Saturday, July 21, 2007

Which animagus form would you have?

Just for fun, you might want to try this quiz. It says I'm a deer or an owl. I took a different one a week or so ago, and it said I was a wolf.

So, "for entertainment purposes", and all that.

Haloscan comment thread

Friday, July 20, 2007

Open Thread, now with a pile of meerkats

Seriously, this picture is a trip.

Speaking only for myself, I would *not* have identified the animals as meerkats if they weren't labeled as such. Because they're not doing their "signature pose"

Anyway, I'd much rather think about meerkats than about Dick Cheney acting as vice president for a period of time tomorrow.

Well, you know the drill. Yakkity-yak...

Haloscan comment thread

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A sermon from Gene Robinson on the Good Samaritan

This morning, just before the post scrolled off their front page, I discovered via An Inch at a Time that Bishop Gene Robinson preached at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena this past Sunday. Click here for the video of the sermon. Lots of good stuff there, so I transcribed most of it

It's important to remember that, though this is called The Good Samaritan, no word like "good" appears in this parable. It's our tendency to rush to judgement about something. It reminds me of the cartoon where the dog is lying on his therapist's couch, and the dog is saying, "It's always 'good dog' or 'bad dog'! Why can't it just be judgement free?"

So I think we rush to label things good and bad. And part--maybe even most--of what this story is about is that this is actually about three good people. The priest and the Levite, who come off looking pretty awful, are actually *very* good people. They are religious people, they are upstanding, they take their religion seriously, they know all the right answers to things, they can recite the creeds--they do all of that exactly right. They "get it" intellectually and theoretically. Even, perhaps, theologically. And it seems that Jesus tells this story in order to show us that it is not 'right belief", it is not "right thinking" that gets us to the heart of God, but actually doing the will of God. That's what actually gets us to know the heart of God.

The priest and the Levite actually had very good reasons not to take care of this fellow on the side of the road. First of all, this road, which still exists--it's the road from Jericho to Jerusalem. Jerusalem is at about 2500 feet above sea level, and Jericho is at 800 feet below sea level, near the Dead Sea. And it was a very crooked road, it was a very dangerous place. There were robbers all along it, and to slow down for anything was thought to be terribly dangerous. And indeed, this could well have been a trap. It was not unknown that people would fake being hurt, and the unsuspecting traveler would stop and try to do something, and in doing so would be robbed and mugged, and perhaps killed.

Not only that, but the priest would have been expected to go to Jerusalem as every priest did, and serve for two weeks in the temple. And he know, being a student of the law, that if he touched a dead body, he would be ritually unclean, and it would take quite a lot of purification rites to make him capable of performing the service that he was due to give. And so, why would he risk touching this comatose traveler, only to discover that he was dead, and in doing so, defile himself, and delay his service in the temple? These were good people. These were good people.

And then, of course, along comes the Samaritan. And Luke, as you know, is the outsider writing a Gospel for people on the outside. And Luke understands that this Gospel of Jesus Christ turned the whole world on its ear. Turned the world upside-down. And so, sure enough, as in so many of Luke's stories, it's the Samaritan who actually does the will of God. It's the priest and the Levite who know the will of God, but seem unable to do it.

It's almost as if, when the lawyer asks the question "What must we do to gain eternal life?", and then he gives the right answer. His head knows the right answer--it's to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself. And Jesus says, "A+, very good!" And then he pushes the point and asks about the neighbor, and Jesus tells this story, I think, to show what love of God looks like detached from love of neighbor. They got the "love of God" part. They understand that. But the priest and the Levite didn't connect that to the love of neighbor, which is really the heart of the Gospel.

You know, more and more, I am convinced that the Christian life is not about life after death--it's about life before death. What God does for us after death, God will take care of. But what we do with life before death is up to you and me. That's the real reward of Christianity, isn't it? Not so much life after death, but life before death. It's not an accident that in our confession now, and in the absolution which follows, we don't say "and may God *bring* you to everlasting life", but keep you in everlasting life. It gets to start now...if we are awake. If we understand that in the doing of God's will, we already participate in everlasting life.

