Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

Thought I'd share with you a fun picture I took last night. This is a little pine tree I planted the first year I moved here (2000) from one of the notorious "Missouri Conservation Dept. saplings." One of the great bargains in this state is you can get saplings (and I use the term loosely; more like "sticks") from the state nursery every spring, a bundle of 50 or 100 dirt cheap, for windbreaks or erosion control. Now mind you, out of 50, two might live. But in 1996, I bought some saplings when I lived in Columbia, and put them in pots, and by 2000, I had one that looked like a "real tree." I decided to move it with me to Kirksville, and planted it in the fall of 2000.

Eight years have gone by, and I noticed this year, "Hmmmm. It is REALLY looking like a real tree! Whaddya know?"

Last night was the first "tracking snow" of the year. Not good news, b/c in the local folk parlance, the date of the "first tracking snow" is the supposed number of times we will have tracking snow during the winter. Twenty-nine tracking snows does not sound like a great idea...but I never belived that one, so...ok, fine, whatever.

But I went out in the dark and saw my "little" tree, now about eight feet tall. The snow was a wet, "pellet-y" snow and I just stopped and admired the snow on it. It looked just like the "flocking" on the hypothetical "perfect store-bought artificial tree." I stayed out there admiring it long enough to have my eyes and nose start running. Then I decided to see how well it would do with the flash on my camera, and you can see the result!

Tonight, I went out and looked at it some more and thought, "What kind of idiot stands out and stares at a tree in the yard until their snot starts freezing on their face?" Well, I guess the same kind of idiot who "keeps awake" like in our Gospel lesson this week in church (Mark 13:24-37).

I will confess that Advent, the "season of waiting" is not an easy season for me. I am not good at waiting, especially when I am not sure what I am waiting for. But somehow, I was able to wait a grand total of twelve years for the moment in which I saw "The perfect little holiday tree." I did not see that moment, staring at that bundle of so-called "saplings" in 1996. Couldn't even IMAGINE that moment. But there it was.

I had no "visions" of that tree. I had no expectations for that tree. It was more like, "Well, it will probably die, but let's just see what happens with these stupid sticks." I had nothing to go on, and I was rewarded in a way I could not imagine.

Wow, how Advent is that? Joseph, and a pregnant Mary, traveling, well...I imagine people by the side of the road saw something just as unimpressive as what I saw, looking at that bundle of sticks...and look what happened there!

There are times my spiritual journey feels like a crawl. I sometimes think, "I have no idea where this is going," and get impatient. Yet, I waited on a tree for twelve years with no expectations whatsoever. It made me realize that maybe some of the things that happen as I grow deeper in my faith could take twelve years (or longer) before I "see" it. If I can wait on a tree, I can wait on ME.

This year for Advent, I got a copy of the little heapo-cheapo booklet of Advent devotionals from the folks who publish Forward Day by Day--"Hearing God Through the Noise" by Albert Kennington. It looks like a handy little publication for my Advent reading, and I look forward to starting on it on Monday.

I am always drawn back to an image that I can still see vividly when I close my eyes. A few years back, I had come home from something or another on a dark cold December night. It was a period of time about three or four years after I had moved back to Kirksville, and a period when I was questioning if "I had done the right thing." Some things were happening in my life that were emotionally and financially strapping me, and when I moved back here, it was with the full realization that I would never be able to earn what is even close to "standard", "average", or "median" in my field. It was with the realization that one of the prices for "a more laid back lifestyle" was that I assumed more responsibility than usual in my field for less money. By local standards, I earn a good living. By national standards, I don't. I was in a period of my life I was coming out of considerable educational debt, and some family and personal matters were adding to that debt.

I remember coming home to my dark yard, and the cold air being so crisp that you could literally hear my two donkeys chewing, their noise of their teeth and gums pounding across the thin air. Above them was the constellation Orion. Just a little sliver of the moon cast an eerie luminescent glow over my pasture. In that moment, I could hear all the music of the universe and feel what Advent was all about. I have never given up on that moment.

So my weekend reflective question for readers of this blog is: "How do you hear God through the noise of this season?" I'd love to hear your stories.

This meme was up over at Fran's and I thought, Ok, I can do this one!

Want to play? Copy and paste. Pick a color for the things that you have done. Mine are in purple letters and I'll throw in an aside here and there...

1. Started my own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than I can afford to charity

7. Been to Disneyland/world

8. Climbed a mountain (Well, "mountain" is a relative term. probably "big craggy hill" to real mountaineers...)

9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sung a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
3. Watched lightening at sea

14. Taught myself an art from scratch

15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
(it was closed the day I wanted to, dammit!)
18. Grown my own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train (but not in a pullman; it was coach)

21. Had a pillow fight

22. Hitchhiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort

25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset

31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person

34. Visited the birthplace of my ancestors (Well, since my ancestors have lived in Macon County, MO since the early 1800's I am counting this...maybe 1/2 credit?)
35. Seen an Amish community (Hell, my NEIGHBORS are Amish!)
36. Taught myself a new language (well, sorta/kinda)
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied (then again, it doesn't take much to satisfy me)
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke (and won the contest!)
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had my portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling

52. Kissed in the rain

53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater

55. Been in a movie (Nope, but I am a character in three novels.)
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies

62. Gone whale watching

63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter

69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial

71. Eaten Caviar

72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person

80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car

83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had my picture in the newspaper

85. Read the entire Bible

86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life

90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous (my 4 hours of fame was driving Vincent Price from KC to Kirksville in college)

92. Joined a book club

93. Lost a loved one

94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit (Knocks head in place of wood and says, "But I've been deposed a hell of a lot!)
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee

100. Ridden an elephant (and actually got to help put up the circus tent when it came to town!)

As promised, here's my list:

1. I'm thankful that I have been relatively spared a lot of what others have had to deal with in this economic meltdown. (also see #2).
2. I'm thankful that I don't have "Champagne taste on a beer budget" (although in my case, it is more like "Champagne taste on a bourbon budget.") It has been the major contributor to why #1 is so.
3. I'm thankful I have "too many invites" on Thanksgiving Day. It's way better than no invites.
4. I'm thankful I have a mostly supportive work environment and a very supportive church environment.
5. I'm thankful for about 6 or 7 people in particular in my "real time" life that love me "as is" and a larger number who at least put up with my quirks.
6. I'm thankful for a group of blogfriends who are interesting and amazing people.
7. I'm thankful I actively pursue an adult spiritual path that does not force me to be "happy happy joy joy" all the time...that I can be morose, grumpy, and in pain, as well as joyful, discerning, and awed!

