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[The Creation of the Chicken]

An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
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Wednesday, May 28, 2003

A "tricky" Bible Web Page

Jared (one of the SCCA three Orthodox Amigos) unintentionally enlightened me to this little gem:

Try mistyping just about any blogspot webpage like this "paradosis.blogpsot.com" (Notice the reversal of the s and the p?) and you'll get this little piece of work.

Aaron's Bible? Hmmmm...well apart from all the standard protestant endtimes rubbish, and the title (which really says something doesn't it?) It just amazes me that this christian website is using the (dare I say) deceitful practice of mistyped websites to direct people - unknowingly - to his little breed of the Christian religion? Sigh...


...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 11:02 AM [+]
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Sin is a disease

I used to be in a 12 step program (still am I guess), and I have learned to understand why such groups refer to their addictions as diseases. A lot of times people take offense at this, because they think that 12 steppers are simply trying to weasel their way out of personal responsibility, but I think this offense is held to because these people fail to grasp the full spectrum of what is meant by the term disease – it does not by any means preclude personal responsibility.

dis·ease
n.
1.A pathological condition of a part, organ, or system of an organism resulting from various causes, such as infection, genetic defect, or environmental stress, and characterized by an identifiable group of signs or symptoms.
2.A condition or tendency, as of society, regarded as abnormal and harmful.

pa·thol·o·gy
n. pl. pa·thol·o·gies
1.The scientific study of the nature of disease and its causes, processes, development, and consequences.
2.The anatomic or functional manifestations of a disease: the pathology of cancer.
3.A departure or deviation from a normal condition: “Neighborhoods plagued by a self-perpetuating pathology of joblessness, welfare dependency, crime” (Time).

A departure or deviation from a normal condition is the part that really strikes me. It seems to be right in line with the Greek word harmatia, which can be defined as “error”, “flaw”, “missing the mark” – pathology indeed.

We need healing medicine, AND we need to follow the prescriptions of our Doctor and the Hospital staff.


...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 7:52 AM [+]
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Tuesday, May 27, 2003

The SWIFTSURE

From our panoramic vantage point here at the lab, we can look down upon Lake Union in all of its congested glory. Docked, not far from my work, is a medium sized freighter with a distinctive red hull. Painted in large white letters along the hull is the ship's venerable name: SWIFTSURE.

As long as I have worked here, I've never seen it move.


...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 11:46 AM [+]
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Sunday, May 25, 2003

Bathroom floor mathematics and the church
Last night as This Guy was helping me with my bathroom, we were finding ourselves stuck having to do math with fractions. A scary prospect.

While wrestling through the process, we naturally turned our minds toward matters of religion and realized that through the miracle of a day’s hard work and having had beer for dinner we had inadvertently stumbled upon a profound discovery regarding protestant ecclesiology. The way to calculate…err…ummm…determine where the church is, one simply needs to remember their grade school fraction equations and then find the lowest common denomination.


...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 9:06 AM [+]
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Hard lessons about despair and community

My life's problems fail to compare to the problems that others face in the world, in fact they don't amount to a hill of beans. But non-the-less, sometimes they can still creep up on you and cause you to give in to the sin of despondency. This was almost certainly the case for me.

I have about half a dozen major projects awaiting my attention here at our new home and yet for the last two weekends I have had MAJOR problems arise which required my immediate and heavily unqualified attention. First a main line water leak reared its ugly head, followed by the discovery of a heavily rotted bathroom floor threatening to collapse. Inherent and within all major problems such as these, are a host of smaller problems intended to complicate the overall picture to the point of complete insanity. They seem to pile up upon one another and I left spiraling with the question: How am I going to ever have the time to fix all of this???

Interstingly enough, on saturday morning while reading Beginning to Pray Met. ANTHONY Bloom provided to me what he termed a very "Russian" answer:

If you do not die first, you will have time to do it. If you die before it is done, you don't need to do it...do not worry about death, When death is there, you are no longer there, but as long as you are there, death is not.

