Come in! Come in!

"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Angel wings, Camel Drool and other Portuguese Christmas Treats

Christmas came early for me this year.

Just the other day, I was searching my cookbooks for a recipe and there it was. Tucked way in the back of the ancient Betty Crocker Cookbook which my mother gave me in 1970 was an envelope so full of papers it could barely close.

I opened the envelope and there it was! Something I had been looking for these last five years.

All of the recipes for my grandmother's Christmas treats.

The little kid that still lives in my heart let out a most joyful yelp.  I didn't know I could still make that kind of happy noise. Indeed, just hearing it, combined with my find, brought tears to my eyes.

As I opened the envelope, all of the treats and tastes and sounds that filled my childhood Christmas came tumbling out.

There I was, six, maybe seven years old. Standing at the stove as my grandmother fried up the Coscoroes - the Angle Wings - two or three or four at a time, lifting the delicate fried dough out of the oil and letting them drain on newspaper (no paper towels in mia VaVoa's kitchen) then sprinkled with a mixture of cinnamon sugar.

In the oven the Cavacas - Portuguese popovers - were baking - light, airy confections, drizzled with icing with just a hint of orange rind and a few drops of orange juice. At least, that's how my grandmother made them.

And, in the pressure cooker - didn't EVERY household in the 50s have a pressure cooker? - was a can of sweetened condensed milk, slowly boiling into the can, transforming itself into caramel. It would be used, along with egg yolks and fluffy egg whites, to make the yummy, sweet, sorta-pudding-kinda- mouse confection known as Baba de Camelo - Camel Drool.

My mother hated that my grandmother called it that, but that's exactly what she called it, so we kids did, too. My mother consented for us to call it "Baba".

Only "Baba". We had to leave off the "de Camelo". She reasoned that babies drooled. So did old men when they saw beautiful women. And drooling was the highest compliment you could pay a cook who had prepared an amazing holiday repast.

So, "Baba" was okay. Say "Baba de Camelo" and you'd see the back side of my mother's hand slap you right upside the head. And then, stars.

My grandmother had a wonderful story with each of the treats on the table. We heard the story as she was making the confections in her kitchen and then again on Christmas night. Except on Christmas night, she would select one of us to tell the story. We thought she was testing us. I have come to believe it was her way of making sure we'd know the story so well, we'd tell it to our children and our children's children.

Cavacas in the foreground - Chocolates in the back.
She would begin with the Cavacas - the Portuguese popovers. My grandmother would say, "Who knows why we eat these beautiful, light buns?"

We'd all shoot our hands up in the air, hoping she'd call on us for this one. It was the easiest.

She would always choose one of the littlest ones to answer. "After the angel Gabriel left Mary," one of the kids would say, in that sing-songy way little kids always have, "suddenly, there appeared in Mary's belly" . . . . ."

. . . . at which point someone would always stop and say, "Wait! Wait!"

"Oh, yeah," the child would blush, I almost forgot." She'd shoot a look at my grandmother who smiled lovingly.

"After the angel Gabriel left Mary - AFTER Mary said 'YES' to the angel - suddenly there appeared in Mary's belly (and, we'd all join her in saying) . . . a . .. .  little . . . round . . . . . BUMP."

"That was the sweet BABY JESUS in there!" she'd squeal, "A sweet bun in the oven! Filled with the breath of God!"

And we would all applaud, and then look around for whichever aunt was pregnant that year. And, there was always an aunt somewhere who was pregnant that year. She'd be hovering over by the kitchen door, an uncle draped over her, one hand on a beer bottle, one hand on her belly, looking so proud he could burst.

Now, understand, please, that this expression, "bun in the oven" is not from the Portuguese culture. I'm not sure but I suspect this was my grandmother's cultural adaptation to her new American home. I don't know what they called it in their little village in Portugal, but I'm sure there was some Victorian euphemism for pregnancy.

God forbid one should be so bold and brash as to use the word "pregnant" to describe such a delicate condition. After all, even scripture never uses the word, "pregnant". It says, "with child". 

My grandmother would then hush the squealing by announcing, in her Church Voice, "Hail, Mary!" And, we'd all join her solemnly reciting the prayer we learned even before the "Our Father."
"Hail Mary, full of grace! The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus (Always a slight pause and heads solemnly bowed here.) Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen."
Except, we'd all say the prayer in Portuguese, because that's how our grandmother taught it to us. It would be said in that sing-songy kinda way all kids have when they are reciting something.
Avé Maria, cheia de graça, o Senhor é convosco. Bendita sois vós entre as mulheres bendito é o fruto do vosso ventre, Jesus. Santa Maria, mãe de Deus, rogai por nós pecadores, agora e na hora da nossa morte. Amen
I can still hear our high, sweet voices, lilting above the voices of adult men and women who had gathered 'round the dessert table to join the ritual.

Then, we'd move down the table, onto the Coscoroes.  That was my favorite story.

Turns out, when the Baby Jesus was born, there was great rejoicing in heaven. A special choir of the newest angels was selected to accompany the Angel Gabriel to sign to Mary and Joseph and the Baby Jesus.

But, when they arrived at the manger, the angels were simply aghast that the newborn Prince of Peace was wrapped in swaddling clothes and his bed was a manger of straw.

So, they decided to make a proper bed of their feathers from their angel wings for Jesus. They also used their wings to cover his swaddling clothes with a blanket woven from their wing feathers.

The angel Gabriel was quite upset when he saw this and scolded the angels for what they had done.

"This child," he said, "while one of us, is also very human. That's the whole point of this project from God. Jesus has come to know everything about being human - their thoughts, their feelings, their suffering, their joy - so that they may know the unconditional love of God."

But, the angel Gabriel also had great compassion on the Choir of Angels, so he sprinkled some white, sugary angel dust on the bed and blankets. At that moment,  the angels and Mary and Joseph could see them, but to everyone else, they were invisible.

All the shepherds saw - and the Wise Men when they arrived - was straw and swaddling clothes.

My grandmother said many miracles happened that night that have not been told. This, she said, was just one of them.

Coscroes are very light, fried dough, sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. They melt in your mouth and are, well, simply heavenly.

The Baba de Camelo always held the last spot on the table - only because it was the story for Little Christmas - the Epiphany - when the Wise Men came on their camels to bring presents to the Baby Jesus. So, of course, they drooled.  Of course.

