Thursday, February 5, 2015

How's Your First Mercury Retrograde of 2015?

We're a few weeks into Mercury retrograde. How's it going for you so far?

For me, it hasn't been too bad. Of course, we've still got another two weeks or so before it ends, but while I don't want to count my chickens before they hatch, I'm more cautiously optimistic about how it's going to go. 

At work today I did have to send the same email several times due to communication glitches from others. That was somewhat frustrating but resolved pretty easily. But the main difficulty I'm having is not with technology, but with people just not paying attention. This includes myself. 

I'm usually good at finding things, but at least twice in the past few weeks I've walked right past things I'm looking for. I also completely misunderstood an email that should have been totally an uncomplicated, routine piece of correspondence. 

Anyway, if you have any stories to share, I'm all ears. Hang in until the storm is over on the 18th. :)

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Good Clergy, Part 7: "She Might Have Been Drunk When She Was Consecrated As a Bishop"

You ever wonder how deep the rabbit hole goes? That's what I'm wondering about the case on Heather Elizabeth Cook. 

I'm also wondering how many times I'll have to say "ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?" when blogging about this story for someone to say, "Yeah, John. We're just fucking with you. No religious organization worth their salt would allow a person with this kind of history to hold a high office."

I wish I was wrong. 

So NOW it comes out that after the DUI arrest in 2010, during which she did several different kinds of therapy, Ms. Cook was recommended "without hesitation" by the Episcopal Church in Easton to the post of Suffragan. 

Then there was the 2014 meeting in which council participants were "unaware" of Ms. Cook having a DUI or a drinking problem. 

According to the official timeline that came out Monday, Bishop Eugene Sutton now says that he suspected Ms. Cook might have been drunk at her installation festivities last September. This was the party to celebrate her becoming a bishop, and well...she was likely drunk at it. IMAGINE THAT. 

In many organizations, being drunk for a work function would have been an immediate termination, or at the very least a suspension, but not a promotion.

The Washington Post article says that Bishop Sutton conveyed his concerns to the presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, who in turn tells Sutton she's going to meet with Cook. A meeting did occur between them in October, but of course, the details are confidential. I don't have a problem with that; if I had a drinking problem I wouldn't want the world to know by googling it. Ms. Cook certainly has a right to her privacy.

But I'll be honest: I'm trying to wrap my head around this one, folks. I really am. And I'm not calling out the people involved because they're Episcopal, of course. This could and does happen to people of any faith or spiritual path. But it makes the Episcopal Church look pretty bad. 

The signs were ALL THERE, and people who could do something about the problem did NOTHING. You have TONS of evidence to work with, and despite the fact that she has a DUI and has been treated for alcoholism, and four years later is drunk at her installation festivities, Bishop Schori STILL decides it's a good idea to consecrate Heather Elizabeth Cook as a bishop.

Ms. Cook was likely very good at her job. Now I'm all for second chances and forgiveness, but she's no good to anyone as a drunk. The staggering lapses in judgment on the part of Ms. Cook may have been due to her alcoholism, but when all the "leaders" around her look out for themselves and their organization by assuming everything will be fine and not monitoring a recovering alcoholic, they're no longer fit leaders. 

I mean...did you just not SEE it? Or did you choose not to see it? 

Bishop Sutton's revelation--pun intended--pretty much destroys any credibility that the Episcopal Church of Maryland had left. None of Ms. Cook's empty promises in 2010 that her arrest was a major wake-up call or the hollow words of sorrow of Bishop Sutton can bring back Thomas Palermo.

Pray for them all, especially members of the Episcopal Church of Maryland, because they're being led by people who put the Church and their own convenience before the personal safety of others.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Clergy to North Miami Beach Police Department: All Lives Matter, So #usemeinstead

A friend posted a story up on his Facebook wall that I thought was totally disgusting, but had an amazing ending. 

Picture this: National Guard members show up to use a local firing range in North Miami Beach, FL. They notice that the people using the range before they did--a group of snipers from the North Miami Beach Police Department--didn't take down their targets, all of which are photos of African-American males. One of the Guard noticed that one of the photos is of her own brother. 

Needless to say, people got REALLY upset about this, and I'm right there with them. I certainly was outraged that a police department would do this. (This is likely the reason why many ranges won't even allow targets with heads or faces on them.)

But instead of getting angry, a group of priests decided to strike back in a very unique way: By submitting pictures on Twitter with the hashtag #usemeinstead

What I liked in particular was that the photos showcased in the article were of white ministers and priests. No matter who was on those targets, it's offensive, but to see one race or group singled out is totally and completely unacceptable. We expect more from those who enforce our laws. 

It's fantastic to see members of clergy stepping up and using social media to present a strong, positive message loudly and clearly: Black or white, clergy or layperson, all lives matter. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Good Clergy, Part 6: Episcopal Diocese Asks for Resignation of Heather Elizabeth Cook

Well, that took longer than expected. The Episcopal Church figured out that Heather Elizabeth Cook "can no longer function effectively as the Bishop Suffragan" in light of her involvement in the drunk driving hit and run death of Thomas Palermo. They've asked for her resignation of that post

Am I the only one that feels that they haven't gone far enough? Maybe I'm a little too outraged, but perhaps the Episcopal Church isn't outraged enough

This woman's ass should be fired. And not just from the Bishop Suffragan position. Unless the Church thinks she's going to be ministering from a Maryland prison, they need to defrock her completely. For the act alone of killing another human being, even by accident, and then leaving him to die, she should be so done as a member of the clergy. 

As of this writing, she hasn't said whether or not she will resign her post. The fact is that she shouldn't have been asked; she should have been told she was out. 

I'm glad the Church is praying for her, but I hope they're praying even harder for Thomas Palermo. And they should also pray that his widow doesn't go after the Church. I don't know that she'd have a case against them, could be a continuing media feeding frenzy. 