Regardless, in facing the prospect of both repairs, I found myself overwhelmed with "handyman" ignorance and the knowledge that I was too poverty stricken (yeah right) to hire someone less ignorant that me to do the work. But in both cases, I found myself delivered from my despondency by friends. Friends who came with shovels, gloves, and positive attitudes – some came by complete surprise. The jobs went (or are going) well, and as I knelt down before my wife last night to rest and apologize for my despondency, she simply laid my head on her lap and spoke the words of God to me:

You are learning the importance of community, and reliance on others.

I’m also learning humility in the process.



...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 7:42 AM [+]
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Friday, May 23, 2003

More lessons from the Matrix...

Huw-Raphael offers a great post on another spiritual lesson to be gleaned from the Matrix (the original)...I'm not holding out much hope for the sequal. Is it just me, or is H-R getting furrier?


...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 7:56 AM [+]
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Raising them in the Way

My wife always seems to find some very unique Christian resources regarding child rearing. Trouble is, sometimes such resources are all too exemplary of those peculiarities that initially drove me away from the protestant faith.

Case and point being a reference manual meant to help parents raise “righteous” kids. Basically it contains a cornucopia of categorized scripture references regarding different sins and virtues. Seems innocuous enough, right?

Well, sure it is, but the portions of the book that left me shaking my head were found in the introduction. Here the author lets it all hang out with statements that may have once rung as Gospel truth to me, but now raise the hairs on the back of my neck..

the Bible contains everything we need to know about child training…
the Bible…guidebook for my life…source of all wisdom…our how-to book…
we must acknowledge His word as the final authority in all areas of life.

Now, of course, everyone who knows me, knows that I adamantly deny the concept of Sola Scriptura. But I also know a lot of folks who do affirm this innovative doctrine (hehehe…come on guys, lighten up!) and yet would still be apprehensive about some of the statements in the introduction to this book. No mention is made, whatsoever, in regards to hermeneutics: how do we understand this “how-to book”? As far as this author is concerned, the Bible was written in the form of a life manual, and the author’s book is little more than a sort child-rearing index to the Bible. However, thumbing through it, I could find no reference to the Old Testament warrant for having rebellious children stoned.

That aside, the author does have a number of wonderfully fascinating things to say regarding certain “tools” that will assist us in teaching our children about sins and virtues. Two of which particularly struck me.

The Study of History, by which we may learn from “the experiences of men in the past.” When I read this, you can imagine my ears really perking up! And though I was more than a little let down by the fact that the author jumps from the glories of biblical history to “God’s providential” history of the United States with a single seemingly compulsory sentence mentioning the potential benefits of studying the rest of the world’s history, it was none-the-less encouraging to see honor and potency given to the past.

Then, we’re told that we ought to make use of Memorials and Celebrations, and the author – coincidently enough – uses our upcoming Memorial Day as an example. A wonderful opportunity to teach our children valuable lessons centered around the reasoning for the celebration…though I was somewhat taken aback by how the author described their family’s Memorial Day celebration: in part, their children dress up in camouflage and play army in the living room. I think, we’ll pass on the camouflage.

I sat down with my wife and we discussed the book. The conclusion we reached was simply this: we are already doing all of this and more, simply by be active in our Orthodox Faith. Think about it: we not only study history, we live it. We hold in our guarded possession, a way of life handed down from generation to generation and each and everyday my children hear and say prayers that have been heard and said for centuries – even millennia! We do more that give the past an assenting and friendly nod – we invite their very presence into our lives. Furthermore, whereas the vast majority of the Memorials and Celebrations the author listed were secular civic holidays (the only exceptions being Christmas, Easter, and…ummm…gag, urgh…communion???), we have memorials and celebrations EVERY single day in our Faith! Truly we are a religion that feeds on memorials and celebrations! The lives of the saints are perpetually held out before us, and our children, as examples of virtues to be emulated.

I think the author is absolutely right about the value of the tools she listed, but there is nothing knew about this. The Church, in Her wisdom, has known this since the beginning. And for my wife and I to implement the use of such tools in teaching our children, we need only enter more fully into the life of the Church.


