Thursday, August 27, 2009

Socialized Medicine and All That Jazz

Did you hear they are going to do away with private insurance? What are you going to do when they socialize medicine doc? Whatever will happen if they implement universal health care?

It seems I get these types of questions all the time now as the health care debate continues. I have been hesitant to answer not sure of the particulars of all the plans being thrown around....but upon further thought here it is; When there is health coverage for all ... I will hang my stethoscope and take a day off!

Many health care providers, in cooperation with medical societies, churches and other civic organizations throughout our nation volunteer their time and skills to care for people who fall into the category of uninsured. One such charitable venture is the Oasis clinic, founded by my wife, a concerned nurse. It began over 15 years ago, hosted by our local parish, served by wonderful volunteers throughout the years, a place where countless people who are needy and ill have been treated for free. While it is always a blessing to serve others in the name of Christ, this experience has been quite an eye opener!

The uninsured are not some sort of invisible plague, or a mythical class invoked by liberals in Congress, they are real people for whom the system has failed! Many that we treat in our little clinic work and pay taxes, but are unable to purchase insurance because of prohibitive cost! Even for those who are fortunate enough to work where insurance is offered, the choice is often between health are coverage and food or paying their utilities; no choice at all! Because of this lack of affordable access to even basic care, people often wait despite concerning symptoms, and come to clinic with advanced problems. Some wait until there is no choice but to seek help at a hospital Emergency Room.

Even as we commend all who volunteer, we must acknowledge that the care they are able to offer, though given with competence and caring, is not nearly enough to meet the many needs! While politicians, the rich , the lucky, the elderly and very poor complain about the coverage they do have, our unwillingness to extend that right to others stands out as a stain on our society. The status quo we have lived with keeps people at risk, abuses the good will of people of faith and enables inaction!!!

I am all for choice in healthcare! Choose your hospitals, have choice for your medications choose your doctor..choose me! However, as I see it, that is hardly the issue in our health care fiasco! The issue is that many have no choice at all; it can not get any worse for them! As far as doctors and others who take of their own time, talent and treasure to help the uninsured, it can only improve!

Maybe, when there is universal health care in our country, doctors can actually get paid for the countless hours of free work, that now goes unpaid and unnoticed! And ...just maybe when I am not working I will not have to give up a well deserved day off!!!



Friday, August 21, 2009

Lutherans Allow Gays...

Same-sex unions accepted by Evangelical Lutherans
By Christopher Quinn

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The nation’s largest Lutheran denomination previously allowed pastors to be gay, but only if celibate. Delegates also approved a resolution which will allow but not require pastors to bless same-sex unions.

The moves were welcomed by advocates of full gay inclusion, but traditionalists were dismayed. Many traditionalists speaking at the Churchwide Assembly predicted it would split the denomination, much as more conservative Episcopal congregations have left that denomination after the installation of a gay bishop.

The Rev. Bradley Schmeling of St. John’s Lutheran in Druid Hills and Bob Gibeling of Atlanta have lobbied for the changes.

Schmeling is gay, has been in a relationship and the denomination removed him from the list of approved pastors in 2007. However, the church kept him as pastor and the denomination took no action against St. John’s.

“This is certainly an important step in the process that I’ve been looking forward to and praying for for a very long time,” he said from Minneapolis.

The wording of the resolution will not require a pastor to perform the blessing, but will allow congregations comfortable doing so to act. The denomination has yet to work out details of how the ceremony must take place.

Gibeling said: “I’ve been a life-long member at Redeemer Lutheran Church, and I was never comfortable asking my church to bless my relationship. This offers great hope to me that when I find a future life-long partner, my own beloved congregation will want to bless that union.”

The Episcopal Church has accepted gay pastors in recent years. Other mainline and evangelical Protestant churches, including conservative Lutherans such as the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, do not affirm gay leaders or relationships.

It looks that Lutherans went beyond Episcopalians in their decision today to move toward the full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the church. Time will tell what the fallout from todays's vote will turn out to be. For now prayer seems the best idea of all!

"...Gracious Father, we pray for thy holy Catholic Church. Fill it with all truth, in all truth, with all peace. Where it is corrupt,purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in any thing it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, strengthen it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of Jesus Christ thy Son our Savior. Amen.



Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Guy in the Glass

"...When you get what you want in your struggle for self and the world makes you king for a day, just go to a mirror and look at yourself and see what that guy has to say.

