Friends Feed

DC Day Two--The Ideals of Our Republic

I awoke early in hopes of securing, via the website, timed entry tickets made available each morning to the African American History Museum, but during an hour of refreshing the webpage I never was able to secure any; someone always beat me to them.

So I enjoyed a delicious breakfast in the inn and chose to spend the morning walking around the monuments and memorials.  I thought that encountering the ideals of our republic would ennoble and inspire me.

20170629_091330

Albert Einstein's statue is bigger than I realized.

20170629_094821

I always cry at the Lincoln Memorial.

I'm always surprised by my grief that he was killed.  I cry as I read again the words of the Gettysburg Address and Second Inaugural.  I cry as I watch African American children joyfully getting their pictures taken.  

Sebastian is at that age where every time he sees or hears an airplane he gets excited.  Watching him I recall my childlike wonder.  But I also realized yesterday he not only possesses a wonder, but a naivete.  The plans approach National Airport are so close; every time I caught one out of the corner of my eye I was startled.  We don't experience planes with wonder anymore but with the possibility of horror.  

I decided since I've never walked around the Tidal Basin, I'd do that.  It was a very pleasant morning.

20170629_100627

At the George Mason Memorial, which honors his role in assuring our rights, philosophy makes a good appearance with books by Cicero, Locke, & Rousseau.  He seems like a pleasant fellow.

20170629_102927

I had read that the Jefferson Memorial was in bad shape, but I was still surprised.  Throughout the day I was struck by the number of turned off fountains, crumbling plazas, algae filled pools, and obnoxious security fences. You can see the rot at the heart of our democracy.

The African American History Museum sure makes statement boldly sitting next to the monuments to slave owners.

20170629_112332 (2)

My grandfather fought at the Battle of Anzio where he was so severely wounded that for a time they thought he was dead.  He spent six months in the hospital recovering.  In a recent podcast I shared this story.  Ordinary people like he are honored here for the roles they played in defeating tyranny and advancing the cause of liberty.

When I set out in the morning I hoped that encountering the ideals of our republic would be ennobling and reassuring, but the morning had only made me sadder, for we have failed to live up to our ideals. 

And all this before I learned that while I was re-reading quotes about sacrificing self-interest for liberty and the common good, the vile occupant of the White House was again acting like petty adolescent bully.  David French of the National Review wrote, “It’s a sad symbol of our times that one feels compelled to actually make an argument why the president is wrong here.  The pitiful reality is that there are people who feel like the man who sits in the seat once occupied by George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Dwight Eisenhower, and Ronald Reagan should use his bully pulpit for schoolyard insults and vicious personal attacks.”  That’s what has always bothered me about Trump—not him so much, for his is a pathetic, little man, but the millions of people who have voted for him, people who somewhere along the way failed to learn what the moral ideals of our nation are or were willing to risk them for an imagined short term gain.

For lunch I met up with Chris Rempert who was in my youth group in Dallas fifteen years ago. At the time he was a middle school kid.  Now he’s spent years in advocacy work for progressive causes

Image0000001

This was my first visit to the National Museum of the American Indian, and I did not expect that I would spend the entire afternoon, but I greatly enjoyed the exhibits and leisurely took my time to read and experience them, particularly the exhibit on Native spirituality and philosophy.

20170629_135953

I spent the evening with Christie Platt whom I befriended at Yale in 2014.  What a delight to catch up with her and finally meet her husband.  Seeing her was one reason I had come to DC ahead of General Synod.

20170629_202406

And so this morning I’ll take the train to Baltimore and weekend of colleagues and work on behalf of God’s people.


Not Valid

IMG_20160616_130822979

Dan, my host and hiking buddy last week, went to Oklahoma Baptist University and majored in religion and philosophy while I was still living in Shawnee and working on my Ph. D. at the University of Oklahoma.  He once led a youth group event for me at Rolling Hills in Fayetteville and a few years ago I led a Lenten event for him in Oregon City.  In between he has also lived in Paris, Southern California, and Zurich.  He became an Episcopal priest and I became UCC.

