for their inhospitability, their message is the complete antithesis of what God stands for. When such a mentality exists, when religion not only overlooks the poor but even more so, justifies doing so, then religion has gone bad and it is better for that religion to end than for it to continue. When religion neglects those to whom it is responsible, it is an alcoholic who doesn’t know its an addict.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

And God Created Pets

A newly discovered chapter in the Book of Genesis has provided the answer to "Where do pets come from?"

Adam and Eve said, "Lord, when we were in the garden, you walked with us every day. Now we do not see you any more We are lonesome here, and it is difficult for us to remember how much you love us."

And God said, "No problem! I will create a companion for you that will be with you forever and who will be a reflection of my love for you, so that you will love me even when you cannot see me. Regardless of how selfish or childish or unlovable you may be, this new companion will accept you as you are and will love you as I do, in spite of yourselves."

And God created a new animal to be a companion for Adam and Eve. And it was a good animal. And God was pleased. And the new animal was pleased to be with Adam and Eve and he wagged his tail.

And Adam said, "Lord, I have already named all the animals in the Kingdom and I cannot think of a name for this new animal." And God said, "No problem. Because I have created this new animal to be a reflection of my love for you, his name will be a reflection of my own name, and you will call him DOG."

And Dog lived with Adam and Eve and was a companion to them and loved them. And they were comforted. And God was pleased. And Dog was content and wagged his tail.

After a while, it came to pass that an angel came to the Lord and said, "Lord, Adam and Eve have become filled with pride. They strut and preen like peacocks and they believe they are worthy of adoration. Dog has indeed taught them that they are loved, but perhaps too well."

And God said, "No problem! I will create for them a companion who will be with them forever and who will see them as they are. The companion will remind them of their limitations, so they will know that they are not always worthy of adoration." And God created CAT to be a companion to Adam and Eve.

And Cat would not obey them. And when Adam and Eve gazed into Cat's eyes, they were reminded that they were not the supreme beings. And Adam and Eve learned humility.

And they were greatly improved.
And God was pleased.
And Dog was happy.
And Cat didn't give a shit one way or the other.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Cherry Salad

When I was home in Oklahoma City, my mom made this tasty salad that could also serve as a dessert. It's easy to make and especially good for those last minute potluck dinners where we promised to bring a salad but completely forgot about it until the night before. Here is what you'll need:

1 can of cherry pie filling
1 can of crushed pineapple (drained)
1 can of Milnot (evaporated milk)
1 tub of Cool Whip
1 cup of shredded coconut (optional)
1/2 cup of nuts (optional)

Combine all the ingrediants into a bowl and put in the icebox for at least 4 hours (to firm up). And that's it!!

This is sooooooooooooooo amazingly good.

William Sloane Coffin has said,

I am trying to hone up on my preaching skills and came across the quote from a book by Thomas Long entitled, The Witness of Preaching. Using this quote to make a point about when to use quotes from famous people, I found myself intrigued about the point this quote is making and wanted to share it with you. What do you think of it?

"It is a mistake to sharpen our minds by narrowing them. It is a mistake to look to the Bible to close a discussion; the Bible seeks to open one...The Bible is no oracle to be consulted for specific advice on specific problems; rather, it is a wellspring of wisdom about the ambiguity, inevitability, and insolubility of the human situation...The Bible makes us comfortable with struggle but uneasy in success...[T]he Bible is a signpost, not a hitching post."

quoted from William Sloane Coffin, The Courage to Love (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1982, pp.7-8)

Monday, October 18, 2004

Catholic Church: Vote Republican, or else!!
Vote and Be Damned
Published: October 17, 2004

First Dick Cheney said that supporting John Kerry could lead to another terrorist attack.

Then Dennis Hastert said Al Qaeda would be more successful under a Kerry presidency than under President Bush.

Now the Catholic bishops have upped the ante, indicating that voting for a candidate with Mr. Kerry's policies could lead to eternal damnation. Conservative bishops and conservative Republicans are working hard to spread the gospel that anyone who supports the Catholic candidate and onetime Boston altar boy who carries a rosary and a Bible with him on the trail is aligned with the forces of evil.

In an interview with The Times's David Kirkpatrick, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver said a knowing vote for a candidate like Mr. Kerry who supports abortion rights or embryonic stem cell research would be a sin that would have to be confessed before receiving communion. "If you vote this way, are you cooperating in evil?" the archbishop asked. "Now, if you know you are cooperating in evil, should you go to confession? The answer is yes."

As Mr. Kirkpatrick and Laurie Goodstein wrote, Catholics make up about a quarter of the electorate, many concentrated in swing states. These bishops and like-minded Catholic groups are organizing voter registration and blanketing churches with voter guides that often ignore
traditional Catholic concerns about the death penalty and war - the pope opposed the invasion of Iraq - while calling abortion, gay marriage and the stem cell debate "nonnegotiable."

"Never before have so many bishops so explicitly warned Catholics so close to an election that to vote a certain way was to commit a sin," the Times article said. Once upon a time, with Al Smith and John Kennedy, the church was proud to see Catholics run for president. The church was as unobtrusive in 1960, trying to help J.F.K., as it is obtrusive now, trying to hurt J.F.K. II.