So, it is right action, not right belief, not right thinking, that gets us to the heart of God.

A little while ago, in the only time that the Archbishop of Canterbury ever deigned to see me, we were having a little "chat", and at one point in our conversation, he was explaining to me that, actually what the Episcopal church should have done prior to electing and consecrating me, was that we should have figured all this out theologically and intellectually... We should have come to a common mind, and then passed canons and and then done this thing. And I said to him with as much respect as I could, "Your Grace, it seems to me that all of the great steps that has taken, have been as a result of our doing the right thing, and only then, "thinking" our way to what we did. It's not the other way around. I mean, if we had waited for instance in this country for everyone to have been on the same page about civil rights, there would still be separate drinking fountains, wouldn't there? And if we had waited until women were valued as equal and full members of society and the human race for goodness sakes, all of that discrimination would still exist.

And, does anyone think that if those 11 women hadn't been "irregularly" ordained in Philadelphia, that we would be ordaining women yet? I'm not sure we would! And it seems that all the great steps forward we have made have been a result of our doing the right thing, and then thinking our way theologically to how that was the right thing.

He didn't have a really good response. (Laughter)

So, this lawyer (no lawyer jokes!) this lawyer then pushes the point and says, "So then, what must I do?" And Jesus' answer in this story seems to be "love that costs". Love that actually costs us something--costs us time, costs us money, costs us focus, costs us convenience, love that actually costs us something.

There was a young seminarian who one summer worked with an old priest at a homeless shelter, and they had a feeding program at noontime. A lot of people, and on this particular day, there just seemed to be an unusual amount of people who came. And they were *just* exhausted, and it was nearly 3:00 before the last person left. The old priest asked the seminarian to go and close up the front door and shut down for the day, and just as this young seminarian got to the front door, thinking that this long and difficult day was about to be over, saw yet one more homeless man making his way up the front walk. And in his exhausted state, and thinking he had nothing left to give, he said, "Jesus Christ!" And the old priest said, "It just might be."

Love that costs, even when we think we're depleted, I'm always reminded--you know how when you throw away an old tube of toothpaste that's done, and then you go to the closet, and you've forgotten to buy another one? And so you reach into the trash can and you haul out the thing? Every time you can make one more toothbrush full of toothpaste--yeah? But isn't that the way God is--just when we think there's nothing left to give, if we make but the simplest effort, God provides. God provides manna in the desert--and maybe just enough for that day--but it's enough. God gives us what we need to respond in the way the Good Samaritan responded. That's the real miracle of life in God.

And this is really important: we must do the work of ministry--not just give a nod to it. Louie Crew, who I think was here not to long ago, was the one, I believe, who discovered this mistake in our prayer book. It's in the catechism--it's the only real mistake that I know of in the prayer book, and it's in the section on the Hebrew covenant. And it says "What must we do to please God?" And the answer, in the prayer book, which means to be a quote from Micah, the prophet. It sayw that we must love justice, do mercy, and walk humbly with our God.

Well, that would all be very nice, except that's not what Micah said. Micah said we must do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. And it strikes me, maybe you're like me, we just looove to love justice, don't we? And even an astounding witness to justice, like All Saints Pasadena can so love to love justice, and sit around, and form committees, and talk about it all day, that we forget that what Micah said is that we must do justice and walk humbly with our God. I think that what Jesus is teaching in this story about the Good Samaritan is that it's not enough to be good. It's not enough to know the creeds and say you believe all the things that you're supposed to believe.

Remember that our baptismal covenant, which is as close to a purpose statement as we have in the Episcopal church, are all action verbs. Right? They're all action verbs. It's not about which doctrines you ascribe to, but will you love and serve one another, will you respect the dignity of every human being, if you make mistakes, will you repent and come back to God? It's all about doing. It's not about ascribing to the right tenets and the right doctrines. That stuff is dry. It's important, but it's not the most important. Because what we see in the story of the Good Samaritan, is the danger of loving God separate from doing the work of loving our neighbor.

