An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
I'm just going to tell what happened with very little commentary, it is late, so please excuse any abnormal literary failings...the normals ones you are no doubt used to.
I got in touch with Father Peter Matovu and he encouraged me to go with him to St. Sophia Mission/Parish as opposed to the cathedral of St. Nicholas in Kampala. I agreed. For those who perhaps do not know anything about this priest, do a google search. He is an pretty amazing man, as you will see. In his living room he has a framed copy of the Nobel Peace Prize which the UN organization he worked for won in 1981.
Fr. Peter was supposed to pick me up between 7:30 and 8am. He eventually arrived at 8:30 apologizing profusely. He told me he had an emergency and had to run a child to a clinic. Who could argue with that?
We drove a short distance - perhaps 6km from downtown. But as we did, it became clear that modest poverty was quickly being replaced with near absolute poverty. I cannot describe it...I wont even try to...some places that all manner of charity organizations would love to use as backdrops to their infomercial appeals. It is, for many, like living at a primitive campsite forever. Something we Americans do for "fun" with lots of money and nearby grocery stores and Park Ranger garbage service and beautiful scenery and then we grow sick of it all in a manner of days - right about when things start to get "dirty." Houses were made of a massive variety of materials and all of them bestowed upon my 1500 square foot home in Poulsbo the appearance of an impossible large and beautiful mansion.
I wondered why so many of the brick structures looked so ugly...I would soon learn that the youth of St. Sophia - like so many others - make their bricks by hand from their natural surroundings.
Anyway, we arrived at the church and some of those who graciously greeted me kissed my hand after shaking it. It soon became apparent that they were mistaking me for a priest...had I heard "father bless" I would have known, but as it was I thought perhaps it was an African custom or something. Anyway, with that eventually settled (later I would note that Fr. Peter was not wearing a pectoral cross - not sure why - but it explained why people initially mistook me for a priest in my "underwear." John Burnett would later tell me that in Greek practice the cross is not worn.), I surveyed the church building: it was big actually and designed in a sort of ancient byzantine basilica fashion, though I will admit that minus building codes and regulations I would not wish to be there in an earthquake. It is both a lovely expression of the peoples love for God and the Church and of their humble means.
Father went in to begin his prayers and such prior to beginning matins. I walked around the mostly empty church and played some with two of father's adopted children. One of them was particularly intrigued by the camera. In their mind I was a exceptionally intrigued...throughout the day every time I would happen to glance in their direction they would be staring at me...cracking magnificent smiles each time our eyes met.
Uganda's dirt is red...shockingly so the first time you see it. And dirt is present most everywhere - paved roads are reserved for only the most major thoroughfares in the city, and well paved roads are rarer still.
The church is surrounded by the poverty I ineffectively described earlier and the structure itself, though only a couple of years old could easily pass as dating to the time of the fifth or sixth ecumenical council - made almost entirely of some concrete like material whose recipe and methodology I would imagine also dates back to the time of Byzantine basilicas. Lush greenery fills the little valley behind the church and people are constantly on the move with huge jugs to collect water (from a natural spring I'm told) or to attend to some farming chore. Cows and chickens roam freely, though the cows are well branded with their owners ID to keep them sorted in some fashion...at one point a group of African cowboys (on foot) tied up traffic with a large herd of these massively gigantic horned beasts - I kept waiting for one to join us for liturgy.
I was able to follow along pretty well. Most of the service was in the Luganda Language, but Father offered a few portions of English for my benefit. It was beautiful..though being a small Parish they did not have some fantastic polished choir...but even so I noticed two things: Talent and joy. These people clearly LOVE to sing. And while some of the melody of the songs were familiar to me, most were not and included that absolutely beautiful and unique African harmonies that are as instantly recognizable as they are enjoyable. I would compliment them all later, telling them that I could listen to them sing all day.
The service besides having a number of unique customs was decidedly Orthodox and familiar.
Afterwards, Father Peter took it upon himself to embarrass me as utterly as could be imagined. First during the service he prayer for me "our missionary" and then afterward he gave a little talk about how amazing I was to have left the wonderful comforts of America to come here and help the Ugandan people. (Like my ego needs this?!?!) And the people applauded as I shrunk in my seat, remembering how much I tried to avoid coming.
He then asked an elder (a grandson of one of those who first brought Orthodoxy to Uganda) to say a few words. After several minutes of him gesturing to me from time to time (plus applause) while offering a lengthy speech in the Luganda language, Father asked me to speak - while he translated into Luganda.
I tried to contest that I was not a Missionary and that I was simply doing my job which happened to bring me here. But Fr. Peter would have none if it: "You are an Orthodox Christian here to help the Ugandan people...you are a missionary." In that moment...my "job" truly took on a new meaning to me. The extent to which I am blessed and the extent to which I was a fool to not want to come (regardless of having good reason) became completely clear to me.
I didn't know what to say...I was already so undone by their simplicity, their devotion, and their joy that I just tried to tell them about what I was doing and how I was already realizing that I was learning more from them than they (or at least the lab techs at Mulago) would learn from me.
Coffee Hour saw me being - without question - the guest of honor. As if I needed further embarrassment. The youth of this little Parish are apparently renowned for their traditional African drumming, singing, and dancing. And so, outside in what we might consider the narthex, I was treated to a most amazing show of traditional African talent. (I'll post some vids later) I don't know what to say about it - it was something completely contrary to anything I'd ever experienced. People around us herded their cattle, chased their chickens, gathered their water, and made their bricks while we celebrated. One of the young people gave a little speech informing me that while they had no gift to offer me (Hospitality is astonishing here), that they wished to dance and sing for me...and boy did they ever. I was amazed...it was like a scene out of a Rick Steve's travel video. And as if the performance wasn't enough, when Father Peter decided it was time for us to leave they DANCED us to his car in a procession.
