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.
Last night after Vespers, Father read from The Prologue which included this gem:
MEMORIAL TO A MONK WHO JOYFULLY DIED AND WHO NEVER JUDGED ANYONE IN HIS LIFE This monk was lazy, careless, and lacking in his prayer life; but throughout all of his life, he did not judge anyone. While dying, he was happy. When the brethren asked him how is it that with so many sins, you die happy? He replied, "I now see angels who are showing me a letter with my numerous sins. I said to them, Our Lord said: `stop judging and you will not be judged' (St. Luke 6:37). I have never judged anyone, and I hope in the mercy of God that He will not judge me." And the angels tore up the paper. Upon hearing this, the monks were astonished and learned from it.
May we learn from it too.
In the end it won't matter a lick if we dressed "properly" and attended every service, if we crossed ourselves the "correct" way or stood still during the six psalms of matins. It won't matter if we did the services at their "correct" times, or if we insisted our priests have beards. It won't matter if we said our prayers daily or if we faithfully tithed. It even won't matter if we managed to have our children stand silently like statues during the services. It is all for naught if we are not being moved toward the ability to judge no one.
I'd contend that some of these things (or at least the emphasis upon them) actually hinder us in that regard. But...as the spirit of the story mandates: look into your own heart.
It was said of Abba John the Dwarf, that one day he said to his elder brother,'I should like to be free of all care, like the angels, who do not work, but ceaselessly offer worship to God.' So he took off hsi cloak and went away into the desert. After a week he came back to his brother. When he knocked on the door, he heard his brother say, before he opened it 'Who are you?' He said, 'I am John, your brother.' But he replied, 'John has become an angel, and henceforth he is no longer among men.' Then the other begged him saying. 'It is I.' However, his brother did not let him in, but left him there in distress until morning. Then, opening the door, he said to him, 'You are a man and you must once agian work in order to eat.' Then John made a prostration before him, saying, 'Forgive me.'
And for the grumpy liturgi-nazi Babushkas out there:
Some old men went to Abbot Poemen and asked, "If we see brothers sleeping during the common prayer, should we wake them?" Abbot Poemen answered,"If I see my brother sleeping, I put his head on my knees and let him rest." Then one old man spoke up, "And how do you explain yourself before God?" Abbot Poemen replied, "I say to God: You have said, 'First take the beam out of your own eye and then you will be able to remove the splinter from the eye of your brother.' "
...is easier than abstinence before marriage. Ahhh, the solution to all the world's STD problems sits right under our noses, but no one believes we humans have will power. Bio-determinism strikes again, and one sign of this is how people are desperate to have us believe that rates of pre-marital sex has always been the same. How they know this is of course a profound mystery: perhaps computer models?
Still, men and women who consider male circumcision as an HIV preventive method need to continue using other forms of protection such as male and female condoms, abstinence, delaying the start of sexual activity and reducing the number of sexual partners, she said.
Wait, wait, wait! Back the truck up...read it again:
Still, men and women who consider male circumcision as an HIV preventive method need to continue using other forms of protection such as male and female condoms, abstinence, delaying the start of sexual activity and reducing the number of sexual partners, she said.
Abstinence: a form of protection. Idiots...how can they logically lump abstinence in with this litany? If you practice abstinence there'd be no reason to experience the fun this little boy in the picture is having. Abstinence isn't "a form of protection" on par with condoms. It is the absolute, perfect, and infallible protection. No false security in abstinence...if you practice it, you are safe. If you seek a spouse who practiced it, you are safe. Why not emphasize this? Why fund programs to cast a social stigma upon those who refuse to use condoms as opposed to those who do not practice the only truly "safe sex" (i.e. abstinence)?
Oh come on James...be realistic! People simply cannot be expected to be abstinent. Well, take that argument to God and the people who are dying from a disease that would not exist if people practiced REAL safe sex, not me.
Maybe the whole world needs to be realistic. Fight AIDS: keep your frackin' pants until married and ostracize those who don't as ones who are spreading an awful disease...because they are after all, whether it be HIV, HSV, HPV etc etc etc.
Don't mind me...I may be an extremist, but I am also very much...VERY MUCH a realist.
Mom to the Screaming Masses has one of those days. Parents, we've all been there. Again, realizing how LOVE begins in the home church...struggling with that, how can I pretend to give a crap about much of anything else?
Those closest to us are those who truly know and experience us...often in all our ugliness.
Well, as I threatened, I finally filled the old farm truck with a load of manure. Well...compost, but at one point it was manure. And not cow, horse, or donkey...but EMU poop!
It is presently being fed to our ongoing garden construction project.
Chickens are the name of the game. Susan has gong hog wild about chickens and it looks as if we might be moving more into that "industry" as a means of making a little money: even enough to sustain the the feeding of the chickens would be fantastic, but there does seem to be a substantial market for farm fresh, pastured, organic, free-range chicken's and their eggs. I already have people lining up...and have begun receiving cartons from my vanpool mates.