It isnt your father or mother or spouse whose judgement upon you must pass, the fellow whose verdict counts most in your life is the one staring back from the glass.

You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years and get pats on the back as you pass, but your final reward will be heartache and tears if you've cheated the guy in the glass .

He's the person to please never mind all the rest for he's with you clear up to the end, and you've passed your most dangerous test if the man in the glass is your friend!..."

Dale Wimbrow, first published in The American Magazine in 1934.

A friend game me this, written on a scratch piece of paper when I was going through a very difficult time! At first I thought it cheesy and selfish, not at all what I needed to hear, yet it turned out to be very helpful even to this day! Who can love others who does not love the person God is making them to be? Who can have mercy, compassion, forbearance who has none for himself? Who can be a friend to others who has not learned to be a friend to self? Dont forget every day to hear what that guy has to say...!



Thursday, August 13, 2009

Who Are You Dude...?

It can be a scary thing to let others see you as you see yourself, as you feel you truly are....kinda like the feeling of waking up naked or in uncool underwear in a public place! For one thing ...the fear of being rejected, unliked, shunned, makes slaves even of the freest of men. It is with good reason the "Good Book" cautions against being too concerned about the opinions and approval of others.

Then, there is also the interesting detail that our perception of who we are in often in a state of flux. I never just am.....I am becoming. This is an inherent handicap in my interaction with others ....I self reveal only a changing canvas an incomplete work. And just what will eventually be is known only to God..." We do not know yet what we will become..." are true words of John, beloved friend of Jesus.

Just as we think we know, we have realized who we truly are ..usually in a delusional stage of our teenage years .... comes the growing realization we are "molting" and do not fit into that skin. Suddenly, it seems the image we so carefully cultivated and defended becomes just an outdated set of clothes, or worse a skeleton to be hidden away for none to see. To make it more interesting can happen again....before all is said and done !

So....then "I" is written in pencil, with large erasers and God must have a sense of humor and lots of grace!!!. It also means that patience is crucial to our understanding of ourselves and others, our friendships and relationships. I am not exactly the same as yesterday and thankfully can be better, more interesting, loving, compassionate or maybe just less of a jerk tomorrow!

Who am I dude? Well... a work in progress, messy at times, clay in the hands of the potter, one that hopefully, in the eyes of the artist, will turn out better than expected!



Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Future Full of Hope...

Well this is certainly true!!!

When looking for confort and hope as we face the difficulties, complications and sometimes dissapointments of life the idea these words convey do come in handy, like a breath of fresh air, or a sudden ray of light in a dark room!

A reading of Scripture would clearly illustrate this concept, and some in the "cloud of witnessess" the Bible talks about, would certainly have colorful stories to tell. Surely St. Dimas, Mary the Magdalene, Zaccheus, Sampson or Rahab could make the tabloids with their tales yet be poweful reminders that all can change, hearts can be healed, sinners can end up as saints!

"...Such were some of you".. are the words of Paul referencing the less than virtuous past of some of the disciples at Corinth but ..." you were washed, sanctified, justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God..".

Even as the past escapes us with every second that passes, the future is as close as our next breath! Sanctifying grace as near as a thought that leads us to heaven, the whispered name of Jesus, the sign of the cross traced on our forehead, the warm embrace as we share God's peace, the prayer of humble access, the Amen as we take the cup of salvation to our lips! God has made it so it is impossible for us to live in the past but are continuously moving towards a future where we will inevitably see Him face to face!

Yes every saint has a past and fortunately every sinner a future, a tomorrow, a new beginning, a second chance...!!! May it be so!!!!!

May these words, and GOD's promises be fullfilled in me, those I love, the people and clergy of the Episcopal Church, all that call on the name of Christ...

I know the plans I have for you says the Lord, plans for good and not for evil to give you a future full of hope Jer 29:11



Sunday, August 9, 2009

El Sincretismo Religioso

Noticias recientes nos informan de un sacerdote episcopal que dice practicar la religión musulmana y de un candidato al obispado en una diócesis estadounidense que recibe una ordenación laica en una de las ramas del budismo. ¿Qué ocurre? ¿Será ésta una nueva ola de tolerancia o simplemente manifestaciones modernas de un sincretismo religioso?

El sincretismo se ha definido como una simbiosis, amalgamación o mezcla de conceptos, prácticas y ritos provenientes de diversas tradiciones religiosas. Laura Rossi en Relativismo e sincretismo expresa que: "El sincretismo es la fusión de elementos tomados de formas religiosas diferentes y no siempre convergentes…".

