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

John 1:29-42

29The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ 31I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.” 35The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!”

37The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o”clock in the afternoon. 40One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). 42He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).

Wallace's sermon today focused on Jesus' question, "What are you looking for?"

I was thinking at the time, "Well, obviously it's something the two disciples didn't want to divulge, because they answered his question by asking another question."

That's one of the oldest forms of "non-answer," well known by any adults who have spent any "not exactly quality time" with children.

"What are you doing in there?"


You can almost always bet in that instance, the kid was doing something he or she wasn't supposed to be doing, or at least something they are trying to hide from you.

I get the feeling there might have been a little of that kind of thought process going on with those two disciples. I can see them thinking things like, "What? What am I looking for? Does this guy really want to know? Does he really give a damn? What I want in a spiritual sense, well, maybe it's not good enough. Maybe it's not deep enough. Maybe I don't really know or am not sure. Uh, next question!"

So they change the subject to the equivalent to, as we say in NE Missouri, where ending a sentence with a preposition is perfectly okay, "Where you staying at?" Now, I'm not sure if that question is really "Where you staying at?" or "What planet are you on?" but they are evidently shown where He was staying, in either a literal or a literary sense...and they must have been okay with it. It convinced them He was the Messiah.

When Jesus said "Come and see," I wonder if the disciples thought he was answering THEIR question when in reality he was answering his own..."Come and see (what you're looking for.)" I say that because sometimes, when it comes to our heart's deepest desires, we don't dare even ask the question of ourselves. We aren't necessarily afraid of the answer (although sometimes we are), it's just that we just don't see ourselves worthy of the answer.

I think about this much in the same way I did growing up in an economically lower middle class family about asking for expensive things. I remember wanting things as a child that I knew I dare not ask for, because we simply could not afford it. To ask would hurt someone's feelings, or maybe they'd do without something themselves to get it for me. The price was too dear.

I do that with God sometimes. I don't ask for what I really desire. It seems too selfish. I don't like the concept of "Santa God.". Someone else might need it worse than I do. The fact that God has such abundance that we could all get "that thing" is meaningless and incomprehensible to me. Maybe I'm not sure that "what I want" is not "what I need." Maybe I'm dead wrong about my heart's desire. The bottom line is, I dare not ask. We have a saying around here..."Poor folks got poor ways." Too often, I probably go about having the "ways" of a spiritually poor person when I am actually more spiritually rich than I am willing to accept.

What little I've figured out about this dilemma is that although wild horses could not drag me far enough to make me ask for some things, I AM (slowly) getting better at the grace to accept gifts that God has handed me, and I discover that sometimes they are the things I would have asked for had I the courage to have asked. I discover that for everything in my life that feels "taken" from me in some way, if I just am open to seeing what I am looking for, I will find I have been given something at least as good to fill the void. But to see, the mind must know. We must be open to possibilities, think out of the box a little. We must "come and see."

Well, it started when I was at the house of one of my friends, burning palms. (Yes, burning palms.) We get no "intelligence points". We were burning the Palm Sunday Palms on the coldest day of the year in Kirksville--5 degrees F and -15 wind chill. But it was one of those things we had put off till the last minute, and with Ash Wednesday coming early this get the drift. So there we were, the three of us, being huge fools.

Ever notice how one kind of foolishness breeds another? Anyway, I had admitted writing one verse of a dog hymn, and the next thing you know, we had done the 2nd and 3rd verse, using combined experiences with our dogs. So now the dog hymn is complete!

We have decreed that dog hymns should only have three verses b/c dogs don’t have all that long an attention span.

The God of Canines Praise
To be sung to "The God of Abraham Praise"
(if you need a reminder of the tune, there is an audio file at )

The God of Canines praise, who looks out from above
He brings good dogs all kinds of treats and lots of love.
With rawhide chews and bones, and dog cookies galore
We bow and bless his sacred name for evermore.

When dogs are chasing deer, or eating frozen bats
Or rolling 'round in raccoon poop, or chasing cats;
Their God protects them all, their little doggy souls
When they encounter rancid food or digging moles.

