July 22, 2006

Very hot and extremely muggy today in Westford, Massachusetts. There were thunderstorms rumbling south of us but we played mostly in hot and hazy sunshine. For those who are interested, here are the results following first round play (parenthesis indicates score against designated strokes allotment):

1. El Dandito: 81 (-9)
2. Killer: 78 (-5)
3. Doggy Duval: 95 (-4)
4. Goose 93 (Even)
5. The Funny Guy: 97 (+5)
6. Kernel Klink: 105 (+6)
7. The Great White Shank: 115 (+9)
8. Cubby: 118 (+12)

Why such a poor score for The Great White Shank, you ask? Basically, a combination of an erratic tee game and some poor course management. Tomorrow is moving day at The Overlook G.C. in Hollis, NH, however, and my feeling is you’ll see The Great White Shank begin to creep his way up the leaderboard. If not, that’s OK – the beer is cold, there’s been a lot of yuks, and everyone is having a good time, which, in the end, is all that counts.

Filed in: Goodboys by The Great White Shank at 01:57 | Comments (0)
July 21, 2006

The 16th annual Goodboys Invitational Golf Tournament starts later today at Butter Brook G.C in Carlisle, MA, with the remaining rounds being played tomorrow at The Overlook G.C. in Hollis, NH and at Green Meadow G.C. “Jungle Course” in Hudson, NH on Sunday.

Unlike previous years, when teams were selected and the focus was on “partnering” your way to real success, this year’s event will focus on individual play. This puts those Goodboys occasionally (or regularly) subjected to inexactitude when it comes to aim and distance in their golf games in a very dicey way, indeed. This year, when things go wrong, you can’t blame your partner or his game, it’s look in the mirror time, dude. So, while tropical storm Beryl slides right over where the Goodboys would typically play but are not this year (showing their uncanny ability to read the tea leaves and the weather gods), each Goodboy will be asleep in their bed knowing that success or failure this weekend rides on them and only them.

Here’s how this not-so-unbiased observer sees the event playing out; it also gives everyone out there a chance to, in a sort of distanced fashion, meet the Goodboys themselves:

Years on Tour: 12 (1994-present)
Prior Aliases: Dandy
Championships: 4 (1994, 1997, 2000, 2002)

It is generally recognized that in the world of golf there are two kinds of players: technical players, who approach every aspect of the game scientifically and deliberately (Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods come to mind), and feel players, who approach the game from a more physical and emotional angle, like John Daly and Greg Norman. There’s no right way or wrong way here – the only goal is to do whatever-it-takes to put that itty-bitty little white ball in a slightly-larger hole, and take as few strokes as possible to do it. I say this only because with El Dandito, we’re talking about a techie golfer to the nth degree: every thought, shot, and motion is carefully calculated, every address and set-up regimented, to achieve only the maximum results. My guess is that, playing without the limitations of partners who couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn with a hooded 4-iron, he will both exploit and excel in this kind of individual format.

Years on Tour: 8 (1998-present)
Prior Aliases: High Wire
Championships: 0

Goose is one of the nicest gents you’ll ever meet in Goodboys Nation. Dude garnered his current nickname when one of his drives once nicked a lounging Canada Goose at a charity event. (Good thing, too – his original “High Wire” nickname was pretty lame, if I do say so myself.) When Goose struggles, it’s usually off the tee, as his iron play and short game are rock-solid dependable. Given that Goose has the longest tenure of any player in this year’s event never to have won a Goodboys Invitational, he’s most people’s sentimental choice. Unfortunately, I think El Dandito will play the role of spoiler.

Years on Tour: 13 (1991-1993, 1995-2000, 2002-present)
Prior Aliases: None
Championships: 2 (1995, 2003)

Nicknamed for famed wrestler “Killer” Kowalski, he’s the #1 handicapped golfer in this year’s event (he’s like a 10 handicap, I think). Simply put, no can beat Killer’s game, as he has all the tools. (In fact, I would say the most dependable thing about Killer as a person is his golf game, but that’s another matter, entirely.) Can dude win the Goodboys Invitational? Definitely. Does dude want to win (and therefore take on all the responsibilities that come with winning, like having to plan and coordinate next year’s tournament)? That’s a whole ‘nuther question entirely. I think it was Killer who was once quoted as saying, “if you have a 18-inch putt on the 18th hole on the last day to win this tournament, there’s a whole lotta clubs in your bag you oughta think about using instead.”