The Baba would make a reappearance at the dessert table at Little Christmas, complete with the story of the Wise Men. I don't remember them having names when my grandmother or someone from the family told the story. I didn't learn that until I went to school.

The thing is that we didn't exchange gifts at Christmas. Not in my grandmother's house, any way. We did that at Little Christmas. My grandmother wanted to keep the focus of Christmas on Jesus. We exchanged gifts on the day when the Wise Men brought presents to Jesus.

When my children started getting older and starting their own families, I restarted this tradition. My Christmas gift to them is to be and do whatever they need to do on Christmas Day. But, on Little Christmas, we all get together - the whole family. It's our favorite family day. The only thing that has stopped us in the past is the weather, but we wouldn't miss it for the world.

As a kid, the Coscores and Cavacas, also made a reappearance at my grandmother's Little Christmas celebration, along with a huge platter of Pasteis de Nata - Portuguese Custard Tarts. They are little mouthfuls of divine egg custard nestled in light filo dough. I could pop a half dozen in my mouth without breaking a sweat. Heavenly stuff. Trust me on this.

I'm going to leave you with my grandmother's recipes, including her little notes and cooking tips.

I can not even begin to tell you how much it means to me to have these recipes back in my recipe stack.  I mean, they were always right there. I just found them again.

Sort of like the "original blessing" in the garden was there but we misplaced the recipe for awhile. So, Jesus had to come to show us the way back to Paradise.

Feliz Natal!

Pasteis de nata


For the Pasteis de Nata dough
  • 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3/4 cup plus two tablespoons water
  • 16 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, stirred until smooth
  • For the custard
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups milk, divided
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 large egg yolks, whisked
  • For the garnish
  • Confectioners’ sugar
  • Cinnamon


Make the Pastéis de Nata dough 

In a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix the flour, salt, and water until a soft, pillowy dough forms that pulls away from the side of the bowl, about 30-60 seconds.

Generously flour a work surface and pat the dough into a 6-inch square using a pastry scraper. Flour the dough, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rest at room temperature for 15 minutes.

Roll the dough into an 18-inch square. As you work, use the scraper to lift the dough to make sure the underside isn’t sticking to your work surface. 

Brush the excess flour off the top of the dough, trim any uneven edges, and, using a small offset spatula, dot and then spread the left 2/3 portion of the dough with a little less than 1/3 of the butter being careful to leave a 1 inch plain border around the edge of the dough.

Neatly fold the unbuttered right 1/3 of the dough (using the pastry scraper to loosen it if it sticks) over the rest of the dough. Brush off any excess flour, then fold over the left 1/3 of the dough. Starting from the top, pat down the dough with your hand to release any air bubbles, and then pinch the edges of the dough to seal. Brush off any excess flour.

Turn the dough 90° to the left so the fold is facing you. Lift the dough and flour the work surface. Once again roll it out to an 18-inch square, then dot the left 2/3 of the dough with 1/3 of the butter and smear it over the dough. Fold the dough as directed in steps 4 and 5.

For the last rolling, turn the dough 90° to the left and roll out the dough to an 18-by-21-inch rectangle, with the shorter side facing you. Spread the remaining butter over the entire surface of the dough.

Using the spatula as an aid, lift the edge of dough closest to you and roll the dough away from you into a tight log, brushing the excess flour from the underside as you go. Trim the ends and cut the log in half. Wrap each piece in plastic wrap and chill for 2 hours or preferably overnight. (The pastry can be frozen for up to 3 months.)

(Yes, of course, you can use philo dough, cut into small rectangles and fitted into a nonstick 12-cup mini-muffin pan 2-by-5/8-inch size. Caution: my grandmother might rise up from her grave and give you such a smack upside the head. But, you will do what you will do. )
Make the custard

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour and 1/4 cup milk until smooth.

Bring the sugar, cinnamon, and water to a boil in a small saucepan and cook until an instant-read thermometer registers 220°F .(It will look like syrup.) Do not stir.

Meanwhile, in another small saucepan, scald the remaining 1 cup milk. Whisk the hot milk into the flour mixture.

Remove the cinnamon stick and then pour the sugar syrup in a thin stream into the hot milk-and-flour mixture, whisking briskly. Add the vanilla and stir for a minute until very warm but not hot. Whisk in the yolks, strain the mixture into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside. The custard will be thin; that is as it should be. (You can refrigerate the custard for up to 3 days.)

Assemble and bake the pastries

Heat the oven to 450°F . Remove a pastry log from the refrigerator and roll it back and forth on a lightly floured surface until it’s about an inch in diameter and 16 inches long. Cut it into scant 3/4-inch pieces. Place 1 piece pastry dough, cut side down, in each well of a nonstick 12-cup mini-muffin pan (2-by-5/8-inch size). Allow the dough pieces to soften several minutes until pliable.

Have a small cup of water nearby. Dip your thumbs in the water, then straight down into the middle of the dough spiral. Flatten it against the bottom of the cup to a thickness of about 1/16 inch, then smooth the dough up the sides and create a raised lip about 1/8 inch above the pan. The pastry sides should be thinner than the bottom.

Fill each cup 3/4 full with the slightly warm custard. Bake the pasteis until the edges of the dough are frilled and brown, about 8 to 9 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow the pasteis to cool a few minutes in the pan, then transfer to a rack and cool until just warm. Sprinkle the pasteis generously with confectioners’ sugar, then cinnamon and serve. Repeat with the remaining pastry and custard. These are best consumed the day they’re made. That won't be a problem. Trust me on this.

Baba de Camelo (Caramel Mousse) "Camel's Drool"

1 can of sweetened condensed milk
6 eggs

Place the can in a pressure cooker, cover completely with water and cook for one hour. Be sure to remove the label from the can before placing it in the water.  (Note: I do not have a pressure cooker so I just use a large pot and cover the can completely with water. I cook it, covered, for 2 hours)

After the proper cooking time, remove the pot from the heat and carefully remove the can from the pot. Allow the can to cool.

While the can is cooling, separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and whisk the egg yolks. When the condensed milk has cooled, blend well with egg yolks, either with a whisk or mixer.

Separately, beat the egg whites with a mixer until stiff peaks form.

Carefully and slowly, fold the egg whites into the condensed milk/egg yolk mixture until all ingredients are well blended.

Pour the mixture into a large bowl or individual serving bowls.

