Black white and other shades of gray
these are the colors of the mind
these are the colors we see
but I am blue…
I remember writing something like that years ago and being self-confident enough to submit it to The Paris Review (they rejected it.) I had the naive misconception that I would be the next Henry Miller or Robert James Waller. Clearly neither happened, but life did and that has been a very happy and satisfying (although at times depressing and drudge) adventure. Why bring this up today….
For many years I was convinced and wanted everything black and and white. From the artwork to the sheets on the bed to the general philosophy of life. It was a gray world, but I typically knew what was around the next corner. (I’m thinking about this, because the adventures in watercolors led me to attempt a painting using only the black and the white of the page–go to the bottom of the page for the latest watercolor.) However, over the last few years (and I believe that I’ve discussed this recently) I have discovered, to my delight, that I am in love with color. I recently purchased this light weight blanket from Jaipur, India — it is flaming and clashes (yet compliments) everything I own. Why is that? Enquiring minds want to know, but they don’t care if anyone else likes it or not. Isn’t that nice for a change. I began my career, post-college, crunching numbers and making less than mediocre statistics sound like Midas himself had come down and touched them and now… now… I’d rather paint the entire picture outside the lines with all the colors of the Crab Nebula (aren’t those blues amazing!) than to be defined by the black white and other shades of gray. Life is good. I recommend living it rather than being constrained by your own opinions of yourself (and as for the opinions of others… (there is no thumbing of the nose emoji.))
I watched a disturbing and fascinating movie the other day: Undergods. Yeah. This one is a bit twisted and the plot takes an active mind to follow. It is all tied together in a present-dystopian / dystopian / what-the-heck-is-going-on kind of way. If you like a movie that you won’t fully understand and that won’t leave you wanting to dancing off into the streets singing with David Bowie and Mick Jagger, then you’ll like this one.
What am I reading? Folks, I’m 208 pages into The Stand. I know. I’ve read it before. I’ve seen the movie more times than I’ve read the book, but… it is so satisfying. The characters, story, plot is so far developed beyond anything else I’ve read that even after diving into it for my 10th? time, I’m still amazed. I know exactly what is about to happen, but I can’t hardly wait to read / experience it again. Thank you Sai King for such an amazing story.
My friend Sean and I are almost ready for the big reveal on the project that we’ve been working on for the past year. The live date is December 1st, so watch your emails, because I’ll probably blow up your inbox promoting it. The Episcopal Church is more than the “frozen chosen” and we’re out to prove it. Can you say, COKO!
What I’ve learned: We’ve been afraid for too long. It is time to live. There is nothing you can do about one simple fact: you’re going to die. Live. It is OK and it will be OK if you die. God is good. Take a leap of faith. A step of grace. Put one foot in front of the other and live your life. No sense in waiting… all those silly cliches. Live it! I am blue!! Shout out your color and live it.
Thought for the day: If there is not a single soul in the world that loves you… I do. I love your life, your dreams, you passions, your fears, your everything… you are loved.
Picture it: approximately 4:00 a.m. Sleeping peacefully in a queen size bed… all by your lonesome. Things are going well. Not too hot… not too cold. You’ve had the bed to yourself for several years, so you’re accustomed to roaming from one side to the other. This side is too hot… roll over to the to her… Ahhh…. nice and cool. Then tragedy strikes: at some point in the night, you’ve forgotten that you’ve rolled over to the other side and then there is the cat. The cat is hot. So, throughout the night you subconsciously move away from that precious little ball of fur (a.k.a. Her Royal Highness, the Queen of All that has Ever Been Created) and unbeknownst to you–Yes, Charlie, you’re on the very precipice of a 30 inch drop. What do you do? You roll over and…. “Shi……!” The first “whack” is to the head, right on the eyebrow and the second is to the shoulder. I do not recall the last time I fell off the bed (IF EVER!), but a few nights ago, I did just that. Even The Queen was embarrassed, although I did catch her laughing hysterically a few moments afterwards…. little bitc….. and now, here we are. I hope to go another fifty-six years without doing it again. By then, my bones will be so brittle that my skull will pop like a melon and I won’t have to endure a ridiculing cat!
