I think this thing is creeping to its end

I have a feeling this blog is ending sooner, rather than later. It has been an interesting experiment, and I think we have all learned a great deal about each other, as well as the usefulness (or lack thereof) of the internet/blogging. We all have our own blogs, or attempted to have them, as well as our own lives, most of which are too busy to fully appreciate without the added guilt of posting more regularly. And I think there are far better blogs and better people that are doing a better job of what we had originally hoped to do. For all of you, I am thankful. Perhaps I am speaking too soon for the rest of us, but for my part, I believe this is it...the end of the road. It's been quite a ride. Thanks to my counter-parts for honesty and thoughtfulness. God bless.


The OYP Group: these imbeciles again

If you're reading this post, chances are you have googled the name "OYP Group" because you, too, are receiving invoices from them. Maybe you are getting the harrassing phone calls.

So who are these clowns and what do they do?

Here is one account, and here is an account of how the U.S. government dealt with one such scam.

In short, the OYP group gets your business name and phone number from someone who sells such information to telemarketers. They sign you up for a "free listing" for one year (without your consent). Then they call you, claiming to be the "Yellow Pages," and wouldn't you like to renew your business listing for the next two years? Then you start receiving invoices (between $250-$500).

Incidentally, the OYP group tells you the call is being recorded for "quality assurance purposes." That's not why they are recording you.

The problem with the OYP group isn't that they lie--that would be too simple. They mix lies with truth. Of course they can ask if you want to renew your listing--they already signed you up for one without your consent! They also claim to be the local Yellow Pages, which is NOT true, but not entirely false ("local" is relative, anyway). They also claim that they have a recording of you agreeing to the charges ... in my case, this is not true.

It's been a long time since my first post on this matter. I received many responses from people who have been targeted by this scam. Some paid the invoices; others did not. We had some meaningful discussion, but many anonymous trolls came along, and I had to shut it down. (One of the trolls, claiming to be an OYP employee, called us all a bunch of hicks, and said we deserved to lose our money).

Some businesses, including my own, have designated a legal representative in this matter. Any further contact that bypasses the representative and comes directly to you is a violation of federal law.

Since that letter, and since the last post, I have been the target of harrassing phone calls. One individual who was very rude, said he was calling "On behalf of the OYP group." He refused to identify himself or his organization. He threatened to sue me, to ruin my business' credit, and ... here's my favorite: "We know your work address and we have other ways of collecting on your debt." I told him that he was in violation of federal law by contacting me directly, as stated by my attorney, and then hung up.

The harrassing phone calls continue, albeit infrequently. What disturbs me most is that after the past two calls, my wife has received calls from a "restricted number" on her cell phone. I know it is the OYP group, because they have my name wrong on their invoices, and they asked for the same wrong name when they harrass my wife.

I know a lot of other people have had issues with these clowns. I have reported them to the FTC twice.

If you have been contacted by these people, here's what I would recommend:
1. never agree to anything on the phone (this goes without saying, although it won't always prevent you from getting invoices).
2. keep a record of all communications, written or over the phone.
3. When you receive a harrassing phone call, don't get upset. The caller is attempting to bully you into paying these false charges. If you get upset, it only lets the caller know that they have gotten through to you. Any reaction on your part gives these scammers more confidence that their harrassment is working. Don't get into a shouting match, because these people have all the time in the world. You don't--you have a business to run.
4. I can't advise you to pay or not. It's your decision. Try to talk to a lawyer.
5. Report these people to the FTC--EVERY time they call you. According to what I've read, the company is actually a Canadian company with dummy addresses and drop boxes in New York, so you'll need to report them to the New York office of the FTC: (800) 771-7755
6. Lastly, while I'm no Latin scholar, "Noli insipientium iniurias pati," or, "Don't let the turkeys get to you."

Comments are welcome, especially to correct my Latin.

Where are we?

For the few people that stop by here, I thought I'd give a quick hello. Where have we been? Suffice to say that each of us has been deeply drawn into a host of obligations revolving around life and ministry. There is a marriage on the horizon for one of us, a child just entering the "terrible twos" for another, and some new developments in each of our ministries. Some of these new developments are exciting opportunities, while others involve some hefty challenges. Most are a combination of both.

The three of us aspired, at one time, to "holy fool"-hood. We had hoped that our shared blog would challenge the established order of things as a fresh voice in the Anglican web community. Maybe we'll get there in the future, but for now it seems that we are called to fully embrace our Real Lives.

(I'll follow this immediately with an unrelated post, and that will be the last you'll hear from Malt Viquor for a while).

