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Tuesday, November 30, 2004


Big Game Tomorrow 

I just finished watching Duke narrowly defeat Michigan State in their part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and am getting pumped for tomorrow's game of #1Wake vs. #3Illinois. It's going to be an exciting game and I look forward to watching it with the alum gang at Jeff's place. We've decided to try and watch as many of the games as we can together - Kate, Julia, Jeff, David, Adam, Samantha, Erin, and I. We'll trade off hosting everyone at our apartments and go to a few bars from time to time to mix things up. It should be a blast of a season. The Fighting Illini (what the hell is that anyway, midwesterners?) are looking for an upset tomorrow, but I think Paul and Gray and the boys are going to shut them down, albeit closely. Either way, look for some exciting college basketball tomorrow night!

-R

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Monday, November 29, 2004


It Came 

As I mentioned, over the holiday week I was reading Jeff Lee's book "Opening the Prayer Book" and thus became very interested in the history of liturgical change. He talks about the relatively minor rhetorical changes in the early editions that represented vast theological gulfs and then then how the 1928 and 1979 editions were both radically different in both semantics and theology (without going outside the bounds of what it means to be an Episcopalian Christian of course, though some might disagree). So, I obviously have a 1979 Book of Common Prayer because that is the one in use right now. I also have a 1928 BCP, the previous edition, given to me by my Uncle Al from the church of his youth. As different as '79 is from '28, '28 is from 1892. That sequence - 1892, 1928, 1979 - represents almost a complete scope of the Episcopal liturgy. So, just because I was curious, I went online to see if anyone still had an 1892 BCP and was selling it. The first place I looked, Half.com, came up empty. Then I turned to Ebay, which I had never used before. I found an 1892 BCP for auction and the current going price was....are you ready for this...$6.50. There were zero other bidders. So, I put in my bid, with an appropriate maximum bid. But, the auction closed without anyone else bidding on it, so I won it for that incredible price plus s&h. It came today. I have not had time to really sit down with all three BCP's and look over some of the more obvious differences let alone the minutia, but I will. For the time being though, I am very, very excited.

A side effect of all this has been a shift in my thinking. I used to think along the lines of, "The 1979 BCP is the one I grew up with and is the one I want to use forever." Now, I have come to an understanding that the BCP is a living document, just as its users and the liturgy it contains are living. It should change with time, through careful consideration, prayerful intent, and scholarly investigation. For now though, I am fascinated with the changes that have gone on in the past and look forward to unraveling them.

-R

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Sunday, November 28, 2004


Baby, It's Cold Outside... 

...I really can't stay! Errr...well...anyway...moving on. I've returned to Chicago and the song speaks the truth. The snow we got has all been dissolved by the rain we had yesterday morning, so I did not get to see any of it. No loss though, as I'm sure it will be pounding down on us soon enough. The flight was delayed leaving Fort Myers for 2 hours yesterday because of delays on the ground in Chicago - typical. That left me with not much to do other than the few books I brought with me. So, I read a bit in each, cycling through them when I got bored with the last. On the trip home I read about half of Jeff Lee's Opening the Prayer Book and it is very good; a must read for any Episcopalian. I've really become quite interested recently in liturgy and the history of liturgical change. Jeff's book covers that ground fairly modestly but it is enough to whet my appetite. I also read about a quarter of N.T. Wright's small book (really more of a glorified pamphlet) entitled For All the Saints?: Remembering the Christian Departed. It is short, as I mention, but it is dense, if well written, reading. It challenges contemporary conceptions of afterlife and highlights the fact that the majority of current beliefs are unsupported by scripture. So, when I grew tired of that, and really churchy non-fiction all together, I drew out The Stand and finished it up. A 1200 page book by Stephen King is like reading a 400 page novel by anyone else; it takes about the same amount of time. I enjoyed the book this time around too, though slightly less than the last time I read it. It didn't strike me as being as tightly woven as it could have been, and damn well should have been for a 1200 pager, and many of the characters seemed flat. Still though, it was a fun read and an engaging story. Now, in the fiction department, I am on to Arturo Perez-Reverte's The Seville Communion. It is a mystery/thriller novel that features the church and sometimes I can be a sap for those kinds of stories if they're well written, Dan Brown notwithstanding. 12 pages into it, it seems ok so far.