...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 7:26 AM [+]
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Tuesday, May 20, 2003

A quote my wife sent me, for which I was in great need...
My child, be patient with your children. What can we do? Of course they are rambunctious, but they cannot be otherwise. In any case, we must be patient. Do not let things pile up in your soul; do not demand details. For by constantly worrying, you will harm your health, and that will be worse. Just overlook their shortcomings and increase your prayer, for prayer works miracles. And then miraculously, without exertion, they will become calm and quiet children. Many children were very rambunctious when they were small; afterwards, however, they became wonderful in everything. The rambunctious children are usually smart, too, and someday they may achieve much.


Counsels from the Holy Mountain
from the Letters and Homilies of Elder Ephraim







...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 11:28 AM [+]
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Monday, May 19, 2003

Disunity and wrestling with an Angel in the Kinkos parking lot.

My wife is in charge of the Parish Newsletter. Usually she passes the responsibility of the print version to a fellow parishoner who then supplies the Narthex with copies on the morning of Divine Litrugy. But sometimes this doesn’t work out and I find myself sitting and waiting patiently inside the Van, parked at the local 24 hour Kinkos.

Early Sunday mornings at Kinkos is really quite interesting because surely the only folks making copies at 8am are obviously doing so for their church. It saddens me a little to think of how we all live in the same community but need to have our Christianity catered to our needs such that we cannot commune together. But this sadness does not last long as I readily jump into that fun and exciting game I call: Name their Denomination!

WHACK went the broad edge of the Angel’s sword against my head, “Don’t do it James!”

“Oh come on!” I protested, “Look at that guy…with the khakis, polo shirt, and Latte pulling up in a gargantuan SUV! Obviously a member of a non-denom Mega Church.”

WHACK!

“Or that guy there with the Star of David necklace!” I pointed, “a messianic Jew…or at least some gentile who wishes he was!”

“James!” WHACK!

“Well check out that guy with the Elect Bush Bumper Sticker, conservative suit and haircut, with Bible underarm…probably a Baptist,” I laughed, “oops wait…a crashing dove tie pin; pentecostal.”

WHACK!

“Ouch,” I protested and then laughed, “Of course we can’t see any of the hip post-mod folks cuz they find Sunday mornings too….modern, I guess.”

WHACK! “And what about her, James?”

My wife stepped outside.

“Okay, okay, I get the point.” I admitted, “Hey, at least my church predates Kinkos!”

WHACK!

“Actually we predate copy machines, too huh?”

The Angel sighed…

“We even predate the printing press! Hell, we predate the Bible!”

WHACK!

Off to Church we go…as do the other patrons – all in different directions. And I have a headache.

The Angel sighed even more heavily than before.


...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 7:40 PM [+]
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Prune me, cut me back, collar me and tether me to a stake.
Freedoms, once fancied vital, smother the life in me.
I am left whirl-winding in sensory self-pleasure, itching ears satiated.

Prune me, cut me back, collar me and tether me to a stake.
Mind and heart gamely stretch forth like many branches, ever-seeking sustenance.
But behold, through this voluminous multiplicity itself, the harvest withers.

Prune me, cut me back, collar me and tether me to a stake.
Bury the stake deep – hundreds of centuries – touching the soul of the past.
And secure me to that ancient conduit through which life flows.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 8:35 AM [+]
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Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Saint Gecko

My eldest son’s name is Nicholas. He was born in the midst of the nativity season, and my wife and I both felt a certain affinity for the venerable Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker of Myra, and so it seemed altogether ordained from above for him to be our little boy’s Patron. On any given Sunday, if I am in charge of leading him about the nave to greet and honor the saints of God, I will always bring him out of the traditional route in order to let him kiss the relics of Saint Nicholas, and I will point to the Icon and tell him a little something about the man for whom he is named.


Well, neither my wife nor I were very fond of the shortened “Nick” and so we fell rather naturally into calling him Nicho (Nee-ko). A strapping young lad of two, he is now able to toss a few words around to make his will known, but he has a little trouble with the sound of the letter “N”, which inevitably comes out sound like a “g.” Of course other pronunciation problems exist as well, such that when he speaks of himself, it sounds as if he is referring to the cute little lizard that does car insurance commercials. Thus, last night as I was taking him to bed, I let him kiss the Icon of Saint Nicholas on his wall and then unusually I paused to ask him, while pointing to the icon: “Who is this?”

