Saturday, December 31, 2011

In Case You Missed Them: 10 Blog Posts From 2011 (This Blog)

Blogger has been generating counts of page views and comments for who knows what reason, and since this is a non-profit blog, the data is of no particular use to me, but for fun I have listed the top ten posts from 2011 (just in case you missed them). Page view count rank appears to be affected more by keywords in the title (which explains #1) or images with the exception of #2 "We Need to Talk, You Must Listen" which was linked at the popular "StandFirm in Faith" site.

Comment counts are affected by comment moderation (currently turned on), my comments, follow ups, and if the post has been cross posted elsewhere in which case comments might appear at the other site.

If I were to rank my personal top posts, I would go for things that I had the most fun with, and in that case "We Need to Talk, You Must Listen" would be #1.

FWIW here is what Blogger came up with:

Top 10 for page views

1. The Rapture Predicted For May 21, 2011
2. We Need to Talk, You Must Listen
3. Canon to the Left of Me
4. The Road to Sainthood 
5. Why My Mother Would Have Cancelled My Subscription to the Episcopal Church Publishing Catalog
6. Now This is How You Settle a Church Dispute
7. Your Pledge Dollars at Work: The Episcopal Church Socialist League
8. First Theological Council For Upper SC
9. Theological Principles? on Liturgies for Blessing  Same Sex Couples
10. Solstice Liturgies, Chasing away Dragons, Werewolves, Dragons, and Christians

Top 10 for comments:

1. Reflections from the First Theological Council of  Upper SC
2. Why My Mother Would Have Cancelled My Subscription to the Episcopal Church Publishing Catalog
3. What Would the Resurrection Be Without the Ascension
4. The Road to Sainthood
5. First Theological Council For Upper SC
6. More Druids In Upper SC
7. Kanuga Gives Me the Kreeps
8. We Need to Talk, You Must Listen
9. Canon to the Left of Me
10. (Tie) The Rapture Predicted For May 21, 2011
                SCLM: You Get What You Voted For

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Don't Throw Out That Old Computer, Make a Roboband!

Many of you may have gotten a new computer or some other form of electronic gizmo for Christmas. If you are like me, you have a collection of old computers, printers, cables, hard drives, floppy disks, and assorted computer parts laying around somewhere. In researching last week's post "Solstice Liturgies, Chasing away Dragons, Werewolves, Darkness, and Christians," I was checking out YouTube versions of "The House of the Rising Sun." and came across this unique version which shows just what you can do with all that old equipment.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Shopping: A Journey Through the Amazon (.com that is)

After our Thanksgiving travel debacle, I  resolved to reduce my driving during this the holiday season.
This year I entered the electronic jungle instead of going to the mega-mall in search of the perfect gift.

As it turned out, I discovered that online shopping is a trip in itself.

You would be surprised at what is out there. Here are some examples of the high quality items I was exposed to (warning, not all of these are suitable for children or liberal Democrats):

How about the perfect morning pick me up?


Toilet Mug (and that is not a description of anyone's visage)

Yodelling Pickle (Are you sick and tired of trying to teach your pickles to yodel? Pickles can be so stubborn)

Canned Unicorn Meat (Excellent source of sparkles!)

Bill Clinton Corkscrew (Pop your cork with Bill Clinton's generous talent)

Senility Prayer Stoneware Plaque Ornament (Grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked.)

Sippie Wine Glass (A great gift for ageing wine drinkers)

The Hillary Nutcracker (The perfect partner for the Bill Clinton Corkscrew)

Genuine Squirrel Underpants (Squirrel Briefs For squirrely lawyers?)

Girl Squirrel Underpants (We don't discriminate when it comes to squirrels)

Runny Nose Soap Shower Gel Dispenser (Ugh)

And last but not least,

Nunzilla (Say your prayers, Catholic school survivors!)

Now get back to your lessons or I will sic Nunzilla on you!


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Solstice Liturgies, Chasing away Dragons, Werewolves, Darkness, and Christians

"Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. 
     I am afraid of you, 
lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain." Galatians 4:10-11 (KJV).

St. Paul's words to the Galatians might come to mind, silently echoing in your head as you read today's post.

It is becoming quite fashionable for churches to host or to sponsor celebrations of the various equinoxes and solstices, and in spite of the ancient warnings, these "liturgies" appear to be spreading. I had been trying to forget the spring equinox service and the summer solstice worship held at an Episcopal church in Columbia earlier this year, but a friend recently sent an e-mail about the winter solstice goings on in their diocese. Intrigued, I did a quick search and turned up a number of these services of which I give to you as a sampler.

