Sunday, March 31, 2013

¡Feliz Pascua!

On this day, let us rejoice.
Let us take comfort in knowing the truth:
That Christ rose again, just as He promised He would.
That all the suffering, all the pain, was worth it.
Because the adversary, and death, and fear...
Have all been defeated in Him.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

GolanRamothBosor - KedeshShechemHebron

25 points to the first reader who guesses the meaning of the title of this post.

So it comes down to it: the cat is out of the bag, the bag is down the river, the river has emptied into the gulf, and the sediment has been stirred all to shit. But of course, it's not like anything actually HAPPENED. No no, nothing actually HAPPENED. Really. I s'pose that's one of the great things about living in the post-modern world: nothing is actually real, so nothing actually happens and nobody actually gets hurt.

What a crock of shit. I'm a tree, I can bend. But let's be clear: this is hard work, and it hurts like a μυθερφυκερ. My Middler is driving me bonkers, I am feeling fear from a deeper level than I can remember feeling in many many years, and frankly I think the most appropriate phrase for where I am right at this moment is... CAN OPEN, WORMS EVERYWHERE.

Anyway, curiously enough, I am already feeling better. These past few days have been an embodied proof of my sacred equation, reproduced below for your edification. Go in peace.

Jesus + Zoloft + Aventyl + Loving Kitties + Caffeine

PS. I am still unpacking the emotional intensity of the PSR Chapel service that my immersion class... will have to write about that later.

PPS. San Diego, here I come!

Monday, March 18, 2013

What A Day

Sunday 3/17/2013: the first Sunday in a very very long time that I had done more than one church service in a day. But more importantly, it was the first time I had "gone" to City Of Refuge then "worked" at GNC. Heaven help me: it left me exhausted.

The great thing about the GNC service was that I have much of the Liturgy Of The Word down rote. This is good because the service at Refuge wiped me out emotionally in a way that I have not experienced in a long time. It was amazing to see how much of the GNC service I can do "on autopilot" ... not that I was any less engaged, or involved... but my growth into liturgical prowess has become apparent even to myself.

But Sunday 3/17/2013 was about Gina.

What a mark this woman has made at Refuge! To see her embody her voice, to see her preach to the Refuge community... to see them get it... wow. Wow. Just amazing. Wow. MzAnn was in tears. I was a bawling mess, of course. Just... wow.

All in all, Sunday 3/17/2013 was a good day for emergent Christianity in the San Francisco Bay Area. Let us hope that we have more days like this when Refuge makes its new home in Oakland, so close to my house! And let me hope that I have more days like this as I grow deeper into my ministerial call. I wore my full clerical collar to Refuge today. I think it made quite a statement. People noticed it. There's something to the idea of being received as visiting clergy... because that, in essence, is what I was. And we pulled off the surprise, with Calyxa and Chucko attending without Gina knowing ahead of time. Yep, that was me! I love you, Gina.

Now, God, let me just ask you one thing. You've done such wonderful things for us all. Could you intervene in my one area that needs a bit of a boost? You know of what I speak. Let me not be Cassandra, yet again. Let my heart receive what it has longed for, ached for, waiting for, for oh so many years. I know that I am asking for something dangerous, something that will require a lifetime of work to harvest. But it is worth the effort. BDA is worth the effort. He needs to know his beauty. He needs to know that he is loved. You gave me this heart, these feelings, this empathy, this need to love and be loved. Help me now to grow into the role that you have destined me for: the lover. God, dear God, I beg that you fill my heart's longing. Help this cosmic win-win to come to fruition. Dear God in Heaven, I know that I am not a patient man. I know that I must wait. But, God, my biological clock? Hello? The old gray mare? And let me also thank you, my God, for your wisdom. If the BDA Quest is not to be, then I accept that it is because you in your infinite wisdom are guiding me toward my highest expression of your eternal truth even when I cannot understand how, where, or why. I ask for the help of your grace in accepting my fate, and loving BDA unconditionally regardless. He deserves it. Before the saints and apostles, the angels and archangels, and to God Himself, I declare this: BDA, I love you without reservation and without condition, and I will always pray for you to find the highest glory whether beside me or not.