Stay tuned. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Deck Review: The Quest Tarot

The Quest Tarot

I picked up this deck in Salem, MA, a few years back in the winter. Salem’s a great place to buy tarot cards—I think I came home with more than a couple of decks that day—but next time I’ll do it when it’s not snowing. BRRRRRRR! But I digress.

To get the most out of this deck, get the boxed set that has both the deck and the book. There are many correspondences across the top of each card that represent astrological signs, gemstones, planets, runes, the I Ching, and the Kabbalah. The book will help decode the symbols for you.

All of the suits retain their traditional names, except for Pentacles which is represented by “Stones”. The Court Card titles are not traditional; they are Father (King), Mother (Queen), Son (Knight), and Daughter (Page).

While the symbols are an excellent way to integrate your knowledge of the tarot with other related disciplines, it can get a little busy at the top of the card. Also, all of the cards, Major and Minor Arcana alike, have a Roman numeral at the top center, so without looking at the title of each card it’s not possible to know which Arcana is which.

The cards are really beautiful and bright, and have some traditional RWS tarot imagery. It takes liberties with the images but they come off more optimistically than in many other decks. For example, the Fool looks much happier, and a larger, gorgeous landscape can be shown around him, including a river, a rainbow, and a half circle of stars in the distance. The Five of Pentacles (Stones), whose traditional image shows two poor people outside a church, shows a simple picture of five stones in the Quest Tarot.

One of the factors that makes this a good deck for a beginner is that each card has a description underneath the card name in the bottom center of each card. For example, the Four of Wands’ description is “perfection. While this card certainly has other meanings, it’s nice to have a key word to use if you blank on the meaning of a card (and this happens even to those of us who have been reading for some time). As long as you don’t allow these meanings to be absolutes and only as a jumping off point for your own intuition you’ll be just fine.

My favorite card in this deck is The Tower. It shows flaming rocks heading toward the tower, and to me it expresses exactly what you would feel if you were sitting in that Tower just thinking that today was going to be ordinary and then looking outside. Even the word on the card, “demolition” is very appropriate; the word is rather neutral and describes the removal of something no longer useful to us.

I really enjoy this deck. It allows both beginners and advanced tarot students the opportunity to learn about many of the tarot’s correspondences in a bright, beautiful, artistic way. Remember: Buy the set.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Good Clergy, Part 5: Baltimore Sun Reader Calls Out Heather Elizabeth Cook

This letter to the Baltimore Sun sums up perfectly how I feel about this case. A huge kudos to Ms. MacCuaig for having the courage to write it. I've included it here in its entirety.

Episcopal Bishop Suffragan Heather Cook and the tragedy of bicyclist Tom Palermo's accidental death at her hands are the subject of daily news articles, yet the incident has been conspicuously absent from The Sun's letters column ("Bishop Cook posts $2.5M bond, to be released," Jan. 15).

Perhaps there has been a desire, albeit misguided, to protect Ms. Cook given the agony we must assume she is in.

Nevertheless, the news that Judge Nicole Pastore Klein will not reduce her $2.5 million bail at least feels something like justice. The fact that Ms. Cook put herself in treatment at Father Martin's Ashley after the accident is unimpressive.

Ask anyone who has ever had a DUI or other drug offense and you'll find that such a ploy for clemency after the fact is just that — a ploy.

Ms. Cook should have put herself back into rehab years ago.

Instead, she has led what could be called a double, even duplicitous, life: On the one hand preaching and leading within the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, and on the other indulging alcohol abuse that resulted in extraordinary recklessness and the death of a man who, by all rights, should be alive today.

The carelessness and hypocrisy is overwhelming, and overwhelmingly discouraging. Jail is the appropriate place for her.

Myra MacCuaig, Towson

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Tolerance vs. Acceptance: Duke University Caves to Pressure

Duke University, one of the most well-known institutions of higher learning in the world, did an amazing thing, striking a blow for acceptance: They planned to have Muslim students chant the "adhan", or call to prayer service, every Friday morning from the University's bell tower. 

In a stunning reversal, however, they didn't even do it one time before it was cancelled, a victim of a boycott started by what sounds like angry Christian donors. They interpreted the move as "anti-Christian", citing the most recent terrorist attacks on Charlie Hebdo. 

Also, Duke University cites "serious and credible" threats they have received, but did not give further details. 

This is exactly the kind of shit we don't need. Let's make a few things clear:

1) The attack on Charlie Hebdo was not an attack on Christianity. It was an attack on humanity. 
2) Choosing to accept another spiritual path in a public way is NOT an offense to any other religion.
3) Muslims are already harmed regularly by the assumption that they are terrorists. But acts of terrorism by members of Christian groups against abortion clinics and medical professionals who perform abortions do NOT label Christians as terrorists. That's a pretty serious double standard. 

I'm disappointed in Duke University. They're covering their own asses by choosing to cancel the call to prayer. I understand that no one wants violence, but people KNOW that if they make a threat that authorities think are credible, institutions will cave in. And Duke did just that, even though they have had a history of supporting Muslim students.

Omid Safi, director of Duke's Islamic Studies Center, said, "We had hoped for a symbolic action that would shine a light on how a leading international university of the American south can be a place where the symbol of Christian heritage of the university is demonstrating hospitality to its Muslim community members." 

Duke University says they remain "committed to fostering an inclusive, tolerant, and welcoming campus for all its students." If the University was really committed, it would have the call to prayer and address the threats as they occur. For now, they remain hostages to public opinion. 

The article goes on to say that Muslim students are scared and disappointed. If I was one of them I'd consider leaving over it.

Sorry, Duke. You get an "F" for letting terrorists win, because this is exactly what they want. It's as simple as that.