March 22, 2007

What a night! Stepping outside this time of year is a marvelous thing for the senses to behold. It’s warm and breezy, perhaps even a little touch of – dare I say it? – rain in the air: a far cry from the oppressive heat that will be here a little over a month from now. The air is sweet and heavy with the fragrance of flowers from the fruit trees (lime and lemon) on our property and those around us. And, whereas just a few weeks ago one could step outside and hear only the sound of planes cruising overhead as they begin their final approach to Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport (25 minutes away), now they’re joined by the sound of central air units and pool filters humming away as people’s properties start gearing up for the summer that lies just ahead.

This past winter was a rough one for the flora and fauna in our backyard. In the picture below, taken last October, you can see the fullness of the palm tree by the swimming pool and the bushes along the wall down towards the mesquite tree all the way back. You might also be able to make out (sorry, I’m not the photobloggers Rob and Dave are) smack dab in the center of the picture, two (it looks like one, but, trust me, there’s another behind it) fence-post cactus that we planted to greet people stepping out onto our patio.

one

I was comparing that picture to what was out there this evening, and, well, the palm tree right now is struggling – the lower set of leaves all had to be pruned after the freeze, but at least there’s some new growth appearing up top so it still looks like a palm tree. As for the fencepost cactus, you can see better in this picture (along with a not-so-obvious tiki bar) that they were pretty cool looking in their prime.

two

Well, the hard freeze we took in late January really did a job on them, causing the tops of both plants (above the strapping) to have withered and shrunk into a lovely brown-black. Carmelo the landscaper says he’s going to “deadhead” the cactus as soon as the hot weather comes in, and says they should be fine. We’ll see.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:12 | Comments (2)
March 21, 2007

Anyone who frequents this space is probably well aware I’m no fan of Hillary Clinton, nor have I ever been. I’ve never bought into the mainstream dino-media’s Hillary love-fest, never thought she was anything but a cold, calculating, ambitious and paranoid socialist wannabe living off of her cheating husband’s not-so-insignificant political chops by cloaking herself in his so-called ‘legacy’.

I also never bought into the idea that she was the Democrats’ de facto nominee for President in 2008, or even, if so, that she would ever have much of a chance in a head-to-head presidential contest, for the following reasons:

1) Unlikeability. Simply put, her approval/disapproval ratings make her virtually unelectable. Dick Morris has argued that Hillary can overcome her historically dismal ratings simply because she’ll draw a new voting block (single and married women who typically don’t vote) to compensate, but I would argue that this would be easily offset by the significant number of people out there who would absolutely be chomping at the bit to vote against such an unlikeable, polarizing figure.

2) Clinton/Bush fatigue. The nation is tired of having Bushes and Clintons in the White House – has it been nearly twenty years already? – and all the hypercharged negativity and divisiveness of the past decade. Hence, the 2008 electorate will be yearning for a “fresh face”, someone who is a “uniter”, not a “divider”, and someone who doesn’t stand for “politics as usual”.

While Morris still asserts that Hillary can overcome these problems with an influx of new and energized voters, he relays exactly the kind of struggle for acceptance she is facing:

…While some disagree with her on specific issues, most object to her because they find her dishonest, associated with scandals and with Bill Clinton, power hungry. A lot simply don’t like her. Those kind of negatives are very difficult to overcome.

On the positive side, many see her as highly experienced, knowledgeable, intelligent, and right on the issues. And her gender is important. Many cite the fact that she would be the first woman president as a big advantage. But, according to the most recent ABC/Washington Post poll at the end of February, 48 percent of the voters have a negative opinion of her while 49 percent have a positive one. And the number of people who strongly dislike her has risen from 25 percent to 35 percent.

That, my friends, is territory commonly reserved for the unelectable.

A sympathetic press and a legion of campaign flacks can only hide someone’s unlikeability, churlishness, and political shortcomings for only so long. Sooner or later, you have to go beyond sound bites, take genuine and heartfelt political stands on issues people are concerned about, and – more importantly – get up in front of a TV audience without carefully-chosen syncophants at your side. Whether it be during the primaries, or – heaven forbid – the presidential campaign, voters are going to see what the real Hillary is like in action, and, when they do, they’ll find out there ain’t a whole lot of meat on those bones (at least politically speaking).

Nevertheless, it still amazes me to see just how much trouble Hillary’s campaign is having gaining a foothold since Barack Obama tossed his hat into the 2008 presidential campaign. Whether it be her sanctimonious “I want to have a conversation with the American people” Internet announcement (barf!), the ill-advised, behind-the-scenes sniping her campaign has engaged in with Obama’s over the past several weeks, that silly performance in Selma with her phony Southern drawl, or worse yet, dragging out the old “vast right-wing conspiracy” accusations while in New Hampshire last week, Hillary the presumed Democratic party standard-bearer seems to have – almost overnight – become, Hillary the stumbling, paranoid, and petty political insider who stands only for division and “politics as usual”.