Years on Tour: 12 (1993-present)
Prior Aliases: None
Championships: 1 (2003)

Cubby is perhaps the most unassuming of all the Goodboys. It seems no matter what the state of his game is – which on any given day can run the gamut from awful to atrocious – he’s always smiling. Even when he’s looking for his ball (which, admittedly, is most of the time), he’s smiling. And why not? He loves being a Goodboy, and for the rest of Goodboys Nation, the feeling is mutual. Legend has it he picked up his nickname as a result of a childhood resemblance to the equally-legendary Mickey Mouse Club member. While Cubby is getting alot of strokes in comparison to the rest of the field, without a partner to pick him up by playing lights out and lending stability to the cause, all by himself I gotta think he’s a long-shot at best.

Years on Tour: 13 (1991-1993, 1995, 1997-present)
Prior Aliases: Hit Dog
Championships: 3 (1992, 1995, 1997)

Trying out his new nickname in formal competition for the first time – he got it from his steady play on the same weekend David Duval was making his comeback to excellent play at this year’s U.S. Open – it’s a lock that Doogy won’t let something so mundane shake his golf game. While there is nothing about the Dog’s game anyone could consider outstanding, he is freakin’ steady to the point of dulling his competitors into submission. How he handles the pressure of playing all by his lonesome this year is anyone’s guess, but here’s thinking that unless he catches some kind of wonderful, he’s destined for the middle of the pack.

KERNEL KLINK (a.k.a. “The Kernel”, “The Inebriator”)
Years on Tour: 2.5 (1991, 2003, 2004**)
Prior Aliases: “Lou Gorman”
Championships: 0

Everyone’s still trying to figure how the Kernel got his original nickname of Lou Gorman, then-GM of the Boston Red Sox. After all, his first name isn’t Lou, and his last isn’t Gorman, either. Just one of the mysteries of life, like how many Botox treatments House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi needs to keep up appearances. (OK, that was a low blow – sorry, Nanc!) At any rate, the Kernel is not a great golfer, but, like Doggy Duval, he is one of those who are always around the fairway and greens enough to stay in contention. Personally, I love the guy – I just don’t think he’s got enough game to make the top tier. (But that’s OK, neither do I.)

Years on Tour: 15 (1991-present)
Prior Aliases: “Rocket”, “Dysfunctional”, “Doug E Doug”
Championships: 4 (1991, 1993, 1996, 2000)

The Great White Shank (or, “TGWS”) is, along with Killer and The Funny Guy, one of the “Founding Fathers” of Goodboys Nation. With The Funny Guy, the only other Goodboy to have attended all fifteen previous Goodboys Invitationals. Has an amazing ability to work the ball from left to left – hence the nickname. As firey and opinionated on the course as he is off, TGWS will need to keep his tee game and emotions in check if he hopes to get even close to the top tier. He’s also breaking in a new swing, which is never a good idea when the pressure to win is on. Like Cubby, not having a good golfer to partner with (you didn’t think he won all those championships by himself, did you?) is likely to eat him alive.

Years on Tour: 15 (1991-present)
Prior Aliases: “Hogan”, “Snake”, “Velcro”
Championships: 3 (1991, 1993, 1999)

The Funny Guy – nicknamed for his God-given ability to: a) flirt with pretty girls, and b) identify the absolute best way of getting under the skin of his fellow competitors, be it with with incessant chatter, cynical observations, or other distracting techniques – is, to be frank, the oil that drives the Goodboys Nation engine. Like The Great White Shank, he too has never missed an event in its previous fifteen years. Once one of the better golfers in the Nation, the demands of corporate life and the $31 million budget he oversees now prevents him from attending to his golf game as much as he’d like. Now more at home in a dark Las Vegas bar filled with pretty girls than on the golf course, he still has remnants of a once-solid game, but definitely not enough to tangle with the big fellas. Personally, I’d love to see him take the prize, but seeing his putting game of late, I’m picking TFG to finish dead last.

If my predictions are proven correct (i.e., El Dandito finishing first and The Funny Guy finishing last), it would mean that both will have to tolerate each other’s grandiose dreams and human limitations over the next year, since their finishing positions mean that they would have total control over everything associated with the planning and coordination of next year’s tournament. Lucky them! Will it happen? Stay tuned.

Filed in: Goodboys by The Great White Shank at 01:40 | Comment (1)
July 20, 2006

Had a conversation with the shuttle driver taking me to the airport the other day. A native of Connecticut, he, like me, had been living in Arizona for the past few years, and as soon as he found out I was from the East Coast, he basically started into his view about the cultural differences between the East and the West. I told him I thought geography was the primary factor, his view was that it was demographics. He talked about “ocean people” and “desert people” as one way to think about “Easterners” and “Westerners”: “in the West, people see the ocean as solely a means for recreation, back East they talk about shipwrecks. Out West, people see the desert as an expression of freedom, Easterners wonder what the hell they did with all the trees and start planting ’em everywhere they can.”

