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.
This gentlemen is an old friend of mine (and some of yours too)...we even used to be pretty darn funny together (I have videos to prove it), but then he went solo and seems to be doing much better without me :)
from the Book of Needs as compiled by a monk at St.Tikhon's in South Canaan, PA.
- Prayer at the digging of a well - Prayer over a new well - Office of blessing a new well - Prayer over a sowing - Prayer over a threshing floor or barn - Prayer to bless a herd (may be adopted for any farm animal) - Blessing for an enclosure for cattle (may be adopted for any abode of a farm animal) - Office of the blessing of bees - Blessing of the Hives of an Apiary - Prayer to bless new honey - Prayer at the planting of a Vineyard - Prayer at the harvesting of a Vineyard - Prayer at the blessing of new wine - Blessing of fish for stocking ponds (lakes or rivers) - Prayer for the blessing of fishnets (or rods/reels)
And finally, for my good friend Rade:
- Prayer at the Construction of a boat.
I look forward to creating my "need" for such prayers in the near future.
You ever notice how generally when it comes to BIG MONEY items people tend not to want to deal with friends? You know, "don't mix business with pleasure" is the old "adage".
For instance, consider how you would market a product you are trying to sell to a stranger and then ask yourself if you would market it differently if you were going to sell it to a friend. Would one receive a slightly more fair price than the other? Would one receive perhaps a tad bit more information from you with regard to the item? Be honest now...c'mon.
When you sell a house you are asked to fill out a "Disclosure Form" in which you go through a long litany of items that may or may not be wrong with the home you are selling. For good Christians like myself (choke...gag...puke) I of course was completely honest with everything...but do you suppose everyone else in the world is? But if you were selling your house to a friend, a friend with whom you will likely be coming over to dinner with from time to time, then you would likely be even more pressed to let them know EVERYTHING there is to know about that home. Furthermore, you'd also feel bad if something major went wrong - even if no one could have foreseen it. On the other side of the coin, if you are selling to a stranger who you will likely never ever see again...well who cares, right?
Exploitation of community happens in this way. Someone outside of the community markets something to the people inside the community and this person couldn't give a rat's ass for anyone who lives there..at least for the most part. He can sell them crap, leave his grabage there, offer a product that wipes out their salmon runs...etc etc etc...and being outside of that community why on earth should he care? Yes yes, we Christians, of course being far superior would of course feel terribly guilty and would never do such a thing...but the fact is we now participate in a "global economy" wherein not only ARE we doing that, but more than that the odds are we could not possibly grasp the far reaching effects of what appears to be the simplest of economic decisions that we make day in and day out.
Cram us into urban sprawl and it becomes even more difficult. Odds are many of us live with a 1/4 mile radius of more people than we could possibly meet and befriend in several lifetimes. Thus, there is no community accountability to our economics...the community has long since vanished.
So...all of that said, one small step toward trying to create an intentional community is to try and participate and KNOW your local economy. Imagine...hard as it might be...the ethics that naturally existed (without need for laws or lawsuits) by simply participating in a local economy. Of course, as many of my friends have done, you will be quick to point out the numerous items that cannot possibly be bought within a local economy...yes you will revel in catching me in hypocrisy...but keep in mind these are the same arguments sinners make for not even trying to change.
Well, here is another long post, so I expect few will actually read it. But you should, it may perhaps cure your insomnia.
I’ve made no secret of my recently discovered admiration of Wendell Berry, and the most recent essay of his I am reading, entitled “Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community” is frankly nothing short of brilliant. Unfortunately, the essay is so rich and “meaty” (I’ve read it twice already) that I hesitate to try and say anything about it, let alone try and connect the dots (as he does) between these four concepts – instead I should simply encourage you to read it for yourself. Much of it is looking at the dwindling of community in exchange for something we know today as “public vs. private life”
”Community is a locally understood interdependence of local people, local culture, local economy, and local nature. (Community, of course, is an idea that can extend itself beyond the local, but it only does so metaphorically. The idea of a national or global community is meaningless apart from the realization of local communities.) Lacking the interest of or in such a community, private life becomes merely a sort of reserve in which individuals defend their ‘right’ to act as they please and attempt to limit or destroy the ‘rights’ of other individuals to act as they please.