And the Obama campaign knows this, and, in small but effective ways has been pummeling her with it. The latest, and without a doubt the most cutting is this ‘non-sanctioned’ video ad spreading like wildfire across the Internet. (Hat tip: Free Republic).

The add, a takeoff on the classic Apple Computer commercial, reprises Apple’s George Orwell’s “1984” theme where an audience of zombies watching “big brother” Hillary drone on is rescued by a woman athlete wearing a tank top with the Obama campaign logo. The woman smashes the screen to smithereens, and the advertisement ends with a graphic directing viewers to the official Obama campaign website. Revolutionary? You bet:

Veteran San Francisco ad man Bob Gardner, whose work has included political campaigns for former President Gerald Ford, said the video is “very powerful” in its efforts to call for a generational change in politics.

“It puts Hillary spouting cliche nonsense to the drones — while a fresh face breaks through,” he says. “It’s old versus new.”

That theme — reflecting a generational change in the relationship between media, politics, candidates and voters — suggests that “Hillary 1984” could have the iconic power with the 21st century political generation that another classic political ad called “Daisy” represented to Baby Boomers, says Leyden. That 1964 spot for President Lyndon Johnson — featuring images of a child plucking a daisy, which morphed ominously into a nuclear mushroom cloud — battered GOP presidential candidate Sen. Barry Goldwater because it, too, portrayed “a shattering of the whole world” in both political leadership, and media.

How much damage this ad will cause for Hillary down the line has yet to be determined. But because the ad is so striking, so well-produced, and spot-on in defining and reinforcing how a significant portion of the electorate already see her, this ad is going to sting, and sting big. And it’s only going to get worse as more and more people hear about the ad and see it over time. Like the Swift Boat Veterans ads in the 2004 campaign that hurt the Kerry campaign so, there’s just enough “truth” in this ad to help people make the connection between Hillary and the typical insider politician with no ‘there’ there – someone who will do or say anything just to get elected. Not exactly the kind of thing a campaign already perceived as being in trouble needs at this point in time, fer shure.

And it couldn’t happen to a better person.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 00:55 | Comments (0)
March 20, 2007

* News item: Iranian official lashes out at Hollywood movie “300” for insulting Persian civilization. Really:

An Iranian official on Sunday lashed out at the Hollywood movie “300” for insulting the Persian civilization, local Fars News Agency reported.

Javad Shamqadri, an art advisor to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, accused the new movie of being “part of a comprehensive U.S. psychological war aimed at Iranian culture”, said the report.

Shamqadri was quoted as saying “following the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Hollywood and cultural authorities in the U.S. initiated studies to figure out how to attack Iranian culture,” adding “certainly, the recent movie is a product of such studies.”

* News item: The Da Vinci Victim: obsessed art expert took deadly overdose. Really:

Caroline Eldridge, a Da Vinci scholar and artist, who killed herself after becoming obsessed with the mysteries surrounding the artist and the best-selling novel The Da Vinci Code

She suffered paranoid delusions that she and her family were in danger “because of the knowledge that she had” of Leonardo after working on an exhibition about his paintings.

After repeatedly telling her family, “I’m not going to let them take me alive,” she took an overdose of paracetamol.

* News item: Gore Faces Hill Grilling on ‘Warming’. Really:

Temperatures are predicted to reach a high of only 43-degrees on Wednesday in Washington, but look for high-heat to come out of Al Gore’s scheduled appearances on The Hill!

Gore is set to appear before Rep. John Dingell’s [D-MI] all powerful Energy and Commerce Committee in the morning and Sen. Barbara Boxer’s [D-CA] Environment and Public Works Committee in the afternoon.

Both are expected to have overflow seating, and protesters, both for and against Gore.

Gore will get a 30 minute opening and then Boxer and her republican counterpart, Sen. Inhofe, each get 15 minutes each of questioning in addition to their opening statements. Other senators will only get 5 min of Q & A.

“Democrat Dingell is a big global warming skeptic, so do not expect him to go too lightly on Gore,” predicts a congressional source.

(Hat tip on all: Drudge)

Three different news items, three different stories. So what do all have in common? The fact that a Hollywood movie production or best-selling novel becomes the source of outrage, obsession, and concern to those who: a) ought to know better, and b) are not able to, leading (at least in the second item) to tragic consequences.