Dogs have eternal life implanted in their souls,
No matter what some clergy say, dogs’ spirits are whole.
When we pass from this world, when our sparks cease to glow,
If there's no dogs in heaven, well, then we won't go!

For your clergy types worried about paperwork from the Diocese this time of year, one bit of cheer. Be glad you don't have the paperwork health care folks do! Here is a great example from a friend of Kirkepiscatoid:

If Churches Had Paperwork like Healthcare Facilities
By Maria L. Evans

To: All Parishes
From: Diocesan Office

Starting this year, in order to standardize parish contributions and better predict parish cash flows, we have implemented a fee-for-service Eucharistic coding and billing system. Rather than rely on haphazard donations from parishioners, pledges turned in at the last minute, etc., parishioners will be billed for each Eucharistic encounter.

For the purposes of coding and billing, all bishops, priests, and deacons will simply be referred to as “Eucharistic Service Providers” (ESP’s). Parishes are free to establish billing rates for services, as long as they are not below the minimum allowable billing rate as established by the Diocese (printed on the Diocesan web site). It is unscriptural to entice members from another parish to your ESP by offering a rate lower than the minimum allowable billing rate for Eucharistic services, and is considered against the mandate in Prayers of the People, form III, that ESP’s be “faithful ministers of Your Word and Sacraments.”

Parishes will submit weekly billing to the Diocese: At the end of the month the Diocese will issue statements that will consist of an Explanation of Eucharistic Benefits (EoEB) as well as a monthly bill for Eucharistic services rendered.

Parishioners are free to purchase individual Communion Insurance Policies (CIP’s). The names of these providers should be turned in to the church secretary of each parish and this information submitted to the Diocese. Parishioners should keep in mind, however, that some policies require pre-approval from the Bishop, and may only authorize a given number of trips to the Communion rail per calendar year or only pay for Eucharistic services performed in our Diocesan network. For a list of all network providers, again please refer to our web site. All parishioners also need to sign and file a statement with the Diocesan office that they will be responsible for any Eucharistic billing over and above amounts allowed by their CIP, or for all services rendered if they do not have a CIP.

Parishioners who wish to donate over and above their billable Eucharistic services are also free to establish Home Parish Savings Accounts (HPSA’s) and can also donate to the parish by this means. Some employers may have pre-tax benefits for HPSA’s and parishioners should also check with their employers for these possible options.

Statements for billable Eucharistic services will be due 30 days after the issue date; a 2.5% surcharge will be added to payments in the 30-60 day due range. Payments in arrears of greater than 60 days will be turned over to the Lucifer, Inc. collection agency.

Parishes who submit weekly Diocesan billing electronically will receive a 1.5% discount on their Diocesan pledge. Mission congregations, because of their rural location, will receive a 2.5% bonus in Diocesan aid if billing statements are electronically submitted within 48 hours following Sunday services.

How Eucharistic Fee-for-service Billing works:

As each parishioner enters the church, the greeter will distribute tucked within the bulletin, a Eucharistic Encounter Form (EEF). Pencils should be readily available for parishioners at the pews; we suggest your Altar Guild add this to their duties.

Each parishioner should check the parishioner demographic and level of service most applicable for EACH member of your household. A sample EEF is provided in this bulletin. Feel free to personalize these with your church logo, and use fonts that you feel would be attractive for your parishioners. Statements that major credit cards or PayPal payments are welcome at the bottom of your EEF often result in faster payment. Billing code groups are Parishioner Demographic (PD), Eucharistic Level of service (ELOS), Spiritual Need (SN), and any applicable modifier.

Parishioners should sign the statement at the bottom that they are intending to receive only the Eucharistic services they predict will be rendered.

EEF’s should be turned in the collection plate at the offertory. This method also frees bursars from handling large amounts of $1 bills and loose change, which can be time-consuming. Following church services, we suggest bursars arrange the EEF’s in alphabetical order in order to expedite submission of Eucharistic billing by your church’s secretary.

