Sunday, August 28, 2011

After Irene

It was a somewhat quiet night in spite of Irene. We heard a loud bang late in the evening. Only later, when I walked the dog (in the rain), did I learn that a hit and run driver apparently slammed into a decorative metal fence at the corner. This morning, I learned that the driver plowed into fences at both corners.

This morning, when I walked the dog (in the rain) around 8:00 AM I saw many leaves and twigs, and a few small branches, but no apparent damage or debris. While walking around the block I saw only one other person who was out taking pictures, and maybe three cars, one of which was a NYPD patrol car.

Later this morning I climbed up on our flat roof to clear debris out of the only drain, as up to six inches of water can collect on the roof when the drain clogs and the roof started leaking last night. I cleared out the drain and the roof is now free of water. I hope that we will not experience any more leaks for a while. While I was up on the roof, I also took a couple pictures.

At 11:00 AM Sunday morning, the rain has stopped, the wind has diminished, and some sun is starting to shine, but some more wind and rain might still be coming. We have not lost power or personally experienced any problems. All is well around Ridgewood, Queens, NY, but other parts of New York City are without power and there is some flooding due to both rainfall and storm surge. The situation sounds worse over in New Jersey and out on parts of Long Island. My Brother-in-Law and his family live in Atlantic Highlands, NJ and lost power over the night.

First hand, eyewitness reports from the Sebago Canoe Club on Paerdegat Basin off Jamaica Bay are that our club dock has held, all boats are secure, and there is minimal water in the clubhouse, mostly from rain. I will not know about our 24-foot sailboat docked in Mill Basin until later today or tomorrow.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Preparing for Irene

Unbeknownst to me at the time, my preparations for being in the path of Hurricane Irene began about thirty-five years ago with amy initial First Aid Course. Advanced First Aid, CPR, Water Safety Instructor, and Emergency Medical Technician courses followed that course. I would eventually serve as a volunteer EMT for a couple years in West Virginia and New Jersey, and work as a professional EMT Ambulance Attendant for nine months in Richmond, VA. This training and experience has helped me feel prepared for almost any type of emergency.

A few years after my initial First Aid Course, I took the Outdoor Educators Course of the National Outdoor Leadership School. While I do not think of NOLS as a survival school, the skills and philosophy I learned through NOLS has served me well not only while backpacking in the backcountry but also car camping along North Carolina’s Outer Banks and vacationing in the Bahamas. NOLS has taught me to be prepared, to make do with what you have, to improvise, and to assess risk to insure maximum safety.

Almost four years ago, my wife and I were vacationing on Eleuthera, one of the outer, and less developed, islands of the Bahamas. Near the end of our planned weeklong stay in a rented home, Tropical Storm Noel passed over the island, lashing us with tropical force winds and horrendous rain for at least two days and a night. Our newlywed neighbors and we were the only people within a mile. For three days and two nights, we survived without power, without running water, and without communications, except minimal cell phone service. Fortunately, we had some non-perishable food and were able to cook with propane.

When the wind and rain finally stopped, the four of us, already on the island two days longer than expected, drove as far as we could along the dirt road leading back toward the main road until we encountered water across the road, water too deep to drive through. With luggage held above our heads, we walked through water up to our calves on several occasions until we reached a small village. Parts of the village were flooded, including the road.

Inhabitants of the village invited us to climb into the large bucket of a front-end loader and ferried us, and our luggage, through floodwater that would have been too deep for us to walk though. Once on the other side of the flooding, a native who sometimes worked at the home rented by our newlywed neighbors drove us to the airport. We caught the first plane out since the storm passed, and upon arriving in Grand Bahamas, caught the last flight out that night heading for Florida. Once in Florida, we caught the last flight out that night heading for New York City.

When people ask us if we were ever scared while on Eleuthera, with Tropical Storm Noel passing nearby, we say no. We think we got more for our money than expected. We stayed on the Island an extra couple of days and ended up having an unexpected adventure vacation. It is one of the more memorable vacations we have had and we would not have traded it for two weeks anywhere else in the world.

Last night my wife and I joined nine other members of the Sebago Canoe Club to kayak on Jamaica Bay. The bay was nearly empty of boats, and birds. Along the eastern coast flyway, water birds generally fill the trees along the shore as well as the skies. Last night, however, it was eerily quiet and we saw only a few birds. The only other boat that came anywhere near us was a NYPC Patrol Boat. We had the bay to ourselves, less than 24-36 hours before the arrival of Irene.