I've checked the state regs and as long as I sell directly to the end user from my farm I can sell as many eggs as I like and I can slaughter 1,000 chickens a year without being required to have a state inspection. (Of course I have to pay Christine Gregoire $75.00/year in order to slaughter and sell my birds!)
Paradosis Ranch? Ferrenberg Ranch? Ferrenberg Farm? We need a name. The farm that raises and sells the dahlias at the end of the road here is called "Emerald Acres" ("Emerald" is the street they live on), and it makes me laugh because my phone used to ring to the tune of "Green Acres."
I love how the bishops say "We cannot accept what would be injurious to this Church and could well lead to its permanent division." As if the election of a gay bishop DIDN'T do this? It's silly...the liberals are driving this agenda and any complaints from traditionalists are viewed as divisive even while they go on pontificating and forcing their watered down gospel shamelessly saying, "If that means that others reject us and communion with us, as some have already done, we must with great regret and sorrow accept their decision."
Yeah sure. Regret and sorrow that ignorant traditionalists cannot see the light.
Now...check this little blurb out: "The small yet affluent Episcopal Church, with 2.3 million members, covers a significant chunk of the Anglican Communion's budget."
Aha...so THIS is the motivation for them to reconcile with the ECUSA? I could be wrong, but I am willing to bet that most African Bishops (Tutu excluded, who I suppose ought to move to ECUSA) don't give a rat's sphincter for American dollars as compared to Anglican orthodoxy (as they understand it). We'll see...but thinking of that controversial image at the last Lambeth while I was apart of the ECUSA when an African Bishop was trying to cast the demon out of a gay clergyman he was arguing with speaks volumes.
I suppose it's the train wreck phenomena here, but I can't help but watch. Let's keep the doors open...
So I've ranted from time to time about some of the insanity of tenured college professors before, but this is the first time I've encountered it on a second-hand basis.
In the lab we frequently have students rotating through our lab and our most recent shared with me a story about her biology professor. Setting aside the Kreb cycle et. al. for the time being, this Prof apparently likes to "inform" his students about leaving a smaller ecological footprint.
Today's lesson? For the love of Mother Gaia, stop using toilets!
Now I know all about compost toilets, but what exactly is this prof suggesting for his city dwelling students (some in dorms, some in apartments, some in frat houses)? How about a five gallon bucket full of sawdust.
So, tomorrow I guess we can expect to see the campus ridden with students carrying their backpacks and buckets full of their own feces. There is something altogether appropriate in this image...especially when one envisions the professors along with them. Seems the students have to deal with a great deal of their buckets being dumped in the classroom.
Having seen a few of such parades, and knowing it to be an occasion unsuitable for children, I think they ought to have their parade in their bedroom. homosexuals can live as they please in Russia. But he [Vsevolod Chaplin, head of the church's department of external relations in Moscow] said that they should not be free to expose children to their way of living.
Well if Gay Pride parades are representative of "their way of living" ahem...well....let's just say, I hope not.
Desperate to portray them as mentally unstable or akin to Holocaust deniers, it must grieve those who've made the issue so political to find that many of the dissenters have reputable credentials and data to back up their reasonings for putting the breaks on mass hysteria.
If you've watched Gore's movie, why not watch this film: HERE.
300 Maybe spoliers here... I enjoyed it. But I must say I am afraid I came into it with expectations raised to high. This really isn't a film I would consider epic and there were certainly aspects that irked me such as the oracle whose supposed real utterances I thought would have been more dramatic than the fictional one uttered for a price, which led to Leonidas' "breaking of the law" by ignoring the oracle. This of course renders the 300 Spartans' epitaph rather silly: Go tell the Spartans, thou that passest by, that here, obedient to their laws, we lie.
But, this film is less about history than it is about myth. Myth in the sense that certain human truths are being shared through a tale that has grown out of proportion to the real events which might (did) take place. Yes, the Persians have monsters and primitive hand grenades...but really, the film does a great job (I thought) of making what ought to have been absurd, at least excusable and at most downright believable and appropriate. Over the top, but the filmmakers make no apologies for it...they even prepare you for it.
The scenery was fantastic in the truest sense of the word and the film was easily able to make a group of men who could have very well seemed like members of "The Village People" end up looking like serious bad asses. "Lock and load" takes on a whole new and powerful meaning with regard to the phalanx.
There is more to this film than viagra-charged testosterone. There is much to consider when a man about to die curses his traitor with the words: "May you live forever"
I am still mulling it over...there are some very powerful scenes, such as the would be traitor's temptation. Rejected by Spartan society obsessed with self-sacrifice for the good of Sparta, and then embraced by Persian society willing to indulge his every need (indeed it is portrayed as a place of unimaginable self-indulgent excess)...one can easily see how this man would ultimately conspire against the Spartans, and Greece.
Bloody? You bet. But not as bad as I thought. By the way, here is a pretty good synopsis of the real battle.