It's been fun, folks, and we hope to be back in the unforeseeable future.


Found Jesus in my Antivirus

Today was an extremely stressful day ... all those tasks that had been building and building had me in a fit of pique. I had fully prepared to spend the day at a clergy meeting, tapping my foot nervously while little motes of unfinished business bounced around in my head. One of my fellow clergy knows how much I abhor these gatherings--especially when they tend toward the meaningless (read: when they involve guided meditation)--and we usually share a knowing nod across the room.

Then a series of unfortunate events conspired to keep me out of the meeting. I dealt with the emergencies and settled down at my desk. It was only 11:00, and I had the rest of the day to shred my to-do list.

Then my wife called and I was short with her because I wanted to get to work.

Then the requisite phone calls and drop-ins from people with termination notices on their utilities (their "light bill," or as we pronounce it in the South, "laaat biyull.")

Then a parishioner walked in and we chatted, and just as the chat was coming to an end, another parishioner walked in, and ... well, you get the picture. I love visiting and chatting (most of my friends think I talk too much), but by now I was praying somebody would pull the fire alarm.

Finally, at noon, I opened up the laptop and settled in to an afternoon of newsletter writing, thank-you notes, and long-overdue phone calls. Suddenly, I started getting warnings from my Antivirus--something's not working properly. I try all the usual simple solutions (yelling, swearing), then restart, then more warnings continue to interrupt my work. Norton isn't going to be happy until I do something through tech support. By this time, I am moving around my office in an imitation of Steve Martin in All of Me.

So, in exasperation, I log onto the company's website, and after finding my way through the virtual red tape, I find myself chatting online with Kumar, a live tech-support guru. (I resisted the temptation to ask after Harold). I explained my problem (I could imagine Kumar nodding seriously), and he asked if he could take remote control of my computer.

Let Kumar into my laptop? I'd sooner let Hannibal Lecter rock my infant son to sleep! My laptop is sacred space--8 years of sermons; years of personal journal entries; notes on pastoral meetings and contacts. Not to mention some personal things--I don't want just anybody to know that I was window-shopping at Amazon, pondering buying a biography of Che Guevara, previewing the new Portishead album, or looking for a used copy of the Dungeon Master's Guide! Lord knows what kind of government watch-list I might wind up on! And I was honestly googling Katee Sackhoff because I wanted to see what other movies she had been in--I wasn't trying to see her naked--honest!

Of course, the demands of my to-do list, and my Irish pig-headedness (or is it my German pig-headedness?), in the end, forced me to accept.

I watched in amazement as my mouse cursor was wrested from my hands. Kumar was in control, and all of my bytes and files and history were wide open. Honestly, I hadn't felt this vulnerable since we started having to take showers in gym class in 7th grade. (and I wasn't the earliest of bloomers).

I needn't have worried. My cursor flew around the screen and windows and taskbars flashed before my eyes. (Picture Scotty in Star Trek: "Use the keyboard? How quaint!") After 5 minutes of watching an expert work, I was typing my profuse thanks in the chatbox.

Finally, back to work.

Now what was I supposed to be doing again?

I'm sure that there is a sermon in this. Not that I'm ever going to preach it. (Can you imagine the greeting line after church? Some sweet old lady asking, "What's a Portishead?") This was purely a lesson for me and the two other people that read this blog.

I'm pretty sure that this entire incident had everything to do with the control I pretend to wrest from God on a daily basis. I lie to myself, pretending God can't see (or doesn't care about) the minute, most private details of my life. God doesn't care about my sins, and His compassion only extends to my public, priestly, persona. I tell myself I'm doing a much better job controlling things on my own. (When, in reality, I am seriously in need of a spiritual LiveUpdate).

It didn't take much for me to let Kumar onto my computer. Why, then, do I fight so hard against letting God into my life?

Of course, God isn't going to fix all of my problems in 5 minutes. (It'll likely take the rest of my life). What would God do with me if I just let go?

Disclaimer: Yeah, I know this is trite. It's also full of exaggeration. I don't swear in the office. I don't storm around jerkily like Steve Martin when things don't go my way. I don't ever get short with my wife. And I don't own a used copy of the Dungeon Master's Guide. (It's still in the mail).


Why do We Fear Our Children and Blame Everybody Else?

On Friday, April 4, 2008, high school art teacher Jolita Berry was attacked by students in her classroom. Berry teaches (taught) at Reginald F. Lewis High School in Baltimore, MD, a school noted for its history of violent incidents. A grainy video of the assault, captured on a cell phone camera, found its way onto an Internet site for public viewing. You can read more here.