He smiled broadly, “Gecko.”

“Yes…St. Gecko.”

Holy Father Gecko, please pray unto God for us.


...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 3:37 PM [+]
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Please Pray...

...for the Palmer family because Jennifer has been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us all, sinners.


...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 8:22 AM [+]
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Tuesday, May 13, 2003

The Zoo and the Museum

At our now traditional Tuesday lunch today (the three Orthodox SCCA amigos, the catechumen Michael, and the temporarily absent Paul) we meandered our way into the topic of "field trip" visits to Orthodox Churches. I am sure this is something nearly every Orthodox parish has experienced in some way or another...and truly it is a strange phenomena.

Sometimes it is a music class from the local Pentecostal Bible college (which I used to attend), the worship team from some mainline protestant denomination, or perhaps a church history class from one of the numerous Christian colleges in the vicinity. They come to see what it is we do – perhaps to get a feel for how the church used to do things? I can vividly recall one such visitor telling me that they wanted to get a taste of how the church used to worship, to which I responded: “What do you suppose we were doing up there today?” Anyway, in our conversation today analogies of field trips to the Zoo or Museum were not left unused.

I suppose in some way we might be tempted to view this sort of “field trip” as condescending (“Hey, let’s go and look to see what those wacky Orthodox are doing!”), but in my experience these visitors are warmly received and very often leave with a lot to think about.

A visit to the local Zoo? Sure, why not! It must be one helluva zoo because inevitably some of the field trip participants find themselves so impressed with the Zoo that they decide to make their home inside the cages.


...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 8:13 PM [+]
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The Temple

Everyone in the community seemingly pays homage at the New Temple of the 21st Century. It is the one place, in modern society, where all people find common faith and therefore a spirit of unity prevails. Inside the doors of this venerable Temple anyone can find an altar at which to worship.

The old, the young, the healthy and the infirmed…everyone is welcomed and everyone happily enters in with offerings to make in exchange for wonderful blessings, which bring us joy and contentment. Dressed in their best or hardly attired at all, the droves march in – especially on weekends.

Beautiful artwork and lighting titillate the visual palate, and the architecture and background hymns beckon us to give with thankful hearts. All manner of people congregate in the Temple, with their collective problems and issues left outside, they come here to be renewed.

Many are here to simply socialize! But this is not a bad thing. Yes, the Temple is a sort of gathering place and this is deemed quite appropriate for we certainly want our youth (our future) to feel comfortable and at ease in our Holy House of Worship. Just being there will no doubt naturally ignite participation in the services. We want to make sure to perpetuate the great unifying faith of America.

Outside the grand sign can be clearly seen:
The Alderwood Mall


...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 7:37 AM [+]
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Monday, May 12, 2003

The Old Woman
How we came to be her…

Though I did go back to finish my last year in college, I would spend most every weekend and school vacation back home in order to be near Mother Elysia – I felt like a parched sponge sitting next to a very dirty Ford Explosion (ahem…I mean Excursion) waiting impatiently to be dipped into the frothy bucket of water – so bad did I feel the need to soak up her wisdom. The words of my old friend (“she knows a lot of stuff”) now seem to me to be the most colossal understatement of all time. We as a culture ought to heavily lament the lack of attention we give to those who possess the wisdom of experience. In so doing, we force ourselves to reinvent the essence of our existence with each new generation by living and understanding life as though no one ever lived before us. Like Mother Elysia said to me: “the present commands the past along with the future.”

But, I ought to add (do I need to?) that Mother Elysia is more than just a wise elderly woman. By stepping onto her porch this becomes very quickly evident, as I believe I have related to you already. She seemingly possesses an endless stream of collective wisdom, which attracts pilgrims like myself to come and sit at her feet and listen. Quite a change from how I used to relate to this old woman.