My kids enthusiastically led me out to show me their newly designated fort/clubhouse out in the woods. They had found a large cedar with numerous low hanging branches to act as chairs and I had to admit it did seem to be an altogether good place for a grand children's council. They showed me how they can climb the tree, stand upon a large old growth stump to make speeches, and the place where all their banners will be placed when meetings are "in session."
It all reminded me of my childhood back in Ohio and Kentucky where the woods also played a prominent role. It was something we largely lost in moving to California, and seeing my kids in this very natural playground resurrected a lot of memories I had completely forgotten. So many adventures, so much to discover, the forest was like a great muse inspiring all manner of childhood imaginations. As if knowing the glories gifted to children through the climbing of trees and making speeches upon old stumps, God blanketed the forest with a soft covering that man made playgrounds simply cannot compete with.
Of course, with just enough natural danger to learn numerous cautious lessons.
So said my weatherman (i.e. me standing outside on my porch) of Sunday. An amazingly beautiful day. Saturday was decidedly less beautiful, but we did what we could anyway. Sue worked on her garden and cleaning the chicken coop while I hopped into the old farm truck and headed out to get a new hand truck and to pick up some stuff from the feed store.
I love going to the feed store. The employees and the my fellow patrons all seem to fit the best stereotypes of country-farm folk. From the cantankerous old man filling up his kerosene can to the young dock worker loading my truck with bales of straw and saying "Yes, sir....no, sir...thank you mister" one could almost imagine they are living in rural Wyoming or Nebraska. I suppose "farm folk" are a lot the same no matter where you go.
Four bales of straw graced my old truck and Kelsey and I piled in to head home. So there we were, driving this hunk of well running junk down the road (I can actually see through places in the floorboards) leaving a trail of straw behind trying to race the rain in order to get some stuff done back at home. I did manage to get a few logs hauled out before the rain drove me inside.
Sunday however was a dream...a foretaste of summer to come, not unlike how Lazarus Saturday is a foretaste of Pascha I suppose. Again I marvel at how being much more centered around things happening outside has attuned me to the seasons (I expect this will only become more so the case as further aspects of our farm come online), and how the Church Calender corresponds to the seasons. I suppose it is obvious that the liturgical life of the Church evolved around an agrarian way of life. Not that this has made me more holy or pious, far from it, but the necessary labor has certainly kept normally idle hands busy and who knows, perhaps I will find myself more attuned to the liturgical life of the Church...surely it will speak more to the kids in some way.
So after a lovely morning at Church we did a bit of kid swapping with Father and Matushka and then headed home to don our work clothes. (Yes, work on Sunday) I managed to haul most of the wood out of the forest, and though there is still a significant amount remaining I believe I have more than I need for next winter at this point, but I'll decide later once I get it all hauled into the shed and get it split. It was lovely out in the woods, the sun was shining down through tiny holes in the conifer canopy and I more than once had to take a breather during which time I'd just look around and admire the forest scenery. Really I had to keep reminding myself that THIS was home to me now...this was NOT a camping trip or a temporary retreat: I really do have a wild forest in my backyard.
One of the nighbor's kids came over to "help" and we talked about how Spring was in the air. He agreed and then said, "Yeah but on Wednesday the bears are going to wake up." Assuming the bears might not keep such a tight schedule, or feel the need to pay close attention to mankind's calender, I spent the rest of the work day being particularly attuned to the noises around me.
It was back breaking work, but immensely satisfying to sit down afterwards and watch the sun set and the chickens play rugby with some article of food while sipping a very tasty IPA.
...ain't got time for no crap. But I've got time for his video (loads slow)...and I am loving it. I very much appreciate the everyday folk (even fat people) in the video and the hardcore cowboy attitude, Gus and Woodrow style I imagine.
This was recently shared on our Parish eList, I thought it appropriate to share as we remember (and perhaps share with others) that tomorrow is about far more than Guinness, clovers, and the color green.
This powerful prayer was composed by Saint Patrick in the year 433. He was aware that there was an ambush to try to kill him and his group en route to the King's court. It was during the march that they chanted the sacred Lorica or Deer's Cry - later known as St. Patrick's Breastplate.
As the druids lay in hiding, ready to kill, they saw not Patrick and his men, but a gentle doe followed by twenty fawns.
St. Patrick and his men were saved.
I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, through belief in the Threeness, through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.
I arise today through the strength of Christ with His Baptism, through the strength of His Crucifixion with His Burial, through the strength of His Resurrection with His Ascension, through the strength of His descent for the Judgment of Doom.
I arise today through the strength of the love of Cherubim in obedience of Angels, in the service of the Archangels, in hope of resurrection to meet with reward, in prayers of Patriarchs, in predictions of Prophets, in preachings of Apostles, in faiths of Confessors, in innocence of Holy Virgins, in deeds of righteous men.
I arise today, through the strength of Heaven; light of Sun, brilliance of Moon, splendor of Fire, speed of Lightning, swiftness of Wind, depth of Sea, stability of Earth, firmness of Rock.
