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.
Energy cannot be created or destroyed. In a similar vein of thought, the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.
During our quest for a Christmas tree we found two huge alders that had collapsed together during the windstorm on the northeast end of our property. And while it will demand some logistics, I believe I can harvest this wood.
Thus God sent the wind which robbed us of our electricity, but it knocked down some of our trees that shall give us warmth in the season to come. These ways do not seem that mysterious.
And so we have begun the feast of Christmas, and I have one day back at work here at the end of week before beginning one last long weekend and then routine in all of its mundane glory shall be reestablished.
As you will recall our power returned last tuesday evening and so life had just begun to return to "normal" last weekend when I awoke in the middle of the night to see snow falling wet and heavy. Later I awoke again and noted that we had accumulated several inches and Charissa had awoken complaining about her nightlight being out. So I replaced the bulb and she went to use the bathroom in our room. I went downstairs to use the restroom there and as I did, the lights began to flicker. Then they gave up and darkness again descended upon us.
I looked out the front door to see a great blue-green flash of some unfortunate local transformer transforming itself into a useless hunk of metal and I also noticed the beautiful blanket of snow was now being rained upon - and I could hear the tress groaning: "Enough...uncle...mercy...please." I could relate.
Whatever trees had begun to fall during the windstorm were now being hammered the rest of the way down with wet slushy snow.
Thankfully our power was restored by noon the next day and we went on our way preparing for the feast of the Nativity. Our quest for a tree on our own property turned out to be fruitless - those perfectly conical and heavily branched wonders you see in grocery store parking lots are sorta like glamour models: they don't exist in the real world. We thought we might be able to find a deep discount since it was Christmas eve eve, and so we stopped at one on the way to Vespers. Much to our surprise the lot was dark and upon the door of the abandoned trailer hung a sign which said simply "Free." Now THAT'S a deep discount and so I felt much better about getting a tree from a lot as opposed to our own land.
Christmas was a joy. Nicholas, for the first time, served as an altar boy and the girls sang with thr choir. Charissa had to call it quits a little early (she gave us the impression that she volunteered to leave because she knew she was unable to keep from talking) and Nicho had a little trouble holding still, but overall they all did great and Mom and Dad had the unusual pleasure of not being outnumbered.
There is something special about our little Mission...unpretentious and simple. Open and welcoming. I was nervous about Nicho being back there, but Father was more than just welcoming about it, in fact he instigated the whole affair. "He'll be fine," I was assured. Polished perfection is something we aim for, but it is not the primary target and I definitely get that sense from the spirit of St. Elizabeth's Mission. Of greater importance is that we engage all who wish to help to move us along in the work - the liturgy - of giving glory to God. Perhaps it is the smaller, more intimate setting, but I cannot help but feel that appearances and "worthiness" take a back seat to willingness and strength of heart. I'm not sure I'm making sense...but there it is.
Sue called to tell me the crews had begun work. After work, as I drove past the now infamous "crash scene" they were still working. I stopped and chatted with them briefly and they assured me we'd be back up and running sometime that night. I thanked them profusely and even offered them some beer, which they declined...some excuse involving "high voltage." But seriously, these guys have been working like short season Alaska crab fishermen, we owe them our thanks...some have come from as far away as Missouri!
And so we had our last (for the time being) woodstove cooked meal eaten by candlelight. We were illumined and empowered at around 9:30. Another storm is apparently on its way tonight, so we'll see how that goes. Many people STILL are without power and the new storm could hinder repair efforts.
And already we are hearing the entitlement generation begin to rant and rave. Some official from Woodinville was quoted as saying something like this: "We cannot continue having us be knocked into the third world every time the wind blows a little." A little? Third world? Puhlease. [Thurston Howell voice]"My God Lovey we have had to stay in this five star luxury hotel for 5 days...oh the humanity!" [/Thurston Howell voice]
Although I have yet to hear it, I fully expect Bush to be blamed at any moment, yet as far as I know Christine Gregoire did not come by and offer to split wood for me. Look, I understand that people are having a rough go of it - particularly those who have no alternative source of heat or water. BUT (and maybe this is the newly rural person in me) you OUGHT to be personally prepared for emergencies, plain and simple. How many times have we been told to have a supply of water, batteries, candles, etc etc etc. I mean what the heck is going to happen when something much more serious happens like the big quake of volcano they keep WARNING us about? [Thurston Howell voice]"You know, Lovey...I really don't know why they could not have made canals for those Lahars before Rainier erupted, this is terribly inconvenient to my commute off Mercer Island!" [/Thurston Howell voice] Let's face it, Osama has a point we have become a nation of pansies.
