Saturday, 30 May 2015

I preached today at the "Celebration of Life" of a 20 years old woman who took her own life.

What follows below are the words of Anne Lamott,  (as posted on Facebook). They are utterly pertinent to me, because I had to preach this afternoon at a "Celebration of Life"  for a 20 years old woman who took her own life on May 23rd.

 In my sermon I too preached against the notion that * "God never gives us more than we can handle.".

Here is what Anne Lamott wrote.  She is utterly wise! (The emphases are mine.)
Anne's  words( NOT MINE)

" You know how sometimes you go to church or temple or mosque, or to those little meetings for people like you, who perhaps have tiny control issues, or used to drink until you ended up face down, or married; and you sit there desperately hoping someone will say the exact right thing, to help break the toxic trance you're in, and help you find your way back home?

Well, what would that exact thing be?
"One day at a time." Hack! Thank you for sharing; I wish I'd brought my slingshot. I'd shoot you.
"Or, "You can't feel fear and faith at the same time." How fabulous! Did God stop by this morning and tell you that?

 Well, let's see--I happen to have a lot of fear, and a lot of faith, at the same time, a lot. I find the world as scary as it is magical, and have from the time I was four or five, when my migraines began.
 This place has NEVER been a good match for someone like me, who was perhaps just the tiniest bit more vulnerable and sensitive than the average bear.
Or my personal favorite, * "God never gives us more than we can handle."
REALLY? So let's see, your point is, I shouldn't feel as hopeless or scared or sad as I do, just because the world seems to be caving in on itself, and there seems to be a sniper in the trees, picking off the people I adore? And instead, if I do feel very sad or insane, or not up to the challenge, the problem is with me.
When people say this stupid stuff to someone I love who is really going through it, I just hear rage. If someone says "Let go and let god," with certainly and cheer, I know that they secretly want to get their Kalashnikov and stroll through the neighborhood.
 What a horrible thing to say when someone is half-mad with grief or fear.
 I say to the recipient, "That is complete b.s, and you must promise me you will avoid that person like the plague for the foreseeable future, because they are a danger to your spirit."
The truth is, everyone worth his or her salt--all your very best people-- feel broken, stunned, overwhelmed and defection some of the time. When people don't, when they feel very pleased with their personal upbeat selves and their all encompassing worldview, like say, the nice Duggar family, we want to run screaming for our cute little lives. And we absolutely don't want to sit near them at dinner.
So what do I want to hear at a gathering, like church, say, or a random group of alkies?
I want to hear, "Me, too. I have that, too. I know what that feels like." Gandhi and Jesus knew what it feels like, the loneliness, the sadness. The brutality. Jeus often said, "It's very hard here. Have you eaten? Look--you all stick together, go to the beach and have some fish. Share what you have. We'll talk later."
I want to hear, "Wow, thank you for trusting me with that. What a big f-ing drag. I've been through that, too. Let's file a brief with the Complaints department. Come, we'll sit down with a nice cup of tea and plan our strategy."
I heard the exact right thing last week, when a preacher on the radio said, "Stop talking about the mountain that's in your way--that makes it bigger. Talk TO the mountain. Say, I WILL defeat you.'" I had to pull off the side of the road, and I glared and looked as scary as an aging black-belt co-dependent can, and I said to my mountain, "I WILL defeat you, you f-ing dickhead mountain." And in the following week, I did.
I want someone to say that against all odds, there is a solution. There really absolutely is. And that it's not out there--it's not in circumstance. Circumstances do not need to change to feel peace again or even happiness. It's not in amassing or achieving. I so hate this.
 As Lily Tomlin said, " the problem with winning at the rat race is that you're still a rat".
The solution is in knowing the truth. The solution is always spiritual, and it almost never has anything to do with the problem.
I want to hear someone remind me that if I want to have loving feelings, I need to do loving things
I want someone to make me laugh about our shared humanity and cuckooness;
I want someone to remind me that laughter is carbonated holiness.
I want someone to make me promise them that I'll get outside:
that as someone else has probably said, praise is an attitude;
 I can--in advance--thank you-know-who, aka the Cosmic Muffin, aka Howard, as in Our Father who art in heaven, Howard be thy name.
I want someone to remind me of what Ram Dass said, that we're all just walking each other home.
I want to hear that big fat cherries are on sale for $4.99 at most stores; and that peach season has officially begun.
I just want to hear that I'm loved and chosen and welcome, no matter what a mess I've made of things, or how defective I still feel sometimes.
I just want to hear that it will get better, although maybe not tomorrow right after lunch.
I want to hear that you and God will never leave me alone. That I'm not nuts for finding life a totally mixed grille, unlike the nice bumper stickers--that it can be hard, magical, brutal, gorgeous, unfair, hilarious, sweet, wild and mysterious, all at once.
Or that if I am nuts, you're nuts too; and we are so lucky to be together in this jar; and so delicious.
That is what I need to hear today, and that is what I am going to say today, in spite of it all. So there; and thank you thank you thank you