(Ok, so I stole the main word in the title from the sign on the First Methodist Church in Memphis, MO on a recent monthly run to sign off on lab paperwork at Scotland County Memorial Hospital...but it has been a long time since the Methodists had anything worth snitching for me, so hey...)

From p. 246 in the BCP:

Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those who harvest them. Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of your great bounty, for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

I got to thinking a little about "Thanksgiving in the abstract" yesterday. Although harvest festivals and religious days of thanks for harvest bounty have been around as long as there have been people, the idea of a secular national holiday for Thanksgiving is pretty much an American invention. The only two other countries that I know of that have a Thanksgiving day holiday (and it is in October, not November) are Canada and Grenada. Two out of the three Thanksgivings, in the modern secular sense, center around football--college football in the US (unless of course you are a Detroit Lions fan--the tradition of the Lions playing on Thanksgiving Day is now older than 24 current NFL franchises--and CFL football in Canada, where "The Thanksgiving Doubleheader" is a classic.

So, as much as we complain about the commercialization of Christmas, well...Thanksgiving has taken a beating there, too. Despite the insistence of the Christian fundamentalists that Thanksgiving is a Christian religious holiday, because of its separatist Pilgrim roots, American "official days of thanksgiving" were designed to be pluralist affairs. Even the first proclamation of a national day of thanks by George Washington in 1789, although it uses the phrase "Almighty God", is very carefully crafted in more or less "Masonic" terms to emphasize its non-sectarian nature:

"Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me "to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation, for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war, for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed, for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord. To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and Us, and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best."

This is pretty much "Great Enlightenment era" language.

It's also a time that, despite I think Ben Franklin was right in wanting to make the turkey the national bird, it's just as well because it would seem funny eating the national bird once a year...but I guess I could think of it in Eucharistic a piece of the nation to become part of the nation...

Another interesting thing to remember is that Thanksgiving has not always been a universal American thing. Prior to 1863, when Abraham Lincoln began the tradition of Thanksgiving Day being proclaimed annually by the President, it was essentially a New England/Middle eastern states holiday. Southerners, after the Civil War, considered it a "Yankee holiday" and ignored it for decades. They felt that carpetbaggers and scalawags used it as an annual reminder to stick the bloody shirt in their faces. It really wasn't until the early 1900's that Southerners really took a liking to Thanksgiving (and much to their credit, b/c without them there would be no cornbread turkey stuffing, my favorite!)

Thanksgiving was always proclaimed on the last Thursday in November until 1939, when FDR moved it to the "next to last" one. However, this was viewed in some circles as a New Deal trick to have a longer shopping season for Christamas to boost the economy; so in 1939 only 23 of the then-48 states celebrated it on the day Roosevelt proclaimed; the rest stuck to the last Thursday (except Texas, which took both days off). In 1941 Congress passed a law making it the fourth Thursday, and that's where we've been ever since.

But how do we get around to giving thanks in a spiritual way in a holiday that is fraught with gluttony, football, and Black Friday shopping? I'll be honest; my family didn't. It was "eat, drink, watch football, fight, and be anal-retentive about turkey table decor." It was eating foods we cooked at best, twice a year and God help anyone who deviated from the pattern. (My mother will never let me forget the year I made Mexican food for Thanksgiving at my house. When she saw that we were not having turkey/stuffing/potatoes/noodles/cranberry "sauce" that looks like the inside of the tin can she gave me an earful for "pissing on the shoes of everything she holds dear about Thanksgiving." Meanwhile my grandmother was laughing and going, "What the hell, with all the Mexicans moving in around here, it probably won't be long till everyone will be eating turkey tacos on Thanksgiving."

The only "tradition" we had was slow cooking the turkey overnight and waking up to the smell of it. I laugh that now every year, the TV and radio run all the admonisments about "don't slow cook the turkey, don't leave the food out," and threaten everyone with Salmonella food poisoning. Well, if it were THAT easy to cause your relatives to sicken and die, more people would give it a go, you know?

But it has created issues for me as an adult who wants to craft my own relationship with the holiday that has both a spiritual and secular meaning. I have had to make some of my own "traditions". Most of that revolves around creating my own sacred space in my head to simply take time in all the mess to feel grateful for "all the blessings of this life", as we say in the General Thanksgiving and to list them. (It will be an upcoming post.) The other is that I refuse to shop on Black Friday. I just refuse to shop in a situation where it's obvious the stores want people to act like cattle. Blech. But if you have your own "traditions", share them with me today; I'm curious!

Doxy was kind enough to award me the "Superior Scribbler" award. Many thanks!

The guidelines as to how each ¨Scribbler¨ must, in turn, pass the Award on are as follows:

The Award may be passed on to FIVE deserving Bloggers (my choice).

Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends.

Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received the award. Sooooo...I nominate...

Kirstin of Barefoot and Laughing...lots of insights and open discussion of her fears/joys/hopes/everything in between. She's a cancer survivor and is able to open both the wounds of her experiences there, mixed with her faith journey. Wonderful blogger.

Feathers and Faith is a blog I recently added to my reading list. If I were to write the screenplay of Barbi's recent life, I would call it "Escape from Ft. Worth," starring Steven action packed tale of one man's daring attempt to help his lesbian sister and her partner leave the former Diocese of Ft. Worth, evading Ikeroids under cover of darkness, to the safety of the Show-Me State. Well, ok, Steven Seagal isn't her brother, but hey, I'd buy the DVD for that!

Liturgy is probably the most academic blog I read. Although Bosco is dealing mostly with the New Zealand prayer book, his knowledge of liturgical worship and scholarship is astounding.

Peter's blog, Santos Woodcarving Popsicles, is a fun one to read because he is so prolific. Between blogging and Facebook and work and home, well, he must never sleep! If there were also an award for "Most interesting Facebook status updates," I'd give him that too.

Finally, I have to give one to Indexed. I wish I could draw graphs like Jessica's at work!

Time to admit another of my secret desires. I would love to narrate a segment of NPR's "This American Life" before I die. You have to go give a listen to the last segment in this week's program, "Music Lessons."

Skip over to about 38 minutes once the streaming audio loads.

My journey backwards through the Psalms brought me to Psalm 56 this morning, and the verse that jumped into my brain was verse 8: "“You have noted my lamentation; put my tears into your bottle; are they not recorded in your book?”