He told a humourous story about one time being in a meeting with some Roman Catholic priests when one called everyone else "Father" except Dan.  Later he was asking Dan about his church and when Dan mentioned a priest of the Old Catholic Church, the dogmatist said, "Oh, his orders are valid."

Thus implying that Dan's orders are "not valid."  I responded, as we hiked along sharing this story, "wonder what he would think of your orders in comparison with the gay married UCC guy?"

We enjoyed apostolic succession jokes and anecdotes and much other theological, churchy, middle judicatory, and philosophical humour in our days of hiking (and drinking) together.

Dan and I agree that the issues facing the mainline churches are not as severe as often reported.  That most churches simply need to make a few correct decisions and that what often plagues congregations is poor leadership (can be clerical and/or lay). 

I have also rarely laughed so hard so often in one week.


Hiking Lost Lake in a Hail Storm

IMG_20160613_165318887_HDR

Okay, the hail part goes like this.

As we came along the final stretch of our hike around Lost Lake, a little girl, walking with her family, said to us excitedly, "Did you get hailed on?"

We had not.  Apparently it did hail.  We had ten or fifteen minutes before heard ominous rushing winds, so maybe that was actually hail in the near distance, but fortunately not falling on us.  

That does not preclude that the story will now be that we, my Episcopal rector and soon to be Canon friend Dan Morrow, did hike around Lost Lake in a hail storm.

I was in Oregon for a week of hiking as part of my sabbatical.  Despite wanting a week of hiking, I had also planned this to be the real retreat portion, though after last week's mass murder in Orlando, I was unable to cut myself off of the internet all week as I had planned.  I felt not only a personal need to connect but a responsibility to be present.  Dan and I also have a project (or maybe projects) idea that we have been tossing around and this would be a chance to work on that some.  More on that later.

I left Omaha that Monday morning bright and early, taking a cab as my husband and child were still asleep.  Dan picked me up at a time that was still early in Portland and we went to breakfast before driving up the Columbia River Gorge to Hood River.  I had last (and for the first time) been to Oregon three years ago in the winter to lead a Lenten discussion for Dan on the Problem of Evil.  I knew then that I wanted to return and do some hiking.  Last year Dan and I were going to hike together in New England as part of the sabbatical that I had planned before news of Sebastian's impending birth delayed the time off.  Months ago I asked Dan about hiking around him and he arranged with some church members to use their cabin in Parkland, near Mount Hood.

The weather in Oregon was cooler than average, only reaching a high of 70 once while I was there.  The near 100 degree temperatures back home were happily missed and returning to this heat has made me irritable.

IMG_20160613_111153870

In Hood River we drank some of the many delicious local beers as we plotted out the week's events, then grabbed our groceries and headed up to the cabin.  After getting settled we took a short hike to one of two Punchbowl Falls we would visit last week before driving up to Lost Lake.

Rain began to fall as we arrived.  Dan had left his rain jacket at the cabin, so he bought a temporary poncho from the General Store, though they only had what was labeled kids-sized.  That it fit Dan made me wonder how it would engulf a child.  We then began the two hour walk through the pine forests as the rain came and went, enjoying the lush surroundings and admiring the newts lazing in the water.

IMG_20160613_153550476_HDR


When I was momentarily friends with a rock band

This is the fourteenth post as I listen through my cd collection.

It was Fayetteville, Arkansas in 2002, I was in my late twenties, and I was friends with a rock band.  They were a group of local guys named BE, headed by Talley and Mark Summerlin and they had just released a new album Thistupidream.  I met them through their cousin Ellen.  One of the things I regret in life is my friendship with Ellen.  We were originally set up on a date, as I was still a few years from coming out.  Fortunately, the relationship never developed romantically, but she and I did become friends, though that friendship faded when I moved to Dallas and then my life just moved in other directions.  

I enjoyed Ellen's family.  She and her cousins had a huge group of friends and their parents and aunts and uncles would party with them as well.  It made me jealous really, for my family never had relationships with my friends like that.  They were also musical.  They would sing songs when they were together, songs of joy and blessing and honor.  My short time being a part of their large, warm family circle was one of the highlights of living in Fayetteville.  I was even the minister at Mark & Lucinda's wedding.