Before serving, garnish with your choice of chopped almonds, chopped walnuts, sliced strawberries or even crumbled sweet Madelines or sugar cookies or, if you want to get fancy-schmancy, Piroulines

Cavacas (Portuguese Popovers)

This recipe makes 24 but it can easily be cut in half. You'll have 24 if you use regular muffin pans. If you use a proper popover pan, you'll have 12. If you've only got one popover pan, like I do, I would make this in two batches. It's really important that you use the batter immediately.


2 cups flour
1 cup oil - my grandmother always used olive oil but you can use vegetable oil
1/2 cup whole milk (or whatever you use - I wouldn't use skim)
8 large eggs at room temperature.

Sugar Glaze

2 cups Confectioner's Sugar
Zest of 1/2 orange
2 T of milk - more or less depending on the thickness you like


Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease regular size muffin tins or popover tin.

Using an electric mixer, beat all ingredients for 20 minutes without stopping. (Yes, my grandmother stood there for 20 minutes. I strongly recommend using a stand mixer set on level 6.)

Once the ingredients have been mixed for 20 minutes, immediately fill the muffin or popover tins half full. No more than that. Trust me on this.

Bake on the middle rack for about 45 minutes; if you want the Cavacas to be on the dry side, bake for an hour. They will turn a golden brown and "popover" the pan.

While they are still warm, dip the sugar glaze or drizzle glaze over them. You can sprinkle them with green and red sugar or, if you prefer, some orange zest.

Coscoroes - Angel Wings (Fried Pastry)


5 -6 cups of flour
4 eggs
zest of one orange
juice of one orange
4 T melted butter
4 T sugar
2 oz whiskey (not to worry, the alcohol bakes off)
pinch of salt
oil for frying.


Beat the sugar, eggs and butter. Add the pinch of salt, orange rind, orange juice whiskey and the flour and continue beating until the batter is smooth. Cover the bowl and set aside for one hour.

After one hour, pour the batter onto a very floured counter. Kneed the dough with enough flour until the batter is no longer sticky. (Note: this could take a while and use more flour than you think.)

Roll out the dough into 3x5 inch rectangles, about 1/4 inch thick. Make cuts lengthwise in the center of the rectangles.

Fry in hot oil until golden brown (I use a large cast iron skillet, filled about 3/4 full with vegetable oil. this allows me to do 2-4 at a time, depending on how large I make the angel wings)

Place on paper towels to absorb any grease (my grandmother used newspaper or sheets of an old calendar - never paper towels. Then again, she used newspaper and sheets of old calendar for toilet paper, too. Waste not, want not.)

Blend sugar with cinnamon in a bowl and coat each Coscoroes.

A final note: 

My grandmother would make a pot of hot, strong, black tea and pour each of us a cup into which we would add several teaspoons of sugar and lots of milk. Then, we'd sit down at the kitchen table, near the pot bellied stove, and much on a few angel wings as she'd tell me a story. Like, her life in her village outside and to the north of Lisbon and her six older brothers. Or, the day her mother died. Or, her trip on the boat alone from Portugal to America. Or, some of the memories of her childhood.

Making these Portuguese treats brings each one of her stories back, and I feel connected to her and a part of my identity.

These recipes are really part of my "incarnation".  May they become symbols of incarnational, unconditional love for you.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Vocational Risk Management

Vocational Risk Management:
Some Thoughts on Parochial Discernment of a “fixer-upper” parish.

So, the question was asked on a private FB page for ordained women:
Seeking the wisdom/experience of this group. In discerning my next call - as first-time rector - I'm considering two very different places. One, is a church with incredible potential, but a real fixer upper. It's a risk, but in the neighborhood in which I've lived for a decade. (I've been serving as associate at a growing and thriving church across town all these years.) It will be a tremendous amount of work, faith, and trust that God's love will shine through and this place will climb out of its decline.

The second option is a stable, steady, healthy church with many similarities to my current ministry context. It's a decent size with stable finances and lacking a lot of potential to grow in any significant way due to demographics and location.

IF I were to take a risk and be successful and lucky in turning around the declining church, it would be fabulous. BUT, if it didn't happen, I would fail as a middle-aged woman in our church.

The second option is the safe choice.

In my experience, I have seen lots of men recover from failures like that, but women's careers seem to sputter out or die.

What thoughts, advice, suggestions do you have as I enter deeply into discernment with both of these congregations? 
Here’s how I responded

It was requested that I put it in a document for wider distribution. You have my permission to share this with those you think may benefit from it - colleagues, deployment officers, bishops, etc. - with proper attribution, of course.(It's fine. I'm happy to take the hit from your bishop.)

So, here’s what I wrote:

Having taken risks all my adult life and most of my vocational life (one I thought I'd never recover from which turned out to be the BEST thing to ever happen to me), I have learned that it is important, right from the start, to "manage risks".

Here's what I've learned about managing the risks in a "fixer upper".

1. Do not be seduced into thinking you and Jesus can do this.  It took YEARS of neglect by LOTS of people for them to get into this shape. It's going to take YEARS and LOTS of people to get them out. And, you. And, Jesus. 

2. Here are some more specific suggestions:  
+ Do not consider taking this on without a plan that involves the Wardens, Vestry, congregational leaders, appropriate Diocesan liaison and the bishop.

+ Make sure the concerns/problems are articulated and written down on paper (letter of agreement/plan of ministry action/business plan) with a plan to address each concern/problem and the person/people who are responsible and the task they are assigned.

+ Develop a "business plan" with an estimate of what each problem will cost to repair/fix. I’m not just talking about problems concerning the physical plant. What are the “problems” that have prohibited or stalled growth or thwarted the achievement of goals?And, what will it cost - monetarily and in terms of human capitol - to address them?

+ It's also a good idea for you to articulate what your skill sets/gifts are for this ministry project as well as your learning curves and some possible resources/places for help and assistance.

+ Where is this congregation in their life cycle? What skill sets and gifts do you have that match with where they are right now and what they need? Know that there is a difference between skills of initiation and skills of management as well as skills of maintenance. How do the skills you possess and the passions you have serve the needs of this congregation at this point in their cycle of life?

+ If you have had a course in Family Systems or studied anything by Ed Friedman, get out your books and notes and brush up on them. You’ll find the information absolutely invaluable. 

If you haven’t studied Family Systems, get the Friedman book GENERATION TO GENERATION. Read it. Talk to people who have studied Family Systems. Keep them in your circle of support and advice. (Note: This is especially important if you are an ACoA (adult child of an alcoholic). If you’ve been thinking you should get into an ACoA support group but haven’t, this would be the time. Now. Today. Go online and look for the closest group in your area. Don’t think you really need it? Do it anyway. Trust me on this.)

