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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, July 30, 2003

I love coffee...especially Alana's

It seems a host of Orthodox bloggers are arising...too many to keep track of anymore...but Alana's Morning Coffee really has robust and simple flavors than tickle the tastebuds of the heart. See:

...maybe sometimes the decision to follow God is as simple and as hard as the decision to get off the computer and go get some laundry folded. I have a headache.

Oh, yes...I'll be back for more of this sort of caffeine!

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:58 AM [+]
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Kelsey Anna (Sierra)
Someone pulled the old "switcheroo"!

In two ways. First, we have changed Kelsey's nameday. When one's patron is a fairly "important" figure such as St. Anna (the mother of the mother of God...so ummm, the theotokos-tokos?) then there are typically a number of feastdays in their honor. However, in most cases a Saint is remembered primarily on the day they reposed and so we decided that Kelsey's nameday should be celebrated then, whereas before we did so on the date of St. Anna's conception of the Theotokos which was December 9th. Of course, the switch was not without utilitarian purpose, December 9th is ALWAYS during the Advent fast. No Cake, Ice Cream, or wine for Dad. Yuck!

Anyway, July 25th is the new date. The OTHER "switcheroo" is in Kelsey's name. Her middle name is legally "Sierra", but it is never used. Not intentially, but actually quite naturally she has come to be known as Kelsey Anna and we often have to sit down to remind oursleves that it is not her "real" name.

The mosaic of St. Anna above is from the 11th century Monastary called Neo Moni on Chios in Greece. St. Anna along with her husband St. Joachim are remembered at the end of every Orthodoxy Liturgy, being called...amazingly...the ancestors of God.

Let us celebrate the memory of the ancestors of Christ
And fervently beseech their aid;
Thus salvation is given to all those who cry out:
O God who glorified them according to Your will, ever remain with us!


...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 8:47 AM [+]
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And OUTSTANDING Website

The Watchful Gate

Highly recommended! Go and stay for awhile. As I've mentioned before, the contemplative, mystical, and deep spirituality of Eastern Orthodoxy is Christianity's greatest hope in the post-modern era. If you have a friend or loved one who is heading to the very far east for "enlightenment" because christianity seems too dry or cold...tell them to stop at Mt. Athos on their way. There is more...much more. Christ is the Eternal Tao.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 8:15 AM [+]
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Friday, July 25, 2003

Meet Joe Black
Imagine Jesus kicking the crud outa Brad Pitt

Finished the lecture series on death. It ended with such a profound crescendo that I was moved nearly, I say nearly (am I just getting hard hearted in my old age, or what?) to tears. Anyway, some of the thoughts which really moved me:

The intimate link between death and sin: re-read the Genesis account of the Fall, but read it with an image of God not being righteously angry and handing down a judgement, but on the contrary grief-stricken and telling his beloved why He felt that way.
Why we Orthodox tend to prefer the term "Pascha" to "Easter": Pascha, the Greek for Passover, clues us in to the emphasis of Orthodox theology in regards to Christ's work. Jesus did not come to be a sort of "sacrificial virgin", but moreso to become a man - subject to death - and then to kick death's ass. His resurrection was not the "haha - told you I was God!" proof that I used to think it was, but was in fact the REAL work of His mission. To "trample down death by death." Unlike so many other things, He did not enter into death in order to transfigure it or redeem it...nope, He destroyed it!

He fixes the great vexing problem that began in the Garden so long ago. The death and sin which plagued His beloved is overcome. His solution is so beautiful. He is the first fruit of our healing that is ongoing and will be perfected.

It received a body and encountered God. It received earth, and met heaven. It received that which it saw, and fell to what it did not see. O death, where is thy sting? O hades, where is thy victory?
-Paschal Homily of St. John Chrysostom


and of course, those wonderful words which nearly (nearly I say!) brought me to my knees the first time I heard them on Holy Saturday:

Today Hades lets out a groan: "Would that I had not received the son of Mary: for when He came upon me He dissolved my power; He shattered the gates of bronze; the souls I had held captive, as God He raised up." Glory, Lord, to Your Cross and Your Resurrection.

Today Hades lets out a groan: "My sovereignty is destroyed. I received Him as a mortal, one among the dead; but this One I am powerless to contain; instead with Him I lose all I had governed. I had held the dead for ages, but behold, He resurrects all." Glory, Lord, to Your Cross and Your Resurrection.