But the reason it jumped out made me laugh. That old Hank Williams song "There's a tear in my beer" popped into my head and simply would not leave!!!! (This is the price to pay for growing up with a grandpa who ran a route of jukeboxes...I knew a LOT of songs with lyrics that little kids don't really "get", at a very young age, and could make grownups howl with laughter by singing them like the record! So let's just say I learned to make people laugh early on...)

"There's a tear in my beer
'cause I'm cryin' for you,dear
you are on my lonely mind.
Into these last nine beers
I have shed a million tears.
You are on my lonely mind
I'm gonna keep drinkin'
until I'm petrified.
And then maybe these tears
will leave my eyes.
There's a tear in my beer
cause I'm crying' for you dear
You are on my lonely mind.

Last night I walked the floor
and the night before
You are on my lonely mind.
It seems my life is through
and I'm so doggone blue
You are on my lonely mind.
I'm gonna keep drinkin'
till I can't move a toe
and then maybe my heart
won't hurt me so.
There's a tear in my beer
cause I'm cryin' for you dear
You are on my lonely mind.

Lord, I've tried and I've tried
But my tears I can't hide
You are on my lonely mind.
All these blues that I've found
Have really got me down
You are on my lonely mind
I'm gonna keep drinkin'
till I can't even think
Cause in the last week
I ain't slept a wink
There's a tear in my beer
cause I'm crying for you dear
You are on my lonely mind."

Ok, so first I had to get the Hank Williams loop out of my head. But then my next thought was, ”Why is God puttin’ MY tear in HIS beer?"

That’s kind of a switch. In the Psalm, it’s not unrequited love that the psalmist is stressed over, it’s a whole host of enemies. He’s afraid of what they can do to him although he does try to reassure himself in v. 4, when he says, “In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust and will not be afraid, for what can flesh do to me?” (The rest of the Psalm is a variation of “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.” I’d say they really ARE out to get him!)

So back to my tears in HIS bottle. I got to Googling and found the answer. It was a Jewish custom, when a husband was going to be gone for a long time (like off to war or off to market), when the wife got on crying jags over missing him, to cry within reach of a small flask and collect the tears in it and stopper it up. Then when he got home, she would give him the flask as a gesture of how much she missed him.

(Ok, the ornery part of me is having fun with this one. Some unfaithful woman hands hubby a big magnum. A smart-ass like me looks all day for the smallest bottle I can find...the possibilities are endless here!)

But these aren’t God’s tears, they are mine. It’s not enough that God has recorded my fear and sorrow and sadness. My tears are precious enough to him that HE wants them in HIS bottle, mixed in with his own. Sharing my sorrow is an act of showing his love. “Here, kid. Put ‘em in MY bottle. I’ll take care of ‘em. See, look! You don’t have to come crawling to me with your own little bottle, I’ll hold your head and let you put ‘em here...and keep them in my heart right with my own.”

There’s an interesting play on words here, too. The translation, when you look at the transliteration of the Hebrew is a play on words. (That’s why going back to the orignal languages of the Bible is fun for me, I like the hidden poetry and numerology, it plays on the puzzle solving part of my brain.) It reads, “You have kept count of my convulsions (nodi); put my tears in your flask (no-deka).”

This also fast forwards in my brain to Luke 7, where the woman kneels down and her tears are the water that bathes Christ’s feet, and her hair is the bath towel.

Whoooooooaaaaaa. That is heavy. Especially when I think about how hard those tears are for me to give up. Up until now, I’ve always thought of those times I have let loose with a shirt-collar soaking, face wetting, tears falling into my ears if I’m lying down, chest-wracking sobfest as an event where the tears are dissipated into nowhere, my grief falling into nothingness. It is heavy to realize that all along, God has collected them in his bottle and held the bottle to his chest as a gesture of “We have missed each other THIS much.” It’s an image of grace and reconciliation that...well...can certainly put a tear in MY figurative beer!

"Feast your eyes, glut your soul upon my accursed ugliness!" Those few seconds of seeing Erik the Phantom (Lon Cheney, Sr.) unmasked by the lovely Christine (Mary Philbin), as she recoils in horror at his true face, have to be one of my Top 25 Moments in Film.

Boys and girls, this is one of the finest examples of "Raw sex masquerading as Classic Horror." It is prefaced by a minute or so of Christine starting to untie the mask, recoiling, going forward, going back, then the camera shifts from a side view to a view of both their faces and you see the mask go off and the skeletal visage of Erik's face exposed. This is "horrorgasm" at its best, to say the least! In 1925, women shrieked, cried, and fainted at these few seconds as Erik looms over the fair Christine, virginal beauty personified, with that "I'm seething over you doing this but I still want to get me some with you" look. Love story turns to fears of sexual domination and overpowering evil in one big "splat." It's a scene laced with the seduction of original sin--"Et, et ah! You shouldn't have eaten the apple!"

So much of this is lost on people whose first look at the Phantom was the Andrew Lloyd Weber version. For those like me, who saw this one and the 1943 Claude Rains version in the "Creature Features" and "Tales of Terror" of our youth, those Saturday late-night cheesy horrorfests with some local station dude dressed as a vampire or monster of some sort, Andrew Lloyd Weber is too much love and not enough evil, raw power differential.

But it is the final few moments of the film that steal my heart. Erik is chased by the mob, trapped at the canal with torchbearing hulking townies on both sides of him, a wall in front of him, the canal behind. He reaches in his vest and holds up his fist. The crowd backs off, fearfully. What could be in his hand? A bomb? A grenade? A magic spell? He holds his fist aloft, looks at it as he opens it and reveals...nothing. He laughs maniacally as the mob swarms in on him and he is beaten to death and flung into the canal. He held them back with an illusion.

Therein lies the message.

How many times are we held back by something we view as "powerful", wielded by evil, that when the fist is opened, revealed nothing but thin air? How many of the things we see as substantial paralytic forces in our relationship with God are, in reality, illusions? We hold back on stewardship even though the "protection" that our money offers can be dashed on the rock in hours to days. (Can you say "economic meltdown"?) It is a ghost. We hold back on giving care to the poorest and least of us because we fall prey to the scarecrow of the stereotype of the "ungrateful, lazy poor." We hold back on loving each other to the fullest of our being because the specter of "they might take it the wrong way" peeks out from behind the lamp post.

All these trolls and hobgoblins of our mind, these constantly spinning little hamster wheels, fading in and out of a cloak of fog, are the unrealistic manifestations of expectations we perceive from others, the constantly set-too-high bar of our own unrealistic expectations, and the weird expectations we try to claim are God's but in reality they are our own little hamster wheels of self-defeating shame and doubt.

