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.
It is reported that Washington's Ferry system, the largest in the United States, is a cosnidered a high potential target for terrorists. In fact, there is apparently intelligence to suggest that the ferries have been scoped out. I heard as I boarded this afternoon that there were 1900 other passengers along with me on board the M/V Tacoma.
But you fell pretty safe seeing a couple of these boats circling around you.
Just as we began to pull away from the Seattle dock, they shot eastward back behind us THROUGH the chaotic swirls and wash of our props pushing us away from the dock and then up around the other side. They then followed us westbound until we passed the Wenatchee heading back to Seattle at which point they broke from escorting us and shot accross the rough water to pull alongside - perilously close I thought - the eastbound boat.
They looked like they were locked and loaded and ready fo business. See:
This guys flickr pics look much like what I got to watch. I have to admit, I felt a bit of national pride seeing the flags fluttering as these boats beat cheeks over the water.
Rather convincing evidence from this security camera. There is audio as well, so make sure you have your sound turned on to hear what is known as an EVP (electronic voice phenomenon). What do you think it says?
As a side, if you find the video disturbing, I suspect it is because you do not chop enough wood.
Far up the Skagit Valley as you climb into the North Cascades, you will find the small town of Concrete, Washington. On October 30th, 1938 the 1000 residents experienced a power outage that would spark 24+ hours of panic and hill fleeing. Can you guess why?
Back in Bothell we had our fair share of squirrels running around the neighborhood. I even saved one out of our swimming pool. But we do not have these big fellars out in Kitsap, but instead a reddish-brown fellow known as Douglas' squirrels (Tamiasciurus douglasii). They are native to Washington, whereas those bigger grey guys in Bothell are transplants called Eastern gray squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis), who arrived in Washington in 1925, introduced I hear by easterners who missed seeing them...or something to that effect.
Of course, now, the eastern grey has been implicated in a sharp decline in Douglas' squirrels in the more urban areas occuiped by the eastern greys. As you can see from this map, the eastern greys are a decidedly urban squirrel and therefore as rural transplants we have left them behind.
The Douglas' are really cute, when they vocalize they do a little bounce-twitch movement that had my whole family cracking up as we watched. They look and sound like a windup toy of somesort.
Killick, it would seem, is less amused by their vocalization.
The Gospel reading from this Sunday hit me in a peculiar way. In days of old when I was a Dr. Martin anti-cult apologist ditto head, I was pretty up on all the "Jesus is God" proof texts, but I did not recall ever seeing this one from St. Luke (8:39):
“Return to your own house, and tell what great things God has done for you.” And he went his way and proclaimed throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him.
And despite being well down in the 30's, it is amazingly beautiful. The time change has offered me a sunrise sailing. A mostly silhouetted Mt. Rainier towers out my window in front of an ever brightening southeast sky, while stars remain in the northwest which I can see even from the opposite side of the boat. What a great morning commute...but the cold is a precursor of what is to come.
Well, the chickens didn't arrive until Saturday, and thank goodness. We had our first power outage sometime Friday night - Saturday morning with no real explanation as to why. But, recognizing that the kids would freak out to awaken in utter darkness, meandered my way downstairs to find some flashlights - much to my amazement I did so without serious injury.
The chicks will, for around a month or so, require a heating lamp to keep them warm. I'm not sure how long our power was out, but it might have killed them had they been here. So we are taking precautions now that they are here, including a portable power supply unit that I expect will provide light for an hour or so while we prepare to evacuate them to the laundry room of our house.
The cold and power outages are a reminder of how important wood heat can be to us.
Friday evening I chopped wood (see previous post) and managed to just about double the size of my wood stack and I still have several more large rounds to work through. On Saturday I went and bought the windows to be replace din our house and I bought a couple of new power tools - including a chain saw. A recently downed tree across Totten road this morning reminded me of how handy a chainsaw can be...there is only one way in and out of our property, if a tree goes down on Diamond or Emerald roads, I am stuck.
I've yet to power it up, but I have one long round I pulled out of the woods that needs to be cut down to size and so I expect to fire the thing up this week if I can sneak out of work early one day. The trade off of a sunrise sailing into Seattle will be a sun already set sailing home (if not now, soon) - I guess I would prefer it the other way around.
I tinkered around with the molding around the windows, trying to figure out how they come out. I think I finally got it figured out and the Window guy seemed to know what he was talking about and confirmed my suspected methodology. This prompted the purchase of a new Makita circular saw since my old clunker was struggling to get the job doen for the chicken coop door.
We have thus far lost two of the 25 chicks. The girls - especially Charissa - have taken that kinda hard. They are going to have to get used to it though...frankly I don't care if they refuse to eat the roosters that will be set upon the table because that just means more for me.
Sunday was a washout day for me. Church was great, and picked up a portable power supply unit, but I began to feel sick. So I did nothing but bring firewood into the house (the cold was slowly coming), watched some TV, read the instructions for my cool new tools, and at one point burn some safely burnable garbage yard waste.
Never did get that tree pulled out. Maybe next weekend I can get the Fallin boys to help me. :)
Studies have apparently revealed that over the last 20 years American males have seen a steady decline in the serum testosterone levels. Apparently no one is able to come up with an explanation. Of course I discovered the reason this weekend.
First let me add that I suspect the levels have been falling for much longer than just the last 20 years - I just thing we don't have good enough data prior to then. Thus, I believe the reason that American men are more and more become big wusses is because they rarely if ever chop wood anymore.
I'll tell you what, go out and spend a few hours chopping wood and then tell me you don't feel like a manly man. A tired kinda manly man, but holy cow, sit down on the front porch with a beer and a BB gun to shoot squirrels from an easy chair kinda manly man.
Few things bring as much testosterone ridden satisfaction as watching your heavy axe hurled over your head and down to split a log, sending the pieces flying like NPR movie reveiwers rushing to see "Brokeback Mountain." 'Cept maybe waking up the next morning and feeling the pain and knowing you've contributed to your family's survival...or at least to your family's not having to use electric heat.
I expect if we were to include log splitting in our elementary schools we'd see a lot less wusses. Yeah, a few trauma center level accidents, but that too would go a long way to end our wussification.
Arghhhhh, I feel the testosterone flowing...I'm gonna go buy some power tools.
I can smell the stittude of this Professor Efthimiou. The very notion of someone believing in ghosts or even God irks him to no end. It is his life mission to illumine such idiocy to the rational way of science - which knows and tells all. Ahhh yes, Professor Efthimiou is omnipotent.
Believe I know this attitude because I held it as well. Completely oblivious to the arrogance inherent in my belief that all of reality could be compressed to fit into my mind and my senses. That nothing transcending me or material existance could possibly ever exist.
Professor ob Park also suffers from such arrogance: "I have nothing against movies," he said. "I have nothing against people who like them, as long as they don't mix reality with fiction. I give them candy and I feign fright...They enjoy it, what the hell. The problem is the ones that never get over it."
Questions: What DO you have against people who mix what you perceive to be reality and fiction, and why? And why specifically is it a problem for people who "never get over it?"
Gentlemen, please tend to your centrifuges...thank you.
As I write, we should be acquiring the first living components of our farm. They are actually arriving by mail - believe it or not. Apparently the local Post Office is used to such things (the arrival of live chickens) and will be calling Sue for her to run down right away and pick them up.
Yesterday I got off work early and caught the 3pm ferry home. Once there Sue and I both worked furiously to get the coop ready. She worked on cleaning and filling in holes in structure while I fashioned and hung a door. I thought I was racing against rain, but it never did come. Later that night Sue finished things up by setting up by running the extension cord to power the heat lamp and getting the brooder setup.
I'm anxious to see the little critters...I'm sure they look delicious.