Today Hades lets out a groan: "My might is swallowed up: the shepherd was crucified but raised up Adam. All I ruled over I have lost; all I was able in my power to consume, I have disgorged. The crucified One has emptied the graves. The sway of death is no more." Glory, Lord, to Your Cross and Your Resurrection.

St. Seraphim of Sarov, it is said, used the Paschal greeting year round...for good reason.

Indeed He is Risen!

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 8:07 AM [+]
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A Miracle

Have you ever experienced the most seemingly simplistic of miracles that none-the-less you feel literally saved you? I dare not elaborate, suffice to say that a situation arose in which I was bound and determined (though my conscience was struggling against it all) to enter into sin...Yes I was aiming with full intent of missing the mark.

In my mind, I saw the cards falling and I had just about committed to the bet I was going to place. But God sat down beside me at the most costly of blackjack tables in the "Passion Casino" and struck up a conversation with me...about Him. The dealer asked for my bet to be placed and I told him to deal me out this hand.

Love won the day.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have Mercy on me a sinner....despite myself!

Perhaps if I'd get off my lazy ass and pray more diligently, I would not need to have the Holy Spirit Search and Rescue Team pull me out of the muck? Maybe, you think?

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 7:36 AM [+]
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Tuesday, July 22, 2003

More concerning the dead

The Fathers will often say that one should frequently be in contemplation of death. Not that my habit of reading the Obituaries is a pious response to this advice, rather it is something I "enjoy" doing from time to time. Sometimes you will find some very interesting tidbits of information and I think I might even walk away from the newspaper with some small portion of the benefits the Fathers have envisioned.

Almost without fail, most obituaries will end with: "In lieu of flowers, please make donations to ____________"

But one realtively young woman who lost her battle against breast cancer - we'll call her Denise - apparently had other ideas.

"In lieu of donations, Denise asks that you please send flowers."

No commentary to add...just thought it interesting.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 1:09 PM [+]
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This isn't morbid...

You know, I sorta have two patron saints. It's a long story, and I'll not bore anyone here and now about it. Suffice to say, I'm quite fond of both St. James, the Brother of God and St. Irenaios of Lyon who apparently lacks a cool descriptive title in his name - save for the geographic one. I like to call him: Hammer of the gnostics but that, I guess, lacks some sense of good christian charity. Oh well.

Anyway, I was thinking last weekend about how I'd never really heard where the relics of my patron - St. Irenaios - could be found today. I posed the question on the Orthodox-Convert list and received my answer rather swiftly: St. Irenaios' relics were kept in the altar of a Church in France until they were destroyed by calvinists in the 16th century. When I read this, it really bothered me...not theologically or even religiously at all. More like one might feel to learn that someone has desecrated the tomb of a loved one...it really stung my heart to hear this nearly 400 year old news. I still marvel at how I felt and feel about it.

Some "dead" (for let us be truthful: there are no dead christians!) guy from 1,801 years ago! And I, in 2003, am saddened to hear that his tomb and relics were destroyed in 1562! It's just some dead guys bones after all, right? Sigh...things have changed in my mind and heart...evidence of "the gap" (I imagine) that my good friend Seraphim mentioned in the comments a few posts back. It is profoundly more than some "dead guy's bones."

I am listening to a lecture series taped during the Eagle River Institute from a few years back in which the topic of "personal eschatology" (I love that phrase!) is addressed...meaning death of course. It is a fascinating talk and one of the things that is emphasized a is the anthropological theology of the Church which affirms that authentic and holistic personhood is found in a united soul AND body. Death is the UNNATURAL rending of the soul from the body and it is understood by the Fathers as a transition which can be difficult or shocking for the person involved - and this is in part why we pray for them.

Therefore, since death is decidedly UNnatural, we should consider shying away from the terminology which makes any reference to a so called "natural" death. And furthermore, we do not toss the body away as if we were done with it or at last free from it (like the wrapper of a candy bar): an attitude rather prevalent in our culture here. Orthodox Christians are generally forbidden from cremating the deceased. (The only exception I know of being the Japanese Orthodox Christians where I understand it is illegal to bury.) The Body is still apart of what makes us the IMAGE and LIKENESS of God and thus we reverence the body we do not "dispose of it."

A new acquaintence from England visited the United States recently in order to assist his brother who was dying of cancer. He happened to be Orthodox and so spent sometime with our Parish and this is how I met him. When his brother finally did repose (may his memory be eternal), he related to us how he engaged in the practice of ritually washing the body and preparing it for burial...it was powerful just to hear him describe it, I cannot imagine how the experience must have impacted him! But it seems appropriate and perfectly in keeping with the most ancient of Judaic/Christian beliefs and customs. Recall why the myrrhbearing women were bearing myrrh? (Speaking of which, today is St. Mary Magdalene's feast day!).