We've raised a whole generation of boys and girls whose scouting experienced (if any) extended little beyond pine wood car derbies. "Be Prepared." Bunch of wusses! Suck it up some will ya! Geez, expect the government to wipe your nether-regions?
So, if you happen to live in the greater Seattle area and you lost a tree on your property and would like to have the bulk of it removed, I am willing to do so. You lose the mess (or at least most of it) and I gain firewood. Email me.
Day 5...preparing for night 6 without power, which will make it a record for me. Yesterday some hope was kindled when Sue saw a PSE truck meandering down our road and on my way home from work I saw a crew out at the "crash scene" on Widme Road. However, hopes that we might awaken to power were dashed when I was risen from my slumber by the sound of the water coming back to life and still required a flashlight. Driving to the P&R I noted that the "crash scene" remained as it had been since the first night. Sigh, at least it seems our running water is predictable now: 6am-11am and then 5pm-10pm (give or take an hour).
Sue had opted to use candles around the house last evening instead of the battery powered lanterns we had been using, and I must say that they are far far superior. Besides giving off MORE light, the light they give is also far more inviting and warm. It was a welcome change and with the kids duly warned not to touch the candles and to answer to the contrary at their own peril, the evening was quite enjoyable. Vegetable soup and bread for dinner, and a warm sponge bath/shower of water taken fresh off the wood stove. A life of luxury....how do we survive. Fasting from electricity, anyone want to join us?
My sister's fiance' gave me a pair of wool socks. Since then I have spent much of my time mourning for having wasted 38+ years without them. As an avid Salmon and Steelheader it is inexcusable that I ignored the repeated suggestions of their worth...never again. Put them at the top of my Christmas list. Besides their warmth and further their suitability for warmth despite water, they are frankly about as comfortable as anything save a massage. Putting them on after work is a small gleam of light in an otherwise dark world.
Hiking/Mountaineering in the Northwest during the winter
I consider myself a pretty sympathetic guy, generally. And I feel really for bad for the families involved in tragedies such as these...but when the mourning ends, might we stop and ask what leads someone to climb an 11,000 foot mountain in the middle of winter - not to mention in the Northwest where mountain snowfall can and often is measured in meters. I mean, let's face it, weather here is pretty darn fickle...this just seems to me to be a tragedy that could have easily been avoided.
And I will not mention the tremendous amount of public dollars that will be spent trying to find these people. Perhaps adventurous mountaineers ought to carry a S&R insurance policy?
I can imagine that if these men were my relatives I'd eventually have to deal with some anger issues: Why did they insist on doing something so obviously dangerous at such an obviously dangerous time of the year?
Amidst the darkness and lack of running water, we roused the kids from their slumber and hauled them off to the Kingston-Edmunds ferry for a 7:50am departure. We were going to St.Paul's to see our dear friend Valerie be chrismated.
It was odd the be back at Saint Paul's after being gone now for nearly 3 months I guess (?). Some of it was familiar and some of it was new and some of it I had trouble following along: evidence that I am beginning to make St. Elizabeth's my home.
This story properly belongs to Sue, but I do not think she will mind me telling it since she remains moreso in the dark than I am at work and it certainly deserves telling. A while back we were excited to learn that Valerie had chosen St. Elizabeth the New Martyr as her patroness, and so Sue went to Vespers the other night intent on getting an icon of St. Elizabeth for her. Unfortunately, we were fresh out of stock of anything other than small icon cards.
Desperate, Sue appealed to Fr. Christopher, hoping that he might perhaps have one back behind the altar. He went to check, but returned empty handed...empty at least of any icons. What he did have however would turn out to be something amazing.
Fr. Christopher gave us, to give to Valerie, a secondary relic from St. Elizabeth: a small portion of her casket. Needless to say we were astonished. Sue brought it home and once the kids were in bed we sat down in the dark and carefully embedded the small pieces of wood into some wax and then wrapped it up for her. What a wonderful chrismation gift: thanks to Fr. Christopher and St. Elizabeth Mission.
With the Chrismations over and Valerie duly illumined, we spent some fun time hanging out with friends. When all was said and done we caught a 10pm ferry and returned to a very dark and cold house, with Killick dancing at the door needing to relieve himself. Sue got the kids in bed while I got a fire going and then went out to chop some more wood for use through the night and the next morning. I'll admit to being a bit grumpy about the cold, the dark, and hauling wood near midnight...but once it was done and we sat together next to the warming fire I felt much better.
Holy Grand Duchess Elizabeth, pray unto God for our salvation. Some electricity would be much appreciated as well.