Trust in the Lord, and do good; so you will live in the land, and enjoy security. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will make your vindication shine like the light, and the justice of your cause like the noonday.
-Psalm 37:3-6

Friday, March 15, 2013

Prelude To A Kiss

Wow. I am still buzzing with the Holy Spirit from something I experienced yesterday. I sent the MP3 of my most recent sermon at Grace North -- the sermon where I reframed the Parable of the Prodigal Son as the Parable of the Father, within a context including my showdown with God in the summer of 1998 in Death Valley -- to a person who, in my humble opinion, is one of the more gifted prophetic preachers I have ever met. And he liked it! The thing here is that I knew the sermon was good -- see my earlier blog post from Sunday 3/10/2013 -- but... wow. It means the world to me that my sermon impressed this one particular person. God is good, indeed.

And now comes a much bigger homiletic challenge.

My next preaching date is Maundy Thursday. The RCL readings for the day are super-traditional, and I am generally OK with that... noting that, per tradition, my teaching-parish expects me to replace one of the readings with a non-Christian reading. My mentor's concordance for Maundy Thursday provided me with a wonderful Buddhist reading. It served me well, because the Old Testament reading just did not speak to me: with all due love & respect I am not particularly inspired by the instructions YHWH gave in Exodus about how the Israelites were to sacrifice the young lamb, sprinkle its blood, and roast it for food -- with its head and innards included. So, not a problem: OT reading, gone. Buddhist wisdom inserted in its place.

Now, the epistolary reading for Maundy Thursday is the text from 1st Corinthians with the Words Of Institution. Clearly, that reading is central to the Christian experience. And the Gospel reading is from John Chapter 13, wherefrom we get the foot-washing ritual -- clearly central to all Maundy Thursday services. That leaves the Psalter for my consideration. The Psalm for Maundy Thursday is 116, a beautiful psalm referencing the cup of salvation. Ok, that sounds good.


Maundy Thursday is my only scheduled preaching gig for Holy Week and I feel it is important to bring Judas Iscariot back into the light of Salvation. Judas has been a theological thorn in my side for years; in this respect, I am surfing through an issue which has vexed theologians all the way back to the earliest days of Christianity. As I perceive it, the conundrum flows as follows:

Statement 1: Judas betrays Jesus, leading to His arrest.
Statement 2: Jesus is executed by the state apparatus which arrested Him.
Statement 3: In His death followed by resurrection, Jesus defeats death itself.
Side note -- Statement 3 is my own personal take on Christus Victor.
Statement 4: The resurrection of Jesus is the fulfillment of God's love for us.

Synthesis of Statements 1 & 2 leads to Conclusion A:
Judas's betrayal "causes" the death of Jesus.

Synthesis of Statements 3 & 4 leads to Conclusion B:
The death of Jesus leads to the fulfillment of God's love for us.

And now things go haywire. When I synthesize Conclusions A & B I reach the following: the betrayal brings about the fulfillment of God's love for us.

So, given all of this... should we not be exalting the betrayal of Judas? The entire story rests on Judas betraying Jesus. One can certainly make the argument that if not via Judas, Jesus would've eventually run afoul of the Roman power structure and gotten Himself crucified anyway. But I am still left with a theological asymptote: God chose Judas, and God as I know God is never a capricious or unthinking deity. God has a Plan, and God's Plan is all-encompassing. The ultimate conclusion I reach as I think my way through this theological minefield is this: Judas was a harbinger of Jesus as my Christ.