Ellen took me to hear BE at George's Majestic.  The music really connected with me.  It should have.  We were the same age group and had similar musical influences and likes.  

Thistupidream

My two favourite songs (of many I deeply enjoy) on Thistupidream are the title song and the opening song "On the last day I was happy."

I remember the bomb floating, floating
I remember the song we were singing
On the last day I was happy

I remember the news droning, drowning
We were young and confused
Desperate, doubting
I remember the plans we were making
So much better than friends
Sleeping, waking
On the last day I was happy

I like the description of the album on iTunes: 

Their brand of alternative guitar rock keeps the pulse light and moody, with splashes of lush rhythm guitar crunch added for tonal color. "On the Last Day I Was Happy" is a good example of the general approach: strong on melody with a decided millennial Brit-pop sensibility. The pose is more languid than aggressive, honing in on dreamy, introspective lyrics — although at times the band shows they are capable of rocking out. 

It also says "Thistupidream sounds remarkable and demonstrated that Be was poised to make a grab at mainstream recognition."  That would have been great.  They disbanded in 2003.

Talley and Mark moved to Dallas a few months before I did in the winter of 2003.  One of my first social events in Dallas was hanging out with all of them again. 

Tonight, looking them up for the first time in a decade, I see that Mark works with Seal and Talley has released solo material.  

It is one of the sad facts of life that when one does move regularly for work, friendships are made and lost.  

 


"You're not listening anyway"

Second in a series of listening through our entire cd collection alphabetically.

Over the years, sometimes unannounced, a package would appear in my mailbox filled with burned cds of music.  These came from Charlie Bates (Chazz, we used to call him), one of my more musically inclined friends, wanting to make sure that I kept up on the latest, coolest sounds.  There are a handful of these cds in my collection, some of which I grew to enjoy more than others.  Some I completely forget about and then listening to them during a project like this, I wonder "Why did I forget about this album?"

Acoustic_Junction_-_Strange_Days

Which brings me to the next cd in the line-up, Acoustic Junction's "Strange Days."  What a great album!  Yet I had completely forgotten it was in my collection.  That's easy for burned cds, because they are in those tiny little jewel cases without the vertical labels that one scans when looking at the rows of cds and trying to pick what to listen to next.  But, now that its ripped to my work computer, I'll be hearing it more often for sure.

This is the type of music I resonate with.  A sound between folk and alternative rock.  Smart lyrics with thought provoking metaphors, expressing emotional themes that resonate with me.

Like these lyrics from the chorus of the song "Melt" 

But last night
I had a dream
I saved your life
I proved my love
I took the bullet
I killed a shark
I kicked some ass
I won your heart
I won your heart

Other notable tracks include "Strange Days," "Yesterday's Come and Gone," and "Dancin' for You."

I do miss the days of the burned cd (or the mixed tape).  It was a great way to share music and learn new things.  Some of my favourite bands and musicians came to me that way.  It's how I first heard Rufus Wainwright and Jeff Buckley, for instance.  I guess people now share Spotify links on social media, but I haven't personally gotten into that.

Plus, it doesn't seem quite as poignant as going to your mailbox and retrieving a package of cds from a friend in California. 

 


Marty & Rick

The other day I texted Marty Peercy reminding him:

Rick Moody on Saturday.

To which Marty replied:

Tell him he's my hero.  TELL HIM.

So, when we were introducing ourselves in class yesterday I added at the end, "I have a good friend Marty Peercy who lives in the small town of Shawnee, Oklahoma who texted me and told me that I had to tell you that you are his hero."

To which Moody said, "I'm honored that someone in Oklahoma feels that way about me."


The Hilarious Story about the Painting

We were in downtown Miami, Oklahoma at the bookstore and coffee shop enjoying catching up with my longtime friend Juan Penalosa.  He needed to take a conference call, so Michael and I decided to walk up and down Main Street and browse the stores, something I haven't done in many decades.  Fortunately, most of the stores have something in them, unlike many years, though its nothing like the days of my childhood when they were filled with department, clothing, and shoe stores.