Today, as I was working through Psalm 58, verse 11 jumped out at me: “And they will say, ‘Surely, there is a reward for the righteous; surely, there is a God who rules in the Earth.’”

I got stuck on the word righteous.

My first thought was, "But I'm not righteous." I will never win the Goody-Two-Shoes award. Too many four letter words in my lexicon. Ok, so then I resorted to my usual "what I do when a word sticks in my gullet" problem: I looked up the original Hebrew. The Hebrew word in this verse is tsaddiyq (Tsuh-DEEK). "Just, correct, and lawful."

Hey, wait a minute! once again, my own fears on this one are greater than God's expectations, even! All God wants is for me on this gig is to strive to be just, correct, and lawful. I set the bar at an unattainable position for me with regard to "righteous." I have permission--God's permission, in fact--to lower the bar further to reality instead of appeasing my illusions. To live in a righteous manner is to strive to be just, correct, and lawful. Otherwise, we might as well heave a big sigh and say, "I can't do this." My own "accursed ugliness" is merely a willow-the-wisp...and ain't it grand!

Ok, I got this idea from reading Fran's post when she suggested Danny DeVito as Zaccheus in a Jesus movie. I told her I get dibs on the demoniac story. I see Randy Quaid as one of the hog farmers saying, "Sumbitch ran our hogs over the cliff!" I also see Harry Dean Stanton as the demoniac.

Here is the first (and hopefully not the last) Kirkepiscatoid School of Film Stay at Home Meme.

Ok, we have all been commissioned to write, "Jesus: The movie you've always wanted to see." Your job, should you choose to accept it, is cast any scene from the Gospels and share any poignant line you feel deserving of this blog. The one requirement is you must use living actors/actresses. Now Go!

My "Working backwards through the Psalms" daily exercise has brought me to Psalm 60, v.2: “You have shaken the earth and split it open; repair the cracks in it, for it totters.”

Again, we are not talking about God the Cosmic Coke Machine here. We are talking about a God who understands the world will always be broken and parts of us that will always be broken. I tend not to think of God as that cosmic Coke machine where you put prayer quarters in and good stuff comes out; I've spoken of that many times before. I tend to think of God as more of a gravitational force where everything helps hold everything together, and God provides the electrons. To me, God’s very nature is relational, i.e., covenental.

As long as there are broken people inhabiting the world, that relational nature causes the world to be broken, too. But the power of God being God adds a dimension to the relationship that allows these broken aspects to still be held together. Ok, if you read this blog, you know I have a very strange but fairly understandable power of analogy...and you are going to laugh about the analogy I’m going to’s like an episiotomy.

When I was on my clinical rotations, we would sometimes make a decision to do an episiotomy because the circumstances were such that making a controlled tear was more desirable than letting nature take its course--the baby's head was bigger than we gave credit, the labor is getting long and Mom-to be has a narrow birth canal, things like that.

We made a decision that having a "planned tear" carried less risk than an unplanned one to avoid an unplanned tear potentially ripping the anus or urethra, to avoid risk of future incontinence, or potentially narrow the introitus or involve the clitoris and make future sex more painful. Then after delivery, it was usually the medical student or intern’s job to sew it back up (Usually with the husband/boyfriend leaning over your shoulder and going, “Put an extra stich in there for me, doc, heh heh.” I’ll never forget one woman’s response to her husband’s remark—she yelled, “Just sew the damn thing shut!” )

But the fact remains we made a decision to make a rip of our own to save a more treacherous, unpredictable rip later, and then sewed it back up.

Our world is always going to have unpredictable risks of ripping, from the day we are born to the day we die. My weird world is certainly full of them. Sometimes I think these rips can also rip through my own scars and risk ripping open my old scars again and again and again. I am starting to wonder if those painful and difficult moments we feel in God’s presence are simply episiotomies...controlled tears that God will sew up again, cuts that we do not really want inflicted on us but we know in our heart they are for the better, and are there to lessen the likelihood of more unpredictable cuts that are harder to fix and result in more overall damage. Interesting thought.

Matthew 25: 14-30

14 ‘For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15to one he gave five talents,* to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, “Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.” 21His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” 22And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, “Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.” 23His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” 24Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, “Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.” 26But his master replied, “You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. 28So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

I'll confess, I'm kind of getting weary of the "exclusionary" parables in Matthew. Last week it was the poor foolish bridesmaids (Ok, my mind's eye always makes them blondes, I confess to this bit of political incorrectness.) In fact, some scholars say that the authenticity of them really being from Jesus is a little shaky, that these parables may have emerged from the early Church. But the part I homed in on listening to the sermon on Sunday was verses 24 and 25--how the one servant's fear of his harsh master caused him to bury the money entrusted to him.

It is amazing how a harsh master causes us to behave so differently. All of us have experienced a harsh master, whether it is a person or profession or even our own selves. Those experiences can, at any time, cause any of us to "bury our talent." We might feel more inhibited to show our love and care to someone. We might not put that extra bit of ourselves in our work, "go the extra mile" at a time we did not have to. We might even let other's notions of what God and God's plan for us is start to be tainted with a little bit of "Wait till your dad gets home!" forboding.

I think of one of my favorite non-PC Jesus jokes--"Jesus is coming--and boy, is he pissed!"

Sure, I'm joking, but it is easy to slip into the notion of God being "just another harsh master." "God's judgment" is a scary thing. For some reason we can easily picture "God's judgment" in the "wrath o' God" mindset, but it is much harder to think of God in the mindset of "Hmmm. Maybe He will judge me and find me ok." People like to cop out in the "wrath o' God" department, blame the system. "Oh, that wasn't my's original sin." But just what is original sin, anyway? I was having a bit of that conversation with a blogfriend/Facebook friend, and what I have thought for years is that original sin is not disobedience, it is the realization that you can blame others.

Think about it. There's Adam and Eve, looking back longingly at the Garden of Eden, heading out into what looks like nowhere to them. Adam is going,"This is all your fault, bitch!" Eve's counter is "It's not my fault, it was that damn snake! Hey, where were YOU when I was out there with that snake, anyway?"

So many of the OT stories prime us to be wary of "God the harsh master." Like Adam and Eve, we use others--even God--to blame the fear. So meanwhile we bury our talent, and it sits in the dirt and starts to oxidize and get carbon spotting and pitting and all the things that happen to coins of precious metal when you stuff them into the ground. If they are finally unearthed, instead of the nice patina of honest wear, they are scarred and pitted and discolored. They may never be able to be restored to the beauty of an old coin that was allowed to circulate a little. Sure, as a coin collector, I like the brilliance of an uncirculated coin for collector value, but I have to confess I like even better holding an old coin with a little honest wear, and imagining all the places it's been, all the things it had seen, in its circulating life.