A community identifies itself by an understood mutuality of interests. But it lives and acts by the common virtues of trust, goodwill, forbearance, self-restraint, compassion and forgiveness. Such a community has the power – not invariably but as a rule – to enforce decency without litigation. It has the power, that is, to influence behavior. And it exercises this power not by coercion or violence, but by teaching the young and by preserving stories and songs that tell (among other things) what works and what does not work in a given place.
Allow me to interrupt for a moment…anyone smell the Church in there? Aye, such a community – fictional though it may be today, or maybe ever – would mesh seamlessly with the Church, the ultimate preserver of “stories and songs.”
But the life of a community is more vulnerable than public life. A community cannot be made or preserved apart from the loyalty and affection of its members and the respect and goodwill of the people outside it. And for a long time, these conditions have not been met…the community, wherever you look, is being destroyed by the desires and ambitions of both private and public life, which for want of the intervention of community interests are also destroying one another. Community life is by definition a life of cooperation and responsibility. Private life and public life, without the disciplines of community interest, neccesarily gravitate toward competition and exploitation. As private life casts off all community restraints…public life becomes simply the arena of unrestrained private ambition and greed.”
In Berry’s thinking (as I read it ), what delivered the death blow to community is in essence the expansion of economics far beyond the local community. To places where people have no connection whatsoever with the people to whom they are trying to market their “stuff”, where people cannot see – nor care to see – what ill effects their possible exploitation is having on some “other” community. Such exploitation further challenges the loyalty and affection of a community’s members…think about it, when was the last time you felt loyalty and affection for a community – and by that I mean not just your church family, but your community of proximity?
“If you are dependent on people who do not know you, who control the value of your neccesities, you are not free and you are not safe.”
Just check out a few of the sponsors, my favorite of which is the "International Puppydogs Movement" made up of four (yes, 4 total) gay and bisexual men who "like to lie (sometimes sleep) very close together, curled up like puppies" (No kids allowed, apparently so that rules my family out)
It's no wonder "Intentional Community" gets a bad wrap. But I'll tell you what, we are in desperate need for some real community these days...but I'm thinking the "International Puppydog Movement" isn't going to provide the answers.
I think the story is missing the real shocker of this whole affair...read carefully:
Airing for three hours each evening, The Good Night Show airs soothing stories and cartoons designed to get an audience of 2-to-5-year-olds ready for bed.
Remember when we used to have these things called "mommies" and "daddies"? They used to AT LEAST find the time to get their own kids ready for bed.
UNSTINKING BELIEVABLE! Do you suppose these 2-5 year olds actually have TV's in their rooms? I am truly astounded....what will they come up with next. I wonder if the host can change diapers. THREE HOURS for all love!!!!!!!!!!!!
I don't know what to say...Surely one of the Four Horseman of the Apocalpyse is named "PBS shall put your kids to bed for you."
Most of us are really stupid, like fish chasing shiny metal through water and then wondering what went wrong as we are clubbed on the head.
A while back, Alana wrote brilliantly about the "Crapification of America", and this morning as I was noting a few billboards on my way to work, it occurred to me that part of this crapification is clearly revealed in how we are being marketed by advertisers. By this I mean that very few of the advertising for products today actually focus on the quality (or even functionality) of the product - rather they appeal to our sense of and need for being cool.
Amazingly enough, consider this: the ONLY ads that DO extol the quality and utility of their products (if even they might be lying) are the much derided "infomercials!"
Quick and disposable is our motto, whether we know it or not. I cannot begin to tell you how much absolute crap I have bought - and I won't even include the unfathomable moutain of steaming crap I have bought for my kids. Things that are bright and shiny for a few days and then begin the swift process of decaying, like a "Mission Impossible" briefing tape. But no worries, there always MORE crap to buy! We have made an art of cultivating crap in our society, and the pinnacle of it is found in commercial children's television programming. How those advertisers sleep at night is beyond me.