The sabbatical, the great adventure on the Camino de Santiago… yeah. Probably not going to happen next year. Sigh. Still planning the trip to Rome and maybe even to Lisbon… definitely Rome. That one is already booked.
There has also been another project that I’ve been working on since December 20th last year with my friend (yes, I have one), The Rev. Sean Ekberg. Code word: COKO and I hope to be sharing with you soon as we’ve just about completed round one. We feel confident that this will be something for the entire Episcopal Church and pray that it will bring a bit of hope to us all… trust me: it’s good. It is very good! You’ll know it when it arrives and probably ask me to please stop promoting it. Enough! However, with that on its way, Fr. Anthony will have a bit more time to solve another murder. The Marble Finger must have its story told!
And I’ve picked up a new hobby… watercolors. This one is a challenge, but I find that I can do a bit of painting between other projects. Let’s the creative side have a walkabout without… I don’t know. It seems to go faster than writing, but I do need to be a bit more patient. Before putting a second color on top of another, there must be time for drying. Also, I’ve got to give the paints more time to do their thing as opposed to dabbing at it and spreading them. Leave them alone. They’ll spread on their on at their own time and make a much better picture. This is attempt #4 after watching a video. I actually kind of like it, but see the areas for improvement. I’ll keep practicing. Doesn’t really matter if you’re any good at this sort of thing. It really is about just enjoying the process and seeing what happens. Oh, and The Queen (she’s showing quite a bit in this post), she likes to drink the water that I wash the brush in. Weirdo. (Don’t tell her I said that.)
Thinking about going to NYC for a few days. Will take photos.
What I’ve learned: At some point, you have to start living. You can wait a lifetime to begin, but then that life will be over and you will be standing by the side of the desert road with your thumb stuck out while waiting for the ride that will never come. Start walking. Start walking and they’ll eventually find you and if your journey should take you into the desert where the cactus grow and the scorpions hunt… then watch your step and all shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.
Thought for the day: Modo liceat vivere, est spes. While there’s life, there’s hope. — Terentius. Preaching on this Sunday. It is the one thing that didn’t escape out of the box, but it is what Jesus brings.
Has it really been over a month since I posted a journal entry? My goodness… how time flies when you’re busy. A short bit of explanation and then a bit of catching up.
Explanation… things got a bit crazy around the church. We started back up with our regular “school year” programming, which has been good, but then our parish entered into a season of great sadness. We lost four members in five or six weeks. We’re not that large, so such a loss hit us all pretty hard. All four were very good men. Faithful in their lives and participation, so… yeah. I think we’re all trying to regroup ourselves and our souls. We’ll get there, but as many have said, “We’re done with funerals for a while… God willing!” We’ve also had Clergy Conference and Diocesan Convention and the annual Diocesan Council (I’m on that too) Retreat is next weekend. So, instead of journaling, I took the time to breathe a bit. Hope you all are still out there. Folks always say, “You’re so busy”, but the truth is, we all are! The way I see it, get done what you can and after that… well… it’ll be OK.
In the midst of all this, my reading has fallen to the side. I had planned to read The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera (I actually got about 20 pages in), but then we (the friend I was reading it with) decided to watch the movie first and… it broke my damn heart. I’ll probably get back to it sometime, but my heart has been broken enough with the funerals this past month and I just can’t bring myself to continue. What am I reading instead (Lord, I can hear the eye rolls as I type!), The Stand by Stephen King. How many times is this… I don’t know. At least ten. It is just such an amazing story. Oh.. and I also just finished the new CBS series of the book… hmmm…. a bit disappointed. The casting wasn’t good at all. The “Walking Dude” needs to be… you know!… The Walking Dude! Instead, it was 2020 Dude with a well groomed beard. Maybe that was it: they made the movie, but brought everyone into the 2020s and they all just turned out to be… hmm… weak. It seems that no one is allowed to be strong these days. The Dark Man was brutal in the book, but here he’s just a bit greasy and skinny. Ok. Enough of that.
