New book! 

Here it is!

For reasons I cannot imagine except I’ve been busy, I forgot to tell y’all I have new book out! Now this one has decidedly less sex & death in it than The Method, but it also has other goals. Like trying to help you feel like you have some say in what happens to you.

So if you’re feeling rubbish or frightened by things that you feel shouldn’t frighten you, Christ, Not Crisis is your jam, in paperback & Kindle. 

You don’t have to believe in Jesus for it to speak to you. I just happen to do so, which has been life changing for me. For example, I can confidently say I love you even though I’ve never met you. I want you to feel joy, or at least safety.

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High school

All y’all acting like you hate drama & you just want everything to be calm, but I have looked into your beady little souls & nearly every last one of you is high school AF…as the high schoolers say.

Don’t even; just stop. You know it. The second someone not in your group loses or messes up, schadenfraude washes over you like warm, buttery caramel down a monkey’s back in a movie I shouldn’t tell you about. 

When your group triumphs, you all high five each other like it was 3rd & goal at the end of the fourth quarter & you won! You won, damm it. You’re number one! You’re number one!

I once watched a group of approximately 40 adults learn something at a party about another person — something that was irrefutably awful enough on its own. But after an hour of discussion, they started finding other things to discuss to further drive home this person’s repugnant nature. “Oh, not only did he kill that girl, but you know I never liked him.”

“Oh, me either. He chewed with his mouth open. Who does that?”

And then the swarm. “OMG, one time? We were at lunch? And he didn’t contribute to the tip.” Stories like this continued for hours.

These were male and female adults between the ages of 37 & 68. And that wasn’t the only time. In fact I’m pretty sure I’m confusing two or three incidents.

Y’all do it online with your values signaling to other kids in your clique. Y’all do it when you tweet mean things at the Real Housewife you’ve never met, but hate (but honestly what the hell is wrong with Brandi Glanville?!). Y’all do it when you wreak havoc at the office trying to find out what happened to Clay in marketing.

And you know what? You never won’t. It’s been hard wired into your brain boxes for 40,000 years. You are tribal & are wired to be so. I can’t even talk about how awful you are to my own tribe, who are, generally speaking, thoughtful intellectuals & philosopher kings, natch. We like David Lynch & rescue cats & college radio even though we’re closer to 50 than 20. And we heart David Bowie (every era, damnit) & utterly despise gossip.

Except David Bowie said, I read somewhere, probably in Vogue or more likely Allure in the early ’90s, that gossip is how the middle classes get their news. It’s empowering. And I don’t fault it for that. In some organizations, it’s the only way anyone learns anything.

This isn’t even a treatise against gossip. If it’s not cruel & you admit your sources are not verified, gossip can be entertaining & helpful. Why yes, that chick is pregnant, & that is why she broke down & started crying in the middle of book club, then ate all the quiche.

The problem is the high school pettiness that is everything now. News, public discourse, and even presidential communication has been replaced with adolescent tomfoolery. Everybody is nasty, & don’t think it just started with President Obvious. Obama threw a whole ton of shade, but people think shade is classier. It’s certainly less obvious.

There are all kinds of mean girls. Some say awful things to your face. And some quietly ruin you from the shadows. They both go to high school, they both post on social media, they all run for office & they’re male & female of every flavour of sexuality the human imagination has recently dreamed up.

It’s popular to be high school. But I never liked high school. My core group of friends were literally the same type of people I like now: college radio listening, David Lynch liking weirdos. The difference now is that I like church people, too. Sometimes, they are also college radio listening, David Lynch liking weirdos. Sometimes they have nothing more in common with me than a love of Christ. And the cool thing about Christ is that He’s generally enough in common to break down tribal thinking.

I know a lot of you who read my stuff don’t care for religion of any kind, & the good news is, you don’t have to follow Christ to stop being a tribal high school asshat. Though I recommend Christ as a short cut through everything that blows. He’s like lemon juice; He brightens the flavour of everything.

But enough stupid cooking-oriented blasphemy. The key to letting go of high school tribalness is to find one thing in common with The Other. That’s it. And I can tell you what several things in common you have with The Other right now, even if you can’t bring yourself to do it.

You, a Neo Nazi, a tranvestite dominatrix, a crochet enthusiast, those people who are into curling, Kanye West, and even people who sell Plexus & essential oils require Earth’s atmosphere to live.

Not one of you is a silicon life force that breathes lava and craps stone. But even with that being, you have one thing in common. Crap. Everybody poops.

