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.
I realize that I am not the man, the father, or the human being that I'd like to think I am...or perhaps to be more fair to myself I am not the man, the father, or the human being that I wish I was. Details of the list of reasons for this understanding of myself could go on forever (regular readers of my blog and real world friends no doubt know many of them), but I think it eventually boils down to selfishness - but I truly do not think it is a regular sort of selfishness (yes, I do believe I am worse than all of you!). It is a selfishness that is utterly out of control, a selfishness that causes me to doubt whether I truly know how to love, a selfishness that is destroying the story that my life should be telling.
Quiet times of self-reflection often lead me on fantastic journeys of gloriously succesful self-improvement. Reality always seems to crowd in...eventually. But I drift back into reality with a distant and foggy notion that there is a real me, a truer me, a potential me out there somewhere. Presently, I am left and challenged (thank you!)with two question that I intend to (and indeed must) wrestle with.
I am working with a summer college student in the lab here and she and I were talking about music. I suddenly realized, as our conversation drifted toward U2, that I had been listening to that band since before this young lady was even born! Scary.
Despite the deep contemplations I had in regards to my life, it also made me think that one must admit that either U2 is an extremely talented band OR they have a fantastic promoter with an amazing marketing scheme to have remained "hip" (even among young folk!) for 23 years! I tend to think that it cannot possibly be one without the other actually.
Some would likely say that christian churches should look into and perhaps try and mimic their success...but I say first let's wait 750 years and see where the band is then.
Meanwhile, I'll just sit here and ponder being carbon dated.
I was driving home after a long and generally dissapointing day fishing on the river (only one small Chinook to show for my efforts) and I could find nothing on my preset radio stations worthy of my listening enjoyment. The "seek" button began to be utilized and I found myself briefly (albeit not briefly enough) tuned to the local trash talk radio station in which the topic d'jour for this group of male hosts was: "Would you have sex with a retarded woman?" Of course, my curiosty got the best of me and I listened for a bit longer - just long enough in fact to hear one of the hosts qualify his resounding "YES" with "as long as she was hot, and it was just about sex - no emotional of psychological attachment."
I turned the radio off and began to think, and lament about how we as human beings have so isolated ourselves from one another! To think that one could engage in what is obviously one of the most physically intimate acts and yet NOT have any sort of emotional or psychological connection is truly amazing! In fact, while I do not believe it is even possible, it seems that many many (perhaps the majority?) of people today believe it is so. And the fact that they can not only claim it to be so, but also ACT upon that belief is rather disheartening - really if you think hard about it, it is not all that far from the same mental state of being that would allow you to slowly cut a man's head off and then sleep soundly that night.
I noticed a strange thing once while cuddled up with my wife watching TV one night. We were both wearing shorts and our legs were intertwined throughout the length of the film and as the film ended we had to virtually peel our skin apart as they had seemed almost to have "melded" together. And while I am sure this is a fairly common occurance (perhaps even a somewhat "icky" one), it made me think that that sort of closeness over a long period of time had caused our skin to interact in such a way that it was infact confusing itself with the other. I wondered, half-seriously, if we had remained that way for much longer whether or not we might not have been able to part? Like a tongue on an icy lightpost.
Anyway, regardless of what the trash-talk hosts believe, we cannot escape the reality of our connectedness and I believe that when we deny it we create the potential for a most deadly unseen polution. Any form of intimacy causes us to affect one another - for good or bad. Spend any significant amount of time with another person and you will begin to see that your mutual connectedness has caused change in one another. You begin to see them in you and vice versa. The parent child relationship is a perfect example, but it is also an extreme example because of the nature of the connection.
Children are profoundly prone to being affected by their parents. I see so much of myself in the bahavior of my children that at times I am quite scared. While some of it is genetic, much more of it (I believe) is from their close proximity to me. Now, I must admit, there are probably some good things my children have adopted from me, but I tend to only see that bad because the bad is typically much more vocal in its manifestation. All this to say, children are uniquely subject to our connectedness and when one thinks of all the much worse things that go on in this world - often right in the presence of children - it is a very sad thought.
In my mind the issue also extends beyond the effects of intimacy, for you see I also believe that it is possible for us to affect one another without neccesarily being profoundly intimate. But, the extent to which we are intimate must, it seems to me multiply the effect.
So, what lessons am I learning? No man is an island and thus privacy and "personal rights" are highly suspect in my mind, which is not to say that I am going to politicize this notion. But MOST importantly, I had better get my fecies together so that those with whom I am most intimate can glean more good from me than bad - in my mind this brings a whole new color to the picture of "judgement."