And that settles it. I am removing Psalm 116 from my Maundy Thursday readings and replacing it with interpolated text from the fragmentary papyri that gave us the Coptic Gospel of Judas the Betrayer. May this act be a witness to the majesty of God through the only begotten Son, Jesus my Christ, my rock, my personal lord and savior; He through which all things are possible, the Alpha and the Omega, He who forgave and forgives us all -- even those named Judas. AMEN.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

4 of 4: And Finally...

I have two fathers already: my mortal father, Ronald Leroy Tanner, and my eternal Heavenly Father. The big guy upstairs. God, yaknow. I need no more.

Λένε ότι έχουν πάπα,
Δεν έχει καμία εξουσία σε μένα:
Η εκκλησία ανήκει στο λαό, δεν τον "ηγέτη"

3 of 4: Logo

In the earliest days of Christianity, secret signs developed as a way to communicate without being caught by the various anti-Christian forces of the day. Perhaps the most famous sign is the "chi-ro" ...yet another Greek thing that virtually everyone mispronounces; it is "key-ro" not CAIRO for God's sake, and of course the "k" of "key" is not exactly like it is in English; but I digress...

Less well known was the wheel. The wheel is related to the fish symbol. In Greek as it was written at the time, the letter sigma was often represented by what we would see as the letter "C" ... so for example, the famous acronym ΙΧΘΥΣ would actually have been written as ΙΧΘΥC. If you superimpose all five letters [drawn in their simplest geometric form with no serifs, tails, ornaments, etc.] then you will see the image of a wheel.

I hereby resurrect that symbol with modifications to reflect a more modern style (including the newer version of the letter sigma), and I hereby claim it as the "secret sign" of liberal, progressive, LGBTQQI-loving Christianity. I maintain copyright on this symbol so if you steal it then... well, God is watching. Ha! Anyway, I present to you the New Wheel. Hypnotic, isn't it? Praise the Lord.

2 of 4: Pi Day? A Day for Pie?

I just remembered that on 3/14 people guffaw and carry on with superfluous nonsense about how it is "Pi Day" ... yaknow, on the idea that pi is 3.14 ...

I'll be impressed when the date is 3/14/15, or if someone takes me back in time machine to 3/14/1592.

And, one thousand bonus points to the first reader of this blog who can correctly pronounce the damn letter. Hint: it is not not not "pie" like that thing people throw into each other's faces for laughs.

1 of 4: ThisIsCrazy - ThisIsCrazy - ThisIsCrazy

In some ways I am Lutheran. Theologically, I tend to fall on the left-liberal mainline of the ELCA, for example. But right now I am thinking musically: when I was a child I was quite aware that church for my mother meant music and as I developed a more sophisticated theological vocabulary, I came to restate that sentiment as my mother feels the spirit through music. And my mom used to make statements about how our German relatives -- who were Lutheran, of course -- were prone to singing "AMEN" in flawless four-part harmonies. I'm not clear on whether that was actually true or not, but it was one of those things a child hears in the pre-teen years and internalizes as fact. Yes, that was a reference to one of this week's readings in Pastoral Care class, about the ways we come to believe things as we grow up.

Anyway... when it comes to my connection with the Divine, I am a true 50-50 mix of my parents' families... from my mother I learned to access the Spirit through music and literature; from my father's family I learned to access the Spirit through embodiment. Which, somehow, brings me to what I am thinking about today.

This is crazy. All of it. My life. Where I come from. Where I've been. Where I am. Where I am going to. It's all crazy. And for some reason, I find solace in that fact. So, to honor the crazy, I present my song list for the crazy. The songs below have the word "crazy" in their title or featured prominently in their lyrics.