In his view, because Arizona, Washington, Colorado, etc. have such a close proximity to California, the culture in these states is infected (his word) with the need to be new, be different, and, above all, be an individual. Contrast that with back East, where there’s much more a sense of, and respect for, the old – after all, that part of the U.S. is older – and hence, the value of traditions, family, community. Because of this, he reasoned, there’s much more attention paid to communal concerns and less emphasis on individuality – that dreaded “do your own thing”.

“If that were the case”, I asked him, “if individuality is so important, how do you explain the fact that so many people out here share the same kind of mind-numbing subdivision life where everyone’s homes look alike, and the three concrete walls that surround you mean you only see your neighbor twice a day if at all – maybe in the mornings and evenings when their cars appear or disappear behind the opening or closing garage doors. That, by the way, all look the same?”

He thought for a second. “Because they’re idiots.”

I suggested that maybe the weather has something to do with it as well; because the weather is usually – if not always – good, there’s a tendency to embrace a sun culture that subconsciously rejects any suggestion that life is actually going on within you and without you, and the idea that – gasp! – one really doesn’t have any control over their lives.

By that time, I was at the airport terminal and we said our goodbyes.

But it got me thinking: here in the East, the annual course and change of the seasons provide a reminder of not only the passage of time, but how much people depend on each other as well. I think about having to share raking duties whenever large oak and maple trees cover multiple yards with fallen leaves, or the snowstorms that force everyone outside to help their neighbors shovel out cars, or clean driveways, or run errands for the elderly. The lack of walled-in communities mean most homeowners are forced to share common ground and recognize and interact with neighbors (whether you like it or not) on a regular basis. Again, the work of geography and demographics drawing people together, not establishing distance, as out West.

Of course, some people (like my wife Tracey) like the distance, the lack of community, and the ability to be left alone to do their own thing and not be impacted by the demands of community and family. Some like the empty desert stretching out their back door, the doors and windows closed, the central air making perfect temperatures inside regardless of season or temperature. I’ve tried it, am glad I’ve tried it, but find myself a fish out of water in the West. Maybe it’s just that I’m a New Englander and an Eastern Time Zoner needing the change of seasons, the sense of community, the annual renewal of rites and traditions based on teachings, practices, and values passed down from one generation to another.

I guess that’s why this week’s annual rite of male bonding known as the Goodboys Invitational is something I cherish and look forward to each year. Whether the golf is good or not, the chance to touch base with friends, share memories of Goodboys past, and kick back a few beers on a New England summer weekend brings me back in touch with a part of me that finds no solace in the mind-numbing succession of hot sunny days, crawling snake traffic, and cookie-cutter subdivisions whose only difference is the size of property and the average income.

Contemplating East and West; to each his own!

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 01:15 | Comments (3)
July 19, 2006

Y’know, ever since this year’s Episcopal Church (“TEC”) General Convention I’ve been looking for a sign that someone – anyone – in my Church’s leadership will wake up and see just how truly dire its situation is. How dire? I suppose I could turn this post into a virtual cornucopia of statistics with accompanying analysis, but then I wouldn’t have any readers at all!

(For those interested, however, two examples of domestic TEC church attendance analysis – the most critical because a) that’s where TEC is based, and b) that’s where the money is – can be found here and here.)

Figures aside, it doesn’t take a genius to see that TEC, like most mainline Protestant churches, is in trouble – big trouble. Ever since the controversial 2003 consecration of New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson – a gay priest living in a committed relationship with another man – much of the Church’s energies have been focused on internal problems and controversies borne out of the growing chasm between the so-called “liberal” and “orthodox”: money squabbles, threats of legal action by bishops against parishes and priests, declining membership, aging congregations, and departing parishes. Sensing weakness in its commitment to the Gospel and its ability to maintain and enforce structure and order, foreign Anglican provinces (primarily from Africa and South America) began undertaking the ordination of American “missionary bishops” and the planting of “orthodox” Anglican parishes right under the noses of their TEC counterparts.

