Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Spent the last few days in Seattle with our daughter and her fiance. It's been a wonderful experience. The laughter, food, and friendship has been heartening.

The weather has been normal for Seattle, cloudy, rainy and windy - pretty normal stuff; except that being from the Valley of Sun where you can't get away from the sun - this is awesome. Most people talk about how depressing it is to live without seeing the sun and I'm sure that's the case. But try living where the sun hunts you down everyday, all day, never a relief from the heat and bright light, like living in Alaska in the summer of the midnight sun - life without darkness, yes, life without clouds can alter the mood of the soul in an equally troubling way as a life without the shining sun. Why? Not sure. Variety, I would guess is needed on every pilgrimage.

And of course, the weather here reminds me of Ireland, the 40 shades of green. I took a long walk yesterday and was transported to my walk across Ireland, gotta do that again soon. I find that soulful sacred places, for me anyway, are often those that include cloud, rain and good pubs (found some in Seattle).

Traveling soul-scape blessed nurture found resting in this body's need for cool relief.

Monday, December 08, 2008

The Religious Case for Gay Marriage

Since we're on the subject, have you read the cover story for Newsweek December 15? "The Religious Case for Gay Marriage: Our Mutual Joy" by Lisa Miller is an excellent and well written essay by someone who has obviously done quiet a bit of research. She writes from a liberated biblical perspective that is refreshing. Without condemning those who disagree with her, she makes a case for gay marriage, one that is informative, respectful and worthy of study.

She covers the issues of Hebrew context, polygamy, Levitical law, David and Jonathan, Jesus' near silence on marriage and divorce and his being single as well as Paul's single status. She give fair treatment of Paul's mis-interpreted statement on homosexuality.

Miller quotes biblical scholars, both Jew and Christian, all well known. Some are delightfully surprising. Including Walter Brueggemann, who I pray is trying to convince Stanley Hauerwas to reconsider his strange stance on gay marriage.

My prayer is that the Diocese of Arizona of which I am affiliated will make its work intentional towards the blessing of same sex unions and though we live in a State that has a double indictment against gay marriage we will as clergy offer a deep and abiding support for our gay and lesbians couples who desire God's blessing in the Church.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Final authority, unchangeable standard

I cringed when I read that the conservative Anglican leaders calling themselves the Common Cause Partnership included in their new organization's constitution the line about the Bible being the "final authority and unchangeable standard."

It seems very apparent that this new group seeking recognition from the World Wide Anglican Communion is going to make a lot of changes in their life style. Or maybe they haven't read Deuteronomy and Leviticus as closely as they would have us believe? And maybe they have intentions of declaring their embracing of slavery, of course that would make sense being they intend to enslave women and the gay community, or at least stop them from going passed the the altar rail, which, in my humble opinion is the same as enslavement. Or possibly some of them wish to resign their own positions of leadership being they have been married to more than one wife, or are they going to ignore Jesus' words about divorce? Of course then the Bible wouldn't really be the final authority or the unchangeable standard, would it?

I wonder, is the Bible the final authority and unchangeable standard, or is God? Who or what is being worshiped, God or the Bible? And where is the Holy Spirit, the Living God? Hmm?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Great Grace

It was ninety miles from the chapel to the cemetery. The ride was a reflection on the memories and stories of Gracie Lee Kellett Moss. Her ninety-six year life was a fulfillment of her name. She extended grace to everyone she met.

She was momma to two daughters, and either auntie or granny to the rest of the world. She adopted family, friend and stranger alike. Gracie was the consummate host. All who claim to be hospitable have to measure to her standard. She knew no stranger and never turned anyone away from her door.

Gracie was the epitome of the Good Shepherd she modeled her life after. She didn’t try to lead anyone instead she walked along behind the flock, ensuring that all the sheep had the opportunity to be safe. When someone from the flock strayed she would go after them, usually with a visit or a phone call. She never scolded or told them what they should do. Gracie listened and prayed.

Her sister died much too young from cancer leaving a single father with three teenage girls and a young son. Gracie didn’t try to replace her sister as their mother instead she was present for them offering her love, support and care. She couldn’t be their mother but she could be the compassionate and present aunt. Gracie knew how to be the living embodiment of grace to others.

At the service of the celebration of her life songs were sung about her and stories were told of her life. Every song written about her and every story told repeated her life of unconditional love.

Her namesake eight year old great-great-grand daughter Gracie, stood at the end of memorial service and told the large gathering through her tears, “I loved my granny and I will miss her very much.”