These primal fears, I believe, is what makes it hard for us to hear Jesus' overall message, despite the fact I have some issues with some of the parables in the tail end of Matthew. He changed the rules. He spoke of a loving God who desires a covenant with us, and lived a life that espoused God's openness to the tax collector and the sinners of the worst ilk. But there is that part of us--the part that fears the harsh master, that sometimes just puts that tiny kernel of skepticism in there, says, "This is too good to be true."

The amazing thing, though, is if we screw up our courage enough, we can feel that we are not dealing with a harsh master at all if only we sit still and let God touch us. A corrective one to be sure, but not a harsh one. Blue Oyster Cult had it right all along. We don't need to fear the reaper.

"All our times have come
Here but now they're gone
Seasons don't fear the reaper
Nor do the wind, the sun or the rain
..we can be like they are."

Many of you already know the story of my cousin J. and our family saga which finally had a happy ending, with J. and wife JM getting custody of J's two kids, (V., age 10, and Z., age 7) from a previous relationship.

Even though J. had the kids roughly half the time, one of the things that he and JM have been seriously working on is getting the kids used to "everyday routines"...before school, after school, mealtimes, bedtime, etc. They were not getting much in the way of regular routines prior to them coming to the two J's house full time. Sitting down to supper as a family every night has been an important part of this.

Part of the "supper routine" is to invite me over for supper a fair bit, just to show that other adults are on board with V. and Z. learning things like table manners, regularly doing homework, etc. So when I'm there I do a lot of the "what did you learn at school today/how was Scouts/ball practice/etc." conversational stuff.

But I did not expect this one....

I was sitting at the table and Z. goes, "Did you know my anus is a planet?"

Me: "Huh?" (I am thinking, "Is he scamming me? What's the punch line?")

Z.: "We learned planets at school. My anus is a planet!"

Me (who is trying not to laugh): "Uh, don't you mean URANUS is a planet?"

Z.: "That's what I said!"

Me (who is now laughing so hard stuff is coming out of my nose): "Honey, the planet is named Uranus. U-R-A-N-U-S...not Y-O-U-R next word A-N-U-S."

I could have killed the two J's b/c neither one of them was exactly coming to my aid. They were too busy choking on their taco pie and laughing.

Z.: "Oh." (Luckily, he did not look too terribly traumatized by this discovery and the fact every adult at the table was speechless with laughter...)

I don't know how we're ever going to get to "ordinary family table manners" with conversations like that....

It's not just the two older ones that provide entertainment, either. Little two year old A. (the two J's child) was in Wal-Mart. Unbeknownst to JM, little A. had pulled down the biggest bra in Wal-Mart (it had to be a double D cup), holds it up to her little chest, and yells, "I NEED DIS FOR MY BOOBS!" I think every prissy old lady in Wal-Mart must have seen this. Once again, JM and I were dying from laughter!

Just think, this is the generation of my family that will be picking my nursing home. God help me!

Ruth just did a fun (and easy) meme on her blog today, and I decided to play.

* Grab the book nearest you. Right now.
* Turn to page 56.
* Find the fifth sentence.
* Post that sentence along with these instructions on your blog (or facebook wall).
* Don't dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

Here's mine:

"Well, are you a deva or an angel?"

The book is "A Path with Heart; a guide through the perils and pitfalls of spiritual life" by Jack Kornfeld. It's actually a book about Buddhist meditation, recommended to me by my vicar, of all people. He told me to read it and think about it in terms of the parallels with my own Christian prayer life. I really hate it when he recommends books that I initially think are stupid and it turns out he was right, BTW. (I think my flip initial comment was, "Oh, Jesus, Wallace, I'm not planning to levitate or anything.")

In answer to this question in Jack's book, I'd say, "Ummmmm. Neither. But I hang with them sometimes...."

Anyone who wants to play is tagged.

Our liturgical expert friend Bosco Peters has a wonderful link on his blog that talks about a lot of the same issues with the little problem of dissing same sex marriage while allowing serial heterosexual marriage, but from a liturgical/scriptural standpoint. It's a wonderful (and more scripturally erudite) treatise that tag teams my earlier post.

That leads me to do a little more thinking about the topic from that angle. We have always dinked around with creating loopholes in this particular sacrament. All societies have had laws and conditions for divorce. The Hebrew "get" exists in present day orthodox Judaism in essentially similar form as its ancient counterpart. Jesus himself had absolutely nothing to say about homosexual behavior, but He certainly had plenty to say about divorce. (As the old story about Calvin Coolidge telling aouot the church service goes, "He was agin' it"--in no uncertain terms, in fact.)

Well, and for those who take such great stock in the literacy of the Bible, where does plural marriage fall into that? Many of our most revered Old Testament prophets and sages had multiple wives. I don't recall any admonishment or any rule changing on that topic. I don't recall seeing any "Thou shalt not have multiple wives anymore," in the Bible. In fact, the lack of info on that was exactly the foundation of the Mormon church (one of the big dollar supporters on "Yes on Prop 8", BTW) early doctrine that plural marriage was ok. The only person to my recollection who even came close to saying anything was Paul, and that was just that deacons should have one wife (which, BTW, is what most Baptist churches use to keep women from being deacons.)

I nosed around on the internet for quite some time to see any "who/where/what" in history changed our attitudes about plural marriage. All I could find of any substance was that St. Basil of Caesaria (330-379) wrote, St. Basil wrote that "such a state is no longer called marriage but polygamy or, indeed, a moderate fornication." He ordered that those who are engaged in it should be excommunicated for up to five years, and "only after they have shown some fruitful repentaere they to be allowed back into the church." I also found that St. Augustine wrote, " "Now indeed in our time, and in keeping with Roman custom, it is no longer allowed to take another wife, so as to have more than one wife living." So it makes me wonder if the Romans were the one who had put the kaibash on plural marriage, not anything in terms of Jewish or Christian law.

In antebellum slave states, slaves were not allowed to marry. They were, after all, property. But some slaveowners allowed them to couple up, and ceremonially "jump the broom" (a euphenism that still is heard now and then in rural Missouri, particularly among African-Americans.) The symbolism of "jumping the broom" implied you were keeping house together. Some even made vows to stay together "till death or distance part us."