Father then invited me to have lunch with him and I gladly accepted. On the way to his house we drove past some of the very worse of poverty that Kampala has to offer. What can one say about seeing such a thing...you just have to see it to believe it...more than that, you have to see the smiles on their faces. It was a ride of shame...they shame us, they really really really do.
Father and his wife fed me until I could eat no more. And then they fed me more...and more. I lost count of the courses.
Generally, the day was a stark series of contrasts: poverty and hospitality. In the American eye...so many of them have every reason in the world to be depressed and down trodden, and yet the locked gaze of a child with a stranger nearly produces joyous laughter.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 11:14 AM [+] +++
The Emerging Church Motivational Posters
An innocent bit of fun poked at the PoMo crowd. Don't feel too bad though, guys, we Orthodox are DOWN with mystery and they dis it too. (Funny, how these hardcore western rationalists think the Trinity is like math!)
None-the-less, I nearly busted a gasket laughing at these...and here my favorites:
I attended liturgy at St. Sophia Church this morning with Fr. Peter. I don't really have the words yet to say what impact these people had on me...I was truly floored, embarrassed, saddened, gladdened, inspired, convicted, and wholly unready to put it all into any words. Tomorrow maybe.
As you walk through the "Garden City" mall in Kampala, you will find a movie theater in the upper level. There you will also find a host of movie posters autographed by Forest Witaker. It is an odd thing to see, given that this is the land and the people that Amin had brutalized.
Anyway, an interesting article about the film's production HERE. The initial hospital scene? I work right across the driveway from there, and I recognized the building the minute we first drove by.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 12:13 PM [+] +++
Friday, July 27, 2007
Eating some of the Crunchy Con chipped a tooth
I've been meaning to blog about this from before I left but just never had the time. My wife got Rod Dreher's book "Crunchy Cons" from the library and I had some opportunities to begin reading it. As many of you know, Mr. Dreher is a convert to Orthodoxy.
A great deal of what Rod Dreher writes I agree with, especially in regard to personal family decisions. But when he starts nationalizing some of these notions I get a little nervous. Perhaps its those few libertarian genes in me?
Case and point: in one part of his book he discusses a family he knew - if memory serves from his Parish. Conservative Catholic Homeschooling Republicans who fell upon hard times and found themselves making use of some form of government assistance from their state. Until the Republicans of that state lowered taxes and the funding for that program dried up. Rod would learn of his friend's plight from the local newspaper. Shocked and concerned he contacted them and offered to assist them financially, but being a "proud" family they declined, insistent that they would somehow find a way to work through it themselves.
Rod - a Republican himself - then went on a public campaign of lambasting his Republican representatives for having this program cut.
I was less intrigued by Rod's response than by his friend's family's proud response in refusing Rod's money, but being more willing to take stranger's money in the form of taxes redistributed to them. Now think about this for a moment, this is indeed a pride issue: to refuse help from someone who offers it out of love and concern, while being willing to accept it anonymously from complete strangers who perhaps begrudge them for having to do it.
Sometimes I think we forget that welfare and other charitable government programs do not come about because the government just prints some extra money. This is, in no uncertain way, forced charity. Yes, the will of the majority of people can be responsible for such forced charity, but we do need to recognize that in some cases it is indeed Sally Struthers marching into homes with the authority of the IRS behind her.
I have been and am the benefactor of both government charity and government tax cuts, so I see both sides of this issue, I think. But money does not grow on trees and I really do see a fundamental Christian disconnect with accepting money pried from the hands of some stranger and rejecting money offered to you in love by a brother or sister in Christ.
To what degree do we ask the government to be the verb of our personal Christian duty? To what degree do we ask the government to be the verb of other people's Christian duty - regardless of whether or not they happen to be Christian? Serious questions here that I do not profess to know the answer too. Helping the poor is - without any doubt - our responsibility - I'm just not convinced, from a political point of view, that the government ought to do it. It's far far easier to cast a vote in the direction of charity than it is to change portions of your life and give. I suppose some few might do both, but I would rather guess that most people - like me - don't do much in the way of self-sacrificial giving and might perhaps sleep well in knowing they helped force rich people to give for them?
What would happen if the government funds dried up tomorrow? Would we...we Christians...step up to the plate and help alleviate the suffering in our own communities? Would we sacrifice to see it happen, knowing we cannot count on the government to force the hand of the wealthy? (ahem...as a side, believe me, while knowing intellectually it to be true, I now know personally that all of you I know are fabulously wealthy.) Would we take our saved taxes and buy big screens or would we help our friends who find themselves in similar straights as did Mr. Dreher's friends? Would they accept our help?
Whether it be Education Grants or outright Welfare, we must remember that no one is entitled to this money. It is a charitable gift to me from someone who may not have had any interest in helping me at all. I guess we feel better receiving it this way not only because it is seemingly anonymous, but also because it is easier not to feel a sense of obligation? I dunno.