The conservative bishops, salivating to overturn Roe v. Wade, prefer an evangelical anti-abortion president to one of their own who said in Wednesday's debate: "What is an article of faith for me is not something that I can legislate on somebody who doesn't share that article of faith. I believe that choice ... is between a woman, God and her doctor."

Like Mr. Bush, these patriarchal bishops want to turn back the clock to the 50's. They don't want separation of church and state - except in Iraq. Some of the bishops - the shepherds of a church whose hierarchy bungled the molestation and rape of so many young boys by tolerating it,
covering it up, enabling it, excusing it and paying hush money - are still debating whether John Kerry should be allowed to receive communion.

These bishops are embryo-centric; they are not as concerned with the 1,080 kids killed in a war that the Bush administration launched with lies, or about the lives that could be lost thanks to the president's letting the assault weapons ban lapse, or about all the lives that could be saved and improved with stem cell research.

Mr. Bush derives his immutability from his faith. "I believe that God wants everybody to be free," he said in the last debate, adding that this was "part of my foreign policy."

In today's Times Magazine, Ron Suskind writes that Mr. Bush has created a "faith-based presidency" that has riven the Republican Party. Bruce Bartlett, a domestic policy adviser to Ronald Reagan and a Treasury official for the first President Bush, told Mr. Suskind that
some people now look at Mr. Bush and see "this instinct he's always talking about is this sort of weird, Messianic idea of what he thinks God has told him to do." He continued: "This is why George W. Bush is so clear-eyed about Al Qaeda and the Islamic fundamentalist enemy. He
believes you have to kill them all. They can't be persuaded, that they're extremists, driven by a dark vision. He understands them, because he's just like them."

The president's certitude - the idea that he can see into people's souls and that God tells him what is right, then W. tells us if he feels like it - is disturbing. It equates disagreeing with him to disagreeing with Him.

The conservative bishops' certitude - the idea that you can't be a good Catholic if you diverge from certain church-decreed mandates or if you want to keep your religion and politics separate - is also disturbing. America is awash in selective piety, situational moralists and cherry-picking absolutists.

Back in NYC

Well, I am back in NYC after an exciting and all-too-short weekend. Here is a brief recap:

I actually made it to the airport on Friday morning. I found the money I needed by going to a check-cashing place and cashing my paycheck there. They charged me $15, which seems high but I did get my money.

The following morning I got up and took a cab to Newark airport. Once there, I was given bogus information as to exactly where my gate was located. After running back and forth between two terminals, I reached my gate just in time to board. Flying directly to Okla City, I slept, read, and listened to some music on my new mp3 player.

Arriving in Okla City, mom made my favorite dinner, meatloaf and bean stew. My mom, grandmother, and I had a great time talking and getting caught up with all the new local gossip. Later in the evening, a friend and I went out for coffee. Being the good old friend that he is, we had a fun time talking and deconstructing our Christian faith tradition. (heh heh). In a fun and inspiring way, we came up with an idea. We discussed creating a story examining the Beatitudes and finding comparible teachings in other faith's religious writings. It should be a fab time. I'll keep you posted as that develops.

On the following day, I drove up to Tulsa to perform a wedding (which was my reason for the trip). Prior to going to the wedding, I stopped off to visit a friend who lives nearby. We had a great time talking and getting caught up with our lives. He and his wife just purchased a new house and they are doing all the rearranging and redecorating to make it their new castle.

Following my time with my friend, I drove to the wedding which was only about 20 minutes away. The wedding was not performed in a church but rather in a friend of the groom's house. It is the largest house I've ever been in. Huge. And beautiful. The wedding went by without a hitch. The food afterwards was wonderful and the wine ever in abundance. There were about 75 in attendance and the couple getting married were wonderful.

Following the service, I drove back to Oklahoma City where I immediately went to bed. The next morning, I went my friend and his fiance for coffee in a fab coffee house. After talking and eating no-bake cookies and expensive coffee, they went to church and I went shopping. Afterwards, I came home and packed for my return flight. It was a long day because of my connection in Houston, but the flight was smooth. Returning to Newark, I cabbed it home and discovered to my wonderful surprise, Roy was waiting to see me. After a nice meal, we called it a night and went to sleep.

This morning, we woke up lazily and after getting cleaned up, Roy made pancakes. I've had a pretty nice weekend. I am presently in the church office checking my email and getting caught up with my upcoming week's plans and details. I'll write more later, as stuff happens.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Oh What a Mess!

Well, today just might be one of my most frustrating times in ages. I learned this morning that I am now a new victim in the identity theft arena. Somehow vandals got ahold of my debit card and recreated it, and sold it to someone who has been draining my bank account. My bank discovered some conflicting purchases and notified me post-haste. Fortunately, I have fraud protection on my card (get this if you don't already have it) and I will be reimbursed for the fraud charges. As a result of this fraud, my debit card was cancelled and a new one has been reissued, which should arrive in my mailbox Fedexed, my Tuesday.