I write all this having just returned from worship at St. Luke's in Evanston, which wasn't nearly as exciting as I had anticipated. The vestiges of high churchmanship are present, but they don't seem to have the spirit of it. The music was dull but the sermon was good (preached by former Seabury Dean, Jim Lemler), and the liturgy was fairly run of the mill. They boasted a sung service at 10am, but it was actually said, bringing further disappointment to this high church seeking visitor. I want to learn high churchmanship because I find it fascinating and an engaging way to worship, but I don't really know how to go about doing it. I grew up in a church that is more high than low, but still not totally high. Despite that, I found myself thinking this morning, "We're more high church in spirit at St. Hilary's than they are in practice at St. Luke's." All that aside, it was still a positive worship experience.

-R

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Saturday, November 27, 2004


Ryan and Yassir 

Ryan and Yassir
Ryan and Yassir,
originally uploaded by whitleyrr.
I've finally been able to get the pictures I took in Israel and Palestine on the computer. It was a struggle because Walgreens put them on 3.5 floppy discs instead of CD's like I asked them and my computer doesn't have a 3.5 drive! So, I remembered to bring the discs home with me this trip and used my family's slightly older computer, which still features the appropriate drive. Needless to say, this was one of the first photos I snagged to post on Flickr. Not too many people, I suspect, have had an opportunity like this.

-R

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Thursday, November 25, 2004


Happy Thanksgiving 

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all! I'm doing some work with the history of the American Prayer Book right now, so the following comes to you from the 1789 revision.

HONOUR the LORD with thy substance, and with the first-fruits of all thine increase; so shall thy barns be filled with plenty; and thy presses shall burst out with new wine. Prov. iii. 9, 10.

PRAISE ye the LORD: for it is good to sing praises unto God; for it is pleasant, and praise is comely. The LORD doth build up Jerusalem: he gathereth together the outcasts of Israel. He healeth those that are broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds. He covereth the heaven with clouds, and prepareth rain for the earth; he maketh the grass to grow upon the mountains. He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry. Praise the LORD, O Jerusalem; praise thy God, O Sion. For he hath strengthened the bars of thy gates; he hath blessed thy children within thee. He maketh peace in thy borders, and filleth thee with the finest of the wheat.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son : and to the Holy Ghost; As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be : world without end. Amen.

MOST gracious God, by whose knowledge the depths are broken up, and the clouds drop down the dew; We yield thee unfeigned thanks and praise, as for all thy mercies, so especially for the returns of seed-time and harvest, and for crowning the year with thy goodness, in the increase of the ground and the gathering in of the fruits thereof. And, we beseech thee, give us a just sense of this great mercy; such as may appear in our lives, by an humble, holy, and obedient walking before thee all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be all glory and honour, world without end. Amen.

O MOST merciful Father, who hast blessed the labours of the husbandman in the returns of the fruits of the earth; We give thee humble and hearty thanks for this thy bounty; beseeching thee to continue thy loving-kindness to us; that our land may still yield her increase, to thy glory and. our comfort; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

-R

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Monday, November 22, 2004


Family Fun 

One of the first things we did as a family upon my arrival was to go out for dinner and to see the movie, After the Sunset. Whenever a new Pierce Brosnan film is released my mother is clamoring to go. However, this time, it was perfectly acceptable to me as the most beautiful woman in the world, Salma Hayek, was playing his opposite. So, when we were at home the afternoon before seeing it, we were talking and joking about it. Now, my brothers generally hate it when my mother shows any sort of interest, however cursorily, in another male besides my father, which I find kinda funny. So, knowing how my mother would respond, I said of Salma Hayek, "I hope she's nude!" She replies in kind, "I hope he's nude!" My father, just home from a golf outing and in the shower yells from the bathroom, "I am nude!" This was good for several bouts of hearty laughter, as was the film. That was about all it was good for though. The plot was the Thomas Crown Affair all over again with a slightly different twist. Salma, of course, was gorgeous.