Any parishioner questions about Eucharistic coding and billing should be directed to parish clergy or to a Eucharistic billing specialist (usually only available in larger parishes.)

Sample Eucharistic Encounter Form

(Your parish name, address, logo, etc.)

Parishioner name __________________________________________

If you are a visitor or have changed address, please provide it in the space below:

Parishioner Demographic Code:

❏ PD31601 Regular attendee, baptized, confirmed (attends services more than 2x/month)
❏ PD31602 Occasional attendee, baptized, confirmed (attends services less than 2x/month but more than 1-2x/year
❏ PD31603 Eucharistic screening exam only (Christmas/Easter)
❏ PD31604 Baptized but not confirmed
❏ PD31605 Heathen
❏ PD31606 Out of network attendee (visitor in good standing from another church)
❏ PD31606 Other attendee, not otherwise specified___________________________________

Eucharistic Level of Service:

❏ ELOS14301 Eats wafer, drinks wine from chalice
❏ ELOS14302 Dunks wafer in chalice, eats intincted wafer
❏ ELOS14303 Wafer only (small children/alcoholics/wine allergy)
❏ ELOS14304 Blessing only; no wafer, no wine (Infants/unsure if should partake)
❏ ELOS14305 Sat in pew, didn’t go up
❏ ELOS14306 Dropped wafer on floor, looked sheepish
❏ ELOS14307 Other Eucharistic level of service, not otherwise specified _________________

Spiritual Need

❏ SN66601 Usual and Customary Life Stressors
❏ SN66602 New or Temporary Acute Life Stressor(s)
❏ SN66603 Recent Illness(es)/Death(s), whether self/family member/friend
❏ SN66604 Domestic Partner Life Stressor(s)
❏ SN66605 Other family member/friend/extended family Life Stressor(s)
❏ SN66606 Deep dark secret unknown to clergy
❏ SN66607 Deep dark secret of a sexual nature, unknown to clergy
❏ SN66608 Other Spiritual Need, not otherwise specified ______________________________

Modifier Codes:

❏ -59 Sudden decrease or cessation of income
❏ -60 Unchurched person who suddenly felt need to attend church
❏ -61 Won lottery or had sudden windfall to income

I, the undersigned, state that the Eucharistic services checked are a reasonable and accurate account of the Eucharistic services I intend to receive at Communion, and understand that failure to code accurately is considered “bearing false witness” as outlined in Ex. 20:16.

Name and Date

My dogs wanted me to write them a hymn, so here's my first crack at it.

This one is sung to the tune of "The God of Abraham Praise"....

The God of Canines praise, who looks out from above,
He brings good dogs all kinds of treats and lots of love.
With rawhide chews and bones, and dog cookies galore
We bow and bless his sacred name for ever more.

Oh, swell.  This year with Easter running early, practically all of February is during Lent.  I have a hard time with February anyway.  I think what happens is, by February, my pineal gland has been chronically light-starved all winter, and it becomes a very grumpy month for me, because spring can't come soon enough.

Then, as if that isn't enough, with Easter coming early this year, that means pretty much all of February is Lenten, to boot.  So I'm supposed to be grumpy AND penitential for the whole month.  Aaaagh.

I've always tried to be fairly serious about Lent.  Historically, I give up hot sauce.  Considering I even eat hot sauce on oatmeal, that is a real sacrifice on my part.  Going without hot sauce is a reminder that, just as my meals become blander for 40 days, life without the light of God would be blander, too.  It also forces me to explore how to enjoy other spices in my meals and appreciate them.  But over the years, this has become my knee-jerk reaction to Lent, and I decided this year I wanted to also ADD something to the season as well as take away from it.

So, after some brief chatting with both Wallace and Carrol, I came up with a game plan.  One of my favorite Old Testament books is the book of Isaiah. I'm going to explore week by week the chapters that revolve around the concept of "the suffering servant."