I arise today, through God's strength to pilot me: God's might to uphold me, God's wisdom to guide me, God's eye to look before me, God's ear to hear me, God's word to speak for me, God's hand to guard me, God's way to lie before me, God's shield to protect me, God's host to secure me: against snares of devils, against temptations of vices, against inclinations of nature, against everyone who shall wish me ill, afar and near, alone and in a crowd.
I summon today all these powers between me (and these evils): against every cruel and merciless power that may oppose my body and my soul, against incantations of false prophets, against black laws of heathenry, against false laws of heretics, against craft of idolatry, against spells of witches, smiths and wizards, against every knowledge that endangers man's body and soul. Christ to protect me today against poisoning, against burning, against drowning, against wounding, so that there may come abundance in reward.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ in breadth, Christ in length, Christ in height, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.
I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, through belief in the Threeness, through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation. Salvation is of the Lord. Salvation is of the Lord. Salvation is of Christ. May Thy Salvation, O Lord, be ever with us. Amen.
Two siblings fight. Four sibling fight more - exponentially I suspect.
I found my two daughters engaged in a heated "debate" over a doll. Tears and wrestling abounded...and an all too common discussion tool place after I interrupted.
"Who had it first?"
"I did," they said in unison. (Sometimes I actually do get an honest answer on this, but always accompanied by an excuse as to why the mysterious law is inapplicable in the given circumstance.)
Now usually I'd suggest setting a timer and bestowing the toy to one child for an allotted amount of time with a switch to be anticipated at the beep. However, seeing a baby doll being the object of contention I thought I'd try another approach:
"I will get my saw, cut it in half and give each of you a part."
The chickens' egg production is moving right along. The presence of a smaller egg yesterday likely indicates that a new hen has joined the factory assembly line and I must admit I am looking forward to seeing the quantities 20+ hens can produce once they find their groove. I have buyers lined up already if we exceed our consumption needs.
Our neighbors got themselves a goat...actually it is their daughter's 4H project. A meat goat (mixed Boer) that she will raise and then sell, I assume, at auction. We have our fencing (both for the goats and the garden) already purchased, and so we are just waiting for the time (and weather) to get some serious outdoor work done.
The time change was MOST welcome by our little farm. That, combined with my 25% reduced commute time thanks to the vanpool, has afforded me a good deal of light still when I get home. However, a toenail mishap has had me limping and really, the weather has not been terribly cooperative. I think one of the most pressing things I want to finish is harvesting the rest of those Alders out of the forest and getting them split and stored in the woodshed to dry. Then we have the garden, the guest house (the raising of which we will schedule shortly), the storage shed, and conversion of the barn for goats - including fencing their primary pasture.
Further rednecking myself, I've joined the NRA. I was actually tempted to do this a few years ago when I saw the irritating and stupid handling that Michael Moore wielded upon an obviously aging and unarmed Charlton Heston...but was never able to generate enough will to do so. But, wanting to make use of the Poulsbo Sportsman Club on a regular basis, I decided to join and that required an NRA membership. Also, instead of one revolver I am ending up with two...long story...but I suspect my wife is happy to have her own Blackhawk and I am anxious to get to know and shoot with more of the Cowboy Action Shooters at the Club. Not to say that I am not perfectly happy to by a "card carrying" member of the NRA, I am. Whether their interp of the 2nd is correct or not, I like being able to own firearms and generally agree with what Larry the Cable Guy says: "If guns are responsible for killing people, then my pencil is responsible for spelling errors."
Meanwhile 7 out of 14 climatological computer models show that the North Pole ice will vanish each summer starting in September of 2101. At the same time, 14 out of 14 local 5 day forecast models are changing radically about every hour. God only knows what weather we'll have for the weekend...but a little dryness would be welcomed given all I have to do.
More signs of Spring are arriving everyday, ignoring what the weathermen, climatologists, and politicians have to say. Thank God for such consistency...an anchor with which we have largely lost touch.
Random thought for the weekend: "A lawn...any lawn, is wasted potential."
Once again I was dragged - spur of the moment - into a discussion about some grand social issue over which I was expected to give some insane ultra-conservative republican answer. The cost to produce beef. The questioner rallied off some quote about the amount of grain it takes to raise an incomparable amount of beef.
I responded, "Yeah, so what's the problem? Beef tastes better than grain."H Now of course I knew the "problem", this grain could be used to feed the starving masses of the world. having been duly informed I said, "Yeah well if we all rented one less movie a moth we could likely feed the entire world...I'd rather have the beef."
So let's stop and think for just a moment. Do we suffer from a food shortage or a money shortage? (Neither, I suspect) So, we put the beef rancher out of business by not buying beef (yes, from now on you must BBQ wheat on 4th of July). Then the grain farmers are going to find themselves sitting on TONS of grain, which, much to the amazement of Ron Sider does not magically transport itself to Africa. Yes, grain farmers are looking to make money...you know...that stuff that forces us to show up at work everyday? If Africa or charitable American's don't pay for it, I'm guessing the farmer isn't going to pay for the fuel involved in a cross-Atlantic C5 galaxy drop shipment of his free grain.
