Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Problem With Facial Hair

When a man stops shaving, he looks good on day one when he's clean shaven and good on day twenty-one when he has a nice beard. The problem with growing a beard is that all the middle days look like you're not shaving, not like you're growing a beard.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Happy Holidays From Dartmouth

A video from the Dartmouth College Office of Alumni Relations. How I wish I were still a student walking past Blunt rather than an alumni hearing from Blunt... oh, well.

The video is from last February, which explains why I see several '09 friends in it.

But the point is, happy holidays!



FLAIR!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Sermon: What does Christ's kingship mean for modern politicians, and for us?

Delivered at the Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit; Bellevue, NE; 11-21/2-09. Year B, Proper 29: 2 Samuel 23:1-7 • Psalm 132:1-12 • Revelation 1:4b-8 • John 18:33-37, often referred to as "Christ the King Day" or "The Reign of Christ."

I had the privilege of ending my college career with a course called “The History of Modern Germany, 1750-1944.” One of the conclusions I came to in my final paper was that Hitler’s motivation was not to kill all the Jews, not to take over the world, nor even to glorify Germany. Hitler’s motivation was Hitler. This was a man who believed that Germany could not and should not win without him, saying, “Neither a military nor a civilian personality could take my place… the fate of the Reich depends on me alone.”

The Allies, on the other hand, were blessed with leaders who put their countrymen first. Take Winston Churchill. For all his social vices, this was a man who understood what was at stake, who spoke not of himself but of his nation’s values and of the undying tenacity of its people. Which modern king do you think was closer to being Christ-like? The drunkard who fought for a cause bigger than himself, or the madman who thought his own self-glory was the biggest cause of all?

Today we celebrate Christ the King. Here is a ruler who holds dominion but does not dominate; a lord who does not lord our weaknesses over us. Ours is a king who does not demand taxes or conscription, merely His love returned.

Christ’s walk did not end the reign of other kings. Now, we may not call them kings anymore. From the heights of the U.S. to the depths of Iran, most are known as “President.” But no matter what we call them, they’re certainly still around. What can these men and women learn from a king who preceded them by 2,000 years? And for that matter, what does this kingship mean for those of us so far from DC?

An awful lot. The language of the Bible is far more political than it may first appear. In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus admits to the governor that yes, he is a king. This is an extremely political thing to say, for in the next chapter, a Jewish faction reminds Pilate that “Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor.”

This affront to Rome is a bit of a running theme in the Gospels. In their book, “The Last Week,” Jesus historians Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan write that whenever there was a major Jewish festival, the Roman Governor would come to Jerusalem from his coastal palace to assert a colonial presence just “in case there was trouble.” They describe Pilate’s pre-Passover procession, likely held on Palm Sunday, as “A visual panoply of imperial power: cavalry on horses… foot soldiers… banners… weapons... sun glinting on metal and gold. Sounds: marching of horses… clinking of bridles… the beating of drums… Pilate’s procession displayed not only imperial power, but also Roman imperial theology.”

Yet while all this happened at the city’s west gate, a second procession came through the east gate. A second king held his own parade, but in this parade, there were humble donkeys instead of regal horses, liberating palms instead of vengeful spears. It is what Borg and Crossan call a “counter procession” and a “planned political demonstration.” This second king, OUR king, is not about imperial might but about peace, liberation, and love.

Christ carried a very political message, and yet we are also taught that we should render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and render unto God what is God’s. This juxtaposition works because before rendering comes identifying: What is Caesar’s? And what is God’s? And what must modern Caesars do to separate their kingdoms from the kingdom of God?

Servant leadership is a good start. One of the many reasons Hitler failed to achieve great heights of leadership was that he regarded himself strictly as a warrior and not, like German leaders before him, as “the first servant of the state.” Christ, however, was a servant, a washer of feet, who told Pilate that kings should not be so quick to use violence. A king should not think about himself and his own strength, but about his people.

“For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

N.T. Wright, a Bishop in the Church of England, writes that for Pilate, “the only place you get truth is out of the sheath of a sword (or, as we would say, out of the barrel of a gun.)” Like all kings, Christ claims to have truth. He makes this claim, however, not with a weapon but with palms and donkeys, surely a shocking thing for Pilate to hear.

It wouldn’t be hard for Christ also to be a violent or corrupt king. God has far more power than any earthly ruler – but as David says in today’s reading, for God, ruling is about justice, not the other way around. Christ’s rule says to today’s rulers, do not use your dominion; hold it in reserve! Let your people see that you are big enough to lift them up rather than yourself!

So okay, Christ’s kingship is definitely a political thing, but is that all it is? What about those of us hundreds of miles from Washington? What does Christ’s reign mean for us?

First of all, we mustn’t follow leaders who don’t themselves follow Christ’s model of kingship. When our rulers depart from Christ, we must hold them accountable by advocating for the Christian values of love and justice. We do that each week when we pray for elected officials in the Prayers of the People. We can write to and about our lawmakers when we feel they support the wrong policies, and we can vote against corrupt Congressmen. We can also support Christian missionaries and non-violent resistance groups in oppressive places like Zimbabwe or the Sudan. But that’s just more politics. What is the king’s tax, what is required of our daily lives?

I’ve been a lifelong Rite II goer and will admit that it is my favorite service, but there is one thing that I absolutely love about Rite I: the inclusion of Christ’s two commandments. Right there on the second page, before we even get to the weekend’s lessons, we hear the celebrant say: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt
love thy neighbor as thyself.”

That is what Christ’s kingship means for our daily lives: we must love God, and we do that by loving each other. Revelations tells us that God “made us to be a kingdom.” So when we hear about the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Heaven – that’s us! If we are all God’s children, and if God is king, than are we not all princes and princesses? And when we meet a fellow princess on the street, should we not treat her like the royalty she is?

One of the most powerful things we can do for each other is to be kind in the little moments. It’s not just unpractical to be rude, but an affront to the humble king who rode a donkey. Letting that car in front of us change lanes; checking the pew behind ourselves to make sure others have enough room to kneel; smiling rather than scowling in the checkout aisle. These are the little things that can touch one another far more than we sometimes know – especially on the Omaha freeways.

We can also care for each other in the big ways. Being environmentally-friendly is important justice work. From Deacon Betsy Blake Bennett’s diocesan efforts to Ruth Richter and others here at Holy Spirit, I am so excited to have joined a parish already involved in creation care. Other outreach efforts, from the two food pantries to the Boy Scout Eagle projects, are equally wonderful.

Yet for all that, if Christ’s kingship only means one thing, it is this. There will be times when we are rude to one another. There will be times when we don’t see the corruption in a given public policy that we may support. There will be times when we don’t pray the right prayers or read enough Scripture. And all of that is okay, because we can keep trying. Ours is a king who does not say follow me or else; ours is a king who says follow me because I love you.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Amazing Hathos: The "Christian" Side-Hug

Wow.



From TrueSlant:

This video makes me very happy. It’s a bunch of happy Christian rappers, acting all street, freestyling the merits of the non-sexual Christian Side Hug. What could be construed for a Saturday Night Live sketch is done here... WITHOUT IRONY!

Yes, now it’s abstinence only for Christian teens when it comes to hugs. The basic message is that “front hugs” should be saved until marriage, This is told to us while using a lot of ghetto rap hand motions. (”Word!”)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Al Gore: Science has failed. Time for teh crazy.

Al Gore's new plan: "So, instead of science, I'm going with crazy. I'm going to start planning trees in politicians' front yards in the middle of the night and tape toy guns to the branches pointed to the door so when they wake up and walk out of their houses in the morning they'll think it's the forests coming to get their revenge."

Could this BE any more awesome?