I grew up on movies and used to attend them often. I grew up with books, and still feel restless if I don’t have two or three going at the same time. Regardless of the subject matter in both cases, however, I’m fully aware that what I’m watching or reading is some writer’s and/or director’s piece of work, and something that would in most (if not all) cases never make to the big screen or in print unless someone somewhere had an inkling that the venture would make money. While movies and books can – and often are – sold as something more than entertainment, the truth is, there’s always some movie studio or publishing house with a creative marketing plan behind it to improve its chances on returning someone’s investment. I’ll admit it – and maybe I’m some voice crying out in the wilderness here – I don’t get it when people take movies or books so seriously that they can’t see the product for what it is.

Let’s take each of these cases one by one:

* In the case of “300”, it’s an action flick based on comic book writer Frank Miller’s graphic novel about the battle of Thermopylae that took place in 480 B.C. between the Spartans and the Persians. Is the movie true to history? One historian says no, but is that important here? Of course not! It’s an action flick – like most action movies, grounded in some kernel of truth perhaps, but not enough to let facts get in the way of entertainment. Nor should it be. Note to Mr. Ahmadinejad‘s advisor Mr. Shamqadri: lighten up. Grab yourself a large buttered popcorn and an extra large Diet Coke, and veg out for a few hours in a darkened movie house. Believe me, it’ll do you a world of good.

There’s no joking in the case of Ms. Eldridge and her obsession with “The DaVinci Code”, Dan Brown’s bestselling conspiracy novel about the supposed REAL story about Jesus, protected by a clandestine society since the days of Christ but hinted at in DaVinci’s painting, “The Last Supper”. I’ve heard of people who take this kind of thing fairly seriously: they’re typically agnostic, or even atheist, with never a good thing to say about the Church or anything it does, and they’re looking for something – anything, really – to bolster their own spiritual or religious prejudices. The sad truth is, however, that anyone who takes so seriously a fictional novel involving a painting that they became obsessed at uncovering some “hidden truth” to the point of death is/was in need of serious professional, perhaps (even pastoral) help.

And finally, we have yet another news item about Al Gore and his Oscar-winning pseudo-documentary about ‘global warming’. Yes, that’s right – THAT Al Gore, acclaimed scientist and expert on global warming, being called to testify before Congress on his field of expertise. Heh. Rather than crack open once more that can of worms called ‘global warming’, all I’ll say is this – that calling Al Gore to testify before a Congressional committe on ‘global warming’ is akin to calling Clint Eastwood before Congress to testify on urban police misconduct. ‘Nuff said.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:59 | Comments (0)
March 19, 2007

Today has been one of those days when few things have gone right, and there’s not a whole lot of inspiration and creativity running through my veins. So, rather than waste my time (and yours) trying to be funny, cynical, or keenly observant on the political, cultural, or sports scenes, here’s a nice rabbit poem to kick everyone’s work week off in a happy and positive way:

Am A Rabbit!
By Warren and Willamena, the Cyberbitz

If I were a dog, I would play catch.
You’d throw a ball that I’d run and fetch.
But I am a rabbit and this I don’t do,
Though I may throw a stick back at you.

If I were a cat, I’d sit in your lap.
You’d pet me, I’d purr, but I don’t do that.
I am a rabbit, please come to the floor
I like it down here, and there’s something more.

If you pet my nose, my ears, head,
You’ll hear a sound that says thank you my friend.
It’s the sound of me softly grinding my teeth.
That sound is the purring of rabbits like me.

If I were a bird I’d sing, I’d tweet.
But I am a rabbit, I don’t do these things.
Rabbits don’t like many sounds that are loud,
Though you may hear us grunt, it’s not really a growl.

And if you start screaming I may run away.
Those sounds will scare me and listen I say,
It will take time for me to trust you.
I have to know you don’t like rabbit stew.

Please give me parsley, some carrots and hay.
With these things to eat, healthy I’ll stay.
Though too many carrots and I may get fat.
And my goodness neither of us would want that.

And if you have one rabbit, why not have two?
If you love me, that’s the least you can do.
Rabbits do better in pairs don’t you know?
Trust what I speak, I know that it’s so.

And when all is quiet, when the day’s at it’s end,
I’ll do something to say you’re my friend.
I may groom your nose, your fingers, to say
“I know you‘re my family though every day.”

And when you walk through our front door,
I may do a dance across the floor.
I’ll jump and I’ll twist, that’s a dance I do
To say that I love you and you love me too!

Don’t thank me, thank Marble, Marble Jr., She’s-A-Little-Half-Pint, and, of course, The Big Nipper.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:21 | Comments (2)
March 18, 2007

* Wonderful to hear Pete Rose now admitting that he bet on EVERY SINGLE game while he was manager of the Cincinnati Reds, and is now using that as an argument to show people why no one should be suspicious about whether he ever used his position as manager to influence the results of games. That’s right, folks:

“I bet on my team every night. I didn’t bet on my team four nights a week,” Rose said Wednesday on “The Dan Patrick Show” on ESPN Radio.