First we have, Chasing Away the Dragons of Darkness from: St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, Casper (Wyoming) by: The Rev. Canon Tristan English

St. Stephen's announces plans for Annual Chasing Away the Draghons of Darkness liturgy. St. Stephens Episcopal church, along with St. Matthew's Episcopal Church in Fairbanks, Alaska, will hold it's annual Service to Chase Away the Dragons of Darkness on Dec. 21st at 7 p.m.

The service will include a short liturgy and then we will go outside to bang pots and pans, ring bells, and toot horns to chase away the darkness of winter. Dec. 21st is the winter solstice and is the longest night of the year. A reception of warm beverages and treats will follow. St. Stephen's is located at 4700 S. Poplar St. in Casper.
Banging pots and pans is supposed to scare away bears, not the darkness. The only banging you might hear if you read further is the sound of my head banging against the wall. For a "thinking church" that might object to the very idea of a God capable of stopping the day to think that banging metallic kitchen utensils can cause the sun to change its course is a little amusing. If only banging pots and pans could change the direction the church is taking.

Next we find Saint Anne's Episcopal Church (MN),
Winter Solstice Celebration Wednesday, December 21, 7:00 pm
Honoring the darkness, welcoming the light A service of readings, singing, silence and lots of candles Followed by a bonfire and walking the labyrinth.
Honor the darkness???? Is this a Christian church?

And you can't forget the grandaddy of them all, The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine NYC Dec 15, 16, 17 2011

The first time I played in the Cathedral, it was empty and dark. I had come to New York that evening in 1979 to try the acoustics of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Playing to myself, I listened as each note resounded through the 7-second reverberation of this vast and cavernous space. It was like playing in heaven. A year later the Cathedral hosted our first winter solstice. Over these 30 years, the event has evolved into a theatrical celebration that inhabits the entirety of this great space. Of all the places I’ve played in America, only two could host a concert on this scale: the Grand Canyon, and this Cathedral.

This year, our 32nd annual show, will feature a special program by the dynamic Forces of Nature Dancers, as well as other special guest musicians. For me this solstice celebration is an ever-renewing thrill — whether watching the sun gong ascend 12 stories with its player to the vault of the Cathedral; or hearing the “tree of sounds” as it slowly turns, reflecting a myriad of lights from its hundreds of bells, gongs and chimes.

Please join us as we celebrate the return of the sun. We celebrate not only the rebirth of the sun, but the community of life on earth.
Talk about the house of the rising sun! Bow down before the Sun Gong, New Yorkers!

Not to be left out, here in South Carolina, the druids are busy at work once again for the "Winter Solstice Service" Thursday, December 22, 2011 5:30pm Outdoor Chapel St. Michael and All Angels'Episcopal Church Columbia SC

And don't forget the kiddies, they must be initiated into these sacred rites. Leave it to the Diocese of Mississippi Grace Church-Canton to rename the Christmas season,
Winter Solstice 8 days from now December 27, 2011 5:00 pm until January 1, 2012 12:00 pm Camp Bratton Green, 1530 Way Rd., Canton, MS 39046 Come enjoy camp in the winter! Winter Solstice is open to Senior High youth (grades 9-12). This is a camp week in mid-winter with songs, play and a big New Year’s Eve Dance to celebrate the New Year. This camp provides a safe place for youth on New Year’s Eve. Campers arrive on December 27th and depart on New Year’s Day.

This last one may not be part of the solstice celebration but still takes the prize. This comes to you from St. Alban's Episcopal Church - Albany, CA

 Sunday, January 29, 2012, 7:00 pm St. Alban’s Episcopal Church 1501 Washington Ave., Albany

Lycanthropos: The Werewolf in Story and Song
Tim Rayborn presents an eerie look into the enduring fear of werewolves, a belief which induced terror on moonlit nights from the Middle East to the Balkans, from Italy to Ireland. In music and story, he will perform tales of shape-shifters from Greek and Roman sources, the Lai of Bisclaveret by Marie de France (late 12th c.), the Icelandic Volsunga Saga, the frightening true stories of Peter Stumpf (16th-c. Germany), the Beast of Le Gevaudan (18th-c. France), and more

Just shoot me with a silver bullet will ya.

And for fun, check out what the Unitarians are up to,

Wednesday, December 21, 7 pm A Solstice Spiral Meditation in our Parish Hall (Join us at 6 pm if you’d like to help build the spiral – bring some greens if you have them) In a circle of 25 to 40 people, we will each meditatively walk the spiral with an unlit candle while savoring and perhaps letting go the year’s experiences, light the candle from the chalice, and lay it somewhere along the spiral as we return to welcome the coming year. Unitarian Universalist Society of Fairhaven Unitarian Memorial Church 102 Green Street, Fairhaven, MA.

I respect the honest uncertainty of the Unitarians; they are just not sure where along the spiral to lay those candles.

I might worry more if they were as certain as the above mentioned Episcopal churches appear to be of the power of labyrinths and solstices.