Is it any wonder that our theology, our churches, our marriages follow right along? All of these are perfectly disposable...for we believe more and more that life ought to be quick and easy - just like getting credit when you don't have perfect credit. Heck, even our children are disposable, at least while they are still being nurtured in the womb.
How do we escape it? Sure, don't buy crap...but its more pervasive than that now. Its deeper in us now...
Addendum: On my way home I heard a news report about the dwindling surplus of fans in the Seattle area. It seems the recent heat (which I curse) has sent washingtonians to the stores in droves looking for fans. Curiously, this happens EVERYTIME the mercury (or alcohol) surpasses the 90 degree mark. But how can this be, that each and every heat wave the local retailers find themselves bled dry of fans???? What on earth happened to last years fans? Or last months fans? Am I to believe that each time we have a heat wave that an over abundance of "first time fan owners" are coming forward at last and investing in a fan? Or maybe new arrivals from lands where fans are unknown have just experienced their first Seattle heat wave?
Of course not, we just keep on buying disposable crap fans and then throw them out into the landfill - conveniently located somewhere else. Wherever it is that our garbage goes, there must be an unbelievable quantity of crappy fans.
A business related email I get often comes accompanied with the following inspirational quote:
Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
Initially I thought it quaint, but then I thought for a while: Unless you believe that you and perhaps a small number of other enlightened few are the only ones worthy of such advice, what would be the point of leaving a trail?
I found a professor named Habib C. Malik (more details about him here) who has written a number of interesting articles (and books, though I've not found them at the local library). Also, I found through a simple search of his name that he is accused of being a "neo-con", a "zionist" and "someone with an axe to grind against Islam", but that particular source also failed to engage ANYTHING that he has written, and of course tossing about such inflamatory labels is bound to earn the man my interest at the very least.
In my anti-Israeli evangelical recovery days (its an illness you get when you leave evangelicalism and realize you no longer have any grand theological need to support Israel and so you head in the opposite direction and revel in blaming them) I was given to believe that Muslims and Christians have lived in a beautiful disneyland-like ride of peace and harmony...until the Jews came. Professor Malik, amongst others, show that despite what I had been told, there are a good many Middle Eastern Christians who are not so anti-Israeli as I was led to believe. Sadly, the Christians of the Middle East find themselves caught in the crossfire and as the latter article notes they can and sometimes are seen as the enemy by both sides in the fight. In that older article, Professor Malik references the fears many Lebanese Christians had before Israel pulled out of Lebanon in 2000...as I heard it, many of their fears were later realized.
I listened to a speech by Barack Obama given at the "Call to Renewal Conference" sponsored by "Sojourners." In it, I found more reason to feel isolated from both of the politcial parties - not to mention the old fuddy duddy "religious right" and the hip new "religious left." Obama explained - derisively - that conservatives have been "all too happy to exploit the gap" between those who attend church regularly and those who don't. Fair enough, but he then seems to go on and explain that democrats need to do a better job of doing just that...albeit more subtly. In fact a brief overlooking of the sojourners website seems to indicate a fair degree of bashing the "religious right." (alas free registration is required to read about the "false stewardship" of James Dobson)
He also takes the tired line (in my book) that on CERTAIN issues he cannot "impose his own religious views on another" and of course the religious views he means are the very same that the conservatives exploit with regard to the "regular church attenders", such as gay marriage, abortion, intelligent design taught in school etc. What strikes me as unfathomably ironic (maybe hypocritical) is that fact that ending poverty (a noble goal that Obama speaks at length about) somehow is not inherently tied to a religious view? For if there is a secular view that can convince me that the rich ought to give away more of their money to the poor then I would surely like to hear it. What on earth outside of a religious view would convince me to lift a finger for the poor? Of course, this sword of hypocrisy is double edged, isn't it?