Many of our modern attitudes toward death and dying frankly reeks of gnostic understandings: how often have we heard people say such things which seem to imply that a certain release and freedom is to be found in the soul leaving the body? As if the deceased found death to be a sort of unshackling or an extrication! As I noted earlier, the Church teaches the very opposite, it is a rather shocking and disturbing thing for the soul to suddenly find itself bodiless! Were St. Irenaios present with us bodily today, his battle with gnosticism would not be finished! I seek his prayers for the gnosticism I know sometimes resides in my own thinking!

St. Irenaios, we know for certain, at least knew the venerable Bishop Polycarp and may have actually been one of his disciples. Bishop Polycarp was martyred around 155AD. The following is from the account of his martyrdom after they pagans had burned the Saints body (emphasis mine):

Thus we, having afterwards taken up his bones, more valuable than precious stones, laid them where it was suitable.
There, so far as is allowed us, when we are gathered together in exultation and joy, the Lord will enable us to celebrate the birthday of the martyrs, both for the memory of those who have contended, and for the exercise and preparation of those to come.

Read it again: ...of those to come

Want to know why we keep dead bodies (relics) in our Church, and why we remember the saints and keep their memories alive through our calender? Well, perhaps the best response to such an inquirer is a question more consequential to the situation: "Why did you stop doing so?"

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 7:26 AM [+]
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Monday, July 21, 2003

Is it time?

A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, You are mad. You are not like us.
– St. Anthony the Great

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 8:07 AM [+]
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Punks to Monks et al

By now most of you have heard of this movement (either by Frederica's book or from one of us bloggers), but in any event one of these punk to monk guys, Justin (John) Marler - who cowrote the book Youth of the Apocolypse - spent seven years in a Monastery before returning to the music scene in the form of a new (at the time) band called The Sabians. Their newest album is being released in the next week and it sounds pretty cool - interesting to hear Orthodox Spirituality expressed in this musical genre, but I'm down with it! (Can I say that as an old father of four who drives a minivan?!?!?!)

Also, I was introduced to Joyful Sorrow whose sound is decidedly more mellow and for this reason probably more readily appeals to my "acquired" (read: old crusty) tastes. Heather if you read this, please don't take offense at my having said that! LOL!
I like these folks...I mean, really, how can you go wrong with a pretty instrumental entitled of sarov?

We need more artistic expression of the Orthodox heart and mind in America. And they need our support: buy their stuff!
I'll ask my wife if I can.



...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 7:55 AM [+]
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Friday, July 18, 2003

Joseph!

What a cute kid!

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 3:11 PM [+]
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Thursday, July 17, 2003

Another one bites the dust...

I've just learned, and rejoice that an old and recently reaquired friend (we'd been out of touch for too long) is going to be enrolled into the catechumenate at St. Andrew Orthodox Church perhaps as early as next week! Please keep Matthew (Matt) in your prayers as he continues in this most intense part of his journey toward the Orthodox Church.

Joy and beauty abound!

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 8:10 AM [+]
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Selfless Beauty

What to do with beauty? What to do, what to do, what to do?

It drove me mad. It didn't fit. I hated the fact that it appealed so much to me on a level I'd not experienced or cultivated before...it was illuminating, and in the light the rooms within me seemed quite untidy.

This poem, that painting, or some great work of literature laying before my heart and eyes a profound act of selfless nobility which communicated more truth to me than any science or math text I'd read before. Truth which motiviated me, changed me, challenged me, and filled my heart with...with that much distrusted thing: feeling.

Why should these words strung together in such a way cause my heart to leap? Why should a stupid selfless act portrayed in fiction make me feel awe? Why should the word beauty have ever been invented or instrumented beyond the realm of reproduction? A mountain, a sunset, a beach, a canyon of grand scale - why should we humans take note of such pusposeless things? Why should we ponder them and our place in the world? Why should we fell compelled to create anything beyond the strictest of utiliatarian purposes? Why should we sing, even when there is no one around to listen?

Damned self-reflection in beauty! It haunts me still.

But beauty...despite the suffering...is the place where "natural theology" begins....not the sciences.

