Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Haiku

Actually, it's a double haiku:  5-5-7-7-5-5.  Still not very sophisticated... just longer.

hard grey sky above 
hard cold ground below
both grim reflections of me
weary of it all, 
 and tired

for a 


And change is in the air... it's in the air!

Do you like what I did with the typography?  It changes... get it?  In the first lines the text is moving across the page, then it changes!  In the last lines the text is going up and down on the page.  It's subtle.  And perhaps not as clever as I intended.  But it IS change.

I wrote this for my colleagues and I who are all growing just a wee bit weary.

But change is in the air.

I have always said, "We live in hope."  But lately I've changed that to be, "We live in the hope we make."  And I've been making hope!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Psalm 116:7

I can't see all that well anyway, but it's worse in the morning.  Earlier is worse.  So there are lots of times that even with my glasses I have difficulty with the readings.  I don't like the magnifier function on the computer and so I just don't use it and that means that sometimes I read a word or two incorrectly.

But sometimes my mistakes (which I usually notice so it's not a big deal) some of the mistakes seem on target to me. 

Like NEST for REST in this morning's Psalm:

   Return, O my soul, to your nest,
          for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you.

So, everybody cuddle up in a nice blanket and find your nest.  Then rest.  You've got all you need. 

That's what this verse says to me.

Also, here's a quick haiku about it:

to snuggle in peace
to breathe and sigh in safety
that is all I need

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Status Update

It has been a nice Saturday morning here in China.

I have been happy to see that the air quality is very good... at least it looks good.  The sky is blue and you can see clouds.  You know I never saw any blue in the sky when I was in Wuxi.  I suspect that being close to the sea has something to do with it.  There is somewhere for the bad air to go.  It gets blown away.

There's a spot in Southern California that's similar to Wuxi in that respect.  I don't remember what they call it, but there's an area between the hills, quite developed, and the smog gets trapped between the hills and you can hardly see!  The sea breezes can't get in to blow the smog away.  So, sometimes we would have a lovely day in Laguna Beach, but my colleagues in this area between the hills wouldn't.

This principle applies in organizations too.  Not regarding air pollution, but regarding complaints... legitimate or not.  If there is no outlet, no means of making a complaint and being heard, then... well, like smog between the hills, it builds up and gets toxic. 

You all can apply that little insight however you see fit.

I got everything done this morning that I wanted to.  By 8:30 I'd done two loads of laundry (folded and put away), I cleaned the bathroom, swept and mopped my floor, fed the insects, watered the plants, made my bed, did some reading, and made toast in my new toaster oven.  Overall not a bad start to the day. 

Since then I've marked some papers.  I did some on-line stuff for one of my classes.  And I've generally looked for excuses to stay in and be a slug. 

Yeah, so that's the report.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Psalm 97

A Psalm of Moshe, reinterpreted:

Let all troubles melt
let them simply go away
Like a wax mountain

I'm your faithless one
In fire, smoke, and clouds you hide
Through the shards I see

Darkly, in pieces
your righteous foundations set
help me see, believe.

Grasshopper Haiku

The way grasshoppers and crickets make that sound -- the clicking, chirping, sing-song sound -- is that they rub their wings together.  On the underside of each wing there are some ridges and the friction between the ridges rubbing together is what makes the sound.  That's how the guy at the insect and bird market explained it to me.  And I can see the transparent wings vibrating, so he must be right.  That's why, if you want a grasshopper with a high-pitched sound, which is more highly valued among collectors, then you want to get one with broad wings.  That's how I picked the one I've got. The one that bites.  Not that I still think about that, the blood pouring forth from the gaping wound... No, I'm over it. 

They are looking for a mate when they sing like that.  So the next time you are out in the great outdoors enjoying the many insect sounds out by the lake -- or wherever you go to enjoy insect sounds -- well, those insects are horny. 

But, anyway, I was watching my grasshopper this morning and thinking about what sweet sounds come from his over-sexed frictive rubbing and I got to feeling all poetic about it.

The Grasshopper Haiku

only by friction
can the sweet music come forth
sing grasshopper sing

Basil of Cesaerea would probably approve.  I like to think so anyway.  I like Basil.

You probably know him as one of the Cappadocian Fathers, a pioneer in communal monasticism, an ardent foe of the Arians, and a liturgist.  (Did you realize that Basil's Divine Liturgy is even longer than John Chrysostom's?  It's hard to believe, I know.) 

But something that I think is less well known is his series of nine sermons about the creation:  The hexameron... and YES, I had to look up how to spell that.  It's a series of nine sermons he preached on the creation.  Basil was into creation.  He said that if we pay attention to nature, we'll probably get around to thinking about who made it all.  That sounds reasonable.

Basil was so into nature that in one of his hexameron sermons he said this:

"...  [all creation] is really the school where reasonable souls exercise themselves, the training ground where they learn to know God; since by the sight of visible and sensible things the mind is led, as by a hand, to the contemplation of invisible things." (1)
And, really, isn't it helpful to have something to look at?  Something visible?  It helps me. 