Anyway, the "Crunchy Con" and I are going to part ways on issues like this. I believe charity is most rightly (from a Christian moral perspective) and efficiently done on a personal and local level than on a centralized governmental level. At the very least notions of governmentally taking from the rich and giving to the poor should not be wrapped up in ideas of Christian duty - especially if you are like me and you really do not pay much in the way of taxes. Taking that stance, I am forced to look inward as opposed to outward with regard to helping others...a decidedly Christian notion I should think.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:02 PM [+] +++
The Remains of the Day
Two days in Uganda and I can see already that I am going to be a changed man for the experience - at least for a month or so. (Sad to say this is probably being brutally honest...but I hope not.)
I'm sitting in the "veranda" (apparently I was incorrect in simple referring to it as an enclosed porch) watching another African thunderstorm rolling in from the west and contemplating the day's events.
It started with my first trip to my workplace at the Infectious Disease Institute up at Mulago Hospital. I recognized portions of the hospital from the the film "Last King of Scotland," but clearly in that film only the very best areas were featured. By spoiled American standards, many portions of this facility would be deemed unacceptable, a place you might see while passing through a desperate inner city, but certainly no place that you would stop to receive healthcare.
Much of Uganda is this way. I will not call such regions slums because it seems to me that the spirit of the people deny such a title. Speaking with my colleagues today at lunch we discussed the horrors of seeing children with fully treatable diseases...FULLY TREATABLE...dying not so much from the illness as from lack of money to treat it. I consider my own children and how agonizing it must be to know that for a little geographic distance and little money (or a lot in both cases) my child would live. No child in America dies of EBV or HHV8, but they do here. Michael Moore did his documentary in the wrong place.
But despite the hardships (or maybe because of them), its seems most of the Ugandan people bear a soft spoken joy that I rarely see at home. A smile, if not already present, is always only a heartbeat away. It is amazing. Of course, they are a people riddled with problems that are not always a function of their poverty, I do have to wonder about how they might actually benefit from their poverty. What an odd thing to suggest.
But walking around the Hospital/University complex today, it occurred to me that I was very likely the only person noticing how dilapidated much of it was. I suppose in a third world country, such is understood to be the case and it would seem few entertain notions of being able to change it anytime soon.
Thus, their is little to no hope to be found in material or technological goods. As I watched the people go about their business, I wondered what one does when you cannot so easily and quickly lean upon our stuff (which as you know, we really do do), and the answer was clear to me: you lean on God and on each other. These people, it seems to me, have great faith in both and indeed they must.
Do we lose that in having the technology and finances to save children from curable ailments? I hope not, but I suspect we have...I suspect *I* have. Two days in Ugandan and I am already seeing so much. So little of my money would make such a huge difference to any given family here. On average, a Ugandan household earns around 40,000 Ugandan Shillings a month, which is about half of my DAILY food allowance here...or about $24.
Can you imagine doubling a family's monthly income and having it affect you so little? So I guess today's lesson: Check your faith in your material and technological well being. AND, what can we do to help people who truly...TRULY suffer from a lack of money and technology. I hope, in meeting up with some church contacts this weekend, to have some clearer ideas of what we in America can do.
Despite how homesick I am and how much I miss my wife and kids, I am very much enjoying meeting the soft-spoken, smiling, and generous people of Uganda.
Here in my room at the Program House in Uganda. Looks like rain today, save the Palm trees outside my window one would hardly know I left Seattle. Smoke smell in the air a lot though, not sure of the origin. Every once in a awhile I'll hear an odd bird call - perhaps one of those big ugly storks.
Anyway, check this out: Patriarch Sending Bells to Harvard
One thing that intrigues me is why the Patriarch consecrates bells that presumably will not be used for Church services? Perhpas the ringing of ANY bell may be a sacred thing? Cause us to look heavenward? To perhaps contemplate something sacred? Or maybe it was part of the deal to replace the old bells with EXACT replicas?
Which leads me to this next point. A pragmatist would say that this whole venture is a waste of time and money. Why switch the bells? Why not take the new ones out to the Danilovsky Monastery and call it good?
Well, pragmatists don't make very good romantics either, do they? Girls, stay away from them, you can hear them saying, "Why waste money on flowers that will soon be dead?"
There is something beautiful in the returning of these bells, perhaps something too beautiful for those of us who have not suffered under a spiteful secularist regime to fully appreciate. But I love history and in my mind there is nothing more fantastic, more intense than touching it - literally. A replica doesn't quite do it...I want the real deal. It's almost as if the people who moved and breathed around the object somehow left imprints of themselves in the object and that in someway when we touch them - when we are around them - we have a bit of community with our ancestors. The drama these bells have seen, the joy, the sadness...yes bring them home. A most blessed homecoming for certain.
One day pretty much wasted traveling to get to Uganda. I left Tuesday morning and arrived at Entebbe at 8pm wednesday evening. Presently I am sitting in a screened porch of the early 20th century mansion of the colonial governer, sipping a native beer, surrounded by Geckos - of all things, listening to the distant sounds of African music, while chatting with Aaron and my fellow Kitsapper Greg.
The drive from Entebbe to Kampala was insane, cars all over the pace, pedestrians going in and out of traffic, motorcycles and mopeds weavin' in an out - all being done in the dark with little more than vehicle headlamps to show the way. Electrcity is clearly somewhat of a luxury item here. You know before you come that you are coming to a resource poor place, but there are some details you don't give much consideration to, like darkness.
I had to ask if the main road (highway?) was actually paved as we drove upon it. Drivers seem to pay little attention to the hard to see median stripes, preferring - it seems - to flash their high beams at oncoming traffic to let them feel safer in that you see them. And the crowds! Every little town you pass through seems to be having a festival with seemingly all the people gathering to do a little shopping, dancing, or just generally socializing. Candles actually mark most of the vendors humble little booths. But is was striking to see so many of the people out being with other people - even if it must spell a ridiculously high pedestrian vs. auto accident rate.