Hey, while we're at it, let's look at the canons of the Episcopal church in the U.S. Canon law states, "“Holy Matrimony is a physical and spiritual union of a man and a woman, entered into within the community of faith, by mutual consent of heart, mind, and will, and with intent that it be lifelong” (Title I, Canon 18.1.b). All weddings must also conform with civil law." (Title I, Canon 18.1.a)

Hmmm. Let's do those one at a time, starting with "with intent to be lifelong." Oh, ok, it doesn't have to be lifelong, you just have to have good intentions. (Of course my late grandmother telling me the road to Hell is paved with good intentions immediately comes to mind.) That little onery part of me is also saying, "Yeah, interesting how your intentions look so good when you're just looking for acceptance for getting laid on a regular basis." But the Episcopal church does not really push that "lifelong" button too hard.

Now let's talks about that civil law business. Ok, what does that mean in states where same-sex marriage is legal? I guess, technically, the church is off the hook because they defined that "man/woman" thing but it does raise the ugly little gremlin that canon law is now no longer "all-inclusive" with regards to civil rites which carry legal weight for inheritance and family lineage.

It still simply boggles my mind that a group of people will continue to cling white-knuckled to a few little scraps of Leviticus and Paul's letters when we, without a single guilty thought, eat shrimp and wear cotton-poly blend. I can't remember ever being invited to a good stoning, and several reasons for that are carefully outlined in the Bible. I have never had to show my rashes or cold sores to my vicar (I'm sure our blogfriend Eileen is glad of that, too, since she's had the hives), and although I've certainly felt unclean plenty times in my life, I have never had to actually LOOK unclean in front of all of Kirksville. (Oh, my, I'd love to see the look on our dear vicar's face if I stood out in the yard of the vicarage, yelled, "Hey, Wallace! I got this HEAT RASH I gotta show you so I can still go to church!" and yank my blue jeans down. He'd run screaming down Harrison St.)

The final thing that crosses my mind is this: Why do so many Christians carry on so about all the "dont's" when none of us are very good at the "do's?" Personally, I think if we simply worked on the "do's" we would not have time to worry about the "dont's." That actually seems more productive to me anyway.

See the link to the video here.

(Thanks to Eileen for the link. Hint: Don't throw up at the beginning, stick with it till the end and you'll "get it." I apologize for not being able to figure out the embedding but I kept getting a "double screen" and I am not an HTML wonk. Deal with it.)

I have, in my usual Midwestern fashion, kept respectfully quiet during the elections. I am not much into election emoticon-ing although I have strong political feelings. Maybe that is because I have seen more friendships dissolve on Election day than any other. I saw some of my students de-friend each other on Facebook this year. I saw two colleagues almost come to blows a couple of decades ago, as well as two of my high school teachers way back in the 1976 elections. I learned from those experiences that no election is worth near violence. Hell, one of the things I am proudest of is that in America, despite our vitriol and rhetoric, you don't see in the news the next day that mass casualties occurred because of an election like in some countries. (Not to mention the same over soccer matches!)

I also work in a field that is 100% referral. My politics are the minority in my field. Another great reason to be a silent supporter.

But what I've also found is a few weeks after the election, when things are quieter, is the best time to provoke thought...and here is my thought about the defeat of Prop 8 in California...

I wonder how many people voted "Yes" who are on their second or third or Godonlyknows what number of serial marriages. I wonder how many people who are not married, and as my late grandmother used to say, "Just shackin' up" voted yes. I wonder how many never married single parents voted yes. Then I just shake my head and say, "What the hell kind of disconnect is that?"

I have a heretical thought problem. Every time I hear someone use the phrase "sanctity of marriage" I start thinking of people being married in Las Vegas by an Elvis impersonator, or one of my own cousin's Las Vegas wedding, where they chose the particular chapel they used "because that's where Jon Bon Jovi got married." If I could be dictator, anyone who ever uttered the words "sanctity of marriage" in the frame of defending traditional marriage would be taken out and microphone-whipped silly by a circle of Elvis impersonators.

I think about how every time we have a baptism in our church, we affirm time and time again, that we will "seek and serve Christ in all persons," and "strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being." Ok, let's think about that one a minute.

Why is it so hard to get over this little issue of two men or two women living together in the same house, declaring each other on their taxes, wanting death and retirement benefits for each other, or rearing children together? Is it simply, as Louie Crew likes to say, "The ick factor?" Ok, fine. I cannot picture myself in a same sex relationship. It just doesn't look like my idea of fun. I don't have a problem with other people but hey, "it ain't me." But it doesn't seem like much fun to me to be in a heterosexual marriage where you play that jackbooted dominatrix stuff, or tie each other to the bed, or play those "mommy/daddy" sex games either. I find those pretty icky too, when I imagine myself in those relationships. More icky, in fact, than the same sex sexual thoughts, actually. But there are plenty of married people who play that one and are not talking.

Ok, I find promiscuity pretty creepy too. Probably because I know too much about sexually transmitted infections. Love is temporary, herpes is forever, ya know? In the AIDS era, we castigated homosexuals for promiscuity. But we wouldn't let them have legal monogamous relationships with inheritance and benefits and legal custody of children and all the things heterosexual things take for granted. Oh, and heterosexuals are never promiscuous, right? (BIG eye roll.) Again, "Ain't that a hell of a disconnect here?"

This is just my opinion, and take it for the .02 it is worth, but I think a lot of it has to do when we lumped the word "marriage" into having both sacramental and secular connotations. Somewhere, particularly in the 19th century, we solidified the whole civil business of "marriage." Although laws on marriage certainly existed before then, pioneer America was full of people shackin' up without benefit of either clergy or courthouse, and in the eyes of most they were still "married." But it became legally expedient for the purposes of inheritance and estate distribution to have clean legal lines and titles for things, and the notion of "marriage licenses" became the norm. Religion should have never allowed the courthouse to co-opt the word "marriage."

I think about how much different this stuff all might have been if courthouses had simply allowed legal partnerships, be they man-woman, man-man, or woman-woman. Hell, colonial Massachussetts had the "Boston marriage" because they recognized that widows, in particular, were pretty devoid of property and inheritance rights. (And truthfully, if Utah had wanted to allow plural combinations of the above, it would have been fine with me. Anyone man or woman enough to withstand MULTIPLE legal spouses has my respect and sympathy!)