So it seems to me, that the real question, the challenge, really, of this story for you and me, is whether or not we want to be admirers of Jesus, or disciples. It's easy to admire Jesus--to think he was a nifty guy with really wonderful ideas. Following Jesus is a whole lot harder. Doing the work of ministry and doing justice--getting into some "Gospel trouble" is what we are meant to do.

You know, this Lent, I realized for the first time that this symbol, this cross, is such a political symbol. Now, let's be clear: the Jews did not kill Jesus. That's a bunch of anti-semitic stuff that runs throughout some of the Gospels, especially John, and it is not true. The Romans killed Jesus.

Now, the Romans killed lots of people, but they saved crucifixion for a very specific kind of criminal. And it was the one who challenged the Powers That Be. Who took on the government, who threatened the Pax Romana with their notions of turning the world upside-down like Jesus did. And they didn't put them all high and lifted up like Cecil B. DeMille--I realize that criticizing Cecil B. DeMille in Los Angeles is...(laughter). But, crosses were actually quite low to the ground, so that as people died and began to rot away, the dogs could eat their flesh, and there would be almost nothing left to bury. They wanted to make a real example of anyone who challenged the Powers That Be. And it is an indictment of you and me that we can wear this symbol around, and it doesn't threaten anybody.

When we wear a cross, it ought to scare people to death! And the more powerful they are, the more it ought to scare them. We should be being followed around by the F.B.I.--I know you're being followed by the I.R.S. (laughter). You've got a good start on this one! But really, really--shame on us that this doesn't threaten anybody! When we put this on, when we put on the cross of Christ, we are saying that it's not just religion that we are about. We are about changing the world, as Jesus changed it. We are about loving the people that Jesus loved--those in the margins. And it doesn't mean sitting in a committee room somewhere talking about loving those people, but actually loving them, and doing the hard work of justice.

Are you and I going to be admirers of Jesus only, or are we going to be disciples?

You know how an innoculation works, right? You don't want to get chicken pox, so you go to the doctor, and they give you just enough chicken pox to make your body form antibodies to it, so you never get a full-blown case of chicken pox. God help us if we come here on Sunday mornings just to get enough religion to keep us from having a full-blown case. It is so easy, isn't it, to come here, isn't it? It feels so good, and you see people you know, and the music's great, and the preaching is good. It just all works! But if we leave here, and it causes us to not do anything any differently, then this is nothing but a religious theme park. Really! We have to be out there doing the work that God has given us to do, or else it is all ultimately just self-serving.

And it'll be hard work! When Jesus says "Take up your cross and follow me", he means it's going to be tough. It's going to be very hard--it means taking risks, it means loving that costs. But the miracle, the miracle is that when we do that,
and we face that trouble, we come to know the very God who is at the center of all that is. It's the only way we get to know him--we don't get to know him by memorizing the creed. We get to know him by doing the work that he did.

So, you and I can do that--especially if we do it with him, that he can work in and through us, to do the work that he has given us to do. So the question for you and me today is, do we just come here for an innoculation? Or do we come here for a full blown infection of God's love? Because it's only when you are fully infected yourself with the love that simply know no bounds, can you go out there and love the world, and God's children, in God's name. And this God promises to be with you and me from now on! There is no better news than that, on this, or any Sunday. Amen.

Haloscan comment thread

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Open Thread

Complete with lolcat.

Talk amongst yourselves...

Haloscan comment thread

Calling the Pope a primate is "hateful"?

Somehow I missed this one. Apparently Bill O'Reilly used the fact that some commenter on Daily Kos called the Pope a "primate" as evidence that Big Orange is a hateful site. He used that and other random statements by DK commenters to make his "case" about how hateful the site is. But this was all set up for going after Jet Blue for being one of the sponsors of Yearly Kos.

As with anything that issues forth from Mr. O'Reilly, there are many layers of wrongness that could be addressed. He's like an onion in that way. A big stinky onion. To take an obvious example, as we all know from the Dean campaign, it is possible to cherry pick comments from a blog to make whatever case one wishes.

