Barbara Bush (1925-2018)   Leave a comment

Above:  Barbara Bush Reading to Children, March 7, 1989

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ds-10202



Rest in peace, Barbara Bush; you were a classy lady.



In paradisum deducant te Angeli; in tuo adventu suscipiant te martyres, et perducant te in civitatem sanctam Jerusalem. Chorus angelorum te suscipiat, et cum Lazaro quondam paupere æternam habeas requiem.



Posted April 18, 2018 by neatnik2009 in Various Memories and Opinions

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More Saints Coming Soon: July Edition   Leave a comment

Above:  July

From Gleason’s Pictorial, July 15, 1854

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-42800


I am preparing to return to the renovation of my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days in a few days, picking up where I left off in February.

I have been working on other blogging projects, including some I have yet to publish.  I have, for example, drafted the new posts for LENTEN AND EASTER DEVOTIONS, a weblog I am waiting until late May to begin renovating and updated, due to May 20 being the Day of Pentecost, the last day that weblog covers.  I have also renovated and updated ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS.  Along the way I have also added to BLOGA THEOLOGICA methodically.

My renovation of my Ecumenical Calendar has followed a deliberate plan–to start with posts for January 1 and work chronologically.  I have, however, made three exceptions–for December 26, 27, and 28–due to the renovation and updating of ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS.  So far I have renovated the January, February, March, April, May, and June sections of my Ecumenical Calendar, changing dates on many posts, deleting others, replacing many of the deleted posts with better entries, and adding “new” saints to the calendar.  I have prepared a two-page-long list of names for July.  Some of these are posts to redo, but many will be new to my Ecumenical Calendar.

I admit to having competing and frequently mutually exclusive interests.  For example, I relish lectionary-based Bible study, which I carry out in preparation for the Sunday School class I teach at St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia, and at more than one of my weblogs.  I also enjoy reading and writing about lives of holy people.  I find, however, that sometimes I am “in the zone” for Bible-based blogging but not for lives of the saints, and visa versa.  So I listen to myself.

For your information, just in case you, O reader, are interested, I do have longterm plans for my Ecumenical Calendar.  At present the maximum number of posts I assign per day is four.  A post might cover more than one saint, but I stack up no more than four posts per day, with some days blocked off for just one post.  Whenever I, having renovated the December portion of my Ecumenical Calendar, return to the January section again, I intend to stack up as many as five posts per day, and to apply that rule to the subsequent months.  I might go to six or more eventually.  There is no shortage of holy lives about which to read and write, after all.

Pax vobiscum!








The Joys of Reducing the Quantity of Possessions   Leave a comment

An Account of Deliberate and Purposeful Activity, as Well as Serendipity

I used to have a pattern:  I reduced the quantity of my possessions, accumulated too much again, and repeated the cycle.  One summer, years ago, for example, I sold about 1000 books to a family.  Then, over time, I build up my library again.  Then I needed to purge it again.  The trigger for it was helping a local hoarder who, quite frankly, offended and scared the hell out of me.  She was endangering her health and the health of her son; that offended me, for both of them deserved better, and her son did not ask for his circumstances.  Her excess inspired me to commence a material purge of staggering proportions, not that I was ever close to being as possessed by my possessions as she was.

During the subsequent years I have undertaken occasional, less dramatic acts of reducing my possessions.  Instituting the policy of reconsidering possessions throughout each year has been a wise decision.  This week, while searching for my digital camera (which I had forgotten I had left in my car), I spent much of a night emptying bookshelves and spraying and wiping them.  Along the way I filled two boxes with books to donate.  It was an unplanned act of weeding out my library, which remains relatively large, compared to the collections of many people.  Now I have reduced my library to about 700 volumes–about right for me.  My library used to be about 2,400 books.

I have begun to donate the weeded books.  I have given the Lutheran denominational histories to Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Athens, Georgia.  I have made plans to add the other volumes to the library at my parish, St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, where I serve as the librarian, tomorrow.

I have also reduced my wardrobe so that it fits into one medium-sized closet easily.

I have more than one reason for doing all this.  One is consideration for other people, especially those who will have to pack up and dispose of my possessions after my death, whenever that will happen.  Ideally they will be able to complete that task between breakfast and supper, with a break for lunch, in one day.  Other reasons are purely aesthetic and selfish.  I like seeing walls and floors.  I adore having empty surfaces.  I like being able to see almost all of my kitchen counter tops, for example.  If I own an object, it must occupy space.  Too much occupied space causes me stress.  As scripture says,

Life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.

–Luke 12:15, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Indeed, too much abundance detracts from the quality of life.  Furthermore, excessive abundance proves burdensome.  Is freedom from such a burden not a virtue?

For now I am content with the volume of my possessions.  A year from now, assuming I will be alive (as I hope to be) then, I will probably have less in that category.  Maybe owning fewer books and movies will be a good idea.  The occasional reviews will continue.  Along the way I intend to keep what I use, what enriches me, and what I need, as well as to add that which I should add.  I also mean to continue to strive to follow the rule that, except in a month in which I move from one abode to another, the combined volume of that which I remove from my home and decide not to bring into should exceed the volume of what I bring into it.