Recently, 6 teenage girls lured a fellow cheerleader into a house and beat her into unconsciousness while 2 boys acted as lookouts. The victim may have permanent damage to her hearing and sight. The girls videotaped the violent assault with the intent of sharing the video on MySpace. You can read more here and here.

Aside from violent teens, these stories share some shocking parallels:

Bystanders either did nothing, or actively encouraged/supported the attackers. In the Baltimore incident, the other teens are shouting encouragement. In the cheerleader incident, the other teens are standing watch. This kind of behavior is nothing new, as we all had to read about the Kitty Genovese incident in high school.

The attackers (or others) blamed the victim. The high school teacher was accused by her principal of provoking the attack. Christina Garcia, the mother of one of the attacking cheerleaders, blamed the videotape victim as well (live on NBC). The attacking cheerleaders justified their actions because, apparently, the girl they bludgeoned for 30 minutes called them sluts. Again, this is nothing new. We’ve been blaming the victim since Cain killed Abel.

The victim is severely traumatized—both physically and emotionally. Lolita Berry is petrified of going to that building again. The teenage victim will, in all likelihood, take decades to recover from the psychological trauma her attackers inflicted; as I mentioned above, she may also have damage to her hearing and sight.

The fourth, and most disturbing, similarity is the fact that both of these incidents were videotaped, for the purposes of the enjoyment of others. These videos almost immediately found their way onto the Internet (MySpace, YouTube, etc).

Video accounts of violence have often shocked our nation. In the Civil Rights era, our eyes were opened by the televising of policemen brutally assaulting civil rights protesters with fire hoses and dogs. In my high school days, we were all traumatized by watching the brutal beating of Rodney King by police—over and over and over again. Those who captured these incidents on tape did so to alert the public, to see that justice was done.

This is different. There is not only a reckless abandon in these attacks; there is also a disturbing, infectious joy. How many people watched these videos? How many of us watched and said, “I’m glad that’s not me/my child?” How many have watched these videos with a savage glee? How many of US, through our own poor stewardship of our nation’s youth, have unwittingly aided and abetted these attackers? We—all of us—may as well have been part of the crowd that cheered on Lolita Berry’s attackers. We may as well have been one of those who beat that young cheerleader.

Which brings me to my point: We have failed our youth. We are afraid of our youth.

We are afraid of our youth because they are the first indicators of trouble in our society. Remember learning about ecosystems in high school? Youth are the most fragile creatures in our society’s “ecosystem;” when it becomes polluted, they get hurt first. Our youth are crying out for support and limits, and we ignore their cries because they remind us that all is not right in our world. We are afraid of our kids—especially the “bad” kids—because of our own complicity in corrupting them.

Let’s face it: the average American teen is exposed to violence, sex, drugs, and alcohol FAR earlier, and on an exponentially greater level (and in a far more organized, media-supported, government-condoned basis) than the teens of fifty (heck, twenty) years ago.

For example … I cannot get in a checkout line in Barnes & Noble, Wal-Mart, or anywhere else, without being confronted with an issue of Cosmopolitan magazine (at a child’s eye-level, no less) with the headline, “Have Dirty, Sexy Sex.” (Because what 3-foot-tall person would not want to have dirty, sexy sex?) I cannot turn on any TV news channel without being bombarded by violence and scandal. It’s a no-brainer for the media; stories are chosen because they are attention-grabbing: salacious, scandalous, shocking, horrifying. (As Homer Simpson calls it, “Infotainment.”)

It’s nothing personal. Just good business. Sex and violence sell. Kids love professional wrestling (which, as Linda Richmond would say, is neither professional, nor wrestling. Talk amongst yourselves). Just yesterday I saw a family in the local supermarket—their 6-year-old child was wearing a T-shirt advertising the wrestling merits of a large, oily, muscular man in a spandex loincloth (whose job is to not only beat, but humiliate other oily, muscular men—and women—in front of crowds of people). And who could forget the WWE Family Values Catchphrase of the early 21st century: “Suck it!” (Thanks, Vince McMahon, for improving our childrens’ vocabulary).

We are ravenous consumers in a society that sells sex, violence, and humiliation. That is our complicity in these attacks. We also fail in another, more important way. Not only do we allow media to teach negative values; but we also fail to teach our children good values.