As children we behold someone old, ugly and different and we become uncomfortable and to appease our self-identity, we ridicule them – disdaining their inherent (often unintentional) challenge to our perception of the world in all it glorious newness and “presentness.” This old person cannot keep up, they are out of style, out of contact, and out of new ideas - they are dying. (And Lord knows we do not wish to be reminded of death.) As I noted in my experience with Mother Elsyia, as we grow older we learn to wrap our disdain in sophisticated terminology and it that disdain evolves into a sort of pompous pity. Yes, in all our present wisdom, we self-righteously judge the past and make our plans for the future, having genuine sympathy for this obsolete person who obviously lags behind us.

What a strange experience it is to suddenly realize that something or someone we perceived as being archaic, is in fact amazingly adept at assembling the fractured pieces of this world (and our lives) into an inclusive whole. In truth, Mother Elysia is the polar opposite of obsolete; she is altogether applicable to our world today – though we are unsuccessful in seeing it. Like dogs chasing their tails, we circle round and round in an asinine quest for meaning and fullness – because, quite simply – we can see the tail, it is here, it is now, and we want it. Mother Elysia often counsels me to take time each day to sit, alone, and in silence, while the world continues its maddening pursuit of the newest fads, trends, and technologies – just like the dog chasing its tail. Indeed, the present commands the past along with the future.

Now that I myself am on the road to becoming an old man, I have found myself beginning to see the tyranny of the present passing away – almost naturally. Perhaps there is a certain grace in this, who knows? I did not wish to turn my account of my experience with Mother Elysia into a sermon, but alas I suppose grand and profound experiences are destined to become such, and whether we react positively or negatively to any sermon depends, in no small part, on the temporal location of our hearts. Mother Elysia will not, of course ever die, but as I note the gray hairs multiplying like rabbits in my beard and the wrinkles, which readily delineate my face, my own mortality is made present to me. The derision from youth will begin soon enough, and I am already rigging my porch for the installation of a very nice swing.

It is not suitable to merely listen to Mother Elysia - we must become her. Entering into that timeless slipstream of awareness which is Elysia, our blessed home and make ourselves it. That home where past, present, and future are triune.


...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 2:52 PM [+]
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Friday, May 09, 2003

This is too precious not to share...

Monkey's with keyboard fail to produce Shakespeare.

my favorite part in the report:

At first, said Phillips, "the lead male got a stone and started bashing the hell out of it.


"Another thing they were interested in was in defecating and urinating all over the keyboard," added Phillips, who runs the university's Institute of Digital Arts and Technologies.


Eventually, monkeys Elmo, Gum, Heather, Holly, Mistletoe and Rowan produced five pages of text, composed primarily of the letter S. Later, the letters A, J, L and M crept in.

Utterly beautiful.


...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:43 AM [+]
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The Old Woman
How we came to love her…

Now I realize that where I last left off may leave one with a certain sort of skepticism regarding what took place in the aftermath of Elysia’s greeting. I am afraid such skepticism will only by intensified as I relate what followed my sudden change of perception as noted previously. I am certain that these experiences, as is the case with all such events which may be called miraculous, are the sort that unless one is present at their actual occurrence, any retelling of them is condemned to seem all at once trite, unbelievable, and hopelessly exaggerated. I’ll make no efforts to excuse the strangeness of it all, but rather will simply relate what my eyes, ears, and heart beheld.

The sudden role reversal gave my momentum pause, and I found myself standing flabbergasted on the landing of Elysia’s stairs leading up to her porch. She looked as old as ever I remembered her being, and the drab colored dress, which she wore, might as well have been worn by a despondent and ill-attired Vivian Leigh while watching Atlanta fall to General Sherman. A strange bouffant hat crowned he raggedy gray hair, and was just silly looking enough for me to not feel overwhelmed by her otherwise strange and suddenly regal presence.

She encouraged me to come on up, get out of the sun, and to sit for a spell (her words) with a glass of lemonade. Without much hesitation at all, I made my way carefully up the three stairs to the porch, and as I did, my perceptions seemed to betray me once again. With the first step I could hear in the distance a siren’s wail announcing the approach of a hasty fire engine, the almost subliminal soft roar of the nearby freeway, and a young boy offering taunts to the “crazy old lady…”, but by the time I reached the threshold of the porch, these sounds had faded to the quietude of birds singing, children playing joyfully, and a breeze gently tickling its way through tree tops. The moment I stepped onto the porch, the audio change caused me to nearly lose my balance and I grabbed hold of the rail and spun around – away from Elysia to see if my visual senses could discern what had happened.