What plans for the weekend? Well, buying the new windows and looking into that downed tree on the northwest side of the property. Hopefully I can pull it out and stock the woodshed. Investing in a chainsaw (my electric one sucks) may be a manly and welcome necessity. Better have Dawn's number readily available if I am going to be using one though.
Might also work on a more permanent electrical solution for the chicken coop.
So now I reckon we can officially call ourselves a farm. Yee Haw!
Authority, authority, authority is again the primary and critical missing issue. Put out a call and ask for our signatures...well, Touchstone has pretty much covered my reasoning for not signing.
So, just to beat some of you to the commenting punch: [whiny voice] "Jeez James, why do you have to pick on the protestants all the time, why not blog about something else...typical convert attitude!" [/whiny voice]
...prepares to slaughter another innocent Iraqi family.
Keep in mind that when those cowardly steaming piles of fecal matter were taking shots at our boys and girls (as the terrorist propaganda film broadcast by CNN showed), they were doing horrible things like this picture depicts.
John Bell's picture and blogging about Fall got me thinking about seasons.
While it would seem Fall is more entrenched in Virginia than it is on Kitsap - our trees have not yet changed to the extent his has, and only "our" feral cats have seemingly announced by their increased presence that "Dang it's gettin' cold out here!"
Modern life has largely taken the wonder of seasons away from us, such that we might all just as well live on the equator. Yeah yeah we have to change our dress and have the heat on, and from time to time a bad storm comes and might prevent us from getting around...but in more rural area and in times past the season meant and mean a great deal more. I think that the closer you live to your soil, the more the season matter. We've sterilized life, and to some degree this is a good thing (i.e. disease prevention), but I wonder if we have not overdone it.
Consider the seasons and how the connect with the Liturgical life of the Church. Despite all the silly arguments that Jesus wasn't born in December or that that pareticular dating was a conspiracy of the Church to overtake a pagan festival, in the end it just makes sense when you consider the wider state of the universe when Christ became one of us. The middle of winter is dark and cold. Life has seemingly stopped or become stagnant. And into that darkness comes light. And if you lived in a time when you really had to live at the mercy of the seasons, when your life and well being more greatly hinged upon the seasons...well all the more reason to try and celebrate hope in the midst of darkest winter.
And, naturally, Spring IS Resurrection. With this in mind, I've often wondered if those in the southern hemisphere ought to celebrate by a different calender. Why not? Those on the equator...well you all should just move to better support my notion here, not to mention that every civilized human being knows that you ought to at least have a chance for snow in the winter. As any illumined staretz will tell you, Orthodoxy works well on snowy nights.
In Kitsap, power outages are said to be a common occurance. What this means, often, is that we need to be prepared to possibly not have water and not have heat for an unknow number of days. Once the chicks arrive we will also need to worry about their warmth since their warming lamp will be out. So, there is preparation to be made for our winter...much more than just buying a styrofoam cover for our water spickets, too. Once we start seriously farming and seriously raising animals, the seasons will speak to us even more loudly. But already we can hear their voices more than we used to.
I wonder if it will speak more meaning into our dance through the liturgical cycle? I suppose that will be up to us.
...happened (according to my early morning math) 162 years ago today. The NPR commentator this morning noted it briefly and said simply that a greatly outnumbered British force charged an overwhelming Russian force, received heavy casualties, "and accomplished nothing."
A few of points about that charge. 1. Hindsight is 20/20 (Worse odds have turned out differently) 2. Anytime you lose a battle - however well or poorly planned - you usually accomplish nothing. 3. Lord Alfred Alfred Tennyson could kick the arses of Carl Kasell, Steve Inskeep, and Renee Monatgne all at the same time.
Accomplishing nothing or not, there was a time when we honored astonishing bravery, if not the foolish command that required it.
The Charge of the Light Brigade
1. Half a league, half a league, Half a league onward, All in the valley of Death Rode the six hundred. "Forward, the Light Brigade! "Charge for the guns!" he said: Into the valley of Death Rode the six hundred.
2. "Forward, the Light Brigade!" Was there a man dismay'd? Not tho' the soldier knew Someone had blunder'd: Their's not to make reply, Their's not to reason why, Their's but to do and die: Into the valley of Death Rode the six hundred.
3. Cannon to right of them, Cannon to left of them, Cannon in front of them Volley'd and thunder'd; Storm'd at with shot and shell, Boldly they rode and well, Into the jaws of Death, Into the mouth of Hell Rode the six hundred.
4. Flash'd all their sabres bare, Flash'd as they turn'd in air, Sabring the gunners there, Charging an army, while All the world wonder'd: Plunged in the battery-smoke Right thro' the line they broke; Cossack and Russian Reel'd from the sabre stroke Shatter'd and sunder'd. Then they rode back, but not Not the six hundred.
5. Cannon to right of them, Cannon to left of them, Cannon behind them Volley'd and thunder'd; Storm'd at with shot and shell, While horse and hero fell, They that had fought so well Came thro' the jaws of Death Back from the mouth of Hell, All that was left of them, Left of six hundred.
6. When can their glory fade? O the wild charge they made! All the world wondered. Honor the charge they made, Honor the Light Brigade, Noble six hundred.
Eastbound this morning the weather got progressively worse. I could see stars as I hopped into my truck, and by the time I stepped off the ferry downtown it was pouring. The trip home had the weather clearing somewhat and so I braved the upper deck of the boat and looked around.
Seattle shrinks and I am reminded of how this same ferry trip used to be such a novelty - a cheap date even. I recall taking Sue for a ride back when she first came to visit me here nearly 13 years ago. Now, I take 2 ferry trips a day, 10 a week, 40+ a month and up to 500 a year. I expect the romance of such journeys will soon fade.
Looking north and east, I note with a hint of sadness that home is not really there anymore. And, in fact, outside of downtown Seattle I have not been on "the other side" since I hauled a 26' (not ") Uhaul onto the M/V Spokane nearly a month ago. And I think to myself: I have no idea - really - what all is happening over there. In Lynnwood, in Brier, or in Bothell - sometimes its odd to think about life going on without you, almost as if you had died. Such an odd collection of the little things you miss and ask yourself, such as: I wonder if they ever fixed that one pothole? Or I wonder if Basil has finished painting his house? Or I wonder if Big E has introduced a Winter Brew? I miss being able to pick up the phone and invite sf over, spur of the moment, to have a sip of scotch and watch a decidedly non-chick flick. Of course, we knew this was going to be the price we were going to pay, but when you are actually paying it...well it kinda sucks. Sorta like "no interest, no payments for six months."
Rade's presence here, monday through friday, has been a blessing - a welcome reflection of our relationships overr there. Just his presence alone has made our ongoing transition so much easier. I count our present symbiotic relationship to be nothing short of God's providence, and though he may likely grow weary of us, we are and always will be thankful to have him.
Dawn has also been of great beenfit in helping us transition...even if she is from BI. (running and ducking). Her welcoming us and engaging us and helping us has been invaluable. Besides her presence, she has also been our "tour guide" of sorts, answering our many questions like: "Where do I take James if he cuts his hand off with an axe?" Or "Where do I go to register my van?" Or "Where's the nearest pub?"
Anyway, after filling my holes over the last weekend I sat down on my porch with my pipe and a Silver City Whoop Pass IPA and talked to my wife about our pasture plans, our chicken plans, and the need to get the flea and tick medicine put on Killick. Living the dream - though still growing it. But ever present - I expect - will be a sense of curiosity as to what is going on "over there."
The boat has docked on the west side, time to go home.
...has undergone back surgery and is recovering...in Cleveland Ohio.
God grant a speedy recovery. May we ever be friends to our coptic brethren, their plight in Egpyt is shamefully under reported. but not only in Egpyt...
