Saturday, December 13, 2008

My momma said

... that I would forget my head if it were not attached.

This when I was a teenager.

So if I seem scattered and lose track of what I am about (or ought to be about), nothing much has changed in half a century.

I have commented that this will make it difficult to tell when I become senile. I have been assured that my best friend will inform me. Thanks. I think.

Now, where was I?

Ah, thinking about how I have managed to accomplish most of the very few tasks I set myself for today.

I slept in. Got about ten hours sleep, in fact. Which meant my back ached when I finally hauled myself out of the sack. It was good to get that much rest. I slept in last Sunday too. It seems Jane R and I both worshiped at Our Lady of Perpetual Slumbers last Sunday. (The clever phrase is hers, not mine.)

Lunch was at Las Mañanitas with my friend Diane whom I had not seen in way too long. It is not that long since I lunched there with Susankay and her husband. Terrific posole, I must say.

My next and only errand of the day involved doing my small part to uphold the economy. About a year ago I found a terrific bit of oak office furniture in mission style (evocative of Stickley) that matched my bed and dresser. At that time I had no money for it. Today I went back to the store, found it, and bought it for my bedroom (which is vast).

There are three base pieces, one with file drawers. Then there are three hutch tops, one with glass windows. A completely independent desk, somewhat larger than the one I am typing at right now, has the lovely verticals at the end that echo the headboard to my bed (and the altar in my parlor). I also bought a matching office chair.

This will make it possible to be on the computer either in my current office or my bedroom, the east and west sides of the house, respectively. I know one ought to avoid combining functions as it can "pollute" one's resting space with work vibes, but there is a very practical aspect to this. My bedroom has three HVAC vents, unlike all the rooms with only one. It is thus the coolest room when the A/C is on and the warmest room when the heat is on. My office, during summer and winter, is usually a bit too hot or too cold and needs a fan or a space heater. It seems sensible to take advantage of the climate in my bedroom.

The bedroom also just cried out for some more furniture. I will have some space for art pieces and shelves where some of the kids can hang out. It will feel more finished. There is also a nice view of the west mesa over the housetops. We do have spectacular sunsets here.

The office suite will not arrive for another two or three weeks, which gives me time to rearrange things (and sort and toss and generally work on my bedroom). I also need to frame a lovely watercolor landscape by my brother-in-law's mother-in-law. It will go nicely in the bedroom.

Finally, I wrote a few more paragraphs in the revision of the novel. I am trying to make my central characters, of whom there are many, more distinctive to help the reader visualize and distinguish them. It seems I know much more about them than I did when I began writing the story almost three years ago. Back then I knew nothing of their family trees beyond patronymics. I had only vague notions of their physical appearance or their life story before or after the half-year in which the adventure takes place. (The chap who played Draco Malfoy's father in the Harry Potter movies would be good for the groom in my story, only with a major personality transplant since the groom is good-humored and compassionate, a Light Bearer unlikely to ally with Voldemort.)

We'll see how much I remember (and discipline myself) to accomplish tomorrow. Right now I can think of five things it would be good to do. No, I'm not ready for the sort of accountability that would tell y'all what they are now so you can praise, nag, or shame me come tomorrow.

The photo above is not related to this post at all. It gives you some idea of what I see when I drive about. I do not usually pull over to the side of the road when descending from the mesa toward home but this is a segment of the view. When I see sights like this I yearn to share them with you all. So here's a tidbit.

Sweet dreams, my frisky little kittens.
--the BB

A beautiful evening

The ordination service last night was awesome, as might be expected. It was beautiful on the surface level but I chose the header based on the deeper beauty. I'm afraid I left my camera in the car and shall be forced to use words this morning.

Luminarias lined the sidewalk in front of the church and parish hall. Long rows of white candles in all kinds of glasses (including wine glasses) adorned tables in the parish hall, along with greenery down the center of the tables. Greens on the walls added to the festive tone. It was a magical room.

The statue of Our Lady was moved from her usual niche and stood behind the altar and there were wonderful arrangements with dark red roses. An immense white banner with red flame-shaped doves hung behind the choir, flanked by wide, curling red ribbons falling the entire length. An ikon of the Theotokos stood in front of the lectern. Extra chairs were set up everywhere extra chairs could be set up. I have not seen the church this packed even on Christmas Eve.