The next time you want to plaster somebody behind a wall with your hatred &/or righteous online trolling, imagine  that person with Norovirus. Imagine yourself with Norovirus. You both live in the bathroom & want to die, right? Doesn’t that espouse just a little empathy?

See, this is why I turn to Jesus. If I don’t, it’s all going to be poop.

A Home & A Family in Christ

Brit & Rhiannon. They are magnificent.

Today I had to give a speech at both masses on behalf of stewardship. I was asked to post it online, so here is pretty much what I said, filling in my notes, plus pictures so you can see what I mean.

“Here’s why I believe God always wanted me to to come to St Thomas, despite being born in London & being generally the exact opposite of a “church person” for so long. 

Human hindsight is 20/20, so we have to understand God’s sight, His benevolent & sometimes cheeky omniscience, in retrospect. I will tell the tale of my long, strange trip to St Thomas as quickly as possible.

I was baptized in Colwyn Bay, Wales, at St Paul’s Church, in 1976. A little later on, a lovably mischievous Welshman went to seminary with St Paul’s current rector, Christine Owen, whom I’m to understand could tell us a number of entertaining stories about our beloved rector. A condition of my confirmation here in 2014 was to never ask after any of these tales….

I had no knowledge of this connection when I discovered St. Thomas online back in 2012. I had been to a Lenten service at Saint Monica’s with my Catholic friend & was left…wanting. He asked me what was wrong. I cited the praise band & general cheeriness. He, being a comedian, apologized that his parish was not morose enough for me. I corrected him, saying, “Not morose…solemn.” I was raised in Britain, & churches needed to be made of stone, & filled with slightly awkward people who didn’t want to appear too exuberant. 

After decades of spiritual experimentation, including a few adolescent years of angry atheism, & 17 years of Wicca, Taoism, & Buddhism, I was going to return to a smallish gothic stone structure that would not immediately burst into flame upon my crossing the threshold, by God!

My friend said, “Good luck with that.”

God laughed.

Then I turned to Google. None of the Catholic Churches seemed terribly serious to me, though to my mind they ought to have been, so I googled “English church”, figuring LA had everything. And St. Thomas came up! And there on the front page was a smiling British looking fellow who said that all are named & all are welcome. Maybe even me!

He was cleaning the tabernacle & looked like art.


I stalked St. Thomas online for nearly a year. I listened to all the music. I kept coming back to the music almost obsessively. I planned to drag my sister & mother to a Schola Mass, but there was a funeral that day, so we went to an English pub instead. 

And God laughed.

I used to be on Twitter a lot. I have several friends who are actors, & began following a friend of a friend. This gentleman posted a picture of a very familiar altar. I tweeted him immediately: “@robertpatrickt2 OMG, do you go to St Thomas?” He responded immediately “You bet I do. Hashtag Episcopalian, hashtag Anglocatholic.” I tweeted back excitedly “OMG! What’s it like? Is is sufficiently solemn?” He tweeted back “It’s high Anglican, baby! Get your butt down here!” I checked online, then texted my sister, Caroline, “OMG. St Thomas is having an Easter vigil tomorrow. We have to go! Robert Patrick said!” She texted back “What even is your life?” And also “Yes!”

That night I had nightmares that nobody would let me in the church…that grannies with submachine guns stopped me at the doors & shoved me into a white van & told me I wasn’t good enough to come back to Jesus. I came anyway.

It was magical. I was in love immediately. It had been so long since I had really been to church that I thought I had to introduce myself to everybody during the peace. I barely talked to anyone after, but couldn’t wait to come back. I arrived the next morning for Easter Sunday & cried my face off because I felt stupid for waiting so long. I felt at home, more at home than in my own home. I felt Christ’s presence from the altar & all around me & even in the woman next to me whom I haven’t seen since. I had the singular thought “This is my life now.” And it is!

God just roared & roared.

My sister & I enrolled in catechism & got confirmed. I came here whenever my health permitted. Sal & I came up with the Let’s Talk About series. I’ve gone into discernment to become a spiritual director. I have made the absolute most dearest, wonderful friends here whom I would actually die without & who push me to be happier, healthier, smarter, more loving & more peaceful. No, just kidding; all we do is MOAR STUFF. There are several of us here who would move in & just hold some kind of service 24/7 if we did not also have to eat & work & go to school.

People I love, some of whom legit would move into the church, one of whom symbolically did by going to seminary.


So that brings me to stewardship. So many people here do so many loving things for this community, sometimes just for the fun of it, but the end result is this holy, super weird family. 

Me & Art looking like a young Republican couple from the OC.