“I bet on my team to win every night because I love my team, I believe in my team,” he said. “I did everything in my power every night to win that game.”

Of course, Rose’s argument simply does not hold water. To think someone so addicted to gambling wouldn’t do anything above and beyond what he normally would do to win a game for his team is to believe in leprechauns and the tooth fairy as well. The nature of gambling addictions is behavioral change that goes beyond simply gambling; it effects your judgment in a variety of destructive ways.

The best baseball managers know the 162-game schedule is a marathon, not a sprint, and that, over the course of a season, there will inevitably be games where the manager decides, without disrespecting the game, to throw in the towel and save his pitching staff and starting players, knowing tomorrow is another day. If you’re gambling on your team to win every night, it is easy to see how someone like Rose might be less inclined to take such an approach, knowing he’s got money on the line. To say otherwise is to deceive one’s self, but that’s what gambling addicts are able to do incredibly well.

I’ve always believed – and still believe – Rose should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame, simply on his accomplishments as a player. But Rose’s most recent comments show what a loathsome character he is off the field, and how it is both right and wise for him to remain banned from the game for the rest of his life.

* On the other side of the field, you have Alex “E-Rod” Rodriguez now saying his future in the Bronx after the 2007 season will be pretty much left up to the New York fans to decide:

“It’s a do or die situation,” he said on WFAN-AM’s “Mike and the Mad Dog” show. “Either New York is going to kick me out of New York this year, say ‘I’ve had enough of this guy, get him the hell out of here,’ and we have an option. Or New York is going to say, ‘Hey, we won a world championship, you had a big year, you were a part of it and we want you back.'”

Sometimes I wonder what the heck is up with this guy. Here you have someone supremely talented, one of the best – if not the best – players in the game; someone who is likely by the end of his career to break most, if not all, of the top slugging records in baseball history, and the guy has mashed potatoes between the ears. C’mon A-Rod, you know how Yankees fans are – why not just lead with your chin and beg them to get on you and boo you out of town.

Here’s my take on A-Rod: the guy’s cursed with so much talent, he doesn’t know how to just shut up and go out and play hard; therefore, there’s no way he can ever live up to peoples’ expectations. He has all the talent, but, more than anything, he wants to be loved and adored. Unfortunately, the two don’t necessarily go hand in hand, so my guess is, after the Yankees make it to the playoffs but not the World Series this year, A-Rod will take his game, his act, and the remaining years on his contract over to the National League and play for Lou Piniella and the Chicago Cubs.

A-Rod may be Yankee and a great player, but that doesn’t in and of itself make them – or him – a winner.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 01:31 | Comments (2)
March 17, 2007

leprechaun St. Patrick’s Day is definitely NOT a big deal here in Phoenix. Oh sure, plenty of bars and restaurants in Scottdale and Tempe celebrate it OK, but the feeling is just not the same. Now Cinco de Mayo – that’s a whole ‘nutha thing entirely. Up in the Northeast, and in Savannah and Chicago and other places, it’s huge, and I’ll miss pubcrawling with the Goodboys in downtown Lowell MA and the $2.95 corned beef and cabbage dinner at Cappy’s Copper Kettle, but that’ll have to wait for another year. But no worries, Tracey and I will have our own home-made feast right here at home.

What would any St. Patrick’s Day post be without a little Irish humor:

Paddy was driving down the street in a sweat because he had an important meeting and couldn’t find a parking place. Looking up to heaven he said, “Lord take pity on me. If you find me a parking place I will go to Mass every Sunday for the rest of me life and give up me Irish Whiskey!”

Miraculously, a parking place appeared.

Paddy looked up again and said, “Never mind, I found one.”

The last word on this day goes to John Lennon, from his song “The Luck of The Irish” (one of my favorite tunes of his), commenting on the heavy-handedness of the British when it came to Northern Ireland:

“If you had the luck of the Irish, you’d wish you were English instead.”

Happy St. Patrick’s Day from all the Goodboys and Goodboys Nation weblog!

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:04 | Comments (0)
March 16, 2007

One of the New England months I miss so much here in Arizona is March. Why? I don’t know, I guess I always liked the weather extremes you’d get. After a long, cold winter, with the snow piled up all over the place, it was exciting to get that first big pre-Spring rainstorm that would really start working on the snow piles. March was a month for flood watches and warnings, as the rain and the melting snowpack meant that any day, you’d see on the news the infamous Spicket River in Methuen doing it’s annual romp through the town.