In addition to the altar party and two bishops we had two rows (squeezed tighter than proper Episcopalian personal space would ever allow) of priests and a deacon. There were two deacons from St Michael's flanking the two bishops.

Before the service I got to meet both bishops: Bishop Frey, who is assisting in Rio Grande until we elect a new bishop, and Bishop Mathes of San Diego. I thanked Bishop Mathes for his word about Prop 8. (Op-ed piece in the San Diego Union-Tribune found at Susan Russell's blog)

As the procession was lined up before the service Daniel was bouncing (yes, really) and saying, "Let's go!" Given how long the process toward ordination is, I can understand his not wanting to wait a moment longer. As I try to recall my own feelings on December 8, 1989, I think they were more along the lines of "Oh my God, it is finally happening." Mine was a diocesan ordination service at Grace Cathedral and no amount of my bouncing would have moved that huge crowd. For that matter, Daniel had to wait too.

When I thought of the last ordination service I attended, that for Amber at St Cuthbert's, I remembered how my nephew Glen called my cell phone just as Bishop Ohl was anointing Amber's hands. So that prompted me to turn my cell phone off this time, just before we started the processional hymn.

The proper was that of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Brian Taylor, our rector, preached a masterful sermon tying together the story of la Virgencita, the example of Mary, priestly ministry, and Daniel's journey toward ordination.

I had my good cry in church too. The sequence hymn was Nettleton (Come, thou fount of every blessing), a favorite. That hymn, seeing my church family gathered, expectantly noting the presence of Christ in our midst (symbolized by the Gospel) - pushed me over the edge. I don't think I calmed down until we were seated for the sermon.

At the laying on of hands I put my hand on Mother Sandra Bess, vicar of San Gabriel, to link with her great love of ministry in this diocese and of Daniel (and a little shared mission solidarity). Earlier I had thought also of the day I was ordained a minister of the Gospel at First Baptist Church of Fresno. Among those laying hands on me was a Nigerian pastor. How ironic, in the context of today's Anglican Communion, that I believe I pass to Daniel a "Nigerian succession" through the fellowship of presbyters and proclaimers of Good News. I hope I remember to tell him this before too long.

Age takes its toll. At the reception I begged a blessing from Daniel. I needed help getting up off my knees. I told folks, "This is why I don't kneel in church" and it's true. Typical of his humility and love of people, he did not give me the traditional blessing. He prayed that he would live up to my expectations of him before signing my forehead with the Cross.

Dear God, please don't let me expect too much of him, but rather to uphold him in his ministry, as I and all others vowed we would do last night.

I did lots of food browsing (I have been reminded that what we do is far more like browsing than grazing), then went home. Far too tired to blog last night. I slept in and must have gotten ten hours of sleep. Now for a restorative weekend (ojalá).
--the BB

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Eh bien, le voici!

The finished product.

Right now it is on the altar/table in the parlor/chapel. I just smudged it with sage and I now reek of the lovely scent. Atop the stole rest a 200-year-old diptych of the Archangel Michael and a sainted deacon whose name I do not know, the Blessed Sacrament, and the Oil of Healing. These may keep each other company through the night. In the morning I will ensconce it with tissues and place it in a totally tarty red spangly box with a purple ribbon.

Now that I have finished it, DP, the answer is, not at this time. I occasionally do this for love, I don't think money can entice me to go through this. I used a much stiffer interlining than I have ever used before and when turning it right-side-out went through the toils of the damned.

My mildly arthritic hands will tell me about it tomorrow.

In other creative news: I managed to write two more paragraphs for the novel today.

OK, self-centered indulgence has run amok.

Sweet dreams, puppies.
--the BB

Moving Forward in Grace

Let us pray for and rejoice in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, holding a special reorganizing convention this Friday and Saturday. May the Holy Spirit shower them with grace as they make their transition into a new future.