It occurred to me that these people have no television, and so they have little else to do for entertainment than to simply hang out. Which of course is terrific for building community. Our little eletronic gadgets like TV's, iPods, and laptops tend to isolate us from our immediate community.
Of course, nothing is a paradise. One of the scientists here told me that one quick way to slow the spread of AIDS in Africa would be to put a sattelite TV in every home.
Anyway, the bugs don't seem too bad...maybe those geckos are keeping their population down? They sure are cute little critters. I slept hardly at all on my flights, so I am hoping I will go to bed here shortly and sleep the night through...perhaps helping me adjust to the time change. Somewhere our there I lost an entire day and more.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 12:43 PM [+] +++
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Off to Africa
21 days till I come home. The countdown begins. Keep coming back, I should have internet access and will be blogging about an American Orthodox Redneck Part-Time Agrarian in Uganda. I 'xpect it'll be fun.
"Vyacheslav Glazychev, a senior official in the Public Chamber, an advisory body charged with scrutinising parliament, said he wanted to defend the values of a normal, tolerant and secular society."
Well to the first charge: of course she is undermining secularism, amen!
"a normal. tolerant, and secular society"?!?!? NORMAL?!?!? Tolerant? What does that mean? Of course, it means a certain subset of currently politically correct ideas of "tolerance." Some things are tolerable, some things aren't. It changes from day to day. And of course what does it mean to be tolerant? To be tolerant of homosexuals means that you don't advocate their execution? or what?
I'm so sick of the media slamming Russian religious issues and their perceived "lack of secularism" (whatever that means), while the entire Islamic world is utterly lacking of any semblance of PC "tolerance." (except by those who somehow earn the titles of hate-mongers, bigots, and islamophobes) Last I heard it was still legal to practice religions other than Orthodoxy in Russia, yes? Last I heard there was no death penalty or government mandated lashings for being gay in Russia? Last I heard there was no stoning of women for adultery in Russia? Last I heard people in Russia could freely deny God's existence and reject and even blaspheme Christ without fear of a death penalty, no? And really, here in good old free and secular America, we can say the Orthodox Church is a load of bunk (or...ahem...publish a news article like this one) without fear of Patriarch Alexei offering a religious decree calling for your murder, yes?
Ah yes, lets us wring our hands and worry about the failing religion of secularism in Russia.
Everyday I ride the ferry and see a massive quantity of motorcycles (in times of nice weather at least). Amidst these, I see a significant number of Harley Davidson bikes. Now, when I grew up, Harley's were the motorcycles of greasy, grungy, Vietnam veterans, sporting Athonite beards and leather goods that looked like they skinned the animal themselves. You know, the mechanized cowboy type.
Based on what I see everyday, I'd say nowadays Harley Davidson gets a significant amount of their sales from rich "lawyers and doctors and such." Nothing cooler than a dress shirt, tie, Khakis and signature Harley Davidson brand chaps. These guys are the real deal dude...rugged, hardcore, a man's man, individualistic...ummm...liberal leaning, art dealing, pacifist, lawyer, doctor, BMW/Mercedes/Lexus driving on cold days, never changing their own oil, and polishing their chrome during the ferry down time with a new Harley Davidson brand toothchromebrush and a $75.00 tube of Harley Davidson brand chrome cream, on their way to their average $600,000 Bainbridge Island McMansion kinda man.
Log Cabins used to be the staple and everyday home of choice for rural people...not all that long ago. Now, "Log Homes" are a luxury few can afford. Like Harley's, they have become a rich man's fad and the prices have followed them. Who can afford Harley's anymore anyway? To go along with the Log Homes, one can find a host of "rustic" decor to really lend your Mansion a down home, mountain cabin-like feel to it. Looking completely authentic, as if your grandfather had bequeathed the lamp, coffee-table, or wall hanging to you, no one will ever suspect you paid thousands to the rich man's Walmart.
No, that wagon wheel table was not refinished by your hand from the remains you found behind your barn. Rather it was manufactured in China, shipped to the US for final assembly and finishing and sold to you for a mere $1,500! All to LOOK like you found it behind your barn. Since moving to a rural environment, we have received countless sales magazines with items just like this. A desperate attempt for rich folk to create a rustic environment, how ironic.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 12:51 PM [+] +++
Slain in the Spirit
You've likely seen pentecostal's smack their brethren in the head and then watched the recipient collapse into a heap of physical and spiritual bliss. They call this being "slain in the spirit."
It being ever necessary in the "Bible-believing" context for everything to have a scriptural basis, the "slayers in the spirit" seized upon John 18:5-6
Whom are you seeking?” They answered Him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am He.” And Judas, who betrayed Him, also stood with them. Now when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground.
Ahem, yeah right. Anyway Fr. C recently enlightened me to an interpretation (which seems eminently obvious to me now) that in all my years as an evangelical I'd never heard: Jesus was uttering the unutterable Divine Name ("I AM"), and that this could very naturally elicit the dramatic response from the pious Jews who'd come to get Him.
...that I am the only person on the planet who is NOT reading the new Harry Potter book this weekend.
I'm also relatively certain that every writer on the planet is profoundly jealous of Rowling and her unimaginable success, all of them knowing she won the authorship lottery that could have fallen on any of them.