March was also a month for fog – fog during rainstorms, and fog when that stretch of days finally hit where the temps would finally nudge above freezing and stay there throughout the night, melting the snow in the woods and swamps. I miss the fog. (We don’t get fog here in the Valley of the Sun. Smog, for sure. But fog, no.) March was also the month when you’d start hearing the peepers out in the woods – little frogs telling you that, even if there were still snow all around and a chill in the air, Spring was on the way. Of course, March can be a pretty nasty month as well, as Friday’s Boston area forecast would seem to indicate.

And how could I forget St. Patrick’s Day with the Goodboys. Talk about your “high holy days!”

Here in Arizona, the heat is on. Just as I suspected, the high temps sure didn’t stay in the ’80s for long. It wasn’t long ago our highs were in the ’70s, but the past couple of days it’s been just above 90, and Friday we’re headed for 94, Saturday even higher. And let the word go forward that last Saturday, March 10, the day of my “religious experience”, was also the day the A/C went on for the first time.

March may be a month of extremes back home, but here, it looks awfully like an early start to a long, hot summer. And you know what that means here in the Richard household…

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:15 | Comments (0)

“Wherein you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been put to grief in various trials, that the proof of your faith, which is more precious than gold that perishes even though it is tested by fire, may be found to result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom not having known you love; in whom, though now you don’t see him, yet believing, you rejoice greatly with joy unspeakable and full of glory…”
— 1 Peter 1: 6-8

In the immediate hours following my “experience”, I knew something had radically changed both within and around me. I knew this not only from how I felt physically, psychologically, and spiritually, but also in viewing what had just occurred from a purely abstract, detached, and academic perspective – after all, I’d been on both sides of the discernment table, and therefore was quite familiar with the aspects and characteristics of genuine (and not so genuine) Christian calling and revelation (see the quote from the book “Listening Hearts” in the first installment of this series).

I knew what had happened to me was real, because a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders, and I was able to “think spiritually” for the first time in years. I knew it was real, because my heart and spirit felt free, energized and transformed: if I had felt that, in the case of Massachusetts, it was they who had screwed up, or, in the case of Kentucky, that it was me more than anyone else who had screwed up (although there was plenty of blame to toss around!), I was at peace with that. True peace. For in the wake of what I had just experienced, the thought of ever trodding again over that desperate no-man’s land of the last 5+ years now seemed both useless and pointless.

I also knew that what had happened was real, because there was no sense of urgency associated with the “experience”. I didn’t even know what – if anything – to do with the information I had received, and (perhaps more importantly), it didn’t really seem to matter. It was what it was, and I remember thinking to myself that, were I to die that day, I could die in peace, knowing what the purpose had been for my life. There was a reason for my very being, a purpose behind my calling, and just knowing that was not only exhilarating, but humbling as well. In and of itself, it seemed good enough for me. And I still feel that way.

More than anything else, however, I knew that what had happened was genuine, because my calling now made sense. I can remember past conversations with others where I’d be “thinking aloud” – albeit in general terms – about this very kind of thing. For example: in conversations with Don Schatz, one of my spiritual counselors at Life Work Direction, back in 1995 and/or 1996. And, a particularly uplifting discussion in the library at Holy Cross Monastery with a female priest, in which she mentioned knowing someone on the West Coast who had had the same kind of idea. I can also now vaguely recall sharing this idea with others, too: possibly during my Cursillo weekend, most definitely while attending the 2-week Church Development Institute programs at Sewanee back in the summers of ’97 and ’98 – something, BTW, I now find particularly interesting, as it seems this whole thing started with memories of those CDI days at Sewanee strangely occupying my thoughts upon waking Saturday morning (cue music…)

The point is, it’s now becoming pretty clear to me that the underlying purpose behind my call to ordained ministry in the Church (at least to the extent it was revealed last Saturday), didn’t just come from out of the blue – it wasn’t as if, say, God was suddenly calling a plumber to be a nuclear physicist (not that plumbers aren’t intelligent, BTW, but you know what I mean…). The seed had always been there, but, for whatever reason, I had never been able to (or cross paths with someone who could help me to) put 2+2 together, or connect the dots. Why that was, who knows? But I have to believe this particular calling could not have been revealed to me on Saturday without it already having been planted or imprinted somewhere in my spirit at the moment of my calling nearly 13 years ago.

“So keep still, and let Him do some work.” — Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

The next two days following my experience were filled with surprises and what I would call “aftershocks”. Just as the days following a major earthquake are filled with increasingly smaller and less intense shocks, so too were the two days following my Saturday morning “experience”. That afternoon, I busied myself with housework – doing laundry and cleaning the rabbit cages in a spirit of quietness, amazement, and inner peace. Later that day, I had to go to the supermarket, and, as I was driving there, a very intense “mini-shock” lasting a few seconds hit me – the words, “Don’t forget strip malls!” (adding to the list of possible locations where the religious order could operate, I surmised) injecting themselves into my consciousness.

