Sunday, February 27, 2011

Happy face

If you are having a bad day, just look at this face. Have you ever seen anyone happier over a bunch of flowers?

I plan to refer to this frequently. Thanks to my nephew's husband for pointing this out.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Women or the State?

Who will control women's reproductive lives? Women themselves, or the State?

Republicans want the government to be in control. Planned Parenthood wants women to be in control.

Here's what Planned Parenthood is doing to help women.

The United States has one of the highest teen birth rates in the Western world, and North Texas has the most repeat births to teens in the United States.

Planned Parenthood of North Texas if the only nonprofit network provider of family planning services in Tarrant County.

Texas has the highest rate of uninsured people in the United States. Approximately one million Texas women have no access to reproductive health services, including Pap smears.

Planned Parenthood of North Texas provides vital preventive healthcare -- birth control, family planning counsel, well=woman exams and more -- for its patients, most of whom have no insurance or not enough.

Children of teen mothers are more likely to be born prematurely and at low birth weight, and twice as likely to suffer abuse and neglect. Texas has the 44th lowest rate of women receiving prenatal care.

Planned Parenthood of North Texas uses medically accurate sexuality information -- providing health information and outreach programs to prevent unintended pregnancies and protect maternal-child health.

About 10,000 U.S. women are diagnosed with cervical cancer annually and 4,000 of those die of the disease, which is the second leading cause of cancer deaths to women worldwide.

Planned Parenthood North Texas performs more life-saving cervical cancer screenings than any Texas healthcare provider.

Abortions comprise only 3 percent of Planned Parenthood-provided services nationwide. Eighty-two percent of their clients receive services to prevent unplanned pregnancies, services that help prevent 621,000 unplanned pregnancies. Other services included Pap smears and breast exams as well as tests to detect sexually transmitted diseases and treatment if needed.

The bottom line?

Planned Parenthood works to give women control over their reproductive decisions. And that's what makes it anathema to Republicans, who want to cut all funding for the organization.

Republicans say abortion is a "forever decision with forever consequences."

Well, so is an unplanned pregnancy -- even more so now that Republicans are cutting health care for children, education for children, food stamps for children, and on and on.

So speak up, women. Your right to control of your own body is at stake here.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

While I wasn't looking

While I was busy at Executive Council, my garden was busy too. When I left home for the meeting, things looked pretty brown and barren around here in the wake of all that cold weather. But while I wasn't looking, Spring's scouts arrived.

The snowdrops were what I spotted first. Their spiky leaves had been frozen to mush by the Arctic weather of a couple of weeks ago. And yet, this week, tiny white and green blossoms reared their teensy lovelinesses above the browned leaves and brought tears to my eyes. Such valiant little beauties deserve applause!

Many of the leaves on the ancient winter honeysuckle were blasted by the frigid weather and left looking as crisped as if they had been singed by a fire. I worried that we had lost all the just-budding blooms. But oh me of little faith. This strong grande dame made use of this last week of warm weather to put out a whole new generation of tiny white blossoms that sent sweetness wafting through the garden like whispers of young love.

And her friend the Japonica was not to be outdone. She is steadily covering herself with red blossoms that will begin opening tomorrow I am sure.

The Lenten Roses laugh at these two laggards. They began blooming just prior to the arrival of the Arctic weather and haven't stopped since.

And now the daffodils are joining the list of blooming gifts -- God's grace notes as we await the turning of the season.

Go God.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Dwight Eisenhower on organized labor

Telephone Broadcast to the AFL-CIO Merger Meeting in New York City.
December 5, 1955

"You of organized labor and those who have gone before you in the union movement have helped make a unique contribution to the general welfare of the Republic--the development of the American philosophy of labor. This philosophy, if adopted globally, could bring about a world, prosperous, at peace, sharing the fruits of the earth with justice to all men. It would raise to freedom and prosperity hundreds of millions of men and women--and their children--who toil in slavery behind the Curtain.

"One principle of this philosophy is: the ultimate values of mankind are spiritual; these values include liberty, human dignity, opportunity and equal rights and justice.

"Workers want recognition as human beings and as individuals-before everything else. They want a job that gives them a feeling of satisfaction and self-expression. Good wages, respectable working conditions, reasonable hours, protection of status and security; these constitute the necessary foundations on which you build to reach your higher aims.