You want to know who else is into creation and nature?   Bonaventure.  Bonaventure even listed all the attributes of nature that you should meditate on.  I think there are eleven of them.  John Calvin was so into it that he used it as his proof for God's existence.  He proclaimed that you should be able to tell that there's a God just by looking around, for crying out loud. 

See, it's not just the "spiritual but not religious" who find God in the sunset or a giant oak.  Or a grasshopper.  There are some veritable heavy-hitters who feel the same way about sunrise in a fishing boat. 

Francis Bacon said:
"God has, in fact, written two books, not just one.  Of course, we are all familiar with the first book he wrote, namely Scripture.  But he has written a second book called creation." (2) 
So the next time you hear the almighty Lillian Daniel going on about how you can't prove the existence of God by looking at a sunset, just look at her and say, "Bitch, who you think you are?  Immanuel Kant?"  Nobody is making the ontological argument.  We are just saying that there's merit in observing and entering into the life of nature.  It teaches us to notice things, to pay attention, to be quiet. 

See, Kant (and Lillian Daniel)  forgot something.  They forgot that people have their heart and their treasure in the same place.  And if God is your treasure then you are going to see God everywhere.  When someone tells me that they find God in sunsets and on their toast, then I think "Hallelujah... thank ya Geasus."  Because that is a person who can see God just about anywhere.  They may be a little weird (toast) but I know where their treasure is.  

 You can get Jesus on your toast too!  Less than fifty bucks on Ebay.  

Where Immanuel and Lillian differ is that Kant actually did make a moral argument for the existence of God.  Lillian Dainel...? Not too sure.  I think she has some blog posts or something. 

So, anyway, just let nature speak to you and take joy in horny insect sounds.  That's as good and spiritual and Christian as anything else.  And I hope you liked the haiku. 

Sorry I went off on Lillian Daniel.
OK, not really.


1 -  Bacon, Francis. The Advancement of Learning,. Eugene, Ore.: Oregon Renascence Editions, 199.

2 -  Translated by Blomfield Jackson. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 8. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1895.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <>.

You can read the entire text of Basil's sermons on the hexaemeron here.

If you want to see some pictures of Jesus and his mother on various food items, go here

If you're interested to know why Jesus doesn't show up on your food, go here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Morning Prayer

Things aren't going that well at the new job.  FYI.

Psalm 143

1   Hear my prayer, O LORD;
          Sometimes I wonder if you are really listening.  I hope you are.  I really do because I need some  
          help.  And I am sorry if that is faithless.  I am.  But sometimes I do wonder.  I can't see you or hear
          you... it's hard for me.
          You are more faithful than I am; so please listen.
          Please answer me in your righteousness.
2   And don't judge me too harshly,
          I know I've made mistakes.  You know it.  It's not a secret.  But, nobody living on this earth is
          righteous before you.  So, help me out.

3   For my boss and those guys upstairs are bullying me,
          they are crushing the life right out of me,
          I don't even know why I'm here.  I'd might as well be dead because I am not doing anything here.
4   You know how I'm feeling about all that, how it hurts my heart and my spirit is getting weak within me;
          I am actually appalled  by their bad behaviour.  Appalled.  They'd be in trouble if they did this in the   
          USA you know. My mind might be wondering.  It does that, you know.

5   Look, I remember the good old days,  Lord
          I think about all the great things you've done for me:
          teching me to read your books, to hear your saints, to love a little bit more           
          I think about that a lot and.
6   I stretch out my hands to you;
          my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.
          I miss the good old days                   Selah

7   Answer me quickly, O LORD;
          you know othe clock is ticking on this thing.
          I need quick action, before
          my spirit fails even more and before the deadline.
     Keep watching out for me,
          or I shall be like those whose lives don't mean anything.
8   Let me hear of your steadfast love in the morning,
          for in you I put my trust. I belong to you, so help me.
     Teach me the way I should go, I'm not sure what to do so you're going to have to be clearer.  You know
         you have to be clear with me.  I try to be all intuitive and spiritual, but you really have to spell it out for
         me.  You know how I am..  I lift up my soul to you.

9   Save me, O LORD, from those people... they are so mean!
          I have fled to you for refuge because... well, you know.
10  Teach me to do your will,
          for you are my God. So help me.
     Let your good spirit lead me
          on a level path.

11  For your name’s sake, O LORD, preserve my life.
          In your righteousness bring me out of this place.
12  In your steadfast love cut those guys down to size.  Make them quit bullying us!
          destroy them... I don't care.  Just get them out of my life,
          Help me
          for I am your servant.
          So help me.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Oh, the things I know...

Did you know that Mt. Everest gets about two inches taller every year?  It does.  In fact, it is about eight feet taller today than when  Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay first climbed it.  

Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay at the summit

I am in possession of this arcane knowledge because I had to teach it this week.  You never learn something so well as when you teach it.