Since the Robinson consecration, TEC’s standing within the Anglican Communion has come under almost constant fire by its fellow provinces within the Communion – most especially, African and Asian provinces experiencing the most explosive growth – for being theologically “soft” on its commitment to traditional Church teachings, especially homosexuality and the Lordship of Jesus Christ. This culminated in 2004 in the release by the Eames Commission’s Windsor Report, which, among other things, recommended that each Anglican province ratify a “covenant” that would commit them to consulting the other provinces in the Anglican Communion when making major decisions, and urge those who had contributed to Anglican disunity (read: TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada, where certain dioceses had taken to consecrating same-sex unions) to express their regret.

With all these controversies going on, I have found it hard to concentrate simply on worshipping God as an Anglican (really, an Anglo-Catholic) and an Episcopalian. Particularly, having witnessed the internal machinations of how the Church works in more than a few of its dioceses from my time of discerning my call to the priesthood and having experienced more than my share of “spiritual dryness” over the past five years, I find myself craving confident leadership with a theological backbone and an honest vision of what my Church is and where it’s going. I think this is so important now in a world so fractured that it is difficult to identify yourself as anything and seek that “quiet center” where you feel yourself as part of some greater good and whole.

As an Episcopalian, I never felt that way about our previous Presiding Bishop, Frank Griswold. Anyone looking for strong statements of faith or a visionary leader could only find disappointment in Griswold’s lukewarm pluralism and theological underpinings. As David Virtue once observed:

It was at the 1998 Lambeth Conference when Griswold uttered his now famous line that he (Griswold) believed in “pluriform truths” startling the then-Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey and causing the media to scratch its collective head and ponder what he meant.

Over time it became horribly apparent. Griswold would never settle for any one truth, or one particular interpretation of the truth, rather there were many truths, even contradictory “truths” that could and should be held together in tension, without the need to come down absolutely on any one side or the other. To hold things in tension was to live comfortably with ambiguity, even doubt. To say you knew or that Jesus was ‘the way, the truth and the life’ was to demonstrate an arrogance that he could not support or condone. What might be true for you might not be true for someone else, and one should be prepared to absorb the other truth or simply to live along side it because one might encounter the mystical ‘other’ in another person, and to miss that might be sin. Conversely, to say Jesus is the only way might be true for us as Christians but we should never suppose that God had not spoken in other ways, through other persons and we should be “humble” enough to accept that.

So, when General Convention came around this year, I was quite interested in seeing who would succeed Griswold as Presiding Bishop. Like many, I was suprised when Katherine Jefforts Schori, considered a minor candidate, was elected with no small assistance, as it turns out, from a number of “orthodox” bishops. Not knowing anything about her, I had no preconceptions as to what I could expect from her, except that from the few interviews I saw following her election I surmised that, regardless of the help she had received from that quarter, she was no friend of the “orthodox”.

But what kind of a leader was she, or could she be, I wondered?

Imagine my surprise, then, when I opened up my July 17 issue of Time Magazine and found Bishop Schori the subject of their weekly “10 Questions For” column. While most of the questions were softball tosses that dealt with her unique background (she’s multi-lingual, an oceanographer, and a licensed, instrument-rated pilot), one question and response in particular caught my attention:

Q: What will be your focus as head of the U.S. church?

A: Our focus needs to be on feeding people who go to bed hungry, on providing primary education to girls and boys, on healing people with AIDS, on addressing tuberculosis and malaria, on sustainable development. That ought to be the primary focus.

Oh really. What about better roads and more money for public education, I asked? ‘Cause for a second there, I wasn’t sure if I was reading the focus of TEC’s new Presiding Bishop or that of the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. You see (silly me), I always thought the focus of the Presiding Bishop ought to somehow be aligned with that of the mission of the Church (which, as I see in the Catechism on p. 855 of the Book of Common Prayer states:

Q: What is the mission of the Church?

A: The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.

So here we are, the Church is hopelessly fractured over the issue of homosexuality, people are leaving in droves, congregations are getting grayer, mission work at the diocesan and parish level is often almost non-existent, dioceses are in financial chaos, and priests are leaving and taking their parishes with them, and what is our new Presiding Bishop’s focus? Health, eduation, and welfare.

I’m sorry, but this is about as close to the last straw as can be for this Anglo-Catholic. Even an idiot – and I don’t use that term lightly – would understand that social welfare in and of itself is NOT the mission of the Church and should NOT be the primary focus of the Church. Rather, it is the logical outpouring of love, compassion, service, and generosity inspired by the Holy Spirit of God that results when people are drawn to, and united around, the Lordship of Jesus Christ. What Schori seems to want to focus on here is not mission, but ministry. However, in terms of the Church, without the former, there’s no context for the latter. Without mission, you might as well be just another private or public social service agency among many.