I hear excuses for why people don’t come to church all the time. My favorite is “because of all the hypocrites in church.” I get it—hypocrisy is a sticking point for so many people—so much so that it keeps us from doing the right thing. Many parents do not teach their kids good values because the parents find themselves unable to live by good values. (I knew parents who taught their girls to become teen bullies; their excuse? It’s better than being a victim). When we are confronted by our own sinfulness and hypocrisy, we are meant to rely on forgiveness and grace to create a better world. Instead, we get defensive and shift the blame to other people.

I believe that we have not even begun to comprehend the damage we have done to our youth (not to mention ourselves) by our casual, cavalier treatment of sex and violence.

To make things worse, we continue to both fail and fear our youth, when we tell them that their actions have no consequences.

The principal of the Reginald F. Lewis High School told Lolita Berry that she provoked her attacker by using a “trigger word.” (I believe Ms. Berry told the child that she would defend herself). That may well be. But you don’t tell that to someone who has just been victimized. And the principal’s words carry no weight because he has shown a history of not supporting his teachers, as well as a history of allowing violent incidents at his school. Violent teens are not disciplined at this high school, according to video interviews with Berry and her union representative.

I have been working with youth in a variety of settings for almost 20 years. I have seen more than my fair share of systems where the adults fear to give the kids any consequences. This is all nothing new. Youth have been shocking their parents with acts of violence since, well, Biblical times. Take David and his son Amnon. Amnon shocked his father when he raped his sister Tamar, then threw her out on the street because she reminded him of his sin. Jacob’s children horrified him when they slaughtered the entire family/clan of the man who raped their sister. You could argue that times are different now, but word of mouth spread those stories around the ancient Middle East only slightly slower than MySpace or YouTube. (Jacob knew as soon as the incident was over that his reputation as a father and a man was ruined--far and wide).

These stories hit home for me on many levels. On three occasions (all in high school), I have been threatened and/or attacked by large groups of people (I won’t delve into the reasons here); one attack left me with a severe concussion. My parents witnessed me throwing a car battery across our garage after the most recent incident, so I went to a psychologist, who told me that the attack was my fault. I’ll never forget that piece of wisdom. (I guess I have to give myself some credit--even then I knew the guy was full of shit).

These experiences drove me to, later in my life, work at a residential care center for emotionally disturbed teens. We worked with street kids, drug dealers, victims of sexual abuse, kids who had been locked in closets for months on end. What shocked me most was not the abuse these children had suffered at the hands of their parents. No, it was the fear shown by the staff at this hospital. The air was rank with adult fear (which smells, apparently, like nicotine and sweat). Most of the work involved breaking up fights, or restraining teens who had decided to “go off.” (“Going off” usually involved lots of noise, scratching, biting, kicking, throwing furniture, etc). None of us got off easy—every member of that staff was hit, punched, bitten, scratched, had bodily fluids thrown at them, etc.

It was in this context that I “lived into” the way we fear our youth. The adults outdid each other trying to play favorites with the kids. Those who had extra money (I didn’t) arrived for their shifts with treats for the kids. If a child disagreed with a consequence, they only needed to complain to another staffer to get the consequence removed. Staffers who attempted to hold kids to consequences were sabotaged. (I remember being left alone with another staffer during a two-hour riot on the teen unit. No other staff person responded to a hospital-wide alarm code. We were being taught a lesson). All of us loved those kids; that’s why we kept coming back to work. All of us feared those kids, which is why we were so good at undermining and backbiting each other. We weren’t afraid of the kids because they might punch us in the face. Rather, we feared those kids because we had failed them, and who wants to be reminded of failure?

I believe that this is the reason we fear our kids: we, as a society, have failed them. Our most troubled teens are our most troubling reminders of our failure. This MySpace video is just one of many glaring examples of how we are failing to meet our childrens’ cries for us to give them support (read: limits and consequences). Of course we fear them. And what have we been doing about this? We act like Amnon, who kicked Tamar to the curb so he wouldn't have to look at her. We kick our nation's youth to the curb when we don't hold them accountable.

I see a couple of options for those of us who care:

We tuck our tails between our legs and teach our children “winner values”—what they really need to know to get by in today’s world. Bully or be bullied. An eye for an eye; a tooth for a tooth. Don’t ever apologize or accept responsibility for anything. These values will help you to get ahead and prosper throughout your life cycle—all the way from kindergarten to the nursing home.

We stand up and teach our kids good values: to respect the dignity of every human being; to accept responsibility for their decisions and actions; to love God, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Obviously, I’m advocating #2. And when our children see us fail to live up to the values we teach (and they will), we teach them grace and forgiveness.

Then maybe, just maybe, if my son gets roped into a situation involving peer pressure and a videotaped assault, he’ll do the right thing and make me proud. Heck, even if he does the wrong thing, I hope he’ll accept responsibility for his actions.