I did my first watercolor the other day. It is not good, but… I’ve seen worse. I found that I really enjoyed the time of just sitting and trying to create. Given that I haven’t had much time to write (other than the sermons, etc) this was an easier and creative outlet. I think I’m going to paint several of “The Yellow Tree” and work on the technique and see how I improve (“IF” I improve). It is a bit tricky and as “visual” of a person as I am, I would like to improve. It has been suggested that “The Yellow Tree” be the next label for my wines, but then… what about the sexy ladies!? Yes. The problems I have.
Upcoming plans: looks as though the Camino will be off for another year. Spain is still in the category of not recommended for travel and it seems that folks are having a difficult time finding places to stay for the evening. I’m not sure completely, but will pull the trigger or put back on the safety in the next month or so. Rome is definitely still a go in ’22 and after visiting with the friend who is helping to organize, we will definitely be taking a church pilgrimage to the Holy Land in ’23.
What I’ve learned: there are days when being a priest is not all it is cracked up to be. There are days when you feel like you’re just the member of the family that drew the short straw and has to get up and lead the rest of the clan in prayer when you’d rather sit with them and cry. It is then that you realize what a privilege it is to be the one who drew the short straw and gets to lead the rest of the clan in prayer for the one you all love.
Thought for the day: go buy a balloon for someone who really only wants to let it go so that they can watch it gathered up in the varying winds and float off into the distance. It is good to have the freedom to roam.
Two weeks!!! How the time flies when you are so busy doing preasty things that you can’t write about the preasty things you do. Sermons. Bible Studies. Last Rites. Kids (what a riot they are!), services, confession (not really… I like to pretend that people still come), and generally walking around in all black spreading the cheer and love of the Lord. I’ll take it. And I love it.
I just want to take a minute here to say how ridiculous newspaper / news websites headlines are. About 50% of the time I’ve no idea what the article is going to be about. Is that the trick? Fool with the headline so they’ll take a peek and we can hit them with more advertising so that we can afford to hit them with more nonsense? I don’t know, but when Britney Spears’ wrestling with papa is a top new story, I’m one who is wondering what they buried back on page 27c! Know what I mean…. yes you do. They all work for the Ministry of Truth and they are out to deceive us so that we’ll look at pictures of kittens and forget about the annihilation of entire races. Rant. Rant. Rant. Thus endeth the rant.
Movies: we are definitely back to the golden oldies here. The Swedish version of Stieg Larson’s Millennium Series and the 1978 version of The Stand. Both make me immensely happy and at least I don’t have to worry about them being stupid. Speaking of which… books!
I’m on a hardback edition of my favorite books and some new ones. Recently completed A Man Called Ove (which is a new one for me, buy have also added The Stand and 11/22/63 (yes… yes… both by Stephen King) to the stack. These last two are behemoths of a book and that’s just the way I like them. For the Saints Book Club at the church, we will be reading The Hawk and the Dove by Penelope Wilcock (book one in the trilogy). It is a short read, but promises to be a powerful story… keep you posted.
One thing I don’t like about myself when it comes to my vocation (there are several, but this one is sticking out these last two weeks): Last Rites… Ok, I’m supposed to be the professional, which means (at least to me) that I can walk into an emotionally tense situation and be the calming presence. I keep my cool, in hopes that it will bring a sense of calm and peace to those who are grieving. These last two weeks… my goodness… They told us in seminary that after a number of years in the same parish you would have to start burying your friends. This has been happening, but last week… Dang. I don’t want to be that cold distant a-hole of a priest, but wow… living on that emotional edge is an interesting place to be that I’m not entirely use to.