We all loved you very much, Aunt Gracie, and we all miss you very much

Friday, November 14, 2008

Please pray for the Brothers at Mount Calvary

Peregrini friends, please pray for the Brothers of the Order of the Holy Cross at Mount Calvary Monastery and Retreat House. The monastery was destroyed in the Monteceto fire last night. All the Brothers were evacuated to safety. They need our prayers as they deal with the immediate situation and as the days go forward. Some of you have been to this beautiful house of prayer and know that I am an Associate of the Order.

Attached in an article written by the Rev. Nicholas Knisley of our Cathedral here in Phoenix.

Monday, November 10, 2008

In the presence of holy friends

This weekend I had the experience of being in the presence of holy friends. It's a sacred trust to gather in community. We shared in the frightening discussion of "What does this one life mean?" The group was vulnerable with one another, willing to share fears, doubts, and the uncertainty of not knowing what's next.

The container for the gathering was prayer. We prayed the Daily Office, the four cycle prayers of the Church, morning, noon, evening and compline. Prayer bathed our tired bodies, eased the tension of meeting new people, comforted those in pain, and reminded us that, if we give ourselves over to the idea, we are a part of something much bigger than our own private world.

We were privileged to be guided by the wise among us - each other. Four voices took the yoke of offering a possibility for conversation, and we responded with our questions and life experiences. A diverse group in some means, too much alike in others. Yet from our own milepost of life we were able to shine some light on the path for our fellow pilgrims.

Peregrini - the pilgrims way, it is a lifestyle, done best in community. Thank you friends for sharing a resting space with me. May our paths find us gathered again soon.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Number 44

Henry Aaron wore number 44 with pride and integrity - breaking Babe Ruth's homerun record despite threats against his life - and on this historic night, the 44th President of the United States is an African American - I am proud to be alive to witness a change in the very fiber of the life of this country. It was a privilege of mine to be on the same team as Henry Aaron in spring training with the Milwaukee Brewers and I am in tears to witness this particular moment in history and to feel some connection in supporting Barack Obama as President of the United States of America.

Working the Polls for Education

I'm heading out to distribute materials at a polling place on behalf of the local school district. The district needs an override election to pass in order to provide much needed support services for the children. I noticed there are override elections in almost every school district. These overrides rarely raise taxes and when they do its typically so small is goes unnoticed by most homeowners and businesses.

Public education is one of the wonderful opportunities this country offers its citizens. Most of us are products of public education. My parents were public school teachers, my wife is an administrator for a public school district, I taught public school, my son and daughter in law work in public schools, both our children were educated in public schools and many of our friends work in public schools; Laura, Jillian, Erin, Rebecca, Alicia, actually the list is countless.

If you can, support your local public schools and consider voting to pass their override elections.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I learned everything I know about God from my retarded sister

I walked half way across Ireland looking for God. Through driving rain, down forgotten trails, across centuries old pilgrim’s paths, I searched to fill an ache in my heart to discover something, anything about God.

At a pilgrims rest I encountered a dubiously curious holy man. “What are you doing here?” His poetic voice and pointed question pushed back my tired soul causing my eyes to come up for air.

“Uh, I’m on a pilgrimage.” When I said the words in his presence it sounded more like I was trying to steal a holy relic instead of discovering something about the mystical unseen.

“Humph,” he softly snorted. His crackling blue eyes pierced into my soul, “You wouldn’t be insultin’ God by lookin’, now would ya?”

Admittedly, I have spent the best part of my life searching for an intellectual encounter with the holy. At holy wells I prayed to see the water stir. Listening to great teachers, I yearned for “the” word that offered proof. Practicing spiritual disciplines in hopes for a revelation, a word, a punctuation mark, all have left me feeling unfulfilled.

Yet, in all my travels and personal efforts the only experience of a revealing encounter with the holy has been in the presence of my little sister. My sister is wise. She’s also strangely weird, a little nuts, often somewhat silly, and frankly, retarded. In PC-ese she’s special, challenged, mentally and physically handicapped. Technically she has Prader-Willi Syndrome (PWS).

My baby sister dances with God. For some reason unbeknown to me, I get to watch. Her name is Dinah. It reminds me she was named after a biblical character. Well, that’s not true. My mom named her after Dinah Shore. But it would have been really cool if she were named after the Dinah in the Bible. Maybe Dinah Shore was named after the biblical character?

Though my sister has this public relationship with God I doubt seriously if she thinks that much about God. But, when she does, when she communicates that encounter, it’s like a waltz. Her moments with God have nothing to do with her being Prader-Willi, it’s just the way she “lives, moves and has her being” through the world. In a sense her intimacy with God is as visible as her daily encounter with the rest of us.