+ When you’ve developed your plan of ministry, which, to review, includes, but is not limited to
*a fair, honest and accurate assessment of where the congregation is in their life cycle

*an articulation of what it was that brought them to this point, including any congregational conflicts with themselves or former rectors/bishops - ask specifically about theological conflicts, or crisis like abuse or boundary violations or destruction of property through fire, flood or other natural disasters.

*the challenges they presently face with realistic, measurable, achievable goals

*the skill sets you possess to address their needs.

*the resources you’ll need for the skills you - and, they - don’t have
*who is responsible for what - bishop, diocesan liaison, priest, congregation.

*a realistic, attainable budget. Don't hesitate to ask for the last 5 years of Parochial Reports. If the church or diocese don't have them, you can get them online through 815.
make sure the bishop sees the plan and signs off on it as well as everyone else.

Make sure there's a provision for everyone - including the bishop - to review and reevaluate the plan at least once a year.

Wait. Did I mention that it's really, really important to have the bishop on board with your plan and that the bishop promises to have your back when you get serious push-back/acting out/attacking you? It is. Extremely. Because there will be. You can count on it.

Please note: This does NOT guarantee success. This just makes certain that everyone goes into this risk situation with their eyes wide open, and everyone is clear about the responsibility they all share.

Yes, you’re absolutely right. This all should maybe have been done in their interim period. Maybe some of it already has. Probably most of it hasn’t. So, look: This won’t be the first thing that wasn’t done that should have been done and it won’t be the last. That’s part of why you’ve been called to this place. You can’t change the past, and you can’t control the future; all you’ve got is the moment in front of you. Use it to move forward into the amazing future God has in store for everyone when you risk something big for the Gospel.

3. Remember: You are not the savior. Neither is the bishop. Neither is the congregation. Jesus is. (Have I said that too much? If you’re thinking that, perhaps I haven’t said it enough)

4. Remember the three C's: You didn't cause this. You can't control it. And, you can't cure it. (You’ll learn that in an ACoA group) That takes Real humility to admit. Together, however, you and the congregation and the bishop can manage the risks involved to discern what is in the heart of Jesus for this work of ministry. See also: Jesus is the Savior. Not you.

5. Personal resources/support: Make sure you have a mentor with whom you meet at least every other week. A support group is wonderful. A spiritual director/guide is important. A therapist is absolutely essential. All four will help you manage the spiritual, psychological and vocational risks you’re about to take on.

6. Remember this: In an experiment, there are no failures. There are just lessons learned. This HAS to be the attitude of this ministry project. For everyone involved. No failures. Just lessons learned. This allows you and the congregation and the bishop enormous freedom to be creative and imaginative, to risk something big for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It allows you – when you leave, whether the church is growing or not, and the congregation and the bishop to allow you – to leave the project with your sense of dignity - and vocation - intact.

7. Finally - (I would have said it first but you might have stopped paying attention): Pray. Without ceasing. I’m not kidding. Start every meeting - even if it’s just with one other person (even if - no, wait, especially if - it’s with the bishop) with prayer. Just the two of you. Every time. It’s okay if you have a prayer - or write a prayer - to use that same prayer before you do anything. Begin and end your day with prayer. Even if it’s just Anne Lamott’s Morning Prayer ( “Help, help, help.”) and Evening Prayer (“Thank you, thank you, thank you.”). Humility and gratitude are essential components of mission and ministry. So is a great sense of humor. Prayer will help you laugh at the absurd - and, this sort of ministry will often bring you face to face with The Absurd. In fact, laughter is the greatest statement of faith there is. Think about it: You’d be a fool to laugh in the face of The Absurd - or Danger or Evil - without having faith in God. And faith is always strengthened by an active prayer life. One thing I know to be true: You can’t take a risk for the Gospel without prayer. Well, you can. But you could really hurt yourself. Seriously.

Wait. I almost forgot. There is one more thing. Not essential, but it helps: Get a theme song. You know. Something to sing when you find yourself in the middle of a major pickle and for the life of you, you can’t remember what in the heck possessed you to do this in the first place. Every good team or school or movement has one. It could be a hymn or it could be a contemporary song. You choose. Just make it inspiring and hopeful, something that will lift you out of the muck or the ambush you’ve just walked into and back onto the path. There could be one for you, personally, and one for your congregation. Or, they might be one and the same. Have fun with this. Start with one of your own. You’ll need it. In one ministry project, I used "Searching My Soul" from Ally McBeal which got me through some tough times. Here's my latest theme song for my work in Hospice.

Oh, and if you decide to jump into the risk without a parachute or goggles and boots or other protective gear, just know that the ride will be exhilarating and pray for some trees or water to break your fall.

Always remember and never forget, especially in a creative, imaginative, high risk ministry project: You are not the savior. Neither is your bishop. Jesus is.

So, there it is. Broad brush stroke stuff, really. There’s a whole lot more detail, of course, but those are the basics to get you started. If you want to send me feedback or ask questions or share a fabulous experience or insight, please contact me directly at Mother Kaeton at Gmail Dot Com. I’d love to hear how you’re doing.

You’re in my prayers. I really mean that. God bless you.

Friday, December 09, 2016

An Open Letter to Mr. Trump

Dear Mr. Trump,

No, I'm not addressing you as "President-Elect Trump".

You couldn't know this, but I'm actually demonstrating enormous restraint and practicing generosity of spirit in calling you "Mr. Trump."

My mama taught me well.  She was one of those first generation immigrant "dreamers" who worked hard and sacrificed to make America great.

So was my father. He was a purple-heart veteran of WWII - Pacific front, but, I must say, as generous as he could be, he'd never have given his purple heart to you. He got it the old fashioned way. He earned it.

Sometime, I'll tell you about the sleepless nights we all had as kids when my father would scream out from some war scene he was relieving. I can even tell you the name of one of the Japanese soldiers he killed. My brother still has his Japanese helmet with a picture of that soldier in uniform, standing proudly with his wife by his side. My father never met the man he killed when he was alive. Never spoke his name when he was alive. But, he certainly called it out enough times in the middle of the night, begging God for forgiveness.

Both my parents and my grandparents and aunts and uncles were all very active in the labor union organizing movement. They fought hard at the bargaining table and on the strike lines for things like safety in their work environment and fair wages and decent benefit packages.