God: now this is the good stuff! God… I’m going to need someone I can sort this out with, but recently I’ve been discovering the lack of boldness in by prayer life… I mean, my prayer life for as long as I’ve had a prayer life! I’m going to need to think on this some, but…. yeah. Maybe I’ll keep this one to myself for a bit until I work it out.
What I’ve learned: My friend Heidi always said that being a priest would be whole lot easier if we just didn’t give a shit. Unfortunately, the longer I am…. yeah. (And I wouldn’t trade it for anything!!) She does too… more than any priest I know.
Thought for the day: Room 217… If you ain’t a Stephen King fan, then that won’t mean a thing, but if you are…. sometimes you’ve got to stroll on up in there, open that door, look the hag in they eye, and give her what for. Ain’t none of it real anyhow (unless you live in SK’s world.)
The Lord bless you all.
P.S. To all my blogging friends: I hope to get caught up on your writings over the next week. I miss your thoughts!
It has been a slow and quiet Saturday, so I decided to add a bit of excitement to the day. Yes. I cut the cat’s toenails. It is an event that brings on screams of displeasure, shouts of anguish, bleeding (mine… most certainly not the Queens!), and then a game of, How Far Can I Sink My Teeth Into Your Ankle. A game that is only appreciated by cats, but one they engage in with the same vigor and conniving that Voldemort went after Harry. I can still walk, so that is a bonus.
Today I have also remembered. I’ve remembered 20 years ago and what happened and where I was. What happened… we all know. Where was I… I had just entered seminary and we all knew that the world had forever changed. I remember crying and knowing there wasn’t a dang thing I could do. I remember being so angry that I confessed to wanting to be in hell the instant the terrorist opens their eyes and realized how very wrong they were and knowing the eternity of punishment they would be receiving. I remember today, but with perhaps a bit less venom, but let’s just say that I am still no Saint and a long ways from it. I will leave room for God and his vengeance. Now, I’m mostly afraid of the vengeance that is directed towards and deserved by me. I pray: I don’t need a mansion in heaven. Just a cot in the basement will be fine for this poor wretched sinner. Just please, Lord, let me in!
Did I mention that I had finished reading Fahrenheit 451? I read it many moons before and it didn’t mean much then. Now… well, I hope you’ll read tomorrow’s sermon (or come hear it preached!), but let’s just say that it had considerable more impact the second time through than it did the first. One thing that did not make it into the sermon (perhaps another time) was when Clarisse said to Montag, “You’re not like the others. I’ve seen a few; I know. When I talk, you look at me. When I said something about the moon, you looked at the moon, last night.” It just made me think. When someone talks… look at them. When they talk about the moon, look at the moon. And when it rains… well… tilt your head back and open your mouth. I’m off on A Man Called Ove now and very much enjoying it. Same author that wrote Anxious People, which you’ll recall won high marks in our little world. After that, I’m not sure, but it may be the next book club selection for the Saints Book Club at the church.
Movies: we’ve made some progress in this department simply because I went back and watched some favorites, but it didn’t start that way. Yes. I was bored, so I stuck with it: 10.0 Earthquake. Maybe it is just me, but with a title like that, I fully expect Denver to become beach front property! My stars! We’ve had a few shakes here in Oklahoma and that movie didn’t produce half the excitement. Well, maybe except for when the beach swallowed up a surfer, but that could have been a scene out of Sand Sharks, which we all know at least had a decent body count! Oh my goodness! I see there is a Sand Sharks II! Where the heck is the remote. I hope I have a job after confessing to have watched the first one. But! Yes! One I’ve rewatched was the entire Matrix Trilogy. Why? Because they are making #4. I can honestly say that I’ve not been this excited about a movie coming out since The Lord of the Rings and not the most recent one, but the animated version they made back in 1978! I’ve watched the trailer of the new Matrix (due out Christmas) and now, after watching the trilogy again, I know what #4 will be about: love. Yes. Love. Severus had his “Always” and so does Neo. “Hello, Trinity, love of my life. Let’s meet in New York and catch a show! I found a way through time and the machines and all the way back to you.” I love a good love story. Click here for the preview to The Matrix: Resurrection. They won’t let me embed it… go figure. Dang machines!