Crazy by Icehouse
Crazy by Seal
Goin' Crazy by David Lee Roth
Crazay by Jesse Johnson featuring Sly Stone
Crazy For You by Madonna
 Σ 'αγαπώ, είστε η Ισχύς. Προσευχή, απάντησε.
Let's Go Crazy by Prince & The Revolution
Dogs by Pink Floyd
Shine On You Crazy Diamond by Pink Floyd

I don't know at this point, honestly, who is reading my blog... but... if you have any ideas for additional "crazy songs" I'd love to hear from you!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

I *Can* Do This

I am humbled by the moving of the Holy Spirit through me this evening. I don't mean to sound arrogant, but: I knew that my sermon was good in the sense that it was exegetically solid, well written, passionate, and was speaking my truth. What I did not realize is that God was blessing me by using me as His vessel to give words of comfort to more than one of my parishioners. I am humbled beyond words to know that God used me to touch the hearts of other people this evening. Thank you, thank you. A million times, THANK YOU. Praise the Lord for His mighty works. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Let the church say AMEN.

Friday, March 8, 2013

3 of 3: Caffeine

Change is in the air.

As it turns out, I am not considered a particularly heavy consumer of caffeine. I drink 16-20 ounces of caffeinated coffee in the mornings, and do not consume other caffeinated beverages with any regularity. I've had short-term binges where I made many pitchers of properly sweetened tea, and Lord knows that my deep love of chocolate is also a way that caffeine has entered my life.

But, when it comes right down to it, I am essentially a two-cups-per-day coffee drinker.

Sadly, that will have to change. I apparently am fortunate, in that the process of weaning off caffeine will be easier for me than for others because I do not consume as much as as I thought I did. But, honestly, I am scared.

The thing is, I am not actually sure what I am scared of. I remember one time when I inadvertently went cold-turkey off caffeine. The headache was miserable on a level that words fail to describe. I can only imagine what it must feel like for heavier consumers of caffeine. Lord have mercy on their souls!

Anyway, the medical guidelines for cessation of caffeine intake state that the patient should take absolutely no less than two full weeks to wean. And, oddly enough, my medical team stated without reservation that I can continue to drink decaf coffee. What a bizarre thing -- I'd've thought that the essential oils present in coffee would've been problematic, but apparently it is only the caffeine itself that concerns them. So, yeah. I'm going to give myself 4 weeks. The only question now, is... when do I start stopping?

I hear a voice in my head. It is the very matter-of-fact but compassionate RN at Kaiser repeating the mantra for these kinds of life-changes: start small, start today. Can I at least get through Holy Week first? Yaknow, be born into decaf as Jesus rises on the third day?

Thank God that my sardonic sense of humor is still intact.

2 of 3: Redaction

Φωτεινή όντα εμείς.
Δεν αυτό αργού θέμα.

1 of 3: The Power of JesusZoloftAventyl

I once wrote a line which could probably form the mantra of my own religion, if I ever started one. There is nothing that a lot of Jesus, some coffee, and a small bit of Zoloft cannot fix. Now, I must admit that I should add with Aventyl as an adjuvant to my mantra -- but the basic point holds. This example of Tanner's Law popped into my mind tonight as I was pondering how not-broken I feel this week. Sure, my body is not in great shape, plus I have zero career prospects right now, a book that will probably never get finished (let alone published), etc etc etc., but... well... I just... feel good in my spirit. It's like, wow this is what life is supposed to feel like. It's amazing to ponder where I have been, where I am now, and where I dream of going, but in the last few days I have really felt bonded to my seminary community. I feel at home there. And that is a very good thing, indeed.

I feel like some sort of, I dunno, human being or something. The line said by Treebeard at the beginning of the third LOTR film really resonates with me (hence my mention of it for the second blog entry in a row): the filth of Saruman is washing away. My "personal Saruman" is a combination of demons, but it is like I have shifted into a new gear. I feel like I have crossed into a new level of healing; it's like I completed some sort of major milestone in my many-year quest to get back on the right path. I often think about "where I lost my way" and, indeed, I have pondered that topic in other essays, so it's not like this is a new issue.