Well my utter lack of blogging - as opposed to just a reduced weekend blogging - is indicative of the fact that we remain in the dark, and while we have certainly fallen into some semblance of a routine it is beginning to grow tiresome. I expect that by the time this is all over and the power does return, I will have forgotten that flipping switches around the house usually affords one the ability to see. Truly it will be interesting to see what habits we will have developed...maybe the TV will stay off more? Good, I say publicly.
Being powerless lumps us in with some 200,000 other people in the same situation. As for us, we can drive past the obvious cause which remains as it was on the first day that the tree hit the lines. On Friday, the Water Company showed up with a generator and hooked it up to our community well. My wife spoke with the man who promised that someone would be by every 6 hours to fill it with gas.
The arrival of water was a great relief to us, however, the promises of the water man was to be futile. Not only does the generator never manage to run for 6 hours, but the gas refill never happens on anything remotely close to a regular schedule. My attempts at volunteering to tend the machine were rebuffed against company policy...tosh, my policy is that my family be able to more reliably have water. The windstorm was followed by a stretch of wonderfully clear and sunny days which made the darkness more bearable - even though the clear skies always spell C-O-L-D. But the cold is a mixed blessing itself because it has allowed us to have a place to store perishable food and the freezer which sits outside does not need power when the temperature is 27F. Sue and I managed to get about a half dozen more fence posts set on Saturday using ground and rain water to mix the cement - since the water pump generator had reliably quit running.
But I do not wish to paint too bleak of a picture, some people don't even have a heat source and most of them have evacuated to friend's or family's homes where there is power and/or heat. We are blessed to have a good stockpile of wood and a very hot wood stove...the kids have been blessed to have virtually NO media and have somehow survived, and Sue and I have found ourselves content to just relax near the fire after the kids are in bed.
I checked the chickens as I left this morning and despite the cold and dark, they seem to be doing just fine. With any luck (weather related) we will have them doing their chickeny things outside by Christmas.
No doubt, we have been challenged since our move...but we are not discouraged. But, this will be a winter that we will talk about for a long time to come...and it isn't even over yet. For us, it will be particularly memorable one.
...until power is restored. Some are saying this storm was worse than the inaugural day storm. I managed to leave work and ride the bus through the crowds on insane Seahawk fans going to the game. Walking down to the dock from 3rd left me utterly drenched, jumping into Elliot Bay might have actually dried me off.
I made the 4:40 boat and as I was walking down the gangway, the power at the Ferry Terminal went out. It sorta reminded me of that moment when the lights of the Titanic finally went out as it sank. During the trip, the guy sitting next to me was literally wringing his clothes out to dry them and the wind steadily increased as we moved west.
Once we were near the island, we could see a whole series of bright blue-green flashes across the night sky as grid after electrical grid was being disrupted by flying debris. But the real manly winds would not arrive for a few more hours, and when they did: wow.
Rade and I stood out on the dark front porch (our power went out quite early) to watch the trees bend when we heard a very large crack and crash - even louder than the neighbor's generator. This morning as I surveyed some of the damage, Sue pointed out the top of one of our conifers was missing - from the direction that we heard the noise so it was very likely what we heard. Otherwise, nothing significant on our property.
However, out on Widme (the main road near ours) the power lines are in shambles - wires laying in the road and several poles mangled...we have no idea how long we will be powerless. Reports are saying over 1 million homes are without power...which beats the inaugural day storm by almost 300,000 homes. Sigh, it may be awhile.
Sometime in the last 15 years I am guessing, AD and BC have been all but eliminated and replaced with BCE and CE. But that's okay, the very best history books were written well before the change anyway so I needn't be bothered by it. Unless of course they undergo a more recent reprint and then I can be grieved.
What interests me particularly about this book is that it is more than just an expose' of some of the insanity being taught in college literature classes these days, but also Dr. Kantor offers guidance on what students SHOULD be getting from classical western literature. Hello, Homeschoolers?
God preserve our children from missing the greatness of MacBeth and instead learning that a "major project" in the work is "the domestication of women."
Last night began the proverbial "calm before the storm." I took advantage of the nice evening weather to stock up on firewood in the house and to hack a good deal of kindling - preparations for the next evening when I will be much less inclined to collect from the swaying tree surrounded woodshed.
As I hauled the two wheelbarrows full of wood back to the house I noticed the sky filled with stars, and a meteor streaked brilliantly across the black sky. I recalled that we were right about at the peak of the Leonid shower and so I called the girls out to watch with me for awhile and I gave them an impromptu astronomy lesson.
I filled a couple of buckets with water and made sure the portable power supply was fully charged. This morning confirmed that the storm was continuing to track its center to pass over Forks, WA and then across Vancouver Island, which means that we can expect to get hammered with very high winds. Thus the NWS changed our "high wind watch" to a "high wind warning" around 4 am this morning. The flags are expected to start stretching around 2pm today.