What I’ve learned: as I’ve gotten older, the capacity for the amount of BS I’ll put up with has diminished significantly. That goes for the BS that I dish out to myself. I use to believe that bit, but I’ve come to the conclusion that I would like to live a life that the Lord has chosen for me and one that does not involve so much drama. I can deal with life’s drama-that’s just a part of living-but that created bit, the bit that you think is real, but that really only exists… in the Matrix… that’s the bit I’m weary of. Ask yourself: “Is it live or is it the Matrix?” You know what I mean. If it is live, deal with it. If not, in the words of some very wise three legged dog, “Kick some dirt over that shit and move on.”
Thought for the day (and it does link to the sermon for tomorrow): “Those who don’t build must burn.” – Fahrenheit 451 (p.85) People will burn all day long, but you… you never get tired of building. It is easy to burn. Strike a match and watch what goes up. Building, on the other hand, is work, hard work and dang well worth it. I definitely have my struggles and there are days when I want to chuck it all in, but when I come to my senses… I’ll put on my rundown cowboy boots and dig those heels in. As my friend St. Joan of Arc would say, “It was for this that I was born!” You got this… Illegitimi non carborundum.
Well… it wasn’t COVID (according to the two tests I took), but everything pointed in that direction. Cough, fever, congestion, no taste/smell, death warmed over, etc. It still bought me ten days of quarantine and although I’m not a huge people person… ten days is a bit much to be alone. Many thanks to all the messages, notes, breads, and cinnamon buns I received. Truly a blessing.
When it comes to no taste/smell, eating is just weird. What you discover is that temperature and texture become the primary attractions. A nice cold chicken salad with fruit, nuts, chunks of chicken… brilliant. Peanut butter on cheese is like having a wad of congealed, slightly solidified… you get the picture. It ain’t pleasant. Although, it was peanut butter that first keyed me in that I was missing those two senses. Yes… I always have a bit of peanut butter with my breakfast, but a week ago Tuesday, I opened the jar and… nothing. Really? And then it hit me. I thought, What is the most potent smelling item I have in the house? Answer: Benedictine! (Created my a monk in 1510 from 27 different plants and spices. Supposedly, only three people on the planet know the complete recipe… brilliant!) On a good day, you can take a solid sniff of Benedictine and you’ll likely burn your eyebrows off and most definitely all your nose hairs! It is delicious, but you must approach it with caution. It is meant for sipping and small sniffs. On that Tuesday, I picked up the bottle, removed the cap and gave a tentative… sniff. Nothing. I mean… nothing. I then grasped the neck of the bottled and breathed it in as though it were my dying breath… not even the vapors could penetrate the void of my sniffer! Granted, it was only 8-ish in the morning, but I gave myself a short taste….. my head bowed, my eyes teared, and my heart sank. Not even a tingle. I am happy to report that after ten days quarantine and two negative COVID tests, the sniffer and taster are back 90% with the exception of peanut butter. Odd.
Last week was spent mostly sleeping and waiting for test results. That is boring on many levels, but this week picked up and I was able to work some solid hours and read. I finished, In This House of Brede, and this evening completed, Billy Summers, by Stephen King. You should read Brede. An amazing and beautiful story. Billy Summers is a completely different kind of read. It is not your normal Stephen King supernatural. In fact, there is no supernatural in it (with the exception to a few excellent references to The Shining: The Overlook Hotel and that lively topiary out front.) Side-by-side, I would have to give Brede a solid ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ and Billy ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2. Sorry Mr. King, but side-by-side… yeah. Next up is one I read many years ago, Fahrenheit 451, but having recently reread 1984, I thought I should… remember. Definitely putting a dint in that stack… with several others waiting to join (I will resist you, Amazon!)