Dinah has these little koans, cloudy windows into her hidden world. She’s like a druid priestess reciting rituals from another world. She often says, “I not not know.” When I ask her what she thinks about God she says, “I not not know.” I mean really, I could say the same thing. What do I know about God? Nothing. I could say, well the Bible says, or this guy I heard said, or my mom said, but what do I know? Nothing. What do I really honestly know, intellectually know about God? Nothing, nothing, as in “I not not know.” Of course she says that about a lot of other things too, but that’s her being genuinely honest. I wish I were that forthright. Especially when someone asks me questions assuming I know the magical answer. I think I’ll start telling them, “I not not know?”

As in, “Gil, why do shitty things happen?” Well, I not not know. That sounds better than some dreamt up theological bullshit. Doesn’t it?

PWS is attributed to the deformity of chromosome-15. It’s random. No one knows why it happens. It was identified in 1956, the year after my sister was born, by Andrea Prader and Heinrich Willi. Characteristically, Prader-Willi’s are hyperphagia among other things. Hyperphagia? Technically that means they eat too much. On the PWS website they sell refrigerate locks, that ought to tell you something. They sneak food. Steal food. Dig it out of trashcans. And then they hide it like an alcoholic stuffing bottles in little secret drawers everywhere in the house.

When we were preteens my sister would eat two or three loaves of bread in the middle of the night. At first my parents thought I was eating all that bread. I was a growing boy so I must have been downing the midnight snacks. One night my dad stumbled into the bathroom only to find my sister stuffing herself with an entire pie. As a result of their eating disorder, PWS people become obese as children. Many of them die in their twenty’s from related obesity issues. The average PWS dies at the age of 32. The oldest survivor was 64. Today my sister is 53.

PWS also have anger outbursts. Their outbursts are a rage that is wildly unrestrained. It’s like road rage on steroids. Typically the anger is directed at themselves. On occasion Dinah has ripped off her clothes and marched down the street screaming. Dinah has broken and destroyed more of her own beloved possessions than I can remember. Obviously, the outbursts add to the stress of the individual and their families. Dinah has taken several forms of psychotropic drugs, which help in some cases. She calls them her “weird pills.”

Her relationship with God isn’t a result of the drugs she takes. She’s always lived in that thin place with God between this world and the next. Dinah’s interchange with God apparently is real and fully functional.

We were on a walk in a mountainous area of Arizona. It was a summer day when the clouds were rolling in and rain was threatening. A dark clouded thunderstorm signaled a downpour was a few minutes off. The sound of thunder was crackling through the trees causing us to jump with every demonstrative bone rattling snap. In fear we were walking as fast as we could to get back to our cabin.

Out of breath and still a ways from the cabin, Dinah stopped. She glared up at the sky. “God,” she hollered out. “Dat enough.” She waited as if God would say, “Oops, I’m sorry about that,” and stop the storm. Instead another rattle of thunder roared through the trees. Dinah shrugged her shoulders and smirked as if to say, “Well, I said my peace that’s all I can do.”

Ok, I get it, or think I do. I can say whatever I want to God, just realizing God’s not Santa Claus and everything’s not going to work out just like I want it to. In fact God may not be in control of the thunder and lightening. Still, I can say my peace. That’s good enough. Then I can go on and keep walking. At least that’s what Dinah does.

Adding to Dinah’s genetic complications she had a temperature of 108 degrees during the first week of her life. Yes, you are right, my sister should have died a long, long time ago. The speech area of Dinah’s brain was affected most by the life threatening temperature. Consequently, she has about 25 words the average person can understand. She also has about another 25 or so words and signs that she uses to communicate with her family and closest friends.

When she and I were little guys there was Dairy Queen near our house. My parent’s drove us past the Dairy Queen each week on our way to and from church. My dad rarely stopped at the Dairy Queen. One day, out of the blue, on our way home Dinah started saying “I Cee,” and curling her index finger up and down. My parents have always worked hard to clue into Dinah’s attempt to communicate. It didn’t take too many times driving by the Dairy Queen with Dinah’s insistent “I Cee,” and wriggling finger for us to discover she was telling us she wanted ice cream. Her finger signal was mimicking the twist on the Dairy Queen sign on top of the building. I was really glad about her persistence because we got ice cream a lot more often after that breakthrough.

I can’t understand what God is trying to tell me. All the clues and the signs in the Bible and the cosmos leave me baffled. As with Dinah, though, I just can’t give up. There’s something about the mystery of it all that lures me into continually straining to hear and to see. I don’t get it very often, but the few times I do break code the intensity is revealing and worth the effort. Thanks to Dinah I got a lot of chocolate dipped cones. I wonder if God has soft-serve?