Now look, I don't think the grain farmer cares to whom he sells his grain. So buy it. Here's the money/movie rental layout. Let us guess that 1% of US residents rent movies once a month. If they were to rent one less movie a month and buy some grain for starving people we would see about 12.5 million dollars a MONTH worth of grain. Let's assume USAID will use your tax dollars to ship it overseas...or perhaps Greenpeace's "Rainbow Warrior" could find time to haul it for us, then 150 million dollars worth of grain a year. How about the world's immoral movie renting...let's say 1/2 of 1% of people can ever rent a monthly movie and opt not to in order to buy grain from Nazi American farmers. This would be 167 million a MONTH or over 2 billion dollars worth of grain a year. Keep in mind, this is above and beyond normal charitable giving. That might make a dent on world hunger.
So I say fooey on the PETA lobby trying to say we should stop eating animals because we are causing people to starve. It's movie rentals that are doing it. And if not, then the bottle water industry...good night, talk about a waste of money! Or for al love, how about one less Latte a week? With that we could feed the world and harvest water from mars...not to mention activate the "Noah plan" to go to a different planet to escape global warming.
One of the issues my wife and I looked at is the notion of Pasture raised animals. In other words, you do your very best to feed your livestock with food that grows naturally on your land or food you grow yourself. Now, Sue and I cannot do this perfectly on only 2.54 acres, but we are certainly intending to do as much as we can. Beef raised in such a fashion will cost you more, because the ranchers cannot pop the cows out in assembly line fashion...but its worth it for numerous reasons.
However, if you want to feed the world, I think the answer is a lot more obvious. There's no food shortage because beef cattle eat it all, rather there is a money shortage and people LOVE movies, bottled water, and lattes.
A coworker on numerous occasions has asked and then upon finding I've not seen the film, pleaded that I go and see "Jesus Camp." Now the film's creators insist that they were completely objective and had no agenda, a claim I find astonishingly retarded...or should I say, it is astonishingly retarded to believe them? Anyway...the fact that this coworker LOVED the film is evidence to me that they pretty much bolstered his belief that Christians are insane Nazis.
Of course, we Orthodox - like many other groups of Christians, will feel inclined to respond to questions directed to us about the film in a number of ways. First and foremost we will wish to distance ourselves from the "wackos" in the movie. Yes, protect yourself and your reputation first. The braver of us may try and argue that the filmmakers might have actually had some bias.
Maybe its my old age (yes, I know I'm not that old yet!), I dunno, but I am feeling more and more like a sibling to ANY Christians who are the subject of criticism by secular liberals (however agendaless they may be...yeah right). You know how it is with family, you have every right in the world to fight with your sibling, but 'igod Woodrow if someone outside the family raises a hand against the brother you just got done having a smackdown with there will be hell to pay.
Okay, maybe not that extreme of a feeling...but I definately sense it. For all I know those kids and their parents at "Jesus Camp" may be utterly nuts, but I'm sure as hell not going to rely on the film to make that decision for me. And really, do you think that if Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady made a film about US (Orthodox) that it would fair and balanced? Sure they may not have as much drama as in Pentecostal churches, but hey we have ourselves plenty of fodder for secularist liberals: "So, women aren't allowed to be clergy? Hmmmmm. So women cannot even go behind the altar except to clean? Hmmmm. So you actually believe Jesus literally rose from the dead? Hmmmm. So, you kiss your priests hands and call your Bishops 'master'? Hmmmmm. So, we noticed a number of your women are wearing headscarfs, isn't that a throwback? Are they also subject to their husbands? So, you bow down and kiss planks of wood? So, you are praying to a man who spent his life standing on a pillar?" Okay enough...they could spin this in any number of ways to fit their agenda and make us look crazy. I have no doubt...add some ominous music here and there, some good editing and you'd soon have us all appearing certifiable to the general, far more enlightened, public.
In any event, my overall response to questions about the movie has been to say "Huh...sounds strange? Oh I don't know if I have time to see it." I'm no longer interested in catering to THEIR agenda so that I (yes me) may be assured that I am NOT like those people in the movie. But in the end, when you get right down to it, those who have the same agenda as the makers of the film (and those giving it awards and those encouraging me to see it) know that I am crazy too, albeit in a different way. The fact that I pray at all is evidence to most. And you know what...the kids at Jesus Camp believe Jesus rose from the dead, which might be a hinge point that makes me have more in common with them than the people making movies about how stupid such people are. All other strange baggage aside.
Fact is, if the world doesn't hate us and mock us and even kill us from time to time...then we are doing something wrong. I'm not here to make everyone love me and I certainly didn't become Orthodox so that I could REALLY disassociate myself from wacko pentecostals. If I did, then I've missed the boat.