Thank you to my High School English teacher, Mr. Lee Leonardo, for showing me beauty...for therein I have found God. And I would not be Orthodox today where it not for that ever present haunting and longing for selfless beauty which you inspired in me. I wish I could find you and thank you in person.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 7:39 AM [+]
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Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Listening from a distance

Everyone in the lab here knows that myself and another coworker are religious...the extent to which they know this and how they interpret such an understanding is largely unknown to me though. However, they must have thought it odd yesterday at lunch that we two (admittedly the most religious - perhaps ONLY religious persons present) remained silent as the others around the table began discussing issues that were decidedly religious: marriage vs. living together and whether the latter was "sinful." Sadly, I missed some of the context but did manage to hear enough to gain some insight - which suprisingly does seem to happen when one keeps their big mouths shut.

One thing I noticed was word useage. In "secular" settings, when any moral or religious topic arises it seems that people preface everything they say with the language of individuality: "I think...I believe...for me..." etc etc. Of course we recognize that this is nothing new, we live in a society that is increasingly weary of consenting to anything other than subjective truths in the realm of morality and religion. But for me, the expression of this subjectivism was palpable yesterday...I could smell and taste it, so thick it was in the room. Marriage lost the day of course...it was once again downgraded to nothing more than a legal contract useful for little more than changing names. As a protestant society - lacking a sacramental understanding - could we expect anything more? Is this not the logical conclusion to the experiment we began some 500 years ago or so? Truly, I see a clear and direct connection between Sola Scriptura (understood in my context as Scripture being the sole authority and each "informed" [or perhaps even otherwise] individual has the right - indeed obligation - to personal interpretation) and moral ambiguity.

Seriously, I should like to see ANY protestant argument for the importance of marriage that will not collapse like a house of cards by the simple statement made by a coworker yesterday: "If we are committed to one another and we promise to remain so, how are we not married in God's eyes?"

What could I have said to these people as they ran marriage through the modern western legal dungheep? Thankfully, no one stopped to ask what I thought...and so I just listened and lamented - truly I did. It was a sad sort of pulse-taking of our society and where we are headed. Had I been asked (as I told my other religious coworker later), I know what I would have said:

What good is it for me to try and tell you whether I think you are "living in sin"? In discussing such things, we must understand that we are leaping intellectually from two very different platforms. We would in essence be trying to install different windows in a home for which the foundation has not yet even been poured.

I should have asked them all: "What is sin?" For I should have VERY much liked to get their opinions on THAT topic. Of course we are a culture of inbred legal understandings....knowing next to nothing about the Eastern Patristic medicinal understanding of sin.

The individuality factor is striking to me still though. What makes us, as individual so damn confident that we can discern religious and moral truth all by our little selves? Is it the fact that we come to believe that said truths are only valid for ourselves to begin with? Perhaps. Who cannot easily pontificate on matters believed to be solely intended for themselves? Much like a child surrounded by a large collection of toys, all for his or her self - just waiting for the child to invent his own little play world.

I wonder if this is not why Orthodoxy sometimes seem so strange to us - it seemingly invites us out of our own little "play worlds" in order to teach us to play with all the others milling about the big playground. As such, there is a tradition to follow which has been discerned by others who have played on the plaground before and have left them for us, to assist us in our playing and to keep us from having to find such things out on our own: with bruises and scrapes (or worse!). There are "playground" truths that are applicable to everyone, but they are not like the truths I work with here in this lab.

I work with truths that are laws...so called laws of nature. Morality and sin are not like this. There is not necceasarily a direct and empirically evidential consequence to my cheating on my wife - certainly there could be, but the fact that sometimes you can get away with it without obvious consequences tends to alienate the truth of it being a "sin" from the truth of say DNA replication neccesarily having to take place with the assistance of a protein called Polymerase. No, the things of God run deeper than what we see, hear, feel, smell or touch...there is indeed a 6th sense: the eye of the soul as it is sometimes called. Here it is that we find the neccesary consequence to sin, for we blind ourselves and yet we do not even know it.

This "truth" is where we meet the Person who is the Real Truth.

Have I babbled enough?

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 8:33 AM [+]
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Tuesday, July 15, 2003

When the healing doesn’t come…where’s hope?

Still waiting to read what will become of Ivan’s argument from suffering in The Brothers. Meanwhile I think of where my mind would be if my wife or child were suffering and dying from a terrible disease from which it seems no amount of prayer will dissuade the Almighty from the course onto which we’ve been blown. What do you do with the pain? How do you bear it?

I hope you are not expecting answers, dear reader.

Somehow, I was subscribed to a magazine entitled Outside which is essentially published for the really hardcore climber, hiker, biker, or whatever one might do outside away from concrete. I hardly read it at all, but will occasionally when strapped for material thumb through it. The most recent issue offered the following article as titled on the cover: The Amputee Climber: How Far Would YOU Go to Survive? Certainly worth a look, I deemed.