Although a few clouds had already starting moving in, the Bay was nearly flat during our paddle. Just past the midpoint of our two-hour trip, we caught a stunning red sunset as we paddled out from behind one of the Bay’s larger islands, Canarsie Pol. The sunset rivaled any I have ever seen.

Back at the clubhouse, we rinsed off our boats and stowed our gear. Sitting on club’s dock in order to escape the mosquitoes, we enjoyed pizza, beer and wine as we shared stories and news related to the storm, talking of paddles past and present, and speculating what the scene might look like in 24-36 hours. I thought it was amazing that in 24-36 hours an 8-12 foot storm surge could very well inundate that dock and flood our clubhouse.

This morning my wife and I drove back down to Jamaica Bay. Our first stop was our sailboat, the Mischief, docked in Mill Basin. I added some shock cord to the lines, double checked the lines, added an extra line, and removed some valuables from the boat. As we left, I knew the rest was up to nature. We then returned to the Sebago Canoe Club on Paerdegat Basin to help with storm preparations but most precautions had already been taken, so we soon headed home.

With various camping gear, including freeze-dried food, backpacking stoves, and flashlights stored in the basement, I think we are prepared. We normally have various radios, flashlights, and batteries around the house, as well as candles, an oil lamp, and a kerosene lantern. We did buy a few gallons of fresh water, made some extra ice, and filled poly bottles with fresh tap water. We also moved some outdoor plants off steps to a lower level against the house and moved some backyard furniture and tools into the basement. We are keeping cell phones plugged in so their batteries will be fully charged when the power goes out.

All we can do is hunker down and wait. The preparations begun almost thirty-five years ago will have to be enough.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Lectionary Ruminations for Sunday, August 28, 2011, the Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

Posted each Thursday, Lectionary Ruminations focuses on the Scripture Readings, taken from the New Revised Standard Version, for the following Sunday per the Revised Common Lectionary. Comments and questions are intended to encourage reflection for readers preparing to teach, preach, or hear the Word. Reader comments are invited and encouraged. All lectionary links are to the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible via the PC(USA) Devotions and Readings website, but if you prefer another translation, feel free to use that instead. (Other references are linked to the NRSV via the oremus Bible Browser.)


Exodus 3:1-15
v. 1 The Moses saga continues with last week’s infant Moses now a married grown man. What other great figures from the Jewish Scriptures spent their early life as shepherd? Is the fact that Moses’ father-in-law was a priest a foreshadowing of Moses future role? Why would Moses lead his flock beyond the wilderness where there be dragons or deities? Did Moses know he was near Horeb, the mountain of God, or is this description hindsight?

v. 2 Note that in the NRSV it is “the”, not “an” angel of the LORD. Why do we usually refer to this as “the burning bush” rather than “the bush that was not consumed”?

v. 3 Turn aside? Where had Moses been looking before he looked at the bush.

v. 4 How often in the Jewish Scriptures does God call a person’s name twice? How many people in the Jewish Scriptures, and who, respond to God “Here I am.”

v. 5 Why do some people remove their shoes and socks when standing on holy ground? Why do Christians not worship barefooted?

v. 6 Who was Moses’ father? Abraham? Isaac? Jacob? Someone else? Why are only the men mentioned? Can we be faithful to Scripture and include Sarah, Rebekah, Leah and Rachel as well as Zilpah and Bilha? Why was Moses afraid to look at God?

v. 7 What took God so long to respond? How does God “know” their suffering?

v. 8 Where has God come down from and why did God need to come down at all? What is a land flowing with milk and honey like?

v. 10 So, God comes down (v. 7), but sends Moses!

v. 11 A perfectly good question.

v. 12 It sounds like the confirmation will be after the fact? It is like me telling you that you are a excellent Biblical scholar and you asking me how you can be sure that you are an excellent Biblical Scholar and me answering that you will know you are an excellent Biblical Scholar when you post a comment to this blog.

v. 13 Why does Moses refer to “your ancestors” rather than “our ancestors”? Why is knowing God’s name so important?

v. 14 “I AM WHO I AM”? Why, in NRSV, does this appear all in upper case letters?

v. 15 So, exactly what, is God’s name and title? Is God’s name and title the same?

Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45c
v. 1 Why, in the NRSV, does “LORD” appear all in uppercase? What is God’s name? What are God’s deeds?

v. 2 This is beginning to read like a couplet.

v. 4 How does one seek God’s presence?

vs. 23-26 Is this merely a retelling of salvation history, or something more going on here?

v. 45c A budding psalmist can never go wrong ending a psalm this way.