In Praise of Dr. Clyde Willis   Leave a comment

Certain professors have helped me.  At Valdosta State University, Valdosta, Georgia, Dr. Clyde Willis was one of them.

I was a Secondary Education major at Valdosta State from 1993 to 1996.  One quarter in 1995, to fill an elective spot on my curriculum checklist, I enrolled in a political science course that, as the quarter progressed, seemed more like a pre-law course.  I persevered as I struggled with much of the assigned reading.  I also figuratively pitched a tent in the professor’s office.  As I worked hard on a paper, a copy of which I still have, I showed Dr. Willis my drafts and fine-tuned the document.  My grade in that course was an “A,” in large part due to Dr. Willis.

I have had other professors who have not been responsive to my targeted queries as I have kept my nose to the grindstone.  Their indifference harmed me academically.  As I have taught undergraduates for years, I have endeavored to be like Dr. Willis–helpful while expecting students to do their due diligence.  I have not always succeeded, but I have tried to do better when I have recognized my shortcomings in this regard.  Over the years many students have commented how willing I have been to assist them by reviewing drafts of essays, for example.  I would have helped more, if more had asked.




Posted April 3, 2018 by neatnik2009 in Education

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College Students and Deadlines   Leave a comment

Plus a Complaint Regarding a Related Matter

I teach undergraduates at the Oconee Campus of the University of North Georgia (UNG).  Every semester I deal with students who seem to think that deadlines are friendly suggestions.  This is hardly a new problem.  It is certainly not unique to UNG or the Oconee Campus.  It does seem, however, to be getting worse.  Conversations with other members of the faculty prove that they are dealing with the same problem, and that they think it is getting worse.

Today, although not a teaching day, is certainly a working day for me.  Today is, to be precise, the deadline for Essay #2, due at by 10:00 p.m.  Today is also the last of five days to submit that assignment.  For anyone to receive an extension from me requires a desperate and unavoidable situation.  Experience teaches me to expect at least one student lacking such an emergency to ask for mercy.

I know I missed the deadline,

this student will write.  I will answer,

Yes, you did.

Then I will mete out the academic penalty.  Then some of them will not submit an essay.  That grade is automatically a zero, of course.

Based on my experiences with students and conversations with colleagues, I can only conclude that many students are accustomed to requesting deadline extensions for the flimsiest of reasons and receiving them.  I hear from people close to many local schools that those institutions of education are, for a lack of a more precise term, jokes.  That certainly explains many of the students who crash and burn in my courses.

I have responsibilities to students, just as they have responsibilities to themselves.  I am responsible, for example, for teaching them what they need to know–in this case, the importance of deadlines, which matter in the real world.  As much as I seek to build people up and help them achieve their potential, I understand that I am doing nobody any favors by engaging in proverbial hand-holding and spoon-feeding–certainly not in my capacity as a classroom instructor.  So I do not do that.  Society needs for people at least 18 years old to be functional adults.  College students have the responsibility to be functional adults and good pupils.

I know that I will read complaints about having required students in a history course to have used the Turabian format then having held them accountable for not doing so, despite the fact that I referred pupils to online guides to that format and showed them printed style manuals.  That, however, is a different, but related, matter.  I get the impression that certain students have never had to read and follow instructions or face the consequences.  It is better for them to learn that now than later, in the real world.




Gratitude for Athens, Georgia   Leave a comment

Above:  The Dome of the City Hall, Athens, Georgia, August 5, 2009

Photographer = Carol M. Highsmith

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-highsm-04138


Seeking reasons for gratitude to God is a daily activity; it is an easy one, fortunately.

During the last few days I have been thinking deeply about a subset of those reasons; I have been pondering reasons I am blessed to live in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia.  Many such reasons–too many to enumerate in a succinct blog post–have come to mind.

A few follow.

A visit to relatives in Americus, Georgia, followed shortly by a lecture at The University of Georgia (UGA), started me down this path.  Last Tuesday night I attended a lecture by Dr. Richard B. Miller, the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Religious Ethics at The University of Chicago Divinity School.  Miller spoke about St. Augustine of Hippo‘s concept of the common good and of its implications for today.  The full explanation of St. Augustine’s definition of sin as disordered love proved especially helpful.  As I listened and learned, I also thought about how fortunate I was to live in the town in which that event happened.  UGA, my relationship with which has been both positive and tumultuous, at different times, since 2005, made that lecture possible.

Indeed, I have may reasons to be grateful for and to UGA.  It creates a wonderful intellectual environment in Athens.  I care nothing about the athletics of a university, for the purpose of such an institution is supposed to be primarily educational, is it not?  The presence of UGA in Athens not only makes Athens what it is, but also makes me feel at home in this town, a colony of members of the intelligentsia.