Then maybe he’ll learn about grace. Then maybe he’ll get to see just how much his father—and his Father in heaven—loves him.


The Truth - what are you going to do about it?

Late Thursday night, April 3rd, a decision was finally rendered in the property dispute between the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and the 11 congregations supported by the Convocation of Anglican Churches in North American (CANA).  

The decision before the court was whether or not a "division" had occurred in the Episcopal Church, and was it legal for the 11 dissenting congregations to apply the odd statute known as 57-9.

I say "odd" because Virginia is the only state in the union (and I'm happy to be proven wrong here) that has a law like this.  Roughly, the law (Virginia Statute 57-9) says that when a religious group experiences a "division," member congregations may determine, by a majority vote of its members 18 years and older, which branch of the divided body they wish to remain a part of.

This is odd because most states' laws suggest that the church property and assets must remain with the originating branch of the division, and that dissenting members must strike out on their own.  But I digress...

In his 83 page Letter Opinion, Judge Bellows denied the Episcopal Church's claim that our current fight is small potatoes (my words), and affirmed CANA's claim of a division in not only the Episcopal Church, but in the Anglican Communion, writing:

"[The Court] blinks at reality to characterize the ongoing division within the Diocese, ECUSA, and the Anglican Communion as anything but a division of the first magnitude, especially given
  • the involvement of numerous churches in states across the country
  • the participation of hundreds of church leaders, both lay and pastoral, who have found themselves "taking sides" against their brethren
  • the determination by thousands of church members in Virginia and elsewhere to "walk apart" in the language of the Church
  • the creation of new and substantial religious entities, such as CANA, with their own structures and disciplines
  • the rapidity with which the ECUSA's problems became that of the Anglican Communion, and the consequent impact-in some cases the extraordinary impact-on its provinces around the world
  • and, perhaps most importantly, the creation of a level of distress among many church members so profound and wrenching as to lead them to cast votes in an attempt to disaffiliate from a church which has been their home and heritage throughout their lives, and often back for generations.
Whatever may be the precise threshold for a dispute to constitute a division under 57-9(A), what occurred here qualifies." [Note: the bullet points are mine]

These are very strong words, indeed - and it reads like an indictment.  A point by point replay of the entire ordeal is recounted in Judge Bellows' opinion (accounting for most of the 83 pages), making for heart breaking reading, I assure you.  And, for the most part, I think that his recounting is true.

In receiving this opinion, however, there is a vast chasm of difference between the Diocese of Virginia's reception of the opinion and CANA's reception of the opinion - nee, I dare say, there has been, all along, a campaign of misinformation perpetrated by CANA that has completely skewed the reality of the whole ordeal.

Yes, I know, BOTH sides are engaged in propaganda...clearly.  One would have to be blind to not see that.  But there is a kind of propaganda that has truth on its side, and then there's a kind of propaganda that is so pernicious that it is worthy of the best Soviet-era information campaigns (or, humorous that it rises to the level of Baghdad Bob claiming that the Americans were being killed by the thousands even as we drove through the streets of Baghdad in tanks) - and it is my claim that CANA has been engaged in a pernicious campaign of lies, backed up by emotional and spiritual claims of superiority, yet all-the-while living in complete denial, and claiming to be utterly the victim.  Woe is me.

Here are some examples of what I am talking about:

1.  The 11 Churches in Virginia are being sued by the Diocese.

In the current actions regarding 57-9, currently before the court, the Diocese of Virginia is the DEFENDANT.  Now, for all you legal newbies out there - when someone is the Defendant in a case this means that the other party is the Plaintiff, and Plaintiffs are the ones who bring legal questions before the court for suit.  If you need me to break it down further... the Diocese is being sued.

This claim, that CANA is "being sued" is one of the most pernicious because it makes them out to be the victim of "Big 'Ol Diocese" in their insatiable pursuit of money and property.  You can find this claim in writing in almost every single press release that CANA has made about this court action (here, for example).

But, in the spirit of TRUTH, it should be noted that the Diocese DOES have a suit pending against the CANA churches.  This suit regards Statute 57-15 of the Virginia Code, and is a move to prevent the transfer of church property out of the name of the Diocese of Virginia and into the name of CANA churches.  Only when this case comes before the court - and only then - would it be TRUE to say that CANA is being sued... but for now, the Diocese is a defendant.

2. "The Episcopal Church and the Diocese abruptly broke off settlement negotiations in January 2007 and filed lawsuits against the Virginia churches, their ministers and their vestries."  