The Nobel Laureate was also on 30 Rock for his second cameo on that show. But I thought the SNL bit was funnier.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

When Bill Nye Was On SNL (Sort Of)

In the late 1980s and early '90s, before getting his own show on PBS ("Bill Nye the Science Guy"), Bill Nye was an actor on a Seattle-area SNL-style sketch show. Here he is as the superhero "Speedwalker."



What's Nye been up to since then, you ask? Why, talking about the need for renewable energy and explaining to MSNBC's Rachel Maddow why blowing up the moon is a good thing!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Turning Word Verification On

I hate to do this, but I have to turn comment word verification back on - ie, those annoying letters you have to read and re-type in order to comment. Older posts are getting mercilessly spammed, and while I moderate them so they never actually show up here, it's still a headache for me to deal with. I'll try turning verification off after a few weeks and see how it goes.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Veteran's Day

Wow, I did not realize it had been a full eight days since I last posted here!

Here's a video, a day late for Veteran's Day, that I cannot get through without massively tearing up in the first thirty seconds. It's soldiers, sailors, and Marines surprising their children at school upon return home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

My New Job, Part 2: Church of the Holy Spirit

A few weeks ago, I wrote here that as part of my Omaha Episcopal Service Corps internship, I am working part-time for Repower America. The other major part of my ESC internship is a part-time job at a local Episcopal church, the Church of the Holy Spirit in Bellevue, Nebraska.

I work at CHS three days a week (including Sundays), and my job description is pretty varied. I:

  • Do some administrative work (answering the phones, proofreading church bulletins, etc.),
  • Accompany the priest on hospital and home visits and even go on a few of my own,
  • Help with the youth group,
  • Serve as an unordained subdeacon in the altar party on Sunday mornings,
  • Will lead two adult education courses in 2010 – one on spiritual gifts and one I get to design myself,
  • Occasionally preach (last month would have been my first time if not for the swine flu),
  • Am helping the Christian ed director plan the Christmas pageant,
  • Attend and observe various committee meetings (business, finance, worship, vestry, etc.),
  • Sit in on each Sunday school class at least twice, and
  • Perform all other duties as assigned.

    Examples of this last category have so far included pulling pork for church meals and moving furniture in the Sunday school rooms. I am reminded of the words of our program director, who said every good seminary education should include a course on boiler maintenance.

    The goal of this job is to get a feel for parish life for discernment purposes. I’m basically job-shadowing the priest at a suburban church with average Sunday attendance of about 100, many of whom are retired military from nearby Offutt Air Force Base (and when I say nearby, I mean I can hear Reveille and Taps through my office window). With the exception of the large retired military population, the church in many ways reflects most parishes I’ve been a part of in the past: conservative, small, and older. As such, the challenges and experiences aren’t quite what I was expecting nor what the other interns face, but they are still welcome avenues for growth. For example, I'm not a big fan of the main worship space and the music program is fairly limited, but that reminds that God is everywhere and helps me to learn that in ministry, worship is no longer about being fed but about feeding.

    I will say this: the people at CHS are some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met. They manage to be both no-nonsense (as the program director says, “There’s no fooling around when you’ve got to get the crops in on time!) and welcoming at the same time. I will walk away in May with fond memories of these people and a positive impression of the Midwest because of them. Even better, working with Father Tom is one of the two highlights of my time here (along with my job at Repower). He’s a retired Air Force Lt. Col. himself, but is also very engaging and a good mentor. He is approaching me and this program with an open and eager mind but also with a sense of purpose. A relatively new priest, his seminary experience is still fresh in his mind, but after nearly three decades in the military, he is well grounded in life’s wisdom. Like I said, he’s a very good mentor and I’m lucky to be here.

    I miss New Hampshire, I miss Idaho, and I miss being constantly surrounded by politics and policy, but this is nonetheless a good place for me to be right now. Next year I will almost assuredly be back in DC or New England but with a better understanding of myself and of the world around me.

  • Tuesday, November 03, 2009

    I Wasn't Home For Homecoming

    I'm not sure exactly when it happened, but Dartmouth became home for me. The place, the traditions, the setting - everything. I can never be a student again or involve myself in student life, but that's okay. One day I can return for the setting, the traditions, the lectures, Hop events, and such things.

    Dartmouth Night - ie, the Homecoming bonfire - is the second best time of the year, right behind Christmas. I couldn't make it this year, but darn straight I'll be there next year. This video - the Glee Club (which I sang in), the fire, the march - is the next best thing.

    Monday, November 02, 2009

    My Repower Video

    This video was shot for a new project from Repower America called the Repower Wall, documenting videos from thousands of Americans from all walks of life explaining why they support clean energy. You can read about the project and watch clips from Wesley Clark and Bill Nye here, watch my faith-based video below, and watch an even shorter video about the larger project below that.



    Sunday, November 01, 2009

    Congratulations, Brian Prior!

    This is a proud day for my home diocese, the Diocese of Spokane. The Rev. Brian Prior, rector of the Church of the Resurrection in Spokane Valley and vice president of the General Convention's House of Deputies, has been elected Bishop of Minnesota. Fr. Brian is one of the most active people in the Diocese and he will be sorely missed, but what an exciting new ministry this is for him! He used to direct Camp Cross, sits on numerous boards and committees, and was mentor to my home parish's last curate. The Diocese of Minnesota is very lucky to have him.

    You can read the Episcopal Life Online story about his election here, but on this blog I will excerpt an interview the local paper, the Spokane Spokesman Review (for which I used to write) did with him in July:

  • My grandparents lost the family business during the Depression. Through this experience my grandfather engrained in me a sense of stewardship: “Take care of it, and it will last forever.” And he embodied the sense of generosity: “You help folks because you never know when you will need help yourself – and you will.” He went on to rebuild his business that was then passed on to two more generations.

  • They have a mindset that generations have lost. I feel blessed to have and have had both family and professional folks who were scripted during that Depression era.

  • They’ve consistently asked those questions, whether the market was up or down. Regardless of where the economy is, and many of them are doing fine economically and have consistently done fine, they are just so clear about asking: “Can we reuse that bag? Do we need to buy that? Is there another way?” For me that is at the heart of being good stewards, because it doesn’t matter how much they have, it’s a whole approach to life they take. I’ve gained a lot of wisdom from that.
  • Wednesday, October 28, 2009

    Congratulations, Susan Slaughter!

    With its former occupants having left their church and diocese behind, the Diocese of Fort Worth is now set to ordain its first female priest! Huzzah! From Episcopal Life Online comes this exciting news:

    Thirty-three years after the Episcopal Church approved the ordination of women to the priesthood and to the episcopate, the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, Texas, is following suit.

    The Rt. Rev. Edwin F. (Ted) Gulick Jr., bishop of Kentucky and provisional bishop of Fort Worth, is set to ordain the Rev. Susan Slaughter to the priesthood on Nov. 15 at St. Luke's in the Meadow Episcopal Church, where she currently serves as deacon...

    "It is with a deep sense of awe in the mysterious ways of our Lord that I arrive at this moment," Slaughter said recently. "I am filled with gratitude toward those persons, lay and clergy, who have encouraged and supported me over the years. St. Luke's in the Meadow has been especially supportive and has helped me discern more clearly my true vocation."

    Sunday, October 25, 2009

    The Beauty of the Badlands

    While driving from Idaho to Omaha in September, I had the privilege of spending a night camping in South Dakota's Badlands National Park, just outside the Black Hills and about an hour from Rapid City. I rarely journal, but after spending a few hours driving and walking around the buttes in the moonlight, I immediately sat down and wrote. Here's an excerpt from my notebook, as well as the context I wrote for it in last week's sermon before deleting it for brevity. (Picture credit.