Almighty and everlasting Father, you have given the Holy Spirit to abide with us for ever: Bless, we pray, with his grace and presence, the bishops and the other clergy and the laity soon to be assembled in your Name, that your Church, being preserved in true faith and godly discipline, may fulfill all the mind of him who loved it and gave himself for it, your Son Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

--the BB

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Progress report

I'm pretty sure Daniel does not read this blog, so I won't be giving any surprises away. (Now, if he googles his name....)

So, last night the cutting, tonight the piecing, tomorrow the assembling.

Here is the violet side with orphreys in sage, emerald, turquoise, and metallic robin's egg.

And here is the Holy Week red in two kinds of dark red, tomato, and deep indigo.

The photos at this stage show an unfinished product, wider than the finished stole will be (4 inches wide when done). It is a good thing Daniel is not short since I am making it in my standard length and it is modeled on one of my albs.

OK, bedtime (and a bit past)!

Sweet dreams cherubs.
--the BB

Let's paraphrase

John Aravosis calls the Los Angeles Times on its bullshit editorial of today by recasting it. What follows is from Americablog.

Here's what the Times wrote about gays:
As much as we abhorred Proposition 8, there's nothing to cheer about when private individuals are afraid to donate to the political campaigns of their choice because it may cost them their livelihood. In the case of Scott Eckern, who resigned from the California Musical Theatre in Sacramento, the future of the nonprofit company was at stake after some artists refused to work with him. But what if that situation were reversed and Eckern were targeted because he opposed Proposition 8? Or because he was gay? Professionals have to look past their personal and political differences or everyone with an opinion will be on an official list of undesirables.

And here is what the Times would never dare write:
As much as we abhorred slavery, there's nothing to cheer about when private individuals are afraid to donate to racist political campaigns of their choice because it may cost them their livelihood. In the case of Sam Eaton, who resigned from the California Black Musical Theatre in Sacramento, the future of the nonprofit company was at stake after some black artists refused to work with him. But what if that situation were reversed and Eaton were targeted because he opposed slavery? Or because he was black? Professionals have to look past their personal and political differences over slavery or everyone with an opinion will be on an official list of undesirables.

Gosh, I never thought of it that way. If blacks hate Klansmen, then Klansmen will hate blacks, and then where will we all be? Can't we all just get along with people who are beating the crap out of us?

[Emphasis mine]
--the BB

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Living in hope

No, nothing profound this go-around.

I hope to catch up soon. That's the hope bit.

I have four more nations to welcome to our visitors list. The last post had only bought us up to 148 and we are now at 152.

Let's get through sewing and participating in an ordination this week and then worry about it. Oh, and preparing a sermon for next Sunday.

Having a life was much easier when I was unemployed, though paying bills and hanging on to my home and health insurance were much more of a challenge. All in all, I'll stick with employment, thanks.

Having said that, and in spite of the fact that I took two weeks off in early September, I am already ready for a vacation. Speaking of respite, time for bed.

Sweet dreams, y'all.
--the BB

Time to fire up the sewing machine

Blessing Mother Amber's new stoles 9/25/05

I had forgotten how scary the date on a photograph can be. It has been over three years now. Wow.

The photo above was from the day St Cuthbert's presented gifts to the newly priested Reverend Amber Sturgess. You can see my hand, rather like that of the off-camera Padre Mickey in the grand Friday productions, blessing the stoles. They, the chasuble I was wearing, and the superfrontal were all cobbled together on my sewing machine.

Tonight I did the measuring and cutting of various pieces of Dupioni silk: violet, deep turquoise, dark smoky green and sage, deep plum, an indigo that is almost black, and red and black iridescent - all with a touch of emerald satin and a cool, pale metallic blue. These are to be ironed and sewn and ironed and assembled and turned right side out and ironed once more to form a two-sided stole for my friend Daniel George P. Gutierrez.

God willing, in the power of the Holy Spirit and the people consenting, he will be ordained a priest this Friday evening by Bishop Mathes of San Diego and Bishop Frey of the Rio Grande.

When I was purchasing a home in Albuquerque so I could move here, I visited St Michael and All Angels Church and heard Daniel preach. It was passionate, learned, eloquent, understandable, and filled with devotion. In him I saw the future of Hispanic ministry in this diocese and someone I was certain should be ordained. He was a postulant at the time. When I met him at the door I told him something like "tengo ganas de verte ordenado sacerdote" (I am eager to see you ordained a priest). At that time I promised myself I would make a stole for the occasion.