A rough ride across the sound (at what point will they cancel service?), a precarious bus trip over Agate Passage (a giant wind tunnel - at what point will they close the bridge?)), and nature's green skyscrapers (often felled by much lesser winds) are what awaits me this afternoon and evening. I would be completely surprised if we do not lose power - perhaps for days even, and we will likely lose even more trees - hopefully none that will do damage to the house or outbuildings. "They" are saying this could be on par with the notorious "Inaugural Day Windstorm Storm" that had my downtown Bellevue rental house out of power for 5 days. Sustained winds of 45mph with gusts to 65mph are predicted for the Seattle Area, outlying areas will likely be worse (in our neck of the woods they are saying 75mph gusts) and exposed or coastal areas could see 90mph gusts.
While I like it when weather overrules our schedules and plans, this however could be very dangerous. At the very least, our winterly challenges continue - record rain, snow, and powerful winds...what's next?
I received an email from the "Movieset" site which is apparently hosting the film's production website. You can see that Paradosis is also mentioned in the news section here, where my viewpoint is deemed "unconventional." Cool.
I, of course, can only speculate about the overall portrayal of the events in the film, but I will say that this - from the synopsis - does not inspire confidence: What began as a peaceful protest intended to stop the WTO talks quickly escalated into a full-scale riot and eventual State of Emergency that squared off peaceful and unarmed protesters against the Seattle Police Department and the National Guard.
In my experience, truly peaceful people rarely have need to find themselves squared off against the Police and National Guard. But, that's just me...Police say "enough is enough...go home" and I go home. "Anarchists" show up and start breaking, busting, and vandalizing...I definitely go home.
As far as the title being accurate and whether or not the riots "rocked the world" or that they were "the most incendiary political uprisings in a generation", well I will just leave you with some statistics from LA that make the "Battle in Seattle" look like little more than a bar fight.
Injuries: 2,383 (228 critical)
Estimated damages: 1 billion dollars; 3,100 businesses affected by rioting or looting
In the windy dark, I listen to the weeping trees. Deep mournful groans, that echo through the woods. Some have no more leaves, like tears to shed others drench the world with their burdens. Many succumb to the wintery onslaught, a loud sigh, and then explode upon the ground.
With light and marvel I meander about their troublesome deathbeds, thankfull they did not bid for my alliance with their fate. When the noisy mourning ends, I shall entomb them in my woodshed, where they shall await the resurrection in the season to come.
After a very hearty bounce off of a set of reinforced bumper pilings, the very latecoming announcement came over the ferry PA as follows: "Attention please, now arriving...um...now arriving...eh, where are we?"
Perhaps someone thought they could take their quota of four drinks in a period of one half hour crossing of Puget Sound?
They say that timing is everything, and in this case two relatively rare individuals happened to have their timing in sync. I was heading home after having "botched" my timing to catch the 3pm sailing, I settled for the 3:45 boat.
Walking down from 3rd avenue to the waterfront proved to be an exceptionally wet and windy adventure, which made extensive use of my hat's straps which worked far better than the innumerable umbrellas I watched be turned inside out. Passing in between buildings was like walking past giant wind tunnels. I thought about how funny it was to watch people amidst so many monuments to man's "power" being forced to run and hide from the weather which in the grand scheme of things was only really gently giving us a gentle whippin.
After drying out for a bit in the ferry terminal we started loading and as we did I noticed a gentlemen standing nearby who was clearly an Orthodox monk - not something you see very often. He had clearly been doing a good deal of traveling as he carried a large backpack and suitcase and he looked rather "weathered" as one might be expected to look after making a trip to Spruce Island in the winter (I'd find out later).
So I followed him to the seating bay he chose (and in the process may have perhaps weirded him out some), and introduced myself. Turns out he was Abbott Gerasim from St. Herman's Monastery in Northern California. So we spent the ferry ride talking, and planning.
We talked about all manner of things and discovered a number of "connections" we had - particularly with regard to Rade, who he was quite happy to hear was going to be married soon. And we did some planning because he was on his way to Port Townsend and was needing to connect with Jefferson County Transit via Kitsap Transit, the process of which I knew a little something about. However while on the ferry we received news that the Hood Canal Bridge had been closed because of the high winds and so his trip was in jeopardy of not be able to proceed further than Poulsbo.
So I gave him my phone numbers and after making sure he knew which Kitsap bus to catch, told him to call me if he ended up stuck in Poulsbo. Secretly I hoped that the bridge would remain closed so that he would bless us with his presence at our home. I mean really, how often to you get a chance to offer hospitality to an archimandrite who is in need of shelter? How selfish is THAT!