Immigrants! We get the job done!

Well, you did try to tell us that "the system is rigged" but we thought you were just setting yourself up to be the sore loser (and, turns out, sore winner) you really are because we all thought there was no chance in hell that you'd win.

Even you. And, it's been said in not-fake-news sources, so did the Russians.

Turns out, you were right. But, you were talking about "voter fraud" - which is not really the accurate term.  It's really "voter suppression" which is when a political party practices voter fraud.

You were just "exaggerating the truth" again. One of your favorite things to do. 

The fact is that the GOP has long practiced voter suppression in all sort and manner of deception: purging voter lists, gerrymandering districts, and fear-mongering, chief among them.

Of course, this was done following the GOP principle of "little government" because we don't want the Government messing around in our private lives.

Oh, no, not that! Unless, of course, it has to do with the privacy of women's reproductive lives, but that's another story for another time.

I've been pinning desperate hopes here and there that you would forever remain "President-Elect" and not ever make it to the Oval Office. I've signed petitions for recount and hoped against hope that if there weren't enough miscounted ballots to turn the election, perhaps some voter fraud would be uncovered.

At the very least, it might prove to be embarrassing to you, and we all know how you HATE that. 

I've also been praying that there might be thirty-seven patriots - 37 "faithless electors" - in the Electoral College who would not caste their vote for you. Thirty-seven votes is all we'd need to bring the Electoral College vote to 269 and you would not have won the popular or electoral college vote.

Oh, the GOP would still be in control, but you're not really a Republican anyway. It would just serve to humiliate you in much the same way you have humiliated women and those who are disabled and those you say are not heroes because they were captured and those who are immigrants and those who are Muslim or Mexican or ..... anyone other than Caucasian, Christian, heterosexual and, of course, wealthy.

I know it won't happen, but the whiff of hope - the fumes of possibility - are enough to sustain me from now to December 19 when it will all be over but to watch you try to ruin this country with your fear-mongering and hate-speech and flat-out lies - most of it done in 140 character Tweets.

I know. I know. And, even YOU know - I think, though I'm quite sure you haven't read the Constitution or the Federalist Papers and even if you had you do not possess the intellect to understand them (Le sigh!) - that even if there were 37 patriots among the 538 members of the Electoral College they would ALL have to vote for Hillary Clinton.

They won't. They might vote for another Republican like Mitt Romney or Michael Bloomberg which would deny you the election, but it would also not be enough to elect Hillary Clinton. Which actually would be okay with me.

I know. I thought Mitt Romney would be the worst president ever. That's when he was running against President Obama. Now? Next to you? He looks great. What's your word? Terrific!

But, even 37 electoral votes would not be enough to elect Romney or anyone else President. But, you wouldn't have the Electoral College vote. 

If that happened - if neither you nor Madame Secretary Clinton didn't get the vote, or the vote were somehow a tie, the election would still go to the Republican Party.

Well, it would go to Congress and you know they would vote for you. Because they think they can control you. Because, right now, and at least for the next two years, they control Congress.

And, as we all know, they are the highest paid, best compensated jackasses in the world. Well, next to you. And, members of your cabinet. In fact, you're counting on that, aren't you?

So, while I don't think there is a "Hail Mary pass" to save us from you, I can promise you this:

You may become "the" President of the United States, but you will NEVER by "my" president.

First of all, you are an admitted sexual predator who has said horribly disgusting and repulsive things about women, the disabled, Mexicans, Muslims, veterans who were captured as prisoner of war, and even The Pope, for God's sake! And, and, AND....your closest advisors are White Supremacists.

You are the antithesis of a "statesman" who has absolutely no experience in government or governing and you seem neither to have the capacity to understand how government works nor the inclination to learn how to govern properly.

You spit on carefully constructed diplomatic protocol.

You claim you want to "drain the swamp" but your cabinet is filled with the very old billionaire cronies, Wall Street corporate giants and east coast elites you said you wanted to kick out of D.C.
And, just for good measure, they are just as inexperienced and incompetent as you are in terms of government and governing.

As it turns out, by refusing to set up your companies in a "blind trust" you are guilty of the same "pay for play" influence-peddling schemes you accused the Clinton Foundation of having.

The only hope in that is you will mess up badly in the next few years and be impeached and sent away from the Oval Office in disgrace, leaving your party in total disarray.

And, and, AND.... it turns out that "fake news" - which is the only "news" your base apparently trusts, thanks to your insistence that the media in this country is "dishonest" (as if you're the paragon of virtue) - was manufactured in Russia.

We have Intelligence that proves this. But, you won't read it, so you can continue to deny it. Which is important because it would mean that your election would have been influenced by a foreign power. Which would disqualify you for election.

In your case, ignorance is not only bliss, it's how you got elected.

It will be absolutely delicious to see your arrogance get you impeached.

But, even more important than all of that, especially my personal opinions of you, the thing is this:

You do not have a mandate from "we the people" of these United States.

Turns out, the polls WERE right.

Hillary Clinton maintains more than 2.6 million vote margin over you.

That's about 2% majority of the vote.  Aside from the obviously corrupt election of 1876, no winning candidate in the two-party era has ever done even remotely as dismally in the popular vote as you have.

Oh, and I just want to point this out, only because it's so obvious you'll probably miss it:

Hillary Clinton is the first woman to be nominated by a major party as their candidate for President of the United States of America.

That' makes this record-breaking, historic popular vote one that was attained by a WOMAN.

Suck on THAT lemon for a minute or two.

So, you won by a peculiarity of our electoral system. It was something akin to a political slight of hand, just the way you've won everything else in your life.

That said, we don't even really know your net worth because, unlike any other candidate for the highest office in the land, we have never seen your tax returns - something you yourself would insist on if anyone else were being hired for a position of this level of trust and responsibility.

I know. I know. You'll never read this letter. It doesn't matter. I still had to write it.

I want you and the whole damn world to know that you will never be MY president.

I want you to know that I have already been in touch with the Democratic Party in my state as well as the DNC. I have written both to promise my time and energy and talent to a Democratic victory in Congress in two years.

Then, two years after that, we'll work to take back the White House, which should not be difficult to do once you are impeached.

And, I have no doubt you'll be impeached.

Even Allan Lichtman, the professor of political history at American University in D.C., who accurately predicted your win has predicted your impeachment. With your refusal to set up a "blind trust" for your many companies, you seem to be walking right into his hands.

