Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Earlier today, shortly after an historic and emotional transfer of presidential power, Reverend Joseph Lowery, the 87 year old civil rights stalwart and co-founder, alongside Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957, gave the benediction prayer at President Barack Obama's inauguration.

Below is the transcript of Reverend Lowery's benediction

God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, thou, who has brought us thus far along the way, thou, who has by thy might led us into the light, keep us forever in the path we pray, lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met thee, lest our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee.

Shadowed beneath thy hand, may we forever stand true to thee, oh God, and true to our native land.

We truly give thanks for the glorious experience we've shared this day.

We pray now, oh Lord, for your blessing upon thy servant Barack Obama, the 44th president of these United States, his family and his administration.

He has come to this high office at a low moment in the national, and indeed the global, fiscal climate. But because we know you got the whole world in your hands, we pray for not only our nation, but for the community of nations.

Our faith does not shrink though pressed by the flood of mortal ills.

For we know that, Lord, you are able and you're willing to work through faithful leadership to restore stability, mend our brokenness, heal our wounds, and deliver us from the exploitation of the poor, of the least of these, and from favoritism toward the rich, the elite of these.

We thank you for the empowering of thy servant, our 44th president, to inspire our nation to believe that yes we can work together to achieve a more perfect union.

And while we have sown the seeds of greed — the wind of greed and corruption, and even as we reap the whirlwind of social and economic disruption, we seek forgiveness and we come in a spirit of unity and solidarity to commit our support to our president by our willingness to make sacrifices, to respect your creation, to turn to each other and not on each other.

And now, Lord, in the complex arena of human relations, help us to make choices on the side of love, not hate; on the side of inclusion, not exclusion; tolerance, not intolerance.

And as we leave this mountain top, help us to hold on to the spirit of fellowship and the oneness of our family. Let us take that power back to our homes, our workplaces, our churches, our temples, our mosques, or wherever we seek your will.

Bless President Barack, First Lady Michelle. Look over our little angelic Sasha and Malia.

We go now to walk together as children, pledging that we won't get weary in the difficult days ahead. We know you will not leave us alone.

With your hands of power and your heart of love, help us then, now, Lord, to work for that day when nations shall not lift up sword against nation, when tanks will be beaten into tractors, when every man and every woman shall sit under his or her own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid, when justice will roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream.

Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in back, when brown can stick around ... when yellow will be mellow ... when the red man can get ahead, man; and when white will embrace what is right. That all those who do justice and love mercy say Amen.

Monday, January 19, 2009


Bishop Gene Robinson's Invocation
Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC January 18, 2009

O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will...

Bless us with tears – for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.

Bless us with anger – at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Bless us with discomfort – at the easy, simplistic "answers" we’ve preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and the world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.

Bless us with patience – and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be "fixed" anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.

Bless us with humility – open to understanding that our own needs must always be balanced with those of the world.

Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance – replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences, and an understanding that in our diversity, we are stronger.

Bless us with compassion and generosity – remembering that every religion’s God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world.

And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.

Give him wisdom beyond his years, and inspire him with Lincoln’s reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy’s ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King’s dream of a nation for ALL the people.

Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain in these times.

Give him stirring words, for we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.

Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.

Give him the strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters’ childhoods.

And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we’re asking FAR too much of this one. We know the risk he and his wife are taking for all of us, and we implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand – that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.


Sunday, January 11, 2009


It's the second week of January and already it's been a long, cold winter. In the mornings Zeke and I walk down through Riverside park where the palette is steel, slate, frost and ash. We walk along the water, the New Jersey side of the riverbank extends beneath and beyond the George Washington bridge, up the Hudson and out of sight. The sailboats are gone, the wind is cutting, Zeke runs like a puppy and my fingers tingle with cold through my gloves. The white sky and colorless ground feel symptomatic of my emotional state; on hold, waiting, brittle.

Row upon row of leafless trees reach crackled brown branches up like gnarled, ancient, hands. Reaching up, always up; motivated by the desire for something unattainable, knotted, aching, cold. Exposed and empty for all to see.

I'm waiting too. Anxious, aching, empty, cold.

In the meantime I try to take the next right action, do the next right thing. I know that self-esteem is increased by doing esteem-able acts so I pray to be good, to be helpful, to be kind. Often I become impatient and irritable and am forced to return to willingness only after the familiarity of discomfort reminds me that self-righteousness and self-pity are a corrosive thread that sour all they touch.

I get tricked into believing that a material thing will bring me relief; food, sex, an article of clothing, something. Always I am wrong. There is no material solution to a spiritual problem.

Still, I submit to the idea that something outside of myself will make me feel better and I engage in familiar, old behavior. Compromised, vulnerable, I try to invite God to be present. God is present. I ignore Him.

"If you see me on the street with someone don't say hello. I have a boyfriend."

How is it I'm here again? Can I actually be hearing this again? After all the years, the lessons learned, how is it I am still here, at this place? Perhaps I only thought I had humbled myself. The lessons of the past had not taught me enough honesty, enough humility.

I'd been told that humility will bring strength out of weakness, that pain will be the price of admission to a new life and that as I cross the threshold of this new life I will begin to fear pain less.