Dad, Brennan, and I spent the afternoon yesterday putting up the house Christmas lights in preparation for the annual cul-du-sac lighting event after the Thanksgiving Meal (only that kind of meal could be capatilized). I got slightly sunburnt on my arms and head while up on the roof, but I suppose to most of you folks in the north and midwest that doesn't sound like much of a complaint.

-R

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Friday, November 19, 2004


Sunshine and 75 Degrees 

That's right, I'm back in Florida for the Thanksgiving holiday and the weather is glorious here. I have spent a lot of time in the past few days rearranging how my commenter system works and I finally have it worked out I think. I included a break and a horizontal line rule between each comment, so that should make them easier to read. That took some doing let me tell, because neither me, nor one of the local technological gurus at the seminary could figure out where exactly to put the code. But, spent a little time this morning, having had a clever idea last night right before falling asleep, and by golly it worked! So, thanks for bearing with me through this switch and thanks for all your excellent comments!! I look forward to continuing the theology of religions discussion as well as many future discussions!

-R

(3) comments

Thursday, November 18, 2004


Commenting System Change 

I have now changed my commenting system over to Blogger's. I did this for two reasons: comments don't disappear after three months and there is no character limit. HaloScan's comments disappeared after three months and they had an annyoing 1,000 character limit.

The only problem with Blogger's commenting system is if you are not a Blogger user, it does not prompt you to put in your name, email address, or blog URL.

I am asking you to please sign your comments with your:
Name
E-mail address
Blog URL (if you have one)

I want to know who you are and I need to know to whom to address my replies. If you're not comfortable leaving your name and email address on the blog, please email me your comment. I hate to see anonymous postings, but I understand if you're not comfortable leaving your name. Thanks and I look forward to hearing from you.

-R

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Wednesday, November 17, 2004


A Theology of Religions 

Or: How to Pray for Arafat, part 2.

A couple of posts ago, Micah and I got into an interesting discussion of how best to pray for the repose of the soul of Yasser Arafat, and what the broader implications of the formulations of such prayers might be. I want to continue this discussion because I find it to be extremely interesting and I want to start off this post by saying a few words about a theology of religions and where I stand in those. (This was intended to be a short posting folks, but already I feel a long-ish one coming on. Bear with me.)

Within Christianity there are several ways to think about other religions. The classic categories for these realms of theological thought are exclusivism, inclusivism, and pluralism. Exclusivism has as its central tenet that there is no salvation (the work of Christ) outside of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Unless you profess his name and confess the orthodox Christian faith you will not be saved. Period. This has been the belief of the majority of denominations throughout the ages and has strong ties to the missiology components of colonialism. Inclusivism also believes that there is no salvation outside of Jesus Christ, but maintains that there may be other ways to obtain that salvation through Christ than the direct confession of the faith. Catholic theologian Karl Rahner ascribes to persons who have been saved but did not believe in Christ as "anonymous Christians". I think in that title is the danger Micah mentioned when he spoke about the tendency of dominant culture Christians to say other peoples are really Christians, but they just don't know it. So, if one is to be inclusivist, one must tread very carefully through the rhetoric. Pluralism proclaims that there is more than one way to achieve eternal salvation through God. From there it can get very diverse. Some Christian pluralists believe that there are different ways to obtain salvation as Christians define it than through Christ. Others might say that salvation for a Christian is very different from salvation for a Zoroastrian; that is to say, there are different salvations. 1920's Lebenese poet Kahlil Gibran has one of the best quotes that, to me, defines pluralism: "I love you my brother whoever you are whether you worship in your church, kneel in your temple, or pray in your mosque.You and I are all children of one faith, for the diverse paths of religion are fingers of the loving hand of one Supreme Being, a hand extended to all, offering completeness of spirit to all, eager to receive all."