Honestly? I couldn't be more delighted.

I also commit to making sure to identify "fake news" when I see it on social media and to publicly support all those courageous men and women of the Fourth Estate when they call you out as a liar whenever you tweet out your "exaggerated truths" (Read: Lies)

I'll be in D.C. for the Women's March on Washington, making sure that the glow from your inauguration party doesn't last longer than 24 hours.

More importantly, we want to make absolutely certain that you know that you do NOT have a mandate from 'we the people" - especially women and our right to keep the government off our bodies and out of our uterus.

And, even though you say you believe in God and even go to church "sometimes to eat the little cookie but never drink the wine," I believe that  the God I know and love and serve has lessons for us to learn that we couldn't learn any other way.

It's a bit like that story in the Bible. I know you know about the "two Corinthians" but, before that, in the First Book of Samuel, there's a story in Chapter 8 that brings me hope.

Samuel had ruled Israel with justice and the nation prospered. But, he was old and his two sons, Joel and Abijah, were deemed by the people unsuitable and unable to follow in their father's ways.

So, the leaders gathered at Ramah and said to Samuel, "appoint us a king to govern us like all the nations"! And, scripture says,
But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to govern us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord And the Lord said to Samuel, “Hearken to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them."
See, Mr. Trump (I almost wrote Donald. I have to remind myself to be polite to you.), it really isn't about you. That's the final insult, isn't it?

In this election, we didn't really elect you. The numbers show that clearly.

And, contrary to what your spin room is churning out, we did not reject President Obama. Neither did we reject Secretary Clinton.

Those who voted for you rejected God for the illusions of security you promised them after you scared them into believing your lies.

The people who voted for you chose their own sense of security, their own chance for prosperity over justice and truth, fairness and equality, liberty and freedom and the pursuit of happiness for ALL of God's children.

What really hurts me is knowing that there are women - 53% of white women - voted for you. The chances are pretty good that I know a white woman who voted for you. But, what hurts even more is that she'll never tell me she voted for you.

I'll work on forgiving her. I have to. I won't allow you to erode my trust. I have to believe she'll come to regret that vote for the rest of her life.

So, as God said to Samuel, "Let them have their king." (I Samuel 8:22).

See, here's something you don't know because you haven't read The Good Book - just the part about the Two Corinthians - and so you don't know how it ends.

Here's a hint: Love wins. That's how it begins. That's how it ends. Love wins.

It may not always look like it, but love always wins.

Even death can't destroy it. And, neither can you.

So, good luck, Mr. Trump.

History has its eyes on you. And, it will be as kind to you as you have to it. 

And, good luck, America.

I mean that. You - and we - will need it over the next two years. Until we take back Congress or you implode and are impeached - or both.

I and many millions of others will be working hard to blunt the damage you already have planned to "make American great again."

Those of us who know just how great America IS plan to provide you with undeniable, irrefutable, hard core evidence of that as we work with all the angels in heaven and all the saints - past, present and yet to come -  to make our government "of the people, by the people, for the people" work for "we the people".

All the people.

For, we are what makes America great. Right now.

Not you. 

Mr. Trump.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Holela: A Certain Kind of Madness

Leonard Cohen, the nation's aged, craggy poet and raspy balladeer laureate, died this week at age 82.

He gave us thoughtful, poetic songs about religion and romance like "Suzanne" and "Bird on a Wire" and, of course, "Hallelujah". 

There is an irony, for me at least, about his death so soon after the death of everything so many of us thought we knew about ourselves,  each other and this country. 

Can there be many who don't know the haunting beauty of his song, "Hallelujah"? 

It's been covered so many times by so many artists in so many situations - from the movie Shrek to the Memorial at the Emmy Awards, to my personal favorite by K.D. Lang - that Cohen even agreed with a critic’s plea in 2009 for a moratorium on the song’s usage in movies and on TV.  

If you listen to Cohen's original recording of his song, on his 1984 album "Various Positions," you hear something different. Something darker. Something more ominous. Something about the death of dreams and the paradox of love and how taking the risk of living into either one can lead to the possibility of healing and/or hurt, devastation and/or inspiration.

You hear in his craggy, ragged voice something about mortality and the fragility of life. You hear something about how dreams and love can sometimes lead mere mortals to amazing foolishness and degradation as well as incredible achievements and miraculous nobility. 

He wrote the song in 1984. It's probably no coincidence that Ronald Regan was elected President of the United States in November of that same year. I remember hearing it played at the deathbeds and funerals of so many people who were dying of AIDS.

The story goes that it took Cohen two years and eighty verses - some of them written while sitting in his underwear on the floor of the Royalton Hotel in New York, banging his head on the floor. If you listen, you can hear that in his song, as well.

Which is about right for a song about which the author once said,  " . . . explains that many kinds of hallelujahs do exist, and all the perfect and broken hallelujahs have equal value."

Hallelujah - or Alleluia - is a word of no small significance in communities of faith. But it doesn't always mean what we think it means. 

Most linguistic and Hebrew scholars agree that it is an amalgam of two words, the last "jah" is derived from the Hebrew word for God YHWH.  The first part, "halal" is usually understood to be an imperative form - a command - of the word "praise", but that's the easy version of translation.

Halal is also what lamps and celestial bodies do: shine.  In Job (41:10) this verb is employed to state how the sneezes of Leviathan "flash forth light". 

The masculine noun (mahalel) means "praise" or "rejoicing" or "congratulations".  The feminine noun (tehilla), means praise, song of praise or thanksgiving or adoration; it can also denote praiseworthy deeds.

But, there are two other feminine nouns, holela and holelut, which derive from this root word for praise, but ones which denote a kind of madness. It is usually associated with a sort of inexplicable exuberance; a deep joy which defies understanding or explanation.

One of my professors, a very wise Rabbi from New York, a very long time ago, once said to me that 
"Holela is the sound that comes from the intersection of suffering and wisdom; it is the sound of prayer, the sound of faith, the sound of hope, the sound of trust in God, which suffering tells us is foolish and wisdom tells us is truth."
He may or may not have known that, explicitly, but I have a sense that that's exactly what Cohen was expressing when he wrote this song.  Holela. It's what lead him to sit on the floor in his underwear in the NY hotel, banging his head on the floor.

Holela haunts this song, dancing seductively over the words, teasing out the melody until there is a sad but merciful and creative intercourse of the two. That's why it all sounds so painful and beautiful, all at the same time. 