This, too, is false.  While it sounds like the truth, it is not, and here is why:

The 57-9 Lawsuits were filed in January 2007 by the CANA churches FIRST - dates don't lie.  A parallel action on the 57-15 question was filed AFTER CANA filed the 57-9 suit.  

The "abrupt" end to the settlement negotiations is also false in the sense that the Diocese of Virginia some how walked away from the table without provocation or reason. 

While it is TRUE that the Ministers and Vestries were named as parties in the suits, what is lacking is the whole truth that there was a settlement a few months later that removed them as named parties to the suits.  Half truths are what we call lies.

3.  CANA is a Victim.

 "We do not harbor any ill will toward anyone" - Jim Oakes, vice chairmain of CANA's Anglican District of Virginia, has said.  And while, you, Jim, do not harbor any ill will toward anyone, I'd like to point out that "we" is probably an overstatement.

I'm pointing this out as FALSE under the heading of "Statements that make CANA sound like a victim".

If "WE" do not harbor any ill will toward anyone, then how do you explain...

Stand Firm - On many occasion, the articles and especially the comments of CANA-minded Anglicans on this blog are down-right unChristian, and certainly don't seem to support the idea that you (in the plural sense) don't harbor any ill will toward anyone.  Wishing ANY other human to be punished by burning in hell, insulting other people, disrespectful and slanderous comments and intentionally allowing people to publish and comment with FALSE information is and out and out sin by even the most liberal of standards.

And from a recent posting on Babyblue - "The Washington Post quotes comments from a political organization called the 'Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy.' That is the organization that the [Former] Secretary of the Diocese of Virginia, Patrick Getlein, has just joined as a key staff member. His responsibilities there include directing the organization's strategic communications. Watch that space very carefully." [Emphasis mine]

How can you claim to NOT harbor any ill will, and yet your own people, writing anonymously I might add, single out a person like Mr. Getlein for this kind of smear campaign?  

The truth is that CANA is so hell-bent on making themselves out to be the victim of big ol' baddy Episcopal Church that it has ignored its own sin and dis-grace.  The truth is that CANA is not a victim.  Speaking from my own experience:

CANA churches in the Diocese of Virginia began a strategic withdrawal campaign about 10 years ago, beginning by refusing to support the larger church with financial contributions even before the consecration of Gene Robinson.  Further, CANA leaders refused to have conversations with people that they disagreed with.  They isolated themselves and their churches from the community, pulled away from the table, and they created an environment of hostility that made it impossible to listen (on either side, mind you).

The TRUTH is that CANA churches harbor AS much of the blame for this whole thing as does the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia (notice that I do not hold TEC or DOV harmless).

But this campaign of misinformation has got to stop.  Start telling the Truth.

4.  God is on "our" side.

The first thing to say is that God is not on either side of this tragedy.

Look at the Letter Opinion by Judge Bellows again.  He admits to stopping short of using the word "schism" because, and only because, of its religious connotations.  What we have here is a schism - a rending of the Body of Christ into, at least, 2 parts.  What we have done, on both sides, is that we have ripped our Lord in two.

Even as we both salivated, waiting for the judge to render a decision on who gets what, we have left the Body of Christ in pieces, re-crucified so that one of us could claim that we were "right."

Hypocrites.  Pharisees.  Brood of Vipers!

All of you - all of us!  How dare we do this to the church?  How dare you claim a victory when your brother and sister Anglicans across the street or across the world are hurting and in need?  How dare WE split and divide the Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ into neat little pieces?

You say that GOD is on your side - or in John Yates' letter to the Falls Church, "God has provided wonderfully" - but I say that God must be tragically disappointed in us all for what we have done to the church.  He is not providing for you - he is weeping over our inability to live and worship together in unity (John 17).


I am sick to death of CANA trying to claim innocence in this whole ordeal.  There is your truth, and there is THE Truth - and believe me, you have a long way to go, at least in the public.

This is the truth.

What are you going to do about it?  


Living in a Blogger's Paradise

Well, not exactly. Maybe it should read something like living in a blog-free world and I am a material girl. Oh, well. So it seems that even once a month is not possible to keep up with the blogosphere. What with Facebook and email and voicemail and vacation and parishioners dying and Jesus rising and babies getting the stomach flu and Battlestar Galactica coming back (in just three short days!!) on top of a real nail biter of a democratic primary - it is amazing that I even have time to open my laptop, let alone press any of the keys on it let alone press enough keys to make words, then sentences or any sense at all. Ah, the good intentions we all have...am I right? Am I right?