    ***

    Being there at night under a full moon and a clear sky is something else – not because it’s pretty, although it is, but because it’s so amazingly spiritual. It’s okay to look out over the buttes, but when you walk down into them and head back a little ways into the wilderness area, it’s like you’ve left the planet. I wrote in my journal that night,

    Still struggling to find the right adjectives. It is an uncapturable experience. It was a moment and a place, and such things do not conflate with pen and paper. It was religious, and beautiful in an eery way. It was almost like a moon, but with greenery. And thanks to the owl and crickets, it was so alive! And not a single other person. I had been transported in a way I never had been before. For once, I was glad to be along during a wonderful moment. It was all so ancient, and made me feel safe in an edgy way.

    But I was not really alone. I was with God. And the drive back to my campsite a few hours later was something else, too – I had to stop repeatedly for stampeding bison, charging prairie dogs, and a 15-point buck!

    There are moments in life – children discovering the joy of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly; pilots, as John Magee says, slipping the surly bonds of earth and joining the tumbling of sun-split clouds; fisherman enjoying the calm tranquility of a still lake; farmers feeling the wise wind of the cornfield on their face or taking in the awesome power of a prairie storm; city slickers walking in a park to escape the grime and the crime – there are moments in life when we know that God loves us not because we see God in our air ducts or our transmissions, but because we feel God in the midst of God’s creation.

    ***
    Here's something I found on YouTube:

    Friday, October 23, 2009

    Episcopal Churches Stage Events For 350

    Great article from the Episcopal News Services about Episcopal Churches getting involved with the 350 International Day of Climate Action, one of the largest political events ever!

    Bell ringing, postcard campaigns and community connections will point the way to Copenhagen when congregations join in the International Day of Climate Action this Saturday, October 24.

    Organized by the 350.org campaign, this year's annual celebration will call for a fair climate treaty when world leaders gather in Copenhagen in December. Three hundred fifty parts per million is considered to be the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in earth's atmosphere.

    Episcopal congregations have marked the day in previous years by ringing steeple bells 350 times. This year, Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, and Mary Evelyn Tucker of the Forum on Religion and Ecology are urging greater participation by religious congregations.

    Tyler Edgar of the National Council of Churches' Eco-justice unit points out that it is important for the United States to be committed to reducing its own greenhouse gas emissions if it is to be effective in Copenhagen.

    Wednesday, October 21, 2009

    My New Job, Part 1: Repower Nebraska

    I mentioned a few months ago that I’m spending this year in Omaha, Nebraska working for the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection’s Episcopal Service Corps program. This program consists of three main components: spiritual direction, an internship at a local Episcopal church, and volunteer work at a local non-profit. I’ve been here for six weeks and the different components of this new job are now all in place. I’d like to devote a post each to my parish placement and to my non-profit placement.

    For my volunteer work, I am helping out at Repower Nebraska as their faith outreach coordinator. Repower Nebraska is the local chapter of Repower America, the group Al Gore started with his Nobel Peace Prize money to advocate the passage of clean energy legislation. My job here is to coordinate with different faith groups around the state and work to address the spiritual and Scriptural issues surrounding climate change. I don’t know what I can and can’t say publicly about Repower Nebraska – they may not pay me (the Church of the Resurrection does that) but I am still going to respect whatever communication protocols and chain-of-command they may have regarding blogs and the like. When I worked for Senator Baucus, I wasn’t allowed to even say so online, so I’m going to be cautious and leave it here for now. I will say, though, that this is a really important cause and I am excited to be here!

    For more on the Christian perspective surrounding climate change, please see a sermon I wrote and posted last weekend and take a look at this upcoming seminar from GreenFaith. A good resource from the Episcopal Diocese of Omaha is Green Sprouts.

    Tuesday, October 20, 2009

    Anglican Communion Stories About Climate Change

    The Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS), a sometimes-updated online service of Lambeth Palace, has had two interesting stories about Christian involvement in climate change issues this month. The first, dated October 12, was titled simply, "A Statement from the Anglican Communion Environmental Network," and the second, from October 14, was called, "Act local as well as national urges Archbishop of Canterbury."

    An excerpt from the Environmental Network statement:

    We look to the Copenhagen conference with hope but also with realism... there must be a desire on the part of every nation to do what they know they must, not because they are legally bound, but because they share a vision for a more just and sustainable future... We pray that each nation will come to the conference wanting the highest level outcome; that demanding targets will be set, not in an attempt to discipline reluctant participants, or to give some preferential treatment which undermines the whole; but that a greater vision might be shared...

    Our faith and our ancestors have always taught us that the earth is our mother and deserves respect; we know that this respect has not been given. We know that like a mother the earth will continue to give its all to us. However, we also know that we are now demanding more than it is able to provide. Science confirms what we already know, our human footprint is changing the face of the earth and because we come from the earth, it is changing us too.

    And an excerpt from the story about the Most Rev. Williams:

    In a lecture today at Southwark Cathedral (sponsored by the Christian environmental group Operation Noah) Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, sets out a Christian vision of how people can respond to the looming environmental crisis. Beginning with the story of Noah and the Flood, Dr Williams highlights the “burden of responsibility for what confronts us here and now as a serious crisis and challenge”. Our relationship with the rest of creation is intimately bound up with our relationship with God. The Bible offers “an ethical perspective based on reverence for the whole of life”. “To act so as to protect the future of the non-human world is both to accept a God-given responsibility and, appropriately, to honour the special dignity given to humanity itself.”

    Sunday, October 18, 2009

    A Sermon on Job, Psalm 104, and the Kerry-Boxer Energy Bill

    I had planned to give this sermon at an Omaha-area Episcopal church today, but unfortunately flu-like symptoms caused me to request a back-up preacher a couple days ago. Nevertheless, I thought I would post it here. The readings follow the Revised Common Lectionary, focusing on Job 38: 1-7, 34-41; Psalm 104: 1-9, 25; and Mark 10:35-45. Drawing heavily from a book by Bill McKibben, the crux of the sermon is basically this: The environment is important for many spiritual reasons. One, when Scripture reveals God’s glory, it does so with environmental and biological language. Two, we are able to experience and feel God when in nature. Three, God gave us this environment as a gift, called it “good,” and asked us to take care of it. For these three reasons, as well as the role the environment plays in justice (its close ties to things like cancer and asthma), we as good Christians must be humble and not live a lifestyle that destroys the environment. If we believe what science tells us, then we must address climate change, and one way to do that is to pass clean energy legislation. So without further ado, my sermon:

    May I speak in the name of God who is Creator, Liberator, and Sanctifier.

    The common message across these passages from Job, Mark, and Psalm 104 is a simple one: God is great, and we must humble ourselves before God, approaching God’s creation with humility. My understanding of that message is that when we ignore His natural works or replace them with our own, we risk running afoul of the First Commandment.

    I am rather struck by the timing of these readings. I bought a book last winter called The Comforting Whirlwind: God, Job, and the Scale of Creation about this passage from Job and this very psalm by a fellow named Bill McKibben. Some of you may already be familiar with McKibben; he is an environmental scholar at Middlebury College and the author of several popular books. He has helped organize almost every major climate change campaign in the last decade. The reason I am struck by the timing of these readings is that McKibben’s biggest event yet will be next weekend. I’ll say more about that event in a few moments.

    The Comforting Whirlwind points out that when God wants to reveal His glory, he uses language of an environmental and biological sort. God appears to Job in a whirlwind, one of the basic elements of nature, and talks to him about “the foundation of the earth” and the “morning stars,” reminding the man that he wasn’t there when these things were created; that they are bigger than he and that he should remember than when contemplating his relationship with the creator. Then, in verses 34-41 (“optional” verses for today in the Revised Common Lectionary) God says,

    Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, so that a flood of waters may cover you? Can you send forth lightnings, so that they may go and say to you, “Here we are”? Who can tilt the waterskins of the heavens, when the dust runs into a mass and the clods cling together? Can you hunt the prey for the lion, or satisfy the appetite of the young lions, when they crouch in their dens, or lie in wait in their covert?