The weather made for a very long bus ride across Bainbridge (a tree was down and several traffic lights lost power) and during the drive we heard on the driver's radio that the bridge had opened and Father would make his connection to Jefferson Transit - however I expect the details were a bit more complex than that as I later heard the bridge had not opened until after 7pm which may mean he was on the bus but sat on it for a couple more hours. But not having received a phone call I assumed he was eventually able to make it to his family in PT.
Arriving home, my family was excited to show me the remains of half of a very tall tree that had succumbed to the winds and nearly crushed the storage shed along with Rade's camper. "Hmmm," I thought, "that would have gotten Rade's attention had he been here"...well, more wind harvested firewood.
I was doing my morning rounds of the radio news and talk programs when I heard two gentlemen discussing the issue of public religious displays. One of the men was Jewish and the other an evangelical and in the course of their discussions, one said that "Christmas was THE biggest Christian holiday" and then he paused and added, "I suppose Easter ought to be, but..." and the other gentlemen interrupted and said, "Well Easter is more reflective while Christmas is more celebratory."
I suppose this is the popular way of things today. However, as we Orthodox ought to know there is much in both feasts to reflect upon and our Liturgics themselves make it clear which is the "feast of feasts." As if the actual practice of celebrating both does not make clear which is the bigger event in the calender life of the Church.
Feast and celebrations evolve and change - even in Orthodoxy (GASP!). I wonder when the shift began to happen in the west whereby Christmas became the bigger celebration? Is it possible that theology plays a role in it?
For my part - and I am willing to admit that I was not perhaps properly taught - the Resurrection was always little more than a "told ya so!" event. And thus, it always seemed that Good Friday was the REAL event of Easter, that moment when "substitutionary atonement" actually takes place and God's righteous wrath is directed at His Son instead of us. When Jesus uttered the words "It is finished", nothing more really needed to happen in order to save us. And so I wonder if my (and the west's?) emphasis makes us apprehensive of having too big a celebration of someone's torturous death (even if they are Resurrected)?
Wow, what an astonishingly different perspective I have now. Instead of God's wrath being poured out on His Son, it is meeded out through His Son onto Death, the devil, and Hades whose bonds and barred gates He shatters. The great Passover! The great victory! If a triumphant army returns after defeating the most horrible, threatening, overlording and seemingly unsurmountable enemy you will of course have yourself one humdinger of a party.
It almost seems to me that Christmas ought to be the more reflective Holiday, as compared to what we have to celebrate in Pascha. The grand and glorious mystery of the incarnation becomes real in a flesh and blood human baby. Most every Icon of the Theotokos speaks to us about this profound event as she directs our attention to her infant: God. Our most Holy Lady's image is - I think - always and image of the Nativity and during this "second most wonderful time of the year", I find myself particular drawn to her Image, the very same image we see over and over and over again. But (rightly or wrongly), I tend to see now with different eyes...more reflective eyes. And, yes, more celebratory eyes too...it is almost Christmas after all!
I look forward to our first real country Christmas.
So, our sweet little boy Joseph decides during liturgy recently that he needs to explain something to Mom and Dad. He grabs our attention and then proceeds to demonstrate a great prostration worthy of making a hieromonk jealous. Upon his recovery from the manuever, he turns around and announces at a parental ear cringing volume:
I'd have looked moreclosely at this place...check out the barn under "more photos" - very nice. Plus it has lots of land left to spare. In my mind, it easily makes up for it being a smaller manu. home. A flat 5 acres is a real find in this area.
I remember one time that an ethnic Orthodox Christian was criticizing Fr. Peter Gillquist for implying that he and his incoming group were bringing something of significant value to the reunion table with Orthodoxy in America. The internet author (probably on the Indiana list) was scandalized - apparently - that Fr. Gillquist would even remotely imply that his group of converts were doing anything other than complete and utter prostrations and wailing innumerable thanks in the direction of Damascus for being allowed to enter into Holy Orthodoxy.
Fact is, I think Fr. Gillquist is right in saying that the rush of converts has done much to bring renewed zeal to Orthodoxy in America. In fact, I would go even further and say that we converts are the very key to the future of Orthodoxy in America. Now, having already been accused of being a "crypto-protestant" (for offering political support to Israel of all things!) I recognize the "fears" some ethnic Orthodox folk have with converts bringing too much protestant baggage along with them.