I don't trust the new "religious left" and I think we ought to view them - as a political force - as being just as odd and awkward as the "religious right." To view one or the other as misguided at best and evil at worse is niave...because they are operating on the same principle and, in exceptionally unhumble opinion, they are both missing the mark, albeit in different directions. Yes, I find myself decidedly out of place in either circle. Obama notes that his opponent said that Jesus wouldn't vote for him and Obama's insinuation was that many of the "religious right" take a similar stance with regard to democrats and the so called progressives in general. But friends, if such a statement offends the "religious left" then the "religious left" had better be damn careful not to fall into the same trap - yes, there may well be a beam in the eye. As I've always tried to believe (yes tried), our Lord has an uncomfortable surprise reserved for us all - in His time on earth, no one came away from Him without a profound and unexpected challenge being given to them. If this is not true still today, then maybe he isn't "in our Midst."
I have never been very good at reconciling religion and politics, at least in the context given to us. For instance I see it as a Christian obligation to help the poor, but by the same token I do not think it is Christian value (let alone an obligation)to FORCE anyone to help the poor. So when Obama speaks about the "estate tax" being repealed and returning money to "people who don't need it", I am astounded that he would assert this decidedly relgious view on others and fail to see it as such.
All of this said, it is a good speech and worth reading. Obama seems to be a very genuine person. But then, I have felt the same about a fair share of people in the "religious right."
BTW, as a side, I have a real pet peeve with the new "crunchy con" label. Sounds like a breakfast cereal. My political opinions tend to be like nails, screws, and nuts fired out of a home made shotgun - who knows what I'll hit.
It inevitably happens. Atheists will look at the current crisis in the Middle East and see in it an apologetic for their atheism...another, in a long list, of reasons why religion is bad. In THIS editorial, the author begins with the assumption that "religion is not a primary need."
Naturally, I am going to spout off...as a former atheist who would have jumped onto this same bandwagon, I am obliged (sorta) to explain why the author is full of fecal material.
The author is proceeding from a very narrow darwinistic worldview, as such he ought to no better than to "worry" about humans killing each other. His worldview should expect as such, as surely as a chimpanzee might kill another chimpanzee for ____________ (fill in the motive, make sure to include "food" as an option.)
Killing one aother over religious issues has not - as of yet - inhibited mankind's ongoing survival. Rather it seems we've done just fine in being "fruitfull and multiplying" despite what the author feels is our need to kill one another over religion. I see no reason to expect further religious fighting to bring us to extinction, but even if it does...hey, that's darwinism in action, get used to it.
Also, I'm not entirely sure that "recreation" qualifies as a "primary need" along with air, food, and water....but I digress.
One day, when I have more time than I do now, I will sit down and do the math. As this author tries to imply with this line: "But we kill each other over religion. By the millions we kill each other." But how about some real stats? Do we really know how many people have been killed over religion? How many people have been killed for Atheism? Didn't Stalin and his state of official atheism kill some 30 million people? Hmmm...I gonna go out on a limb and guess that religion doesn't have a corner on killing millions.
"We plot nuclear war and plan the use of other weapons of mass destruction to assert such 'truths.'" Hmmm...I've never seen a nuke used as a sort of bathroom tract, but maybe the author has experienced something different than me? I know, personally, of no Christians plotting a nuclear war to assert the truths of Jesus Christ.
A couple of more specific points: What is happening now in the Middle East is about far more that religion, if the author thinks otherwise then the author is a dunderhead. A second point, while all people may be created equally, the same cannot and MUST NOT be said of religions. Furthermore, if religion were to vanish tomorrow, does the author really believe that humans would see a radical decline in the number of wars and murders? Has the author ever considered times when religion has actually stayed the hand of war? Given pause to the mind of a potential murderer? What in atheism would lead me to concern myself with killing, anymore than a chimpanzee would be concerned with eating a rival clans baby chimpanzees? As far as I know, the animal world can be a very violent and brutal place with not a lick of religion to be found.
Though apparently goats can help too. And I must admit, it is a funny picture to imagine wealthy and pretentious San Diego residents being told that they ought to consider hiring a goat.