    Waterskins of the heavens! Lions! That is some awesome stuff, all of it speaking to the glory of the Creator and all of it found not in our cities but in God’s forests and skies. There’s more of the same in Psalm 104, which highlights God’s “majesty and splendor” with verses like “O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.” These verses are neither the first of an environmental nature in the Bible, nor the last. Where does Jesus go, McKibben asks, when he wants to pray? The Temple? No! A garden, and the Wilderness. And who was the original conservationist? Teddy Roosevelt? American Indians? How about… Noah? Remember Genesis: “The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good.” And God saw that it was good.

    There is a reason God and the psalmist talk of weather, geology, and animals when they want to show His glory. God considers those things good—and we can experience why for ourselves. There are moments in life – children discovering the joy of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly; pilots, as John Magee says, slipping the surly bonds of earth and joining the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds; farmers taking in the awesome power of a prairie storm; city slickers walking in a park to escape the grime, me camping in Badlands National Park under a full moon during the drive to Omaha from Idaho – there are moments in life when we know that God loves us not because we see God in our air, but because we feel God in the midst of God’s creation.

    If we are to honor God, then we must honor the things God calls good, the creations that reveal God’s glory. Part of honoring them is learning to approach them with humility, which is one of the lessons in today’s Gospel. Here we have James and John caring not about what the Kingdom of God will do for humanity but about what it will do for them. Dr. David Garland, the seminary dean at Baylor University, writes of James and John, “They want to dominate, not to serve” and of the reaction of their traveling companions, “The disciples would rather bear a grudge than a cross.” And so Christ very lovingly puts them all in their place: “Whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve.”

    So we are called to act with humility, and yet we do not. Our culture is one of consumerism; our society demands a lifestyle that takes more resources from the earth per year than the earth can replace. I am speaking not just about materialism, but also about climate change, which is a scientific issue far more than it is a political one. NASA has made it clear that if we keep relying on coal as our primary energy source and on ungodly amounts of dinosaur bones to fuel our daily transportation, we will put enough greenhouse gases in the air to raise the average temperature of the planet several degrees. If that happens – and nine of the ten hottest years on record are in the past two decades – we will see several Katrina-style storms every year. A report from the Nature Conservancy says the largest temperature increases in the U.S. will come right here in the Midwest, causing massive drought. The refugee crises won’t just be limited to the population of Bangladesh moving to China; Omaha will have to deal with incoming Miamians. This is the lifestyle that we lead right now – a lifestyle that says using bottled water instead of filtered water bottles is worth destroying homes around the world, and leaving the lights is worth the cancer caused by mountaintop removal in West Virginia. Where is the humility in that?

    McKibben writes in The Comforting Whirlwind, “Most cultures, historically, have put something else—God or nature or some combination—at the center. But we’ve put these things at the periphery.” Instead of building ourselves around God, we have built ourselves around the proposition that growth is always good, that we always need more. And while McKibben doesn’t say it, this means that we are not putting God first, that we are dangerously close to running afoul of the first commandment. Clearly, if one believes the science, then there is a Christian imperative to combat climate change. Fortunately, while there is a tipping point to climate change, we probably haven’t reached it yet. It’s not too late to green our lifestyles, to restore the balance of humility in our relationship with God. The biggest thing we can do is lobby the elected representatives to pass major energy legislation. This country has to break its addictions to foreign oil and coal. We need renewable energy, and in my opinion, nuclear energy. This is not a partisan issue – conservative Republican Senators from Alaska and South Carolina have climbed on board and may soon be joined by colleagues from Tennessee and Arizona.

    To help pass such legislation, we can write our Senators, and we can take part in the 350 campaign, the upcoming Bill McKibben event that I mentioned. 350 parts of carbon per million parts of atmosphere is the sustainable level of carbon output we should shoot for. We are currently at 390ppm, a historically unprecedented level. McKibben has started a website called 350.org that seeks to bring attention to this number and to the measures we need to take to reach this goal. Next Saturday, thousands of events around the world will highlight the number. Musicians will sing songs about 350, outdoor enthusiasts will arrange 350 canoes in the shape of the number 350, and churches in the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia will ring their bells 350 times. We don’t have an outdoor bell here at Holy Spirit, but Repower Nebraska, the non-profit I have chosen to work for as part of my internship, will host an event at St. Mary’s College from 2:30 to 3:50 next Saturday, right about the time the Huskers game ends. We’re going to have free popcorn, live music, the mayor, and a wall on which event attendees can right their favorite reason for passing climate change legislation. We’re hoping to get 350 such reasons, and Christian voices are not just welcomed but desired. On a side note, I also recommend joining the e-mail lists of the Episcopal Ecological Network and the Episcopal Public Policy Network.

    These goals are not about politics. They are about being better stewards of what God has given us. Yes, Genesis does say we have dominion over the earth, but dominion does not replace humility. I like what McKibben says: “God, who had gone to the trouble creating myriad species and who had called them ‘good,’ did not understand dominion to include thoughtless destruction for short-term gain.” God does not understand dominion to include thoughtless destruction for short-term gain.

    Thursday, October 15, 2009

    Churches and Climate Change

    The following is excerpted from a longer Blue Moose Democrat post on the environmental movement's recent traction in its battle against climate change. This is the section that talks about momentum in the faith community - and even this is just the tip of the iceberg. For more about the politics, see the full post.

    My own beat is the intersection of faith and politics. I started a new job this week working with Repower Nebraska as their part-time faith outreach coordinator. (This post is not endorsed by Repower America, but I want to be clear about who I am.) All across America, churches are waking up. I had a phone call today with an Episcopal clergywoman who said there are three areas of concern for churches on climate change: spirituality (experiencing God in nature, recognizing the environmental language of Scripture, etc.), environmental stewardship or creation care (heeding the call of Scripture to take care of what we have been given), and eco-justice (climate change will disproportionately affect the poor). Churches are getting that message. I wrote here last week about Day Six, a new effort from the progressive group Faithful America to make sure climate change legislation helps the poor. The Episcopal Ecological Network is a great resource to learn what Episcopal churches around the country are doing to green their communities.

    You may be saying yeah yeah sure sure, of course the liberal mainline Protestants are getting involved - but the good news is the movement is broader than that. Thanks to the language of "creation care," many Evangelicals are getting in on the act, too. Rich Cizik, former Vice President for Governmental Affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals, resigned his job after announcing his support for civil unions, but not until he had spent quite some time building support within the Evangelical community for action on climate change. Joel Hunter, a conservative megachurch pastor in Florida, was hired to be the new president of Ralph Reed's Christian Coalition in 2006. The board asked him to resign over his positions on climate change, but the fact that his selection even got that far is indicative of a huge shift within the community.

    Wednesday, October 14, 2009

    New Orleans on MSNBC

    It wasn't the climate change-caused storm, it was the faulty levees and the devestation of the wetlands that slammed New Orleans.



    Also, Chris Matthews seems to have a habit of missing the point, but whatever.

    Tuesday, October 13, 2009

    R.I.P., Eric "Luigi" Blair

    My computer died today. It wast approximately four years and one month old.

    "Eric Blair," as well as his C Drive "Luigi," was pronounced dead approximately 20 minutes ago, at 8:18 PM Central Standard Time. He is survived by a Logitech mouse and a Seagate external hard drive in a Rosewill case. This was the computer on which virtually all Wayward Episcopalian entries, including my widely-read dispatches from the 2008 NH presidential primary, and virtually all my Dartmouth papers, including the many twenty-page all-nighters, was written.