As if ethnic Orthodox Christians bring no baggage from the old world? LOL! They bring trainloads of it! The very accusation that I am being too much like a protestant for supporting the state of Israel is a perfect example of such baggage. Sometimes we are told that American Orthodoxy isn't mature enough yet for autocephaly, and to that I would proclaim: what a bunch of hypocritical regurgitation. A friend recently emailed me a short list of all the immaturity and chaos that can be found throughout the Orthodox old world (one can add the jihadist bishop Hanna as another example that no American Bishop in ANY jurisdiction can quite match - are we really supposed to look at an old world Orthodox jurisdiction ruled by a bishop advocating suicide bombings and consider them MORE mature than American jurisdictions?)
So, count little (or big) old me - just a voice crying out (i.e. a loudmouth jerk) in the Kitsap county wilderness - as one who believes very strongly in celebrating AMERICAN Orthodoxy. It is time. Were it up to me the OCA would stop whispering about their autocephaly (who cares if the Patriarch of some two or three dozen dying Christians in Istanbul disagrees? He is after all only 2nd amongst EQUALS).
Orthodoxy isn't genetic, if it were then I would have some claim to special authority myself. I propose it is time that we Americans - convert or otherwise - start standing up and figuring out what American Orthodoxy looks like...without asking Greece, Ukraine, Russia, or Lebanon, Turkey, and Syria - we've had enough of their input, and in fact in the latter three Orthodoxy is dying or all but dead.
We are the future of Orthodoxy...far more so than most of the primordial Orthodox soups. But, what am I saying practically? Well I am still formulating these thoughts...stay tuned...or not, if I grieve you further.
The height of this evangelist's hair was a harsh contrast to his receding hairline, but was a perfect match for the broad and bright striped suit he wore. His image was of such comical proportions that I could not resist watching - need I further admit my tendency to be a judgmental jerk?
However, Robert Tilton has nothing on this guy's appearance and so I watched for a short while. For the insanely curious, you can see a video here in which his suit is not quite as astonishing as the one I saw...either way, Tony Soprano and his buddies are clearly missing stuff out of their closets. Anyway, his show is nothing more than him sitting on some elaborate set while taking live phone calls from all manner of...how shall I say...interesting people. One guy called in and was offering his diagnosis of the why the "church" is in such poor shape: the adoption and use of the pagan Roman calender. Not the use of the calender itself, but the celebration of things like Christmas and such. The caller even admitted he gets strange looks from people when he tells them that the "church" needs to stop celebrating Christmas.
Well, Bill Keller has a perpetual strange look, and he was adamant about correcting the man. The REAL problem with the church today, he says, is that 7 out of 10 church services on any given Sunday will not have an invitation for people to come and meet Christ.
Now of course what he means here is that there will not be an altar call - a very specific set of words uttered and actions taken that meet the criteria of a "salvation experience." But in the context of this simplistic understanding, the subtle and yet profound invitation to be found in the Orthodox liturgy goes unperceived.
The celebration of the liturgy is one grand and beautiful altar call to come and meet the Risen Lord - most blatantly so at the Cup. More than that, the fast is an invitation to meet Christ, the feasts are an invitation to meet Christ, the pagan Roman calender days are even now an invitation to meet Christ. Our prayers are invitations, our Icons are invitations, our vast array of services are invitations, our monastic tradition is an invitation, in fact all of Orthodoxy is one great invitation to meet Christ.
But the invitation is not to a hour long weeping session before a stage, or the raising of a hand while all eyes are closed and all heads are bowed. No, it is an invitation to an ongoing experience and effort, lasting even beyond a lifetime. Meeting Christ unnecessarily means meeting His Church as well. You join Him, you join a community. The invitation to meet Christ is an invitation to His Church.
My father and step-mother came to visit last weekend. It was nice to see them and we had a good time. My father and I frequently have interesting conversations and one of them steered toward environmental issues and he said that he had read somewhere that the greatest environmental impact made by cars is found in their material production rather than in their operation. A fascinating point, because if it is true then it means that all the earth cookies out there buying new hybrids thinking they are doing their part to save mother earth would actually do better to buy something like a 1978 Ford F-250 with a 460 diesel.
O you modern hippies, you earth cookies: Hear the call of mother earth , your new hybrid cars are killing her...buy an old beater pickup and start hauling compost and manure.
O you crunchy con christians: What would Jesus drive? A hybrid? Public Transportation? A little itsy bitsy Nissan? Heck no...Jesus would most assuredly be an old pick up truck man.
You could set my truck on fire and roll it down a hill, and I still wouldn't trade it for a coupe de ville...
I get a rather sharp contrast between rural life and city life in the context of the bus rides I take each day. In the morning, Kitsap County Transit takes me to the ferry and King County Metro takes me from the ferry to work (in the afternoon the process is of course reversed). Besides the fact that Metro is constantly losing and finding bus passes, there is also many other differences that speak loudly to how life is different (in my book: preferable) in rural areas as opposed to urban or suburban regions.