Well, never one to do today what I can put off until tomorrow, here I am, two and a half years later, scrambling to make good on my inner vow.

I asked him what color he needed and he said he wanted purple and no one seemed interested, so purple it is. With a reverse side in deep reds and that almost-black indigo for Holy Week.

I know from experience that I can make a stole in one evening, so doing this one in two should not be hard. When it is finished I will smudge it (and maybe even use a little liturgical incense), sprinkle it with a bit of holy water, and let it rest overnight with some ikons, my oil stock, and a pyx with the Blessed Sacrament. Then I will wrap it in tissue and ribbon and get ready for the big night.

Your prayers and best thoughts for Daniel, his wife and son, and his future ministry are requested.

Photos to follow this weekend.
--the BB

Monday, December 08, 2008

4209 - updated with names - updated with photos

Latest Coalition Fatalities

DoD Identifies Army Casualties (2 of 2)
Sgt. John J. Savage, 26, of Weatherford, Texas. He was assigned to the 103rd Engineer Company, 94th Engineer Company, Fort Leonard Wood, Mo...Died from wounds suffered from an IED Dec. 4 in Mosul, Iraq.

Known to family and friends as "JJ," Sgt. Savage and SSgt Sam were just 50 feet from their base when their armored vehicle was broadsided by an SUV which exploded, according to the Weatherford Democrat.

Six years a soldier, Sgt. Savage had been on his second tour in Iraq for more than a year and was four days away from coming home. With two years left of his service, he wanted to transfer to Ft. Hood to be nearer his family and start an automotive business with his father, John Savage. As a soldier, he was following in his grandfather’s footsteps and was fulfilling a life long dream of serving his country. According to the Weatherford Democrat his father said he cherished a compass and flashlight that had beloned to his grandfather, who retired after 20 years as an Army Master Sergeant.

DoD Identifies Army Casualties (1 of 2)
Staff Sgt. Solomon T. Sam, 31, of Majuro, Marshall Islands. He was assigned to the 523rd Engineer Company, 84th Engineer Battalion, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii...died from wounds suffered from an IED Dec. 4 in Mosul, Iraq.

Known as "La-Bai," SSgt Sam enlisted in the U.S. Army eight years ago. He had been redeployed to Iraq last month with the 523RD Horizontal Construction CO, 84th ECB, out of Scholfield, Hawaii.
On Sunday his wife Bwilla was notified of his death, making him the first service member from the Republic of the Marshall Islands to give his life in Iraq. ~ Source

He was father to three young children, who he referred to as "the other half of me" on his Bebo page. That’s where you’ll find pictures of them as well as photos of his time in Iraq. In his profile his answer to the question "Happiest When" is "With my wife and kids."

In addition to his wife and children, SSgt Sam is survived by his parents, Reverend Harry and Teaoi Sam of Springdale, Arkansas, where Rev. Sam is senior pastor at a Marshallese church.

Photos and italicized text courtesy of IGTNT

May they rest in peace and rise in glory.

Sarah Brightman & Paul Miles Kingston
With the Winchester Cathedral Choir
Andrew Lloyd Webber's Pie Iesu

I'm excited

Rostral Columns on the Strelka
St Petersburg, Russia

I don't check my mailbox every day. Whatever it is can usually wait a few days.

Tonight it is cold and windy in Albuquerque and there are hints of impending snow so after I drove the car into the garage I crossed the street to check the mail, thinking I might be less inclined to do so tomorrow or the next day.

And there was the very item I have been anticipating: the UNM continuing education catalogue. This is the only catalogue I care about at the holiday season.

Hmmph! Blogger's spellcheck does not recognize catalogue but it does recognize catalog. Barbaric. It also does not recognize "blogger." Go figure.

I waited about as long as I could tonight (read mail and some blogs) then dived in. I am now registered for Russian II starting the first week of February. This was the class I was eager to take this fall and had to wait another semester.