Friday, 29 May 2015


"O Christ who holds the open gate,
O Christ who drives the furrow straight,
O Christ, the plough, O Christ, the laughter
Of holy white birds flying after,
Lo, all my heart’s field red and torn,
And Thou wilt bring the young green corn
The young green corn divinely springing,
The young green corn forever singing;
And when the field is fresh and fair
Thy bless├Ęd feet shall glitter there,
And we will walk the weeded field,
And tell the golden harvest’s yield,
The corn that makes the holy bread
By which the soul of man is fed,
The holy bread, the food unpriced,
Thy everlasting mercy, Christ."
From “The Everlasting Mercy” - John Masefield

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Vintage Railway Posters (UK)

My U.K. home town newspaper "The Bristol Post" (formerly "The Bristol Evening Post")  carried a story the other day about "Vintage Railway Posters"  i.e. the posters which railway companies used to encourage holiday-makers to travel by train.

The "Bristol Post"  had a link to a site where such posters could be purchased. That U. K. site offered the posters at cost of about 10 pounds (approx. $15) - which leads me to believe that they are reproductions (not originals).

Nevertheless the posters are charming.  I would guess that they date to the 1950's.

Here are my favourites:

Clifton Suspension Bridge  GWR and LMS

Bristol Cathedral, where I was made Deacon in 1976  GWR

Bristol's old Dockland (British Railways).

The LMS and the GWR were two of the four private Railway Companies which emerged from a (government mandated) rationalization of a host of private U.K. railways (in about 1922.
Bristol was served by:  the LMS (the minor company) (whose tracks ran at the end of  our back garden) (From Birmingham, to Bristol and to Bath).
and by the GWR (the major company) (with important services  to London, Bath, Taunton, Exeter, Plymouth and Penzance, as well as to South Wales, and to Birmingham - with subsequent connections to the midlands and to the north of England).
In 1947 all the U.K. railways were nationalised  by a  reforming U.K. Government led by the splendid Labour Party leader Clement Atlee.
The LMS became the "Midland Region" of the newly created "British  Railways", and the GWR became the "Western Region".
In more recent years the railway routes in the U.K. have been "un-nationalized" and returned to the private sector

Throwback Thursday

My cousin Janet has been scanning photo's from her Mum's albums.  (Her Mum is my dear Aunt Irene).

Here is one of my twin sister Elizabeth and me. I cannot remember the place or event,  but it must be after the summer of 1975 - in which year I grew my beard.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Filled with joyful gratitude

Maybe you, like I, have sometimes wondered "who will be at my funeral?".  'Tis a silly thought, yet it is rooted in the question we all have:  "Do I truly matter?"?

I got my answer yesterday and today (May 25/26 2015).

For you see, I love my birthday, and I try to celebrate it with glee.  That I did this year.

And on this, by 71st birthday I received more than one hundred and thirty greetings: "phone calls, traditional birthday cards, e-cards, and Facebook messages -  they came flooding in.

Thank you one and all.  Your greetings have filled me with a joyful gratitude -  and a consistent "smile with teary eyes". You are telling me something which will not have to wait for my funeral.  "Yes, I truly matter".