So, I was supposed to go to the bank and write a check to withdrawl money for my trip to Oklahoma, only I got busy at work and forgot to go. By the time I remembered, the banks were closed. I have $2 in my wallet and have to get to the airport in the morning. I have no idea how I am going to do this- I've called a couple of friends to loan me the cash but no one answered their phones.

The cab ride will be $60 + tolls + tip (which will run about $75 in all) and they don't take credit cards. The cab ride from the airport in OKC to my home is $20 + tip. I am almost beginning to panic.

I am thinking I may have to go to one of those check-cashing places which, honestly, scares me to death. I worry I'll get mugged either in the store or coming out (assuming one is still open).

Whoever is reading this, please pray for me- I am running out of ideas.

I'll let you know if I make it to OKC or not.

Going to Oklahoma

I am going to Oklahoma City tomorrow, Friday, to perform a wedding. The wedding is for a friend of my eldest brother and will take place in Tulsa. I am going to be traveling quite a bit and will need to return by late Sunday night. It looks like I'll be 'going this way and that' throughout the weekend. Fortunately I'll get to drive my mom's car. She has this really amazing and comfortable car and I can actually fit into. I guess this is a bonus for me-- I do love driving seeing how I seldom get to do that anymore living in New York City.

Unfortunately my visit will be too brief. I love going home, its usually always relaxing and inspiring. However, this time, I'll only be there for about 3 days- that isn't long enough to visit with my family and get some needed R&R. However little my time off, I'll take what I can get.

Next month, Roy and I are going to Montreal for a 4-day getaway. It's amazing the travel deals you can get to Montreal in their winter time. I am thinking it's gonna be cold as heck there- but we're staying in a bed and breakfast as well as being located in the heart of the fabulous area of Montreal. So, that'll be my true R&R time--

Get your Life Energized

Lately I've been watching the Today show with some regularity. Amused and informed by many of the stories, I found myself going to their website to glean more information. Earlier this week, I discovered a plan to get my life energized. Printing out the list of recommendations to do so, I've been incorporating that list into my weekly schedule and I am here to tell you, it really works!

For starters, the list recommends I take a brisk walk every morning (something I am about to do right quick this morning). Other suggestions is to drink more water, spend time doing some breathing exercises, and to have a healthier breakfast. You can read the suggestions for yourself by going to the Today Show's website about this energy plan. The link will take you to a .pdf file you can open up, print out, or save to your computer.

Monday, October 11, 2004

My New MP3 Player

Well I finally went out and done it, I bought me an mp3 player.. finally. It seems most of my friends have one, it just took me awhile to find exactly what I was looking for. After doing much research, I decided to purchase the Rio Carbon player. It isn't as big as some of the other players, yet it is more versatile, in my opinion, that the others. And, its rated by several companies and reviewers as one of the best on the market.

What I like about it is its ease of use. I also like the fact that its supported by just about every mp3 music library. And, as an additional bonus, it has a built in mircrophone that allows me to digitally record my sermons and post them on the church website. The only drawback is its size, it is only 5gig in size. However, looking over my library, I realize I don't have that much music. And, if I get more music, I can always delete and add to the player, so that isn't such a big deal (I don't think).

I was thinking about getting the new iPods. And I almost got one- sure, it wasn't that much more than my Rio player, yet for the life of me, I couldn't find the 20gig version. Also, I'd've had to purchase some additional accessories such as a cradle and microphone. I saw the 40gig iPod but they start at $399 not including the accessories.

Since this weekend, I have uploaded half my music library as well as recorded my sermon from Sunday and posted it on the church website. I do like it, it seems to sound and run very well. Now, I can be like other New Yorkers and zone out while on the subway listening to my favorite tunes. :)

And, if anything goofy happens to it, I'll come back here and let you know about it.

Loving the Ungrateful

Lectionary Readings: 2 Kings 5:1-20; Luke 17:11-19

In our Gospel reading tonight, we read about a miracle in which Jesus heals ten lepers he met as he was entering a village bordering Galilee and Samaria... The lectionary readings today also point us to another story, found in 2 Kings because of its similarity with the Gospel account. In this passage, Naaman seeks out Elisha to be healed of his leprosy.

In both stories, the person or persons being healed were done so in an unusual way. In both cases, they were healed from a distance. The lepers in Luke were healed by Jesus as he entered the village. Standing at a distance from Jesus, they asked to be healed and Jesus called out, “Go show yourselves to the priests,” while on their way they were healed.

Naaman was healed when Elisha sent a messenger to him saying, “Go and wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River. Then you will be healed.” Angry that Elisha wouldn’t meet him face to face and wave his hand so that the leprosy would disappear, Naaman was upset that Elisha wasn’t being personal. ...In both cases, the healing occurred not in the way we sometimes look at kindness. In this instance, Jesus and Elisha weren’t up-close and personal—and yet, they both provided healing nonetheless.

To read more of this sermon, please visit the Sermons section of my church website: (note the capital "S" in the URL)