It's what makes the song so compelling. We know it, not so much with our minds but intuitively. It speaks with "flashes of light from the sneeze of the ancient Leviathan" to the things we keep hidden in the darkest corners of the heart and soul. Its creativity is sensual and sexual; it is deeply spiritual and hopelessly romantic.

Holela captures almost precisely what I'm feeling after the madness of this week. 

Something has died, but something new is stirring in my soul. A new clarity about my identity - our identity as a nation -  which leads me to a new resolve. An emerging but yet clearly unidentified determination. 

When I can get out of my own way - my own sense of defeat and disappointment - I find enormous waves of gratitude washing over me. For Hillary. For her courage. For her intelligence. For her years of experience and service. For her class. For her grace - especially under enormous, impossible pressure.

For her willingness to carry the dream and hold the dream and risk the dream for all of us; for love of her people and her country. 

There's a certain kind of madness to that. Especially right now, less than a week later. 

Especially after hate crimes are on the rise, immigrants and people of different skin color and religious expression - here in the 'home of the brave and the land of the free" - are living in fear and terror, and women are, once again, targets for spiritual and emotional and physical abuse.

Even so, I find myself whispering, "Holela." It is my prayer. It is my statement of faith. 

It's the last verse of Cohen's song that has gotten me through this dreadful week. 
I did my best, it wasn't much
I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
And even though
It all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah
Here I stand, with nothing on my tongue but Holela.

Thank you for the inspiration and permission to do that, Leonard Cohen.

Thank you for the inspiration and courage to do that, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

It's a certain kind of madness, I know. But, at least I have gotten up from sitting on the floor in my underwear; I have stopped banging my head on the floor.

It may be different for you - no doubt, it is, and that's okay - but even though it all went wrong, standing upright before God, whispering and croaking "Holela" from the depths of my broken heart, seems absolutely the right place to be at this particular moment in time.

Call me crazy. You may be right. I stand in good company with women, ancient and modern, from all countries and cultures and creeds.


Thursday, November 10, 2016

A Prayer for November 9, 2016

 Note: I got up early on the morning of November 9th - I hadn't been sleeping anyway - and realized that I had to change the meditation I had prepared for my Hospice Team. So, I wrote this prayer. I share it here in the hopes that it may speak to you, as well. 

Dear God,

This new day has dawned with this country more divided than it has been since the days of the Civil War. Half of your people are rejoicing while the other half are stunned and sore afraid.

What divided us then continues to tear at the seams of the fabric of this nation.

We are a United Divided States.

Help us to remember that the experiment called democracy is not over; it is still being tested. After 240 years of existence, the final results are not yet in. We still have work to do. It stretches out before us, across wheat fields and deserts, from the mountains to the prairies, from sea to shining sea.
In the midst of our sense of victory, help us to remember your call to us to love one another as you love us.

In the midst of our sense of defeat, help us to remember that you still reign; you alone are worshiped; you alone are God.

Help us to put aside our own feelings – jumbled and confused as they may be at the moment – in service of others, our families and friends and neighbors – here and around the world.

Help us remember your high calling to us to be agents of forgiveness and reconciliation, love and peace, healing and hope in a world made dark by fear and hatred and brokenness.

Help us to rebuild this nation by seeking out your image in the face of others, finding the best in us to serve those who are the least, the lost and the lonely.

Help us to remember the words of one of your servants of old who reminded us that ‘perfect love casts out fear’. Help us perfect our love.

We are your people. You know us by many names. You are our God. We know you by many names.
May we find strength in our diversity and seek the courage to live into what is written on every piece of currency in this nation: In God we Trust. In God. We Trust.

For only in you can we live in safety. Only in you will we find justice. Only in you will we know the peace that passes all human understanding.


For God's sake, PREACH!!

I'm on a bit of a tear, here, so pull up a chair. Or, click delete and move along. Your call.

This is primarily for clergy but it's important that laity hear it as well. 
I've already heard from two clergy who assure me that they see "nothing to be gained and lots more to be lost" by preaching about the spiritual health and well being of our community, our nation and the world in the aftermath of Tuesday's election. 
"I'm just going to preach the gospel," said one to me.

I don't think he had yet gone over to the Lectionary Page. What is that Gospel for this Sunday? Oh, only a few little warnings from Luke (21:5-19), like
"When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately." Then he said to them, "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.

"But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls."
Go ahead. Just try and preach something about "Sweet Baby Jesus, meek and mild" after THAT Gospel is read in the midst of a people who feel like they've been kicked in the stomach. 

My God! We just elected a man to the highest office in the land who is a White supremacist, a sexual predator, a dishonest business man who calls himself "The King of Bankruptcy," and a man who doesn't see the need to ask forgiveness, even from God. 
He feels he gets that in church - the few times he goes - from "the little cookie" but not the wine. He never drinks wine. Or, any alcohol. Such a virtuous man - with really lousy Eucharistic theology.
On Wednesday, November 9th, in Rehoboth Beach, DE, a young Black woman named Ashley, a mother of three young children, was accosted at a gas station by three white men who threatened to kill her. 
This was in Rehoboth Beach. The "nation's vacation place".  Just 20 minutes from where I live.

Things like that are not supposed to happen here. And yet, it happened. Right after the election. 
And, let's be very, very clear: This is just the beginning. 

Soon and very soon, clergy and laity alike are going to learn - if they don't already know - why it is that we call the inside of the church a "sanctuary".  Or, why the ceilings of most churches look like the inside bottom of an upside down boat - an illusion to Noah to whom God promised never to destroy the earth. 
If the newly elected President's word is good and his promises sure, beginning January 21st people who are Muslims, people who are immigrants who did not follow the byzantine immigration laws and are therefore considered "illegal aliens" will be rounded up and deported. Families will be torn apart. Children born in this country will be left without their parents who were not born in this country. 
Already, black and brown bodies are considered less valuable than white bodies. Our law enforcement officials feel they can shoot and kill black men with impunity for crimes like selling "loosies" (Cigarettes, 10 cents a piece or four for $1), or for "not following orders" when they are being held on the ground in the midst of an asthma attack yelling "I can't breathe", or even when they are on the ground, on their knees with their hands up. 
Our health care system does not treat people of color with the same quality of medical care. Our educational system does not value their minds or their futures. Our prison systems in the United States of America now contain more black men than South Africa did at the height of Apartheid. 
These things are already happening. It will get worse.

