Journal: July 25, 2021

Introducing Fermina

On the day of Dr. Urbino’s death, Florentino Ariza announced to the ever elusive Fermina Urbino, “I have waited for this opportunity for more than half a century, to repeat to you once again my vow of eternal fidelity and everlasting love.” This particular wine is Fermina in her younger years, when she sat out on the porch, gazing at the young man, Florentino, across the park, and watching him as he composed his letters of love to her. Either that or I just like the name. Either way, she is tasty. She was bottled today, which is a week later than planned–when trying last week, I accidentally hit the bottom of the carboy and disturbed the fine sediment. It was worth the wait. She settled out real purty. It came to 27 bottles, so that’ll make for some happy dinner parties in the near future (speaking of which, Creamy Chicken Francese is on the menu this Wednesday, served up with some Brussel Sprouts roasted in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and fresh made bread.)

Today, we had excellent church with several visitors… always a good thing! I had a preaching break and Ash C. stepped in for me. Love to preach, but nice to have the occasional Sunday off, plus it is good for everyone to hear from someone other than me. A line from Ash’s sermon that hit home: “We have expectations of how things should be and how we should respond to them, and yet when we turn our troubles to God we are surrendering our abilities to interfere and putting complete trust in him taking over and meeting our needs.” Yeah… she nailed it. She will make an excellent Dominican.

The most recent movie I watched comes from 1986, but one I’ve not seen before: Children of a Lesser God. Quite a remarkable film, especially the script that allowed for the audience to “hear” both sides of the conversation. Beautiful line: “Do you think we could find a place where we could meet… not in silence and not in sound.” Perhaps that finds the heart of most difficulties we experience when with others: we each want the other to enter our world, while we are unwilling to enter their’s. Perhaps a true and lasting relationship is one that discovers–together–the… new. Ah, but then we would have to sacrifice a part of ourselves and we just can’t have that! (So we retire to our separate corners for a respite and then come back out–gloves up.) I understand that the title of the movie is from a line in the poem Idyllys of the King by Alfred Lord Tennyson:

I found Him in the shining of the stars,
I marked Him in the flowering of His fields,
But in His ways with men I find Him not.
I waged His wars, and now I pass and die.
O me! for why is all around us here
As if some lesser god had made the world,
But had not force to shape it as he would,
Till the High God behold it from beyond,
And enter it, and make it beautiful?

Thought for the day (and as it is Sunday): “Wine is like the incarnation–it is both divine and human.” ― Paul Tillich. I’ve had the first bottle of Fermina chilling for four hours… time to see how she really tastes.

Have a happy week.

Journal: July 16, 2021

Photo by h heyerlein on Unsplash

#1 danger of journaling late at night… you might tell the truth!


You have to look at your own life. Your own sins. And then you wonder how you can change. At what point do we recognize that we’re not any better. You try so damn hard to be holy and righteous in the eyes of the Lord and fail so miserably every damn day. It’s funny how you look at the world differently. What do you want?

What if someone actually gives you permission to love? You don’t have to seek anyone’s approval, really not even your own. It is just something you know. Why sit around second-guessing your heart?

The world is full of such beautiful people. Where does hate come from? Why don’t we love the color of their lives?

To have someone pray for you in the language that they understand. Their words touch the face of God.

There’s nothing to be afraid of.

I write these words because I have no voice to speak to Him. I write these words because the sun rose behind the moon and there was no light except for you.

Life should be color. A riot of color.

#1 danger of journaling late at night… you might tell the truth!

What I learned today: see above.

Thought for the day: We need more scars. They hide the fresh wounds.

Sleep well.

Journal: July 11, 2021

Friday night was the night at the ballpark and a visit from dad, Saturday was a writing day (added 3,500 words to The Marble Finger) and today was the preaching day (the sermon–you can find it here–seemed to work) followed by a nice nap. That, my friends, is a delightful weekend. Now, to ease into next week and get a few more items checked off the list, one of which is Contemporary Koinonia a.k.a. COKO.

COKO is a journal that a priesty friend and I are starting. We both got so tired of hearing all the bad / angry news out there about the Episcopal Church and we both knew that there were some remarkable stories to tell, so we are in the process of creating a resource for sharing them. It is not a local journal, although some stories will be, but we are working to bring the stories of the church into a tool that will allow congregations, clergy, and bishops to see and hear about the great and transformative work that is taking place in our church. More to come on this later, but the first issue–we hope–will be out in October. Don’t worry, you won’t need a subscription. Good news should always be free!