Finding the actual page in the magazine though, I found that the real title of the piece was The HARD Way. Hmmmm…

Of course the author centers his writing around the story of Aron Ralston who after five days of having had his hand pinned by a large boulder in a remote region of Utah decided that his only hope was to break his arm bones (apparently by simply bending around and using his body weight) and then sawing through his arm with the dull blade of his generic leatherman tool. He was then able to walk some five miles to rescue, and as the story puts it: “he walked unaided off the helicopter to a waiting gurney team.” Wow.

The article shifts at this point to talk about something called a “survivor personality” and one expert is quoted as saying the following about “survivor” traits: When something horrible happens, they immediately accept the situation for what it is and consciously decide that they will do everything in their power to get through it. The writer of the article offers further commentary: …they have the ability to rationally accept dreadful circumstances without becoming angry or passive, two common responses to extreme stress.

This intrigued me because I seem to remember that the word humility has a certain notion, inherent in its meaning, of acceptance – particularly of situations I gather. It sort of makes me think that the defeatist (the opposite of a “survivor”?) would always enter into desperate situations with the question: WHY ME?!?!?!?! Whereas the survivor doesn’t waste time or energy asking such self-centered questions…of course, surviving is a self-centered act in and of itself – but I am tending to think of a more pressing sort of survival.

At the end of the story, the author provides numerous real life examples that parallel the experience of Ralston, as if to say: it happens more often than you think! Who can doubt such a thing? I am surrounded by suffering everyday…I see it in the eyes of the patients here at the Cancer Care facility. Most of them look to be survivors to me…but I suppose in the end do we have a choice? When the bones won’t break or we don’t have a leatherman tool to sever the appendage that binds us to our tomb, what then?

I imagine we look the tomb in the eye and enter in, with the prayer: “Remember me O Lord in your Kingdom”, trying hard not to ask: “Why me?” but rather: “Why the hell not me?” Those left behind hopefully pray for us who are at last resting. I don’t know what to do yet with the suffering that might escort us to the mouth of the tomb.

Ralston relates his powerful emotions at the very the moment when he’d severed his hand: All the desires, joys, and euphorias of a future life came rushing into me.

May it be so also at our death.

In this (hope of a future life), do we sense any redemption of suffering? Does suffering drive us closer to Him, knowing that it is only in Him that we can escape the darkness and death of this world? I feel this to be the case in what little suffering I have experienced…is it multiplied accordingly? Thinking, thinking, thinking….all the while knowing that the Fathers would advise praying, praying, praying.


...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 7:40 AM [+]
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Monday, July 14, 2003

How they Found Paradosis
on a much lighter note
(drum roll please....)

Here is a list of strange searches people have made that has (no doubt often with great dissapointment) landed them on this humble blog. Copied and pasted directly, so the spelling errors are theirs.

"slave to my wife"
welts pic post
funny Johnny Cochran sayings
interesting words
Lutheran hosptial creed
Protestant appreciation of theosis
gnostic wedding vows
Ephraim, blessing, sex, monastery
romanian girls
Philokalia MTV
serbian bikers
"THE ANCHOR HOLDS" and "sheet"
st. raphael patron saint of prayers for unrequited love
sayings. funny & prophetic
Sick Comments And Bumper Sticker Sayings
free demonic bitmaps

Well, to those who have found themselves here via searches such as these - and other equally odd ones yet to come - WELCOME! Why not stick around and we can discuss "demonic bitmaps" drawn by "romanian" "welt" bearing "slave wives" of "gnostic vow" taking husbands, who enjoying reading the "philokalia" while watching "MTV" with "serbian bikers" who often quote "funny sayings" from "johnny Cochran."

Ahhh..the internet, what a wonderful place. Perhaps this post will now land me at the top of the search results lists.....yeah.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 7:46 AM [+]
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Suffering

Contrary to what you might think, I am not contemplating this topic because I spent everyday of last week with approximately thirteen 13 year olds for nearly 6 hours each day. Though I might jokingly refer to such a thing as suffering...I know better. During this week I received news from an old neighbor and friend that the young mother and wife of the family has been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. She had fought (and we thought beaten) breast cancer several years ago, and now the doctors predict 6 months at best. Please pray for Janet and her family. I also continue to follow the Plamer Family and their fight against cancer - please pray for them as well. On top of this very real life suffering, I am reading that section of The Brothers Karamazov in which Ivan delivers his horrible soliloquy on the suffering of little children in the world...it pains me to read it. On a small scale I sometimes cause suffering for my children because of my sin (I wrestle with this as one of my many "problem areas"), but on a more cosmic scale am I pondering suffering today. I truly have so little first-hand knowledge of it, what could I possibly say about it?