This was the question posed to me by my 4YO son as I cruised past his bed room with a 1/2 (or so) life size corpus icon of our Lord in my arms. We had commissioned it from Kh. Heather of St. Thomas Mission and she really did a wonderful job, and I was bringing it downstairs from its safe house (our room) for Rade to take some measurements because he has graciously taken it upon himself to build the cross upon which this icon will be mounted.
And so having taken said measurements we laid our Lord upon the dining room table, poured a couple of glasses of liquid bread and sat down to chat for awhile. Gardening, sustainable farming, livestock issues, building a barn, guns, how to get chickens to use the nests we built them etc were all a part of the discussion. But the nearness and size of the beautiful icon was ever present (how could it not be?). And it occurred to me how symbolic this little synaxis was in demonstrating how far I have come in my life. Not in terms of grand fiscal success or anything of the sort, but in regard to how different my life is than how I might have predicted it would be at pretty much any other time in my life.
How could I have imagined that I would be sitting amidst acreage upon which I am beginning to farm and ranch, with a wife more lovely and pious than ever I could have dreamed, four rowdy yet joy filled children in bed suffering the effects of the time change, and chatting and sipping beers with a Serbian agrarian monarchist, while a giant Orthodox Icon of Christ crucified lays upon the table before us all.
I've not seen it yet, but I am cracking up and drooling at the reviews like THIS one and THIS one and THIS one.
Some choice quotes:
The movie "300" is rated R for "RAAAAAR!"
First off, there's a great deal of yelling in 300. In fact, more than 50 percent of the dialogue is uttered at a raised volume.
It's a relentless feast of testosterone, rendered in vivid layers of virtual scenery.
High school football coaches who show this to their players before games are guaranteed to win 55-0. Should opposing coaches show the DVD to each of their teams before the matchup, a rupture in the space-time continuum will occur and the game will be declared a tie.
The heroes fight for pride, honor, democracy and the right to leave the toilet seat up.
300 is about as subtle as a spear through the head.
The Spartans are a super-human elite squad of lumberjack pirates who were trained by the the great-great-grandpa of Chuck Norris' paternal ancestor.
The Persians also trot out gimongous armored rhinos and war elephants that got kicked out of the zoo for being too big and angry.
The flick would be mesmerizing enough if it were all cheap thrills, but there's also a depth that makes you hurl your allegiance to the Spartans...You cherish the experience so much that the only disappointment comes in knowing it will be a long time until you see another new movie this good.
Whose gonna go with me....I'll even tread the waters of the sound to see it with some manly men. Yeah, not exactly a lenten retreat...but hey I reckon I'll wait till after Pascha if anyone insists.
Fr. Christopher sent me THIS thought provoking article recently. I'm actually in the process of rereading it because not only is it fascinating in its philosophical and religious ruminations or that it illumines many things with regard to social and bioethics, but more than these, this article really moved me personally. Especially "The Remembered Death."
For some reason in recent weeks the reality of death has been pressing upon me...no do not worry I don't think I am receiving some mystical call for preparation - though should that call not always be upon us? Rather I just have these moments of clarity and sobriety where I realize that I am getting old and that the future does not belong to me, it belongs to these kids of mine for whom I do not do enough. Again, the future is not mine, it is theirs. Will my death be like Jacob's?
These fleeting moments of clarity have also really helped me to see how insane our living can be. I really do act as if I am going to live forever...why else would I waste so much time on such trivial things? Our children are our future...in a way our lives are done and we must invest in theirs. Love and cherish them for the time is short. Our approaching death, as our society images it today, can actually be seen as a reason to abandon our children (and of course our elderly). How perverse...no wonder we shall see cloning for the harvesting or organs as we continue to fight a desperate battle that has already been won.
Read the article....glean from it. Love conquers death, it begins in the loving of our children so that they may receive the torch from us as we "sit up" on our death beds.
Now before y'all get your nether garments in a wad, let me distance myself from anything this guy has written...I am reserving my opinion for the moment. I will say however that I am not sure Mr. Tooley is qualified to really understand Orthodoxy or Russia's cultural/political relationship with the Church. Having a Patron Saint for Nuclear Bomber Pilots seemds odd to us (Americans) for any number of reasons not the least of which being that we generally do not do Patron Saints and we haqve no history whatsoever of mixing our political identity with a PARTICULAR and SPECIFIC religious tradition.
All of that said, I am interested in learning more about Saint Fyodor Ushakov. Fans of POB and the Age of Sails might be especially intrgiued as well. More HERE.
It was great to see old friends. Unfortunately, I entered the weekend feeling as if my cold was getting worse and indeed it did, fully investing itself in my lungs and sinuses. Sudafed was an ever present companion, and I fear I was unable to fully enjoy the good company as I would have liked. Hopefully I did not share these germs...for those who may read this from there: sorry :(
I was particularly blessed to spend time with the gentlemen members of their Sunday evening "study" group. What a terrific collection of devout young men (I think I can say "young", right?), no doubt their piety shames me.