I'll be honest:  I don't really see the book of Isaiah in quite the same light as my more fundamentalist brethren do.  They tend to focus on the prophetic aspects of it.  I tend to view it in reverse--that much of what Jesus says in the Gospels has roots in Isaiah, because that is the tradition in which He was trained.  I don't think he was really projecting His divinity with those quotes as much as He was using Isaiah as a "common vernacular" that had a commonality with the people who heard Him speak.

Likewise, I don't think the authors of the "three parts of Isaiah" really had in mind the notion to prognosticate the Messiah.  To me, it speaks more as "a short narrative of the history of the Israelites" and the task they were given to carry the ball for God's word at the time (the Torah).  That's no small feat when you think about the fact the people chosen to do this task had no homeland, few resources, and were constantly ruled by others.  To me it links in more of a historical sense than a prophetic one.  I see it more as a key to "the psychology of Christ" than "fulfillment of prophecy."  It allows me to see where Jesus was coming from when He spoke.

But, back to the game plan.  Here is my game plan for the five weeks preceding Passion Week:

Week 1:  Read 42:1-9 and chapter 49
Week 2:  Read Chapter 50
Week 3:  Read Chapter 51
Week 4:  Read Chapter 52
Week 5:  Read Chapter 53

I'm going to pay special attention to the "servant songs" and think about where the author was coming from, how this tag-teams into Christ's utterances, and what these passages mean to me in my own struggles and battles.  Then I plan to write a reflective piece on my findings.  I'm not sure how to "roll it all together" yet for Passion Week, but I'm sure something will bubble up.

Ok, now I know what my task is; it's just a matter of doing it!

I had to spend a little time telling you about my Jewish friend M.J.'s Bar Mitzvah. M.J. is a longtime mentor of mine and has been an inspiration to many people both at the University of Missouri and to his community. He had visited Israel this summer with his daughter and his congregation. Upon his return, he was sitting in the living room with some of my friends and somehow in the course of the conversation, he had admitting that he had never been Bar Mitzvah'd because in his day, Reform Jews were trying so hard "not to be Orthodox" that they had temporarily scratched Bar Mitzvahs and had gotten "confirmed" in his synagogue.

Our friend Andy, who is Orthodox, started bringing up the possiblity that this was "doable",--that this was a step he needed to consider simply to affirm his spiritual life as a Jew. As our host (a Quaker turned Episcopalian) said, "Wow, is this a Quaker moment or what?????"

Well, on Saturday, M.J. got to do the "today I am a man" schtick--at age 77. It was quite the impressive affair. The synagogue was packed--both with his friends and fellow synagogue members in Columbia, and a group of about 8 people representing "the Kirksville contingent." His 3 nephews showed up from Colorado and Minnesota. His daughter came from NYC. I felt this was an important bonding day in their life because she, like her mother's side of the family, chose Christianity, and this forged a great spiritual bond in their lives that transcended two religions.

It is even more impressive when you realize M.J. is showing a lot of signs of early dementia, and is at the place in his life where he is at times, "discounted". People don't see who he used to be, they only see who is is now. Those of us close to him have already been grieving the parts of the guy we used to know, who doesn't show up much anymore.

I had been the one who had to be the supporting taskmaster in all this. I found myself having to learn "his lines" so to speak, to encourage him learning them. I was the one who had to pep talk him, yet focus him. His instructor, Mary, was an absolute jewel. She was patient and firm, supportive and tough. Perfect combination!

Oddly enough, Trinity Kirksville played a small role in this. We used Trinity for his practice sessions, and both our priests were great at encouraging him and being fully behind him in a spiritual sense. Both Wallace and Carrol offered plenty of support and often checked in with me on "how's he doing with his Bar Mitzvah stuff?"

I think my take on the day is best summed up in my e-mail to Wallace:

No matter which way my thoughts run about M.J.’s big day, it keeps circling back to that huge non-coincidence that our Old Testament reading for tomorrow, the day after his Bar Mitzvah, is Isaiah 60:1-6:

“Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. Lift up your eyes and look around; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from far away, and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses’ arms. Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice, because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you. A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord.”