Perhaps more later. Suffice to say now: it sucks.




...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 7:25 AM [+]
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Monday, July 07, 2003

The Lost Boy

This was my third experience in such matters. The first involved me eventually being found by my Dad in the Mall security office while busily and apparently happily sucking down a milkshake. The second had a police officer asking me: “Are you sure you searched the whole house” at the exact moment that I noticed my “missing” daughter soundly sleeping in the corner of the living room. This third experience was a bit more frightening than these others, due in no small part to the fact that it was me being the searching parent (in contrast to the first event) and it was during the closing moments of the crowded aforementioned 4th of July parade (in contrast to the second.)

No fear can be compared to that which a parent feels when at such a crowded event they realize that they cannot find one of their children. If you do not have kids, do not even try to grasp the horror of that moment and the moments that follow.

The drama would begin shortly after my wife’s words: “Where’s Nicholas?”

As friends split and went careening through the crowds, I headed northward up the main street –parallel to the parade traffic, which had just wound down to virtually nothing. As I moved through the dispersing crowd the one thought that continually kept running through my mind was that someone was also dispersing with my little boy! I was angry, I was scared, I was full of self-hatred for being foolish enough to lose track of my own child. Every news story of every lost child you’d ever heard of passes through your mind and the realization of all the human made evils that can befall a child press you to move faster and with more urgency. In my mind and heart, there can be no mercy for evil that is committed against a child. Forgive me, but I volunteer to attach the millstone.

Interestingly enough, I am moved to seek the help of my son’s patron. As I move onward, my eyes batting to and fro, looking to catch a glimpse of his little blue shirt and shorts I ask our father Nicholas for his prayers and help. Some of you may not realize that one of Saint Nicholas’ many miracles was performed when he was lead by God to the inn of an evil innkeeper. There he found the remains of three young boys who the innkeeper had kidnapped and murdered. Well it is written that “the prayer of a righteous man availeth much”, and through the prayers of St. Nicholas the boys were restored to life. And I believe that again, some 1700 years later on July 4th, that the prayers of this blessed man once again returned a child to his parents - safe.

My cell phone sprang to life to announce to me that my beloved Nicholas had been found! I nearly collapsed in relief. Somehow, whether led by someone with evil intent or strangely by the little boy’s own curiosity, Nicholas had made it all the way across the parade route street and was found wandering alone.

The following sunday at liturgy, as is my normal habit, I brought Nicholas before the relics of his patron saint. But on this day we paused and I motioned to the icon of the saint and I told Nicholas that it was through his prayers that mommy and daddy found him safe. I then said to him: "What do we say?" As he crossed himself and leaned forward to venerate the icon and relics I heard him whisper:

“tank too.”

Teary eyed, I offered my thanks as well…still do.

Now…about toddler leashes….


...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 8:20 PM [+]
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Saturday, July 05, 2003

Taking it out our front door and seeing blood in the streets of Bothell

The previous post generated some interesting conversation. I concluded my most recent comment with this:

If we could take our Christianity out our front door, instead of worrying so much about taking it to the polls - then maybe...just maybe there'd be no talk of gay "marriages"?

I recall Huw-Raphael recently posted about the fact that the real problem is not so much these individual issues such as homosexuality, feminism, liberalism, pedophilia, obesity, or whatever...the real source of ALL our troubles is HEDONISM.

Hedonism (from Dictionary.com): Pursuit of or devotion to pleasure, especially to the pleasures of the senses.
Philosophy: The ethical doctrine holding that only what is pleasant or has pleasant consequences is intrinsically good.
Psychology: The doctrine holding that behavior is motivated by the desire for pleasure and the avoidance of pain.


Now, yesterday we celebrated our nations independence...I explained it to my kids like this: "We used to be England, but now we aren't." They just shrugged, maybe I should have mentioned unfair taxation without representation?