How easily we are led astray by these false teachers who gamble with our souls.
"If I had listened to what mama said,
I'd be at home today,
but being so young and foolish poor girl,
let a gambler lead me astray..." House of Rising Sun (1937) - Georgia Turner

Sunday, December 18, 2011

How Not to Prepare the Way

I thought Advent was about preparing the way for Christ to enter the world, and today in church we did read about the Annunciation in Luke 1:26-38.

 One important Standing Commission of the Episcopal church however, believes Advent is about preparing for same sex blessings. This is what they wrote,

"In this season of Advent when we are to be preparing for Christ’s coming, we invite you to reflect upon your own experience of 'being prepared.' How were you prepared for a marriage or for a blessing? What preparation or counseling did you receive? What do you remember, whether it was 1 month ago or 25 years ago – what sticks with you? Or if you are someone who prepares couples, what is most important to you? What works or does not work, so to speak?
Later this spring the full SCLM report will be published for General Convention and the recommended resources will be part of that report. However, we invite you to engage now with your own experiences preparing for either same- or different-gender life-long relationships."
Over at T-19, the following picture was shown and reported as having made the rounds in TEc circles (although not to this corner of the circle) ,

This is sick folks. A plague has come upon this house.
"And he that owneth the house shall come and tell the priest, saying, It seemeth to me there is as it were a plague in the house:" Leviticus 14:35
The priest will come and judge this house. If the signs of plague have not gone away, this house shall be torn down and its blocks scattered.
 ‘Why have you not built me a house of cedar?’ 2 Samuel 7:7
 We are building a house with walls of flesh upon a foundation of human desire. Such a house makes us feel good, but such a house cannot stand.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Post Thanksgiving Travelling Blues, Or Why I'll Be Home For Christmas

This year we made the trek over the mountain to grandma's house for Thanksgiving. I hate travelling during holidays for the simple reason that everybody else who hates travelling during holidays is... you guessed it,  travelling. This results in lengthy traffic jams packed with  not so cheerful holiday travellers. The combination of loads of vehicles loaded with battling adults and children, or as I witnessed, couples attempting public displays of affection while driving, leads to the inevitable accident.

Due to two separate incidents both of which closed the interstate system completely (in both directions), our usual post Thanksgiving 4.5 hour trip home took a record 7.5 hours this year. I (for one) remained peaceful and calm throughout the time parked on the highway, and I took time to pray for the accident victims, their families, and the brave helicopter pilot who had to land close to a steep downhill grade in order to save the victim in accident #2. I also gave thanks to God for protecting us and for bringing us safely home. The long delay wasn't all that bad; we were even able to stop for dinner at our favorite BBQ place in Gaffney, SC which I would not have done if we had not been so delayed.

Incident 1:                  Note the absence of traffic in the opposite side of the interstate.

Incident 2:                       At the Green River Gorge on I-26.  The sign wasn't kidding.

I have vowed to stay home for Christmas, and next Thanksgiving too.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Recommended Advent Message From +Dan Martins

One thing that helped me to recover from last week's pain from the "Birthing the Christ Within" was the Advent message from Fr. Dan, who is now +Dan Martins the 11th Bishop of Springfield. Here is a taste:
...To accept limitless diversity in what we say about God is tantamount to accepting belief in many gods. It is latter-day polytheism.

...The God whom Christians worship is Triune: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is a far cry from the generic God that our culture approves of. We would never have invented a God like this; we only know Him because He has chosen to reveal Himself to us.

One of my sad observations about the Church in these times is that we have a tendency to reduce Christian faith to the lowest common denominator. For many people I meet—and I’m not talking about people off the street, but people I met in my role as a priest, and even now as a bishop—their religion can be summarized as “believe in God and be good.” That’s not enough! That’s settling for way less than the fullness of Christian truth. We have become disconnected from our own tradition, our own inheritance.

Read it all at Confessions of a Carioca

“Believe in God and be good,” now isn't that something that you have heard before? Yes, that can be the first step to believing in many gods.

How many are afraid to say, "Jesus is Lord!"?

I am glad to see an Episcopal bishop call that out.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Birthing the Christ Within: An Opportunity to Awaken the Seven Charism Centers Within You

I understand that there are a number of different ways to pray, as well as a variety of aids to prayer. Where do we look to discover those things that might help make us a more prayerful people? I would think that we should turn to scripture for clues. Jesus would go off alone, or to a mountain, or would commend us to gather together as two or three to pray to our Father. Singing hymns or songs, or praising God with music might be another example that we can have confidence in, but we have to be very careful when examining novel prayer practices to ensure that they are Christ centered and do not contain elements that might tempt ourselves or lead others to follow a false teaching. Most of the time, you can easily spot the danger before you test the practice, but what if the practice is endorsed by the Church?