[Mr. Howe voice]I'm sorry, did you say a goat? A goat?!?! Well my dear man, what on earth would I do with a goat? Will my illegal alien landscapers remove their...umm...droppings? Wouldn't it be easier to install a multimillion gallon sprinkler system?[/Mr. Howe voice]
Say hello to my little firefighting friend:
Make sure to check out the "Environment Land Management Goats" website. maybe its just because its late, but the whole concept just cracks me up. Note the San Diego Mcmansion (how did that grass get so green?!?!? Hmmm) and the "Goats in Action" photo gallery.
I had forgotten how hectic selling and buying a house can be. Of course, I think we had more people through our house on the first weekend than we did the ENTIRE three months we had our Sultan house for sale. We did have an offer last week, but it appears that it fell through.
We spent the weekend on the pennisula, graciously hosted by Dawn - who we repaid by having my son puke in her sleeping bag. Anyway, we tried to look at houses, but found the inventory rather lacking. In fact, at present we have been looking in areas a little bot more distant from Church than we would have preferred...for the time I believe we have given up on the idea of buying land and building, if for no other reason than the fact that we are tired and shudder at both the work and the hassle.
One house we looked at this weekend was very nice, but in the distance we could hear the sound of the freeway. Yuck, definately not what we wanted - despite the home being some beautiful and the setting gorgeous. And while we were there, our agent received a phone call that informed us that the home we'd seen before and were planning to go see again was going to be atken off of the market.
Apparently the sellers had just received notice that their own contigent offer on a house had been bumped. As it happens, this was their THIRD bump on a third property and it sounded as if they were throwing their hands up in the air - frustrated. However, something didn't seem "right" to our agent and we were frankly ready to offer on this home. So, we pressed the issue and went ahead and made an offer on the home, since it was (and still is) apparently on the market.
Now we wait. And as we wait we dread the sound of my wife's phone ringing as it might well mean that we are forced to vacate the house (with Killick in tow) to allow some stranger to wander through our house examining my sock drawer and looking into our medicine cabinet. What a party it is to cram four kids, a giant dog, and a cedar 4x4 beam (best air freshener on earth) into my Trooper and then wondering amidst the screaming: "Where should I go?"
And to think we've not even begun the full process of it all...not to mention the actual moving! But I am not dissuaded from the goal. And even though Seabeck is a bit further south than we like, the property and home is perfect for us. And, as Rade pointed out, a simple boat trip accross the canal would make for an easy visit if Rade and Valerie end up on that side.
After viewing a very nice property, we stopped in "downtown" Seabeck in order to try what had been related to us as OUTSTANDING Pizza. Indeed, the Pizza was well worth the stop, even though it originated in what could hardly be called more than a shack. Oh how deceiving looks are!
But as we waited for our Pizza, a man sitting and painting on the oyster ridden beach directed our attention to a large bald eagle sitting solomnly on one of the many old pilings jutting out from the bay waters.
The majestic bird perched there for the entire time that we remained. I wondered if he might be asking: "What took you so long?"
In Maryland (a state, once a colony named after someone we all know), a Roman Catholic public employee made a huge mistake: he publically stated his (and in essence, his Church's official) opinion on the issue of homosexuality. He has since lost his job.
Well...here we go The reason for my absence the last few days: getting ready for THIS. Your prayers are appreciated...we are tired, weary beyond belief from all the prep work. We could really use an easy and quick sale. Having done my own fair share of internet house shopping, it is an odd thing to see the icons in there.
And of course, they HAD to add this bit in there: doctors said the same cannot be hoped for people in a persistent vegetative state, such as Terri Schiavo, the Florida woman who died last year after a fierce right-to-die court battle.
Wanna bet they would have said the exact same thing about Terry Wallis a few months ago? I love it when scientists and doctors speak ex cathedra. Also note how we are told that Terri Schiavo "died"...ummm yes, that's what happens when you starve someone...they just die. I guess I can feel better now - being ridden with plenty of food and mental faculties - about famine stricken people around the world who are...just dying.