So, one of my students said that it might be a big mountain but all you have to do to climb it is to keep walking.  I doubt that's true.  I mean, at the summit of Everest there is only about 33 percent as much oxygen as at sea level.  So that would seem to indicate that there might be more to it than to just keep walking. But, in the main, my student might be on to something.

There are mountains, but I wonder how much of overcoming is to just keep going. Every day, one foot in front of the other.  We read the readings, say the prayers, hope that it all means something.  Everyday, the summit obscured, we keep walking.

(Photo by AP)

Oh, God...

I belong to you
like fish belong to water
Only, I can't swim

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Psalm 103

I have a confession to make. 
Are you ready?
I believe, in my heart of hearts, that if someone is tapping on their mobile phone, I am at liberty to cut in line in front of them.  Or knock them over.  Either or both.  That's a belief I hold and even though it's not particularly Christ-like I have been unable, as well as unwilling, to convince myself otherwise.  

Sometimes I feel bad about this.  Sometimes I do not, and I feel bad about that too.  Because I should.  You know... 

But, I have been reading Psalm 103 a lot lately, and that kind of helps me. 

We don't have much of an internet here in China.  I mean, sometimes we do.  And, when we do, it's pretty good.  I have a good VPN and I can surf the web with an IP address from anywhere in the world.  But you have to have the internet to have a VPN.  And sometimes we don't have that. 

The upshot is that I can't always get to the RCL when I want to and I have wound up reading the readings for July 13 a  lot more often than I would have otherwise.  That's what is somehow cached.  The Psalm for July 13 is 103 which is one of the better ones.  That's just my opinion, of course.  But, it is pretty good.  And that's how I came to read it so often.

I have gotten to where I especially look forward to verse 14. The writer has just said how our sins are put far from us, and God is compassionate towards us.  Then he says, "God knows... God knows how you are."

OK.  That may be my own private paraphrase, but it's true.

God knows how you are:  How you have that little bit of bitterness left over from long ago, that secret fear of yours, the daily challenges that you think you're papering over.  God knows.  Get over your bad self, God knows already.  God forgives.  Lots.

You want to cut in line, knock people over, secretly think you're better than them?  God is not at all surprised.  God knows how you are, after all.  God forgives.  Lots.

God is not surprised when you have one of those little outbursts... God knows how you are, after all.  God forgives.  Lots.

God is not surprised by your besetting sins, your inattention in prayer, your wandering mind... God knows how you are, after all.  God forgives.  Lots.

God already knows that you did that thing, had those thoughts, said those words, didn't do that thing, or wish for certain irritating people to just vanish.  It's not a surprise.  God knows how you are, after all.  God forgives.  Lots. 

That comforts me.  That God knows already... God knows how I am.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A Haiku For Sukkot

It is odd to me that a sukkah is supposed to remind of us of living on the road, of not having a real home.  But here I am, far from home, and I can't get a sukkah built.  How did that happen? 

Anyway, I love Sukkas.  I like the big old sukkah my buddy Ruth used to build and how she would invite us all over to shake the lulav and eat some nuts in there.  And there was a lot of talking and stuff like that.  Mainly stuff like that.

Remember that time I wrote a blog post on the date palm, the myrtle, and the willow?  Yeah, that was a good post.  In case you've forgotten, there are a couple meanings ascribed to all the stuff in the lulav, plus the etrog.  Don't forget the etrog.  But, one of the most popular interpretations is that the etrog and the lulav are  like certain kinds of Jews:

The etrog, which has taste and scent... oh, how nice they smell... that is like a good Jew who has both good works and a lot of learning.  In other words, a smart cookie who walks the talk.

The date palm has taste, but no scent.  Seriously, you can't smell anything at all from it.  So that's like a smart woman who doesn't put any of her learning into practice. 

The myrtle is just the opposite, it has a nice scent, but don't eat it because it doesn't taste like anything.  That's like a Jew who maybe does some mitzvot or something, but there's no learning behind it.

Finally, you have the willow.  Now, the willow is kind of interesting.  It has no taste and no smell.  But somehow it is still in the lulav.  I think the willow can teach us a lot about who is in and who is out in the Good Jew category... or maybe some other categories too.  It offers nothing.  Nothing at all.  But, even the date palm and the myrtle together don't merit a blessing without it.  Even the useless willow is important.  There's a thought for sukkot!

And here's my haiku:

Blood moon ushers you in
Leaves fall and wind crisps
Sukkah shelter me!

You can find all the Bible business on that in Leviticus 23:40, btw.  I looked it up.  Yes!  I have a Bible.  Shesh...

Blogging Again

I'm not going to sugar coat this... This blog is about me. 
It's not about you.  It's about me.  It's not about the gays, the Episcopalians, the expats or anybody else.  Just me.  Just so you know.

I might want to write something important.  More likely I will just give little synopsis of my days and the occasional haiku.  But I sort of yen for a place on the web again.  Truth is, I miss the old blogging days.  Remember how we used to click over to one another's blogs and read entire sentences?  Some radicals even used punctuation.

I am not saying that I'll go THAT far, but I might want to write again.  We'll just have to see how it goes.