While the story does not say for certain that the young girl in question was a Copt, here we see slavery in SANTA ANA California. A little taste of what the copts have been telling us happens all too often to their daughters in Egpyt. Thank God this little girl was in America...and also thank God for this: The girl will be allowed to remain in the United States. She plans to go to school and eventually even go to college.
A simple google search of "Coptic girls kidnapped" will illumine one to many many horrific tales. Sadly it seems that the only people giving a crap are evangelical organizations that exist to specifically report on the persecution of Christians around the world. One would think that we Orthodox - who as a group are likely more familiar with persecution than any other Christian group on earth would have a stronger and more united voice against the suffering of our brethren.
On my bus this morning was a homeless man in a wheelchair. While I was trying to read, he was anxious to talk - as, if we are to be honest, homeless people are apt to want to do. So I put my book aside and we talked.
He explained to me how the ferry was a real bumpy ride this morning and I agreed and then he went on to explain that he prefers to sleep on Bainbridge Island. I laughed out loud because Bainbridge is a wealthy and arguably pretentious community likely not very accustomed to homeless people wandering its streets or using their trees as a sort of high class outdoor hotel. The man smiled at my laughing and he said, "I'm serious...no one F's with you out there...it's nice. No SOB's who will kick your a___ and steal your stuff."
I told him I could see his point. He then offered, "Plus I really like the trees."
Again, I told him I could see his point...I mean REALLY see his point.
And then he went on to explain how he also likes to hop the bus and go to the Casino. Where he takes the money he earns from selling the "Real Change" Newspaper and gets drunk and gambles his money away. Once he's broke, he gets back on the Ferry and goes to Seattle to sell more of the papers. He says it's TOTALLY worth the cost of the ferry trip. And I could sense in him that he felt like he was making a connection between his lifestyle with the more "normal" lifestyle of the rest of us who commute back and forth on the ferry and buses. He was making his living just like the rest of us and he seemingly had no comprehension of the futility of it all.
But then why should he be different from the rest of us? We engage ourselves with less obvious or less socially unacceptable futility all the time. None-the-less, I cannot help but wonder what the activists at "Real Change" would think of this man's use of his paycheck - however small it may be. Because the only change that "Real Change" is accomplishing for this guy is a change of environment...a real nice environment, to be sure though.
The dried mud covering my shoes this morning are a testimony to what my weekend entailed...I suppose my wife was right when she suggested I should have put on my rubber boots for the task of refilling the septic feasibility holes, but oh well...the viruses won't care.
Another beautiful weekend, and since it may well have been the last of such weekends for a while, I decided I'd better get those holes refilled - especially since two of them would likely be in the midst of a future goat pasture. Filling them was markedly more difficult than digging them: what took a large backhoe three or four scoops took me a couple of hours worth of shoveling - even with my kids' help (or hindrance as the case may be.)
Nicholas asked me if it hurt the earth when they dug the holes and if we were making the earth feel better by refilling them. As I tried to answer, it also occurred to me: why is it that typically the people who have a hard time with the masculine pronoun being ascribed to God, seemingly have no problem with the feminine one being applied to the earth? I mean what about all those poor people who have a negative association with mothers? How are they to relate to dirt? Well, my craziness doesn't stop there, as I wearily worked on the third hole, it occurred to me that the only thing worse than manually filling graves is actually being in one.
As I became intimately acquainted with the soil, my wife was working on the chicken coop. Chickens will be our first farm animals to come home to roost. The coop, which existed already for some other purpose, needed to have some windows boarded up and some shelving removed. It also needed to have a door put into what had been simply an open doorway. In the workshop/storage shed/barn, the previous owners had left a small collection of what appears to be antique doors. Sue was rifling through them and noticed that some had price tags. And one of the doors also had a little sign attached that said something like this: "Teddy Roosevelt walked through these doors seven times." Now that's different...but of course, I don't believe it, because Teddy - as far as I know - had no teleportation skills and thus more likely walked through the doorway that these doors hung in. I wonder if we should not ebay them.
I did not go to church on Sunday, but that's okay because I didn't play five card poker on Saturday night either. (A beer to whoever can reference that line). Our niece and nephew spent the weekend with us and when we awoke on Sunday morning we came to the realization that having the six of them all together there would have been a disaster. They seem to be an unstoppable chain reaction of hyper activity whenever they are together (such that Iran would LOVE to study them) and every scenario that we imagined seem to go poorly when we gave it any amount of rational thought. So I stayed home with some of the kids and endured their non stop requests to play the visiting XBOX while I insisted they go out and enjoy the fleeting nice weather. I won, especially - believe it or not - when it involved shoveling dirt.
We officially saw our first wildlife last night too. While there has been evidence of their existence (which of course was never in doubt since we border 700 acres of undeveloped forest and wetland), but we'd yet to actually see them. Anyway a Raccoon was hanging out off the back porch eating an apple - cute little guy...but they can be problematic for chickens. A clear reminder to make sure the coop is very secure...I can think of no finer and worthier use for the former president's doors - assuming we don't ebay them.
Tongue speaking, gay bashing Babushkas...what a crazy world. Spat upon and yelled at? Heck they are getting off easy...try irking one of our Orthodox Babushkas by sitting in church with your legs crossed or something, you'd be looking to form the "inquirers self-defense organization."
Gay and fundie groups will go on fighting like cats and dogs I suppose, but the real sad part of this story are all these slavs who have apparently left Orthodoxy.
The other day my son and I were out and about running errands. As we were cruising along a literal corridor of trees, we rounded a bend and then came to our left turn to get home. On that particular road sat two cars waiting for me to pass by. Nicholas noted the two cars at the stop sign and said, "Now that's what I call traffic...two cars, that's traffic." Well on his way to being a country boy...thank God, cause ya know life ain't nuthin but a funny funny riddle.
Of course, we really do have traffic jams in this area...one need only wait for rush hour to watch the cars pouring off the ferry and heading north to get off Bainbridge Island to see some pretty ugly traffic. Or the snags created by roadwork in downtown Poulsbo. In Nicholas' case I think he was just recognizing that we just don't see that many cars on the roads surrounding our home, and he's right. The one nice thing about North Kitsap traffic (when it does happen) is that usually one turn will free you from it completely.
When I went and registered my wife's van I was pleased to find that I did not need to have an emission test (ahhh...fond memories of life in Sultan), and I did not have to pay the RTA tax anymore. On top of that, the move also reduced our insurance rates. Good night, why doesn't everyone live out here? :)
Yes, of course, the commute sucks. Well...while I am sure I will tire of it eventually, I have to say that the ferry ride is quite enjoyable. An opportunity to toss out multiple blog posts, read some, knock out another page or two on that long overdue novel, or even sleep. Thus far however, on a cool sunny day, escaping the city to go home is something that can only be experienced properly by sitting up on the sun deck of the boat and watching the pristine beauty of the Puget Sound...as long as you keep your eyes looking generally westward. On stormy days, I can look out the windows and watch the wind blown white caps and call home to make sure the little woman has a fire burning, my easy chair nearby, my slippers warmed, and my pipe filled. (Let's see if she reads this).
In the morning, like this very moment, it is dark and I cannot see much of the impending borg cube we sail toward, and this seems appropriate. I have read accounts of life in Juskova Vola for my great grandparents, and how they would have to haul their farm grown or hand crafted goods a long ways into the "real" town everyday in the hopes of being able to sell them to the "city folk." I guess maybe in some ways, things have not changed all that much.
As a side, one of the local NPR affiliates here has been doing stories on the intriguing and sometimes dangerous waters of Puget Sound. They are worth reading or listening to. Deception Pass The white knuckle ferry run
Opening line: A fresh wave of atheistic books has hit the market this autumn, some climbing onto best-seller lists in what proponents see as a backlash against the way religion is entwined in politics.