Hard change of gears (hear them grinding) and we’re off to the movies….

After watching Snatch, I’m wondering who does crazy better, Brad Pitt or Jack Nicholson. “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” And we all know Jack Torrance is about as crazy as they come! That said, Mickey O’Neil (Brad Pitt) is an excellent nut case and the movie is fun, but I have to wonder if Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson / The Shining) could take him. I’ll let you all weigh in on this one. Oh… it was a bit back we discussed Judi Dench’s laugh… brilliant, but I forgot about Brooke Adams in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1973). It’ll make you happy just to hear it (and the movies is one my favs.)

And now we begin a new week. What surprises will it bring… a friend unexpectedly pulling up in your driveway, a moment to see Jesus in the face of another, a few more words in the novel… who knows. Maybe all of the above. Hoping your week is filled with the unexpected… that reminds me of a sermon I preached years ago: there are no coincidences, there are only God-incidences–it was probably as goofy then as it sounds now, but you get the point.

What I learned today (at least for me): being disciplined requires a goal. To simply say I’m going to do something doesn’t generally motivate me to accomplish it. I need a carrot. Perhaps that’s OK, but wouldn’t it be nice… and perhaps even easier… if you could do something simply for the love of it? I think I need to work on this (although I do love my work and wouldn’t trade that for anything!)

Thought for the day: “Do not be afraid; our fate cannot be taken from us; it is a gift.” ― Dante Alighieri, Inferno It’s probably one of those that you print on a coffee cup and remember to read every now and then, but… that doesn’t make it any less true.

Journal: July 8, 2021

Dad is coming tomorrow and tomorrow evening is St. Matthew’s Night at the Ballpark. We shall see if I’m throwing out the first pitch (always an embarrassment for everyone concerned.) I use to play baseball when I was a kid, but some forty odd years later… I don’t remember so much, especially how to throw the ball.

Thursdays are my Fridays and I always find them difficult, mainly because it is no one else’s Friday and I spend the evening at home with the Queen. She’s around somewhere, but not very talkative. So, I’m generally searching for something, but I never really know what that is and no matter what… eat, drink, write, talk… it is never really satisfying. Always looking for something in the void.

I worked on the sermon today and finished up a bit later than I planned. It also was not the sermon I thought I would be preaching. This one came out a bit “harder” than what I’m accustomed to, but still very valid and relevant to the Gospel. It is interesting when we begin to look at the historical application and the immediate application. It is then that we begin to realize the complexity and genius of the Gospels. The “Living” Word is so very true. It moves… now, don’t misinterpret… I am NOT saying that it moves and we are free to interpret according to our whims (Heaven forbid! We would end up with no bookends/brackets/”Law” and it would all be higgelypiggely according to our own desires. “God created man in his image and man returned the favor” type of nonsense!) Grace supersedes it all, but grace does not allow for shenanigans! Can I get an, “Amen!”

This is what I have for tonight. It is a rambling mess, but it is a journal and journals are allowed to be rambling messes.

What did I learn today: I’m not always prepared to listen to my own preaching.

Thought for the day: Richard Baxter (don’t we loathe the Reformers and Protestants, especially when they speak truth! Oy!) “Take heed to yourselves, lest you perish, while you call upon others to take heed of perishing; and lest you famish yourselves while you prepare food for them.” I would die for them. I am so very thankful that He died for me! A room in the basement of Heaven with a cot is all I ask for, but I will give it up for the least of those I’m called to serve. Why should they suffer or be held accountable for my shortcomings?

I have no pictures this evening, so we’ll just settle for this video (fast forwarding) of me writing this particular post….


Journal: July 4, 2021

It would not be proper if I did not begin by wishing you all a happy 4th of July! Our nation is now 244 years old. All those years ago we seemed to have been a child that was far too wise for its age, but today… well, we seem to have reverted to some other child, pitching temper tantrums in the middle of the grocery store aisle. That said…

We may not always be happy with the direction of things, but we’ll defend the leaders and the rest of the motley crew to the death.