Volunteering as a stewardship representative & this year, God help you all, as a captain, means I get to speak to people I’ve never met, hear ideas I’ve had myself or never considered. This stewardship campaign alone has inspired inquiry into developing a regular evensong, & encouraging children & families to attend with education or children’s activities or all of the above! I keep saying I have no time and yet I want to make all of this happen!
 God just laughs & laughs.

Every year that I publish a book, I increase my stewardship pledge by 50%. I admit that this is partly to bribe God into increasing my sales, but it is also because when I hope I’ll get a little more, I want to give a little more. I will get even more involved here & one day be married here & baptize a child here (God willing), & when the UNR medical school is done poking at my remains for a semester, my ashes will come here. I want to be with everyone in these walls until the San Andreas fault sends this vivacious, sneering, desperate, gorgeous town northward to Alaska. I want to laugh with God at every timid witch who wonders if Jesus really wants her back, forever & ever, amen. I want to laugh when she finds she’s up to her eyeballs in food prep for receptions & trying to find a mic for the guest speaker & praying her bad knee will let her rise again after the Angelus. I want to be housed in this place until the world ends, so I’d best sell more books so I can give more with each passing year. I love St Thomas. You are St Thomas, so I love you. Thank you.”

Reset

  
Tonight I finally went to Compline at Saint John’s Cathedral. Brit has mentioned it on Facebook & in person a few times, & Chris reminded me, so I took the 101 to the 405 to the 10 to the 110 to get there. If you live in Los Angeles, you know how much I love Jesus now.

I was having quite a bit of post High Mass angst. As y’all could probably tell, this has been a harrowing year filled with loss & violence & needful change. High Mass sort of keeps me sane, but once it’s over & everyone’s left coffee hour, I have to trudge back home where there are no cats any more, where the failures of my adulthood hit me in the face like a badly caught football.

You all know me to be a fairly cheerful creature, but lately it’s just been too much. I’m over it. I need for things to be bright.

So why not pray in the darkness, holding a single lit taper, while a choir intones gorgeous harmonies as one voice, praising God?

My brain is completely reset. I feel at peace. I will probably sleep well tonight. I want to go forever and ever, amen. 

Talking about sci fi for an hour after with Chris & Mark most certainly did not hurt (even though I was a didactic psychology git for part of that, which is a flaw I am not sure how to purge). We probably laughed too loudly, but I don’t think anyone minded.

I was going to write another poem about this, but I don’t think it’s necessary. This is a set of emotional responses I can simply categorize: 

Today was amazing from start to finish. 

I am calm and happy. 

I love my church friends.

I love compline. It was much better than Cats (& my compline app). I will go again & again.

My Lord & My God

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Long ago I made noises about posting my reactions to Father’s sermons here, & true to form I think I did that a whopping two times before senility & busyness claimed me yet again. Well, catechism is over, I & my sister & my fellow brothers & sisters in Christ are confirmed/baptized, & I’ve now been a year at Saint Thomas. I should probably FOCUS. Is it wrong to picture The Rock with angel wings, screaming at me?

Today’s gospel was, as the liturgical year demands, John 20:19-end. I really enjoy the whole of John 20. I love that Mary Magdalene calls Him “rabboni” (from the Easter service), a term of respect mixed with affection. If I were her, I’d be sobbing with joy as I said it. Can there be no greater happy shock than finding your beloved friend & teacher alive after watching Him suffer & die?

But back to this week. Here Thomas is not having any of this “Guys, for serious, I’m Jesus!” nonsense. He wants to poke the poor guy. Thomas is saying, in modern parlance, “You best bust with the holes in your hands & your side or you can get out.” We can’t be too hard on Thomas; this was the guy that was late to the party. Everybody else was present when Mary saw Jesus & told the other disciples “YOU GUYS! HE’S BAAACK!” Then He came to them & they got to have a jubilant old time with breathing the Holy Spirit & whatnot.

Thomas was that dude who found out a week later & was all WHUT?

So Jesus indulges him & Thomas says, in stunned joy & chastisement, “My Lord & my God.” Father points out Thomas does something very different here by acknowledging that Jesus is God. This is super hard for us to wrap our heads around (& is triply hard to explain to your Japanese roommate in college), but Thomas sees it. He feels it. He recognizes that Jesus is the entirety of God’s divinity in human form, that God deigned to live amongst us as one of us. He suffered as we suffer, & more so than most of us ever shall.