Instead of sweet ice cream sometimes life smells like shit. You know, really it does. When an event that smells like a four-day rotten egg invades our life, Dinah will hold her nose and say “keyqankey” Try it. Hold your nose and say, “key-qank-key.” You got it? No? Well, get a pot out of your cupboard. Get a wooden spoon and smack the bottom of that pot with the wooden spoon. That’s qank. Try it again. Hold your nose and say key-qank-key. I defy you to tell me there is a better description of something that smells really bad. I mean it sounds more realistic than saying, “boy that really stinks.”

When life goes south, stinks, really sucks do what Dinah does. Hold your nose and say, “God, keyqankey.” See if you don’t feel like God might be getting the picture a little better. When I pray, it’s all I can do to hope, at the depths of the pit I’m in, that God can smell the same foul order.

There is no excuse for boring and emotionless prayers. Dinah paints a picture for God. The nasal sound she utters lets me and I am pretty confident God, as well, know that the shit that just fell on my head is putrid and disgusting. When she speaks to God her feelings are all she has to speak with and they are undeniable.

Still, more often than not, Dinah is silent. When we go to dinner at her favorite restaurant we spend the evening like most siblings. We talk about our parents. She wants to know how my wife and kids are doing. I ask her about her friends at Art Works. I have learned to be comfortable with her silence. There are times she just wants to be quiet. She draws me into her silence. She has the ability to allow all thoughts to drift away like fragrant incense. She bundles the thoughts and sets them aside for a while. Her silence is restful. I wonder if that’s what it’s like sitting with God? Maybe, at least for me it is, sitting with Dinah is like sitting in the presence of God.

Besides not understanding God I have no idea what to say to God. I struggle trying to get the right words to communicate my feelings, emotions, desires, angst – well, Dinah has taught me to just go for it, do the best I can, just say what I can say and trust God will understand me.

It’s been our tradition at Thanksgiving that my mom asks me to say “a word” and then my dad prays for the blessing of the food. That’s been a standard ritual at our Thanksgiving gatherings for as long as I can remember.

A few years back my mom said she wanted to start a new tradition. Oh God, here we go, change. I like change about as much as the next guy, which means not at all, much less around the treasured holidays. I say a word, my dad says a prayer, we eat, and we watch football. Right? Not, not.

Mom tells us the girls are in charge. Well, I’m ok with that, sort of. My mom has it all lined out. First my daughter reads a poem. That’s good. Then my wife reads something from the Bible. That was ok. So I figure my mom is going to pray. Not, not.

My mom says that Dinah is going to pray. My parents have taken us to church from before memory, but, truthfully, I’ve never heard or seen or even thought about Dinah praying. She has an IQ of 45. Her vocabulary is limited. What is she going to say?

She bows her head. I’m watching her. I can’t bow my head and close my eyes. I have to drink this in, experience every moment. She bows her head as I imagine she’s seen us do before thousands of meals. Now what?

“God!” Here we go again. This time, though, I sensed God was there, present, at attention and listening with attentive ears. God had been summoned. God was paying attention like never before.

“God!” She repeated. There was a long silence. I could tell she was trying to gather up every ounce of intellectual and spiritual energy within her being and soul. Then it gushed forth like champagne from a freshly popped bottle. “I thank.”

Thankfulness? What was Dinah thankful for? Not only had she been dealt a bad hand. Someone had dealt her cards from the wrong deck. While we hope for a straight or a four-of-a-kind, she was playing poker with Old Maid cards. She would never experience many of the things that bring joy to this life. Yet, I heard her say, “I thank you God.” For what?

“God, I thank. Mom, Dad, Gia, Cafu, Nee, Esika…” What came after our names was a flood of emotion from every eye and heart in the room. We were the objects of her prayer and our lives were now the thankful ones. We had been blessed by Dinah’s beckoning of God into our midst. Fixated on my sister, I was pretty sure I had finally seen the face of God.

To me, that must be prayer. Dinah puts it out there. No begging or pleading for rescue from the inconveniences of existence. She didn’t want anything to be magically made better. Nothing to be fixed, or protected or made right, she only offered thanks in what appeared to be the cold absence of the reasons to be thankful.

I’m a very slow learner. It seems I have insulted God by looking for God. It took me two seminary degrees to realize that everything I really know and understand about God has come from my sister. Not from learned teachers, mystics or professors. I’ve read hundreds of books about God, what I’ve gained from them is miniscule in comparison to what I’ve gleaned from Dinah, who can’t read. I’ve been fortunate enough to hear some of this generation’s best thinkers give their finest oratory about the things of God. Every word I’ve read and heard spoken has been filtered through Dinah’s 50 words. The best I can truly say about God is, I not not know.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Veronika Decides to Die

Paulo Coelho is one author that captures a lot of my reading time. His work has significant influence on my thinking and writing.