Yesterday, as I was writing on The Marble Finger and at the end of an intercalary chapter, I added: The Rev. Timothy Powell was always a bit of a coward. And all this talk of the talons of hell had brought on a severe case of nerves in his bowels…. (I’m not going to give things away here!) The question I have: who the hell is this guy? I was minding my own business, writing a book, and then this Rev. Timothy Powell with the bowels shows up! What the heck is he up to? That is one of the joys of writing fiction, but it also makes you feel a bit schizophrenic. There you are, minding your own business, and… BAM!… somebody shows up that you don’t know or someone does something unexpected…. Yeah. It is fun. Tomorrow will be another day of edits… two chapters for that… and writing. I still like Hemingway’s advice on this: “Write drunk. Edit Sober.” Well, I won’t be getting drunk, but the adult beverage on a day off is a given… “Cheers to you!”

For me, with books or movies, if it ain’t no good, I don’t bother finishing. I’ve got other things to do with my time, which is why there is no movie report today. I started several, got a few minutes in (one even 30 minutes) and hit the exit button. Awful. If you’ve got a title, please feel free to pass it along. And, let’s be honest, watching foxes bounce on trampolines are hard to beat, which reminds me… I have discovered the short films on YouTube. Why did I not know they were out there? Between eight and thirty minutes… sci-fi, drama, comedy… some of these are quite brilliant. They are like the “tweet” version of a regular movie. Here’s a good sci-fi short with an excellent moral teaching…

Whichever genre you’re a fan of, you’ll likely be able to find some pretty amazing shorts. I tend to go for the sci-fi or comedy, but there are some that are brilliant, but will break your dang heart.

I’m not real sure how today’s preachy thing went, but I liked the message. Perhaps the Spirit worked in the midst of my ramblings and someone heard a note that resonated with them. Each week I try and do better than I did the previous…. that is accomplished at times and at others… not so much. Like writing fiction, if you are trying to listen, you don’t always know where things are going or the message that is trying to spoken, but the LORD does and I’m confident he will use our most floundering attempts for his purposes. I do know that if I apply myself fully to the task and do the best I can, then I feel that I’ve been faithful to the calling. I’ll find out at the end of days.

I planted rocks a month or so back, but now I’m wondering if I should have planted wildflowers instead. They are lovely… I’m a fan of symmetry, but I think to break it up enhances it in other ways. Thoughts?

What did I learn today? Within each of us is another that is who we truly are. That other wants to be known, because that other is the one that is true. How many layers must be excavated before the other is revealed? There will always be one who knows it… just one… but seek to make the other known, for that is who you were meant to be. Who you were created to be. I said it during the sermon, but perhaps not so clearly: Allow the other one to shine. He / She is your purpose.

Thought for the day: “When I look through God’s eyes at my lost self and discover God’s joy at my coming home, then my life may become less anguished and more trusting.” ― Henri J.M. Nouwen, Return of the Prodigal Son // What if… and just play along for a minute, because most don’t believe this to be true… What if God really loves you? What if you are a miracle of God and God desires to perform miracles through you? What if it is all true? Then………….

…………. why are you still sitting there?

Journal: June 30, 2021

Homemade bread… so good when it is fresh out of the oven. This is an artesian round loaf. Very simple. Rises for 24 hours then… deliciousness. Make that fabulous dipping sauce of Italian seasoning, ev olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Eat until it is time for supper. Oy!

But then, it is not done, because there is… homemade bread sandwiches, homemade bread toast, homemade bread toast with local honey, homemade bread toast with the center cut out and the egg fried in the middle (like they do in Moonstruck), and then there’s homemade toast slathered in butter with peanut butter (and you absolutely must spread the peanut butter while the toast is still hot so that the peanut butter gets all melty and gooey)… Yes, Lawds. M.O.O.N…. that spells Tom Cullen! And Tom Cullen knows what he likes (not the Dark Man!) You’ve got to keep up with the movie references on this blog! Speaking of which….

Hector and the Search for Happiness was a delightful film. I’m going to give this one ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2⭐️. To describe it in terms of other movies… It has got a bit of Lost in Translation, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, and a touch of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (all of which are exceptional movies.) Two lines: “All those faces. All those hearts. I am such a lucky woman.” and “Listening is loving.” Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead… brilliant!) and Rosamund Pike (I Care A Lot) are great together. “How many of us can recall when we experienced happiness as a state of being?” I can. It was at night, a hallway, a goodbye, tension…. M.O.O.N. If you are looking for something that is more than just a touch twisted, you’ll want the slow-burn, violent (as a priest, I’ve never watched this 😉 only heard about it) and more than slightly deranged… The Loved Ones. Very messed up. That’s it for movie reviews.