But it is clearer than ever to me that while there were specific incidents, specific choices I made along the way that pushed me off the "right" path into my so-called Lost Decade, there was no one single event that was the last straw -- or the first straw, either, for that matter. It took me a long time to become a train-wreck, so it's not like I am going to un-wreck overnight. What I find interesting though is that the shift in my energy over the last few weeks has already caused shaking across other aspects of my life... and the life of other people around me. More on that later.

For now, I close with the lyrics of a song by Erasure from Chorus, their 1991 masterpiece and one of the best albums of any genre, any decade, any group, etc., ever released IMHO. I'm not sure why this song popped into my mind -- it's not like it is reflective of the current state of things with the spectacularly attractive guy I have been writing about recently. Well, not directly... but I suppose that the overall mood of the song is reflective of my current emotional state regarding relationships in general. I don't think I have ever felt more normal about looking for a partner. That is to say, I feel like I have finally reached some sort of peace with, and control over, my extremely intense emotions around love. I'm just not that... well, needy anymore. Hard to explain. Must ponder on that for a while...

Am I Right?
Track 5 from the 1991 Erasure album "Chorus"

Waiting at the bus stop, laughing off the rain;
Shaking their umbrellas, 'til it starts again.

Flowers in the water, floating off downstream;
Paper in the gutter, blowing in the breeze...

Wandering through the back roads, and the rain comes rushing down;
To resolve, your love, for a man in his twenties.
Am I right? Am I wrong?
Or am I just dreaming?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

I Did It

And it didn't kill me. It seems as though somehow, through my natural proclivity for buffoonery, I managed to get my point across without being threatening... or creepy... or repulsive... or whatever. This is a big deal. It's like there was a glimpse of someone... healthy. The filth of my lost decade -- my own version of the Filth Of Saruman -- is washing away.

The crazy thing is, I have no more clarity on any of my "big questions" than I did before this evening. But the power of being able to step forward, look a man directly in the eyes, and say... dude, look, you're amazing and awesome and I would totally just ask you out if I were not busy working on myself, but I need to work on myself, but I really think you are amazing and awesome and I just don't know what to do about it... well, the words apparently came out rather well because the spectacularly beautiful recipient of those words did not shrug, did not recoil, did not jump out of the car -- oh, right, I forgot to mention that I was driving at the time -- and essentially said "yes, let's hang out sometime, that would be good." And he owned his own non-committal tone. He spoke directly to it, about being protective of his alone time. And yet, he also spoke clearly of wanting to get to know me outside of school. Magic words, those.

And, with God as my witness, I was able to openly and honestly look him directly in the eye and say... "dude, I get it. No, I mean, I really get it." And pointed out to him, again, that I live 15 miles from campus for a reason. And that really, driving him home after school is literally on the way home. Literally, as in, offramp to his place leads to onramp toward my place. For God's sake, Philip, use less adverbs! Dude, seriously!

The heavenly host must be laughing their asses off at the silliness of me, a mere mortal. And, when you think about it, the whole thing is silly. But hey, it feels good to feel... not broken. Even if for just a few minutes. I mean, really... I'm almost 42 years old physically, probably about 32 years old emotionally in most ways, but when it comes to dating and relationships? I dunno; sometimes I wonder if I'm even 18 years old when it comes to relationships. Or maybe I'm 32 years old but retarded. That is so un-PC of me, but there. I said it. I did it. I own it. Let the church say AMEN to honesty.

And isn't it surreal -- in a good way -- to carry a torch for a man who is preaching on the same pericope I am preaching on this weekend?

God, thank you. For your many manifest ways of caring for me, I thank you. I remain humbled by your generosity, and I hope to be worthy of it in my remaining days, weeks, months, and years of this life. I will also praise you with the harp for your faithfulness, O my God; I will sing praises to you with the lyre, O Holy One of Israel. My lips will shout for joy when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have rescued. (Psalm 71:22-23)

Saturday, March 2, 2013

I Put This Moment ...

 ...Over Here

10 bonus points to the first reader who correctly identifies the song from which the title of this blog entry comes. Clue: the song is by a female British singer and the album which contains the song is widely considered to be her Magnum Opus.
Quixotic Clue: Organon.