The following announcement came in our recent Diocesan e-mail newsletter, and be forewarned, you can't make this stuff up.
An advent reflection through sacred sound and Silence

Sunday, December 11, 2011
1:00- 4:00 pm
St. Timothy”s Episcopal Church
900 Calhoun Street, Columbia
Please call to register: 765-1519

Pamila Lorentz MSW, RN, LMBT, an ordained peace minister of The Beloved Community and Sound Healing Therapist, will facilitate a three hour advent workshop inspired by Isaiah 43:1 “I have called You by Name…You are mine” . This workshop will guide you in learning sound healing techniques to respond to God’s call to each of us, for the preparation and re-birthing of the Christ Consciousness within.

Through enhanced listening to the harmonic tones of traditional tibetan and crystal singing bowls; you will have an opportunity to open the seven charism centers contained within your physical and spiritual body. Each center, or chakra, reveals a gift that will deepen your understanding and relationship with Soul.

In this workshop you will learn:

How to Create a Heart Resonant Field
How to Awaken the Gifts of Soul You Were Born With
How to Claim the 7 Charisms Contained Within You

Rev. Tula Henson RN, BSN, BHA, MDiv. will lead a guided meditation for “Birthing the Christ Within”. This will be followed by a period of silence when you will be invited to visit the sanctuary, journal or create a soul collage to take home with you.

In order to experience the full vibration of the singing bowls, it is recommended that you dress comfortably for lying on the floor. You may want to bring a sweater or shawl to wrap yourself in, and a towel, blanket, or yoga mat to lie on, with a small towel or scarf to cover your eyes with. Please bring a journal or notebook for notes. Water, tea and coffee will be provided.

Your gift of a donation is welcomed.

Singing bowls?


Midwives in the nativity scene?

Endorsed by the Diocese?

Would someone please provide me with a scriptural reference.

This sounds like somebody trying to put a Christian cover on a non-christian practice, and if you are willing to buy it, I have a genuine Ralex watch I would like to sell you.

(I saw this outside a market in Turkey)

If you are still not convinced, don't go, because you can skip the class at St. Timothy's, and get your heart into resonance with the crystal bowls by listening to the video below,

(WARNING: According to the narration, this may open up a resonant center near your unmentionable areas.)

Could someone please forward this to the person who is supposed to be shepherding their priests?

Sunday, December 04, 2011

The Absence of Fear in Lectionary Readings

In studying the lectionary edits, this lowly pewster has noticed a tendency for the editors to cut verses from the psalms that teach us about God's judgement, wrath, or anger, and instead teach us about God's love for his people. I have concluded that a steady diet of this is not healthy for the average pewsitter whose only exposure to the Psalms is what he/she hears a couple of Sundays a month.

 Today's readings contain a perfect example of the kind of verse that gets left on the cutting room floor. 

Today's Psalm was Psalm 85:1-2,8-13. Read it and consider its effect as edited.
1 Lord, you were favourable to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
2 You forgave the iniquity of your people;
you pardoned all their sin. Selah

8 Let me hear what God the Lord will speak,
for he will speak peace to his people,
to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.
9 Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.

10 Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;
righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
11 Faithfulness will spring up from the ground,
and righteousness will look down from the sky.

12 The Lord will give what is good,
and our land will yield its increase.
13 Righteousness will go before him,
and will make a path for his steps.
I am left with a warm and fuzzy feeling except for the problematic verse 9,
"Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him,".
Why should I fear Him? Certainly nothing in the selected verses would give me any cause to fear God. The psalmist knew better; read the full text of Psalm 85 (I have highlighted the missing verses).
1 Lord, you were favourable to your land;
you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
2 You forgave the iniquity of your people;
you pardoned all their sin. Selah

3 You withdrew all your wrath;
you turned from your hot anger.
4 Restore us again, O God of our salvation,
and put away your indignation towards us.

5 Will you be angry with us for ever?
Will you prolong your anger to all generations?
6 Will you not revive us again,
so that your people may rejoice in you?
7 Show us your steadfast love, O Lord,
and grant us your salvation.

8 Let me hear what God the Lord will speak,
for he will speak peace to his people,
to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.
9 Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.

10 Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;
righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
11 Faithfulness will spring up from the ground,
and righteousness will look down from the sky.

12 The Lord will give what is good,
and our land will yield its increase.
13 Righteousness will go before him,
and will make a path for his steps.
I wonder if the subliminal message being conveyed to the typical Sunday morning pewsitter, "We have no need to fear the Lord," is contributing to the decline of churches that use these Lectionary selections? After all, what is the beginning of wisdom?

Stumped? Try,
Psalm 111:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.

Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 9:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.

Proverbs 15:33 The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility.

Funny how, on a Sunday where we hear about John the Baptist's cry for repentance, we are left to wonder why we should repent in the first place.