As we turned at one end of the street to walk back, I said to Michael, "Did you ever see the murals we painted in the public library?"  Michael said, "I don't think so, because I don't remember stifling laughter."

So, we walked over to the library.  The last time I saw them, they were on the second floor, in one of the rooms up there.  Note: I last saw them in the mid 1990's, when I took my college girlfriend Jennifer to see them.

We walked up the steps to the second floor, but all the doors were locked.  Then, we walked downstairs into the main entrance.  The man behind the desk, who we later learned was named Terry, asked, "Can I help you?"

20131227_163502

I said, "My elementary class painted some murals that used to hang in one of the rooms on the second floor.  Are they still around?"

Terry: "No, there is nothing like that up there.  And I've worked here for seven years; I don't remember anything like that.  Sorry."

Me: "Well, that's too bad."

Terry: "Wait.  Were they on panels?"

Me:  "Yes."

Terry:  "And they were paintings of things that are around Miami?"

Me: Brightening. "Yes."

Terry:  "Oh, we did find those in the basement once.  No one knew anything about them or where they came from.  I'm note even sure if they are still down there.  Let me go and check."

He left and returned a few minutes later, beckoning us to the basement.  Another librarian, a woman, was down there and the two of them took us to a back corner (I was last in the basement when I worked at the library -- my first job as a fifteen-year-old; I was fired from that job, which is another story).  There were the three panels.  As we pulled them out to look at, I explained what they were.

20131227_161724

Our Gifted and Talented class in fourth grade (I believe that was the year, if not it was fifth grade), met at the public library on the second floor.  During that year we created these paintings of aspects of Ottawa County.  Mrs. Geneva Rush, our teacher, broke us into three groups to research the paintings and create them.  One was significant buildings, another was Native influences, and one was mining.  That was my group.  Our county was a major source lead and zinc mining, which supplied the country during the First and Second World Wars.  And also left much environmental damage, though we didn't fully understand that when we did the painting.  These paintings and then hung in the library, at least for a decade afterwards.

Lori Helton-Bailey said that she thinks they were part of a statewide effort, where kids in every county produced paintings that then went to Oklahoma City to be displayed.  She remembers that they were displayed in the Murrah building, and she always thought they were destroyed in the bombing.

The painting had been vandalized at one point, and may be why they were taken down.  It is scratched, including having a cuss word scratched in it.

After I explained what I knew of the paintings (I learned Lori's recollections later in the day), the woman librarian said, "You want it?"

Surprised, I said, "Well, I would rather they be kept in Miami and used somewhere. . ." as I said this, she gave me a look like I was delusional, so I kept talking . . . "but if they are going to be thrown away or kept in a basement, then yes, I guess so."  I looked anxiously at Michael, who signalled that he was okay accepting it.  She then asked if we wanted the other two, but we declined.  They aren't as good as ours anyway (plus we weren't sure the one would fit in our vehicle).

She said, "Let me go check with my boss first.  They are City property."  She came back later and said, "It's alright.  Go ahead."

So, we took the painting.  As we were carrying it out, I commented that I was still Facebook friends with the three other kids in the group -- Lori Helton, Kim Baldwin, and Dustin Headlee--and that I couldn't wait to send them a message about the painting.

20131227_161745

We went and got our car, and Juan, and came back to load the painting.  That took some work, but we got it in there.  I was giddy and jumped up and down, clapping my hands and laughing.

We went shopping to kill some time before dinner, and I sent Lori a message asking if she was in town and then explaining what had happened.  She was excited, saying she had been talking to her husband Will about the painting just recently.  So, we arranged to bring it by her house for her to see it.

20131227_174742

She was pleased that the painting was better than she remembered it being.  Lori also sent Kim a message, because she thought Kim was in town.  She was, but wasn't able to arrange a meeting to see the painting.  

So, Michael and I hauled it back to Omaha.  Now, where should we hang it?

20131227_161733


Peter & Henrietta

Yesterday my good friend and former congregant Judge Peter Keltch died.  A few weeks ago Henrietta Holcomb, another former church member died.