Last week, right after the snow started to clear, a Metro supervisor appeared on the Kitsap bus taking me home. He told me that he was coming over because he'd purchased a vehicle from someone in Silverdale and was now coming to pick it up. As we rode, the bus stopped and someone was about to get on when he realized he didn't nearly have the right change and so was apprehensive about parting with the larger bill he did have. The instant the situation was apparent to the people in the front of the bus - I kid you not - four men jumped up and started digging through their pockets to make change for the man. The Metro supervisor was astonished and said, "Wow, you don't see that very often." And our regular driver, Al (also a part-time pig farmer) corrected him, "Oh yes we do."
Time and time again I have heard over the bus drivers' radios or seen in person, instances where buses go out of their way to help passengers who got confused and took the wrong bus, or were going to miss their connection to Jefferson County Transit. Many times I have said pretty much exactly what the Metro supervisor said to myself, only to see the next day or week that Al is right. I don't think it is necessarily that Al and his fellow drivers and passengers are nicer, there's just something about rural life that makes people more apt to act nicely, more friendly. On the Seattle bus, the only people who ever seem to talk are people who came over on the ferry with me, or seemingly crazy homeless people.
I'm not sure why this is the case, but I have numerous theories. A crowded environment tends to especially increase a persons sense of need for privacy and personal space and thus will tend to cause people to "mind their own business" and turn their ipods volume up. But in less crowded situations, I wonder if there is a recognition that people who appear to need any sort of assistance aren't going to have a billion other people available to help them and so one feels more compelled to do something? Not to mention that life is BUSY on the streets of downtown Seattle, there's no time to divert the bus slightly, there's no time to wait for someone to provide the correct change, there's simply no time.
Of course my perception of greater hospitality and friendliness in rural settings isn't without exceptions, but generally I think it is true. Maybe it is because rural people are more easily able to recognize their need for one another, while urbanites have an over-abundance of other people. I'm not sure. I just know that I look forward to the bus rides home with Al where we can sit and talk about hogs and goats and the weather and the local Christmas events and the fishing and the hunting and the Sportsman's Club and the need for Bainbridge Island to let the county and/or state turn 305 into four lanes. Whereas in Seattle, you can almost feel the need to shrink into the "world" stored on your ipod.
A while back I sort of made light of the situation of Somalia and Ethiopia, and though I even noted the seriousness of the situation and reprimanded myself, I feel the need for that reprimand even more now that this OLD news is finally come out (albeit it not in any major newspapers.)
For the first time in a very long time I went shopping for a pair of jeans. Besides finding further evidence of how old I am getting, I also learned that all the seemingly homeless kids I have seen lately, may not have been homeless at all. In fact, they are actually making brand new jeans look that way.
Yep, right there on the rack, pair after pair of "new" jeans that look like Levi Strauss gave them to homeless people to wear for 6 months (and never wash) before handing them over to retail stores.
Remember "stone washed jeans"...well I kept looking for the tag on these nasty things that said "Pre-soiled" or "ready for washing." They look absolutely nasty...sort of like the way my old jeans looked after a long day of hauling dirt, wood, and wood chopping. Heck I'd sooner put them in my catbox before wearing them!
How in the world does Levi Strauss do that? Is it really the fashion rage to look like you've not bathed or washed your clothes in months? I'll admit, I grabbed one pair and sniffed it - fully expecting it to smell like my downtown Seattle bus.
Ok, where the hell are the Wranglers? Fashion is the surest sign that people are utterly insane.
Over the last weekend, a number of us who were out foraging for liquid bread supplies, engaged in a spirited discussion worthy of a LOG meeting. The debate centered on my assertion that atheists, in order to be true to their worldview ought to be hedonists. Just as surely as Christians, in order to be true to their worldview ought to be altruistic. Of course, in both cases, people frequently fail or refuse to live up to the living strategies dictated by their worldview.
I was suprised by the degree of hostility laid against my claim, which I ought to add did not evolve from some self-satisfying pharisitical notion of my being a better human for being a Christian, but rather from personal experience as one who was a rabid atheist and whose worldview was unable to logically argue against intelligently played hedonism - something I vehemently hated.
As with most arguments or debates, stumbling blocks of communication are usually composed of contradictory definitions or understandings of terms, or even an altogether misunderstanding of the original point of contention. As more points are made and more 50 cent words used, the debate can be lost in obscurity.
So let me clarify my original point. First definitions.