Added bonus: it uses the same very expensive textbook I bought for Russian I, so no additional expense. I hope Dr. Stukova will be pleasantly surprised when she sees me back in class. I try to study hard so I will be in shape when we resume.

(Oh yeah, I am very competitive - with myself - when it comes to learning languages. I want to shine. Always. Nothing has changed there since my first Spanish class in 1959.)

Today at lunch I sat down with my Boston Market Swedish meatballs with noodles in sour cream and white wine sauce. Someone who works on the same floor asked to sit with me. She had noticed the Russian phrase book I was about to study with and began speaking in Russian. So we chatted, mostly in English but not entirely, about her time in Russia with the Peace Corps and my two visits to St Petersburg.

Since I have a headset on 8 hours every workday I have not spent as much time with my Rosetta Stone Russian this past week. Giving my ears a break.

I need always to have a "project" that excites me or I tend to low-grade depression. This is really a big deal for the months ahead. W00t!
--the BB

On an upbeat note

Study Finds Joy To Be Contagious
Harvard Crimson - 3 hours ago
By NIHA S JAIN It’s long been said that laughter is contagious, and now, it turns out, so is happiness. Happiness is not an individual but a collective phenomenon, according to a new study released online Thursday in the British Medical Journal.
The happiness equation Science a Gogo
Happiness Has a Life of Its Own Daily News Central

From the third link above, Rita Jenkins writes:
Nicholas Christakis, a physician and social scientist at Harvard Medical School and James Fowler, an associate professor of political science at the University of California, San Diego, examined the way happiness spreads through a social network and learned that it travels not only from person to person, but also to people up to three degrees removed -- friends of friends of friends, in other words.

The scientists took data from the well-known Framingham Heart Study, and were able to recreate a social network of almost 5,000 people who had answered questions about their subjective feelings of happiness over a 20-year period -- whether they felt hopeful about the future, for example.

Not surprisingly, people closest to each other had the greatest impact on happiness levels. But people who were so far removed they might never even have met also had an observable effect.
I lament the Harvard Crimson headline confusing joy with happiness, but the topic is fascinating. I believe my sainted namesake urged us to "encourage one another." I know that when fellow bloggers share good news it lifts my spirits.
--the BB

An alert for asthma sufferers

I haven't even read the details, and I disapprove of headlines or TV news teasers that are sensationalist, but just in case and for those who might be affected I pass on the links. Y'all are critical readers who can evaluate the information.

Warning Given on Use of 4 Popular Asthma Drugs, but Debate Remains
New York Times - Dec 5, 2008
By GARDINER HARRIS WASHINGTON - Two federal drug officials have concluded that asthma sufferers risk death if they continue to use four hugely popular asthma drugs - Advair, Symbicort, Serevent and Foradil.
UPDATE 2-US FDA sees asthma drug risks, seeks panel advice Reuters
FDA: Long-Acting Asthma Drugs Increase Asthma Risks Wall Street Journal

Sunday, December 07, 2008


The dollar is not what it used to be. Over the past three years it has fallen by 35% against the euro and by 24% against the yen. But its latest slide is merely a symptom of a worse malaise: the global financial system is under great strain. America has habits that are inappropriate, to say the least, for the guardian of the world's main reserve currency: rampant government borrowing, furious consumer spending and a current-account deficit big enough to have bankrupted any other country some time ago. This makes a dollar devaluation inevitable, not least because it becomes a seemingly attractive option for the leaders of a heavily indebted America. Policymakers now seem to be talking the dollar down. Yet this is a dangerous game. Why would anybody want to invest in a currency that will almost certainly depreciate?

[Emphasis mine]
--The Economist - December 2, 2004 (clipped by me on 12/7/04)