As long as there are different religions, there will never be agreement on ANY of the sacraments, whether they be the Eucharist, baptism, or marriage. Hell, we can't even agree on sprinkling or dunking! It would have been soooooo much easier if churches could call the shots on the sacrament of marriage for their church and the government stayed out of it. The libertarian overtones in me just don't see a problem here. Fine if church of the living XYZ wants to make marriage "one man, one woman". I don't give a rat's ass. Also, if churches want to get a case of the schismatics about it, I can't stop them. But all the government should care about is collecting taxes and distributing stuff to heirs, and splitting stuff up in the case of cohabitating adults. Imposing one set of church definitions on the goverment sounds like blackmail to me, and I find blackmail ickier than fantasizing about same sex relationships, personally.

Big sigh.

Ok, if you are not a reader of blogger MadPriest or have no reason to become one, drive on, there's nothing to see here.

I will not go into the details but you can figure it out by his posts if you visit there. The short version is that Jonathan (we affectionately call him Maddie) is an iconoclast. He also happens to be an Anglican priest. He also happens to (by his own admission) have some dark forays into his own mental health, which he self-refers to as his "madness." But the short version is he dropped the N-bomb on his blog, and this appears to gotten him in some trouble with his bishop. My understanding is he and his bishop have had a tenuous relationship, at best.

Now, we all drop some words on his blog, Of Course I Could be Wrong, that will never pass the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. (Hell, my own blog gets a "medium" on the Cuss-O-Meter.) Don't get me wrong. I don't approve of the N-bomb. NOT AT ALL. But this is also a satirical blog.

The problem with any of us that dabble in satire is that there is a fine line between satire and offensive. All iconoclastic satirical people eventually step in dog shit somewhere down the line, and there are always times in our life we have to eat crow over it. Probably our Maddie will have to dish up a plate of crow, and that just goes with the territory. I hope and pray this works out to be more of a "non-issue" than it has become. Truthfully, we've probably all been offended by Maddie at one time or another, but it certainly hasn't stopped us from working through it.

I am more worried about Maddie's relationship with his bishop than I am worried about the sanctity of the blogosphere. Unfortunately, the gossipy old hens at Stand Firm have created quite a stink over Maddie and his "evil" ways, which if it wasn't so pathetic, I would find it amusing. All I have to say about that is this:



Maddie, you are loved. Don't ever forget that.

(Thanks to for the clip)

Ok, I will admit it. I can still be incredibly puerile when it comes to what strikes me as funny. This is what came to mind last night as a handful of friends, all who attend Trinity, got together for an impromptu "Sauerkraut fest."

It all started when we were sitting at one of our church potlucks. One of the dishes had sauerkraut in it--some kind of casserole. It became pretty obvious who the "sauerkrautophiles" and the "sauerkrautophobes" in the church were. So the sauerkrautophiles (of which I am one) started talking about getting together and having pork and sauerkraut at one of their houses...and I made my special "Caribbean sauerkraut" (I made this recipe up myself--kraut, beef broth, Italian sausage, jerk seaonsing, a little garlic, and raisins--weird but wonderful--sweet and hot and sour all at once). We had apple pie and ice cream for dessert (can't have German food without apple something, you know).

Well, then we got to laughing about, since we are a small congregation, with five of us all being at this sauerkraut fest, that services today could take on a sitcom-like quality! Then I got to remembering I was scheduled to be acolyte today, which could add another piece to the sitcom-like quality. The hostess started laughing and said, "OMG! I'm on chalice tomorrow!" Then we all got to laughing that it could be a very interesting Eucharist.

I also realized the hostess could get away with a lot in this sitcom scene. She is a very classy person (in fact, our vicar frequently refers to her as "elegant".) I, however, am pretty sure he sees ME as a little on the "uninhibited" side, a "wild card." Well, definitely not "elegant." So we could both be up there feeling the effects of our sauerkraut dinner, and I am absolutely sure he would consider me the culprit and not her! My God, it is like Junior High all over again! That's how other kids could get me in trouble. I was enough of a prankster that I was always implicated in any prank, and it never helped that I would laugh so hard over the pranks of others even when I had nothing to do with it.

Of course, in reality, the day will probably go without incident, but it's just the thought of the potential of it all that is hilarious! Is this what God intended when he wanted us to be a church community????? (Of course, the wild card in me says, "Uh, YEAH! I think so!")

I went over to church today to bring food in support of the people in our congregation who are knitting scarves for one of the projects of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri, namely to provide scarves for the clients of the Free Hot Lunch Program of Trinity Church--St. Louis. Their goal is to have a good supply of scarves on hand to present to their clients the Sunday before Christmas, so they have been asking the "knitters and crocheters" in the diocese to do their part.

I can't do a lick of domestic crafts, but I can ask those who do to make up for my lack of skill. There are going to be a lot more folks in economically uncertain places this winter. Although Missouri winter is not as consistently cold as the more northern states, believe me, it can have its arctic moments! Something as simple as a warm scarf can make life more bearable for folks. I wish I had the skill to help on this project, but since I don't, I'll just share that it is there, and any of y'all who want to help with this, can do so!

Hola, mi novia Señorita Chompita Wiggletail! Did you and Padre and the lovely Mona stay up late and watch the ewections? Kirk and Boomie and I did. Kirk says dat different days are coming for little black dogs, dat maybe the economy will be like when Bill Clinton was pwesident again someday.

I don' no nuffin bout Bill Clinton 'cept what da late Mr. Willis Woo used to tell me. Teh only pwesident I ever knew in my whole life was George Bush. Mr. Willis Woo used to remember when Bill Clinton was the pwesident. He used to tell me....

"Little Eddie, when Bill Clinton was pwesident, all da dogs had bones. Da big dogs had bones and da little dogs had bones, and maybe all da dogs didn't awways have the same amount of bones but we all had bones. Den George bush came along and took all the bones and gave most of them to his big dog friens. Den once in a while he threw the little black dogs a bone, but it wasn't haf as big as the bones he took away from them. He threw them the bones with lotsa hoopla and said, "See! I'm givin' you back YOUR bones so you can do wif YOUR bones what you want." But most of da dogs did not remember what their old bones looked like, so a bone haf as big looked like a big bone to dem. Only the old dogs like Mr. Willis Woo looked at da bones and said, "Oh, bullshit. Dese bones ain't nuffin compared to da bones I used to get. You skwewed us outa our bones, you liar." Den sometimes he gave out dog food as an economic stim-yew-us, but when you eated da food, you could tell it not good dog food like Hy-Vee Hi Protein dog food, it one of dem dog foods all puffed up wif air like a Wice Kwispy. He lied to all da dogs, Little Eddie, but you too little to know it. You don' no nuffin else."