So, that is a little bit about a theology of religions. Now, where do I stand in that? I define myself as an inclusivist. (Naturally, I pick the shiftiest ground on which to stand, right?) As a convicted Christian, I cannot believe that there are other ways to be saved than through the work of Christ. But, as a citizen of the world, a scholar of the Abrahamic faiths, and a firm believer in both Romans 8:38-39 and John 10:14-16 I cannot believe in a God who would condemn so many people to eternal torment who follow God in a different way than we who have received the Christian revelation do. Therefore, I say that those who are not confessing Christians can be and are still able to be saved through the great mercy and work of the second person of the Trinity. I live in the hope of the apocatastasis (Definition from CCEL: By Apocatastasis ("restoration") is meant the ultimate restitution of all things, including the doctrine that eventually all [persons] will be saved. The term comes from the Greek of Acts iii. 21, but is given a wider meaning than it has in that passage. The doctrine first appears in Clement of Alexandria (flourished 200) in the declaration that the punishments of God are "saving and disciplinary, leading to conversion" (Strom ., vi. 6).).

This, of course, opens me up to all sorts of questions, and good ones they are, too. Why be a Christian? Micah's question: If it isn't Jesus who saves Arafat, then who is it? How do we talk about this with our brothers and sisters of other faiths without being patronizing? How do we stay committed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and still be open to interfaith dialogue? What do we have to give up, if anything? I don't have any good answers to those right now, but when I do, I think I'll get a book contract. Now, if you've stuck it out with me through all that, well done and thank you! Please, offer up your comments; I want to know what you think.

-R

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Lets Go, Deacons! 

I've been pretty busy over the past fews days and thus have not had as much chance to blog as I would have liked. The Demon Deacons have opened up their basketball preseason with a great showing! A huge win over USC-Upstate (103-57), a thrashing of Winston-Salem State (89-61) and an excellent victory against GW (97-76) last night to start off the regular season. We're ranked #2 preseason and some commentators have us going all the way, which would, of course, be awesome, but I'll hold out to see how we play come February. That's usually when we falter. But this season could be different; we have the skill and the experience. Led by Chris Paul, the sophomore point guard and arguably the best guard in the country, we've been putting up some pretty impressive numbers - a 96.3 pts/game average so far, and 17 steals and 38 rebounds in the last game. Eric Williams, Justin Gray, Jamaal Levy, and Vytus Danelius are all lined up to have a great year. Most importantly, our sense of team play seems to be a bit stronger than in the past few years and I definitely think that will lead us to some victories. The Duke dynasty has fallen to the #12 slot - sorry Sarah and AKMA - but if I'm right, the venerable Coach K will push that up a bit. He doesn't have the team this year like he's had in past years, but he's still got some great talent and an excellent legacy that will make them a great rival to take down...twice! And, of course, what is the best part about this #2 ranking for me residing up in the midwest? ESPN and ESPN2 coverage!! I'll finally be able to watch a lot of the Deacs ballgames! So, what's March gonna look like? Right now I say: Kansas, Arizona, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest, with Wake taking it all!!!

Too much excitment. As my classmate Dan put it yesterday, "Ryan, you might finally have to ask for an extension on a paper!" Perhaps, Dan, perhaps. I wouldn't want you to get too far ahead of me in the Overachiever of the Year race though.

-R

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Saturday, November 13, 2004


Penance: What is it Good For? 

I am writing a paper on penance for my systematic theology class. The papers topic question given to us by the professor reads, "A parishoner says to you: 'If Jesus already died for our sins, why do we need to do penance?" My initial reaction to this topic question was, "You don't. Welcome to the Episcopal Church. Should you find that distressing, the Roman Catholic Church down the road is very nice." But, obviously, I cannot begin a paper with that, so I sat down to think about why I believed that and how I thought about penance. The BCP rubrics in the rite of Reconciliation of a Penitent point away from a theology of penance as punishment and point toward the doing of an act of thanksgiving, which is much more conducive to my belief structure that the original idea of penance - (gr) poena, or punishment. I myself have never participated in Reconciliation of a Penitent becuase I've never felt the need to do so. I make my public confession weekly in the Sunday Eucahrist liturgy and sometimes daily in the Daily Office. I've never felt very strongly about the idea that priests can somehow grant something to us which we cannot get from God ourselves. And so I came to the conclusion that I don't believe in doing penance. That makes for a short paper, so I'll have to flesh that out a bit. What do you think about the idea of penance?