That same evening, completely out of the blue, I received an e-mail from my old friend Diane, an ordained priest who worked in Kentucky the same time we lived there. We hadn’t written or spoken since I left Kentucky in 2002, but for whatever reason, on this very day, she happened to think of Tracey and me while passing along the following prayer:

May today there be peace within.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content knowing you are a child of God. Let His presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.
It is there for each and every one of us. AMEN!

OK, I’ll admit, that was weird. Even by my standards. Even after what I had been through earlier that day. Freaked Tracey out, I can tell you that.

On Sunday morning, while taking my shower, the same kind of thing that had happened while driving to the supermarket the night before did so again. This one wasn’t quite as powerful, but its effect was enough to give me pause. The words said simply, “Write a white paper!”. That’s all. “OK”, I said, to no one in particular, “I’ll write a white paper”. But here again, the message seemed both given, and received, without any sense of urgency, and with a sense of great inner peace.

Then, starting Monday, I began experiencing what I can only describe as “threads of clarity” flashing before me. Less forceful and intense than the Sunday morning shower episode, they seemed somewhat different in both texture and purpose (if that makes any sense). The one primary difference was, they were persistent. One kept reminding me that the purpose of the order would be to worship God and live and breathe as a religious presence wherever it was physically located. OK, fine. Another indicated it was to be a model for similar communities that could be established in the Church by other like-minded priests and individuals. Made sense to me. And a third seemed so persistent that I felt I had to write it down:

This would not be a life for everyone, neither should it be. But it would be a way to attract those who: a) feel a calling to some form of “religious life”, yet are unable to meet the typical requirements of a monastic order, and b) those who desire a more intimate relationship with a religious order than simply that of an “associate” [Ed. note: someone who affiliates themselves with a monastic order through financial and spiritual support, and occasional retreats. For example, yours truly is an associate member of the Order of the Holy Cross], yet still wish to retain a certain amount of freedom to pursue their secular interests to the benefit of the Church and needs of the local area.

So where to take this calling from here? Well, like I’ve said, there seems no great sense of urgency, no (as my good friend Dona puts it), “marching orders” – at least not yet. There is, however, meditation and praying on this calling to do, a Church to return to (at least to some extent), and no shortage of research to do: after all, there’s a “white paper” to write. It’s an intriguing and exciting, yet humbling, activity to look forward to, especially since I don’t know its intended recipient(s) or audience!

No matter where this ultimately ends up taking me, however – if anywhere – I am now at peace knowing what my calling to ordained ministry was all about, and, most importantly, at peace with the journey that has brought me to this place in time. If anything new and exciting happens, I’ll post on it in this space, but it could be awhile – maybe never, maybe forever. Until then, may you all, in your own particular callings, come to know Jesus’ peace and blessings, and God’s love and mercy in your lives.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by at 00:30 | Comments (0)
March 15, 2007

Just how out of touch with is your average card-carrying PGA Tour pro? One need only look at the so-called “controversy” surrounding Tiger Woods‘ plan to have his own invitational event, the AT&T National, scheduled for July 5-8 in Washington, D.C. [Ed. note: two weeks prior to this year’s Goodboys Invitational, BTW], with him playing host to an invited field of players.

One would think, this is Tiger, right? And, for all he’s done for the game, he ought to be able to host his own tournament, just like Jack and Arnie do, correct? Well, not so fast, says fellow tour player and virtual nobody Rich Beem, speaking on behalf of hundreds of other tour nobodies who, unlike Tiger, Phil, Vijay, and the rest of the game’s elite, have to scrounge for every morsel they can get on the PGA Tour schedule.

Saying he was “insulted” by the prospect of Tiger Woods’ new tournament being treated like an invitational, Rich Beem said he would rally players against the PGA Tour to make sure the event had a full field.

“…[Us tour nobodies are] trying to get back more spots throughout the year, and all of a sudden we have a limited-field tournament? It’s the most totally wrong thing I’ve heard of in a long time that’s sticking in to the players.”, Beem said Thursday.

Beem’s comments were echoed by another “giant” of today’s game, fan favorite Jeff Quinney (yes, THAT Jeff Quinney), who said (my boldings):

“It’s always a concern,” former U.S. Amateur champion Jeff Quinney said. “If I was a rookie and had limited starts and I hadn’t made too many cuts, you want to have as many starts as you can.