"Moreover, we cannot be satisfied with welfare in the aggregate; if any group or section of citizens is denied its fair place in the common prosperity, all others among us are thereby

Read it all here

More on Wisconsin

Here's some more information:

Read 12 things you need to know about the uprising in Wisconsin here

and Paul Krugman here.

For what’s happening in Wisconsin isn’t about the state budget, despite Mr. Walker’s pretense that he’s just trying to be fiscally responsible. It is, instead, about power. What Mr. Walker and his backers are trying to do is to make Wisconsin — and eventually, America — less of a functioning democracy and more of a third-world-style oligarchy. And that’s why anyone who believes that we need some counterweight to the political power of big money should be on the demonstrators’ side.

Some background: Wisconsin is indeed facing a budget crunch, although its difficulties are less severe than those facing many other states. Revenue has fallen in the face of a weak economy, while stimulus funds, which helped close the gap in 2009 and 2010, have faded away.

In this situation, it makes sense to call for shared sacrifice, including monetary concessions from state workers. And union leaders have signaled that they are, in fact, willing to make such concessions.

But Mr. Walker isn’t interested in making a deal. Partly that’s because he doesn’t want to share the sacrifice: even as he proclaims that Wisconsin faces a terrible fiscal crisis, he has been pushing through tax cuts that make the deficit worse. Mainly, however, he has made it clear that rather than bargaining with workers, he wants to end workers’ ability to bargain.


And that last point is the most important one -- without unions, there will be no countervailing power against that of corporations and yes, even government.

Yes, some unions need reform, but doing away with them would be much worse than most people can imagine. Remember, unions are the folks who brought you the weekend -- and safer work places -- and child labor laws . . .

And even Walker isn't opposed to all unions -- note that the unions that supported him financially are given exceptions in this bill.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Two quotes

Here are two quotes that I think sum things up nicely.

My daughter was following the debate in the Texas Lege this week as Republicans try to force Texas women seeking an abortion to have a sonogram and to listen to the heartbeat. She texted me the following comment, which I think is best summation I have ever heard of the Republicans' war on women.

State Senator from San Antonio to Sen. Dan Patrick on the Senate floor this week:

Leticia Van de Putte: "I imagine you have the votes to suspend or you wouldn't be bringing it up. It is our responsibility to protect that child once that child's born too. When we start debating a budget, let's make sure we don't cut 100,000 vaccines. Let's make sure we've got health insurance. We seem to worship what we cannot see, but as soon as that baby's born, oh no, we don't want to be intrusive. Texas is going to shrink government until it fits in a woman's uterus."


And another, on the Republicans' war on the middle class:

Joshua Holland from AlterNet:

"The Right has made great political progress getting Americans to ask the question: "How come that guy’s getting what I don’t have?" It’s the crux of the politics of grievance. Progressives need to get Americans to ask a different question: "What’s keeping me from getting what that guy has?" At least part of the answer is the Right’s decades-long assault on private sector workers’ ability to organize, and the latest battle is being waged in Wisconsin."

Holland is right on target.

Wisconsin had a surplus before the Republican gov cut taxes for businesses. The employees union didn't cause this crisis -- the tax cuts did.

When will middle to lower class Americans get a clue that the Republicans do NOT have our best interests at heart?

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Sermon given at the Executive Council meeting in Fort Worth

February 16, 2011

Sirach 34:14-19

Psalm 94:2-15

Romans 14:10-13

Luke 14:15-24


When I made my first trip to Israel with Gayland soon after we were married, I was immediately struck by two things:

One was how scripture and geography slammed together for me – as we drove “up to Jerusalem” from the Tel Aviv Airport, we came over a rise and saw above us the white stones of Jerusalem shining in the light of an enormous full moon.

It was indeed a shining city on a hill.

The other was how much it all looked like West Texas.

There was the same rugged landscape, the same scrubby brush, the same austere beauty, even, I would swear, the same sheep. As a West Texas girl, it made me feel a new identification with the folks I met in scripture.

So when we read in Sirach:

. . . The eyes of the LORD are upon those who love him; he is their mighty shield and strong support, A shelter from the heat, a shade from the noonday sun, a guard against stumbling, a help against falling . . .

let me tell you, having grown up where it can be 110 in the shade, I know how lovely is a shelter from the heat, a shade from the noonday sun, a guard against stumbling in a rugged desert land, where the heat can kill you and a fall can bring you face to face with a scorpion or an angry rattlesnake.

And as for Romans --

13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.