-R

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Friday, November 12, 2004


Bloggers Coming and Going 

There has been some activity in the blogiverse recently around arrivals and leavetakings. It is with a certain amount of sadness that I bid adieu, in the online world, to my sister Dr. J and her neighborhood. She has made her last posting, discouraged and unedified with blogging. I'll officially remove her from the blogroll in a day or so, but I wanted to give you the opportunity to view her last posting.

And a big welcome to two newcomers, at least to my blogroll. Both have been blogging for some time, but only recently was I made aware of their sites. Beth, of Wide Eyed and Laughing, is a Seabury junior this year, embarking on her three year M.Div program towards ordination to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church. Check her out!

Secondly, my friend Lacy turned me on to this blog, entitled, "They Will Know Us By Our T-Shirts". A Presbyterian seminary student, Ben earns a living by working at a Christian bookstore. His blog is about the comings and goings of clientele and products, the very interesting culture of believers and otehrs who frequent such shops, and the inherent humor in a lot of what goes on there. For a good taste of what he writes about and his slightly cynical bent, check out his latest posting entitled The New Album From Jesus, which marks both his sense of humor and his creativity. Enjoy!

-R

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Thursday, November 11, 2004


Future of Palestine? 

After the death of Yasser Arafat, I'm not sure what is in store for the future of the Palestinian people or the hope for their own country. This letter from Anglican Bishop Riah in Jerusalem about Mordechai Vanunu's arrest early this morning is very disturbing evidence that the state of Israel is gearing up for some power plays. While not directly connected to Arafat's death, such actions point to a larger, systemic attitude of aggression that is frightening in light of a lack of cohesive Palestinian leadership. Whether we want to admit it or not, Arafat held together, in tension granted, many dissident groups within Palestine itself. Now that his leadership is gone, what will happen to the brittle cohesion those groups (Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, etc.) had? I do not know, but I foresee a rough road ahead. Each of those groups will be vying for political and military power, of that there is no doubt. Most of them would not accept Arafat's moderate stance on many of the issues surrounding a Palestinian state or the State of Israel, but respected him enough not to openly defy him too often. They no longer have that restriction. It also seems clear to me that the state of Israel would be more than willing to take advantage of that confusion and internal dissidence in order to consolidate their gains and assert more direct control over the Palestinian territories. If violence breaks out, either against Israel or among Palestinians, Israel will likely respond in kind (if not overkill, as has been their custom) and that will only breed more unrest and distrust. If Arab culture would allow its people to unite behind a female, Hanan Ashrawi would be an excellent candidate for interim leadership. She is skilled in history, diplomacy, and moderation, but alas, she is a woman in a culture that does not, by and large, accept overt female leadership. It is my hope and prayer that there will be little to no violence. It is my hope and prayer that the State of Israel will not once again overstep its bounds. It is my hope and prayer that the Palestinian people can have a homeland to call their own once again. It is my hope and prayer that they can be united under solid leadership. Arafat held a lot of those hopes together, even if he did not move them forward. What will happen now? I do not know. Part of me is afraid. Part of me is excited. Pray for the peace of Palestine and Israel.

-R

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Yasser Arafat, 1929-2004 

Palestinian leaders have announced the death of their chairman, Yasser Arafat, who was 75 years old.

Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your
servant Yasser Arafat. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech you, a sheep of
your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your
own redeeming. Receive him into the arms of your mercy,
into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the
glorious company of the saints in light. Amen.