I grew up in a series of United Methodist parsonages in small towns and communities in southern Georgia.  The intellectual atmosphere (not in the parsonage, of course) was generally lackluster, even anti-intellectual.  (Nevertheless, I do recall that sometimes even my father angrily rebuffed some of my attempts at academic discussions, especially of the Bible.  There was no good reason to fear Higher Criticism.  No philosophical meat grinder will grind up the truth, after all; the truth will break the meat grinder.)  I usually felt like an intellectual outcast and the resident heretic.  (Today I wear the label “heretic” with pride.  As churchy as I am, given the option of avoiding church or facing allegations of heresy in a congregation, I would choose the former.)  Politically and socially most of the neighbors were or seemed to be beyond conservative–reactionary, actually.  Many were openly and unapologetically racist.

Of course I gravitated toward the left side of the spectrum.  I have remained a man of the left, although I have, with greater frequency, found myself in rooms with people to my left–sometimes far to my left.  I have shifted slightly to the right in some ways, and far to the left (relative to my former position) in others.  Overall, I have continued to occupy a center-left position.  (I tend to be center-right in liturgical matters and to the left politically, socially, and theologically.  My unapologetic Western Classicism in music is prominent in my daily life.)  I have ceased to be the resident heretic, for (1) I worship with people, many of whom are to my left, and (2) I worship in a faith community where nobody accuses me of heresy.  Charges of heresy have usually come from the right, not the left, after all.  (This is why most ecclesiastical schisms occur to the right and the majority of church mergers happen on the left.  Tolerance and acceptance are antidotes to Donatism.)

St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church has been my spiritual home since August 2005.  The parish has saved my life (in 2007) and become a means by which I offer gifts and talents to God.  I have, for years, curated a movie series, functioned as the librarian, and taught adult Sunday School, for example.  For nearly a decade I sang in the choir.  (I have many fond memories of that time.)  Although some people roll their eyes when I obsess over the proper arrangement of chairs, hymnals, and prayer books in the worship space, tending to that matter has long been something I have offered to God.  (I have come to long wistfully for pews.)  Also, the music has long been mostly excellent in the parish.  Last Sunday, for example, a string quartet performed at the 10:30 service and accompanied the choir during a performance of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart‘s Ave Verum Corpus.

As much as I enjoy visits to relatives in Americus, Athens is my place.  As much as I visit Calvary Episcopal Church, Americus, occasionally, and find my spot in a pew there comfortably, St. Gregory the Great Church is my place.  As much as I enjoy visiting Americus, I also enjoy returning to Athens.

I am also grateful for friends and acquaintances. all of whose privacy I respect in this post by preserving in this post by naming none of them.  Some of them have saved my life and seen me through difficult times.  I have also performed my sacred duty and helped one friend to the point of self-sacrifice.  If necessary, I would do it again, without hesitation.

I hope to reside in Athens for long time.  The possibility of leaving eventually remains, of course; I admit that doing so might be proper one day.  That hypothetical day is one I hope is far off, if it is extant.








UGA and Me   22 comments

UGA Chapel

Above:  The Chapel, The University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia

Image Source = Library of Congress


UGA and Me or:  Time and Grace Heal

Once I had a tee-shirt I acquired at a Lay Ministries Conference in the Diocese of Georgia.  On the front was the shield of The Episcopal Church.  The back of the garment read,


(Grace is certainly preferable to what usually precedes “happens.”)  The shirt became a casualty of too much wearing and washing over the years, unfortunately.

I have experienced abundant grace throughout my life.  Some of that grace has occurred in the context of The University of Georgia (UGA), at which I arrived as a doctoral student in 2005.  Within sixteen months, however, my dreams had turned to ashes, and my major professor (as I write these words, in legal and professional jeopardy for domestic violence recorded on camera) had blackballed me.  I, embittered, dropped out of UGA at the end of 2006.

That bitterness has departed from me, by grace.  I would have been superhuman not to have been very angry at some point, but I would have also been wrong to have remained embittered for a long time.  The burden of the anger became so great that I gave it up to God.

I thank God for removing my bitterness.  Now, as I contemplate the legal and professional predicament into which my former major professor has gotten himself, I feel only sadness and pity for him and his family.  The man does have much to contribute to the academy and the world, after all.  I also pity the defenseless son.  I am morally incapable of rejoicing the in the plight of the professor who harmed me academically.  That fact is to God’s credit, not mine.  Also, just as the professor is responsible for his character, I am responsible for mine.  I seek to be a merely decent human being.

My once-uneasy relationship to UGA has changed.  Reasons for this include grace and the passage of time.  Another reason is the architectural change on campus since my time as a student.  Now I can (and do) go to campus and feel comfortable; my time as a student seems to have been from a previous life.

It was a previous life, in a way.

Perhaps the time to commence a new relationship to UGA is near.  I am open to that possibility.  UGA is, after all, an institution at which I should be able to find a niche into which to fit, given my bookishness and natural ease on a college campus.




Posted March 20, 2018 by neatnik2009 in Episcopal Diocese of Georgia, University of Georgia

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