For God’s sake, if she – the Presiding Bishop of TEC – doesn’t understand that, there is no hope for the Episcopal Church, and you can count me out. If Jefforts Schori really – and I mean REALLY – believes that’s what her focus and vision is and ought to be, I have a better, more practical suggestion: why not just shut down the Church’s administrative infrastructure, offices, and overhead, close all the churches, sell all the properties, then open up community centers across the U.S. and the world with the handsome profits. I say this in all seriousness. When a Church stops being a Church and becomes just another arm of the social welfare system and infrastructure, that’s when I jump ship.

Look, I know she’s new and, in a forum like Time Magazine, she may be looking to appeal to a wider audience than traditional Episcopalians like myself. However, there comes a time when even the most committed Episcopalian is looking for a sign that their leadership is aware of the issues currently tearing the Church apart and threatening its very future. In times like this, one would think its new elected leader would be sensitive to the need to share her vision for the survival and sustainable future of the body she has been elected to. To not see this articulated as her primary focus is disappointing, indeed. Make no bones about it – for this Episcopalian and many others of my stripe, Jefforts Schori is on a very short leash, and the leash is getting shorter with every passing day.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 03:05 | Comment (1)
July 18, 2006

A little over two months away from our Hawaiian cruise. Perfect time for checking out a couple of the latest happenings around the former Sandwich Islands:

* Sounds like the U.S. Navy and environmentalists have reached a compromise on the use of active sonar in naval exercises that take place near the Islands.

The settlement reached Friday prevents the Navy from using the sonar within 25 miles of the newly established Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument during its Rim of the Pacific 2006 exercises. It also imposes a variety of methods to watch for and report the presence of marine mammals.

Navy officials have said the value of training to detect stealthy submarines would have been severely diminished without the sonar, which bounces sound off objects in the ocean.

But don’t tell that to environmentalists, though. Here’s their take:

Environmentalists claim whales have stranded themselves on beaches after being exposed to high-intensity mid-frequency sonar. In some cases, whales bled around the brain and in the ears. The sonar is also claimed to interfere with the ability of marine mammals to navigate, hunt, take care of their offspring and avoid predators.

“Military readiness does not require, and our laws do not allow, our natural resources to be sacrificed in the name of national defense,” said Joel Reynolds, a Natural Resources Defense Council attorney.

Funny, I don’t recall marine life encountering any problems while the Seaview was doing its thing. (Boy, they don’t make TV shows like that anymore, do they?)

* I can’t imagine the Humuhumunukunukuapuaa not being the official state fish of Hawaii, but obviously others have. Geez, what’s this world coming to? What’s next to go the way of the dodo – the little grass shack in Kealakekua? Or the little grass skirt for that little grass shack?

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:01 | Comments (0)
July 17, 2006

From time to time I like to take a few minutes to see what’s cookin’ on the sites Goodboys Nation has linked to on its Blogroll. Shall we get started, then?

* Over at All Too Common, Andy’s on his honeymoon (congrats, Andy and your lovely bride!). Last summer he wrote an essay, “Why I Am Anglican”, which not only generated some interesting comments at that time, but generated this follow-up post which is just as interesting. Clearly, with all the recent goings-on in the Episcopal Church, a lot of people are looking inside their hearts and praying for direction on where God might be leading them. I’m doing the same myself; glad to see its a very big boat.

* At And Rightly So!, they’ve got pictures of the floating replica of the Godspeed, one of the ships that brought the original settlers to Jamestown, VA, the first successful settlement in the New World. Very cool. The pics are worth a look all by themselves!

* Dangle 24/7 is now over at A View From The Evil Center.

* Bryan Woods at StormTrack posts some amazing pictures of Biloxi, MA and the Mississippi Gulf Coat nearly one year after Katrina. (BTW, this is a perfect time to remind everyone that the good folks who live on the MGC are still in need of whatever help you can offer. I’m sure Leslie and her friends at Katrina Networking would be grateful, even if you just dropped them a line of support to let them know their message is not following on deaf ears.)

* And, of course, Dollar Bill is still in da house! But this time, from the sounds of it, he’s got company.

* Dave Richard (The Great White Shank’s bro) is after the politically-connected down in Forsyth, GA like a terrier on pant leg. Geez Dave, it seems to me that you’re connected-ly challenged!

* Things are always hopping over at the House Rabbit Society. Here’s a cool article about how a member’s attention to a Suburu commercial got the advertiser to change its tune. Power to the people, right on!