While at the dentist I was reading The Plague by Albert Camus. The hygienist, who I had not met, came in, introduced herself and promptly asked me what I was reading. She asked me what it was about and I responded "death." She asked me if I was afraid of dying. I told her "no" and asked her the same question. She indicated she was not because she was Buddhist. She wanted to know if I was religious. Hesitantly, I said I was a Christian. Curiously, she wanted to know if I had always been a Christian. At this point knowing she was about to put her hands in my mouth if recognized I didn't have time to share with her my complex string of chaos theory related musing about God, Jesus, Trinitarian incarnational worldview and sacramentalism, and my universalist-like theology so I went for "sort of."

As she cleaned my teeth she asked if I ever read any Coelho. I nodded I had. She quizzed if I had read Veronika Decides to Die. I indicated I had not - being, she said, that I was interested in death, she highly recommended the book. Not wanting to offend someone with a sharp instrument in my mouth I agree to read the book.

Coelho does not disappoint and the hygienist made a good recommendation. But, the story is not about death - its about life and the choices we have about how to live that one solitary life we have been given. As the cover suggests, the story is about redemption. But even deeper it is a story that offers another way, not just a way or the way but another way.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A few ramblings

The Sun is one of my favorite and most read magazines ( There is an informative interview with Pramila Jayapal. She is an India-born US citizen, activist and author, working on a project to make Washington, DC a "hate-free zone." The article in the Sun is titled "Without a Country Pramila Jayapal On the Problems Immigrants Face." The interview is personal, concise and packed with important information regarding possible solutions to this complex issue.

Are you going to watch any of the World Series? Yes, it begins tonight. Instead of focusing all your attention on the players, watch the managers. These are two guys who lead from different perspectives and both have great success.

The Phillies manager is Charlie Manuel. He's old school, low-key, shy, unwilling to do interviews or speak in public - he lets his players play the game, simply trying to create an environment where they can shine.

Joe Madden is the Rays skipper. I've known Joe for 30 years. He's a detail guy. A friend of mine described him as librarian. True, Joe reads and studies the game like no one else. He knows the statistics and situation better than anyone. He was one of the key factors in the Angels winning the 2002 WS, he was their bench coach.

Check it out, two differing styles that strive for the same result, creating environments of community.

A very good friend complained that I'm not writing on my blog enough. Sorry about that
I will make an real effort to write no less than once a week. Thanks for your encouragement.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

An end to hunger

Is is possible to end worldwide hunger? In our life time? At any time? Jesus said in the first century, "You will always have the poor with you." Well, being poor and being hungry are two different things. Jesus also told the disciples to feed the hungry. And Jesus said when we feed the hungry we are offering food to the hungry.

Today a few hundred bloggers have committed to writing about the Millennium Development Goals - the attempt to end poverty and hunger in our life time. Is it possible? Yes, it is. It is possible if we will all do our little bit.

A friend of mine went to Seattle to visit his friend. While there he met a man who every morning bought two loaves of bread and enough peanut butter and jelly to make sandwiches. He took those sandwiches to a place where homeless men gathered under a bridge. Each morning for two weeks this man did the same thing. When my friend arrived home he was so moved by this man's actions that he sent him a check for $100 with a note that said, "for your ministry." A week later my friend received an envelope from the sandwich maker returning my friend's check, the attached note said, "Make your own damn sandwiches."

If each of us would make our own damn sandwiches we could make a difference and reduce the hunger of the men living under the bridge in our own neighborhood. Make a difference, make your own damn sandwich today.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Last out at Yankee Stadium

Trivia question - who recorded the last assist and putout at the last game played at Yankee Stadium? The Yankees played the last game in the House that Ruth built last night (September 21). The answer to the question is first baseman Cody Ransom. Why would I care to know such trivial trivia? Cody Ransom played baseball at Grand Canyon University in 1998, the year we won the Northern Division of the Western Athletic Conference, NCAA Division I.

Cody played shortstop at GCU. He was a gifted college player and a leader on our team. After his senior year he was drafted by the San Francisco Giants. Cody quickly made it to the majors with the Giants. He has played with several major league teams, primarily as a defensive specialist.

Cody graduated from Chandler High School and then played two years at South Mountain Community College. While a sophomore at South Mountain his team suffered a horrible tragedy. Cody was riding in a van where the driver's side front tire blew and the van rolled. Killing two passenger's and severely injuring others. Miraculously Cody and some of the others in the van did not suffer life threatening injuries. To his credit he continued to play and worked hard to achieve his goal of playing professional baseball.