Atheism of course, is the assertion that there is no God. Naturally, it will also often offer its own answers or theories to some of humankind's more complex questions in life such as:
Where did we come from? And, what is and where does morality come from? I personally know of no atheist who does not assert that human beings are animals (and nothing more) and are the product of millions of years of natural selection. The existence of morality in the truly atheist worldview can only logically be explained by genetics (as in Richard Dawkins' extensive work on Evolutionary Biology) or as a social/environmental construct. A great example: a general inkling toward altruism is very likely genetic, whereas a man who opts to be faithful to his wife despite what he feels is likely acting on a social/environmental construct (e.g. he has learned it is unacceptable and is afriad of being caught and shunned by his soceity.) Lose the social construct and follow the desires of one's genes to reproduce and one cannot be said to have done anything "immoral." If a gene favroing altruism has indeed evolved in one person, but not another...can we say one is morally superior to another?
Hedonism is essentially selfishness crowned. Of course, it does not mean that one spends their every waking moment engaging in the most selfish acts imaginable. Far from it, as intelliegent creatures we understand that sometimes cooperation and compromise is in our best interest. A hedonist may or may not cheat on his or her spouse, a hedonist may or may not lie, a hedonist may or may not commit a seemingly altruistic act. What a hedonist will do however, is always be looking out for "number one." A hedonist will always be functioning under the notion that his individual needs ultimately outweigh the needs of others...but this being so in the long run. Of course, if one has an altruistic gene (if it exists) being an utter hedonist is sometimes difficult, but generally, we humans are ALL pretty darn good at being exceptionally intelligent hedonists.
Evolutionary geneticists have a much easier time explaining selfish acts than they do selfless acts. As Christians, we recognize (or at least should) how pervasive slefishness is in ourselves and in the world around us. The fact of the matter is, there is absolutely nothing in atheism that would lead us to question hedonism as a way of life. Quite the contrary actually, if the secular worldview is right: there is no God, there is no after-life, there is no judgement, there are no higher or lofty goals that transcend the animal instincts of humankind, then why on earth would you waste your time doing anything other than a life of intelligent hedonism?
When I was a "foaming-at-the-mouth" anti-Chrsitian atheist, morality became my biggest stumbling block. For some reason, I believed in a literal black and white right and wrong sort of morality. And yet, I realized that if man is but an advanced animal, then someone molesting and killing a little boy is no more morally "wrong" than a cat who tortures by "playing" with its mouse prey for hours before finally eating it. How could I say otherwise? My sense of morality was utterly unsatisfied with the notion of a genetic or social moral construct in such matters. For how could I condemn the Nazi's for attempted genocide when in their minds it was a perfectly acceptable thing to do...their social moral construct was merely different than mine.
The uber-atheists have their logic straight when they propose: "The whole of the law is: do what thou wilt." Of course, anarchy may not be what is best for your average everyday atheist and hence, laws and some semblance of morality are beneficial to the individual. However, when those things are not beneficial (in the long term or in a single situation), they may be overlooked as long as it is done intelligently. What in atheism would dictate otherwise? There is no God looking over you to see what is done in secret! If you can get away with something "immoral", then you certainly should do so....again, as long as you can get away with it.
Atheism would never demand a life of denial. It never commands that one bear a cross. If it says anything at all, it indeed says "do what thou wilt...enjoy your life to the fullest now...fulfill all of your desires...but do so intelligently so that you may do these things within the popular social and genetic constructs of morality - unless you can get away with stepping outsidie of them." Consider an atheist who donates regularly to famine relief, or perhaps even works for such a charitable agency. Why does he do it? I would contend that his motivation is ultimately something contradictory to the atheist-secular worldview, for why on earth should we gave a crap about starving people in Africa? Or AIDS in Africa? Africa has little to offer me personally and I have no intention of sleeping with an African, so why should I care if millions are perishing? In the end, I would suggest that we have rooted in ourselves, whether we recognize it or not, the Christian value of "do unto others as you would have done to you." Atheism, I believe, would tell this charitable person that what he is doing is rather pointless...unless...unless, it is in some way giving the person pleasure. Ahhhh...appeasing the altruistic gene. But in the end it is not neccesary and no more good or noble than the person selling snake-oil to desperate AIDS victims in Africa.
One may be a hedonist and still have all the appearances of a very nice, kind, and generous person. Take me for example - I am often very good at hiding the hedonism in my heart. The difference between me as an atheist and now as a Christian is that now I am commanded and am working to "deny myself", whereas before my only command was to "indulge myself."
Now please be aware here that what I am NOT in anyway saying is that all atheists are hedonists (at least no more than the rest of us), but what I am saying is that I'll bet that I can convince an atheist by arguing within the context of the atheist worldview that they really should be looking out for "number one."