We even got to witness a Revolutionary battle reenactment on the streets of downtown Bothell...as the crowd applauded, whooped, and hollared for the apparent victory of the rag tag colonials I kept wondering who was going to carry off the dead, saw off limbs of the wounded, and clean the blood off the street. To my suprise the shot soldiers simply got up and moved on down the street...how nice and sterile!

life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness

Are we a nation founded on hedonistic principles? How inherent in western individualism is hedonism? I wonder about such things...as the flags were waving and the hands were clapping. Am I unpatriotic because I couldn't manage to flame the fires of national pride in my heart? God knows I would not wish to live anywhere else...but do I say that because of the ease, wealth, comfort, and freedom I have here? Which of those are Christian virtues?

I'm still piecing all of this together in my head.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:55 AM [+]
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Thursday, July 03, 2003

Marriage as a political sacrament?

Senate Majority leader Bill Frist said last weekend that he would support a Constitutional Ammendment to ban gay marriage, saying that he believed marriage is a sacrament between a man and a woman. Ok. Great. What is Bill's religious affiliation? What does he understand a sacrament to be? More importantly, what does the United States Federal government understand a sacrament to be?

Am I the only person who finds it abit revealing that most american church wedding services has the officiating clergy person say "by the power vested in me by the state of _______ I now pronounce you man and wife?" I mean, really now, if it is "by the power of the state", why should I care if the pronunciation ends with "man and man"? What does the state have to do with sacraments?

Remember this post?
Or this one.

People ask me about this gay marriage thing and expect for me to go on a tirade about the moral depravity in our nation and such, but really I have little to say about it. I have too much moral depravity in my own heart to concern myself with silly bickering about the government, gays, and marriage. The Holy Mystery (aka sacrament) of Marriage is granted only by and in the Church. The State can do with it and call it what they like, but we sure as heck don't need to glean any authority from them.

Will legalizing "gay unions" (call it whatever you like) bring about the destruction of the American family? LOL! How could it decay more than it has already...and we heterosexuals have done just fine in killing it to begin with - just look around.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 7:14 AM [+]
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Wednesday, July 02, 2003

"My Priest-to-be"

The Title of an email my wife just sent out to family and friends in regards to our 11 month old son.

Just wanted to share this with you all. Not only does Joseph love to sing and chant but he is now crossing himself! When I say “Father, Son, Holy Spirit” and cross myself, he copies raising his hand up and down. He did this on his own this morning as I rocked him and sang the Trisagion. (And then of course I had to do it again and again to make sure I was seeing correctly!)



A proud Mother


How cool!


...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 11:47 AM [+]
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Looming

Interstate 5 moves along quite well at 5:45am. So do I, once the caffeine has begun its work. The air is crisp, clean, and a tad cool this morning…a lovely day looming in western Washington, with just a slight hint at the possibility of sprinkles from the partly cloudy sky.

Tormented by the silence (save road noise and the old motorcycle engine mistakenly placed in my small car), I turn on the radio to hear NPR offering the profoundly meaningful story of “the oldest male stripper in America.” I imagine they call such rubbish a “human interest story”? My mind wanders typically to the everyday things in my life: the assay results at the lab I must compile, the class planning I am working through for the teens of my parish, my bathroom repair/remodel that continues to haunt me, where the money is going to come from to get me through the month, etc etc.

As I round a bend in the freeway, just south of Shoreline, I find myself in the midst of a wonderful confrontation. A long straightaway in I-5 seems to suddenly collide with The Mountain in the distance. For the benefit of those unfamiliar with Seattle, I speak of Mt. Rainier of course, and today it could take your breath away. The just now rising sun paints one side in a shower of yellow and orange and as it sometimes does, it seems impossibly big today.

Funny, how I sometimes forget it is even there and then suddenly on a day like today its magnificent appearance pauses the day’s normality and forces me to say: wow! Though sometimes shrouded in the grayness of Seattle, and apparently very often ignored or forgotten by us locals, it is none-the-less always present…looming and waiting to awe.

Not unlike God.


...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 7:12 AM [+]
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Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Strange Places to find Orthodoxy

Clifton will no doubt find this interesting.

While doing research for my teen class next week, I happended upon this little interview of an Orthodox Priest (can anyone ID this father?) on a website maintained by the so-called "Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)." Apparently tracing their heritage to the Stone-Campbell movement, they say on one of their web pages:

"One important belief back then and now is that people shouldn't be forced to put faith in creeds but only in Jesus Christ."

I reckon they feel kosher using an Orthodox Priest because we call our Creed the "Symbol of Faith" as opposed to an object of faith? Who knows. Reading further, it appears to me they have a creed, but just call it a "shared affimration." Hmmmm...huge difference I'm sure.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 8:01 PM [+]
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Too Ethnic

Someone's wife on the Convert List was complaining that she could not become Orthodox because they are just too ethnic. (Jeez...obviously she's never been too my Parish!) If you think about it, its a funny thing to say...why do we American's think that we are devoid of any sort of ethnicity? We talk as if we are the default ethnicity of the world.