There is a "huge visibility and political empowerment of religion. President George W. Bush uses his first veto to deny funding for stem cell research and scientists everywhere are horrified," he [author Sam Harris] said in an interview.
Look, Sam, to this degree, religion will ALWAYS play a role in politics as surely as Atheism does and will;. Both form the human conscience, except that atheists almost always pervert their atheism in order to make it more palatable,for in reality it has no exterior moral guidance whatsoever. Interior (or self) moral guidance has a rich history of working rather poorly. Atheists tend to forget that much of what even they will embrace as moral common ground with theists is founded upon the teachings of Jesus Christ as it has become ingrained in our formation as a culture. I would even argue that the notion of tolerance as seen in most western cultures is ALSO derived from the teachings of Jesus Christ. Now, by tolerance I do not mean acceptance...I mean that Jesus had the law put down its stones and speak to the heart of the adulteress saying: "Go and sin no more."
Furthermore, scientists "everywhere" were not horrified. How absurd. While I do not doubt that many and even a majority of scientists were perturbed, to imply that the entire scientific community was aghast at the decision is stupid. I type here as a living testimony to that stupidity.
Religious polarization is part of many world conflicts, he said, including those involving Israel and Iran, "but it's never discussed. I consider it the story of our time, what religion is doing to us. But there are very few people calling a spade a spade."
Wrong. I have often called a spade a spade. But here we see what I have oft feared would be the result of stupid and asinine instances of people making moral equivalences between the teachings of all religions. Even Rosie O'Donnell with her profound grasp of religious understanding has said on her silly little morning talk show that Christian fundamentalists are just as dangerous as Jihadists. Utter brilliance, but unfortunately more and more people are buying it and it is giving fuel to atheists to claim (as they have in the past) that religions have and are causing horrors all over the world. I would advise that in all the world's conflicts we see today that have the appearance of religious inspiration, that Mr. Harris and others determine what exactly is the common denominator of them all. DO THE MATH.
Paul Kurtz, founder of the Council for Secular Humanism and publisher of Free Inquiry magazine, said, "The American public is really disturbed about the role of religion in U.S. government policy, particularly with the Bush administration and the breakdown of church-state separation, and secondly with the conflict in the Mideast."
Besides the profound misunderstanding of the the First Amendment (which does not mean that religious convictions cannot guide the collective human decision making process) which I will not address, he seems to imply that our present policy in the Middle East is somehow being guided by American religious principles? I guess I missed the speech in which GW claimed he was going to depose Saddam in the name of Jesus. Or perhaps I skipped over the various bills passed by congress which began "In the name of Jesus, most merciful and compassionate..."
What is odd, in my silly little mind, is why Atheists are not TOTALLY and OVER THE TOP gun hung about the war on terror. I mean, have they read what the terrorists are fighting for? Stem cell research bans horrify us? Hell, how about getting your wives done up in Burkhas? How about stoning Monica Lewinsky for adultery? Legalize Pot? HAHAHAHAH...how about having your hand removed for smoking it? Separation of Church and State? HAHAHAHA...how about government religious police wandering the streets looking for dress code violations? Fond of your right to criticize Christianity...or even to create "piss Christ" art? HAHAHAH...how bout we pass a few blasphemy laws including death as a possible punishment. Hey, Atheists, I bet you are fond of tolerance and what not...how bout we ban the practice of all religions except Christianity...wouldn't that be fun!
You want to know how religion has played a role in our Middle East policy? I mean REALLY played a role? It has stayed our hand. Read it again: It has stayed our hand. Perhaps not enough, in the opinion of some, but none-the-less...take away our moral foundations as inspired (whether we remember it or not) by the teachings of Christ and we should have laid waste to the Middle East a long time ago. Taken over the oil, build some fences with machine gun nests to secure them and close down all traffic in and out save that which we need to get our oil. Let the Shia and Sunnis celebrate their fast together - and perhaps even watch the fireworks as some sort of reality TV program. What in Atheism would persuade us to do otherwise?
"I've published 45 books, many critical of religion," Kurtz said. "I think in America we have this notion of tolerance ... it was considered bad taste to criticize religion. But I think now there are profound questions about age-old hatreds."
I guess I missed seeing that notion that prevented people from freely criticizing religion here in America. Bad Taste, maybe...but never illegal...never dangerous. News in the last few years though has shown a particular problem with ONE religion and tolerance and freedom and danger. But, in the west, we have been free to crucify Christ over and over and over again. As we should be free to do so....that is the sort of long-suffering God we serve, decidedly NOT one subject to "age-old hatreds." Hatred is the fruit of atheism...whether we recognize it or not.
I can't help but think of Spinal Tap whenever I think of druids. Remember:
Usually modern pagans are massive "earth cookies" and they reinvent their religion (to the extent that pomo's could only dream of matching) in order to mesh with their earth cookie recipes. How shocked they would be to think about druids drinking human blood or beating goats to death against the walls of stonehenge...of course we really have very little idea what the druids believed or practiced.
And yet, these nut jobs will dress up and frolic about Stonehenge as if the religion had never really been naturally selected to die. I'll bet some Anglican priests were present as well...maybe one of these dudes preparing to sacrifice some virgins:
...as written by Ian Frazier is unquestionably one of the most hilarious things I have ever read. However, the real lamentations of a father are are not so funny. Mine have less to do with what the kids do as with what I do, or fail to do.
Any regular readers here will recall that I have from time to time lamented about my failures as a father. I count them as the single most important issue in my life - a recurrent topic of both my confessions and my "mom and dad huddles."
If I have fatherly failures, then surely I must have fatherly successes? How precisley do I discern between the two? Well, I must , for now, keep such definitions as simple as possible. Failure is to neglect, ignore, or rebuff my kids' interest in interacting with me. Usually this is done in favor of FAR FAR more important things, which 99% of the time are decidedly not more important than much of anything. Furthermore, failure is to lose my patience. To let love and joy give way to anger and frustration...it happens too easily and it would seem that at least one of my kids is unfathomably adept at controlling me on this point.
Okay, and success then is simply putting aside my petty plans, desires, and hopes...oh and believe me, they are petty...and instead engaging and interacting with my children. And furthermore I allow love and joy to rule that interaction even and especially if the children begin to try my patience. Discipline given in love is a billion times more effective than discipline given in anger. Far too much of my discipline has been motivated by anger as opposed to actually trying to benefit the child.
I am recently quite frustrated by my inability to learn. For you see I often say that God has given me four children so as to teach me patience...but it would seem I have been sleeping in class and not doing my homework. Instead of learning, I seem to just be enduring. I am horribly jealous of you men for whom loving fatherhood seems to just come naturally...or at the very least you have so mastered patience that love and joy triumph over anger and frustration. How do you do it?
How will I do it? Well, I believe, every new day, every ferry sailing home, every drive into the driveway must be accompanied with a new commitment to reinvest oneself wholly in the role of a Dad. To put aside the stress of work, the worries of adult life which we are all familiar with, the petty selfish dreams, and just enter fully, joyfully, deliberately, and even fearfully into that wondrous relationship we ought to have with our children. I am reminded of the cherubic hymn we sing in which we are exhorted to leave all earthy cares behind...is not fatherhood also a sacrament?
At the back of the nave at St. Elizabeth you can just see (if you are tall enough) the pinnacle of a good sized silver cupola. It was found for sale by a parishioner who was in Indonesia and they bought it and brought it back in the hopes that some day it can used by the Parish. Of course, a blemish had to be removed first...a crescent shaped item was found atop of the dome - for some reason - but it was easily removed. I suggest it ought to be replaced with a cross akin to the one seen on the center dome here (regardless of whether the Tartars had gotten or have yet to get this far west):
Anyway...word hasn't got out yet to the press much, so hopefully we can avoid any bloodshed. However, I heard rumors that Newsweek was going to report that the crescent had been flushed down a toilet - but that's not likely since we all know better over here than to treat our septic systems that way.
