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

"In all time of our tribulation, in all time of our prosperity, in the hour of death and the day of judgement, good Lord deliver us."
--from the Great Litany

Allow me to introduce you to my cousin Jay (I've changed his name for privacy's sake.)

Jay's life has been far from perfect. Like a lot of Gen X'ers in rural NE Missouri, once upon a time he got messed up in the world of crank, aka Methamphetamine. But by nothing short of a miracle, he left that world and was one of the first people in the area to successfully complete the "drug court" program. That was four years ago. He has been clean ever since, and is gainfully employed, and met and married a great gal he met in rehab. They have a kid, a house, great jobs, and look just like any young American couple now (except for a little overload on tattoos ).

Jay is presently in the middle of trying to get custody of his other two kids, from a previous relationship. His previous flame recently got busted on felony charges. If she gets incarcerated, he has a good chance of getting them...but if she gets something like suspended imposition of sentence/probation/etc., probably nothing will change. (The odds of her being found Not Guilty are quite slim, to say the least.)

This creates quite a prayer dilemma for me. I gave up praying for specific outcomes years ago because it sounded too much like a wish list to Santa. Besides, as tempting as the concept is to me at times, it just seems inherently wrong to pray, "Oh, God, please put that nasty skank in the slammer so Jay can get his kids."

The hell of it is, I HAVE prayed that she sense the presence of God and respond to it. But right now, I have trouble not qualifying it with, "...after she goes to the hoosegow."

I have prayed that the kids feel some sort of permanence in the world, that they see beyond the upheaval in their lives. But in the last few weeks, I can't even do that. Every time I think about this situation, I am filled with so much anger and frustration, I feel my prayers are not in earnest. My own baggage gets in the way to the point I feel my connection with God has hit a brick wall. I realize this is not God's fault, but my own. It is simply the underpinnings of the more broken parts of my own childhood throwing up barriers. Pain that I thought was long dead in my life, suffering I thought I was long "over" has crawled out of the pit where I store all my Heart of Darkness issues and back into my frontal lobe.

All I have been able to do is repeat that phrase from the Great Litany over and over..."In all time of our tribulation, in all time of our prosperity, in the hour of death and the day of judgement, good Lord deliver us." It is the best I can do at this point, and I think I have repeated this phrase hundreds of times in the last three weeks. I can do this because I can accept that this scenario faces me both with prosperity and tribulation all at the same time. Prosperity in that my family has Jay back, when we once consigned him to "lost" in the hell of Methworld. Tribulation in that his children have no stability, no anchor. This prayer is all I can do. I wish I could do better.

Oh, I know I shouldn't have been peeking over the fence at the right wing Anglican blogs today, now I'm wound up.

For starters: I resent them co-opting the word "Orthodox". The Episcopal church is a liturgical church, steeped in Anglo-Catholic tradition. In that sense, it is "orthodox". Having fundie overtones does not make you "Orthodox." Right-wing Anglicanism is probably a more "Johnine" Christianity in that all the pieces of the picture must "fit", there must be fulfillment of OT prophecy in the various acts of the life of Christ, etc. For a good description of "Johnine" vs. "Synoptic" Christianity, see Nigel's great post on the topic.

My next grouse: What is it about homosexuality and women in positions of power that have these folks so wound up, compared to acts that we all have some consensus as constituting "sin"? What is it about these folks that, although literal interpretation of the Scriptures has never been a required belief in Anglicanism, even discouraged to some extent, that they insist on literal interpretation of some aspects of the Bible? These aren't "Anglicans,", they're Baptists with incense and shiny priest clothes.

Let's play a game here. Let's just, for argument's sake, say to one of these hypothetical right wingers, "Ok, you win. Women priests and homosexuals are sinful. Forget my usual arguments about how I wear cotton-poly blend and that is also forbidden in the Bible, or how I eat shrimp, or whatever. Let's just go to the top 10 list and see how many sins I have on the top 10.

"I've worshipped the idols of money and self-love on certain occasions. I've placed these things before God at times. I have definitely taken the Lord's name in vain, often on the golf course. I have blown off the Sabbath and worked on the Sabbath. I've argued with my parents, called them names, disrespected them. I've stolen, in an indirect way. I've lied. I've coveted and been jealous of all sorts of things. That's 8 out of 10 right there. I never know what quite to do with adultery (does being single and sleeping with a married person count?) and although I've never directly killed anyone, I know in my heart there are acts, or lack of doing an act I should have, that eventually indirectly contributed to someone's death. So I'll give myself 1/2 point each.

"That gives me a 9 out of 10 on the Sinner Scale. I am definitely a sinner. The worst kind. That's without even having to worry about the things you are most worried about. Yet you would give me communion if I came to the rail, no questions asked. But if some person you know to be gay with a score less than mine came up, no way. Or if a woman handed YOU the host, no way. WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE!!!!"