Early this morning (6:00 a.m.) as I walked with Penne I, as I usually do, gave thanks to God for yesterday, and for the gift of life today.

Then I realised that God's grace and mercy have been with me for 71 years.  As and old gospel hymn puts it "I've found a friend, oh such a friend, he loved me 'ere I knew him"

But it's not only God's grace.  It is also the love of family and friends which has sustained, corrected and encouraged me  for all these years  (and for many more to come!)

This morning I was blessed to be able to preside and preach at a Communion service out at St, Margaret's Church on Clark Rd., Sarasota.  May 26th is my birthday, but it is also  (in church-land) the celebration of Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury, who died on May 26th A.D. 605.

I am glad that my birthday coincides with one of the nicer of the church saints!

This evening I came to a formal end of my celebrations by having a lovely dinner with dear friends (Ron and Charlotte,  and  Jonathan and Andi [Andrea] ). at "Bangkok" an excellent Thai restaurant here in SRQ.

It doesn't  get any better than this.

Jonathan and Andi

jmp, Charlotte and Ron. (I wish that I could have  had a better smile!)

With the birthday balloon - a gift from Andi

Monday, 25 May 2015

Such blessings on the eve of my 71st birthday

My birthday cake at lunch with Jack, Donna and Muriel

Donna, Muriel and jmp

Later in the day:  Ben and Betty at my home. (Betty is a 92 years old e-marine who has become a firm friend.


My pals Gordon and Rick

Good friend John at my home.

Bob and Ben at my home

I wore this badge today, the last day of my 71st year.

In the meantime Penne "crashes". She could  not care less! A classic Canine pose on my bed

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Anyway, what did St. Paul know when he wrote "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?"

According to the New Testament book of First Corinthians (St). Paul wrote: "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?"  (1 Cor 15:55).

St Paul is,  of course,  waxing lyrical about his belief that the resurrection of Jesus Christ has de-fanged death, and that those who are "in Christ" die in the hope of their own resurrection to life eternal.

That's all well and good, I suppose, in the long term. But in the short term death has a vicious sting, and the grave is a dark and bleak place.

I think that when a person we love has died, we rush all too quickly to Paul's "words of hope".

I assert that death is friggin' awful.


My friend Bruce W died as a result of un-treated cancer.  He received Hospice Care during the last 48 hours of his life.

But he died. 

Even as his lifeless body was being moved out of his home the Hospice volunteer spoke to Bruce's partner, to Bruce's  son, and to we, Bruce's friends.

"At least"  she said, "he is in a better place".

I wanted to scream, but since I was not the chief mourner I refrained.

I wanted to say "what better place?" 

Was there a "better place" for Bruce than the house which he made a home; in the home he shared with his beloved partner Ben; in the home where his four children and their off-spring were always honoured and welcomed;  in the home where his many friends ate and drank at a gracious and hospitable table?


Becky W died on Saturday23rd May 2014 following the complications of the cancers which raged in her body.

She was a  retired  school-teacher, and a faithful worshipper at St. Boniface on Siesta Key. FL

Becky was as feisty as they come. She was utterly opinionated and could not be silenced.

She was so well beloved by the ageing gay men in our parish that I once told her that she was the "Queen of Queens".

Becky, the "Queen of Queens" died.

Is she in a better place? Lord only knows!

But when she lived, St. B's was the best place she knew.



On Saturday 23rd May 2015  Savannah H took her own life.  She was twenty years old.

Her mother, Jilly H, used to dog-sit for me.

Her grandmother, Janice D, has been a faithful and skillful paid section leader in the St. Boniface Church Choir.

What is there to say when a twenty year old woman commits suicide?   

St. Paul is NOT HELPFUL.

There is a half chance that I will be asked to officiate at a Memorial Service for Savannah.

I will NOT assert that death has no sting (sorry St. Paul). 

Nor will I assert that she is in a "better place" (it's much too soon for such pieties).

I WILL encourage Savannah's nearest  and dearest to shake their fists heavenward,at the monstrous horror of her tragic death.