Cody is a fine young man and a credit to his family. The baseball family in Arizona is proud of him and want to congratulate him on being a part of a historical moment. It was fun to watch.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Arizona Together

Prop 102 is the so-called "Marriage Amendment." Here are the reasons I am voting against this Prop.

Marriage - even though it's already defined in state law and even though we voted on this two years ago our legislators are forcing this vote again.

The LDS Church has raised $3 million to support the passing of 102 and the Roman Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Phoenix sent a mandatory message DVD to be shown at every mass in support of 102. Why?

We already voted on this - don't the politicians get it?

If you read my previous post you will also understand my personal stake in this matter.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


Two of our dear friends were married a few days ago. We are so happy for them. Disappointingly we could not attend. The wedding was on a Saturday and they live in another State. In fact, they live in only one of two States where they could legally get married. That fact is frustrating.

Our friends have been together 24 years. They love each other. Its obvious, when I see them together, how much they care for each other. They are a match, not to be cliche', made in heaven.

You get it right? May friends are joined in a same sex union. They were married by an Episcopal priest. Because of the abuse they have endured I feel it would be inappropriate and unfair to give you any more information about them. I love them and feel it important to protect them. I also love them and want to tell their story.

My prayer is that one day the world we will live in will not discriminate. I know that's naive, but I'm still going to pray for the peace which passes all understanding. It is also my prayer that sometime soon the bishop of our diocese will allow us to offer the blessing of same sex unions. The Episcopal Church says it is welcome to all. If that is true how can we discriminate against those who seek the table and our blessing for their love?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Phoenix Police Officer Nick Erfle was killed nearly a year ago while making a routine stop. The man he tried to detain turned out to be an undocumented immigrant, illegally in this country.

Officer Erfle's wife, Julie, probably has every right to demand every person illegally in this country be immediately deported. Instead, she has began to speak out calling us to common ground in order to find a "real solution...discussing our fears and concerns in a mutually respectful way."

Recently she was verbally assaulted by KFYI talk-radio personality Bruce Jacobs. He said, "You should be ashamed of yourself...If I were in your family, I would be embarrassed. When the next officer is gunned down...I am going to give you partial blame."

Talk radio is a forum that promotes vitriol. Jacobs is fueling his listeners. So, this is a free country with the freedom of speech. Is it, however, a country without civility towards those who hold different points of view? Obviously.

Nearly the entire Police community, it associations and unions have called for a public and personal apology. Arizona Casino suspended its advertising. Nothing in this world would be lost if Jacobs was fired. However, if the personal attack on Julie Erfle continues what does that say about those who allow it to persist? Nothing good, that's for sure. She deserves more than an apology, she deserves for this community to listen to her. What is wrong with being civil with one another in an attempt to reach a real solution to palpable problem?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


I’m boycotting the Olympics. Who cares you ask? No one I suppose. It’s just one of those things that is a matter of principle. Not only am I boycotting the Olympics because of China’s lack of respect for human rights but also because of America’s lack of respect for human rights. The President of the United States allowed the U.S. team to compete and he made his presence very known at the games. I do not believe either should have happened. So, I’m doing my own personal boycott by not watching any of the Olympics or reading any news about them.

It is true that my absence from the television and the support of the Olympics is of no consequence. It is however necessary for me to take note. Particularly being the Olympiad originally began with a cessation of all wars for the period of competition. Evidently no one from this country or Russia has paid any attention to anything other than the medal count while the body count in Afghanistan, Iraq and Georgia continue to mount.

It seems amusing that people watch the Olympics anyway. The majority of people who watch the “games” night after night probably wouldn’t show up at a swimming meet, diving competition or even a track meet of any kind. My guess is the vast majority of people watching have no understanding of the competition they are witnessing. They just know somebody wins. Winning, the true American way.

From past experience, the television producers realize this and so they fill the airtime with overly “dramatic” and cheesy commentators and endless human-interest stories. While I have no intention of criticizing the competitors, the “fans,” well, are probably the same people who “vote” for the American Idol.

But, I will admit, for those of you watching, it can be entertaining even if you only watch gymnastics once every four years yet did nothing to help support Arizona State University gymnastics team when it was being axed. Anyway, entertainment, that’s what professional sports like the Olympics is all about and that’s what American’s crave the most.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


Don’t fool yourself WALL-E is no kid’s movie. The world has ended and what’s left on Mother Earth is a trash compactor, WALL-E, sorting through our capitalistic junk pile of “a must have it all now” society.