The world had changed…and yet, it had not. It was the same, as I remembered it a moment before, but it was also the same as I remembered it some 15 years ago when we had first moved to the neighborhood. Trees that had long since been removed or collapsed in some winter storm were seemingly restored; houses, which had been replaced with modern apartment buildings, still remained…as did the apartments! (the impossibility of which I could not explain then, nor can I now.) Other things appeared new and foreign, having never been apart of the city I knew to be home. People, most of whom I did not recognize, strolled the streets wearing all manner of strange clothing and as they passed they would inevitably wave toward the porch calling out to “Mother Elysia.” The sight of a horse drawn carriage plodding down the street and being passed through by a ’69 Corvette was about all I could take.

“Strange…is it not?” Elysia said to me comfortingly.

I nodded as I turned around and was confronted with another Rod Serling style shocker. Elysia had changed uttrerly: no longer an old woman in late 19th century garb (as best as I could discern her prior attire), she was now a middle aged woman in a bright yellow sun dress, still smiling the same smile, while offering a plate topped with two perspiring glasses of lemonade. She was beautiful, in the motherly sense of the word, and despite my own internal fear filled struggles to comprehend what was going on around me, she seemed to inspire an instantaneous familiarity that calmed me. Referring to her as Mother, given her new appearance, seemed altogether natural to me at that moment.

Sensing my unease at all the metamorphosis around me, she invited me to sit down on her swing, and then offered some explanation. I have since committed her exact words to memory.

“From the outside, things are all simply as they appear, and the present commands the past along with the future. But from the inside,” She smiled broadly, “…from the inside, all things simply are. Past, present, and future are Triune.”

In such situations, of bewilderment, one is inclined to pay very close attention to what is being told to you, and though I am still not sure exactly what she meant, her words none-the-less rung true to me and for the time being helped me to understand what was happening. We talked for quite sometime as I tried to ignore the frequent interruptions of old train whistles from engines now apparently running on tracks I knew to be long since abandoned, the work horns blaring from the distant lumber mill which had not seen labor since 1920, or the occasional aircraft (if I can call them that) which would silently spin past overhead.

We would spend no time engaged in small talk, or the exchange of pleasant niceties. Any hope for remembrance of my original mission to deliver an apology had vanished, and instead I found myself exploring an entirely unknown realm guided by this old woman’s wise words. I was just along for the ride…willingly, but not decisively.

Really, the specifics of what Mother Elysia said to me are not important…at least not to you who are reading my account here. Though I cannot be wholly sure, I suspect that what she has to offer people who visit her porch may vary slightly for each individual…though always with the same goal in mind (patience…we shall come to this matter in proper order). Suffice to say that no truer words have been spoken (or written for that matter) than what this strange woman verbally handed over to me that day. As is often the case with real truth, it both hurts and heals and I walked away feeling as though I’d had old wounds opened, cleaned, dressed, and my mind’s pockets filled with prescriptive medicine. I would be back…there was little doubt of that.

As I left the porch the world returned to normal…but not so with me.

more to come


...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 8:29 AM [+]
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Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Email Change
Please note, due to unfathomably excessive spam of very highly questionable moral content, I have had my email address changed. Please note the link above to see the new address. Thanks!


...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 11:39 AM [+]
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I Love these pictures...

An Orthodox woman venerates the stone which sealed Christ's tomb

Romanian Orthodox Priest at Pascha Services...or is it Aragorn?


...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 8:00 AM [+]
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The Old Woman
How we came to meet her…

Poor old Elysia received a good deal more of our derision (both directly and indirectly) during the cruel teen years of our lives. Those years when self-centeredness becomes a perfected art form and thoughts of yesterday or tomorrow are rare and always hinged upon the utilitarian present. The “here and now”, the current, and the “up to date” are all that matter to us in these years and for many, we never really escape the tyranny of the immediate. Arguably, we as a culture have become one big societal teenager. But, Elysia weathered us well, plodding along in her outwardly mundane, yet dignified existence, essentially unaware of those new fangled things we possessed and ways we behaved which brought so much comfort and self-assurance to our crazy lives.