I've not read ANY of the books, but none-the-less I also tend to suspect that there is no way they could be THIS good...could they? Could any book really be deemed - by sales - so much better than all other works of fiction. How much is fad driving this success? I mean really if POB books were flying off the shelf (can you imagine HMS Surprise midnight parties?) then I'd be less inclined to see fad as the driving force.
Okay, Potter fans, flame away! No matter how hard I try, I cannot generate any interest and I feel terribly lonely for it. On my flight to Uganda, I am accompanied by these two books:
A couple of definitions fit the commonly used Orthodox context of the term: An abandoned display of emotion, lust, or desire and, simply, martyr.
Bishop BENJAMIN said something in his brief preview homily on Tuesday evening that really struck me. In speaking about our Patroness, the "new Martyr" he reminded us of how the word martyr is besmirched by those "martyrs" who do NOT become Passion Bearers, but rather Passion makers. Those who would, by their own efforts, cause their own deaths and the deaths and sufferings of those around them. What can we say of such a "witness", in contrast to the gentle, loving, and selfless sacrifice of St. Elizabeth?
One bears witness to a God who is Himself a Passion Bearer, while the other bears witness to a "god" who itself is a Passion Maker. The contrast is striking. When your God is your example to follow, you will find that we Christians do indeed carry a heavier burden...dare I say...a holier burden.
Well these prayers are the sorts that will wake you up when you are the "N":
O Lord God, Supreme Sovereign, select this Thy servant N. and sanctify him, and enable him to perform with all wisdom and understanding the reading and teaching of Thy Divine Word, and preserve him in a blameless life, through the mercy and kindness of Thine Only-Begotten Son, with Whom Thou are blessed, together with Thy most Holy, Good and Life-creating Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages...My son, the Order of Reader is the first step in the Priesthood. Therefore, it becomes thee as thou readest the Divine Scriptures daily, to strive after virtue, so that those who listen to thee may receive edification. Never allow any blemish to disgrace the order which thou hast received, that thou mightest prepare thyself for a higher order. And living peacefully in righteousness and holiness, thou shalt win favor with God and obtain a superior ministry, through Jesus Christ our Lord, to Whom belongeth all glory, honor, and adoration, together with His Eternal Father and with the most Holy, Good and Life-creating Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
Ahem...ummm...a bit more to this than just wearing a dress and chanting, eh?
In any event, I am honored - though unworthy - to serve the Church in this function. Sue has a few pics, my favorite of which is of me being "manhandled" by the subdeacon, which kinda looks like a still from some new reality show perhaps called "LitrugiCOPS." My grateful thanks to all who took the time to attend, I recognize it as being no small thing to do so.
I found a generous bit of information about and for Readers at the Diocese of the West website, check it out.
A few tidbits from the McMansion article: the average livable floor space of a new home in the city is 4,268 square feet Which is nearly three times the square footage that my 6 person family lives in.
"Our neighborhood is a war zone," she said.
There's a constant beeping of a truck back-up alarm; the occasional sound of gravel being dumped; and a significant increase in traffic.
"I counted the other day and within a one block radius of our home, 20 mansions have gone up," Kraft said.
I'm weeping for her. Considering that the presence of massive McMansions means a significant increase in property value, I'd advise selling and moving. If you opt to live in the greater suburban Seattle area (particularly the much desired "eastside"), you'd better suck it up and get used to it. Those tearing down perfectly good 2000 square foot homes to build 5000 square foot monsters of half the quality have far more money to make sure zoning fits their needs.
I have happily let them have their little crowded "paradise."
While 84 square feet is a little small, we are a mere 250 square feet per person, and I expect we'll somehow survive the horror of it.
Read the details of how the study was done: The study, though oversimplified compared to real life, was instructive. Keysar and his colleagues arranged two blocks on a table so participants could see both. However, a piece of cardboard obstructed the view of one block so a "director," sitting across from the participant, could only see one block.
When the director asked 20 American participants (none of Asian descent) to move a block, most were confused as to which block to move and did not take into account the director's perspective. Even though they could have deduced that, from the director's seat, only one block was on the table.
Most of the 20 Chinese participants, however, were not confused by the hidden block and knew exactly which block the director was referring to. While following directions was relatively simple for the Chinese, it took Americans twice as long to move a block.
First let me say that most sociological/psycological studies are retarded, worthless, and so incredibly enslaved to human interpretation that they have little or no scientific value. However...
Now stop and think - especially since we don't have details - that it would seem the "director" told the study participant: "Move the block." Now it really doesn't MATTER if the "director" can only see ONE block, the FACT is, the REALITY is that there are TWO blocks on the table. So, perhaps the average American is not so much unable to understand others, but is more interested in illuminating others to REALITY? So when the "director" says "Move the block" we are inclined to inform the director: "Which one...after all, there are two of them."
It's all about how you see things, eh? Makes me proud to be an American!
Well, tomorrow is the feast day for St. Elizabeth, the New Martyr...at least for many of us. I'm still not totally clear on the dating issue, because even the OCA website says her feastday is July 5th. According to Orthodoxwiki "Her feast day is celebrated on July 5 (she was martyred on July 18, according to the New Calendar, which was July 5 on the Old Calendar)"
Fr. C has tried to explain this to me before, but I think I got lost in the details and will have to ask for a review...perhaps the blogosphere can assist me. I know it has something to do with the New Martyrs being celebrated in accord with the Old Calender, or something like that.