Time moves so quickly. Demographics of both individual families and their Parish family has changed dramatically since my last time down there. Youth abounds in different ways. Many families are growing with babbling and googling babies, while the Parish is expanding with a goodly number of tattooed and pierced college age folk. While strolling past the catechism class I noticed it was packed with some 30 people. How wonderful!
It's funny, I starting to feel like a country bumpkin in Seattle sometimes, but going to LA? Wow..."Killick, I don't think we are in Kitsap anymore." I'm definitely singing with Eddie Albert's part.
Had a wonderful time, despite my lungs collection of fluid, but as always it is good to be home. There's work to do, both in my vineyard and the Lord's.
You have had a very hard day of work...physical work, manual labor which you know will leave your sore for days to come. You drag yourself, still breathing hard, dirty and ripe with the sweet perfume of sweat to the front porch and sit down to survey the fruit of your labors. Perhaps it is a freezer full of venison or chickens, a newly fenced paddock, a couple of cords of wood chopped and stacked, maybe the newly tilled soil of this years garden, a new well you drilled yourself, newly constructed feed troughs for the hogs, or anything that you have done that does more than just add aesthetic appeal to your home. You have done some hard labor for the explicit benefit of your family.
You may lean back in that chair and perhaps pop the top off a bottle of homebrew, light your pipe and watch as the sun sets over your little family industry. Without question it is the most appealing natural high I have known...a peace that cannot be duplicated in any way that I know. I wonder if mankind was not intended to often know this sort of harmony between head, heart, and hands?
A portion of a book Sue has just shared with me (at 35,000 feet) notes that as people have moved out of the country and into the city "they have left their chores and substituted sports and amusement.” I think we can all see how leisure time can be a very bad thing for us and indeed this is precisely the “benefit” we think we have gained by all of our modern conveniences and “advanced” lifestyles.” It is a void in our time we are not used to having and it is all too easy to fill that time with...well...you know. Prayer, right? Uh-huh, sure.
Now look, I’m not preaching here...at least not without recognizing my own lazy hypocrisy, but I can tell you that on days where I really work this little farm of ours I benefit immensely from it: spiritually, physically, and mentally. Imagine how a young boy or girl can feel knowing that while their counterparts might have been mastering their new XBOX game, they have worked and rested knowing they have fed their family. Yes, I know what you are thinking: what kid would chose physical labor over an XBOX game? Precious few, I reckon...but maybe that's OUR fault? Shouldn’t our kids be raised knowing about and having access to this fulfilling high I am talking about?
Believe me I know that kids are as lazy as me, but you know what I have noticed? They seem to have a greater willingness for doing everyday farm work than any suburban chore I've ever asked them to do. Yes it could be the newness of our life and I do expect it will fade, but maybe, just maybe they too have a slight inclination to sit on their porch and survey the fruits of their family-benefiting labor.
Sue, will likely break the news and I will let her. But take special note of the JOY experienced by the young worker.
Dawn, in a very timely fashion, sent me this LA times story about the Monk who is attending to the icons (and what not) at the Getty. Turns out he's an American convert, and while I might have liked to have met him, as crowded as it was I rather think it would have been fruitless. Especially if he was enjoying "rock star" status...must be a miserable thing for a monk.
The exhibit was fascinating and beautiful, but I found myself lamenting the fact that it was just that: an exhibit. The Getty entitled the exhibit: "Holy Image, Hallowed Ground" and it seemed to me they rather lacked the latter. Not that the icons did not in their own way hallow the ground or speak to those who let them, but it just seemed odd to be there seeing these marvelous works of a living religious tradition in what was an art museum. While I may venerate the icons, the person crowding it beside me was an art student taking notes about the methodology of the "artist."
It is a good thing the Monk was there to perhaps help to communicate that these things are far more than a matter of historical appreciation. When students come to an Orthodox service to study us, at least we have them more on our terms...there is - are at least ought to be - no question that they are seeing a living breathing and vibrant faith. But the icons were displayed, in a way, on THEIR terms. Art as opposed to a living religious life. I give credit to the Getty, they must have relied heavily on the help of Monks or other Orthodox people to write their lengthy captions.
By the same token, I kept feeling myself struggle to REALLY appreciate the Icons....to perhaps even try and pray before them. It was difficult with all the activity going on around me - though I don't know how hard I really tried, or perhaps even wanted to try. See, don't get me wrong, I am not trying to paint myself as being highly spiritual here (if I were, I suppose I would lie and say I was able to fall into each and every icon despite the noise and crowding around me) I just would have liked to be able to really MEET these saints. I'm not sure if I am making sense. I suppose it was as much my own fault...really, what isn't?
Suffice to say, to have met these icons in their "natural" habitat (or even in a local cathedral) would have been so much more like having the "Hallowed Ground."
Many of the icons I recognized (e.g. The Ladder of Divine Ascent and the one of St. Peter - see above), and the ancient Chalice (imprinted with the words: "Thine own of thine own") I've seen in numerous works including the cover of Fr. Schmemann's book on "The Eucharist". It was amazing to see it in person.