But as Booman points out, there is nothing hateful or offensive about using the word "primate" to refer to the Pope or any other human, lemur, gibbon, orangutan, etc. And he further notes that there is another usage of the word:

pri·mate -noun
1. Ecclesiastical. an archbishop or bishop ranking first among the bishops of a province or country.
In fact, Bill, it's even in the online Catholic Encyclopedia. And you were an altar boy, too. I'm so disappointed in you...

Now, I'll be honest with you. When I first started to work on this post earlier today, I was planning to go for the cheap laugh, speculating that, from a taxonomic perspective, Bill doesn't quite make the cut as a primate. And then I was going to try to figure out the funniest creature with which I could compare him.


Last night we started a weekly discussion series at my church on the concept of "grace". Our rector started the meeting by sharing this prayer, which he had also shared during the service earlier in the day:

Thanksgiving for the Social Order
7. For the Diversity of Races and Cultures

O God, who created all peoples in your image, we thank you for the wonderful diversity of races and cultures in this world. Enrich our lives by ever-widening circles of fellowship, and show us your presence in those who differ most from us, until our knowledge of your love is made perfect in our love for all your children; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

"Show us your presence in those who differ most from us", huh? Guess that would imply a willingness to see that presence in those who differ most from me. Even those who come off like real jerks.


Guess that's one of the reasons I need grace...

Haloscan comment thread

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Up all night to do what's right

There's a front page post at Buckeye State Blog entitled Up all night to do what's right.

We couldn't resist...

You can watch the proceedings on C-SPAN.

And it would probably be a good idea to keep an eye on Media Matters for any bias in the media coverage that alert citizens should respond to.

Haloscan comment thread

Habeas Restoration Action Item

Via Firedoglake:
I am told by a source who knows the head count that we are within a slim margin on the habeas restoration amendment — and that the vote could still go either way. It is a razor thin margin right now, which means there is no Senator whose vote can be taken for granted.

Yesterday, I asked you to make a few calls on behalf of habeas restoration and the Constitution. Today, I’m asking you to make some more. The following list are the Senators who are currently being targeted for not having an announced position one way or the other:

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT)
Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE)
Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE)
Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN)
Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID)
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME)
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME)
Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN)
Sen. George Voinavich (R-OH)
Sen. John Sununu (R-NH)
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA)
Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR)
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN)

Please, take some time this morning to call both your Senators — whether they are on this list or not – and then call a few from the above list as well to voice your support for the full restoration of habeas. You can call your Senators toll free using the following numbers (h/t to katymine):

1 (800) 828 - 0498
1 (800) 459 - 1887
1 (800) 614 - 2803
1 (866) 340 - 9281
1 (866) 338 - 1015
1 (877) 851 - 6437

More here.

Haloscan comment thread

Monday, July 16, 2007

Durbin calls out obstructionists in Congress

Via Crooks and Liars

Sen. Dick Durbin made a passioned plea in Congress on the Iraq war. He called out the Republicans obstructionism on the war and Mitch McConnell’s 60 vote straw-man argument. Also, CNN called it a “theatrical” event by the Democratic Party. We’re talking about war and hell and these idiots are bringing in Broadway

Click here for the rest.

Haloscan comment thread

This weekend's big accomplishment

As part of my ongoing efforts toward generating income, I finally decided to dedicate the time necessary to actually building a store at Printfection. That's one of the other stores where people can sell designs they create. Cafe Press is the big one, and Zazzle is another. I signed up for Printfection a while ago, but the whole setup is almost completely counterintuitive to me.

But over the course of the past several days, I've gotten a little more used to the interface and the process of adding designs. The big hurdle, it turns out, is getting the store to look the way I want it to. Or--what I eventually settled on--changing the things that really annoyed me.

You can select a "theme" for your store's design but, at least as far as I've seen, there doesn't seem to be a straightforward way to do something as simple as changing the text color.