For the priesty work… today I preached a sermon on confession (acts of penance) that I felt really good about. Probably more instruction than sermonating, but I believe it worked… so much so that I included it as the cover article for this month’s newsletter. This was actually closely related to the sermonette from Morning Prayer today, which was talking about Simony and how we relate giving to the church in a commoditized culture. I then got to go out and give $1,000 to two organizations in town that are doing remarkable work. One of those gifts purchased 6,000 diapers, which equates to a LOT of dirty bottoms, but happy moms. Love my church!! Tomorrow is Sunday sermon writing time… working title: Limits or Limitless? I feel like it will preach.

Looking forward to a long weekend, although I’m more and more convinced that we would have been better off with old King G., but lets not go down that road. Friday and Saturday, I hope, are dedicated to writing on The Marble Finger and taking some nice long walks… I’m getting fat again: why is this a constant battle {shaking head]…. probably all that bread I talked about earlier!

What did I learn today: my dad is coming up next weekend for a couple of days and we’re going to a baseball game together. Need I say more?

Thought for the day: “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ― Anaïs Nin Still love this quote! We all have options and at the top of the food chain is our decision to Believe (read the sermons if you need to know what I’m talking about [hint: Jesus].) Next on the list is the option to live or die (keeping in mind that many people have died, decades before they are properly dead).

Journal: June 25, 2021

Having completed the Sunday sermon and chores, I have been scanning Amazon Prime for a Friday afternoon matinee. What do the following four movies have in common?

Well [duh]. Daniel Radcliffe. I’ve seen them all and to tell you the truth, I think “Harry Potter” is doing some great work. One not shown is Horns, based on the Joe Hill novel (read it). I’ve seen that one as well, but think I should watch again before I give it an honest review, but even though I’m uncertain about the movie, Radcliffe was good. The Woman in Black was also entertaining, just not all that scary. He’s got about four of five others out there that I haven’t seen yet, but when they pop up on Prime, I will give them a day in court… just like a slice key lime pie (name that movie!) It is also nice to see that these are mostly independent films and that he is lending his talent and name to a new generation of film makers. All that to say, I’m off to watch… not one of these, but my favorite monster movie…

… and that was fun!

Confession: I love to cook and most of the time… kinda tasty. That said, I remember cooking as far back as grade school (boiling potatoes, etc), but I’ve also never really known any pots and pans that were not teflon coated (or teflon peeling, because, let’s face it, with those early teflon coated pans, we ate more of the teflon than what remained on the pan, and you didn’t throw them out until most of it was gone!) So, cooking with all this teflon, I’ve grown up with a great fear. A fear that brought on nightmares of three hour soaks and scouring pads cutting into your fingers from all the scrubbing. Yes. I confess. I have been afraid of the stainless steel cookware, but… not any more!!!

I got my first set this week. Unboxed it and stared at it for a couple of days as it sat taunting me on the stove: “I dare you. I double dog dare you. You’ll be pitching me in the landfill after your first scrambled eggs!” Well, the scrambled eggs worked out ‘almost’ perfectly this morning (the pan was just a bit too hot), but tonight for dinner…

Just say, Yum. Pan came out perfectly clean with a little soap and water. Three tricks: preheat the pan prior to putting anything (no oil, butter… nothin’) in it, let what you’re cooking sit a bit before messing with it (didn’t even look at the chicken for five minutes and could have gone longer), and deglaze all the tasty bits when you’re done with the cooking. There are all sorts of good videos on YouTube to help you along.

What did I learn today: God is good, trolls are real, stainless steel pans are excellent (and add another level to the cooking experience), I am highly entertained by little things, and wild flowers don’t last very long in a vase.

Thought for the day: “The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” ― Julia Child. Maybe I’m wrong, but that just might apply to some aspects of life as well.