No hay duda que las religiones en su desarrollo se han influenciado unas a otras y eso no es ajeno al contexto hispano. Como dijera Leonardo Boff "no hay Cristianismo puro, el sincretismo es lo normal". La cantante cubana Maricela Verena hace alusión al fenómeno del sincretismo religioso a nivel popular en su cultura, declarando en una de sus canciones que: "A nosotros los cubanos, el papa nos bautiza, y nos bendice Yemaya" (diosa del mar en el panteón de la religión Yoruba).

Estoy seguro de que no faltarían las historias entre creyentes episcopales de personas devotas, por una parte, de los ritos de la Iglesia pero a la vez con creencias ajenas a la fe cristiana y a su pacto bautismal. "Sí, soy cristiano pero..." quizás sea devoto del espiritismo, de la santería; o creyente ferviente en la reencarnación, o quizás acepte elementos tomados de diferentes tradiciones religiosas para formar un mosaico pintoresco, una religión con sabor de mi preferencia personal.

No hay nada de nuevo ni de moderno en el sincretismo religioso. Ya en las primeras páginas de la Biblia se encuentran ejemplos de ello. El pueblo de Dios rinde culto a un becerro de oro, a los dioses de la tierra donde habitan; sus mujeres presentan panes dulces en honor a la diosa "reina del cielo", lloran por la muerte del dios Tamuz incluso a las afueras del templo a Yahvé. Los atenienses, leemos en los Hechos de los Apóstoles, por respeto a todas las deidades tenían hasta un altar al dios no conocido.

Lejos de aplaudir o recomendar prácticas sincretistas, los autores de las Escrituras instan a la adoración del único Dios verdadero. "Oye Israel el Señor nuestro Dios es el único Señor", es la fe proclamada por los profetas. Frente a la pluralidad de deidades presentadas en los altares de Atenas, Pablo insta a adorar al Dios creador que no necesita de templos hechos por manos humanas y está cerca de cada ser humano. En la Primera Carta a los Corintios aclara que aunque en este mundo hay muchos llamados dioses, para nosotros hay "un solo Dios y un solo Señor Jesucristo" (1 Corintios 8,5). "No pueden participar de la copa del Señor y la copa de los demonios"(1Corintios 10, 21), son sus duras palabras para aquellos que se acercaban a la Eucaristía a la vez que a celebraciones en honor a otros dioses.

La Iglesia Episcopal, al igual que otras confesiones cristianas, no deja de reconocer que hay elementos de verdad y luz en otras religiones. La Iglesia Católica Romana, a raíz del Concilio Vaticano II (1962-65) en la declaración Nostra Aetate sobre la "Iglesia Católica y las Religiones no Cristianas", dice que en toda religión hay "un destello de aquella Verdad que ilumina a todos los hombres". A la vez, debemos de reconocer que hay verdades en la religión cristiana que son completamente incompatibles con las creencias de otras religiones. Los misterios de la Trinidad, la Encarnación, la Eucaristía y otros básicos a nuestra fe, serían incomprensibles en otros contextos religiosos. Monseñor Boza Masvidal en su carta pastoral sobre el sincretismo religioso y la santería dice lo siguiente: "No se pueden reconciliar el Cristianismo y la santería…el Cristianismo es monoteísta, la santería cree en muchos dioses…". De igual manera, no puede haber sacerdotes episco-musulmanes ni obispos episco-budistas. Cristo es - para el cristiano - Dios encarnado, algo explícitamente negado por el Islam y un concepto ajeno a la filosofía del Budismo.

Es esta época, caracterizada por una mayor apertura, tolerancia y diálogo interreligioso, es menester que el cristiano sepa dar razón de su fe respetuosamente, sin caer en los extremos del fundamentalismo o del sincretismo. En uno se absolutizan los valores religiosos de manera rígida, en el otro se relativizan de tal manera que pierden su verdadero sentido.

Muchas bendiciones


Saturday, August 8, 2009

Major Meltdown

By Shelby Lin Erdman
CNN Radio

US. scientists monitoring shrinking glaciers in Washington and Alaska reported this week that a major meltdown is under way.