    In some ways he was lucky to make it this long; many Dartmouth students seem to lose their computer right after the warranty expires at the beginning of the senior year. Others lose their computers during random finals periods, either before or after the warranty expires. My computer, Blair (so named because I am a pedantic jerk who wanted to mock a dear friend who called her own "Orwell"), made it a year the warranty's expiration before succumbing to pre-existing conditions.

    The computer contracted some sort of Malware or Spyware the other day, presumably while I was watching the Simpsons online at wtso.net. The virus basically hijacked my web browsers so that over half the time I was surfing the Internet, all HTML links rerouted me to the websites thefeedyard or livefeedinc. Sometimes Firefox would just randomly behave like Internet Explorer and close without warning. System Restore didn't work; it wouldn't restore my system claiming no changes had been made (baloney). Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware, Symantec Anti-Virus, Spybot's Search and Destroy, and Security Scan all failed to solve the problem, finding bugs but not the right ones even though several online forums claimed that Malwarebytes and Spybot tended to work on this particular virus. The Symantec website gave me instructions on how to delete files from my computer's registry (its deepest bowels, save binary code), but they turned out to be for the wrong virus as well. I only had two options left: work in safe mode and/or download Hijack This on a computer guru friend's advice. Hijack This is a little complicated so I was saving it for last, but safe mode bit me in the butt tonight. The regular F8 Setup menu option wasn't working - I would select safe mode but it wouldn't be able to access it, and would just give me the menu options again. So I restarted Windows in normal mode, used the MS Configuration menu to set it up to automatically start in safe mode, and restarted again. All this seemed to do was prevent Windows from opening normally, but it still wouldn't start in Safe Mode. So, now when I try to start the computer, it just goes in an endless cycle of trying to open Windows, failing, going back to the options menu (normal mode, safe mode, etc.), failing again, going back to the menu, etc.

    I guess technically my computer isn't dead, just on life support and unable to function on its own. It's a vegetable with massive artery blockage. I could pay to get those arteries unblocked, but instead I am going to constitute my own death panel and, unlike a government but like a for-profit private insurance company, rationalize the computer's care and deny it the operation.

    In other words, the timing here is pretty damn good - I've got a new computer on the way anyway! It may not be here for another week or two, but there's no point shelling out big bucks to extend this particular grandpa's life by six months when the kidney could go to a young teenager with even more to lose and thus more to save. Wait, what?

    Friday, October 09, 2009

    Thursday, October 08, 2009

    This Blows Me Away Every Time

    I've posted this before, and I guarantee I will post it again. But I mean, seriously, MOST AWESOME THING EVER. No, I mean it - there's Beethoven's Fifth and Ninth and Piano Concertos, there's Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen, and there's this.

    Tuesday, October 06, 2009

    Musical Socio-Economics

    The last paragraph in this excerpt is great. From the website of Corky Siegel's Chamber Blues:

    Look at it this way: When we think of the blues, don't we think of some guy wailing on an old beat up guitar in a smoky tavern with a bunch of people in jeans and T-shirts? When we think of classical music don't we flash on an ornate concert hall with a grand piano on high stick and a performer in tux and tails and women in sparkling evening gowns? Just the visual image alone makes it seem like classical music and blues are worlds apart.

    The music itself is innocent of this visual diversity. The music is made up of chords, melodies, harmonies, counterpoint, dynamics, articulations and rhythm. It doesn't know about smoke-filled rooms, blue jeans, or tuxedoes. It doesn't rely on ushers passing out programs or a society passing out dress codes to fit with a particular genre. The music is blind. All it cares about is having a wonderful time.

    Once a radio announcer who was obviously a classical music fan confronted me on the air and stated that blues is a lowly form of music whose text is relegated to the gutter with stories of loose women and booze and etc. ... and sometimes you can't even understand the words. Then he asked the question; "What do you think about that Mr. Siegel?" I answered immediately; "Opera! I rest my case."


    Hahahahaha. ZING!

    Monday, October 05, 2009

    When Peanuts Aren't Peanuts

    I was eating some Southwest Airlines peanuts on Sunday and watching Rachel Maddow on my iPod, and was persuaded by this segment to take a look at the ingredients list. My bag of airline peanuts contained the following: "Peanuts, Honey, Sucrose, Wheat Starch, Maltodextrin, Peanut and/or Canola Oil, Salt, Molasses, Brown Sugar."

    What I want to know is, is there a reason a bag of peanuts can't just be, you know, a bag of peanuts? Maybe rinsed with water and covered with just a touch of salt, okay, but in the end, just peanuts? I mean, maltodextrin? Really? What the hell?

    Musical Monday: R.E.M.

    Thursday, October 01, 2009

    Off To California

    I may not blog much until Sunday or Monday - I'm off to San Diego for baby-but-not-little brother's graduation from Marine boot camp! Ooo-rah!

    Wednesday, September 30, 2009

    Chris Christie's Silver Lining

    Cross-posted from Blue Moose Democrat.

    Everyone has something they bring to the table. US Attorney Chris Christie, the Republican nominee for Governor of New Jersey in this year's election, may have a few ethical questions, but no one is all bad. Seriously, I am a huge admirer of the level of fandom this guy has for Bruce Springsteen. I can only aspire to be Chris Christie. From the New York Times:

    [Christie] has attended 120 Springsteen concerts, in places as far away as Paris and London, and once ducked out of a Trenton fund-raiser — “Gotta go, another event!” he said — and raced to Philadelphia, arriving at the Spectrum just as the band was cranking up “Badlands.”... Over the objections of aides, Mr. Christie is insisting he will attend Wednesday’s concert — despite a crucial debate on Thursday — and at least one more...

    Mr. Christie said he did not have any illusions that he could win Mr. Springsteen’s endorsement. Asked how he would feel if Mr. Springsteen backed Mr. Corzine, he said that would be tough. “But in the end, I was a fan 34 years ago. I’d be a fan afterwards,” Mr. Christie said. “It is now just too much a part of my life.”

    At times, the passion seems to overtake his life. In 2003, his second year as United States attorney, Mr. Christie went to 9 of 10 Springsteen concerts at Giants Stadium. He skipped one at the insistence of his wife, Mary Pat. “It gets to be a little much,” she said.

    As a prosecutor, in preparation for a news conference after a major arrest, Mr. Christie would close his office door and pump himself up listening to songs like “Prove It All Night” and “Jungleland.”...

    His wife got more than she bargained for in 2007 when he finally relented to her pleas for a Paris getaway: He checked the Springsteen tour schedule and proposed four days in Paris and four in London. “We can do whatever else you want to do,” he told her. “I just need two nights.”

    CHRIS CHRISTIE, YOU ARE THE MAN. But that said, re-elect Jon Corzine anyway.

    And in related news: the Boss has a new song!!

    Bruce Springsteen performs his new song Wrecking Ball at Giants Stadium


    (The photo, btw, is of a cowboy-hat wearing, sweat-drenched me at the Boston debut of the Seeger Sessions tour in 2006.)

    Tuesday, September 29, 2009

    I Love Trees!

    These pictures are amazing! NPR reports that Michael Nichols, a photographer for National Geographic, has come up with a new method that allows him to take a picture of an entire Redwood tree at once, something I had previously thought impossible.

    National Geographic sent Nichols to spend an entire year in California's redwood forest. His mission was to capture the majesty of some of the tallest trees on Earth, some of which date back before Christ. And if you've ever photographed in a forest, you'll understand the challenge this presented. There's no capturing the awe one feels before these monoliths that measure, in some cases, upward of 300 feet.

    In a recent lecture at National Geographic in Washington, D.C., Nichols described his frustrations. Eventually, though, he devised a way to do redwoods justice. It involved three cameras, a team of scientists, a robotic dolly, a gyroscope, an 83-photo composite and a lot of patience.