I'm just tired of the "Animal Farm" definition of sin. "All sins are equally bad, but some are equally worse than others." Not to mention that one person's idea of "sin" is not another person's idea of "sin." Some of what they are claiming as a heinous, grievous form of sin doesn't even trip my "evil-o-meter". Nor did it make the top 10 list nor did Christ utter a peep about it in written form.

Of course, they will just smirk and say Satan is dwelling within my thoughts. Perhaps that should be turned around. Satan (however you choose to view Satan, as a single entity or as a corporation) loves dissension. Thrives on it, in fact. Perhaps it is not my thoughts or actions that are evil but it is the arguing and dissension of this church brouhaha where the seat of evil resides. Perhaps people should tend to their own houses and stop squatting on everyone else's doorstep. If the way we handle this in TEC makes you uncomfortable, leave. But stop trying to hit the rest of us on the head with your hammer, stop trying to steal the church's stuff, and stop raiding existing dioceses and demanding your own primates while all the time laying claim to property that belongs to a church hierarchy that already has a primate.

I normally don't like to foray into the political ramifications of the church but I had to spend a little time on this one since the conclusion reached by the author was an out and out line.

Ok, I admit. Once in a while, when I am in a fighting mood (and have an empty stomach) I sneak over and read what's going on at the (mis-named, IMO) Virtue Online website. (I have to peer through the bushes at the dark side once in a while, I can't help it). David Virtue has gone on a toot over the so-called celebration of the homosexual agenda at The University of the South at Sewanee. He makes the absolutely false claim that because they missed their fundraising goal by 10% and only 40% of their alums gave money in the past year 60% of the alumni have are voiced a vote of "no confidence" in the school and in "the homosexual agenda" by not donating.

I looked at that and intuitively thought, "Horse briquettes. If that school has 40% giving from their alumni, that's an amazingly great percentage of alumni donors." I have done a lot of volunteer fund raising and development work for my alma mater, Truman State University, here in Kirksville, and I was thinking to myself we have NEVER been that good.

So I shot my buddy Denise Smith at the Truman State Development Office an e-mail, and here is an excerpt from her reply:

"I know years ago, we have always had a goal of above
15% and growing....Anything below 10% is considered very poor. I would think anyone that has a 40% giving rate should be really excited."

So much for that 60% "no confidence" stuff.

I'm going to say this with as much Episcopalian diplomacy as I can muster. If someone is unhappy with TEC, if they need a more "fundamentalist" bend to their Anglo-catholicism, fine. But let your beliefs and views stand for themselves. Don't spin tales on statistics and don't tell lies on what that 40% means. Oh, and while you're at it, if y'all want to leave, I'm sorry you feel that way, Godspeed, I hope you find what you are looking for on your journey, but don't be leaving with the church's stuff and don't let the screen door hit your booty on the way out.

I have to brag for a minute--I just discovered this blog was added to MadPriest's Heroes of the Blogosphere Hall of Fame. Wow! Thanks, MadPriest!

MadPriest's home location is in England, so it's kind of nice to know Kirksville has crossed the pond.

Last Sunday, when I saw the Gospel reading, I was thinking...."Oh, man...not the Good Samaritan again!"

I confess to being generally nonplussed when the "Classic Gospel Stories" roll around to their turn in the lectionary. Mostly because it's hard for me to think of them in any terms other than the classic story you heard in Sunday School for the first time as a child. It's like trying to think of the Exodus without Charlton Heston. I cut any priest some slack when having to do one of those texts for the sermon b/c they probably have the same issues. How many things can you do differently on a text that's been done to death?

At least one thing I can think about in that story that's a little off the beaten path, is the innkeeper. When I was in college here at Truman State, I was a night desk clerk here at the old Oak Tree Inn. (it’s now that antique mall at the bottom of the hill on 63 south down by the Highway 11 turnoff.) For those of you who give directions in Kirksville in classic townie fashion (in terms of businesses that no longer exist or have moved...."Turn left where the old Hy-Vee used to be") it was "the old Holiday Inn" before it was the Oak Tree Inn.

Ok, as I'm hearing the story of the Good Samaritan for the umpteenth time I am imagining working there at the Oak Tree one Friday night from 7 p.m. To 7 a.m. I'm imagining what would have happened had some dude walked in with a guy who had the snot beat out of him and said, “Give him a room, here’s some money, keep him till he’s well, when I come back to town I’ll give you what I owe you.” I would have been going, “OH NO you don’t! That guy looks like he’s half dead already! You go take him to the ER! Don’t you be throwin’ money at me! Get the hell out of here before I call the cops! I don’t know you and I sure as hell ain’t takin’ your idea of credit! For all I know, you’re the one who beat him up!”

So I always wonder what was it that made the innkeeper even take the guy in??????? The only thing I can think of is “times were different back then” and the Good Samaritan was dealing with the owner/manager, not the dumbass college kid weekend desk clerk who needs to keep the job. Rank has its privileges, you know....