Nor do they [doctors, scientists, and politicians OH MY] know how to make others with less serious damage, like Wallis, recover.
Recently I was given an opportunity to explain to my eldest daughter just what the 4th of July was all about...and, why on earth do we endager our lives and property with massive quantities of small explosives. Well, the latter question was a bit more difficult, but I theorized that besides the celebratoy nature of things that go boom and make pretty lights, that it might also be a reminder of the well known line: "the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air" by which Francis Scott Key was able to see that "our flag was still there." (Which I also had to explain meant we hadn't surrendered.)
And with that, an interest arose with regard to our National Anthem, which I dutifully sung for her. However, like the VAST VAST majority of Americans, I only know the first stanza. I can still recall being amazed when my friend who attended West Point told me that he had to memorize the ENTIRE song, which is as follows:
O say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light, What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming? Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight, O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming? And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there. O say does that star spangled banner yet wave O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave?
On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep. Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes, What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep, As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses? Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam, In full glory reflected now shines in the stream: ‘Tis the Star-Spangled Banner! O long may it wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
And where is that band who so vauntingly swore That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion A home and a country should leave us no more? Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution. No refuge could save the hireling and slave From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave: And the Star-Spangled Banner, in triumph doth wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
O thus be it ever when freemen shall stand Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation! Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heaven-rescued land Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation. Then conquer we must when our cause it is just And this be our motto: “In God is our Trust.” And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
And, if you'd like to hear it, the National Anthem Project has numerous versions available, including some Karoke type movies to go along with them. However, I didn't see any that offered the entire song. However, a rather unique (and cool) rendition, which hits MOST of the verses, is available by Roger McGuinn (formerly of 'The Byrds') HERE.
Have a fun and safe 4th everyone. God bless America.
I catch a small share of grief for admitting I listen to country music...but I reckon I still have my musical challenge out there on the table for ANYONE to try and go toe to toe using any other genre of music and see which can remotely compete with Country with regards to positive messages and values - extolling the importance of faith, devotion, friendship, fatherhood, motherhood, family, simplicity, hard work, commitment etc etc etc. Yeah, I know you are sure to note the many exceptions to such positive messages which can be found in country music, but none-the-less I still stand by my claim that no other genre can compete (you pick: sheer numbers or percentage...whatever). Besides, as you regulars will know, I ain't afraid to admit I've had to(on numerous occassions) pull my car over and finsih crying because of some dopey country song. Here's the newest one as performed by Tim McGraw:
He said I was in my early forties, with a lot of life before me And one moment came that stopped me on a dime I spent most of the next days, looking at the x-rays Talking bout' the options and talking bout' sweet times. I asked him when it sank in, that this might really be the real end How's it hit 'cha when you get that kind of news? Man what did ya do? He said
I went skydiving I went rocky mountain climbing I went two point seven seconds on a bull named Blue Man Chew And I loved deeper And I spoke sweeter And I gave forgiveness I'd been denyin' And he said some day I hope you get the chance To live like you were dyin'
He said I was finally the husband, that most the time I wasn't And I became a friend, a friend would like to have And all of a sudden goin' fishin, wasn't such an imposition And I went three times that year I lost my dad Well I finally read the good book, and I took a good long hard look At what I'd do if I could do it all again And then
I went skydiving I went rocky mountain climbing I went two point seven seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu And I loved deeper And I spoke sweeter And I gave forgiveness I'd been denyin' And he said some day I hope you get the chance To live like you were dyin'
Like tomorrow was a gift And ya got eternity to think about what to do with it What could you do with it What did I do with it What would I do with it
Skydiving I went rocky mountain climbing I went two point seven seconds on a bull named Blue Man Chew And I loved deeper And I spoke sweeter And I watched an eagle as it was flyin' And he said some day I hope you get the chance To live like you were dyin'
Live like you were dyin'
Well, I don't know about sky diving and bull riding, but boy I sure could learn to love deeper, speak sweeter, and give forgiveness I've been denying. And, fact of the matter is, duh, we are dyin'