Without speaking a word through the first third of the movie we feel the indictment as WALL-E takes up his daily routine of rebuilding the remains of world overrun by consumption. He flips through the piles left behind on our deserted planet. He saves Christmas lights, cigarette lighters, re—usable WALL-E parts (self preservation you know) and oh yes, an old videotape of Hello, Dolly! What does he do with his compact cubes? Build buildings of course, buildings that are monuments to our financial cathedrals, skyscrapers of trash.

Hard to imagine that our beloved home ends not at the hands of terrorists with WMD, or WWIII or even the results of global warming, no the world ends when covered with our greed, or what’s left of it.

The only legacy to be the witness of humans who once inhabited Earth are the mega-malls of B&L, Buy in Large (quantities) – an obvious swipe at Wal-Mart, Target, Cosco or any other big box store which encourages our massive lust for more and bigger.

And where are we, humans that is? Why we have left the planet on our cruise space ship. We have been floating in space for 700 years. We have lost our ability to walk, to think, and evidently to care. We still consume, so much so, we’ve become infant-like blimps who float from meal to meal, meal in a cup that is, consumed without discrimination. We float around on lounge chairs with our music in our ears and facebook screens no more than six inches from our mug. While in constant communication with one another, we have lost human contact – no touching, much less seeing the person floating next to you.

Above all else, WALL-E is a love story, on several simple and yet complex levels – subtle and well, not so – it is still a movie for children. If you have children, grandchildren, or you have to borrow them, or if you don’t need an excuse to see a G-rated movie – the movie is more than worth the cost of admission.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

'Speak Spanish to Me'

'Speak Spanish to Me' is currently running at the Actors Theater, Herberger Theater Center .

Set on the campus of Arizona State University, its the tale of love and coming of age. Liz is a white, liberal, post-modern hippie from Maine. On her first day on campus she meets Frank, a good looking Mexican-American conservative whose dad is a self-made businessman who showers his son with all the money he needs, or doesn't need and sometimes doesn't want. Problem is, Liz thinks Frank is a migrant worker and he does nothing to dissuade her projections. She has fallen in love with her ideals and Frank's flawless Spanish.

As a comedy, the play works. Brittany Schoenborn's portrayal of Liz is on target. She is funny, sensitive, and insecure. Frank's character is played by Marcelino Quinonez. He equally is believable and is easy to connect to. Together they build a story of energy, conflict and they delve lightly into contemporary issues of immigration, racism, and abortion. What also helps is that both are or were ASU students.

There are five other characters in the play, two of which are a female professor and a white wannabe rapper. The characters were shallow and insulting to the play. I'm not even sure they were necessary to the plot in any way - maybe they just took up time and space. Surely the playwright could have found better characters?

Three side characters were played by one man, Richard Trujillo. As Frank's father he hit the mark. In the final scene he is Elvis at the Vegas Wedding Chapel. He was a riot, incredibly funny. The opposite is the case in his portrayal as an Asian doctor. That should have been left out the play. It was really bad besides being insulting. A strange portrayal in a play about race and sterotypes.

If you can get a cheap seat the play is worth it simply because it explores issues confronted by ASU students. The play is a good conversation starter when it comes to difficult issues. Its weakness may have been in not going deeper with those issues, of course it is billed as a comedy and that may be its saving grace.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Art of Confession

The Art of Confession a novel by Matthew Thomas Baker

Matt's a good friend. He's an artist, thinker, communicator, and writer - those things aren't mutually inherent in one another, which makes Matt unique in that he displays each with great character. They are Matt's gifts and he uses them well in this novel.

The Art of Confession is a story of three young soul's exploring their friendship, love, intimacy, and interior expression. Set in Cambridge and Italy, Philip, Oliver and Silva struggle to discover their individual identity and their collective soul. As Philip said, Oliver spoke in actions, Philip in words and they were languages apart. Silva is the unspoken language between the two.

Matt's story telling skill and image crafting kept me reading quickly through the story. Typically I read at least three books at a time and make each wait its turn, not so with Matt's work. He owned the dance floor with this novel. His writing is subtle, gentle, alluring, passionate and intellectually intriguing.

Whether you personally know Matt or not I think you will find this story a fascinating journey into the life and mind of a young artist and those who seek love and affirmation. This book is well worth the time.

So, Matt, when is your next novel arriving?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Earthy Mysticism

Earthy Mysticism a new book by Tex Sample.

Real. Gusty. Confrontational. Erotic. Tex Sample’s latest book, Earthy Mysticism is God talk and God talks in language that is real, gusty, confrontational and erotic.