All in good fun folks, relax. I doubt anyone will be beheaded over it.
Dawn provided me with a book on her life recently and I have been devouring it. It is a fascinating account of this saint's life - our new parish's patroness. I think that one of the things that most intrigues me about this book is that it is written from an entirely historic perspective, by which I mean to say that the author is not Orthodox and is in no way intending to write a formal hagiography.
In parts it almost seems to read like a romance novel, while at other times it has all the feel of an in depth history text. But always the author has a very distinct admiration for Saint Elizabeth.
Modern saints, such as Elizabeth, can often grant to us a very unique perspective. A perspective that reveals the humanity of the person. For most Saints, really, all we know about them usually can only be found in their hagiographies. We typically do not have their personal correspondences written to their wives or husbands or parents (including grammatical errors that I myself am well familiar with...truly encouraging!) We do not see evidences of their day to day struggles, their doubts and fears, or - as in the case of St. Elizabeth - their slow and difficult conversion to Orthodoxy.
Elizabeth was a Lutheran, a Granddaughter of Queen Victoria, but born a Grand Duchess of Hesse. After she married Grand Duke Serge of Russia (who the author of the book is convinced is a closeted homosexual...but I think it is a conviction based on scant real evidence and ultimately doesn't matter anyway) she retains her Lutheran faith for a while, and the book presents a fascinating letter she writes, describing how she is dealing with the oddities of Orthodoxy - and as a Russian Duchess she certainly would have to "deal with it."
It is an account familiar to many of us converts, St. Elizabeth writes to her Grandmother Queen Victoria:
Of course there were holy pictures, but where Serge knelt and kissed them I made a very low curtsy, in that way it does not shock the people so much and yet I do not think that I go too far. I only kiss the cross when held out to me and as is the custom to kiss the priest's hand when he kisses one's own I do it too - it is a mark of politeness.
Some years later, after a powerful and life-changing experience in the Holy Land, and after coming to love and appreciate the Russian people and their faith, St. Elizabeth would write the following to her father:
now dearest Papa there is something I want to tell you, beg you for your blessings - you must have remarked what deep reverance I have for the religion here when you came last - since over a year and a half I have been thinking and praying to God to show the right way and have come to the conclusion that only in their religion I can find all the true and strong faith one must have in God to be a good Christian...I would have done it so even before, only it hurts me to give you pain and that many of my dear relations will not understand me, you do, don't you?
Sadly, her father apparently did not understand and returned to his daughter what must have been a crushing blow in the form of a most bitter letter. And while she did get some support for her decision (even from her Grandmother Queen Victoria), she still received a good deal of criticism from others. Her experiences make me wonder if we should not encourage converts today who are struggling with misunderstanding or critical family members to seek her intercessions?
It is encouraging to me to see a real person in St. Elizabeth. As an infant she apparently did not fast from the breast during Lent and she apparently did not (as far as we know) teleport herself. Rather she voluntarily (and involuntarily) suffered and gave up all for her faith. She was exceptionally charitable and even before her husband had been murdered and she took up the monastic habit she strove to help the poor and suffering whoever they might be, whether returning wounded soldiers, poverty or disease stricken villagers, or even the family of the Tsar themselves (which of course included her sister.)
The author even attempts to use the data of the survey as an opportunity to show how Bush is failing. And how future political attempts at using "family values" will also fail.
This bit is brilliant: "The only question is whether it is catastrophic or just evolutionary." Oh yes, evolution has never been catastrophic has it? And then he adds, "So over time, we're moving towards a much more individualistic society." And this is good or this is bad?
So, "rural communities...bastions of traditionalism"? So be it.
They will break upon this fortress like water on rock. Saruman's hoards will pillage and burn, we've seen it before. Crops can be re-sown... homes, rebuilt. Within these walls, we will out last them...Look at my men. Their courage hangs by a thread. If this is to be our end, then I would have them make such an end as to be worthy of remembrance.
One should never miss an opportunity to quote Theoden.
Opening of boxes long ago sealed, has revealed a host of reading material I had either never begun or had never finished. In the case of the title above, a school text I had written by Fr. John Meyendorff, I had only browsed and referenced with regard to specific topics while in school. So, I've cracked it anew and am plowing through it. Nearly right off the bat I am enlightened by a portion regarding the Christian divisions and Imperial unity - and to some degree my previous notions are dashed.
...strong evidence shows that initially both Nestorians and Monophysites were consistently loyal to both the imperial idea and the Empire itself...recent research does not condone the view that non-Chalcedonian Copts welcomed Muslims as liberators from the Roman rule: even then, and in spite of Chalcedonian persecutions, there was widespread loyalty to the Christian empire. It appears, therefore, that it is only under Persian or Arab, and later Turkish rule, when intellectual contacts with Greek theology were lost and every connection with Byzantium was viewed with suspicion by the new masters, that the Non-Chalcedonian Christian communities of the Middle East became close-knit national-churches. As long as they were part of the Roman oikumeme, Syrians and Copts remained basically loyal to it ideologically, even if they had, in their majority, rejected Chalcedonian orthodoxy and suffered persecution.
Now I had read numerous lamenting Coptic accounts of the Arab invasions of Egypt, but I was still always under the impression that generally Muslim rule was welcomed over Byzantine rule because of the religious "freedom" it brought the Non-Chalcedonians. But perhaps that notion is revisionist history? An attempt to find some benefit to what otherwise would be seen as a miserable situation? By that I mean: in hindsight the Non-Chaceldonians can look back and see that they were granted freedom from Constantinople (I believe there is a natural tendency for people to try and find some "good" in a situation which they can neither reverse or change much for the better), but it would appear that the people of the time did not see it so. Fr. Meyendorff notes that the Non-Chalcedonians perceived that they could still have loyalty to the institution of the Christian Empire while praying for the conversion of the "heretical" emperor. Certainly we Chalcedonian Orthodox Christians have similar examples in our Saints who suffered persecution from a variety of heretical emperors. (iconoclast, Arian etc.) And, as we know finding oneself outside of the reach of heretical emperors did benefit some Saints' campaign against the heresy...but it was not a requirement for the success of Orthodoxy as many a disfigured or martyred Saint could tell you.
I think one can hardly argue that the Non-Chalcedonians have exactly flourished under political Islam - quite the opposite really. Still today they suffer as recent news suggests and as any Copt can tell you. By the same token who can say how they would have faired if Constantinople was able to keep their ship afloat against the rising tide of Islam? Would a modern Greek dominated Turkey offer more freedom to Non-Chalcedonians? What would Egypt look like today if the Arabs invasions had been turned back? Some might argue that Islamic empires had preserved the Non-Chalcedonians and they might well be right - who knows? But, now, I imagine they would rather like to join the rest of the world for a bit more of the religious freedom most of us enjoy today. So that even if Fr. Meyendorff is wrong about the initial sentiment of "liberation", things have certainly changed such that a new liberation seems in order - though this time, we may hope it will come through a united outcry of the full and broad spectrum of religious and political opinions in favor of absolute freedom of conscience.
Today, we are going to teach large German Shepherd mixes how to fly!
Killick, while apparently enjoying our move, has none-the-less developed a certain phobia of being alone at home. Back in Bothell we could leave him in the house for hours on end and we would have no problems save an occassional digging through unsecured garbage.
I suspect that he has not yet come to the understanding that we are HOME now and not on some extended camping trip or something. It seems that everytime we leave he goes insane trying to get out of the house.