Romans 12:9-21
v. 9 How can love not be genuine? Is “hating evil” the opposite of “holding fast to what is good”?

v. 14 What does Paul mean by “bless”and”curse”?

v. 16 What if we extended the admonition to “live in harmony with one another” to extend to other species? I think Socrates would have liked this verse.

v. 18 And what if by “all” we meant all living creation, not just other humans?

v. 19 What is the “wrath of God”? While Paul advises us to not avenge ourselves, what about state sanctioned punishment for crime? How many times is “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” quoted out of context and misapplied?

v. 20 Since when is food and water the same as burning coals? Is this good statecraft and foreign policy? What would H. Richard Niebuhr say about this?

v. 21 Paul is sounding like Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. Or maybe King and Gandhi learned their non-violent civil resistance from Paul! Or Jesus?

Matthew 16:21-28
v. 21 From what time on?

v. 22 Why did Peter take Jesus aside? Why did Peter rebuke Jesus?

v. 23 Did Jesus just refer to Peter as Satan? What is the pun in referring to Peter as a stumbling block? What is the human thing Peter was setting his mind on? What was the divine thing Jesus wanted Peter to set his mind on?

v. 24 What does it mean to “deny” oneself? Is there a difference between taking up Jesus’ cross versus taking up our own cross?

v. 25 What is the meaning of this? Is this a paradox?

v. 27 Who is “the Son of Man”? Why this shift from moral admonition to apocalyptic language?

v. 28 How shall we interpret this passage nearly two centuries after the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ? What does it mean to “see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom”? Can we read this as a reference to the Christian Pentecost of Acts rather than a second coming of Christ?

ADDENDUM
Many Christians along the east coast of the United States may be reading and hearing these passages following, or anticipating, the affects of hurricane Irene. Is there anything in any of these Readings to address this situation?

In addition to serving as the half time Designated Pastor of North Church Queens and writing Lectionary Ruminations, I also tutor part time. If you or someone you know needs a tutor, or if you would like to be a tutor, check our my WyzAnt page and follow the appropriate links.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Lectionary Ruminations for Sunday, August 21, 2011, the Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

Posted each Thursday, Lectionary Ruminations focuses on the Scripture Readings, taken from the New Revised Standard Version, for the following Sunday per the Revised Common Lectionary. Comments and questions are intended to encourage reflection for readers preparing to teach, preach, or hear the Word. Reader comments are invited and encouraged. All lectionary links are to the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible via the PC(USA) Devotions and Readings website, but if you prefer another translation, feel free to use that instead. (Other references are linked to the NRSV via the oremus Bible Browser.)


Exodus 1:8-2:10
v. 8 The beginning of the Moses cycle/narrative. How might this verse describe the current nature of United States Politics?

vs. 9-11 Egyptian immigration policy?

v. 12 And the lesson is?

v. 15 Were Shiphrah and Puah the only two midwives? Were they Israelite of Egyptian?

v. 16 Why not the other way around?

v. 17 In thisw context, what does “fear God” mean?

v. 2 And if she saw that he was not a FINE baby?

v. 3 What else was once plastered with bitumen and pitch?

v. 6 How did she know?

v. 8 This sounds like a strange construction since this is the boys sister and thus his mother is also her mother.

v.10 Yes, this explains the name Moses, bit is there also some foreshadowing going on here?

Psalm 124:1-8
vs. 1-2a Sometimes when I begin a responsive reading and the response sounds shallow, hollow, and barely audible, I will repeat the call phrase of the call and repeat response. Might something similar be happening here?

vs. 2b-6 Why is a Psalm reflecting the Exodus paired with a First Reading about the birth of Moses?

v. 8 A familiar refrain.

Romans 12:1-8
v. 1 What is a “living” sacrifice? What is “spiritual” worship? Is there such a thing as unspiritual or spiritless worship?

v. 2 What is the difference between “conformed” and” transformed”? How are our minds renewed? Why does Paul write about the renewing of our minds rather than the renewing of our hearts?

v. 3 How do we measure our faith?

vs. 5-6 I understand the logic with the exception of the last phrase. How are weindividually members one of another?

v. 6 “We have gifts that differ” in the NRSV is “We have gifts differing” in the KJV, and the biblical phrase that inspired Myers and Briggs to title their book applying Jung’s type theory “Gifts Differing”. You may want to also look at 1 Corinthians 12.