* Megan Heckeroth is a player on the LPGA Futures Tour (sorta the LPGA’s AAA minor league team, if you know what I mean). She has a wonderful blog (thanks, Golf Blog!) and, from the sounds of it, a great personality. Given my own Goodboys Invitational tournament later this week, I found one of her posts on one of her recent events truly inspiring. Heck, if she can shoot 78-78-74 in difficult windy conditions, I can do the same. (Of course, all my scores would be after nine holes!)

Tonight (actually as this post goes live, thanks to the marvels of modern technology!) I’m winging my way back East for this year’s Goodboys Invitational. It’ll be great to get out of this amazing heat (32% humidity doesn’t sound like a lot, but put it on top of a 110 temperature, and you feel like a half-chicken in a broaster), and into something more amenable to playing golf. See y’all in the Eastern Time Zone!

Filed in: Golf & Sports,Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:13 | Comments (0)
July 16, 2006

…begins with a single step, so the ancient Chinese proverb goes. Today, my seemingly-thousand mile journey back to the Church began with the single step taken by attending Mass down the street at St. Anne Catholic Church. An Episcopalian since birth, but more of an Anglo-Catholic since my awakening to Christ more than a decade ago, I decided to try this Roman Catholic church to clean the palate, so to speak, and start anew my journey back to the Church (in whatever form that might ultimately take) in a place I’d never seen, and in a denomination where I could simply melt into the background and enjoy attending Church without any baggage, expectations, or commitments.

Since moving to Arizona, my attempts at returning to regular church attendance have been both unsuccessful and unfulfilling, to say the least. I’ve attended two Episcopal churches on occasion – Church of the Epiphany and St. James, both in Tempe (the latter of which experienced the loss of its rector and much of its congregation following the consecration of V. Gene Robinson, an openly-gay priest, as Bishop of New Hampshire), but found my worship experiences at both places unsatisfying and uninspiring, both theologically and as an overall church-going exercise.

In truth, that’s only part of it, for I have come to realize that, as much as I still enjoy the comfortable familiarity of the Episcopal liturgy and style of worship, whenever I attend services at any Episcopal church I can’t seem to separate present from past and the memory of seven crazy years (1994-2000) of intense – and I mean really intense – church involvement during two ill-fated attempts at being accepted into the ordination process for the priesthood in the Episcopal Church.

In truth again, that’s only a part of a part of it, for, truth be told, today’s Episcopal Church is not yo’ mama’s Episcopal Church – heck, it’s not even the same Episcopal Church as it was back in 1994, when I started my extended period of heavy involvement and ministry. I’ve written on it before, and will do again shortly, but suffice to say for this particular post, the sense of conflict and estrangement I feel with today’s “progressive” Episcopal Church has led me to hours upon hours of prayer, contemplation, and meditation, trying to figure out what God wants me to do with my life, and where. It was, and is, a puzzle that needs solving, but how?

Using my God-given gifts for problem-solving and systemic thinking, I went back to the beginning and the books that initially drove my theological and philosophical formation more than a decade ago. While it wasn’t a surprise, I did take note that most of my cherished books were by Roman Catholics – Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, Benedict Groeschel, St. John of the Cross, and others. Like me, they all too had their conflicts with their Church, but somehow found a way to let God transform those conflicts into gifts of wisdom and ministry.

I also noted that, earlier this year, when the first signs appeared that my five-year period of spiritual dryness was starting to lift and I was finding the occasional desire to return to my prayer table, it was hearing on secular radio in the space of one weeks’ time Raymond Arroyo discussing his biography of Mother Angelica, and Scott Hahn discussing his conversion from Presbyterianism to Roman Catholicism, both with such joy and passion that I couldn’t help but take notice.

Of course, it’s one thing to appreciate the mystics and movers and shakers of Catholicism, it’s a whole ‘nuther thing entirely to even consider leaving one’s own faith tradition for another. My feeling was – and still is – that such a prospect is too much of a jump to consider without taking very small baby steps and careful stock of where things stand along the way.

Which brought me to St. Anne Catholic Church today. Like most Catholic churches in the area, it’s pretty-good sized, very modern, and very short-staffed when it comes to priests. It had a nice mix of elderly folk and young families. There were no liturgy or music books in the pews – instead, both were projected in a very pleasing fashion against the white walls on either side of the sanctuary. The music was fairly harmless, even bland, but VERY well done – quite a change from my recent Episcopal church experiences.