But, the day is intended to remind us NOT of the calender problems, but of holiness and how Christ is glorified in His Saints. Most of you likely know St. Elizabeth's story, but a brief little review may be found HERE in this old post of mine from last October. I recall being very impressed in that she was assuredly not a convert of convenience, as one might expect of royalty, but truly did experience a heartfelt, honest, and sometimes difficult journey from Lutheranism to Orthodoxy.
Here is a little video played by children at St. Arseny Orthodox Camp, telling St. Elizabeth's amazing story. It is simple, beautiful, and it is lovingly done.
Life has been busy. God willing I'll be tonsured a reader coming up this Wednesday on the feastday of St. Elizabeth and of course we have been preparing for the Bishop's visit. I'll be particularly occupied during this time. Plus I've been furiously trying to get the cabin ready to be inhabitable (doors and windows and roof and sheathing put up) before I leave for Uganda next week. And that of course spells frantic additional preparations being made both at home and at work. Wrapped up with everday home and farm duties and tasks means you have what SHOULD be a very busy James this week.
Your prayers are coveted for all these things. My wife will also need your prayers and support for the coming three weeks of single parenting.
Story HERE. Note the oddness of this case in that the suspect (I guess) apparently has the following problems: a level one sex offender, failure to register as such, and apparently he has immigration status problems. No details on the latter...but ummm...if he is an illegal alien I think there is a bigger problem here than his failing to register as a sex offender! Ironically Zina's family apparently LEGALLY immigrated here 10 years ago from Ukraine.
I'm angry and sad. My heart and prayers go out to the Linnik family.
So, whats with the Civil War blogging lately? Well, it's an ever present interest of mine for as long as I can remember. It's seems a gentlemanly thing to at least have a passing profession of historical expertise on the topic...we certainly LOG about it a lot at the LOG. I mean really, what manly sipping of a Kentucky bourbon is complete without some notation of the fact that civil war tactics were behind civil war technology?
Anyway, my interest waxes and wanes, but my wife got my THIS book for my birthday and I enjoyed it immensely in part because it is a very specific and unusual historic topic. I've often thought that if I could have an educational "do over" it would be religion and history instead of religion and science.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:50 AM [+] +++
Flag Waving and my beef with Pirates This is the flag that would become the "Bonnie Blue Flag." It was originally the flag for the short-lived Republic of West Florida, which actually included portions of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. It existed independently (from Spain) for a little more than a month in 1810 before joining the United States. As secession spread some 51 years later, THIS was often initially the flag raised in place of the Union flag. And it was used popularly (though not officially) throughout the war by the Confederacy and may still be found incorporated in numerous states flags...including (of all places) "the republic of" California flag which still "bears a single star."
This is actually the flag known as the "Stars and Bars"...some people think that the name refers to the much better known confederate battle flag, but in reality it is this, the first official flag of the CSA. Later flags would have additional stars as more southern states seceded, and it's first public appearance would be in Bardstown, Kentucky where some mighty fine bourbon is made. The flag was deemed to be the cause of too much battlefield confusion (looking too much like the US flag) and was thus changed in 1863 to an all white flag (not like the French one) with the familiar St. Andrew's Cross bearing Confederate Battle Banner in one corner. The Stars and Bars are still found incorporated in numerous southern states' flags, including the very new "compromise" flag of Georgia...seemingly without perception related intellectual baggage.
Now, this here was the first official Confederate Navy Jack. Hardly anyone recognizes it and I suspect most people might think it is the NATO flag or the UN flag...both of which are offensive to many people. This flag would also eventually be changed as well in 1863 to the CSA battle standard.
This is a pirate flag. Pirates were criminals known for hijacking, stealing, raping, enslaving, and all around pillaging. They were feared, hated, and hunted rightly so by the powers that be. The flag has in even the recent past been universally recognized as a sign of lawlessness, brutality, death, murder, and the aforementioned other heinous crimes. Nowadays, it is a faddish sign of relatively harmless rebellion and a powerful marketing symbol for a major motion picture series in which somehow pirates are protagonists and those seeking to uphold law, peace, and order are bumbling and idiotic antagonists. My, how perceptions change.
Apparently you can go HERE, pay $10.00 and watch live while a priest lights a candle and says a prayer for you in Nazareth. It looks to be a joint Catholic/Orthodox venture...no way to tell if you can specify whether an Orthodox or Catholic clergymen prays for you.
Furthermore I am getting sick of this sort of thing happening so much these days. Since the first day she was taken we have been watching for news and though the authorities aren't coming out and saying so, it appears that we are now looking for a body.
Let me step up on my soapbox: there is no reason on earth that a level one sex offender should ever see the light of day and as far as I am concerned can see the underside of a casket lid. And what the heck is up with immigration being involved? Was this flesh waste an "undocumented worker" who had no right to be here to begin with?!?!?! Sigh.
I'm sick of hearing about sickos stealing, abusing, and killing our children
In his book, Fields without Dreams Victor Davis Hanson paints two agrarian pictures, one commonly seen and portrayed today, and the other less often seen – for obvious reasons. He contrasts Virgil’s Georgics with Hesiod’s Works and Days. In the former, agrarian life is “romanticized” and is shown “in implicit contrast to the bustle and impersonality of urban life” with emphasis on the “nobility of the farmer and the natural beauty of his craft.” Hesiod, however, offers “an account of the necessary pain and sacrifice needed to survive on the land…soil is not kind, but unforgiving, and so must be mastered if it is not to master the farmer himself.” According to VDH, the American family farmer (in contrast to part-time converts like me – I think) “are not necessarily sympathetic or sensitive individuals, but often appear as more unattractive folk as the cost of their wager to live off the land…farmers have always been distasteful, independent, and of a different sort locked in a perpetual struggle with the “bribe-swallowers” in town, the princes who profit from, but do not partake of, an agrarian community.”