May his soul and the souls of all the departed, through the
mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

-R

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Wednesday, November 10, 2004


The Plunge - Host Family 

The Plunge - Host Family
The Plunge - Host Family,
originally uploaded by whitleyrr.
This was my host family, the O'Neill's. They had an enormous house to which I truly needed a map to find my way around the first few days! They were so kind and welcoming to me; I am indebted. Steve and I had many a great chat over a late night scotch. Let's see, while there I sampled: Glenmorangie 12 Madeira Wood Finish, Port Wood Finish, Sherry Wood Finish, Burgundy Wood Finish, the Glenlivet 12 French Oak Finish, The Glenlivet 18, the Glenlivet 21 Archive, and the MacCallan Cask Strength. He also had a host of very fine tequilas, but I was not near as interested in those. Now, when I left at 5am, I stumbled over a bag placed in front of my bedroom door. Picking it up, I saw inscribed upon it, "Ryan, A little something for the road ahead. Enjoy and God bless you. Steve and Carol. Being 5am I was not fully with it and so I just put it into my suitcase and continued on downstairs and on outside, where my plunge-mates and my ride to the airport were waiting. When I got home and unpacked I found the bag again and unwrapped it to discover, to my absolute shock, a bottle of the Glenmorangie 12 Madeira Wood Finish, the scotch I decided was my favorite of all the ones I tried!! Thank you Steve and Carol for this gift. It was not necessary but I am very grateful. I'll think of you as I sip on it and perhaps we can all enjoy a glass once again someday.

-R

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The Plunge - See, Hear, Speak No Evil 

I've posted a bunch of my photos from "the Plunge" now and I want to comment on a few of them here. Our professor for the plunge class has this statue of three monkeys performing the famous see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil gesture and he has used it to illustrate many points about what ordained ministry should not be like! So, J, S, and I took the opportunity here in the St. Thomas baptismal font to embody that teaching. It is wholly appropriate in this place, where so much of that behavior has gone on in the past, wounding many.

-R

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Tuesday, November 09, 2004


Homecomings 

J, S, and I all returned home today from our "plunge" trip to Seattle. Overall it was a good trip. I'll blog more about it later and I am tired now. But, I do want to say a thank you to my host family, the O'Neills, for all they did for me. You guys are wonderful. And the surprise, wow, is all I can say. Thank you.

-R

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Thursday, November 04, 2004


Preaching 

Tension in unity.

That was the theme in my message today as we celebrated Richard Hooker. The sermon went fairly well I thought. I had one pang of nervousness during the reading of the Gospel, but I told that to go away and it did, so that was all good. Attempting to put into practice some of the lessons of my preaching class, I took my message on an arc from the global to the personal. I think it worked out ok for a 5 minute sermonette. Some of the feedback that I got back from my compatriots I want to record here so I remember to ask my preaching professor about it and see how I can improve. Overall they thought it was very good and they liked it, but they offered the following feedback:



I think that some of this is simply who I am and my style, but some of it can definitely be worked on and so I am thankful for their feedback. After the long day we've just had and the huge dinner and apple pie we just ate, I'm going to go collapse into bed. I haven't had proper mourning time for our country yet either, so I may do a little of that too. Goodnight.

-R


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Tuesday, November 02, 2004


Clueless in Seattle 

Whoever designed the roadways in Seattle should be shot, in the knees, and then made to drive through the city with maps only provided by MapQuest. We've changed our mantra from "...if we get lost," to "...when we get lost," and allowed for time to do so when planning a trip. Also, the rain. Enough said.

I was an honorary woman this morning at the Women's Bible Study at St. Thomas, which was very good. They have some real insightful women in that group who had some interesting things to say about Job, thier current book. They are on chapter 36, and I found myself really wanting to come back next week when they do chapter 38, my favorite in Job. (God appears in a tornado and says to Job while pointing at Elihu, "Who's this dumbass holding forth?") We then joined the other plunge team in the diocese for lunch and a discussion about multicultural issues in the church. It was there that we met a man calling himself, "Shana's Dad." He refused to go by any other name. Joyce cooked dinner tonight - pork roast - and it was tasty. Tomorrow night we have dinner with another parishoner and then the following night I'm going to try to keep open for "family" night at the O'Neills. They've been so kind and gracious to me and I feel as if I've not spent any time with them.

I'm still preaching on Wednesday and am not sure what I'm going to say. I've thought about opening it up with, "Who would Richard Hooker have voted for?" I think that I'll read the lessons tonight, wait to see how the election turns out and then combine those for material in my sermon.

-R

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