My wife included this quote in the last E-News from our Parish, she suggested I should consider paying close attention to it. As is her custom, she is right.
If you fail to master your anger on the first day, then on the next day and even sometimes for a whole year you will still be dragging it out…Anger will cause us to suspect that words spoken in one sense were meant in another. And we will even do the same with gestures and every little thing… Be angry with the devil and not your own member. This is why God has armed us with anger. Not that we should thrust the sword against our own bodies, but that we should baptize the whole blade in the devil’s breast.
Theoden's words ring so true today. Hatred that would slowly behead a screaming man with a butcher knife along with the somewhat more veiled hatred that would view a dismembered child pulled from the rubble of a cruise missle's "terrorist target" as merely "colateral damage." But my thinking does not specifically dwell upon such matters today, rather I think the words most heavy upon my heart and most expresive of my particularly despair would read thus:
What can fathers do against such reckless destruction?
You see I have just finished scolding my son for utilizing a tiny toy garden tool to rip a small hole in our brand new screen door. Not more than two weeks ago we had our old aluminum single pane windows replaced with energy efficient vinyl double panes - at no small cost I can tell you. Presently three of the screens have had tiny human heads pushed through them and therfore the screen and rubber gaskets poppped right out. I have already made a round of fixing all three before. Furthermore, the carpet in this home was new when we bought it a year ago and it is now stained beyond recognition, no wall remains free from the dasdardly work of a toddler's crayon or marker, no sooner is one mess cleaned before a new one has begun with extreme vigilance, no DVD or CD is safe from being scattered, fingerprinted, scratched, and lost - even if secured by a locking mechanism, no VCR is free from grass clippings, peanut butter and jelly sandwhiches, or having tapes inserted backwards, no TV or computer monitor is free from greasy fingerprints or the accumulation of strange food matter, the floor of the kitchen is ever being corrupted by unfathomably stainable food and drink products while also being trampled upon by drit, mud, or sand ridden little feet, no article of clothing or plastic wrapper from frozen fruit flavored small rodent treats
are ever left undistributed throughout the backyard, no sofa or chair remains unconsidered as a blank canvas for food and ink work, and.....well...ummm...there really is no end to it now that I think about it. I have come to the conclusion that there is little hope for having and keeping anything nice in this home...for some reason I am perpetually reminded of Robert Frost's "Nothing gold can stay."
Can there be any wonder why I might seek professional psychological help? There is no end to the tyranny of destruction that has befallen this home, I mean one can only childproof so much, righ? Perhaps we should wallpaper the whole house (floor to ceiling)with newsprint and tell the kids to "do your worse!"
Or maybe it's all my fault? Maybe my kids are undisciplined or inconsistently disciplined? Perhaps there is a home out there with 4 kids under 7 years old with spotless walls, clean carpets, ornate and fragile decorations that remain untouched, and a perfectly manicured yard to make the neighbors jealous? I don't know.
But, I, my friends...I teeter on the edge of insanity...or is it joy? Certainly it should be. A lesson? Nothing gold can stay. Yep.
"Two Buck Chuck" (aka Charles Shaw - which always makes me think of banking rather than wine) has apparently received "Double Gold" Status at the International Eastern Wine Competition - specifically their Shiraz, and it can be found for round about $2.00 (give or take) at your local Trader Joe's.
Alas, I find that I am less and less of a wine fan and would prefer a fine ale anyday. I also find that price is not neccesarily indicative of quality in the realm of stronger spirits either.
Might I recommend Evan Williams Single Barrel Bourbon whose 1994 vintage hit the shelves a few months ago and retails here in Washington for around $26.00 (and I've seen it as cheap as $19.99 out of state). I cannot help but allow my Kentucky DNA to come out in accent form whenever I sip a fine bourbon!
Also, many thanks to my good friend, and a man of apparently very few blogging words as of late Stevie O'Fallin for his introducing me to the relatively inexpensive wonders of Aberlour 10 : Single Malt Scotch, which sells here for $33.00 (please refrain from telling me how much cheaper you can get it elsewhere!).
Hmmmm...(in reflecting on this post) it must be the weekend.
"It is our goal to wrap God's message _ His love _ in acceptance, and in a way that blends seamlessly into `pop' culture while still upholding the values we, as Christians, value most," Wright Generation's mission statement reads.
Of course, one of those values being "competition" and deciding who is more gifted than someone else! YeeHAW! I want to be the mean judge - perhaps adapting a hardcore calvinist persona and telling then that not only do they suck but that they are likely NOT one of the elect. Or WAIT! Better yet I can channel the Holy Spirit and deliver messages in tongues which the host can then interpret: "I am the Lord thy God, and you sucketh...Depart from me and from my Holy stage!"