MadPriest had a great blurb some days back where a couple of RC archdioceses in the Philippines suddenly have decided to get wound up about a "dress code". The short version is "no hootchie mama clothes, no shorts, no sandals."

Oh, c'mon. Give me a break. My short answer is, "Jesus wore sandals."

Now, for the long answer...

Here is what I figure. God knows what is inside you. What you cover it with is meaningless. If you like to dress up in your Sunday best for church, if it makes you feel respectful towards God, by all means, have at it. Knock yourself out. But if being casual makes you feel closer to God, if you like the familiarity of it all, hey, shorts and sandals are fine.

I am personally one of the eternally horribly underdressed people of the world. 90% of the time, when I'm not at work, you are going to see me in jeans and a sweatshirt, or shorts and a T-shirt. Then there's my penchant for cowboy boots. My mother likes to say that my first pair of shoes other than those ugly white high-topped baby shoes was a pair of cowboy boots, and I've been wearing them ever since. I can show you reams of childhood pictures of me wearing them.

When I worked in a large midwestern academic medical center that will remain nameless, I used to catch holy hell for wearing cowboy boots to work. I was told it was "unprofessional" and "hickish". Now, we are not talking scuffed up Dingos with livestock dung on the soles, we are talking moderately expensive Tony Lamas and Ariats here.

The minute I moved back to Kirksville, one of the great joys of my life was wearing cowboy boots to work and having NO ONE NOTICE. Ahhhh. It should not surprise you that I wear them to church. I make a point to acolyte or do my stint as lector in them. It is because they make me feel whole...and shouldn't going to church be all about wanting to feel whole?

The summary image I have for all this is what a really good RC friend of mine told me about his stint in the Philippines in the Peace Corps. He still has vivid memories, 40+ years later, of attending Mass in rural villages there, where at the rail, anything might show up...little kids, near-naked people walking in off the street, dogs, even monkeys on the rail...and he said he never felt the presence of the Lord more than at those Eucharistic moments. Dorothy, it ain't the shoes!

(Ok, I apologize to the Righteous Brothers for the blog entry title...but onward...)

This Sunday, I was a little miffed at myself how one person engaging in a perfectly acceptable form of worship can throw me off my Eucharistic game.

I'll have to explain a little. I have a tendency to intently focus on the altar when I'm kneeling during the Eucharistic prayer. Not focus on the priest, but the altar in its entirety. It wouldn't matter to me if it was Wallace, or Carrol, or Mickey Mouse, or the Archbishop of Canterbury up there. To me, it's the altar.

Now, mostly we use Eucharistic Prayer A but sometimes we use C (Lent, Easter, mostly). So I'll confine my remarks to EP-A although I like all the stuff personally in EP-C with the stars and planets and interstellar space stuff (Hey, I grew up on the original Star Trek.)

But I have a tendency to want to stare at the altar in its totality and grab onto words in the EP and "feel" those words..."to reconcile us to you"..."We celebrate the memorial of our redemption"..."sanctify us"..."at the last day bring us with all your saints into the joy of your eternal kingdom". It is the hearing of the words plus seeing the table that does it for me. One of my senses isn't enough.

Well, and despite the fact one of the wonderful things about being Episcopalian is that you can choose to stand, kneel, or sit, there are just times that the "standers" get in the way of the "kneelers." I'm a kneeler. I admit it and I'm proud of it. I think it is because I like the humility of it in the presence of the Eucharistic table. But this week I had the bad luck to be directly behind a "stander". Again, usually, no problem. I can usually shift around and peek behind most standers. But no, not this week. I had to get behind a stander with a fat butt.

We are talking direct blockage of the entire altar. One big butt cut off my entire cosmic connection to the Eucharist. Somehow, it just doesn't work when you hear those great words and are visually encountering a big pair of butt cheeks.

I want to point out here I tried. I really really really tried. I closed my eyes. I tried to imagine the Eucharistic table in my mind. But even with my eyes firmly shut, I could still feel butt cheek aura.

So, because of my own frailties in terms of breaking my Eucharistic connection, when I got up to Communion, getting the host and the wine just lacked that "spark". (At least it disproved the "altar guild" of the altar guild crew once claimed, "You know that warm feeling you get at communion? Port. Eighteen percent alcohol. It ain't the Holy Spirit, it's the spirits.") Part of what I live for on Sunday is that little fleeting spark I get at the rail. The feeling that for at least for a few seconds or minutes, until I think my first untoward thought, I am 99 and 44/100% pure. But a pair of butt cheeks cost me the spark.

I was so mad at myself for being so distracted. I am sure if you had watched me come back to my seat, I looked overly rigid. I was thinking at the post-Eucharistic prayer, "...and grant us strength and courage to ignore butt cheeks and love and serve you..." sigh.....



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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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