    For a short video and a really cool slide show, visit the article at NPR.org.

    On a related note, here are two of my Twitter Tweets from yesterday:

    "It took me 3 weeks, but I finally went for a walk in the park by my house in Omaha - Miller Park with a golf course, trees, & a pretty pond." "Don't take your local parks and trees for granted! Embrace them! It is out in "nature" that we humans got our start. That is our home."

    Monday, September 28, 2009

    Musical Monday: Jars of Clay

    This song, "Silence" by Jars of Clay, came up on my iTunes shuffle the other day. I know I've heard it before since I've listened to the album the whole way through, but I can't say I remembered it. I really like it. It's haunting and it's searing; it is made even more powerful by the fact that the question, presumabley asked of God, is never answered: "Where are you?" And in that, I am reminded of one Friday morning when a holy man lay dying, and asked our God, His Father, "Why have you forsaken me?"

    Saturday, September 26, 2009

    The Episcopal Blogosphere On Baseball and Sarah Palin

    Two posts from around the Episcopal blogosphere I wanted to pass along - one political, one not.

    The first is touching and fun. H/T Andrew Plus.



    And in this second post, Padre Mickey notes that by her own party's standards, Sarah Palin may qualify as unpatriotic.

    Remember back during the Dark Ages Bush Regime when the Dixie Chicks, while performing in England, stated that they were ashamed that George W. Bush was from Texas? Remember the furor which ensued? I recall hearing that it was wrong, treasonous even, to criticize the president while visiting a foreign land!

    Sarah Palin went to a COMMUNIST country [China] and criticized President Obama. Of course, IOKIYAR, so her comments are probably Patriotic Commentary. And makes Baby Jesus happy.

    Thursday, September 24, 2009

    Ring Your Church Bells 350 Times On October 25

    Bill McKibben, a scholar at Vermont's Middlebury College, may be the most prominent climate activist in the country. He's been behind many (most?) of the biggest global warming demonstrations, including a 2006 walk across Vermont that was at that time the largest anti-climate change action in history, a day of 1,400 decentralized protests around the country in 2007, and the annual DC college student gathering Power Shift. He is the author of many books about nature, climate change, and even faith.

    McKibben's latest project is 350.org. 350 ppm of carbon is the sustainable limit for our planet, as in 350 parts of carbon out of every million parts of atmosphere. The planet currently sits at 390 ppm, a number that, if left unchecked, will raise ocean levels, raise ocean temperatures, and create drought in some regions. The phrase "350 or bust" is not just fancy rhetoric to paint on your car - if we don't get that low, scientists like IPCC Chair Rajendra Pachauri and NASA's James Hansen say that we WILL bust, end of story.

    McKibben and his staff are organizing a "Day of International Climate Action" on October 24 to raise visibility for and awareness of 350 as a number and goal. It's easy to get involved: get a group together, register on 350.org, and then take a picture of y'all doing something to highlight the number in your community, like the pictures in this post (the one at right is a garden in Cameroon, and one below is using endangered Greenland ice!) and at 350's Flickr page. One simple thing you can do is ask your pastor or other church leader if your church can ring its bell 350 times, either on the Day of Action or the next day, a Sunday. Here's an e-mail with some great ideas sent to the Episcopal Ecologial Network list:

    On Sunday, October 25th, parishioners from St. Paul's Memorial Church (Charlottesville, Virginia) will ring our church bell 350 times as part of an international campaign called 350.org to urgently call our community to awareness and action in addressing the global climate change crisis. 350 parts per million is the goal for this campaign as it is the level scientists have identified as the safe upper limit for CO2 in our atmosphere. Human activity currently emits 385 parts per million of CO2 globally and is rising rapidly, a trajectory that will cause huge and irreversible damage to the earth. To tackle climate change we need to move quickly, and we need to act in unison—and 2009 will be an absolutely crucial year. This December, world leaders will meet in Copenhagen, Denmark to craft a new global treaty on cutting emissions. The problem is, the treaty currently on the table doesn't meet the severity of the climate crisis—it doesn't pass the 350 test. In order to unite the public, media, and our political leaders behind the goal of 350 ppm, 350.org is coordinating a planetary day of climate action on October 24, 2009.

    Please note St. Paul’s is ringing bells on Sunday, the 25th, at 11:30 after our Sunday morning service. We invite all the churches in the Virginia Diocese and especially our local Region XV to join St. Paul’s in taking action on this day to support the 350 goal by ringing the church bell or hand bells 350 times. We held a similar bell-ringing event last December that included a letter-writing campaign, cookies for families, and banners created by our youth groups, and it was a memorable and compelling event. This year we are recruiting other churches in town so that on Sunday the 25th around noontime, our community will hear the church bells echoing from the hills.

    Please see http://www.350.org/plan and St. Paul’s Green Team webpages for additional ideas and materials on how your congregation or community group can join in.

    Wednesday, September 23, 2009

    Top Ten Reasons Men Shouldn't Be Ordained

    Hilarious satire using the anti-women's ordination camp's logic to show why its actually MEN who shouldn't be ordained. Hey, same logic, same theology, different result - how can you argue with that? Excerpts from the list at christian feminism:

    10. A man’s place is in the army.

    9. For men who have children, their duties might distract them from the responsibilities of being a parent.

    6. Men are too emotional to be priests or pastors. This is easily demonstrated by their conduct at football games and watching basketball tournaments...

    2. Men can still be involved in church activities, even without being ordained. They can sweep paths, repair the church roof, change the oil in the church vans, and maybe even lead the singing on Father’s Day. By confining themselves to such traditional male roles, they can still be vitally important in the life of the Church.

    H/T the Rev. Scott Gunn's Twitter feed.

    Tuesday, September 22, 2009

    Monday, September 21, 2009

    Health NGO Giants Lecture Dartmouth Freshmen

    Tracy Kidder's "Mountains Beyond Mountains" was the required freshmen reading book for the summer before the Class of 2009 (me) arrived at Dartmouth College. The book is about the amazing health work done in Haiti by Paul Farmer, Ophelia Dahl, and Jim Kim's NGO, "Partners in Health." During orientation, we all attended a prominent geography professor's lecture about the book.

    Mountains Beyond Mountains is also the book for the Class of 2013, but do they get a professor's leture? Nope. The little knuckleheads get a panel of Dahl, Farmer, and new Dartmouth president Kim. Wow; lucky twits. Worst class ever.



    Dahl, btw, is the daughter of my favorite childhood author, Roald Dahl. Wow.

    Saturday, September 19, 2009

    RIP, CDA Wine Cellar

    One of the best restaurants in Coeur d'Alene is closing. 'Twas my parents' favorite and my grandfather's favorite, and while I was never a huge fan of the food, it did have a great wine selection and atmosphere.

    That's right, the one place for fine dining downtown that wasn't owned by Duane Hagadone - The Wine Cellar - is no more. This is big local news - almost everyone knows this establishment even if they've never been in. It was where my family ate the night my brother graduated high school. It was one of two places I went out with my parents this past summer. It shall be missed.

    Get Out North Idaho has the full story.

    Monday, September 14, 2009

    See you next week (again)

    I will be spending the next few days on retreat at a Benedictine mission house for my new job in Nebraska. I'll be back in action here at Wayward by the end of the week. My political blog Blue Moose Democrat, on the other hand, has pre-written articles set to automatically post all week long, so be sure to check for new content there daily.

    Musical Monday: The Little Willies

    Did you know that jazz icon Norah Jones also sings country music? Yup! In addition to her own albums, she is one of two lead singers for the band "The Little Willies," named for Willie Nelson. Here they are with one of Nelson's songs.