If I watch, I'll need liquor. Anyone wanna come and join me?
Well, fear not! We have a cure...well at least amongst small rodents, but can people be far behind? I can see the future prenuptial agreements which will include the recpetion of the "monogamy gene" to prevent one's fiance from straying.
So, once again we are walking down that road of biological autocracy. Certainly we are seeing the homosexual community using it and many "christian" churches are embracing it: "God made me this way!" So, if you have a hard time remaining faithful, why not lay the blame on your genes? If you have a certain warm fuzzy feeling that makes you want to have sex with children or animals - HEY! It's just your genes man, don't get so hung up on morality!!!
In fact, why bother finding "cures"? How would the homosexual community react to this headline saying: "Gene cure found for homosexuals"?
Philosophers and theologians often debate amongst themselves what it is that precisely seperates man from animal, let me toss this in from a stirctly molecular biology standpoint: man is not a behavioral slave to his genes.
Many thanks to my 4 year old daughter Charissa for our newest Icon pictured above. It is displayed (gulp) proudly at our Icon Corner at home. Mounted copies available for $29.99. She may also be accepting commissions.
We think of addicts as someone who has allowed something, some habit or substance to "interfere with their normal everyday life." The phrase often used in 12 step programs is rendered thus: "our lives had become unmanageable."
But really, we are all addicts. You see we have just forgotten what "normal" life really is. Instead (as is the defining foundation of all psychological notions of normalcy), we look at the lowest common denominator of behavior and label THAT normal. Frightenly enough, that determination is ever being adapted and changed, and frankly we've never really had it right - culturally speaking.
I have little doubt that there are more areas in my life that are unmanageable than other people's lives, but in reality, nobody's life is manageable. But it does not answer to simply look for a miraculous healing (at least not usually), rather while we commit our lives and the care thereof to God (steps 2 and 3 of the 12), the remaining 9 steps await our efforts.
I sometimes feel like Orthodoxy has led me to view my Christianity as THE WHOLE 12 steps toward REAL healing and normality , whereas how I have understood Christianity in the past never really extended beyond those first three comparatively easy steps which in a way summarize the essence of the cherished "sinners prayer." The void of "what next" that has perplexed many a responder to an emotional altar call is answered, rather well I think, in the ancient life of the Church which we in our "normalcy" are so emotionally and intellectually distanced from.
Steps 1-3 are NEVER over, but we cannot remain there eternally chasing our tails.
I have been thinking about the connection between "mission" and the ever present quest to be hip, appealing and "cool" as a means of evangelism. (We all do it on a personal level so it seems only natural that we would strive to make our churches thus) I guess I can remember in my youth working days surrounded by all sorts of Christian "coolness" (including Christian Punk Rock!) and really expecting to see the world come to Christ - as a point of fact I seem to recall that very phrase ("bring the world to Christ") being optimistically used.
But, what ought we to think about the teaching which espouses a "narrow way" with few finding it? What part of the New Testament makes us think that we should ever expect to be more than a persecuted, laughed at, and mocked minority?
So why bother? Well, come on now, that's not what I am saying. So what am I saying? Over-emphasis on trying to connect with outsiders and not enough of trying to connect with healing through asceticism and other aspects in the life of the Church?
And, by the way, these thoughts aren't for the POMO or Alternative Church folk (althought they COULD be I suppose)...think about how we often we try and dress up Orthodoxy for particular occassions. How often we work at making it so and neglect our prayers?
Nope, Orthodoxy at the place where the rubber meets the road is seen by the world as ugly, hard, demanding...don't like it? Well, I suppose (ok ok, subtract the supposition of it) we should give it a go in trying to explain WHY it is all these things...still don't like it? Be on your way then.
Michael Newdow has lost his Supreme Court case against the use of the word "god" in the Pledge of Allegiance. A case I am really not all that interested in, however, he lost it because he apparently doesn't have sufficient custody/legal authority over his daughter, for whom he was bringing the case forward to begin with.
Sounds to me like the Supreme Court was shuffling their feet.
That aside, this quote from an AP news article had me rolling on the lab floor laughing:
"I may be the best father in the world," Newdow said shortly after the ruling was announced. "She spends 10 days a month with me. The suggestion that I don't have sufficient custody is just incredible. This is such a blow for parental rights."
Well there you have it...this years "father of the year" is Michael Newdow who spends 10 days a month with his daughter! Congratulations! Well done Michael! 10 days a month, amazing, that is unheard of! Astonishing! 10 days out of 30! All the world's fathers bow before you!
I wonder how much time and money he spent on the court case?