And finally, this from that legendary ball-striker who has brought so much excitement to the world of professional golf, Rod Pampling (yes, THAT Rod Pampling):

“Obviously, there’s 50 percent of the tour that thinks it’s a great idea; 50 percent don’t,” Rod Pampling said.

Of course, PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem knows what side of his bread is buttered and who the goose is who is laying the golden egg, and he’s (surprise!) firmly in Tiger’s court:

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem has said that the AT&T National …likely would be considered along the lines of tournaments run by Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer that have limited fields.

Finchem said several details have not been finalized for the tournament, which will be run by the Tiger Woods Foundation.

“I’ve had some preliminary conversations with our board and I have to believe that we will work with Tiger and the foundation to fine-tune it,” Finchem said at a press conference Wednesday. “But my guess is that at the end of the day, the field size will be commensurate with what you generally see in invitationals, which is a somewhat limited field.”

Kudos to you, TF. Here you have a messianic figure like Tiger, who: a) has revolutionized the game of professional golf; b) is largely responsible for the game’s current popularity; and c) has done so much to generate excitement and enthusiasm (all of which, BTW, are largely responsible for increasing the sizes of the purses at even the most lowly of Tour events), and here you have this cadre of bohunks, virtual nobodies, and prissy spoiled girly-men complaining of one less opportunity to perhaps make a cut. I mean, who do these clowns think they are, Michelle Wie?

Heck, even arch-rival Phil Mickelson gets it:

“All of the conflicting events cannot support themselves financially, and all of the excess revenue from the tour goes to support those tournaments, and most of that money is driven by Tiger,” Mickelson said. “So if you’re looking at 450 spots that Tiger is creating, and if he wants to take 20 away because he wants to have a prestigious event, I think we should not, as players, be narrow-minded.”

“If we look at the big picture, he does a heck of a lot more in this tournament … and it does an incredible amount for the tour and the game of golf,” Mickelson said. “I think we need to be careful on that.”

Mickelson has it right here. He, like Finchem, knows that Tiger Woods is the tide that raises all boats on the PGA Tour, and if he wants to have his own invitational event in the nation’s capitol on July 4th weekend, he oughta be able to. Personally, I think it’s a great idea, and one long overdue; I’d love to see them play it annually at Congressional.

Even if the Beems, Quinneys and Pamplings of the world aren’t invited to participate, you’d think they’d take the long view and understand the benefits to everyone associated with the PGA Tour. They can complain all they want, but the fact is they’re just little greedy nobodies who want a bigger piece of the pie without having to work hard for it. So typical of today’s generation…

Here’s my recommendation to Messrs. B, Q, & P: use that week to get out on the range and work on your game so you play better in tournaments and: a) make more cuts, b) make more money, and c) learn how to win tournaments more regularly, so that you: d) warrant an invitation to Tiger’s event. Now there’s a novel idea, eh? Otherwise, just shut up.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 01:24 | Comments (0)

The last thing I remember is watching two tiny birds flitting from bush to bush: one would go on ahead, the other following a short time later, then the lead bird would move on again. I also recall a gekko navigating the wall behind a bush, and noting that the shiny, cloud-filled sky above was slowly giving way to the bright, sunny, and cloudless day it would become.

What had started as slow lava flow of memories, disappointments, and frustrations of my failed Massachusetts and Kentucky ordination excursions oozing out into my consciousness had turned into a toxic flow of emotions pouring out of my being, like some long-standing sore, never fully healed, being picked open after a long time.

Then, suddenly, I felt a strange sensation – the only way I can describe it as being enclosed in some kind of a “bubble”. Whatever it was, it’s effect wasn’t gradual, but sudden, and the birds, the gekko, and all my surroundings, while still there, were no longer there (if you know what I mean). Or maybe it was me that wasn’t there – or, rather, there, but completely removed from it. How to describe? It was almost a feeling of losing consciousness, except that I was conscious. And there, before me, almost as if someone had written it out on some white board, was the following:

To found a religious order where people could live and worship and serve God within the framework and construct of a religious community, yet still be able to live and pursue their secular lives, goals, and interests within that framework.