The Gulcana glacier in Alaska is one of three glaciers considered a benchmark by the U.S. Geological Survey. A 50-year government study found that the world's glaciers are melting at a rapid and alarming rate. The ongoing study is the latest in a series of reports that found glaciers worldwide are melting faster than anyone had predicted they would just a few years ago. It offers a clear indication of an accelerating climate change and warming earth, according to the authors. "We feel it's definitely the signature of global change and climate warming," Josberger said.

The melt of glaciers is resulting in higher sea levels and affecting ecosystems and the rivers that emanate from these glaciers, Josberger said. "In terms of water supply available for people, Anchorage is fed by two glacially fed lakes. There are some very strong impacts that could happen."

"We've been using this 50-year record to interpret the changes or the response of glaciers to climate change," Josberger said. "Basically, in the past 10, 15 or 20 years these three glaciers are wasting away. The melting has far exceeded the amount of snow that falls on them in the winter, so they're retreating far up valley. And this retreat is taking place all over the Pacific Northwest and Alaska."

Glacier melt will likely continue and, as it does, sea levels around the world are expected to continue rising. And that could affect people in low-lying coastal communities, forcing them from their homes and further inland, experts say.

This sounds a bit alarming!Maybe that beach condo is not such a good idea after all!!!! Wonderful inspiration for late weekend movie choices though! Waterworld and Day after Tomorrow, a nice Cabernet, tres leches , and a blankie for a bit of perspective! Now where did I put those floaties?



Common Prayer ..That is Enough!

We Pray Together..That is Enough

By W. Nicholas Knisely

A few months ago one of the staff here at the Cathedral forwarded an email to me with a request that I answer the question it posed as he had no idea what he should say. The email was very simple. It was from a person in the community who was looking for a new church home. But, before he would consider a congregation, it was very important for him to know where we stood on the question of blessing same-sex couples.

There wasn’t any hint in the email about whether or not the sender wanted us to say we were for blessing same-sex couples or opposed. Just that it was critically important to him that we give the right answer so that he wouldn’t waste his time unnecessarily.

I get letters or questions like this quite commonly. I think most Episcopal clergy do these days. It’s the BIG question that seems to be used as a way to sort through congregations and dioceses so that we can determine which ones are right-thinking and therefore worthy of support and which ones are wrong and worthy of nothing. What was different about this letter though was that I simply couldn’t figure out what the person wanted me to say.

So rather than trying to be pastoral and sensitive in trying to respond to the question behind the question (as is my wont), I decided to be bluntly honest.

“There are people in this congregation who are fully supportive of the Church’s blessing of same-gender unions. There are people in this congregation who are opposed to the Church’s blessing of same-gender unions. While the Episcopal Church as a denomination is on record as calling for equal protection under the law for all citizens, if you’re looking for a congregation that is of one mind on this issue, you’re going to be disappointed with this one. We don’t have agreement internally on this particular - or many - issues. Instead, we just agree to pray and worship together”

We don’t agree with each other. We pray together.

Friends of mine who are involved in the church growth movement offer me their sympathy every three years or so following our denomination’s General Convention. “It must be really hard to grow a church that spends so much time fighting” they say. In the past I’ve agreed with them. But I think I’ve decided that it’s time we as Episcopalians tell the truth about who we are though in a way that tries to explain to others why our struggles are not a “bug” - they’re a “feature”!

The Elizabethan Settlement, which for me is modeled at every Eucharist when I present the host to a communicant with the paradoxical words (to a person of Tudor England) “the body of Christ, the bread of Heaven”, is fundamental to our identity as Anglicans. We are willing to be in relationship with people who will gather with us around Jesus; whether they by free or slave, man or women, Jew or Greek. We are the anti-puritans caring less about clarity of theological categories than we do about loving relationship. “If you will pray to Jesus with me, I will pray to Jesus with you.”

At least we try to when we’re at our best. Which isn’t always that often admittedly.

In my mind, as an Episcopalian of catholic leanings and ecumenical enthusiasm, if there’s one thing that argues for the continued existence of an Anglican witness in the Universal Church - it’s our charism of holding firm to praying with those with whom we disagree no matter how hard that is to do.

Eusebius writes that in the latter days of his life, St. John the Evangelist would respond to repeated requests of visitors to “tell of us of Jesus” by only repeating again and again “Little children, love one another.” When asked by those caring for him why he would only say that he is supposed to have responded “Because if they do only that, it is enough.”

Episcopalians don’t agree to agree. We pray with each other. Because if we can manage to just do that, it seems to me, that we will have done enough.