Journal: June 19, 2021

Today began with a walk, but only in my mind. It seemed like a reasonably good idea when I woke up, but by the time I rolled out (which was relatively early for a Saturday morning with no obligations) all motivation had seeped from my head and my legs, so I propped up in the comfy chair (everyone should have one: it is ugly, should be burned, and you find interesting things from years past in-between the cushions) and finished reading The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz. This is a book I’m going to give a solid ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1/2. I’ve no complaints other than the cadence of some of the sentences… they just lost their rhythm on occasion and and I had to go back and try again (probably a personal problem). After many hours of reading, I wandered over to the movies and found myself enjoying (once again) The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013) with Ben Stiller. I have not watched the 1947 version, but I’ve never been a fan of the black and white films. Hard to believe that it is the same guy in the new Walter Mitty that plays in Zoolander and other goofiness (and I’ve watched that too.) Next on the list to read, In this House of Brede by Rumer Godden. This is the next selection for the Saints’ Book Club at St. Matthew’s. Keep you up to date on how that one goes.

Tomorrow is the Lord’s Day, so will be doing the preachy thing. The sermon was finished up on Thursday, so I’ll have to go back and and look it over in the morning before attempting to preach (I’d do that anyways, even if I had just finished writing it.) The big debate raging at the moment is do I stop for an unhealthy fast-food breakfast or take the time to prepare one myself… we shall see, but sushi does appear to be on the menu for lunch.

Before I forget: I did finish up The Ring of Kerry (Conqueror Series) <– Yes. If you click that link I get some sort of point for referring you over to their site. The Ring was 124 miles and it took me too long to complete, but winter around here did not allow for as much walking as I would have liked… same problem with the heat now (hmmm… maybe I’m finding too many excuses not to walk)… so I’ve signed up for the next one and seriously cut my timeframe. This is the St. Francis Way and is 312 miles. As I get a bit closer to the Camino, I’ll start posting more under that menu item with maps of the walks. For now, I’m happy with the four milers, but hope to add a few more when the heat is not so high.

And then there’s this…. It has found its way to the surface. My goal: before winter sets in…..

It is good to discover who you are and who you are not. When it comes to my vocation, I have come to be very pleased to be a parish priest. I suppose that when we are younger, we all have certain aspirations (for the priest: purple shirts and big rings), but when we become not as young, we discover that what we really want (and need!) are good friends, comfy chairs, and the God who loves us. Ah… Harry Potter… The Mirror of Erised: “The happiest man on earth would be able to use the Mirror of Erised like a normal mirror, that is, he would look into it and see himself exactly as he is.” — Albus Dumbledore

Thought for the day: never pass up an opportunity to pick blueberries.

Journal: June 15, 2021

I thought of beginning by telling you I had smoked chicken for dinner, but what I really had was chicken that basically caught on fire and was burnt to a crisp, because I forgot to turn the grill down before wandering off to consider the square root of a cat’s meow. It was smoked, but not the kind that makes for good eats… there went the rest of this week’s planned meals. Good thing I like Ramen Noodles (I’m sure I’ll figure something else out, but….)

The Queen has been in full chaos mode since about 4:30 this morning when she wanted to begin her game of fetch. Why is it she has the entire house to romp around in, but when she decides to play Queen of the Mountain, I’m the mountain? I’m hoping she decides to sleep tonight, otherwise she may be demoted to Princess. Those eyes say, “You will never sleep again.” Keep you posted (or, given the way she’s wound up, she will.)

For those who remember, I was scheduled to take my sabbatical last year and walk the Camino de Santiago (500 miles across Spain), but a little virus put the kibosh on that, but not indefinitely. We are back on for 2022, so Sir Fat A$$ is now getting out and putting in the steps. I need to drop about 35 pounds and be able to walk up to 15 miles in a day, for several days in a row. That’s going to take some work, so I’ve started working, but my goodness it has been hot out there! 3.2 miles yesterday (95°) and 4.1 miles today (96°). Word for the day: hydrate! Feels good though to begin and to have not only a goal, but a destination. I’m also still enjoying the virtual walks and am about to wrap up The Ring of Kerry (124 miles), but my daily goal on that has been very low, so will be kicking up the game and the challenge. Have been listening to Duma Key as I trudge.

Fermina (Pinot Grigio) is now in the secondary fermenter and looking very tasty. Already cleared significantly, but will not be ready to bottle until July 23. After she’s done, will probably wait until early fall to start a new batch.

About a third of the way through The Plot. So far it is a good read and I can recommend it. Let you know when finished.

Phone calls: you never know which one is next. Will it change the world as you know it, offer you an extended warranty on the car you sold six years ago, or be the fulfillment of anticipation… ring ring…. “Hello…..”

Thought for the day: “Develop an interest in life as you see it; the people, things, literature, music – the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself.” – Henry Miller