From the moment it all came together in that living room, that night that M.J. was talking about his Israel trip, that crystallized into admitting his secret longing that he’d had ever since one of his friend's “retirement age Bar Mitzvah” about 10 years ago, I have felt all along I was witnessing a spiritual destiny deep within M.J. But with that sense came this huge fear on my part that I was too stupid to get out of the way of that destiny.

When I think about that “thick darkness” of the decline of M.J.’s cognition, it, at times, is simply a pit of despair. For at least a decade, but especially in the last 2 years, I’ve spent a good portion of my life protecting and tending that flickering light of M.J.’s brainpower, dealing with the constant reality of “who he is now”, simply out of respect for “the guy I used to know”. You can’t imagine how many times I’ve lain awake, fearing I had been tapped to be the bus driver on a bus that goes to nowhere...or worse yet, a bus destined to go off a cliff. I have been spending these many months watching the darkness starting to engulf that light that is M.J., and raging against the dying of the light, sometimes simply with my force of sheer will, realizing, at best, I am a terrier barking in the dark at a foe which I’m destined to concede defeat. I have feared that when that light finally flickers out, that it will never be seen again—that it simply gets swallowed up into the darkness—that darkness “wins” in the end.

What I got to see today was the absolute reality that this light never really goes away. If you could watch the DVD in my head from today, I would want you to have seen three things—the way his now unreliable brain clicks entirely into another mode when he was reading his Torah portion and his Haftorah portion, the sheer joy that filled the room when he did it, and the way he beamed when he was the center of all this attention! For that moment, he WAS the 13 year old Bar Mitzvah boy who was meant to do this. Even more amazing is the fact that, in some ways, at the time he was destined to do this, he had to do it with both hands tied behind his back. The things he had to learn, to contemplate, to fully understand, is hard enough with all of one’s faculties intact, and when his spiritual destiny tapped him for “his time” it was at a place in his life where he didn’t even have all the tools that used to be in his toolbox.

I have felt all along that it was my job to drive the bus, then stand aside. Yet merely to drive the bus, I had to know the map in my head. I think now about all that work I put into prayers I was never meant to utter, the study I put into what M.J. had to learn in order for him to be bold enough to learn it, for the sole purpose of helping him practice. I have wondered many times if I had lost my mind, spending all this time learning the route to a place where I was only taking him to where he needed to be dropped off. There were times driving this bus that I felt I could hardly get him ON the bus (wearing pants, no less!) let alone take him to his destination.

Even today, I made a point to be “two seats over.” His daughter sat on one side of him, and Andy sat on the other. I was too afraid that if I sat next to him, given his increasing dependence on me, that he would depend on me too much when this was HIS show, and fully capable of running it, to boot. He is just too prone these days to look towards me and capitulate to me on things with which he struggles. For instance, if he loses his glasses, instead of looking for them, he goes straight to me for ME to look for them. I have known all along that part of this destiny was for Andy to feel that he had helped to fulfill M.J.’s “life as a Jew” and for there to be a bond between him and Cathy that bridges two religions. That little voice in my head has told me all along, “Drive the bus, then step aside,” but I could never figure out why I was supposed to go through all this work, all this turmoil for a destination that was not mine.

Tonight, I know. It was to get a ringside seat to see the reality of just HOW the light of the glory of the Lord shines on “all the people”--to fully realize that the light still shines whether or not anyone chooses to look at it. It was for it to become real to me that, ultimately, darkness doesn’t win. The light of this dear man, that light which I have already mourned as “fading into the darkness”--reappeared, if only for a moment. When he read his Torah and Haftorah readings, it was “his old self”--the guy I’ve always known—the guy that spent his life teaching medical students—that did it. Yeah, that light WILL fade from this world—I’m sure of it—but it will still obey the 2nd law of thermodynamics. Energy is neither created, nor destroyed, but is transformed. The power of that transformation is real to me in a way now that I could not understand until today.

I don’t think I’ll ever look at Isaiah 60 quite the same ever again.



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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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