So...apologies to the one reader out there (you know who you are) who wanted a post at least once a week. I am carrying two very lazy boys and doing my best. One is getting married, the other is just trying to catch up on sleep and hold a parish down. And me? Well, I am just trying to start a Sunday School, do the taxes, clean up baby puke, and eat every few days. Nap when there is a quiet moment, but that's not often. I can promise a moment here or there once a week, but I can't promise brilliance. Just sub-par word vomiting. Hope that keeps you going.


Psalm 95 (The Venite, but only to verse 7)

A while back, while I was rocking the baby to sleep, he could not settle down. The usual songs seemed only to agitate him, and I had gone through every song I could possibly think of - from Christmas carols (in August) to commercial jingles. I mean, everything. So, as I was just about to completely lose it (but not in a way that might get me an interview with Nancy - I'm a Mommy, Now- Grace), the Venite came into my head. I know...you know you're a priest when....

Now, when I was in seminary, I was one of the few people who actually went to Morning Prayer EVERY morning (as opposed to my beloved friends and co-bloggers, who went maybe a combined total of 12 times during their three years there). By the middle of my first year, I came to depend on this routine of going to the chapel for starting off my day. The version of the Venite that is in the Hymnal (S-35, for you Episcopalians out there) was one we sang on a relatively regular basis. It was one of the few service music pieces I knew by heart for morning prayer, and actually liked (and it DID NOT come from Wonder Love and Praise, thank God-I wouldn't want to admit that).

So, I started to sing this Venite to the baby. Kind of slowly and quietly. And about a third of the way through, he relaxed and by the end (it's not that long), he was asleep. Amazing. It actually calmed me down, too.

This Sunday, in the RCL, we will have the opportunity to read (or chant it as we do in our church) Psalm 95. I know I should know this, but for whatever reason I didn't realize the Venite we sing in Morning Prayer is not ALL of Psalm 95, just the first seven verses. (Give me a break, I am a life-long Episcopalian, who are amazed at, and I quote another life-long Episcopalian, "how much the Bible quotes the Book of Common Prayer".) Of course when you look at the last four verses, I guess you could see why. Here, I'll paste them below:
8 Harden not your hearts,
as your forebears did in the wilderness, *
at Meribah, and on that day at Massah,
when they tempted me.
9 They put me to the test, *
though they had seen my works.
10 Forty years long I detested that generation and said, *
"This people are wayward in their hearts;
they do not know my ways."
11 So I swore in my wrath, *
"They shall not enter into my rest."
I guess ending on a note of vengeance isn't the best way to begin the day in morning prayer. Ending with "Oh, that today you would harken to his voice!" seems much gentler. Maybe more pointed, but gentler.

But some days, maybe I'd want to start with vengeance. Especially on those days when I have fought my way through redneck, Nascar traffic to find myself being tailgated by a humongous Ford F150 with the license plate that reads, "RNDZ TOY." All I have done and want to do is swear in my wrath. Or on those days when it takes my husband 15 minutes to gently put our son down in his crib as he drifts off to sleep, when the night before it took me two hours of scratching and thrashing to put him in his bed and sneak out of the room. Maybe on those days I'd want to curse the people who make things hard, who spit in God's face - who spit in MY face. Maybe my prayers would be more authentic.

That's why I love the Psalms. They're REAL. My friend calls them "revenge poems". People crying out in agony, anger, frustration, loneliness, isolation. But also lifting their voices in genuine praise, glorifying God and singing. That's real. None of these platitudes that we preachers like to end our sermons on when we get stuck..."Oh forget whatever I just said and remember, God loves you." None of this crap that floats around (nice imagery) about how much better one side is over the other, or how so-and-so (read Gays) are going to hell. But real struggles with the world. Real wrestling with our relationship with God. How God is or isn't. How he fails us, how we fail him. How the world just seems so darn frustrating and pointless, and what is God doing about it anyway? A spiritual director of mine once told me the best way to pray is to read the Psalms because you can always find one that will hit you where you are. For the most part, I've found that to be true.

Well, that's my thought for the day. I hear the soft chorus of "Mama Mama Mama" coming from upstairs, which is my call. Happy Lent, everyone!


So ... it wasn't Eve's fault? Adam, you bast--!

Time for a little re-visioning. When I sat down with my two best friends to start this blog, I had mad visions of changing the world with our witty comments and bulletproof arguments. But in the intervening time, it seems God had other ideas. Ideas like a rash of hospitalizations the likes of which I have never experienced (so far in 5 years of ordained ministry); ideas like 40 people from the neighboring church showing up for an Ash Wednesday service we never planned, publicized, or even scheduled. (I did it anyway and it turned out beautifully). Real ministry is a wonderful thing, even when--especially when--it demands more than you have to give. So instead of lengthy blog posts about the nature of sin, or article 37, I am forced to ramble as concisely as possible.