Movies… seriously? How is it so much money can go into making so many bad movies? I may have to make my own.
Tomorrow I get to re-enter the world. I understand that it has been hot out there and based on the news I’ve been reading… COVID or not, I am an exceptionally blessed individual. The world is a mess right now and is in need of your prayers. Say one or two, even if it only amounts to, “Dear God….” followed by the shaking of your head. He gets that. I’m certain He’s done a bit of that Himself here recently.
Oh… before I forget: Nikita is the name of the Pinot Noir that I’m currently making. It is not named after the American version of this movie or the TV series (ugh), but after the original, La Femme Nikita, starring Anne Parillaud (hubahuba), written and directed by Luc Besson. Why Nikita… I’m thinking she will live up to this name. Will not be bottled until early October, but… wowza. Lots of flavor (even for one who is only at 90% tasting!) Haven’t come up with a label for it yet, but that image right there may just do the trick.
What I’ve learned: It won’t spoil the plot, so… Billy Summers is partly about a guy who is writing a book. It speaks of the joys and the “zone” you get in while doing so. That said, it made me hungry to write again. I’ve had a few fitful starts here recently, but I think I’m ready now. I actually don’t do well with too much time on my hand (which I’ve had), I don’t feel any pressure, but now… oh, yeah… I just looked at my calendar. Bring on a bit of pressure and bring on the words. Love it all.
Thought for the day: you will never know true desperation until you hang onto a C-17 cargo plane during takeoff in hopes that you can escape your current situation. Live your life like Zaki Anwari would have lived his had he survived. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
My question for today: exactly when did they start using super glue to seal up the single serve string cheese? I can only imagine these things going in some small child’s lunchbox. I finally broke out a knife and slit it along the side and there may have been a few choice words along the way. Now that I’ve got that off my mind…
Movies: started several, finished none. Oy. Next.
I continue the Camino prep / exercise. After going at it strong for a week I gained two pounds. Rrr. Ok. Fine. I’ll just keep at it knowing that the process works. Exercise and burn more calories than you take in. That’s how it is supposed to work, although it can be as frustrating as opening a single serve string cheese! Each day I have to tell myself the Nike slogan and then put on my Brooks and do it. I will definitely get there.
When Christians fight one another: a disgrace. As Charles Spurgeon wrote, “Satan greatly approves of our railing at each other, but God does not.” There are more than enough studies out there showing that the Church is in decline and there are also several studies that show one of the greatest contributing factors is the way Christians treat other Christians. Yep. That’s right. The greatest harm to the Church is not from the outside, but from within. Think about it: you see fighting in your home, at work, on the TV, in social media and you think to yourself, “I’ll go to church, because there I will find peace and unity.” But instead of finding peace and unity, you find more upheaval, more of the same, more of the world. Who needs that?! Not me. “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” — Brennan Manning.
The Christian is to remain humble. The Christian is to see themselves as the greatest of all sinners and their brothers and sisters as souls to be loved. The Christian is to build up and not tear down. The Christian does not wave a flag, the Christian carries a Cross (a Cross that is for you to be crucified upon so that you might die with Christ and Rise with Christ.) The Christian is a candle in a dark cave, seeking out the lost and showing the way to freedom, fresh air, and The True Light.
“Finally, brothers (that includes you sisters, too!), whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me (I was going to delete that bit, because it is not always what you see in me) practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9)
My goodness! He went and got all preachy on us.
What I learned today (and have known, but wanted to say): I also believe in miracles.
Thought for the day:
“These are the few ways we can practice humility:
To speak as little as possible of one’s self.
To mind one’s own business.
Not to want to manage other people’s affairs.
To avoid curiosity.
To accept contradictions and correction cheerfully.
To pass over the mistakes of others.
To accept insults and injuries.
To accept being slighted, forgotten and disliked.
To be kind and gentle even under provocation.
Never to stand on one’s dignity.
To choose always the hardest.”