I really like this post , it is insightful yet speaks to the heart. I specially love the idea of a charism of "holding firm to praying", even with those we disagree. It speaks to the reality of where we all are as Christians!!! For me this is no theory! When you come from a 21 st century Hispanic family where Roman Catholics, Baptists, Charismatics of several stripes and Episcopalians share your life, laugh, love argue, disagree, and pray together, the wisdom of this words really resonate. Often all we can do is pray together and that has always been enough!



Wise Latina In Supreme Court

By Julie Hirschfeld Davis
Associated Press

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Senate has confirmed Sonia Sotomayor as the first Hispanic justice on the Supreme Court.

Falling well into the anticipated range, Thursday's vote was 68-31 for Sotomayor as President Barack Obama's first high court nominee. She becomes the 111th justice and just the third woman to serve.

Democrats praised the 55-year-old Sotomayor as a mainstream moderate. But most Republicans voted against her, saying she'd bring personal bias and a liberal agenda to the bench.

Nevertheless, several Republicans broke the GOP ranks during Thursday's vote.

Senators took the rare step of assembling at their desks on the Senate floor for the historic occasion, rising from their seats to cast their votes.

Sotomayor replaces retiring Justice David Souter, a liberal named by a Republican president, and she is not expected to alter the court's ideological split.

Still, the battle over her nomination highlighted profound philosophical disagreements that will shape future battles over the court's makeup as Obama looks to another likely vacancy — perhaps more than one — while he's in the White House.



Gay to Stay...?

There is no firm evidence that sexual orientation can be changed through therapy, so mental health professionals should not tell conflicted gay clients that they can become heterosexual with such treatments, the American Psychological Association declared today.

In adopting a resolution, the APA's governing council said some research suggests such "reparative therapy" could induce depression or suicidal tendencies.

A task force recommended that mental health professionals "avoid misrepresenting the efficacy of sexual orientation change efforts when providing assistance to people distressed about their own or others' sexual orientation," usually as a result of religious doctrine.

Here's what Judith Glassgold, chair of the task force, said in a statement:

"Contrary to claims of sexual orientation change advocates and practitioners, there is insufficient evidence to support the use of psychological interventions to change sexual orientation. Scientifically rigorous older studies in this area found that sexual orientation was unlikely to change due to efforts designed for this purpose. Contrary to the claims of SOCE [sexual orientation change efforts] practitioners and advocates, recent research studies do not provide evidence of sexual orientation change as the research methods are inadequate to determine the effectiveness of these interventions.

"At most, certain studies suggested that some individuals learned how to ignore or not act on their homosexual attractions. Yet, these studies did not indicate for whom this was possible, how long it lasted or its long-term mental health effects. Also, this result was much less likely to be true for people who started out only attracted to people of the same sex."

The APA urged therapists to consider multiple options — celibacy or switching churches, for instance — for helping clients live spiritually rewarding lives in instances where their sexual orientation and religious faith conflict.

No surprises here!



Friday, August 7, 2009

Episcopalians grow Hispanic Ministry

The Rt. Rev. Samuel Johnson Howard, eighth Episcopal Bishop of Florida, will receive the Revs. Monica Bosque and Janssen Gutierrez as deacons in the Episcopal Church during a 5 p.m. Sunday service at St. Luke's Episcopal Church on University Boulevard, Jacksonville. Bosque will assist in serving the Hispanic congregation at St. Luke's, also known as Iglesia de San Lucas, where Sunday services are held at 10a.m. in English and at noon in Spanish.

The Rev. Janssen Gutierrez will be ordained priest at that same service and will serve the growing Hispanic congregation at St. Francis in the Field located off of highway 210 in Palm Valley. The Rev. Michael Ellis and the congregation of St. Francis in the Field have supported and encouraged this fledgling congregation. Sunday services at St. Francis in the Field are at 10 a.m. in English and at 5 p.m. in Spanish.

The Rev. Miguel Rosada, who is the rector of St. Luke's/Iglesia de San Lucas was the first Hispanic priest in the Episcopal Diocese of Florida to offer services in both English and Spanish, and he will be coordinating the ministries of the new clergy. "All of us in the Episcopal Diocese of Florida rejoice in the ministries of Deacon Bosque and of Father Gutierrez," said Bishop Howard "and we celebrate our rapidly growing ministry among those for whom Spanish is a first language. St. Luke's/San Lucas with its dual English-Spanish ministries has created a pattern for what true bilingual worship will look like in the future."