Who knows, perhaps people will be moved to wonder more about Orthodoxy having seen this exhibit. I hope so. Our faith being relegated by some (perhaps many) to little more than an intriguing museum irks me (you all know this). I wonder what role we play in this perception? What can I do to assure the people around me that this is a vibrant faith?
I suppose walking away with such internal reflections is not a bad thing...perhaps the saints spoke to me after all?
I'll not be watching the "scientific" fluff that James Cameron will be marketing on the Discovery Channel this weekend. I've read enough to see that it is all speculative crap....big surprise. Article HERE.
Yes it all sounds exciting in the press releases: "DNA evidence" is a great way to solidify in people's mind that whatever conclusions are offered are infallible. Of course when I hear "DNA evidence" my attention is focused.
So the DNA proves that the tomb contains the body of Jesus? Did they perhaps compare the DNA there with the DNA from the shroud of Turin? Perhaps they compared it to DNA taken from the wine of a transubstantiation believing parish? Or maybe God has certain DNA markers not found in "normal" human DNA? Well let's see what earth shattering evidence they gained fromt he DNA: "Mitochondrial DNA examination determined the individual in the Jesus ossuary and the person in the ossuary linked to Mary Magdalene were not related."
That is staggering evidence indeed. These two were not related, please cue the ominous music, Christianity is sinking and there aren't enough lifeboats!
That's it? THAT'S their DNA evidence? To prove that this is Jesus Christ's tomb? And his wife, Mary Magdalene? And their child, Judah? (What? No DNA test on Judah to see if the 'Jesus' and 'Maria' are mom and dad?)
And the rest of the evidence seems to rest on nomenclature statistics. Brilliant. I am convinced. Notice how often you see "likely" and "suggest" and "theorized" but there is precious little use of the word "proof."
What a bunch of fluff. Say "DNA evidence" and the faith of unbelievers will be bolstered. The rest of us might consider reading the details. Cameron's conclusions appear to me to require a GREAT GREAT deal of faith.
You who have dreams, If you act, they will come true. To turn your dream to a fact It's up to you. If you have the soul and the spirit, Never fear it, you'll see it through. Hearts can inspire other hearts with their fire, For the strong obey when a strong man Shows them the way.
Give me some men who are stout-hearted men Who will fight for the right they adore. Start me with ten, who are stout-hearted men And I'll soon give you ten thousand more.
Oh! Shoulder to shoulder and bolder and bolder They grow as they go to the fore! Then there's nothing in the world can halt or mar a plan, When stout-hearted men can stick together man to man!
Another plug for the Wittingshire blog in this post of raising MEN.
By this I do not mean the economic sort of materialism, but the philosophical materialism: nothing but the material universe exists. This leads quite naturally (pun intended) to the biological determinism that I often wave a demeaning finger at here.
But my wife turned me onto the Wittingshire blog that has a sort of LOTR theme to it, and I noticed on the sidebar they offered this particular definition of the Ring which leads specifically to this post.
Philosophical Materialism is, of course, the default indoctrination program that we are teaching our youth today and it is also the default indoctrination program of many of our work related diversity training and indeed even in many of our rules in the workplace. When we toss up the notion that no belief in the immaterial world is better or ultimately different than any other belief in the immaterial world we will end up getting the message: they are all illusory.
Orthodoxy is not just about the immaterial world...far from it. Last sunday, the Triumph of the Icons speaks loudly that the immaterial and the material are ONE...and indeed Christ Himself is the crescendo of that work of beautiful music. But the denial of the immaterial world turns Christ into a mere man. The Ring of Power? I can see it.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them
The darkness of biological determinsm...yes it will indeed bind us.
Since delving into my family history I have become fascinated by the wooden Orthodox and Greek Catholic Churches to be found in the various region around the Carpathian Mountains. Here is an excellent sight focused on the Polish side of the Mountains where you take a virtual tour of two different river valleys and their beautiful churches, shrines, and landscapes.
The stone churches are nice too...but personally I prefer the wood. Spend some time here...there are TONS of pics and navigating is a little tricky.
This weekend, my wife and I are escaping. We are headed down to the vast metropolis of Southern California to see the icons from St. Katherine down in LA. At the same time we will get to see some old friends like the Munkee, his lovely wife Sara, and briefly the arch-ex-blogger Chance and his family. We look forward to the trip and ask your prayers for a safe journey.
from Bud's Gun Shop in Paris Kentucky. Talking to them was a little hunk o' sunshine in an otherwise bland Thursday. I kept thinking I was on the phone with my cousin or uncle, except there were no hilarious anecdotes...rather Brandon called me "sir" every time he addressed me. Ya know, listening to Kentucky folk talk you just feel a real sense of hospitality. I kept waiting for Brandon to offer me a glass of bourbon after I mentioned all my kin in Pikeville and thereabouts.