The words were not spoken to me, neither were they anywhere for me to read, but they were still as clear and concise as if someone had dictated them to me and I was absorbing them through taking notes. The atmosphere around me felt strangely compressed, and, more stunned than anything else, I sat there breathlessly as distinct information about this message continued to unfold in bullet-points, as if I were surrounded or immersed in some huge Tele-prompter:

* An ordained priest would be the spiritual head of the community, serving that community full-time under the direction and auspices of the Bishop;

* Individuals or families living in the community would be ordained as deacons in the Church;

* The location of this order would be in a city, town, or area viewed as needing an Episcopal (Anglican?) presence;

* The order would be housed in a previously-used school or church complex setting; less-desirably so, in a cluster of apartment building or houses with a central worship location;

* The life of the community would be centered around worship and community meals, but less strictly so than in more “closed” monastic settings;

* Daily worship would be modeled after the Divine Office, with a Great Silence and a daily Eucharist, but without the strict attendance requirements of a traditional monastic setting;

* People would support the work of the community by tithing a percentage of their income from their secular jobs;

* Outreach ministries would be closely aligned to the needs of the community in which it is located;

* Other ministries provided by the community could include things that assist and contribute to the overall well-being of the diocese and its parishes – for example, prayer, healing, discernment, spiritual counseling, and various skills and services that the people within the community already provide their secular employers.

I sat there, stunned. It was all there: in front of me, around me, in my head, in my consciousness. My first thought was, “I have to write this down so I don’t forget!”, so I ran into the house and into my home office and began scribbling what I had witnessed on a 8×11 pad of lined paper.

I was writing furiously, and had just about filled a full page when, in mid-thought, upon writing the words, “…to be able to know and articulate one’s calling years after the fact is both comforting, unsettling, and disturbing all at the same time”, I was struck by a powerful sensation that pulled me up sharply:

You need not write this down, as it was your calling and it will always be a part of you and your very being that you will never forget.

I put down the pen and, still stunned by the whole experience, walked directly back to the patio to collect my thoughts. As soon as I sat down in the chair again, however, I realized the “bubble” was still there, and I was once again “removed”, just as completely as I had been minutes before. Words seemed to be flowing through my head, but I also felt them swirling all around me. I sat there dumbstruck, taking it all in, as the words all began to slow down and coalesce around this simple message:

You’ve suffered greatly, but your time of suffering is through. Whatever successes you had no longer matter. Whatever failures you experienced no longer matter. What your calling is, was, or will be no longer matters. What’s PAST is PAST. There is no longer room or place for resentment or anger or bitterness or sadness or fear or melancholy or blame, only HOLINESS. For everything and everyone and every deed and every success and every failure and every aspect of your journey was HOLY and is HOLY.

Embrace with love everything that is PAST, because your calling was HOLY; therefore, everything and everyone that was ever a part of it is HOLY as well.

And with these words, I felt some kind of surge rush through my spirit, like a silent breeze or wind blowing through me. And suddenly, I felt a massive weight lifted off my spirit and my shoulders.

And it was over.

Slowly, the sounds of birds, wind chimes, and palms rustling began to fill my senses once again, but in a different, quieter way – as if the world around me was hushed. An airy presence occupied my soul, so much so that I felt I had lost 20 lbs. God’s Presence felt very near to me, in a way I hadn’t felt in years, but in a different way. There was no sense of urgency, no sense of exultation, or joy, or anything, really. Just an incredible sense of calm astonishment.

Then suddenly, a parting phrase:

Check your books.

I went back inside once more, to my home office, where a tall bookcase contains my religious texts and books left over from my journey (including, on the top shelf, the pile of flash cards left over from my Biblical Greek class). Since the library was unpacked 2 1/2 years ago, I can count the number of times I’ve even noticed or thumbed through any of these books – the memories were simply too painful. My eyes fell upon Michael Ramsey’s “The Gospel and the Catholic Church”, one of my favorite books from that period: dogeared, highlighted throughout, scribbles in the columns. Leafing through it, I could only smile as I fondly recalled how important it had seemed to me back then. I reached for the pile of flash cards that, through no fault of their own, had been such a major contributor to my undoing back in Kentucky. I looked at a couple, thought the memory of them to be almost comical, and carefully put them back. And it occurred to me at that moment just how much weight had been lifted off of me. My spirit had been cleansed – no, freed, from all the baggage left over from those years. I could breathe again.

I knew I had to tell someone, but who? I sat down at the computer and was in the middle of writing an e-mail to my friend Dona when Tracey walked in. As I tried to tell her what happened, I couldn’t stop tearing up, but they weren’t tears of sadness, or even, really, joy – just relief.

Because Tracey had to go into work, it was soon just me and the rabbits alone in the house with laundry and housework to do. Passing by the door to the patio, I put down what I was carrying and poked my head outside. The day was sunny and warm, and a soft breeze tinkled the wind chimes. The “bubble”, or whatever it was, was gone. I looked at the chair I had sat in no more than an hour – or a lifetime – ago, and realized I would never think of it again as just a chair, but kind of a holy place – or at least a place where something holy had occurred. Somewhat cautiously, I sat down for a few quiet moments, then got up. After all, there was laundry to do…

Tomorrow: Aftermath and aftershocks.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by at 00:30 | Comments (5)

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