On the first occassion we came home to find the screens in the master bedroom on the second floor laying on the ground below and everything near a window throughout the house in a state of disarray. On a second occassion we came home from Church to be dotingly greeted by Killick outside. After searching the house we found that he'd located a partly opened window and pushed his way out, which included a good five foot drop to the grass below.
Thinking we'd learned our lesson, the most recent time we left him alone we THOUGHT we'd secured the house. But when we returned, he was out again and we were totally oblivious as to how he managed it. I assumed he'd developed an Ephremite ability to mystically transport himself through walls or something.
Shockingly, I found that the window next to the "hobbit hole" on the second floor had its screen knocked out (knocked out and onto the floor INSIDE!) and the hinged window was ajar about 7 inches. Outside the window is the metal roof to the back porch and upon it I noticed Killick's slipping paw marks in the dew leading to the edge of the roof and what must be at least a 9 foot drop. Indeed, once he'd gotten through the window, there was no stopping the slide and subsequent fall. Now the bottom edge of the window is close to four feet high and if you've seen Killick's head, you too will have a hard time imaginging how he squeezed it through a 7 inch opening with a large push bar in the middle...but he did it. Furthermore, as I look out that window, even now, I get a bit of vertigo thinking about sliding down that roof and falling off!
I do not know how that dog managed not to break his leg or hip doing this stunt. He just doesn't seem to be built to sustain such a fall, and yet he did - seemingly without a scratch.
So, from now on, he will find himself tied to the font porch while we are gone - at least until he stops his mystical transportation and levitation tricks. As any novice ought to know: OBEDIENCE first. When the elder (that's me) says SIT and STAY, he means it! And no more of this talk about the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" either. :)
A common problem in rural areas: why bother going to the dump when you can just toss your old sofas, recliners, or TVs down along side the road. Apparently the biggest factor that keeps people from polluting is being seen by others doing it, and in the city you are ALWAYS being seen and so it's a bit tougher leaving crap out...although, in many places it might never be noticed and could even possibly be appreciated.
A quiet country road, however, affords one the peace and quiet and solitude to dump their crap off onto the rest of the world. I'm not sure how long it will take a recliner to decay into nothing, but I'm guessing the TVs will be around long after I've decayed...unless I'm found incorrupt. Uh huh....sure.
It's a shame really that some people can be so rude. I'm inclined (though likely mistaken) to think that it is city folk from downtown Poulsbo, because most rural folk prefer to keep their junk close at hand. That sofa and recliner would work just fine on the porch and the TV could be used for target practice. A toilet makes a fine planter and no redneck yard is complete without a partially disassembled vehicle or two and a growing Ford Chia-pinto. Laugh all you like, but at least it's all in THEIR yard.
What I will say for sure is that if it is a fellow rural person, I am sure it is someone from another rural area. City folk, having more money I suppose, PAY to have their crap shipped somewhere else (outa sight, outa mind)...here we have poor or lazy folk doing the same thing themselves. Everyone else's land is, apparently, my personal landfill.
All are playing significant roles in my life lately, or at least a much more obvious role. Of course these items are fairly critical to the quality of life we are used to these days, but often overlook in our mad suburban rush. The skeletal wood of our homes are unseen by most residents therein, fresh veggies come from Safeway not soil, and water comes from a reservoir somewhere behind barbed wire and armed guards. Soil is only seen during that brief period of construction before it is hidden underneath pristine and heavily chemistried lawns worthy of Tiger Woods' playing. Wood is a material we use to provide some semblance of privacy from our neighbors who are stacked up us. Water...it's what keeps our lawns...ummm well...lawns.
Anyway, I took the day off of work - amidst sick kids - in order to have someone come out and dig large trenches on my property to look into the soil. It seems the key issue is what depth of soil (and the type) exists above the level of the historic presence of the water table. In other words, the water isn't there now, but via some iron deposits they can see how far up the water table can get. The depth of the soil is a dominant factor in determining what type of septic systems you may legally have and it seems as regulations change it is getting more and more difficult for people in Kitsap county to install the least expensive and most simple gravity septic system. As for us, our soil depth is quite low, we may not be able to simply expand our existing system. However there are always complex details to consider that may in fact allow us to have the more simple system (e.g. the fact that our well is over 275 feet from the drainfield). We shall see what options the designers offers us.
But the thing that struck me is that when you are both exporting and importing from the soil directly underneath you, you simply MUST concern yourself with environmental issues - very local environmental issues. Your septic tank is a sort of eco-system in and of itself and what goes down the drain can mess up that biological balance, damage the actual system, or end up in your soil from which you are deriving water and food. Biodegradable and "eco-safe" products suddenly find their way to the top of your shopping list. Yes, I am definitely feeling much more apart of my environment.
I also set out and whacked away at some blackberry bushes in order to repair a drainage pipe that moves water collected from the roof far away from the foundation of the home - an important thing because our home is built on a small slab and has a permanent wood foundation - which while resistant to water is none-the-less best kept as dry as possible to retain its "permanency." The pipes run northward a ways and dumps the water out onto the slope where it runs down into the 700 acres of forested nothingness. One section of pipe had come loose and I set about reconnecting it - hopefully it will stay without more in depth repairs.
I spent the afternoon in the woods to collect some more firewood. Killick came along with me and provided a good deal of entertainment chasing squirrels. At one point, a particularly feisty squirrel turned round from his safe vantage point in the tree and flipped Killick the squirrel equivalent of "the bird"...chattering away at him as if laughing. Killick was unmoved by it all - apparently not understanding - but kept vigil at the trunk while I finished loading the wheelbarrow. I still don't have enough wood to last the winter at this point and I've not decided how I am going to make up the deficit. There is one large section of a felled tree that remains and I hope to try and haul that out this weekend. I'll do everything I can to avoid using electric heat...as if it were Hugo Chavez's generator.
And in keeping with my redneck, hillbilly, boondock, hick lifestyle, I ran over to Walmart and bought my shotgun and ammo. Took my wife out in the backyard and had her fire a few rounds at a bottle, which she seemed to enjoy despite the bruising. I had her throw mine and I managed to nick two out of three...not bad for not having shot skeet in nearly 20 years. I used my Walmart shopping bag to bring my lunch into work and I received a snide remark, to which I happily responded: "Oh, don't worry I just bought ammo there."
Rural life certainly changes your priorities and perspectives. While looking at and digging through soil, a bald eagle did a flyby. The county keeps a map of known nesting pairs, but I didn't see any near our home. Not sure of their range before they have to refuel. And last, but not least, I got the grill set up.
Having a woodstove is quite a novelty for me. I had a fireplace in California (stop laughing), but never really had one in Washington - except when me and some buddies were renting a house in Bellevue...I'm pretty sure we hade a fireplace there.
Anyway, Fall has definately arrived here in Washington and it has been getting chilly. Consequently I have been dirtying my hands while trying to learn all the ins and outs of wood stove use. Now, I realize it isn't exactly rocket science, but I know me and even before we took ownership of the home I bought a CO monitor to install - just in case I might poison my family.
Well the stove works fine and the previous owners left us a fair supply of wood, including some large rounds in the woodshed that Rade has graciously been hacking away at for us. I also found a fair number of smaller rounds from a recently felled tree the owner told me about. Kesley and Ally (our priest's daughter) spent a good portion of moving day hauling these out of the woods - but there's still some more to retrieve so I hope to get the rest this week as we are expecting sun. Anyway, as I was saying, the stove works great - perhaps TOO great because it seems to warm the kitchen, family and dining room MORE than just fine, but it underheats the master bedroom and boys' bedroom while WAY overheating the girls' rooms in the loft.
Using the large ceiling fan in the main room has majorly reduced the overheating in the girls' room, but the boys' room remains much cooler. I worry that when the REAL cold comes we may have to use electricity to heat their room.
