Pro-Tips for Bipolar photographers and other strange creatures…m

blue glory

I have been noodling about on a potential book project with the working title: Pro-Tips for Bipolar Photographers and Other Strangers Looking to Get Out of Their Minds and into the Glorious World. (My title is a hat-tip to one of my favorite works of theology by William Stringfellow. I expect my editor will question my exuberance if not judgment :-))

Ten years into my diagnosis of Type 1 bipolar, I’ve developed a number of tools to get out of my head when it betrays me with devilish thoughts. The single most important has been my discovery of the camera a little over a year ago.
Walking each day with the bodhisattva Canon 7D I have gleaned a number of very helpful lessons (at least for me). One came with this picture above. I was on what I took for a pretty rough street in the town I was roaming in. Empty lots, houses with peeling paint and a few with piles of junk all around the yard. I think I heard a snarling dog. I could feel my body tensing up and the aperture of my heart closing in fear.

I have learned over many walks that this  is the exact time in which the camera becomes my most precious tool. If I trust in its impassive ability to see beauty everywhere, that is, when I trust the heart God has given me, I will see signs, icons to steady my mind. Trust that they are there, even in the anxiety, and my path will open.
I turned to my right and at that very moment this image was revealed, a hanging basket of glory on an unassuming porch. Solomon’s could not have been any finer.

Farewell sermon

Preached on June 24, 2018, the Feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist and also the Feast of Bishop William Alexander Guerry of South Carolina.

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My predecessor and mentor Gurdon Brewster’s remarkable sculpture of Jesus and Buddha dancing was given to me by the people of Epiphany as a parting gift.

Keeping Positive in the Age of Trump

Someone asked me recently how, in the face of so much negativity abroad in the world, I seem to stay positive all the time.
First of all, I said, I am not always positive—I have good days and bad days like everyone else, and the daily news makes me angry with a fury I have never known in my life to this point.(But of course, anger in the name of God’s compassion is not negative at all!}
But then I share the real secret of my positive outlook: God and God’s gifts. Let’s start with the gifts. Two in particular, alcoholism and bipolar.
wedding altar flowers
Did I say gifts? Yes, gifts which like all gifts, can become poison if we do not accept them humbly and joyfully and use for the further glory of God. But if we do, and it has taken me many years to do so, even these heavy-weight gifts can become sources of great joy. Now of course I am well aware that these two gifts can also kill—both alcoholism and bipolar are gifts whose very nature is to feed off of negative energy. The number of hours I have wasted in my life by giving in to the soul-crushing negativity of deep depression and the enervating mix of shame, guilt, and ego trips that is alcoholism’s particular cocktail is countless. So I know negativity.
And I know that for me, giving in to these negative sides of my gifts can kill me, literally, and has on occasion gotten me quite close. I have discovered that in order to live, I must not give in to negativity, not give it even an inch. When I have been wronged, or even (wrongly) perceive that I have been wronged, I cannot indulge in resentment or self-pity even for a little bit, or it can kill me. When I see the mess of the world and give in to despair or think why bother doing anything at all given the massive evil abroad and its seeming triumph over good, my bipolar and my alcoholic demons can grab this little thought and take me, willy nilly, down a dizzying labyrinth of further negative thoughts and land me in a pit of despair so deep that there too I am literally at death’s door. Suicidal ideations are for me a real threat and so I simply cannot afford to indulge in despair over the world. Plus, there is God at work each day to remind me that love created the world, love sustains it, and that my very flesh is suffused with  God’s desire that I be free to love and to sing praise.
What it comes down to for  me, given my ‘special’ gifts of bipolar and alcoholism, is that there is only one choice, a choice I must make every day, every minute, when it would be especially easy for me to go negative.
I must choose life, and I must choose to trust God and God’s desire of good for me. I learned this many years ago from  Sister Cecilia who quoted to me  Deuteronomy 30:19:
“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live.”
And so I make the choice, and I have learned  that the secret of life is to choose life, the way to God’s glory is to choose to see God’s glory in every moment, even in every shadow of death. God loves us beyond compare, and that is a positive energy that is simply no match for the ‘devil and his pomps,’ as the old prayer book puts it. God reigns and so for me every day is joy at this victory. That’s my story because it is God’s story, and I for one am sticking to it!

For great is your love toward me; *

you have delivered me from the nethermost Pit.  –Ps 86:13

 

Make us glad by the measure of the days that you afflicted us *

and the years in which we suffered adversity. –Ps. 90:15

Audio of Friendship, Forgiveness, and Fun: A wedding Homily

bishop guerry

Bishop Guerry, who was killed in office by a priest for Guerry’s insistence on the full inclusion of African Americans in the diocese of South Carolina.

 

Preached at  Grace Cathedral in the Diocese of South Carolina for the wedding of Tom and Elizabeth Daniel, my two dear friends who I met in the green pastures of Cornell University. In the sermon I mention Eliza’s maid of honor Bella Cain, one of the most knowledgeable oyster shuckers in the country and a remarkable person who has broken barriers as a transgender woman in the tight knit world of oyster shucking. An article about her journey can be read here.

postscript: among other errata, I had a delightful conversation at the reception afterwards where one friend of Tom’s family reminded me that there is one quite significant reference to dogs in the Hebrew Bible.  The name Caleb, whose courage helps lead the people of Israel into the promised land, means dog. Courageous and steadfast. Amen.

LGBTQ Life at the Episcopal Church at Cornell

The following audio file is of my sermon introducing our community’s statement of support for the full inclusion of LGBTQ persons at the Episcopal Church at Cornell, along with community discussion. This took place during our Sunday night worship service on April 29th, 2018. Joy Always!

Atticus DeProspo

Atticus DeProspo ’15 discusses his journey toward self-acceptance as a gay athlete at the March 13 Soup and Hope.

And here is a link to the story of Atticus DeProspo, whom I mention in the talk and who gave a Soup and Hope talk about coming out as gay at Cornell some time after his and my conversation.

Leaping and Dancing as Jesus Heals Us

This sermon was preached at The Church of the Epiphany on Third Easter, just a little over a year after Gurdon’s death. His vision of Jesus’ triumphant love in the midst of loss inspires us day after day.

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Audio Sermon: Jonah and the call

Preached at Church of the Epiphany Trumansburg on January 21, 2018

Here I am Lord

Fire in the belly of the fish

 

 

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