All the gains the Queer community has made in the past eight years are in danger of erosion. Watch for hate crimes to increase in five, four, three . . . .. 

And, women? By next Tuesday, a week from the election, I predict that shelters for women who are victims of domestic violence will be filled beyond capacity.  There will also be an increase in the incidence of rape. 

This is not hyperbole or fear mongering. Sociologists tell us that these things happen when our nation is in the spiritual dis-ease of high anxiety. Indeed, that's exactly what happened after 9/11. It was explained as the result of PTSD and increased alcohol abuse. 
There are lots of similarities between the ways people are expressing their feelings now and what happened on September 11, 2001. "Sick." "What just happened?" "What will happen to us?"

When all these things come to pass, what will the church do? How will the church be the Body of Christ incarnate here and now? What risks will we take for the Gospel we profess? 

Will we open our churches and parish halls to provide sanctuary? Will we put our bodies where our mouths have been? Will we put our faith into action? Will we take stands against injustice? Will we demonstrate? Protest? Be willing, like St. Paul, to be jailed for our beliefs? Or, at least, stand in solidarity with those who do?

Personally? I think the priest who doesn't preach on the spiritual state of this nation in church on Sunday ought to have a little visit from his or her bishop about their ability to lead a community of faith. Well, that's if the bishop has any cajones or ovaries. 
I think clergy who avoid the high calling of a pastorally prophetic sermon this Sunday ought to have a little "sit down, come to Jesus" with their spiritual director and therapist about the nature of their vocation. 

Because my personal assessment is that we are in the state we are in today, at least in part, because clergy have been afraid to preach the Gospel. 
Indeed, we've been afraid to live the Gospel and inspire others to do the same. 
In so doing, we have lost our spiritual, religious and moral authority. And, rightly so. 

For some clergy their personal financial security - especially their pension or sabbatical or compensation package - is more important than putting the work into preaching and living the Gospel.
What often passes for a sermons is regurgitated platitudes all strung together with assurances and reassurances of God's love. That's on a good Sunday. Sometimes, we might get to hear about the rector's last vacation, or her love of a particular sport's team, or his personal prayer life - all humbly offered, of course, with interjection of a bad joke at the beginning or shaggy dog story in the midst of it all so as to illicit appropriate laughter as a way to discharge nervous energy or anxiety. 
It's as if the unofficial philosophy of modern preaching for some pastors is "The church family that laughs together . . . doesn't decrease its pledge." 
Here's the truth as I know it: People are hungry for the Word. Our people are spiritually starved and thirsty. Our souls are emaciated. Our hearts are malnourished.  

I see it in my work in Hospice. I hear it conversations in the grocery store and Post Office. 

This is real, people. And, it's serious. Very serious.

This is a call to my sister and brother clergy: For God's sake, PREACH!

This is not the time for "humility" or hide behind your sense of "spirituality" or make false equivalencies about "church and state" in order to avoid the high calling - the enormous privilege - of preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 
No, you do not have to take sides. Indeed, you shouldn't. If nothing else, there is the little matter of our tax exempt status with the IRS. God forbid we should lose that! 
All sarcasm aside, it ISN'T the job of clergy to tell people how to vote or exercise their civic duties. It IS the job of clergy to preach the Gospel, even when that puts them at odds with cultural norms. 
Especially when that puts them at odds with cultural norms.

In the words of Rev. William Barber, our task in this election was to 
“shock this nation with the power of love. We must shock this nation with the power of mercy. We must shock this nation and fight for justice for all. We can’t give up on the heart of our democracy, not now, not ever!”
That remains our sacred task as religious leaders - laity and ordained - after this election. 
Our people are sore afraid.  Yes, the ones who lost but even the ones who are thumping their chests in victory and terrorizing young Black women at gas stations. They are only doing that because they are afraid. They think that by abusing power they are powerful. 

They are pathetic, but make no mistake: They are afraid.
One of the ancients of the church once said, "Perfect love casts out fear." 
This is the time to put the belief we so easily profess into the hard work of action. 
We are people of Word and Sacrament. We must feed our people on Love Incarnate, Love Divine in the bread and wine as well as the words we preach. 

A bold, courageous, prophetic sermon which comes authentically from the very middle of the middle of a pastor's heart is a work of perfect love. 
Let me say that again: 
A bold, courageous, prophetic sermon which comes authentically from the very middle of the middle of a pastor's heart is a work of perfect love. 
And, let me say this: I am planning to attend two different churches on Sunday: One at 8 AM and one at 10 AM. If the Gospel is not preached, expect to see me rise from my seat and leave.

I'll be quiet. God knows, I won't make a fuss - I am Anglican, after all - but rest assured, I will not stay. And, I probably won't be back any time soon.

Others may not be so bold, but don't be surprised to see a dip in church attendance after that.

You'll be able to find me in those rare places where the Gospel IS preached and lived. Authentically. Boldly. Some of them are even Episcopal churches. 

I will leave you with these words to consider.  My friend and colleague Rev Aaron Payson, lead minister at the United Universalist Church of Worcester, MA, sent this to his congregation yesterday.

I share it now with you now in the hope that it will nourish your soul and inspire your religious imagination and creativity.
The Work of Citizenship
By Rev. Aaron Payson
(with appreciation for Howard Thurman’s “The Work of Christmas”)
When the last campaign ad has aired;
When polling stations are closed and the count has been certified;
When pundits and politicians have turned in for the night
And pollsters and political operatives are turning their thoughts to the next big race
The work of citizenship remains:

To care more for the marginalized than for profit margins
To be mindful that quality education is far less expensive than mass incarceration
To insist that military intervention is a last resort,
Not the preemptive prerogative of the powerful
In short, to know that our true wealth is the welfare of all beings and the planet that we all call home.
I know it says, "citizenship" but if ever there was a clearer vocational call to the church - the Citizens of the Realm of God, the "New Jerusalem" - I never heard it.

This is an amazing time to be a Christian. It's an even more incredible time to have the privilege of ordination and take the responsibility of our ordination vows seriously.

Yes, I'm sad I'm not able to preach this particular Sunday. I sound like I'm chomping at the bit because I am and I know it.

So, g'won. For God's sake: PREACH! In the pulpit and with your lives.

This is one of those times when you do need words, but they need to flow from your life and into the work of your ministry and inspire the lives and work and ministry of others.

We've got a lot of work to do.  Two years to take back the legislative branches of government and four years to take back the presidency.

Let's get busy, church!