BDA: A Poem
You. Yes, you over there.
Really? Do you not know?
There are things I, too, do not know.

I do not know how anyone could be unkind to you.
Yes, you frustrate me deeply with your shyness.
Your cheshire-cat way of just... being... never easy to find.
Your unassuming, smiley-faced, impossible-to-read-ness.
But these are things of beauty, in your beauty.
How anyone could be unkind to you is beyond me.

You say that you can see the wounded-ness of those who have treated you ill.
You are a Christian, truly. And I love you even more because of it.
Yes, love. I write the word and I ponder: do you really not know?
Do you not see the beauty I see when I look at you?
How could anyone so beautiful not see his own beauty?
This. Another thing I do not know.
 How I feel about you feel about me.
Infinity symbol. Recursive logic in the code.
Möbius surface.
How you feel about me feel about you.

Do I dare speak this truth?
Do I dare try again?
This. A thing I do know: I, a demon-haunted trainwreck.

All I ever wanted.
Safety of the heart. Of the mind. Of the body.
From the heart-land. Of the heart-land. A pilgrim, following Jesus.
Not too shy. Not too cocky.
Blond/Red. Younger.
You have it all.
Even your eyebrows. Beautiful.
I write poetry because of you.
You confide in me: a low self-image.

Another thing I do not know. How can you not see?
You are BEAUTY INCARNATE before my loving heart.
Not just eyes. Pools of love.
Not just hair. Corn-fed.
Not just glasses. Intelligence.
Not just voice. Beautiful.
You inspired me to write poetry.
Heaven help my heart.
It has been over two years.
I saw you. Lust.
I saw you again. More lust.
Just who IS this beautiful stranger?
Oh, that's who. Interesting.
Imagine my pleasant surprise:
You remember the day we first met, as do I.
A sign?
And then I heard you preach.
The Holy Spirit in me knows the Holy Spirit in you.
Until I was born-again, I never would have believed...

YOU HAD ME AT נְחֶמְיָה

I struggle to comprehend.
Is this the new me in Christ?
Falling in love with a man,
because of his preaching?
I could do a lot worse.

I. Yes, I over here.
There are things you do not know.
You are worth a lifetime of learning. ισχύς.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Bonnie Franklin

Another piece of my childhood has passed away. Bonnie Franklin, who I knew as Ann Romano on the wonderful sitcom ONE DAY AT A TIME, has slipped the surly bonds. I can only imagine what Valerie Bertinelli and Mackenzie Phillips must be thinking right now. Talk about bizarre: after the horror-show of drugs Mack lived through back in the day, it is Ms Franklin who we are mourning instead. God does move in mysterious ways.

So maybe Ms Franklin was not a widely recognized 1970s icon... but she should've been. We tend to forget that ONE DAY AT A TIME was a rather daring show for its time: two girls being raised by a divorced woman who chose divorce and who -- gasp -- had a dating life and ENJOYED IT. I am woman hear me roar, indeed.

But what the deuce does this have to do with me? Well, ONE DAY AT A TIME is one of those shows that children like me -- ones who were raised on the TV of the 1970s -- always tend to remember fondly.

... and yes, ONE DAY AT A TIME

I have fond memories of watching the show with my mom. The show was anchored by the ever-present beautifully red-haired mama Romano, flawed but fabulous, providing a moral compass for her beloved Julie and Barbara... the multi-episode arc where Julie runs away... Barbara's friend who tries to kill herself... so many memories. I think it is important to take a moment to breathe and to thank God for our memories. Ultimately, it is our memories which will guide us into the after-life. Rest well, Ms Franklin. You are missed.

And perhaps it is time to finally release more seasons of ONE DAY AT A TIME on home-DVD? It's been 6 years since Season One was released; how about we honor Bonnie Franklin by releasing the rest?