Jesus says to Thomas “Because thou has seen me, thou has believed; blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”

Father asks us to imagine what it would be like if Christ returned today. What would we, creatures of 24 hour news & immediate gratification, need to believe that Christ was indeed Christ? In the scriptures, He performs many miracles that Bronze Age people immediately associate with the divine. But we see miracles every day. Cardiologists revive the dead on a daily basis. Man has walked on the moon. Bubble wrap & Hologram Tupac exist. We are a nonplussed people. Seriously, what would Jesus have to do to make Himself known to us?

Have that little conversation with yourself, & be honest. Most Christians would immediately say “Oh, I’d know,” but would we? We’ve all piled our personal aspirations on Christ. We’ve assigned him our politics. We have numerous distractions & points of cynicism to engage us. How would you know you were talking to the actual Christ?

I answered this question silently to myself in the pew, immediately. “If I hugged Jesus, I would be instantly healed. I wouldn’t have fibromyalgia any more, or celiac disease, or arthritis, and my metabolism would work, & then I would drop everything and follow Him because I actually could.”

Two things struck me later as important to examine so I could root out my own biases. First, the act of hugging was assumed. Of course Jesus is a hugger. Deacon Walter is a hugger. Father Davies is a hugger. Jesus would hug, right? Well, maybe not. Would a firm handshake suffice? Would I even need to touch Him?

And the second assumption is of course that I would meet Him. Now if you know me, you know that I eventually meet everybody, because that’s what I do. It’s not intentional; it just happens, no matter where I live or am. But there are 7 billion people on this planet and utterly no guarantee that Jesus would have even the faintest interest in visiting Los Angeles, or even America. His agent would argue that He needs to be out here, but that’s applying our ideas of publicity & outreach to Christ. Maybe Christ doesn’t reach people through media. Maybe He’s a Reddit poster, or an astronaut, or majors in interpretive dance. He could be a soldier or a cat fancier or a stay-at-home mom. This is the 21st century; He need not appear as a Jewish male in order to get people to hear Him.

So then what would Christ have to do to get you to believe?

Later in the sermon, Father mentioned that we are all, currently, the body of Christ on Earth. You have His hands, His feet, His eyes. I think Father was quoting someone but I missed that part thinking about how crappily I was treating Christ’s body. I was treating it very well, when I had a trainer. I was fueling it properly & exercising it properly. Over the past few months, though, as I continue to recover from injuries, I’ve been treating Christ’s body like the Play Doh Fun Factory.

If I ever needed a message to get me to properly think about how to feed Christ’s property, that was it. For lunch I chose brown rice & chicken breast, plus vegetables. Ok, I had a Chipotle bowl. There is no reason Jesus wouldn’t like Chipotle! Especially if He had fibromyalgia & couldn’t cook today cos of His neck & shoulders.

Anyhow when Father’s sermon is posted to YouTube, I’ll add the link here so you can see that what he said is a lot more learned than how I heard it.

Oh, & the picture above? Father gave the Class of 2014 catechumens personalized Byzantine icons. Mine depicts Archangels Michael & Gabriel. I think I know why.

KJ Adan also has a book out, in case you actually wanted to read something longer.

“You’re A Saint!”

People who are accused of sainthood will tell you over & over again: I’m just doing what comes naturally. Those who willfully take care of the needs of difficult people (whether you define that as the mentally ill, the neurotic, the perpetually angry or anybody in a Corolla going 20 mph down Ventura) don’t do so because they are saints or even massochists; they don’t know any better.

Does that make them saints, or does it simply make them followers of Christ?

Last Sunday’s sermon was about All Saints’ Day. It took me a while to figure out how to write about this. I have a number of excuses. Monday, somebody needed me more than I needed to write. Tuesday I went into fibroflare. Wednesday is my long day. Thursday I don’t even remember what happened. Friday I was drained. So here I am, secreted away in my room, avoiding several invites to go out because I’m tired & in pain, pondering sainthood.

Father says saints aren’t celebrities. I don’t take this to be a dig on famous folk so much as we need to focus on what celebrity means. A “celebrated” person is one we get excited to see, talk about, learn about. Angelina Jolie is a celebrity. Kanye West (my laziest long running joke) is a celebrity even if you hate him because he does things people want to talk about (& make lazy long running jokes about). The President is a celebrity, period, whether he’s Obama or Reagan or Rutherford B. Hayes, though Hayes is kinda D list now, which happens to all of us when we retire from the public eye.*

*If you so much as even think about “informing” me he’s dead in the Comments section, I will end you, though this means very little coming from an English person. I will probably serve you some crappy bagged tea & only bake you one cake.