Much of VDH’s “issue” is in regards to the tragic loss of the American family farmer and what that means to us as a culture. Some would perhaps think it means little, but in that loss VDH sees much more at stake. His warning:
This bothersome, queer, oddball who is disappearing has been for twenty-five hundred years the critical counter voice to a material and uniform culture that at its basis is neither democratic nor egalitarian…[in his absences] where will be the often unpleasant individual, the veteran of a continual struggle with nature, the now cultural dissident, who will choose still to go it alone in order to protect his old notion of community, who will by nature have distrust for authoritarianism, large bureaucracy, and urban consensus? Is there another besides the ugly agrarian whose voice says no to popular tastes, no to the culture of the suburb, no to the urban enclave, no to the gated estate? What other profession is there now in this country where the individual fights alone against nature, lives where he works, invests hourly for the future, never for the mere present, succeeds of fails largely on the degree of his own intellect, physical strength, bodily endurance, and sheer nerve?
There are enough artists, writers, provocateurs, purveyors of fad, cant and chaos, enough sophisticated and educated to suggest what we see and hear is not what it seems, enough shiftless and transient who reinvent themselves with each move. But at the millennium there are far too few of the other in America, the traditional and time-honored brakemen on an affluent, leisured, and rootless society. There is a reason why farmers defiantly, brazenly, want their children raised differently, want them to subtract from, not add to, the current American madness, want them, I suppose, to be like themselves: to have fields without dreams, rather than dreams without fields.
I’d do well to point out that I do not see myself as such a farmer…very far from it. I have little hope of even aspiring to such a title or way of being as described here. VDH agrees with me that we “converts” are not going to save American family farming, though he does give us a hat-tip: “Genuine agrarians remain to be found at the ubiquitous farmers markets, the agricultural equivalent of theme parks and petting zoos.”
All over the news wires this AM is the astonishing story that the Pope claims that the Roman Catholic Church is the one true church. The Orthodox, we are told, are "a church" having valid apostolic succession and sacraments, but are deficient in not acknowledging the supremacy of the Pope.
Ummmm...and this is news to whom, exactly? What person, who claims any knowledge of Christianity or its history, fails to recognize this as THE teaching of the Roman Catholic Church as it ever has been? Why on earth is this being proclaimed as some grand news story....it's as earth shattering and radical as if the Pope had stepped up and proclaimed that Mary is ever-virgin, or any other traditional Catholic teaching. They briefly touch on this point in the article itself, but I sense that perhaps reporters are thinking there is some monumental non-politically correct and intolerant attitude being expressed here that must be gotten out to the public.
Oddly enough, I've yet to seen flying across the news wires a major story about what Allah says in his text about the beliefs of Christians and Jews...let alone the more colorful and "crazed" of his multitudinous spokespersons.
Perhaps tomorrow we'll see another great news story when the various Orthodox Patriarchs say in reply, "Actually the Orthodox Church is the one true Church."
Episcopal Islamic Priest gets Suspended [Gomer Pyle]Surprise,Surprise Surprise![\Gomer Pyle] Well the good and confused Bishop Warner might dance a jig to have a convert to Islam in his diocese, but the equally confused priest happens to find herself technically under the authority of the Bishop of Rhode Island. And in an amazingly unusual moment of Episcopal clarity, Bishop Geralyn Wolf suggests that the "Alluha Akbar" chanting priest spend her time of suspension to "reflect on the doctrines of the Christian faith, her vocation as a priest, and what I see as the conflicts inherent in professing both Christianity and Islam."
I'm not sure a year is enough time for an episcopal clergy-person to accomplish this.
Yesterday I spent an unusual moment of alone time at our house just sitting on the front porch smoking my pipe, sipping an IPA, and reading VDH's book "Fields Without Dreams." I paused to look around and listen. It was noisy, but not with traffic or media. The birds were going on with their near constant (sun up to sun down) cacophony of songs, the neighbors' goats were bleating in the distance, and a gentle breeze was blowing through the tops of the trees. Killick raced past me barking at whatever critter it is he is frequently chasing off our land in the eastern woods. It was one of those otherwise quiet moments of self-satisfaction...looking around at the forest around me, and the little farm we were etching out of it and realizing that I was JUST where I wanted to be. Sue and the kids (adding their own cacophony) arrived and I got up to get the grill going as we waited for some good friends to arrive.
I continue to hammer away at the cabin. It's really taking shape now and some detail work is being done. I got all the windows in, the eves finished, and just a few more spots of sheathing to put up. More shingling remains and I am staring down the barrel of the technical aspects of hanging the doors. I need to have it functionally done before I leave for Uganda so I am going to be taking advantage of late sunsets and sunny weather.
Firefly has been giving us an abundance of milk and Sue has been fine-tuning her cheese making skills. I expect she'll provide some details, but I will say that her Mozzarella is delicious! Her first try at Feta is too salty, but quite edible in my opinion - I'm looking forward to putting it in my salad. I reckon we'll continue to experiment and learn...apparently I've been charged with constructing a press for making some of the hard cheeses. As it is, we've no need to look outside of our land for our dairy needs.
Still too much demand for eggs. We basically have enough "subscribers" that we hardly have any eggs left for individual sales. We've decided to build a second coop and run to add a second flock. This we plan to do ASAP (which merely means its higher up on the to-do list than other things).