Like the trees, my activity is suspended, temporarily in abeyance. Fatigued by the weight of what's not there I'm exposed and brittle. I carry with me an empty space and though blessed with the fellow travelers I have on this journey I feel alone in a wintry landscape. Fragile, misunderstood, I thirst for the first signs of spring. The return of birds, sailboats on the water, a crocus and most eagerly, a relaxed knowledge that something will blossom, color will return and I will finally thaw.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

rachael getting carried

A couple of weeks ago a friend invited me to go to a taping of the Rachael Ray TV show. At first I said no, the thought of standing in line, being herded into a television studio, told when to applaud and watching Ms. Ray make a thirty minute meal didn't really appeal to me but my friend convinced me that it would be fun so I said yes. I had forgotten all about it until he called yesterday and said, "Don't forget tomorrow is Rachael Ray. I'll meet you at nine o'clock".

Ugh, I thought, what have I agreed to? But I said "OK" and got a good night's sleep knowing I'd have to set out earlier than I'm used to.

I got to the block the studio is on, 44th street between Second and Third Avenues, it was snowing and from the corner I could already see the line in front of the building. I got closer and started looking for my friend in a sea of excited women. Eventually we found each other, got in line in the cold and the snow and all the while I was smiling while inside thinking, 'this is a mistake'.

From the line outside we got moved to a line inside where we were given tickets and told to wait. After we'd been led through a metal detector and bags had been inspected, we were taken upstairs in an elevator, six at a time, and led into another room where we were told to wait yet again.

There were about sixty or seventy audience members, perhaps ten or twelve of them male. The majority of the audience members were from New Jersey, Long Island or other nearby suburban areas of the tri-state region. There was some big hair and a few spangled sweaters and inside the waiting area there was lots of perfume. I am, generally, not one for perfume. All the while I'm thinking, 'there must be someway I can make a break for it'.

After being told the rules - no cell phones, no pictures, no gum, no bathroom breaks, etc, about two hours after our initial arrival, we were finally led into the studio. The studio is climate controlled and kept somewhere around 50 degrees. It was cold. The rows of seats that the audience sits in are on a revolving lazy-susan type of a set up that turns mechanically to face different parts of the studio depending on what kind of segment is being taped, rather ingenious really.

We were "warmed up" by R.C., the studio mascot, the warm up guy, a kind of loud comic guy with funny hair and tattoos. He was saying things like "When I go like this," (and he'd raise his arms and flail his hands wildly) "I want you to make lots of noise". Then he did it repeatedly, testing the audience's comprehension of his instructions. We were also told to cheer whenever Rachael mentions that one of the ingredients in a recipe is cheese. Cheer for cheese? Really?

He began singling out people in the audience and asking them where they were from, picking on them. Lots of New Jersey jokes. Surprise.

I was hoping, praying, he wasn't going to ask me anything or even notice me. "You sir, in the sweater. What's your name? Where are you from?" Thank God, he passed over me.

Despite myself, I found that I was actually loosening up. The cold studio air was somehow dissipating the various perfume smells and I began giving into the whole experience.

Rachael Ray appeared and the ladies went coo-coo: shouting, whooping and bouncing in their seats. They weren't taping at this point and Rachael just kind of nicely acknowledged their appreciation and went on talking to the stage managers and crew, briskly walking the perimeter of the audience looking as if she'd just finished her morning coffee and walked out of the make up room. Someone ran up behind her and fingered product through her already glistening, bouncy hair as she made a few racy asides to the audience. Joking over her shoulder she made her way up a staircase to read from a teleprompter into a camera.

Ms. Ray has a definite munchkin quality. She is very pretty, in a dwarfish sort of way, and although she is tiny she has a big ass and a HUGE head. Like a little bobble head doll bouncing on the dashboard of an old station wagon.

They started taping and as Rachael introduced a segment she turned on her magic TV smile. The ladies in the audience went nuts and Rachael beamed back at them in return. Perky and bouncy, that familiar raspy voice was accompanied by her Emmy winning smile, the audience spun on it's axis and the show was off. It was like an amusement park ride, a cooking show funhouse and I was strapped in and completely sold.

The snack of the day was chocolate covered pretzels, I didn't eat mine. Rachael made Welsh Rarebit, actually everything was prepared and presented for her to introduce on camera, melted cheese accompanied by bacon stuffed cherry tomatoes on a stick that are to be dredged through the cheese sludge. Did someone say Homer Simpson? I don't think I'll be making that.

Surprisingly, this was not followed by a segment on how to find a good cardiologist.

Aside from the fact that it was a sort of cholesterol festival I really enjoyed myself. There was a performance by Grammy nominated Duffy, from Wales, which I believe was the tie in to the Welsh Rarebit thing. She too was
cute and tiny and perky. Her band was good and everyone in the audience was given a CD. Pretty cool.

All in all I had a good time and was glad I went. How often does one have a chance to watch such a well oiled TV machine.

As we were leaving the studio, four hours after we had arrived, the next audience was waiting to be escorted upstairs for the taping of the second show of the day.

The second show of the day?! The next audience?!
How exhausting.