    Saturday, September 12, 2009

    The Bible Is Long, Yet Life Is Short

    One problem – or at least, problematic challenge – with the Bible is that it packs far too much information into far too little space. This can be quite aggravating for someone trying to digest a book in only a few days.

    Take Acts, a book I’ve been working through the past few days. The first four chapters alone are full of amazing stories with important meaning: the selection of a new Apostle, the Holy Spirit descending upon the Apostles, the use of many tongues, Peter’s sermons on the importance of Jesus and the meaning of Christianity, the lifestyle of the first Christian communities, Peter and John healing a man at the Temple, their arrest, Christ’s acceptance of Gentiles, and so forth. These stories raise so many questions:

    • What, if anything, do the lifestyles of the first Christians – “All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need” – say about modern American consumerism and individualism?
    • Acts 1-4 make it clear that being a Christian is about far, far more than belief and evangelicalism. Do we, the current church, take the challenges of joining the Christian community and of sustaining our brothers and sisters seriously enough?
    • Peter seems to downplay the role of Pontius Pilate and the Romans in Christ’s crucifixion, focusing instead on the crowds, the Jews. Other New Testament passages make it clear that Christ’s relationship with the political powers of the day was instrumental in his death. So, what was the balance between the rejection of the crowds and the power of the government, and what is its importance?
    • What does it mean to be “Spirit-filled?” Is a born again experience, the descending of the Spirit, necessary to a Christian faith? Are Christian faiths that practice “speaking in tongues” grounded in strong theology? Is there a role for faith healing in the modern church?

    John 6 is another action-packed passage. In just 71 verses – three pages in my Bible – we get the disciples’ doubt, the feeding of the 5000; Christ’s rejection of a crown; the calming of the storm; a lesson from Christ on the danger of seeing as believing and the importance of faith; Christ’s statements that He is the “bread of life,” that He will “Raise them up on the last day,” and that through Him we find “eternal life” (or, as Brian McLaren argues, “life of the ages”); part of the basis of the Eucharist; a verse that may support the doctrine of pre-destination; the disciples’ lasting commitment to Christ; and Christ’s prediction of Judas’s betrayal. All this IN JUST ONE CHAPTER!

    So what is my point? It is this: anyone who claims to understand the Bible is almost assuredly speaking from a position of arrogance. There is far too much here to grasp in one lifetime. This is especially true of young Evangelicals. It takes decades of devoted, full-time historical, literary, and spiritual study to even begin to have a solid grasp on this material.

    You might argue, but it has been said that God doesn’t give us anything that we can’t handle! And I would agree – but what does the world “handle” mean in this case? Perhaps we aren’t called to fully understand the Bible. Perhaps our call is to live a life of study, a life of challenge, and a life of constant growth, and to never wrap ourselves in the false arrogance of certainty. It is there in that constant state of immaturity and openness that we find Christ’s infinite love and acceptance.

    Thursday, September 10, 2009

    Garrison Keillor Doing Well After Stroke

    Gut wrenching news - I'm so relieved it sounds like he'll be okay! Prayers! From CNN:

    Garrison Keillor, author and host of the folksy radio show "A Prairie Home Companion," was being treated Wednesday for a minor stroke he suffered over the weekend, a hospital spokesman said.

    Keillor, who turned 67 last month, was admitted to St. Mary's Hospital at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, on Sunday night, spokesman Karl Oestreich said in a news release.

    "He is up and moving around, speaking sensibly, working at a laptop, and it's expected he'll be released on Friday," Oestreich said.

    "He plans to resume a normal schedule next week."

    Tuesday, September 08, 2009

    Health Care Confusion, Glenn Beck, Van Jones, and More

    A reminder that my political posts are now at MyDD.com and Blue Moose Democrat. At Blue Moose Democrat today, I blogged about Van Jones and Glenn Beck, then shared several quality summaries of the proposed health care bills to help make sense of it all. Also, I blogged about Texas Governor Rick Perry in one post at MyDD and Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd in another.

    Musical Monday: Dropkick Murphys

    In honor of Labor Day, I give you the Worker's Song from the ever-awesome Dropkick Murphys.

    Tuesday, September 01, 2009

    See You Next Week

    I'm heading out tomorrow morning on a four-day grand roadtrip to Omaha, Nebraska, where I will spend the next nine months at a church job. Highlights of the road trip will include camping in Badlands National Park, seeing a dear college friend of mine, possibly hiking in the Bitterroot Mountains, and more. I was originally going to prepare blog posts to go up in my absence, but I didn't get around to it, so this will be the last entry until Saturday at the earliest. See you then!

    Sunday, August 30, 2009

    From BMD: Nebraska Supreme Court Affirms Tribal Rights

    Cross-posted from my political blog, Blue Moose Democrat.

    Great news from the Native American Rights Fund regrading tribal sovereignty and the Indian Child Welfare Act, one of the best pieces of legislation to come out of DC in recent decades. Gives me even more reason to look forward to next week's move to Omaha.

    In a unanimous decision, the Nebraska Supreme Court reversed and remanded a decision by a Nebraska county court which had refused to allow the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska to intervene in a child custody case involving two children that are members of the Tribe. The Nebraska Supreme Court affirmed the absolute and unconditional right of an Indian tribe to intervene in a child custody proceeding under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)…

    [NARF’s] amicus brief maintained that the Ponca Tribe has an absolute and unconditional federal right to intervene in the proceeding according the clear language of the ICWA and that the requirement that the Tribe be represented by a licensed attorney is preempted by the ICWA. Additionally, requiring a tribe to be represented by an attorney to intervene and participate in a state ICWA case would have a significant, detrimental effect on all tribes, including the infringement on tribal sovereignty… The Nebraska Supreme Court agreed with the Ponca Tribe and allowed the Tribe the right to intervene through its ICWA specialist, the Tribe’s designated representative.

    [NARF] has published "A Practical Guide to the Indian Child Welfare Act." The Guide is intended to answer questions about the ICWA by people of all levels of familiarity with this important law, and to provide a comprehensive resource of information on the ICWA. The guide can be found on NARF’s website – www.narf.org.

    Friday, August 28, 2009

    Dartmouth #1 in Undergraduate Teaching

    I recently wrote a piece for Blue Moose Democrat and MyDD about the pointlessness of college rankings, never mind that Dartmouth College was #11 on one list. Still, one can't help but feel a little proud when one's alma mater or school is said to top a category of particular personal importance. And indeed, U.S. News says Dartmouth College is #1 in undergraduate teaching. This is no surprise - it is the only Ivy university that pretends to be a liberal arts college with a strict focus on undergrads - but it's still an achievement. So Professors Duthu, Turner, Lacy, Press, Fowler, Bafumi, Carey, Summers, and many more - here's to you.

    Faculty: The professors at Dartmouth are among the leaders in their fields, yet they remain fully committed to teaching. Even the most senior professors teach first-year courses. Recipients of more than $160 million in annual research grants and consistently ranked among the most respected teachers in American higher education, Dartmouth professors are true exemplars of the phrase teacher-scholar. Through course-related discussions, research collaborations, and casual conversation, students get to know their professors as instructors, mentors, colleagues, and friends.

    Thursday, August 27, 2009

    New OGR/EPPN Staff Announcements

    A belated post, but congratulations to Alex Baumgarten for his interim promotion at the Episcopal Church's Office of Government Relations/Episcopal Public Policy Network, where I intered last summer. Alex, the foreign policy analyst, will take over as Director of OGR until funds for a full-time new director can be found. Alex is a sharp guy with a very strong understanding of how Capitol Hill works and a great amount of patience for pesky interns, and while the temporary shrinking of the staff is not a good thing, I have full confidence that the church's policy office is still in good hands. Congratulations, Alex!