For me it says that saints should be celebrities. We should celebrate & talk about those who have sacrificed great swaths of their lives (& sometimes their very lives) for the love of Christ. They show it to others, died in His name to honour it, lived it day in & out. But they weren’t being paid $3 mil a year to do an ad campaign, & they never flipped a table in childish rage on a reality show, so meh, say we.

This is actually just fine to the saint. Nobody who is a saint thinks they are one. They’re just doing their thang. They don’t want attention drawn to it; they don’t want a reward. They show love to others simply because it is the right thing to do. They exhibit this love to each individual, one at a time, because that is the most loving thing a human person can do–give personal time.

Anyone with a winning smile & a joke can stand up in front of a camera & say something nice & make people feel kinda good for a minute, maybe even longer. But saints will come to you when it’s convenient to you, not to them. Saints will help you just because you need it, not because they need someone to think they’re awesome. Saints don’t do things for others because someone’s watching.

So they can’t be celebrities. I don’t think the reverse is true. Celebrities could be saints & we’d have no idea, just like you don’t know that the guy going 20mph in the Corolla in front of you (allegedly the spawn of Satan & a diseased hamster as you curse him out from behind your steering wheel) gets up at 5 every morning & prepares meals for homeless folks. Or he visits sick children in the hospital. Or he donated bone marrow to a stranger. So yes, speed up, saintly man, but I’m sorry I called you the love child of Dolores Umbridge & a rusty flute.

Some of you (you know who you are) believe nobody does things from the kindness of their heart. You believe everybody’s got an angle. I used to believe as you do that everybody’s got their kink, their weakness, & no one is to be trusted. The PTSD part of me still eyes people warily in this fashion, suspecting that people are mostly crap. There are, however, real saints in the world. I think I’ve met a couple. It’s enough for me now to allow people to show me who they are. Most people are broken. Some heal jagged; some breaks reveal dazzling light patterns beneath, like the breaking set free the angel, at least in part. These are saints in our modern world. They’re broken, but they live in light anyway, & they want to share it.

But most people are crap. Jesus loves them anyway. If I can’t love them, I give them to Him. His SPCA is vast, His veterinary clinic fully stocked, funded & staffed, & His is a no kill facility.

The Body of Christ: Is It In You?

I have avoided Communion every time I’ve had an opportunity to receive it, because I have celiac disease. As anyone with that affliction or even a mild gluten intolerance knows, the slightest bit of wheat will send us running to a bathroom within 20 minutes, & to pain meds & antidepressants within days. It is hard for even those of tremendous faith to get past the fear of crapping themselves dead in church.

A while ago a dear friend of mine (who also happens to be a staunch atheist) questioned the trend in Italy to go to gluten free wafers. “If the wafer becomes the Body of Christ as it passes the lips, why worry about gluten?” I explained the above, that how once you’ve felt gluten tearing up your small intestine & thrusting every last particle of food in your body rapidly toward your descending colon, faith wavers. What if there’s a crumb on your lips that didn’t transform? What if your faith was recently tested and wrung & you kneel at the railing utterly convinced that your bowels will let loose in front of the whole congregation? “What if what if what if” is the enemy of faith &, of course, the mantra of the celiac sufferer.

But I took Communion on Holy Saturday, kinda by accident.

I went up to the railing of my new church with the intent of receiving just a blessing. That’s what I normally do. Christened in the Church of England, I am welcome to take Anglican Communion but, you know, celiac.

When the bishop approached, she had the wafer, & I don’t know what happened. This was the first church I’d been to since I was a small child where I felt the presence of Christ. I opened my mouth, & she gave me the bread. My sister, next to me, shot me a concerned look.

As I shuffled back to my pew, I swallowed & simply said, in my mind, “This is the body of Christ, washed down by the blood of Christ. I’m fine.”

Twenty minutes later, I was still fine.

Two hours later, I was still fine.

The next day, at Easter service, I wept during a moment of silence after the liturgy. Christ’s sacrifice was so great; who am I to begrudge this sacrament? I just about ran up to the rail on Easter, so eager to receive Communion. I had an hour drive out to see my Mum after, & I didn’t care. I wanted that wafer & that wine.

And I never got sick.

On the drive I pondered this. Is my faith in Christ so strong now that gluten has no effect on me? “Don’t be stupid,” said my sceptical mind. “They’re obviously gluten free wafers.” But then I had the thought “Does it matter? I accepted the wafer without question, & either way my faith was rewarded.” And it will continue to be. There is no one on the planet more fired up about Communion than this girl.

As the radio blasted “It’s got to be real” I laughed, car danced to ridiculous disco, & told God I loved Him & my new church. Then “Hot Blooded” came on & I was forced to remember that embarrassing Bones episode.