Of all the strangeness surrounding Elysia, we cannot say that she was a lonely person. Indeed we would see numerous people paying her visits from time to time, but for the most part we did not know any of these visitors – which of course added to the intrigue of it all. Imagine my shock and surprise to see, while in transit, a friend sitting on Elysia’s porch swing, sipping lemonade and apparently chatting most agreeably with the decrepit specter of a woman! I couldn’t even manage a wave and a smile when our eyes met, but rather hurried along to my next important destination to relay the strange news. The aforementioned friend would have many, many questions to answer.

“Elysia’s not that bad” was essentially all he could muster in defense of the situation, as we laid into him unmercifully. He, however, did not seem to wish to talk about it much and I can vividly recall how this once rambunctious and rowdy teenager had suddenly become more subdued, in control, and serious – so much so that many of us speculated as to what the old woman might have done to our friend. Even witchcraft was amongst the theories. None of us could fathom what our friend saw in this crazy, old, and obsolete woman. What could they possibly talk about since it was obvious that Elysia had no concept of what the real world was all about, what was important in modern life, and where the world was headed. Eventually we concluded that he must have simply been visiting her for the sake of charity: maybe he was teaching her how to use a computer or something.

One day, while once again in transit (after all this is what we do as modern persons: we continually transition ourselves) I again saw my friend on Elysia’s porch. Later in a rare moment of real teen openness, I asked my friend discreetly why he was spending time with the old woman. His answer contained words that would haunt and perplex me for years to come:

”Mother Elysia knows a lot about stuff, she helps me think through shit.”

Now how this woman, stuck in the dark ages, could be described as knowing anything useful was strange in and of itself, but the fact that my friend called her “mother” scared the hell out of me. What was going on here?

Alas, time (meaning the hustle and bustle of hurried modern living) would not afford me opportunity to seek a detailed explanation from my friend. College directed us to different geographies and as often happens we subsequently lost contact with one another. But, strangely, I found myself often thinking about him and his “mother” Elysia.

Whereas childhood in our culture had taught me to scorn Elysia for her peculiarities, college enlightened me to instead have pity on her for her lack of intellectual and social sophistication, which I had – of course – come to possess by the summer of my senior year. With this pity in mind, I decided to finally pay Elysia a formal visit and express sorrow for my ignorant youthful misbehavior. Such condescension on my part seemed altogether appropriate and I was certain that despite her simplicity that she would appreciate and understand the profundity and generousness of my gesture.

As I approached Elysia’s porch, she turned to me from her porch swing, smiled, and much to my surprise, gently spoke my name. In that instant, it seemed my world was turned upside down, as it became oddly and suddenly clear to me that she would be the one condescending to meet me. I cannot explain it beyond an overriding sense that by way of her speaking my name, and her offering of a warm smile that I knew beyond any doubt that I was supremely out ranked. An altogether odd thing for a young strapping American college man to sense.

more to come…


...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 7:49 AM [+]
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Tuesday, May 06, 2003

The Old Woman
How we came to notice her…

I’m told that nearly every neighborhood has one, and my experience seems to have born this out: a strange individual whose peculiarity incites grandiose tales of intrigue, mystery, and even conspiracy. For us, the old woman Elysia was the inspiration for many a childhood fear and exaggerated story.

Of course, at the time when I was a child, we did not know her name - quite the contrary. She was a near mythical and yet comedic figure who spent much of her time sitting on her porch swing rocking, crocheting or knitting while singing some old hymn, which no one had ever heard of. To us children, she was unfathomably old – and in truth no one (not even Elysia herself) knew how many years had passed since her birth. So wrinkled and dried was her skin that many an unkind word was offered by us children so as to hint derisively that she had actually died long ago.