And after all, isn't brevity the soul of wit?

Or, "It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt." (And, as Homer Simpson responded, "Takes one to know one! Swish!")

So, on to the topic:

I love reading Scripture--it's one of the parts of my job that does not get tiring. (Well, when I'm forced to read Scripture and do guided meditation, I get a strange urge to regurgitate. But any other time, I love reading Scripture).

I also love trail running. Trail running is a pasttime mainly for masochists and idiots like myself who find a perfectly good hiking trail and decide to run it. My legs and shoulders are asking me why, oh why, did I decide to run (not jog) 6.8 miles of steep, hilly forested Appalachian trail?

So what do reading Scripture and trail running have in common? The potential to trip you up. When I go trail running, I spend most of my time looking at the ground. There are rocks and roots just waiting to snag my foot and end my running days forever. There is a section of trail I run at least once a week, yet every time I run it, I find a new rock, a new root, a new rabbit hole under a pile of leaves. I really have to watch the ground like a hawk, so I could potentially run right into a black bear or a mountain lion, and end up on one of those "I Shouldn't Be Alive" shows, or gracing the local paper with the following headline:

Local Pastor Gets Mauled by Bear Due To Lack of Faith.

Yep. I live in the Bible belt.

Back on topic. Reading Scripture has the potential to trip you up, too. You can go over the same passage a thousand thousand times, and still find something you never noticed before. Most recently, I found myself having to preach on the First Sunday of Lent (Revised Common Lectionary). Ahh, the Garden of Eden. Original sin. Eve's fault. Really, is there anything more to say?

There is really only one interpretation we all have in our minds anyway--the snake tricked the woman, who then tricked her husband into eating the apple. The whole thing was the woman's fault, right? I mean, she got the worst punishment. All the man has to do is work hard forthe rest of his life. The woman has to go through agonizing, dangerous childbirth while her husband goes golfing and goes to office parties and diddles the secretary. Well, that's the reading that gets drilled into our heads by mainstream Christianity and even Western literature. It is the woman's fault. Adam just sinned by accident.

I can't begin to count the number of times I have heard this sentiment here in the backwoods of the South: "How come I gots to live with adigital sin? After all, it was a woman what et the apple first."

Desperate to take issue with this interpretation (which I learned in an Episcopal Church sunday school, by the way, at the tender age of 8, from a nice old lady in a hat), I ran roughshod over this Scripture passage (Genesis 2:15-3:7) several times, until I noticed this gem for the very first time (the italics are mine):

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food ... she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her.

So what was Adam doing while his wife--with whom he had become ONE FLESH, was being tempted unto death? Was Adam still in a state of such blissful, ignorant Paradise, that he did not know what his wife was doing? Or was Adam not willing to take the step himself, hoping to foist blame on his wife, with the knowledge of good and evil lodged in his gullet? (Blame everybody else is exactly what he did: "The woman YOU gave me as a companion ...") Sounds like Adam needs to get himself to a twelve step group.

I can almost see Adam, played, of course, by Steve Martin, saying, "Well, excuuuuuuuuse me!"

The truth is that Adam failed first. And the clue to this lies in the fact that, even though the woman ate the fruit first, their eyes were both opened at the same time, after they had both eaten the fruit. The two are one flesh, and Adam's sin made the woman's sin possible. Their destinies are tied together, as are their punishments--and perhaps the two will find grace as they help each other to bear them. (But wait till you meet their kids ...)

Now, obviously, there are many good (and many more not-so-good) theological explanations of original sin that do not seek to blame Eve. I'm not here to talk about that. After I have spent the day visiting someone in jail, the hospital, the psych ward, or a FEMA-rejected trailer, I'm not interested in esoteric proofs and such. I think I'm doing OK if, at the end of one of my sermons, Billy Bob Thornton comes up to me and says, "Mmmm-hmmm. I like the way you talk." Or perhaps Rip Torn: "Gol-darnit, pastor! You use your tongue purtier than a 20-dollar whore!"

So it seems that I have tripped up on a big root. It wasn't the woman's fault after all. Guess I'm going to have to shout it out in all the churches in the South. Hey folks! I just saw Adam, and guess what he was singing:

Some people claim that there's a woman to blame, but I know it's my own damn fault.

(Sorry, Jimmy).