So, I wondered what effect it might have to set up a fan to blow some of the warm air into the boys' room from the kitchen area. I could not notice a difference - I don't think - so I am going to kidnap a fancy thermometer from the lab and test it. With and without fan to see if it makes any difference...and also to test where is the best place to put the fan. I will report my findings here which will no doubt inspire some complaints - to which I will simply answer: "Was it electric heat in 19th century Russia? No it was not."
Collecting wood yesterday after Church on a damp and cool day was just plain enjoyable. Walking back to the house with Killick in tow, chasing unseen critters in the ferns, and seeing home through the trees with smoke climbing gently out of the pipe - a sure sign of life therein - was a real treat to me. It was positively an idyllic scene...adding a bit of snow would have made it worthy of a Christmas card.
Ahhh...but this idyllicness (ha...made that one up) is still trapped in real life. A large spider in the wood had me nearly soiling myself, and brought me back to reality. This beauty isn't free...tomorrow we do the feasibility study for the addition to the septic system - another chance to put the fiscal pinch on my family. Never the less...what a beautiful place we live in...I would not change it for anything.
Friday's bus ride home had me listening in on a conversation between the driver and a passenger regarding tips on feeding your hogs just before slaughter (amongst other hog related issues.) I was all smiles...tough to complain about the commute when you can get farming tips while enroute.
Our first official Sunday at St. Elizabeth corresponded to the celebration of the feast of the Protection of the Theotokos. Now, if you are like me, you may not actually know much about this feast and its origins. Fr. Christopher provided some fascinating insights about it. HERE you can read a bit more about it, but of particular interest is the note that this feast is especially celebrated by the slavic churches.
While the article linked above gives one possible explanation as to why the feast is more remebered by the Slavs, Fr. Christopher gave a much more intriguing one: the "barbarians" at the gates of Constantinople were in fact, slavs.
Post conversion, the slavs found reason to embrace this feast and not just adopt it but to also emphasize it far more than the Greeks themselves who had actually been the ones delivered. Rather amazing if you think about it.
In essence the slavs are celebrating their defeat in the face of the protecting veil of the Theotokos. Now THAT'S redemption.
Blessed are those whose dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is highly functioning
Another study that takes a swing with the bat of biological determinism - and another reporter who is all too anxious to draw an uber dramatic conclusion. As is my custom, I shall be critical of such socio/psycho studies - especially when performed in this way.
In essence they have taken the human being and introduced him/her into what amounts to little more than a high school level chemistry experiment - like mixing two ingredients to see how they will react. Unfortunately, the human being is an incredibly complex organism and thus if you tell them they are involved in an experiment you have already added a stumbling block to your findings. Further, if you tell them they are playing a game...well same thing. I mean, were they REALLY measuring the extent of the participant's perceived needs playing a role in their decision making by playing with a mere $20.00? There are far too many complexities going on here - I believe - to make any grand conclusion...and they offer no explanation on how the electrical current "turns off" a portion of the brain, but since I do not know I will give them the benefit of the doubt.
But even then, with their DLPFC "turned off" they only went from 10 to 45% of the participant's being willing to take an unfair deal. What of the other half? How do we know that the shock wasn't just enough of an experience to just generally change one's disposition? Maybe they were irritated by the experience and found themselves no longer caring about $20.00? I could go on and on and on...when it comes to human beings the variables are so extensive that I always default to skepticism about these conclusions.
But like so many issues today we seem to really be pushing for a biological explanation for all things. Turning us into chemistry, and nothing more. In reality your love for your spouse or your children is, in essence, no different than the chemistry involved when sugar is used to make water taste sweet. Now I'm a smart enough person to realize that chemistry is big part of our bodies, but we cannot be the sum total of our biological substance.
I once wrote a short story in which a depressed scientist calculates his fiscal worth by calculating the weight of the different chemicals of which he is made. Having done so, he is then found trying to discern which method would make the most economical sense in ending his life. Not a happy thought, I know. But when love is reduced to chemistry...well...that's not a happy thought either.
We are more than the collective worth of our molecular weight.
Charity used to be exclusively an issue of religion. I think it still is, even if we fail to realize it. Outside of the context of religion nothing should ever motivate me except self interest - if this is not so, please enlighten me. Thus, I suppose, if poverty endangers me - say through crime - then I might feel motivated to do something about poverty. But otherwise, love (read:God) is the real author of true Charity.
The Church used to be the arbiter of all things charitable. Consider, where did panhandlers or beggars or the disabled gather in order to receive alms? Churches and Temples as services began and ended. As MASSIVE numbers of people poured into services, they would distribute their gifts to the needy...and, of course, the Church herself would do all manner of social work...often (as in a number of Orthodox countries) directly in the service or at least support of the state.
But today...as the Church is splintered and unused by so many, it just isn't practical anymore to rely on her goodwill and her inspiration to take care of the needy. Here in Washington, for instance, the majority of people sleep in on Sundays...or if you are a hip pomo Christian - the majority of Washintonians do not know you even exist. My point: there are no traffic jams on Sunday mornings.
The government has taken over the job. I have problems with this...though I cannot offer any solutions, because I believe it is equally unchristian to do nothing for the poor as it is to force an unbelieving rich man to do something for the poor. I don't believe Jesus ever said to steal from the rich and give to the poor.
But the government isn't alone, we alos have private charitable organizations that are working as well - fueled by voluntary donations and this to me seems like a better alternative than the government doing the work. Naturally this makes my political decision making difficult, because every seemingly "good" deed such as providing more moeny for low income housing rarely actually has any tax effect on me personally. For you see, I hardly pay any taxes at all! And so in essence I end up voting to make someone ELSE help the poor.
It's sad, really, that we have reached the state in the "post-modern" world where the Church has lost its prominent role in feeding the hungry. Which isn't to say that Christians and churches all over the world are not actively involved in innumerable charitable activities...it's just that we have not the unified voice of conscience we once had...and we certainly cannot compete with the power of the state to help the needy - even if they are doing it through involuntary tithing.
Now keep in mind, boys and girls, Turkey is "the only rigorously secular state in the Muslim world." And what is their logic for keeping the seminary closed?
They "cannot reopen Halki without letting Islamist groups launch their own schools that could radicalize local Muslims."
What?!?! Hold on a second, let me read that excuse again....nope, still doesn't make sense. You mean to tell me that they cannot change a law that allows Orthodox Christians to reopen a seminary without also allowing a Jihadist training school to function? They can't work in a law that forbids the training of future terrorists? You've got to be kidding me.
Of course...how many new priests does the EP need anyway? Four or five perhaps to function here in America?
Following duly established orders, I tied up the kitchen garbage and prepared to haul it out to the garbage cans neatly stored next to the barn - which is, for now, little more than a storage building.
As I kissed the abbess of the farm goodbye and began heading out in the direction of the truck, I realized something new: I could not see. The white of the Trooper could be discerned, but beyond that was utter blackness - no...not that, is was an actual void of light, which is slightly darker than black. Living in the city, or even in the suburbs you tend to forget how dark the night really is.
The barn was nowhere to be seen and as I was trying to locate it, along with a clear path to it, I nearly ran into the bike rack on the van - which only dumb luck allowed me to see before bloodying myslef upon it.
There's electricity in the barn, but the switch is ON the barn. And the outdoor lighting that marks the driveway only seems to work when some Rubic's cube-like puzzle combination of switches have been properly switched - a task we have yet to master. I opted to toss the trash in the truck and dump it when natural light afforded me the ability to see when I got back home.
Accompanying the darkness was a pretty good wind, and it reminded me that power outages are fairly common in Kitsap. Note to self: flashlights, extra water, and other emergency items need to be picked up before Fall takes further root.