Let's keep hope alive
Ah, the cruise life. For lunch, I had sushi, wiener schnitzel, Szechwan shrimp, sauteed potatoes, zucchini, and grilled bell peppers. And three hours later, I was starving. All I had done in the meantime had been on a panel that examined the 2004 election. The highlight of that session came when columnist Robert Scheer noted that things might not be as bad as some of the folks in the 500-person audience feared. Not that he believed George W. Bush was not plotting to do harm to real American values. But Scheer voiced optimism that enough Americans would share his common sense--and ours--and come to see Bush as a danger to the economy, to America's standing in the world, and to the globe. His argument in a nutshell: the Bush agenda and the GOP coalition is just not sustainable, and Americans--commoners and members of the elite--who realize that will soon form a majority. Maybe, I countered, but at the same time the GOP has been quite good the past forty years at keeping a coalition that ought to crack up together. It combines both well-to-do types who want a tax break and less regulation on businesses (including those that pollute) with people who yearn for creationism in schools and a ban on all things gay (including marriage). It brings together moralists with corporatists, and the interests of these groups are not always the same. (For instance, some conservative moralists joined with progressives to attack the FCC and its chairman, Michael Powell, on rules that would permit greater corporate media concentration.) And, I asked Scheer, what makes you think this well-practiced GOP strategy is going to bust up now? But, to his credit, he was looking to be less-than-dour before a crowd that was alarmed and worried (some would even say panicked). So, indeed, let's keep hope alive--especially while the bar is open,
[Emphasis mine again]

--David Corn [link no longer working]

--the BB

On the recent silliness

I have not commented on the schismatics and their Province of What-We-Don't-Know. I don't have much of anything to add at this point.

The neo-Donatists have been determined to leave for a very long time. My opinion is that they should have left a long time ago. They will be happier outside the Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Church will be more able to focus on mission and ministry without their antics.

I believe any break in the body of Christ is a sad thing and worth avoiding if one can. But when people are determined not to live and worship and work with one another, splitting is better than destroying each other. Somewhat like divorce - not a happy thing but sometimes necessary and better than a marital hell.

When I left the American Baptist Churches I did not take any of the property. I stopped calling myself the Reverend because my ordination vows there included leaving honorably when I no longer considered myself a Baptist. They don't view ordination the same way we do, but I did not continue presiding at Eucharist until my new church ordained me. It was heart-breaking agony to lay that aside, but I did. Just saying.

Even if an overwhelming majority of the members of a diocese choose to leave, they leave as individuals. To say otherwise is canonical nonsense. There has been a lot of nonsense bandied about.

To the many good people who have "gone out from among us," I wish godspeed and fruitful, faithful ministry. To a few, the ones in purple, I say quite frankly, good riddance. You have tried to turn yourselves into martyrs and heroes and you are neither.

You are not as big a deal as you suppose. You were not persecuted, you were not forced to believe something you don't believe, you were not kicked out, you chose to leave. So just do it. Oh, you have. Thank God. In any case, we will all be happier living under separate roofs.

I have been longing for the schism to be over with. I have long believed it to be unavoidable. There are worse things on this earth than divorce. Do it. Deal with it. Get on with life. Everyone will be happier.
--the BB

Best wishes for General Shinseki

President-elect Obama has appointed retired General Eric Shinseki to head up Veterans Affairs. As I said of the Grand Tufti's "the process has not yet begun," "Oh, snap!"

This is a great slap in the face to the Donald Rumsfelds and Paul Wolfowitzes of this world.

It is also a good choice.

If General Shinseki had been heeded back when, hundreds of thousands of lives may have been saved.

Juan Cole has a great post up today about what went down between Shinseki, who spoke the obvious truth, and Rumsfeld and Company who tried to ignore and/or mask reality.

A portion:
Note that Shinseki was aware of how big Iraq is (168,753 square miles or about the size of California); he was aware that there would be "ethnic tensions" after the fall of the Baath; and he cared about preventing looting ("safe and secure environment") and about people having food and potable water. Some of the military duties he mentioned are required of occupying militaries by international law. Rumsfeld either did not know or did not care about any of these considerations.

Tim Russert later suggested that Shinseki was talking about 200,000 troops, the number in theater in February when he spoke. But I do know English, and "several hundred thousand" does not mean "two hundred thousand."

Shinseki was retired in summer of 2003. Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz pointedly did not attend his retirement ceremony.

He wrote an 8 page letter to Rumsfeld that has never been published, explaining to him that the military is made up of people, not high concept buzz words.

You can catch it all here.

My very best wishes to this honorable man who was willing to speak inconvenient truths back during the rush to war. And my hopes and prayers that all our vets will be better taken care of than they have been of late.
--the BB

Can this possibly bode well?