Thinking about the great protestant missionary effort to traditionally Orthodox countries, I sometimes wonder if you might overhear a potential Russian convert conversation go something like this:

Russian #1: "Did you check out that american missionary's church last night?"
Russian #2: "yeah."
Russian #1: "Well...What did you think?"
Russian #2: "It was alright...I might consider joining if it weren't so darned ethnic."

Of course, I recently read (could not find a link...sorry) about a Baptist church in Russia utilizing traditional Russian Orthodox architecture in the construction of their meeting place. There was no mention of whether they'd include Icons (hehehe.) Now, if Orthodox missionaries were to come here to convert protestants and if they'd adopt a similar strategy (to avoid the dreaded "ethnic" curse), what would it look like?

I don't think I'm feeling very good just thinking about it....everything seems so integral to Orthodoxy, it just wouldn't feel right to reduce it to head theology in order to "practice" it in a sterile auditorium ala Calvary Chapel. It seems like we Americans have a hard time with this...something to ponder and perhaps post about later.





...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 4:08 PM [+]
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Humility, Love, Forgiveness, and Moulin Rouge

Yes...Moulin Rouge. Stick with me folks.

I really have been seeing examples of how humility is intimately linked to love and forgiveness. Love and forgiveness are (in their purest forms) both selfless - centered not on the self, but rather on the OTHER. A scene in the aforementioned movie (which I liked, despite many a friend’s and acquaintance’s grimace at such a proclamation) really brought this home to me.

The penniless writer Christian has fallen in love with the courtesan Satine, who he eventually convinces to invest in love instead of material comfort and security. However, she wavers throughout and eventually under pressure from a rich and powerful Duke she uses her acting skills to rebuff Christian and tell him that she does not love him and was only using him (All of this was secretly being done to save his life as the Duke had threatened to kill the writer!). Broken hearted, Christian retreats into despair which turns to anger.

In the climax, he interrupts the stage production of a musical, which really mirrors the entanglements of Christian and Satine’s relationship, and angrily “pays his whore.” He storms off the stage spitting at Satine: “I owe you nothing!” Indeed, this is the anger of betrayal, of unrequited love, of having had done to you a tremendous wrong. We can all relate.

But as Christian is about to leave, Satine sings out there “secret” love song – changing the words at one point to implore Christian to “…forgive everything?” He stops his angry retreat, and virtually without hesitating, moves to her while weaving his voice into the song. You can see and feel the relief in Satine as she hears him begin to sing. A simplistic scene…trite…but I’m sorry, it chokes me up everytime. Anger melts away to love and forgiveness, despite the very profound and public wrong committed against Christian. Is this not humility in action?

Humility, I think, is born of love for and forgiveness of others. “A healthy self-disinterest” simply isn’t enough, it must move on to a healthy INTEREST in others. As Basil well notes, the "end of humility as no doubt expressed by the Saints (the wholly humble) is to eventually feel no need to forgive anything, but for the rest of us who still take offense of things we can still practice humility through forgiveness.

I can hear people rumbling now…but I don’t feel like forgiving…how can I forgive if I still feel offended, hurt, and wronged!? It’s not real forgiveness if I don’t feel it!

OH KNOCK IT OFF YOU PANSY! What the hell do feelings have to do with it? As Nike says: Just do it! If you don’t feel like you’ve forgiven the person…so what? ACT LIKE YOU HAVE…LIVE LIKE YOU HAVE…TRUST LIKE YOU HAVE. Ignore your feelings about the matter…I mean, really now, are we slaves to our passions? Has Christ not set us free from them? Can we not ignore what they cry out for and simply do otherwise? Though the mind rages for revenge and justice…we can calmly and coolly react in love and forgiveness.

In my marriage and in fatherhood, opportunities for practicing humility abound. How hard it can be sometimes…I fail time and time again, giving myself over to my passions –cursing Satine and her song and walking right on out of the Moulin Rouge and feeling pretty darned self-righteous about it too (after all, it was a glorified whorehouse!) My drive home from work each day sometimes involves prayers and reflection that prepare me for arriving at home girded with love and a willingness to forgive. Born of this holy union of virtues is their precious daughter: humility.

I am a work still in progress, no doubt further exercises and tests await me the moment I hit “Publish” and walk away.




...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 7:59 AM [+]
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