    Wednesday, August 26, 2009

    Religious Reaction to Kennedy's Death

    The Boston Globe is collecting statements from religious leaders on the death of Ted Kennedy. So far they have Roman Catholic Boston Archbishop Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, Sojourners founder Jim Wallis, and Unitarian Universalist Association President Rev. Peter Morales.

    Ted Kennedy is Dead

    The man who gave us SCHIP, who erased immigration quotas, who defined liberalism, who stood up to Reagan. A real American hero. From CNN:

    (CNN) -- Sen. Edward Kennedy, the patriarch of the first family of Democratic politics, died at Tuesday night in his home in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, after a lengthy battle with brain cancer. He was 77.

    "We've lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism, and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever," a family statement said. "We thank everyone who gave him care and support over this last year, and everyone who stood with him for so many years in his tireless march for progress toward justice."




    My hands are trembling as I type. I have weeped over three political stories in my short life - 9/11, Obama's election, and tonight. And I should add, my health insurance is through COBRA - I wouldn't have paid for my annual physical and semi-annual dental checkup this summer, and I would be subject to preconditions, if not for Ted Kennedy.

    Health care reform must pass, and let that be his legacy more than any family relation.

    Tuesday, August 25, 2009

    Katrina Recovery Update

    This blog started out about three years ago as a Hurricane Katrina recovery blog. I've since shifted my focus (twice), but thought it might be nice to return to my roots for a day. Though it's a week old, here's an interview with Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) discussing hearings in New Orleans on the slow pace of recovery and the problems with government programs like the infamous Road Home.



    And here's this update from a Levees.org e-mail:
    On Thursday August 27, CNN's Anderson Cooper will anchor an Anniversary Special from New Orleans. The show will feature Levees.org on what we learned on a Congressional Delegation visit to Holland. Stay tuned for exact time for the CNN show.

    Other important news:

    As reported by the Washingon DC office of the AP, Senator Landrieu has sent a letter to the Defense Department's Inspector General to investigate allegations that a group of individuals at the Corps New Orleans District waged an internet deception campaign to defend the agency after the 2005 levee failures. This is a significant development.

    Monday, August 24, 2009

    Greatest Sandwich Ever

    OMG, I HAVE to have this! Now! A KFC sandwich with bacon and cheese in the middle, and for bread... CHICKEN!



    Story here. H/T my friend Steve on Facebook.

    Musical Monday: Zac Brown Band

    Even if the third verse is a little misplaced, and even if he does mispronounce "pecan," I freakin' love this song with all my heart.

    Sunday, August 23, 2009

    Christ wasn't anal-retentive

    Loved Friday's e-mail from Out of Nowhere. The new ones don't seem to be posting on the website, but here's an excerpt from the e-mail:

    A bishop ruled a child’s first communion invalid because the priest used bread made of rice flour. He made no exception even when he learned that the child is allergic to wheat.

    I don’t remember any scriptural qualifiers about the bread at the Last Supper, whether Jesus said, I am the living sour dough or I am the living croissant. And I don't remember any such about the wine, either, tawny port or merlot. Of course, there are those who would swear on their death bed in their conviction that it was grape juice all along. I do remember the frenzied rapture a few decades ago when plain old homemade bread began to replace the fish food...

    As if it made any difference, Jesus was apparently not recorded to say whether this new bread was wheat or rice or barley or whatever, just mostly of himself which was problem enough. Leave it to the church and to its bishops for getting into major theological decisions like that with the little girl.

    As for some of the rest of us, we’ll keep compromising Jesus's memory by busying ourselves, thank you, with and about who can love whom and how and even whether.

    Saturday, August 22, 2009

    St. Luke's, Coeur d'Alene has a new website

    For the past few months, people Googling the Episcopal Church in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho have found this blog. I am pleased to report that St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho now has a new webpage. (The previous page, which I have linked to before, was on the server of a family that has since moved.)

    Friday, August 21, 2009

    The Story of My Adoption

    I had the privilege of speaking at Dartmouth's weekly ecumenical chapel service in April. My sermon is finally available online, and I thought I would share it here. The theme for the term was love, and I spoke about the first sign of God's love in my personal life - specifically, my adoption at birth. The sermon was titled "Never Unloved: An Adoption Story." You can read it all at the Dartmouth website. Here's an excerpt:

    They say you have to be crazy to see a shrink, and since I have no problem admitting I'm crazy, I have no problem admitting that I saw a shrink all through high school. He once asked me if I ever felt abandoned because of my adoption. My answer was the complete opposite of what he expected to hear: Of course not! If anything, my adoption makes me feel more loved and more wanted. Adoptions, unlike births, don't happen by accident. This Houston couple-and my damn Yankee father would surely hate to be described as part of a Houston couple-went out of their way to find a child, and I was that child. My birthmother, who we'll call "Wendy," was no different. She didn't abandon me; she painfully yet purposefully chose to give me a better life. Everything I have ever experienced, from Cub Scouts to Dartmouth, is the result of these gifts from God: Wendy's wisdom and maturity, and the Empsalls' love and patience...

    [My younger brother] Chris and I straddled a cultural line: I was born in 1987, when most adoptions were still closed, and he in 1990, when most were open. We actually traveled to Austin to meet his birthmom before he was even born.

    This bothered my parents. They called Marywood to say, "This isn't fair. How come we get to meet Chris' birth mother, but not Nathan's?" And here it is again, God's love and guiding hand: Wendy called Marywood with an identical request that very same day.

    In preparation for the meeting, my parents told me who it was we were going to meet. Shortly after that conversation, Marywood called again to say, "Wendy is really nervous. Could you perhaps tell Nathan she's someone else - an aunt, an old college friend, something like that?" It was too late for that, but Wendy's nervousness washed away the moment she walked into the room. I'm told I leaped up off the couch, ran over to her, and said, "I know who you are! You're my birth mommy! I was in your tummy, but not where the food goes!"

    Thursday, August 20, 2009

    I've Joined Twitter

    Now I've gone and done it. I have broken an oath I made to myself. I feel dirty. This is so wrong:

    I've joined Twitter.

    I don't plan to use my Twitter account to post personal updates; that's what this blog and my Facebook status updates are for. I set up the account primarily to follow the accounts of friends, good journalists, and admired politicians, though I may also post interesting news items and links to my blog posts at MyDD, Blue Moose Democrat, and Wayward Episcopalian.

    Wednesday, August 19, 2009

    White House holds health care conference call with progressive faith activists

    Earlier today, the progressive organization Faith in Public Life organized and hosted a Blog Talk Radio conference call for thousands of faith activists and leaders to hear from President Obama and White House Domestic Policy Adviser Melody Barnes. The call, named “40 Minutes for Health Reform,” aimed to create a centrally organized faith moment for health care reform over the next forty days at faithforhealth.org. 32 different religious organizations and denominations are co-sponsoring the movement, including, full disclosure, two that I belong to (The Episcopal Church and Sojourners). The broadcast will eventually be available for repeat listening at both Faith for Health and Blog Talk Radio.

    Listeners online and on the phone first heard emotional stories about health insurance and health care from members of faith communities around the country, moved to Barnes’ Q&A, heard from pastors and rabbis about what their congregations are doing to support reform, and concluded with Obama’s speech. Little actual news was created and the specific legislative process was not addressed, though Barnes did say the President continues to support a public option. Obama’s speech focused on correcting misinformation and rallying people around moral themes. He had some pretty good sound bites, including the suggestion that folks like Palin, Beck, and Grassley (not that he named names but you know who he meant) are breaking the Ten Commandments: “I know there’s been a lot of misinformation in this debate, and there are some folks out there who are, frankly, bearing false witness.”

    For a full description of Barnes' Q&A, Obama's speech, and tips on what your congregation can do to help the cause of reform, read my write-up at MyDD.