So Señorita Chompita Wiggletail, I hear you an' me, we gettin' better bones now. Whatchoo think about dat?

Kirk was only ok wif all da ewections. We were all glad our fren Rebecca McClanahan got back in da state house, we like having Obama, we got a donkey governor (his name is Jay Nixon), but we are still stuck wif a eddafant in our congresscritter seat--just a different eddafant. But we are glad about da Obama winning. McCain sounded just like George Bush to me, so maybe he would have kept all da bones like Woo used to say George Bush did. Dat Palin woman, she make a big deal 'bout shootin' a moose. I say big deal. A moose just look like a big ol' cow to me but wif funny horns. Kirk bewong to da Mooses here in Kirksville. Da mooses in Kirksville, dey run Bingo on Friday nights and haf steaks at da Moose lodge on Saturday nights. But I don' think dere are no real mooses dere. Dey some kind of pretend mooses. But back to da real mooses. Kirk sez ain't no big deal to shoot a cow size cwitter. Bet Sarah Palin never shot a possum! Possums is smaller and dey harder to shoot cuz dey are sneaky and crawl in our dwainpipe under da dwiveway!

I made a possum play possum once. I barked and barked and barked and it pwetended it dead. But dat another story.

Anyway, my sweet Señorita Chompita Wiggletail, Kirk says I gotta get off da computer cuz I spell funny and take too long to type. So let me know how you liked da ewections, ok?

Your boyfren,

Little Eddie

Woo Hoo!

I was pleased that my state representative, Rebecca McClanahan, won her race despite a plethora of nastygrams on the air by her opponent. Sometimes good really does win!

(Oh, yeah, and I'm happy about the Obama news, but I dunno, I went into this one thinking that was gonna happen. It's the first time since Clinton's 2nd term that I felt confident on Election Day! I just didn't want to say anything so as not to jinx it!)

23Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2“The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; 3therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach.

4They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. 5They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. 6They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, 7and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi.

But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. 9And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. 10Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. 11The greatest among you will be your servant. 12All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

Interestingly enough, the rest of Matthew 23 becomes even more of a "cuss-out". But in Wallace's sermon on Sunday, he used this text to outline the difference between "good religion" and "bad religion." This is something that seems very real to me on the eve of the U.S. election day.

"Good religion" does not lay heavy burdens on people and then leave them to their own devices and foibles.

"Good religion" is often done behind the scenes and sometimes the only person who knows it is the benefactor and God.

"Good religion" has a humility about it where the "good person" is incredibly quick to point out the aid given by others or that what happened was simply the grace of God, not them.

I have been getting on average 15 robo-calls a night (nothing like living in a battleground state). They are not all national ones, though, some are state races. The one that really gets my goat is the opponent of Rebecca McClanahan, who is our state representative. This fine woman is literally a saint. She and her husband have been fixtures in the community here in Kirksville for 30 years. She and her husband have been foster parents and adopted a child. She was on the nursing faculty at Truman State for several years. Her dad is a minister of the Gospel (a fundamentalist one at that--yet I love this man because he came out in favor of embryonic stem cell research during a nasty ballot initiative two years ago)

Yet her opponent, thanks to some help from the Missouri GOP, has been running ads that says she "celebrates abortion". (Since when does supporting the right to choose equal "celebrating abortion?") Meanwhile, her opponent trades heavily on the 5 G's--God, Guts, Guns, Gays, and Gestation. There is nothing that galls me (as a responsible gun owner who does not have much of an issue with present gun control laws) more than this guy plastering himself all over the TV and newspapers in the typical "Fat white guy out shooting or hunting" poses. I am amazed at how these modern-day Pharisees can take someone who is a decent human being and paint her as the Antichrist with not even a blink of an eye.

So when I was listening to the Gospel reading and the sermon yesterday, I have to admit my thoughts were on the screw job Rebecca has been been getting by her opponent and the modern day Pharisees that proceed to tell us what "good religion" is, all the while practicing "bad religion". I never pray for outcomes, but I pray for the best of all of us to prevail, or for "right to be done." If you'd remember the 2nd district of the Missouri House, I'd be much obliged.

I am told by all my relatives that for a NE Missouri native, I have, um...unusual food tastes. So unusual, in fact, that I have been the butt of many family jokes about it. My contributions to potluck dinners are frequently "suspect," because of my love of hot spicy food. I was the first person in my family who dared eat sushi. My mother has been distressed for decades that I eat my oatmeal with garlic and hot sauce on it. (Of course, this is coming from the woman who puts half a bottle of syrup on her pancakes, so I have never taken her derision to heart.) My late grandmother refused her entire 84 years to ever eat in a Chinese restaurant. (Her classic line was, "You ever notice it is DARK in a Chinese restaurant? That's because they don't want you to see you are eating cat meat and octopus eyes." She also used to claim that "Chow chow" meant "edible dog" in Korean.)

So it's plain to see I was not reared to step too far out of the gastronomic box. But part of what I envisioned as a child as "the adventure of foreign travel" was eating all these things I had only seen in movies. When I went to England to visit my friend C. while he was on sabbatical, he and I mostly cooked at his flat, and only rarely went out, because part of the "adventure" for me on my visit was simply going to Tesco (the big grocery chain in England) and buying the local groceries.

I fell in love with two food items on that trip--digestive biscuits, (they taste a little like "a more refined version of a Graham Cracker" to me) and a very unlikely candidate--Marmite, a yeast extract paste that Brits are goofy over and Americans, by and large think is very weird.

C. hated the stuff, yet told me I had to at least try it. He was pretty dismayed when after one bite, I said, "Oh, man! This stuff is great!" I had to bring some home with me after my visit with C. in London. Since then, I have found a place on the internet I could buy the stuff.

I am not a person with a sweet tooth. I am a "salt and sour and hot" kind of person, when it comes to food. The sheer saltiness of Marmite gives me a rush--I think I can hear my arteries hardening when I eat it right off the spoon. My favorite way of eating Marmite is to put it on roasted garlic Triscuits. Even though it is 100% vegetarian, it tastes "beefy" to me, for some reason. It's Aussie counterpart, Vegemite, tastes "puny" to me compared to Marmite. I understand that New Zealanders like Marmite, but their version is slightly different than the British version. I have never tried the NZ version of Marmite. I hear it tastes more like Vegemite.

I may be the only person that Marmite reaches in the 63501 post office, but what the hell?



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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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