Henrietta and her late husband Herbert were pillars of Rolling Hills Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  They quickly embraced me when I came as Associate Pastor and shared their stories, their hospitality, and their advice.  Henrietta was a stalwart of Christian education, mission, and wider baptist life.  She had been an educator all her life, and one of the elementary schools in Fayetteville is named for her.  My early years in ministry benefited greatly from their kindness and support.

Peter was a member of Cathedral of Hope-Oklahoma City.  He sang in the choir and served in leadership roles.  He was a faithful, regular attendee and participant.  He was also a good friend.

Peter would regularly take me to lunch so we could have engaging conversations.  He was a Republican, a history buff, a Sooner fan, and into geneaology.  He enjoyed our conversational disagreements more than when we agreed.  He always felt a little inferiority that his family came to Plymouth on the second boat, so I was able to jokingly rub it in that mine were on the Mayflower (my last e-mail to him was about learning that another branch of my family are also Mayflower descendants).  Once he groaned when I wished him a Happy Thanksgiving, "The holiday brought to you by my ancestors."

We enjoyed watching football together or going to games, especially if we got to say nasty and hateful things about the University of Texas.

He traveled to Omaha for my installation here and read scripture in the service, bringing greetings from CoH-OKC.  His visit was a delight.

Yesterday when I heard the news, I cried deeply.  I will miss my friend.

Saturday night cookout 001


Mary Jane Haley has died

Someone who knows me has died.  She knew me and cared for me.  We had connected in the way that you don't connect with absolutely everyone.  

Partially, that connection because I had been there during a dark moment in her life.  I had been able to help bear her through it.  I preached about this, told this story, last March.  You can read that here.

"Being born through the dark nights of our lives is NOT something we can do on our own. We must bear each other."

One of those people I could rely upon to bear me, because she knew me and cared for me, has died.  And I am sad.  Very sad.  I have cried and would really like to let loose and wail.  I will find the opportunity to do that.

Last autumn her daughter Mary Ann told me they had put Mary Jane in hospice, and I told Michael I wanted to make one last visit.  I tried to fit it into my fall schedule, but it seemed so full.  Then I thought maybe I'd make it over there during Christmas vacation, but the timing didn't work.  Everyone once and a while I thought of it again and the need to make some trip to NW Arkansas, to see others as well.  I regret I didn't actually make it happen.  I could have made it happen.  Oh well, I must simply let that go.

Is it funny that a twenty-something young man should find such a deep friendship and connection with an eighty-something widow?  One of those relationships that doesn't need regular communication to sustain it, but simply is rich and deep and full of joy whenever you see one another.

It shouldn't be funny.  It is part of our humanity, part of our Christian faith.  

She was so wonderful to Michael too when I introduced them at lunch a few years ago.  Such a delight to spend that time with her that day at AQ Chicken on our way through Fayetteville.  How long ago was that?  I wish she could have made the wedding, but she wasn't travelling distances by that time.

In a children's sermon I once asked her why she still went to church after all these years.  She looked at me aghast.  There wasn't even a question.  This is simply what one did.  It was important.  I loved the response.

She was stubborn and loyal and faithful and sharp and witty and opinionated and hopeful and a lover of music and my friend.  And I grieve her death.


6th Day of Christmas

Traveling from Mom's to our house we pass through five states.  Drive north through Oklahoma into Kansas, at Kansas City cross into Missouri, drive I-29 through northwest Missouri and the southwest corner of Iowa, and then finally cross into Nebraska at Omaha.

  Christmas 2011 122

Because we had the freedom to break up the drive back this time, we elected to stop in Fort Scott for lunch and to tour the National Historic Site.  This fort tells some compelling stories of the frontier.  It was established to guard the "permanent frontier" between the US and native nations.  Troops from there fought in every battle of the Mexican War.  The town of Fort Scott featured in the Bloody Kansas years of fighting between pro-slavery and free soil settlers.  It was the Union headquarters for this region during the Civil War.

Christmas 2011 126

Reaching Kansas City we elected not to shop, but drove around old neighborhoods looking at houses.  Then we had dinner with college friends of mine and their families.  

Christmas 2011 145

We made it home around 10 p.m. and ended this fulfilling Sixth Day of Christmas.