What struck me more than anything, however, were the priest’s homily and the prayers. The homily itself was rock-solid, based on the day’s lessons and Gospel, and steeped in sacramental theology, yet very accessible in terms of style and delivery. He even chastised those in the congregation who had been leaving immediately after the Eucharist, saying that it cheapened the sacrament and the meaning of Christ’s sacrifice. Now THAT’S something you don’t see everyday. I was impressed. I also particulary enjoyed hearing prayers for, among other things, an end to abortion, artificial means of contraception, embryonic stem-cell testing, and capital punishment. Whether you agree with these positions or not, it was refeshing to hear a church unafraid to state what it believes and put it out in the open via its prayers, without compromise.

Will I go back? I don’t know. What I do know is that, for the first time in a long time, I find myself aware that I have begun a new journey, one just underway. I don’t know where it will lead, or even if it will, but I sense within a new-found desire to expose myself once again to the whims and wills of God’s guiding Hand. I have not prayed for this, neither have I even prayed for the grace to be able to pray for something like this. It just is what it is for now, and that seems good enough for me.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 01:11 | Comments (3)
July 15, 2006

Yeah, I always liked that song growing up, although I didn’t hear it until several years after it was released. I already knew Barry McGuire from his days as a member of the New Christy Minstrels, a folk group my parents had bought several albums by when were young ‘uns.

(BTW, the composer of the song, P.F. Sloan, had solid links all across the emerging L.A. contemporary rock scene of the mid-’60s, with connections to Brian Wilson and Bruce Johnston of The Beach Boys during their Pet Sounds/SMiLE era, Terry Melcher and Roger McGuinn (in the early Byrds days), and, of course the great Phil Spector and all those great “Wrecking Crew” musicians.) Whooooooo…..great stuff!

But I digress. Unfortunately. More on that another time, perhaps…

Of course, what’s going on the Middle East is truly a powderkeg, and I’m afraid things there are only going to get a whole hell of a lot worse before they get getter, unless cooler heads prevail and Syria and Iran keep their grimy, terror-enabling, blood-stained hands off the situation. Like I said yesterday, I don’t think Syria or Iran were prepared for either Hezbollah‘s kidnapping of the Israeli soldiers or the iron fist of Israel’s response. Now they have to decide if now is the time to make good on their threats of the past several months. My guess is they don’t, because they know both Israel and the U.S. are just itching for an opportunity to shock-and-awe Iran’s nuclear program back a decade or so.

Captains Quarters has some great analytical posts on the crisis, and I hope you’ll check Captain Ed’s site out. Powerline comments on a David Horowicz piece and agrees that if Iran is to be struck by anyone, there will never be a better time than what Israel has now. Hugh Hewitt also is blogging over the weekend, and the connections he has as a result of his syndicated radio program make his site worth visiting as well.

The next 48 hours will be critical, as it will be in this timeframe where Iran’s and Syria’s plans for either confrontation or de-escalation of the conflict will be revealed. Hang on to your hats, folks, the ride could get a little bumpy.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 12:40 | Comment (1)
July 14, 2006

Good God! It was already 95 degrees when we left the house this morning, and we’re heading towards a whopping 116 today. I think it goes without saying that this time of year is NOT the reason why people live in Arizona.

* The heat is also definitely on in California, where firefighters are battling two huge wildfires. And the weather sure ain’t cooperating.

* On days like this, it might be interesting to check this out and see if it really works.

* It looks like a long hot summer for the law enforcement folks here in Phoenix, who now believe they have not one, but two serial criminals loose. It also appears a similar situation exists in the nation’s capital as well. (Both links courtesy of Drudge.)

* Things are pretty hot in the Middle East as well. Pajamas Media is all over the story, with hot links covering almost every angle. They’re 24×7, so go there and just hit refresh for the latest. I find both Iran’s and Syria’s responses quite intriguing – for all Mahmoud Ahmadinejad‘s bluster, when the bombs started falling, he’s still blustering, but supporting only behind the scenes. And now both Syria and Saudi Arabia are calling for Hezbollah restraint.

Translation: Hezbollah took Syria and Iran by surprise in escalating all this with Israel before they were militarily ready. Question is: will Israel take advantage of this, or will they stop once Hezbollah is neutralized? That’s the great question…

…still, TKS manages to find some humor amidst a very dangerous situation.

* And things could be getting hotter between India and Pakistan. Pajamas Media also has the latest on the Mumbai bombings – seems India is now blaming rogue, possibly al-Qaeda, elements in the Pakistani secret service (ISI) for the carnage.

* Who else is feeling the heat today? My guess is that today’s round at the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic is the most important round in Michelle Wie‘s marketing future. Yesterday she put up a big number, and has no chance to make the cut. If she goes low today, she saves a little face; if she puts up another big number, my guess is she’s toast as far as future men’s tour invites go – at least until she proves she can win on the ladies’ tour.