The Ferry ride was more rough than any I have ever had - I ought to expect worse I am betting. Heck, a final approach in an aircraft that bounced and waved as much as that Ferry did would have been considered notably rough. What a strange commute I have.
I noticed, during our first Sunday as official OCA'ers, that the icons of Christ and the Theotokos on the Iconostasis at St. Elizabeth parish are the same as the first two icons I ever purchased.
It brought back a flood of memories of when I was seeking them to begin with - similar emotions of one's first crush I would suggest. At that time, I was a disgruntled Episcopalian looking into Orthodoxy and I had decided to get myself a couple of icons to "use" (not sure I knew what that meant) in my prayer time. But I had no idea whatsoever where I might acquire an Icon. Imagine thumbing through the yellow pages for a supplier of Byzantine style iconography?
Anyway, someone told me that an Episcopal supply store near Fremont had them and so off I went. Lo and behold, sitting all too close to the written works of the heretic "bishop" Spong sat the written works of Orthodoxy - the Icons.
I can still remember the contrast it put in my mind...it may have even further pushed me toward the Orthodox Church. Flashing back to today's issues: it is one thing to worry about hierarchs not more actively pursuing jurisdictional unity, it is another altogether to have them debating whether or not "Christ is Risen from the dead."
I was as giddy as a school girl during my long trip home to Sultan with the two Icons stowed in my passenger seat. It was a wonder that I did not wreck my car for as often as I was directing my eyes toward them.
Arriving home, I found what I thought would be a fine location for them and I sat them there in a window corner, leaning against the wall. I stood there and stared at them...and I stared at them...and then I stared at them even more.
NIV: But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell.
NKJV: But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.
Footnotes indicate that some manuscripts have "without cause" and some are....ummmm...without "without cause." It seems to me that there is a significant difference here. Sola Scriptura anyone?
In a laboratory setting, for some reason, everyone seems particularly interested in blaming someone when something goes wrong. I have seen in some people an almost pathological need to know who might be responsible for a problem - even if it is very likely that no one individual or even no human at all is responsible. I admit, I sometimes really enjoy watching the blame game getting revved up for action and feigning my own participation which, of course, involves intricate means of avoiding blame.
Some Washington State school districts have something called a "virtual academy" which is a means of capturing the tax dollars of home schooled students (I think) and if you go to one of their website you'll see that they ask WHY you wish to homeschool. Naturally it is not an essay question, but rather multiple choice - none of which quite fit the bill. However, with no less than three incidences of serious school violence in the last week, the "school is not safe" option seems more and more viable.
In his bowling movie, Michael Moore links school violence (to a large degree) to gun control issues - amongst other things. I think on all counts he misses the point altogether...I am far more interested in this ever increasing trend toward unventable anger and frustration in our youth? A sign of moral decay?
If there is no absolute truth - as we seem to teach nowadays - do you suppose kids are seeing the hypocrisy of "peace, love, and can't we all just get along?" This extends not just to those who finally snap and bring guns to school, but also to those who mercilessly tease and harass other kids often leading them to despair. It's all the rage (no pun intended) these days to discuss how gay teens suffer in high school, I tend to laugh: try being obese in high school. But my point is, I really wonder if kids are seeing that those espousing moral vagueness cannot reasonably backtrack and start espousing the moral clairty of diversity values and tolerance. We're not that stupid.
With regard to "blaming" gun control, the military industrial complex, or news reporting of crime, I tend to agree with "Larry the Cable Guy" (Yep, I'm a proud red neck hick) who would say that the recent and horrible Amish school shooting can be blamed on guns as surely as Larry's spelling errors can be blamed on his pencil. The notion that guns are to blame is similar to the blame being laid upon the Pope for causing violence in the Muslim world - except in the latter case you are not just negating the free will of an individual, but that of an entire (or at least a significant portion of a) cultural-religious group! An astonishing lack of PC thinking I would say.
I think, world wide, we have lost some sense of our moral compass. Our behavioral expectations have been twisted and turned to the point that I think we are confused. From road rage to school shootings to mosque and church bombings...we seem to be missing the idea of personal moral culpability. Searching for blame...anywhere...except in the person(s) acting. And as I think I've said...I do believe in a wider societal culpability too (which does not neccesarily negate personal free will AT ALL), I just think our fault is more closely linked to the moral relativity we ADORE so much today.
I am deeply saddened that we are in a way making the Amish sleep in the beds we somehow made.
American Orthodox Leaders Meet Interesting that a number of papers carried only the first half of this article - choosing to end it with this line: "the Orthodox presence in the United States is relatively minor." Curious that I end up in Montana to find the enitre thing.
There's a number of ironies in this article, which I will let you - my very dear readers - find for yourself.
I was a tad irked by this: Many Orthodox are frustrated that, in a nation of spiritual seekers, the elaborate ritual, liturgy and teachings of the Orthodox tradition are failing to attract more newcomers. Advocates for unity say a merger would create badly needed resources for outreach.
Hello? Logic? Ummm...if the elaborate rituals et. al. are the cause for failing to attract, how will additional resources help? We don't need more money to make our rituals less "elaborate" (Whatever that means)or to seek a better way to be attractive...can you imagine the Craigslist ad: "Looking to trade 19th centutry Icon of the Theotokos for bass guitar and drum set"
I think the reporter missed something here. Our "elaborate ritual, liturgy and teachings" are not in any way going to change...in fact, we generally tend to see this fact itself is cited as being an attractive feature by new converts. Resources will help to give us greater exposure, though...something we definately need.
I used to have some hope for unity, but not so much anymore...and I'm not sure I am terribly concerned about it either. Call me a cynic, but I just don't think the hierarchs are going to make it happen, despite their talk - new parishes with "ethnic mentalities" are both persisting and being born.
Not often coming into downtown Seattle via the Bainbridge Ferry, I must note the stark contrast between where I left and where I have arrived. It was dark when I left and so I saw little during the crossing, but as we arrived into Seattle, the conifers were replaced by massive monuments to commerce. Noise abounded: honking horns, shouting people, and traffic speeding or not speeding along the innumerable roadways. The fresh smells of McDonald's, urine, and car exhaust greeted me as I stepped out of the ferry terminal and into the grinder of downtown life - the stars had all but vanished - their light usurped by lofty and luminous office windows.
I watched kids on their way to school, running past endless storefronts and truly I marvelled at why one would choose to live in such an environment. I know, I know, they look at me and marvel in return...but I will tell you what: I am assured this morning of where home is for me and mine.
Well, here we go...the ferry ride back into the "real" world.
We settled in for our first night on friday, unloading a few items primarily related to sleeping. Dawn was present for our arrival and was a constant source of help throughout most of the last weekend.
I managed to only destroy one walkway light in the process of performing a 26 point turn - one for each foot of truck.
On saturday Fr. Christopher came in the morning and offered one of the most extensive house blessings I have ever seen - it was lovely and Dawn has pictures. Matushka stayed and hauled boxes to such a degree that I felt like a wuss. The Fallins and the Millers also came and by the end of the day everything was at least either in the house or in one of the out buildings. On that note, I must publically thank all of the LOGgers who assisted on either side of the water - truly you should all have the "EXTRA" in your title.
It was hectic...but a joyfull sort of hecticness...or maybe a hectic joy? After four days of chaos, the kids and cats are now settling down. The dog was in heaven and seems to be doing well with hanging out with his pack and so he has his run of the property - and I imagine a little ways beyond too. The neighbors' kids came along with their dogs and it seemed everyone got along capitally.
Boxes will be our companions for a couple of weeks more, at least. But, we are here and we are already enjoying the peace, the quiet, and the space. As I walked out to my truck this morning to start the watery commute, I looked up and saw the sky filled with stars like I have only seen while camping. In a way, we feel like we are camping - albeit with most of the comforts of home.