From The Independent:
Take a sheep's heart, its liver, and lungs, mince together with onion, oatmeal, spices, and salt, and boil in the animal's stomach for three hours. It is, of course, haggis, and now, it seems, the English just can't get enough of Scotland's national dish.


Marks & Spencer has seen a 35 per cent increase in sales of haggis compared with this time last year, while Asda, Waitrose, and Sainsburys have all seen rises of more than 10 per cent.


In 2006, the Scottish government expressed reservations about the high levels of salt and fat in their national dish, grouping haggis with burgers and chips on a list of restricted foods which should only be eaten by children under five once a week.

We live in desperate times.

h/t to Chris in Paris at Americablog, who loves eating "parts."
--the BB

Sunday Reflections - Advent 2 - updated

Incipium evangelii Iesu Christi Filii Dei
The incipit of Mark's Gospel
Lindisfarne Gospels

At the core of the Christian faith lies the belief that Good News becomes incarnate. God's love for creation takes material form. This was, and remains, shocking for those whose ideal of divinity must be "above" matter and temporality.

Incarnation is more than a matter of God taking human form; it applies on many levels. The moral attributes of deity such as goodness, wisdom, love, righteousness, mercy - these are all supposed to be realized in the friends and followers of such a deity. They are to take flesh in us.

This morning I ran across a quote attributed to Cornel West:

"Justice is what love looks like in public."

That is a very incarnational attitude. We are surrounded with sentimental gushings about love, in society and in the church, many of them quite false or misleading. If we ask ourselves, "What does love look like?" our minds may quickly rush to images of young lovers kissing or old ones holding hands or a child with a puppy. It is more profound and accurate to to think of actions that build an equitable and humane society, providing accessible health care for everyone, struggling for decency and upholding the dignity or all, preventing disease and slaughter, healing the planet, and carrying out the trash. These are the public incarnations of love and correspond with the divine injunctions to do justice and love mercy.

Incarnation can also take very small-scale and even humorous forms. When I left New Orleans to return to Albuquerque I could not help thinking of Isaiah 40, that great passage of good news for exiles whom God was bringing home again. I even sang (silently in my mind, with Handel's setting, of course) "make straight in the desert a highway for our bear." It was grace and joy and a lifted heart and I did not mean it blasphemously at all. The promise that day was for me, and it took the form of a couple of Southwest Airlines jets that were going to carry me toward the high grasslands where I live.

I also thought of the verse during the September road trip as we drove through long, straight, level stretches of desert (cf. the photo above) in Arizona and California (where they were especially level).

We, all of us, experience various forms of exile. The geographic kind is both the most obvious and probably the most superficial. One of the most insidious and pervasive is being exiled from our own hearts. We become displaced: alienated from God, from others, from creation, from ourselves.

Into our dislodged existence there breaks a cry that shakes our wilderness existence and calls us home.

Advent ask us if we are ready to hear it.

Have we become so accustomed to our exile, so comfortable in the ways we cope with alienation, that we cannot hear Good News?

Are we ready to go home?

Are we willing to go home?

Will we allow our exilic coping patterns to be disrupted so we can move into a more authentic existence?

Have we become so at ease in Babylon that we resist the call to return to Zion?

Make no mistake. Returning to our deepest reality - in God and in our own heart - involves upheaval and change. That is the threat of joy; it shatters bonds and it rips veils of illusions, forcing us into often painful reality - the prelude to new life.

This is why John the Forerunner and Jesus the Christ both called for repentance. We must turn around. We must have a renewing of mind. We must learn to see things from a fresh and greater perspective. We must leave the shallows and head out into the deeps. We must leap into God's promises. And, most terrifyingly, we must allow ourselves to be changed.

The "get ready" theme of Advent carries within it all these questions and challenges.

Are we willing to get ready?

Are we willing to come home?

Are we willing to come more alive than we have ever been?

Today, while preparing the graphic immediately above, I thought of it in a different perspective. Perhaps if we got real, let go of our lies, became honest, and allowed truth to spring up from the earth then righteousness would shower down from heaven.

Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

I meant to include this song and just found it.

--the BB