Matthew 16:13-20
v. 13 Where did Jesus enter from? Is there anything special about the district of Caesarea Philippi? Why would Jesus ask his disciples this question? Does the average person in the pew or Bible Study have a clue about the baggage associated with “Son of Man” imagery?

v. 14 Apparently there were various views of who Jesus was. I guess times have not changed.

v. 15 The quintessential question. What is your answer?

v. 16 As usual, Peter is the first to speak up. Did he get it right, however, or did he stick his foot into his mouth?

v. 19 What are “the keys to the kingdom”? What does it mean to “bind” and “loosed”?

v. 20 Why would Jesus order his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah? Has this passage just equated “the Son of Man” with “the Messiah”?

ADDENDUM
In addition to serving as the half time Designated Pastor of North Church Queens and writing Lectionary Ruminations, I also tutor part time. If you or someone you know needs a tutor, or if you would like to be a tutor, check our my WyzAnt page and follow the appropriate links.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Lectionary Ruminations for Sunday, August 14, 2011, the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

Posted each Thursday, Lectionary Ruminations focuses on the Scripture Readings, taken from the New Revised Standard Version, for the following Sunday per the Revised Common Lectionary. Comments and questions are intended to encourage reflection for readers preparing to teach, preach, or hear the Word. Reader comments are invited and encouraged. All lectionary links are to the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible via the PC(USA) Devotions and Readings website, but if you prefer another translation, feel free to use that instead. (Other references are linked to the NRSV via the oremus Bible Browser.)


Genesis 45:1-15
v. 1 Much has transpired between this week’s First Reading and this week’s First Reading. Does any of what transpired between the two readings matter?

v. 3 Why were the brother’s dismayed by Joseph’s presence?

v. 4 Why does Joseph repeat himself?

v. 5 Is this an example of Joseph engaging in some theological reflection?

v. 6 This is beginning to sound like a description of the U.S. economy!

v.12 Why is Benjamin singled out?

Psalm 133:1-3
v. 1 Is this supposed to be a description of Jacob’s family? Before or after the reunion narrated in the First Reading?

v. 2 I have always appreciated the sensual nature of this verse.

v. 3 What and where is Hermon? What is significant about Hermon’s dew? What is the Lord’s blessing, life for evermore?

Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32
v. 1 Might have answered this rhetorical question differently after the shoah? Even though we are currently reading the Joseph narrative and the Pauline corpus lectio continua, the “Benjamin” connection between this Second Reading and the First Reading is a nice one.

v. 2 Foreknew?

v. 29 Christians in particular ought to remember this verse when engaging in dialogue with religious Jews.

vs. 30-31 Who are “they”?

Matthew 15:(10-20) 21-28
v. 10 I think every time Jesus says something like “listen and understand” that we can expect some enigmatic saying to follow.

v. 11 What comes out of the mouth?

v. 12 What did the disciples think?

v. 13 Does this verse reflect a negative view of the Pharisees?

v. 14 Leave them alone even though they are blind? Or “because” they are blind?

v. 15 What parable?

v. 16 Me thinks the answer is “YES”!

vs. 17-18 Oh, that parable!

v. 19 All these come from the heart? This is an impressive list. Is anything not mentioned that you might have expected to be here?

v. 20 Is this a comment about religion or hygiene?

v. 21 Is there anything significant about Tyre and Sidon?

v. 22 What makes a “Canaanite” woman different than any other woman, or a Jewish woman? What do you know about “the Jesus prayer” and Hesychasm and the Philokalia?

v. 23 Why does Jesus ignore this woman? Why do the disciples want to send her away?

v. 25 This is the second time this woman calls Jesus “Lord”!

v. 26 Did Jesus just call this woman a bitch?

v. 27 Did this woman just accept the insult of being labeled a bitch by Jesus yet still refer to him as “master”? Must “crumbs” refer to bread crumbs, or just any ole leftover?

v. 28 Now Jesus refers to her as “woman”! What makes her faith “great”? Instantly? Really? How would anyone know?

ADDENDUM
Can we draw any parallels between Joseph in the First Reading and the woman in the Gospel reading? How might the Second Reading enlighten our understanding of both the First Reading as well as the Gospel Reading?

In addition to serving as the half time Designated Pastor of North Church Queens and writing Lectionary Ruminations, I also tutor part time. If you or someone you know needs a tutor, or if you would like to be a tutor, check our my WyzAnt page and follow the appropriate links.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Lectionary Ruminations for Sunday, August 7, 2011, the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

Posted each Thursday, Lectionary Ruminations focuses on the Scripture Readings, taken from the New Revised Standard Version, for the following Sunday per the Revised Common Lectionary. Comments and questions are intended to encourage reflection for readers preparing to teach, preach, or hear the Word. Reader comments are invited and encouraged. All lectionary links are to the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible via the PC(USA) Devotions and Readings website, but if you prefer another translation, feel free to use that instead. (Other references are linked to the NRSV via the oremus Bible Browser.)


Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28
v. 1 What about Jacob’s grandfather? Were not both his father and grandfather aliens?

v. 2 The beginning of the Joseph narrative. Is there anything significant about Joseph being seventeen years old? Why are Bilhah and Zilpah referred to a “His father’s wives”?

v. 3 Note in verse 1 that Joseph’s father is referred to as “Jacob” but in this verse he is referred to a “Israel”. This is beginning to read like the story of yet another dysfunctional family.

v. 13 What usually happens when people respond “Here I am”?

v. 15 Do you think this was an ordinary “man”?

v. 18 Note: Play ominous music here!

v. 19 Why do his brothers refer to Joseph as “this dreamer”?

v. 20 A conspiracy is hatched.

v. 21 What might have been Reuben’s motive for saving his brother?

v. 24 Why is this important information?

v. 25 Who are “Ishmaelites” and is their presence her at allsignificant?

vs. 26-27 Might as well make some money from our bother’s demise!

v. 28 Who drew Joseph up out of the pit, his brother’s or the Midianite traders? What is the difference between Midianites and Ishmaelites? I recommend you read up on both.

Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, 45b
v. 1 In the NRSV, “LORD” is ”all upper case. Thereefore, what would be the “name” to call on? What are the LORD’s deeds?

v. 2 Are Hymns in worship sung “about” God or “to” God?

v. 4 How can we continuously seek God’s presence?

v. 5 So both “miracles” and “judgements” are among God’s deeds?

v. 6 Why is Isaac omitted?

v. 17 Now we learn why this psalm is paired with the First Reading.

Romans 10:5-15
v.5 From what does Paul quote?

vs.6-7 Is Paul quoting or composing?

v.9 So public confession as well as an interior faith are essential?

v. 10 What us the relationship between justification and salvation?

v. 11 What is being quoted?

vs. 14-15 The old “Can someone who has never heard of Christ be saved?” question?

v. 15 So all candidates for the ministry of proclamation should have their feet examined? It is no wonder Paul was once confused with Hermes.

Matthew 14:22-33
v. 22 I am always surprised when read “Immediately” in a Gospel other than According to Mark. Why might Jesus have sent the disciples off without him?

vs. 23-25 A “Summit to Shore” narrative! Thanks, Matt.

v. 23 Yes, this is why some of us go to the Mountains, not because they are there, but to find peace and solitude.

v. 24 meanwhile, back on the boat . . .

v. 25 So the disciples spent the entire night on a boat battered about by winds on the open water?

v. 26 Exactly what were the disciples afraid of?

v. 17 Another “immediately”. Is this the heart of the passage?

v.25 If? Peter did not know or was not sure? Why did Peter need to be commanded?

v. 31 Jesus should have remembered “Throw, Row, Tow, Then Go!” Was Peter’s faith really “little” None of the other disciples set out to walk on the water. What was it Peter doubted?

v. 32 Why might the wind have ceased when Jesus and Peter got into the boat?

v. 33 What convinced these disciples that Jesus was the Son of God, that he walked on water? That he “saved” Peter? That the wind stopped when Jesus and Peter climbed into the boat?

ADDENDUM
In addition to serving as the half time Designated Pastor of North Church Queens and writing Lectionary Ruminations, I also tutor part time. If you or someone you know needs a tutor, or if you would like to be a tutor, check our my WyzAnt page and follow the appropriate links. Beginning August 8, 2011, I will begin working three hours a day, five days a week, also teaching a GED preparation class to young adults. How the increased workload will affect my writing Lectionary Ruminations remains to be seen.

Monday, August 1, 2011

About the August 2011 (and September 2011) Header Photo

I shot this month’s header photo from Mount Mitchell Scenic Overlook, Atlantic Highlands, NJ. According to the brochure I picked up at the park, “At 266 feet, this overlook sits on the highest natural elevation on the Atlantic coastal plain, providing beautiful views of Sandy Hook, Raritan Bay and the New York skyline. On a clear day, Mount Mitchell provides a panoramic view across Sandy Hook and Raritan Bay to the landscape of 4 of New York’s City’s 5 boroughs. Visitors can see the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, the WTC Site, the Empire State Building and, more immediately, the historical structures and topography of Gateway National Recreation Area (Sandy Hook) including the lighthouse.
Because I shot this photo from a Summit (the 266 foot “summit” of Mount Mitchell), but the view looks out over the shore, this photo will serve double duty as the Summit header photo for August 2011 as well as the Shore header photo for September 2011.