Sample has written a collection of personal stories that deal with real dirt under your fingers kind of spirituality. He uses language that you would expect to hear working in the oil fields or driving a taxi. He shares the emotions felt when a son dies in a motorcycle accident. Tex speaks the words shared between two young lovers. This is a book for people who never care to enter church but sense that God is al least worth yelling at.

I took a lot of time reading Tex’s stories, there was a need in my soul to savor them and let them do their work in my life. I cried more than I laughed. Often I found myself looking away, winching, not wanting to go on - like scripture I guess.

I’m not one for recommending books. But this one is worth the time and money. No bullshit.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

First Draft

Stunned is the best description of my feeling of having finished the first draft of my novel. It ended. Not necessarily where I thought. Better perhaps? Of course, that’s where the story went, I simply followed it and it ended where it did.

I’ve been working on My Brother is Chasing Me for just over a year. I started writing while at a writer’s workshop at Mt. Calvary Monastery in Santa Barbara. A week ago, sitting at the same desk at Mt. Calvary the story concluded.

Nora Gallagher encouraged me to just let go, to open my soul and write. Interestingly enough my mom told me the same thing about two months ago. Well the first draft is done. Of course Anne Lamont said that we all are entitled to a “shitty first draft.” So I need to get back to working on the second draft.

For the curious this is not a baseball story. It’s a story about a 30-something woman priest and college chaplain. No, it’s not autobiographical. I must admit though that they’re probably a lot of me in several characters. As taught, I must write about what I know. Maybe my next book will be about baseball. Or maybe a college president?

Monday, February 04, 2008

God, the Super Bowl?

Yesterday’s Super Bowl is the first football game I’ve watched in entirety this year. Well, actually I fell asleep somewhere before the end of the first half and woke up to watch the last half of the fourth quarter.

To keep me entertained my wife and I were rating the commercials. I liked the Go Daddy commercial, I guess because Fox banned it. To be a moralistic newspaper The Arizona Republic gave it an “F” this morning.

Anyway, the game wasn’t that interesting, even the ending. The Arizona Republic called the win an upset. Why was that? Simply because the Patriots were undefeated should have tipped everyone off to the reality that they wouldn’t win. Maybe, because football and American nationalism are so intertwined that Americans just can’t imagine the underdog winning? Not sure.

Of course, I was curious about why Fox thought it was important or meaningful or necessary to trot out the Declaration of Independence immediately before the game. What is the connection between the Declaration and the Super Bowl? Every woman who chose to watch the game should have been offended that only Pat Tillman’s wife was a reader. Women who were forced to watch, well, enough said about that. Only white and African-American males were represented – oh, you say they only had coaches and players represented – maybe that says something too? I was surprised Fox didn’t role their King out there but I guess his ratings aren’t doing too good right now?

I watched the post game interviews just to see how long it would take someone to thank God for winning (or for a good performance or something like it). It took the first guy his second sentence. I quit watching at that point. Does anyone really think God cares enough to help you win a game?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Busy World is Hushed

A woman Episcopal priest, a gay assitant, a gay son, death and dying, conflict, self-discovery, all are central to Kenneth Bunin's "A Busy World is Hushed." The Episcopal Church and its via media theology is a perfect setting to allow the characters in Bunin's play to explore their complex relationships.

Hannah is an Episcopal priest, biblical scholar, seminary professor and Thomas' mother. Before Thomas was born his father committed suicide. Thomas is a wonderer who has meandered in and out of contact with his mom - their relationship is strained because of Hannah's fear and subsequent attempt to protect Thomas from suffering his father's depression and anger. Thomas' response is at times volatile and could be self destructive.

The story begins with Hannah's receipt of a newly discovered "gospel." To assist her in writing a book about her translation and interpretation of the new gospel text, she hires Brandt. Within the first scene, it is obvious that Brandt has fallen for Thomas. It gets extremely complicated when Hannah attempts to "use" Brandt to help stablize Thomas. The outcome is somewhat predictable. However, the emotions are genuine and often raw.

Bunin's play allows Thomas and Brandt to explore their relationship with authentic lines and scenes. Thomas' mistrust and doubt of his mother's faith is confrontative and harsh - it is very reflective of a young adult's challenge of their clergy parent's religion. It is painful to watch Hannah's character do too much preaching and not enough relationship building.

Her character, unfortunately, isn't given the opportunity to translate her desire to find the historical Jesus into a post-Easter Jesus who can communicate with a post-modern world and the young adults who live in it. That was very disappointing. There are Christians who are struggling to translate Jesus' life into a world looking for spiritual meaning. Unfortunately, Bunin fails to give Hannah a chance to be one of those voices.

The play was worth the money and the time. It provoked good conversation among our young adult group who attended.