A true paradox was revealed to me last night by none other than my personal favorite television network: TBN. (Well, surely it would be so if only they would put a version of Christian Survivor on the air!) Anyway, TBN is having some sort of anniversary special and the little bit that I saw had them memorializing a host of famed preachers, pastors, and prophets (OH MY!) who had passed away to glory since TBN has been on the air.
The paradox was revealed when I saw the 90 second tribute to Kenneth Hagin being followed by none other than MOTHER THERESA!!!! Wait a minute...STOP...REWIND...PLAY: MOTHER THERESA!!!! Kenneth Hagin, the self-proclaimed father of the "word-faith" movement and Mother Theresa memorialized together on the same program...wow, the end must be near.
As if this were not odd enough, good old Jan Crouch with images of Mother Theresa flowing upon the screen, recalled the time that she actually met the "little 4' 8" woman." Teary eyed, Jan recalled that she actually "fell to her knees before this woman."
She astonished me! Her words thunderstruck me! A charismatic evangelical falling to her knees before someone who is no doubt destined to become a Roman Catholic Saint (perhaps she has already be beatified?) I could not help but marvel at how many regular viewers of TBN must have shuddered at what Jan had said! (I wonder if anyone ever bothered to tell Jan that Mother Theresa regularly prayer to the Virgin Mary?!?!?!)
Of course everyone LOVES Mother Theresa, right? So much so that even a TV program where I know for a fact that the "institution" to which she willingly belonged had been affirmingly called the "whore of Revelation", can somehow relish her memory. It is a funny thing when many a Catholic or Orthodox (or both) Saint is so revered, but their particular religious affiliation is swept under a carpet - deemed unimportant or insignificant. And so now we can flash her image on the screen right next to Hagin and think happy thoughts.
Furthermore, some people who are ever trying to get away from the institutional churches and yet maintain a healthy respect (dare I say adoration) for Mother Theresa will strive to make claims about how "she was different" and I have even heard tales about how "she was often at odds with the hierarchy" (like any good hollywood film would insist upon). But I say PISH TOSH, she was a wonderful woman and a deeply devoted Roman Catholic and it was her Roman Catholic faith that inspired her to live the wonderful life that she lived. Now, we must deal with it.
Evangelicals can lay no more claim to her than we Orthodox can to C.S. Lewis. (Of course I am hard pressed to imagine that the modern day Anglicans can lay much claim to him either!)
Oh dear...I need to stop watching TBN, it has set me into a cantankerous mood.
It was May 29th of 2002 that I caved into pressure (OOOOOO how my arm was twisted!) to begin blogging about myself and Orthodoxy. Yes, some overwieght dork full of personal problems, ridden with children he can barely keep track of, believing himself (falsely so) to be lofty in relgious and philosophical thought, and stumbling through his life while blind to all the most important things began writing about his conversion (which at that point had already officially happened) and his rather rag tag participation in the Orthodox faith.
It began with the simple definition of a word I was just beginning to learn more and more about: Paradosis. I still have much to learn about it because it is so much bigger than me. I do not keep it, I only enter into it. We, who are in the Church, keep it together and nobody save the Holy Spirit Himself is master of it. Thank God.
You will notice the Archive list has made a second coming - in glory to judge me.
When my time permits I will return to some pre-paschal colors, I know some have complained about being able to read with the white background...or maybe I'll just change the font colors to something easier, I dunno. Look at that! I'm rambling. Somethings never change...after all I AM Orthodox.
Itching Noses or
Sayings from a Laboratory father?
There are times, actually probably many times, when I am suddenly struck by some profound spiritual lesson while in the midst of seemingly mundane tasks.
I am seated semi-comfortably at the Bio-Saftey Cabinet listening to the soundtrack of Master and Commander piped into my ears via a broken MP3 player securely and safely stored under my lab gown. In my gloved left hand I hold an opened 10ml tube of blood ridden with Hep B virus (and that being the case one can statistically assume it contains numerous other fun stuff as well), while in my right hand I hold a simple transfer pipette which is busily being worked to mix the blood in the aforementioned tube.
The itch began on the lower left side of my nose and began to work its way up toward my eye - almost as if some vile insect were upon me! As that nasty little thought filled my head, my desire to drop all I was doing and enter into a face scratching "freak out" dance fest right there in the clean room was overwhelming. But the process of filling my need to scratch the itch would have required me to very gently and carefully put the opened tube of blood back in it's rack, dispose of the pipette, step away from the hood, remove my gloves and dispose of them, remove my face shield and then hope that I had not contaminated any of my other samples and controls while I seek some semblance of a fingernail to scrape my irritated skin.