Now, I do know some html, which I have learned, a bit at a time, over the course of several years. And, what I don't know, I can usually figure out by copying source code into Dreamweaver (the web design software we have at home), and messing around with it for a while. Lots of trial and error. But at least it makes some degree of sense to me at this point. A little like knowing the bare bones of a foreign language, I guess. I know enough to be able to look up what I don't know.

CSS, on the other hand, is dark and mysterious to me. I probably could learn it, if I really decided to dedicate the time and patience necessary to learn it. But, when it comes to learning something new, there are good conditions and bad conditions. It is somewhat less than optimal--at least for me--to be trying to learn something new when it's standing between me and something I'm trying to accomplish.

Well, anyway, I selected a basic theme for our store, and the one thing I decided I just had to change was the color of the links down the left side of the page. They were light blue, and the logo Demetrius made for the store has orange and yellow tones.

All I wanted to do was change the color of those links to black. I looked up the code for black, and for almost two whole days tried to figure out how to make that damn text black. Lots of trial and error. Emphasis on the word error, by the way. I took some long breaks to do other things.

But I am nothing if not stubborn--especially when it comes to things that bloody well should be simple and straightforward, in my opinion.

Anyway, you may all gaze upon the results of my hard work, frustration, and overall stick-to-it-iveness.

Black links in the sidebar.


Haloscan comment thread

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Elmo's Dad Gets Deployed


Over half a million children under the age of five are waiting for their active duty, Guard or Reserve, mother or father to come home - the most since World War II.

So there's a Sesame Street special, When Parents are Deployed, dealing with the issue. Apparently the neighbors on Sesame Street support Elmo as he copes with his father's upcoming deployment. (Hopefully keeping Elmo from going all Tickle Me Emo...)

Way to support those family values, Bush, setting that kind of record for child/parent separation.

Haloscan comment thread

"Let's put on a show"

by Subway Serenade

In my post last Sunday, I said that we had 'willed ourselves into existence' and realized that it might seem arrogant to some folks. So I wanted to take the time to explain what I meant by that.

I've asked many practicing Christians what the word "Eternal" means. They all offer variations of "without end." Yet when I point out to them that "Eternal" also means "without BEGINNING" they seem confused. If you have a beginning, there will come a time when you will have an end. But if you have 'Eternal Life' it means that you were a living entity before you entered your present body. Your body is a costume you wear as in a play on a stage.

This means that our life essence begins in a place where even our sub atomic particles are too coarse. When you get a haircut, your hair remains on the floor when you leave. When you clip your fingernails, the nails are gone, but you are still alive. So it is with the body.

So if we already have eternal life, what is it that Christ is actually offering? Eternal Love, if we'll have it. I've begun the crying phase of my studies. I say that Gizmo can teach you how to see God (Know Love In-Phi-Knit) but it's up to the user how much Love they can handle. I think most compassionate people have touched their eternal selves at various times in their lives. It might happen in a blink of an eye, but when it does, you're filled with a very intense feeling that's almost unbearable in its beauty and simplicity, that your first reaction is "STOP!"...

...and it does, and you try top get it back again, but that wonderful feeling has receded to wherever it came from. Gizmo will help you find that well of Love, that Stillpoint, but you have to decide how much of that higher Love you can stand without becoming a shapeless mass in a puddle of your own tears.

Lately, I've been having intense bursts of empathy when I see people hurting. The silliest love songs on the radio send tears streaming down my face. Sometimes now I even have to fight back tears while singing at work. Start a conversation with your own heart and you'll find it has a lot to say, and none of it's in English!

The inventor says these intense rushes of emotion are releases of the chemical reactions of emotions stored in the tissues of the body over the course of your life, and your heart knows where every one of them are. Releasing these emotions is the purification process that opens the heart to it's natural bliss. Setting those emotions free is a process, but at least Gizmo allows you to proceed at your own pace.

So as Eternal beings, who are we and what are we like in the place where even quarks won't fit? Can we bridge the gap between who we seem to be and who we REALLY are? Can we move from "My God can beat up your God" to "We are ONE HUMANITY in the Spirit?"

Haloscan comment thread