Elysia seemed, to us, to be lost amidst the rising tide of modern technology and culture. There was no place in our world in which she did not seem impossibly out of place. Her clothes and mannerisms were of a time so old, that we could scarcely date it – far beyond being out of fashion, she looked to be the star of some Hollywood period picture and what little conversation we had with her (at the time) was often indecipherable or at the very best uncomfortable because she didn’t seem to grasp the delicate modern social rules of interaction.

Really it was her persistent presence which continually called Elysia to our attention, though for the most part, we ignored the old woman on her porch. She was just there…existing, but not at all relevant to the bustling world we were apart of. She had no cell phone, she was not surfing the internet super-highway, no TV antenna or Dish could be found attached to her home, we never saw the cable guy parked out front, and rumor had it that she didn’t even have a cordless phone in the house. In our minds, she lived in the dark ages – thoroughly oblivious to the world around her, and as such she was a ripe target for the bolstering of our own self-esteem.

It’s a funny thing how the elderly seem to vanish under the wave of modern culture. They cannot keep up with the latest fads, the latest alterations in language, the latest advances in technology, nor the ever-increasing speed with which everyday life is lived today. For many of them, life outside of their front porch becomes a frightening and torrential whirlwind in which we younger folks scurry about as if it were perfectly normal. Elysia, it seemed, was a hundred times more unable to keep up to date with the times than anyone I’d ever come across…and yet instead of shrinking back into fear and quietude, Elysia revealed something altogether different in her eyes which seemed more alive than any I’d ever met. But of course, I would not come to know this, until I would at last meet her…in the years after childhood stories became recognized as such.

more to come...


...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:16 AM [+]
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Monday, May 05, 2003

Coming Soon!
There is an old woman who quietly lives down the street...I believe we might go to meet her...

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 11:04 AM [+]
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Last night I ran into a Buddhist monk at Target
Wierd.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 7:19 AM [+]
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Friday, May 02, 2003

Take your Medicine

Karl over at St. Stephen's Musings has put up a couple of fascinating posts. Read first from April 29th and then April 30th. All of which meshes very well with what I am reading from Metropolitan Hierotheos: that Christianity is a healing science and that the Church is its hospital. I implore everyone to read the wonderful details that Karl provides.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 9:05 AM [+]
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Icons

My wife and I have commissioned an Icon from Paul Azkoul for my daughter Charissa. We are very excited and cannot wait for her to see it, as she is the only person in the family for whom we have been unable to find a reproduction Icon. So, she gets a handwritten one!

Speaking of which, my wife was blessed with a wonderful Pascha gift from her Godmother and our Khouria: a handwritten Icon of her Patron, St. Sophia! It is absolutely gorgeous and was produced in Romania.

Tonight, we gather at our home for a little Bright Friday cook out over our firepit - dancing the dance, celebrating the celebration, being in the slipstream of the ecclesial seasons. Christ is Risen!

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 7:32 AM [+]
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The Season of Bright Week

Generally all has been quiet on the northwestern front as of late. The hurried yet sacred pace of Holy Week leaves us now in Bright Week with a sense of What should we be doing? Well, one of the obvious answers is that we are doing alot of eating - in particular meat, but at the same time I personally find myself reflecting alot on Lent and of course the crescendo we call Pascha. More generally I am thinking about seasons.

"Nature" gives us seasons – a rhythm by which to play the music of life. Our modern society has to a large extent lost touch with this, but you can bet that it was a HUGE deal for agrarian cultures. Indeed, we humans have always lived amidst the seasons and we still to this day look upon them with a good deal of nostalgia. Despite our lessor dependence upon them, they still lurk and occassionally lord over us. So basic are the season to us, that they become for us very symbols of life, death, and rebirth.

The Church has also blessed us with different - yet related - seasons, which also are intended to be for us to be a rhythm of life. Fasting and Feasting, Repenting and Rejoicing, Prostrating and Dancing…on and on it goes. The whole of the Church is like a powerful slipstream which spans history, and as we enter into the rhythm of the ecclesial seasons – a sort of submitting to the wind – we begin to see just how these motions are joined to a whole and how they guide our lives. Not at all unlike how the solar seasons guide the life of a farmer.


...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 7:18 AM [+]
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