A lengthy and potentially dangerous process, one that I managed to resist. And so, while enduring the itch, I finished the well known and personally coreographed proceedure, disposed of the blood tube, capped its new recepticle and then pushed away safely to fill the need I had. And to my suprise, the itch was gone.
Sometimes if we resist the temptation for just a single moment longer than we thought possible, it will leave us entirely.
Well I really don't have much to say about this picture except...
Norwegian world rally champion Petter Solberg steers his Subaru Impreza through a tight turn, next to a Greek orthodox shrine in the Drosohori II special stage of the second leg of the Acropolis Rally of Greece, on the mountain of Parnassos, June 5, 2004
...I think I feel strangely "cooler" about playing that silly racing game on the PS2. But as in real life, I keep speeding right past the Shrines God has put in my path.
As some have noted, the usual volumes of posts here on Paradosis have slowed significantly. I find that I have been working furiously on some other writings in what little spare time I have. The little story of the "Lion and the Boy" has indeed evolved into something much bigger, so much so that really only the general idea of the story remains in what I am presently putting together.
I do not maintain any grand hopes of being a publishable writer (and certainly by no means would I consider myself a "great" writer), but my kids adore the idea of reading/hearing a story written by their Daddy and frankly I can think of no better audience on the face of the Earth.
I do hope it will communicate to them what I perceive to be the problem of Death and how it is overcome.
Of course for my daughters, who are ever so much in love with Aslan, a Lion would never do as an antagonist. I suspect that if you know me well enough, you will be able to make an educated guess as to what sort of creature the antagonist has evolved into.
Of course in many Christian circles the question that is whispered among very close friends in regards to a deceased person who perhaps did not attend church regularly, or who perhaps did not have a fishie car emblem, or perhaps didn't shout "Praise the Lord" at moments of joy, or perhaps drank and smoked, or who perhaps did not vote Republican, or who perhaps ____________, is frequently: "Do you think he/she REALLY knew the Lord?"
For with death, you know, the cosmic 4th quarter whistle has sounded and there just ain't any overtime available to straighten out sin vs. grace ties. You will stand before God and He will not accept your tears of repentence, He will not accept you contrition, He will not accept YOU! He will point at the clock of your life and say : "TOO LATE!" For you see, if you did not make that decision, if you did not make that choice (or for those who might prefer: if you were not one of the elect), if you did not say that "sinner's prayer" while in life, then it's off to eternal damnation you go!
As my alter ego in the Royal Navy would say : PISH TOSH! The question (Did they know the Lord?) as addressed in the past tense is simply nonsensical to me today, for the question(if we dare to be so brave as to even ask it!!!!) ought to be: "Now that he/she obviously knows the Lord, how will they respond given who they are and who they have become?"
I believe that we condemn ourselves not directly because of what we have done or failed to do in this life, but rather for what we have allowed ourselves to become. We can bathe in the waters of corruption for so long that when we finally do stand before glory we cannot endure it. What we do, or fail to do contributes to what we become, but it is not a surefire method of ascertaining to which of the two crucified thieves a person would be most analogous.
Hell, I have heard, (I believe from Fr. Hopko) is like a little boy who is told he can have no desert before dinner and the little boy becomes very angry and upset. After dinner, desert is placed before everyone and the little boy is encouraged to "dig in!" But he won't, so angry for not getting his way, he refuses to eat the desert even though it sits before him readily available. That is hell.
Of all the deaths I have known in this first half of the year, there are some persons who I am sure will "dig in" and there are others for whom I simply do not know how they will respond...we must hope that they will not have gotten themselves to the point of the little angry boy who will not eat. But, this is not for us to concern ourselves with...we must guard our hearts and lives (and those of our loved ones) here and now so that we will never refuse the desert ourselves.
A politically conservative friend related to me awhile back an apologetic for the current “war on terrorism” that went something like this: Everyone seems to want a world like the Hobbit’s shire, but often the same people fail to see the need for the defense of that shire against the evil of places like Mordor. The argument being, obviously, that sometimes you do have to fight for peace. Okay.
Oh how I wish the world were that simple. That evil should be so easy to geographically identify…point to the map and say with absolute certainty that “there is the evil empire” and that all the orcs (people) there need to be wiped out. But, where is evil?
Is it found in what some term “radical Islam?” Is it found in what some term modern American imperialism? Perhaps it is found in globalization? Or can we see it in the “one world government” soon to be ruled by the anti-christ? Maybe, it is in Rome? Or Moscow? Or Washington DC? North Korea? Iraq? (Whistling) Here evil…come here boy…come on!
Ahhh…there you are…right where you’ve always been: in my heart.
(sigh of contentment)
Now, I can march to war for the Shire.