Monday, May 28, 2007

Sin of War

Our family watched the annual Memorial Day concert in Washington DC last night on TV. Each year since the beginning of the Iraq War, it has become harder and harder for me to watch this. I now cry through most of it, and so does Beloved Husband. Our girls watched it with us this year and our 12 year old daughter cried too. Too many young lives maimed and killed in a war which is eerily reminiscent of my childhood.

In 1965, satirist and mathematician Tom Lehrer released his album That Was The Year That Was with a song entitled Send the Marines. He introduced the song as follows:

"What with President Johnson practicing 'escalatio' on the Vietnamese and then the Dominican crisis on top of that it has been a nervous year and people have begun to feel like a Christian Scientist with an appendicitis. Fortunately in times of crisis just like this, America always has this number one instrument of diplomacy to fall back on."
Sadly, things haven't changed much, have they? Once again, our military is paying the awful price for our national diplomatic policy failures. Our volunteer military, a specialized fighting machine drawn from a limited population, keeps most of America from having to feel the sting of losing sons and daughters in battle.

As a nation, we have not universally sacrificed anything for this war. We whine about $3 a gallon gasoline but still fill up our SUVs at the pump. Compared to the rationing of food and goods in WWII which affected every American, we are sacrificing nothing. A few families have tragically sacrificed their sons and daughters and it is for them that I grieve.

In his book People of the Lie, Dr. M. Scott Peck talks about the evil of groups in his examination of the MyLai Massacre during the Vietnam War. It's a great book and I highly recommend it for people who argue that evil is some abstract idea. This book was written in 1983, and he prophetically wrote about the dangers of an all volunteer military as follows (my emphasis added):

Abandoning the concept of the citizen soldier in favor of the mercenary, we have placed ourselves in great jeopardy. Twenty years from now, when Vietnam has been largely forgotten, how easy it will be, with volunteers, to once again become involved in little foreign adventures. Such adventures will keep our military on its toes, provide it will real-life war games to test its prowess, and need not hurt or involve the average American citizen at all until it is too late.
1983 + 20 years = 2003 ... the year we attacked Iraq based on lies told to us by our president and government. In the same way, President Johnson lied to the American people about the attack on the Gulf of Tonkin (which never happened) justifying his "escalatio" on the Vietnamese and costing our country over 58,000 lives.

Things haven't changed.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The hard ones

There are always parts of ministry that are just plain ol' hard. For me, preaching, teaching, and liturgy are where I live and move and find my being. God gave me gifts and I hope, by God's grace, I'm using them to God's glory and the benefit of God's creation.

But sometimes it's just plain hard. Yesterday, I officiated at my first "solo" memorial service. One of my husband's former co-workers lost his wife to breast cancer last week. Bob and Cheryl were one of the first couples I met when I moved to Maryland 19 years ago. In the days BC (before children), the four of us would get together pretty regularly. Informal "get togethers" just seemed to happen with them. We'd get there ... then some neighbors would stop by ... then some food and wine came out ... and next thing ya know we'd have a party going on. Cheryl loved life and lived it fully.

Our lives together grew apart over time. Bob retired from the company where he and Beloved Husband worked together. We moved a bit farther away and had children which consumed our free time. We stayed in touch at Christmas with cards and newsletters.

Three weeks ago, after having some breathing difficulty, Cheryl was diagnosed with stage 4 metasticized breast cancer which had invaded her lungs. She went to the hospital immediately and spent the last 17 days of her life on a ventilator. She was upbeat and positive right up to the end. She went to sleep on Tuesday night in the ICU and did not wake up. She was 58 years old.

As a gift to an old friend, I officiated at her memorial service. I've done funerals before, but this was personal ... and very hard. Only by grace and the prayers of many who knew where I was in that moment did I not break down and lose it. My heart was racing ... I think God cranked the adrenaline to keep me going. Afterwards, to help Bob with logistics, I took possession of Cheryl's cremains, the legal documents, the guest book and the cards. I'll take them to Bob tomorrow. But just for today, Cheryl is with me at our house.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Life really is like a box of chocolates...

I never really understood the hoopla about the movie Forrest Gump. It seemed like a Tom Hanks rehash of Peter Sellers in Being There to me. But that "Life is like a box of chocolates" phrase has some traction. God always has something in the box to surprise you.

I just graduated last Friday from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg with my Masters of Divinity degree. I guess the reason I'm blogging right now is because I feel like I should be writing a paper or something ... I'm sure I'll get over that. The graduation was great, the best part of it was having my husband, children, parents and two of my close dear clergy friends there. When I opened up the program, though, I saw my name listed under Senior Honors for New Testament studies. That totally caught me off guard! It certainly was a surprise to learn that our faculty nominated me for this honor ... quite humbling in fact! Guess I'll have to keep up with the Greek now to walk the talk!

Yesterday, my husband and I spent the day at the America's Cup polo match in Leesburg VA. Now I grew up in California and the areas I lived in weren't known for horses or horse events, so this isn't part of my history. But, beloved husband's company cosponsored the America's Cup, so off we went to the polo match. We had a good time and I had the chance to not only see beloved's boss, who is from England and helped me understand all this polo stuff, but also got to meet the boss's "mum" who was over for a visit. Turns out, boss is from Canterbury - the closest thing we Anglican's have to Rome. Mum insisted that we visit her in Canterbury and we told her we wanted to go there. She quite "matter-of-factly" told my husband, "Splendid! And when you come I'll introduce you to the Archbishop." HUH?! Seems she works with the Archbishop of Canterbury and, if he's in town, she'd like to introduce us. Stay tuned ... could be a Forrest Gump moment ...

And now it's Mother's Day and I spent the morning worshiping with the mission congregation I've been appointed to serve. It was good, they are a very caring group, and I'm so blessed to be going there. God is good ... all the time. We're off to go visit my mom and dad in a few minutes, not only to celebrate Mother's Day, but also to celebrate Dad's 70th birthday. Carpe diem.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Goading the rhino

I had the great fortune of sitting next to Chip Lee+ at our diocesan convention this weekend. I can't speculate on whether he feels the same about sitting next to me or not, but that's not my issue. Chip+ has been in Western Maryland's Garrett County for many years and is one of our more technical clerics. He designed the web page for the county (see Episcopal Church in Garrett County) and has a sound studio in his home where he records both Morning and Evening Prayer (available through aforementioned web site). He's a true "idoloclast" - smashing the vestiges of idols where 'ere he goes. Oh yeah, and he won the Bishop's Award for Outstanding Clergy Leadership.

Chip+ gave me the gift of laughter this weekend and a great saying, which he claims is overused, but I beg to differ. I'd like to think it's ubiquitous ... kinda like the "right hand of God" ... but not that reverent. His saying is an observation about the Church:
Challenging the Church is like goading a Rhino. Getting it pissed off is the easy part. Getting it to change direction once it's charging is another thing altogether.
As I learned this weekend, goading a rhino doesn't even take any special talents. Any pastor or priest can goad the rhino without even knowing they are doing it. I haven't even arrived at my first call yet and it seems I've already done it ... even though I didn't know it. After many phone calls later to sooth raw nerves and calm down the flurry of e-mails which have made it look like World War III is about to erupt in cyberspace, I think the rhino stopped charging ... I think ... maybe ... maybe it's just turning around to see where I'm hiding. Oy!