When your nearest neighbor is 60 or more miles away on the next ranch, you aren’t much into judging them or making things harder for them. The big spaces of West Texas and its sparse population have bred into the people there an abiding faith in the vastness of God’s mercy, a deep-seated pragmatism about the nature of humanity, and an innate sense of justice.

Yes, they are for the most part a conservative bunch, but it is the conservatism of those who work the land, not the pinched conservatism of those who worry that there’s not enough to go around – not enough money, not enough food, most of all, not enough of God’s love. That last is the worse, of course, because if you think there are limits to God’s love, you have to work very hard at keeping out all those other people who might get your share.

West Texans learned long ago – they had to survive – that there will be enough for everyone if we share, IF we pool resources, IF we help one another out, IF we respond when others call us for help. Because when we need help, it doesn’t matter if your neighbor is black or brown, or gay, or an illegal worker, or even a Baptist. What matters is that they show up, and help.

And as for turning out for the feast -- you can count on West Texans to not only show up but to bring spit-roasted cabrito, cole slaw, potato salad, tamales, rice and beans, and gallons of iced tea, sweetened and unsweetened.

In Iraan, the tiny town in which I grew up, every mom in town knew that names of every kid in town AND that of their dog. In the summers my brothers and I would run out of the house in the morning – with mom yelling after us – “Did you grow up in a barn? Shut the door!” -- and be gone until we were called in for the evening meal.

We’d ride our bikes, go swimming in the Pecos River – when there was water in it -- play sandlot ball – we’d surge from one end of the little town to another and up to the hills outside of town. Sometimes all us kids might wash up at our house for lunch, or at someone else’s house. Wherever we ended up, the mom of the house would feed us all. Without question, every kid was welcomed, every kid was fed – and the dogs were given water and a treat.

These good women, most of whom were hard shelled Baptists who had more than a faint distrust of the four Sherrod kids’ Catholic faith But they never discriminated when it came to feeding us. We were kids, we were hungry, we were welcome.

These same good women would turn out for dinners at the local community center even when they were sponsored by the Catholics. They knew one might turn down such an invitation only If you were on your death bed. If you didn’t show up more than once, you risked finding yourself left out of other community events. These folks know the value of relationships. Showing up to show support for one another means a LOT in these small towns.

These experiences taught me more about welcoming folks to the feast than almost anything else in my life and have served me well in recent years.

It is very meet and right that these readings should arrive on our calendars as we do our work here in the Diocese of Fort Worth, for they speak to the survival tools we have used through the last few years, especially the last two years when Episcopalians have been split one from the other by decisions made by our former leaders. And believe me, there were days when it looked darker than midnight under a skillet.

Faced with the loss of sisters and brothers and of beloved church homes, we turned to God and to each other.

We have prayed together, played together and shared meals – at THIS table and at many many other shared tables – at pot lucks, and diocesan picnics, at Lenten suppers, at meals in each other’s homes, gardens, barns, and backyards.

These readings speak of the food that has sustained us – the grace, shield and hope of God’s unlimited love, the delight of inviting others to the feast to which we’ve been invited, the challenge of creating a healthy welcoming diocese out of the remnants of a diocese founded in anger and fed on dissatisfaction, dysfunction and disinformation.

Most of all they speak to the job that faces not just us in this diocese, but all of us on this Council – that of reconciliation and renewal.

How do we in this diocese welcome back those who sat in silence while many of us were called terrible names, subjected to public shaming, asked – or told – to leave our church homes because we are “not real Christians?”

Believe me, while our heads may agree with our bishop that we should offer them prodigious welcome, still raw broken hearts aren’t so sure. I suspect that’s the case with some in this room too.

How do all of us reach out to those who reject the invitation to the feast, who indeed claim that the feast is poisoned – not just here in this diocese but in the wider communion?

Well, one thing’s for sure. We can’t do it on our own. As the people of West Texas know so well, we will only do it with God’s help and that of one another.

We will do it by remembering what we heard today – that they who fear the LORD are never alarmed, never afraid; for the LORD is their hope.

We will do it by remembering that we are not to judge our brother or sister[a]? Or treat them with contempt?

We will do it – as Bishop Katharine said last night – by turning to one another as the beloved.

Most of all we do it by reminding ourselves and them of God’s unlimited love to which all are welcome and of which all are invited to partake.

For Bishop Ohl is right -- we must offer them prodigious welcome, as God has prodigiously welcomed us so often in our own lives.


Sermon given at the Executive Council meeting in Fort Worth, February 16, 2011