UPDATE 07/15/06: Well, after shooting 2 over par on the front 9, the child prodigy quit, complaining of stomach pains and heat exhaustion. OK, let this be a lesson to you, Michelle – you wanna play with the big boys, you gotta suffer with the big boys. There’s no room for kids out opn the PGA Tour (right, Ty Tryon?), no matter how talented you might be. A word of advice: stay in school, work on your game, play a ladies’ tour event or two for the next couple of years, then come out when you’re an adult. You’re already well on your way to being over-exposed, why don’t you say you give everyone a break and take some time to grow up. You’ve got a long, prosperous life ahead of you, why rush it?

UPDATE 07/15/06 Part II: The AP’s Nancy Armour says Wie’s critics are too hard on her and just don’t get it. Well, Nancy, let me put you straight: you can’t play ball with the big boys and expect special dispensation from criticism. That’s the way life is. If Wie can’t take the pressure being put on her, she only has to look in the mirror to see why she’s opened herself up to that kind of criticism – you can’t have it both ways. Judging from her comments following her last several tournaments (i.e., all the breaks are going against her, she’s playing well, etc.) she’s still got a lot of growing up to do. Which is OK – she’s only 16, for God’s sake. But even 16-year olds with almost unlimited talent and a future ahead of her need to recognize their place in an adult world. She’s shown so far she can’t do that yet, which given her age is not her fault. But Nancy, give the rest of us a break and don’t put the blame on us.

* Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that prayers continue for Barbaro, the Kentucky Derby winner whose once-hopeful prognosis turned for the worse the other day. Seems he had a good day yesterday, but his outlook remains uncertain, at best. Hang in there, Barbaro…

Filed in: Golf & Sports,Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 11:47 | Comments (0)
July 13, 2006

(Title courtesy of Michelle Malkin. Thanks Michelle!)

Is it just me, or does anyone else see the hyprocisy – or, at the very least, the lack of consistency – in the Democrats’ relentless howl over the news that columnist Robert Novak used Karl Rove as a confirming source in the Valerie Plame CIA leak, with nary a whimper over the recent N.Y. Times / L.A. Times outing of the government’s SWIFT (financial transactions monitoring) program used to track the funding of global terrorism?

I think we can all agree that leaks of any kind involving our intelligence agencies and programs (BTW, the war being waged against the Bush Administration from Clinton partisans within the CIA, NSA, and the State Department is, sadly, yet another example of “blind-eye journalism” on the part of the mainstream dino-media) are wrong, and, in certain cases perhaps, something that should be subject to government prosection. Nevertheless, the difference between the hysteria shown over poor Valerie Plame and the relative silence following the leak of the SWIFT program (and, I might add, the NSA’s overseas phone-call monitoring program outed earlier this year) is mind-boggling, to say the least.

On one hand you have the unintended release of a single CIA field office agent’s identity; on the other the deliberate (and, some would say, unnecessary), outing of a secret, comprehensive (and legal!) counter-terrorism program used to monitor financial activities between identified and suspected terrorist groups – you know, the kind that could, oh, I don’t know, financially support the families of suicide bombers sent onto, say, crowded commuter trains? Not that something like that would ever happen, of course…

The fact that the Democrats and their all-too-willing mouthpieces in the mainstream dino-media would focus so much attention and effort on the leak of Valerie Plame’s identity – look at all the attention her civil lawsuit is spawning today! – and so little to those that clearly make our country more vulnerable to terrorist attacks is revealing, and just the latest example of why this country cannot risk putting the Democrats in charge of Congress this November, and the White House come 2008.

Serious times demand serious attention to our nation’s security, and if Democrats are truly serious about how our nation goes about protecting itself against those who wish to do it great harm, they need to move beyond partisan politics, which is, in the end, all the Plame case was about. I just don’t think they have it in them.

UPDATE 7/15/06: Just when you think the Joe-and-Valerie show couldn’t get any more absurd, now comes word that (thanks Raven!) they have lowered themselves to shilling for donations to cover the legal costs of their case. Memo to Joe and Valerie: Listen sleazeballs, if you couldn’t afford the lawsuit in the first place (which, BTW, I have no doubt you could) why file? The answer, is, of course, as Raven so accurately points out, these two are nothing but partisan Democrat media whores who can’t stand the thought of losing their place in the limelight. What a joke.

BTW, To make matters worse, if Joe & Val were hoping for a sympathetic comrade behind the bench, they’re in for a rude surprise, as Captain Ed is quick to point out .

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 16:43 | Comments (2)


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