We had our first encounter with bears Saturday night. Sue was the primary participant in seeing the fellow who never really came out of the woods into the open, but did end up near the neighbors goat pens before their dogs chased them off. We wouldn't let Killick outside because we're too fond of him. I was sorta hoping the bear would go after a chicken or our goats so I could shoot it and have a bearskin rug for the cabin. The girls were a bit overly scared of the situation and so some communicative balance was in order with regard to the extent of danger a bear posed.
Berries are abundant, even though the blackberries - by far the most abundant - have not yet come to be. Our little raspberry vineyard (I guess that's what I'd call it) has been producing massively and last night Sue harvested some to make a topping for our after dinner dessert. We also have wild salmon berries and huckleberries, the latter, I read recently were sometimes used by Native Americans as fishing bait because they look like large salmon eggs.
Well plenty to do and not much time to do it. As I sit here writing I recall that I still have a ton of wood to split, which I ought to do before long so that it will dry - need to take advantage of this beautiful dry weather we've been having. People complain about rain here, but I'll stand my ground on this: one bright sunny day in western Washington is worth 10 days anywhere else I've ever lived. One bright and sunny day on our farm? Even better.
I stumbled upon this while looking for some Orthodox stuff. You may wonder how they got their name? Well, this band hails from Belgrade Serbia (I could not get their website to work in Firefox, try Explorer!
A few of the recent headlines that have not only been produced, but then carried extensively by all manner of local papers.
-Thompson lobbied for abortion rights. -Thompson can keep money secret - for now. -Thompson chided over radio ad gig -Thompson Fundraising But No Disclosure -'Thompson Was A Mole For The White House' -Thompson Strong on Style, Not Substance -Analysis: Thompson Lacking Substance -Thompson's Damaging Cuban Gaffe -DNC: Lobbyist Fred Thompson Brings Washington Values to New Hampshire -Not all would put a heroic sheen on Thompson's Watergate role
LOL...I've never seen so much flak tossed into the media air directed at one single candidate...ahem...umm likely candidate. Ha ha, one that happens to lead the polls in the GOP and is tied with the top democrat. And these articles are just a sampling of the ones I could find that were titled negatively, who knows how many are negative despite the title? And of course hardcore lib sites like the dailykos are vomiting and soiling themselves with all manner of profanities and nervous jokes.
I've always enjoyed hearing about Fr. Alexander Winogradsky and his Hebrew language based ministry in Jerusalem. Besides, having read some of his writings, he seems to me to have a much more balanced perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian issue than many other Orthodox hierarchs in the region.
Anyway, this came through the St. Paul Parish E-news and is well worth listening to. Not often you'll hear such a thing...very beautiful.
The judge in Slidell, along with the mayor, are sticking to their guns about the icon of Jesus in their courthouse.
Oddly enough, evangelicals of all colors are coming out of the woodwork to offer legal and moral defense to display an icon which they would not theologically defend to appear and be fully utilized as intended in a church.
I still would like to know how it got there in the first place.
Keep in mind, we're talking about a very familiar (for us Orthodox) icon of our Lord.
The ACLU says the book is the New Testament.
Ah yes, the ACLU has an iconography expert on staff.
The ACLU is representing an anonymous complainant who said he has come into "direct and unwelcome contact" with the display, and he expects to do so again to fulfill legal obligations at the court. The display hangs in the court's lobby, which has only one main entrance for visitors, according to the lawsuit.
Legal issues aside, don't you find it intriguing that this anonymous person seems almost scared of the icon? I guess it is understandable, sometimes those icons can be haunting and to some degree make us all a little uncomfortable from time to time. But seriously, at what point are we going to quite babying complainers? Hell, when do they ever listen to Christians complain? I mean really, it must be torture for this poor person to have to consider having to see this icon again...how awful it must be.
The display has been in place since the courthouse opened in 1997 and has been maintained with taxpayer money,
As we all know, maintaining icons is an expensive proposition. Once in a great while we actually even dust them. But you should see the ones that actually get utilized! THOSE actually do require maintenance.
The display endorses the Christian faith, or specifically the Eastern Orthodox sect of Christianity, to the detriment of all other Christian denominations, including the Catholic, Baptist and Methodist faiths, and all non-Christian religions, according to the suit.
Divide and conquer! Nice try ACLU, but clearly the "other Christian denominations" are having none of it. And further demonstrating that the ACLU knows nothing about religions, catholics are quite fond of icons, thank you very much.
The ACLU doesn't like being called the Taliban...because, after all, they don't shove religion down anyones throat. But, at what point does secularism become a religion and we are allowed to argue that the government and the ACLU are working for the establishment of THAT religion?
Hard for me to imagine a 5 year old doing this, but huzzah for Rayshun McDowell! How many kids would have screamed and run? Or tried to pet the cute little drooling fellow? Or sought to offer assistance to the poor sick animal? Somehow Rayshun's instinct was to act decisively and aggressively to protect his family.
North Carolina...Hmmmm...you know those southerners. Note a handgun was readily available, albeit apparently not used effectively. I have a hard time believing that three solid hits from ANY caliber handgun is NOT going to stop a fox - so I am guessing some more time spent at the range is in order. But thankfully, some crutches and a stick beat the little fox into oblivion. Not exactly a PETA moment.
Five years old! Wow. Give 'em a medal.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 12:20 PM [+] +++
Tomas Sowell has a fascinating little op-ed today, HERE.
I like it because I have certainly heard (over and over and over again) about how our nation's success is one built upon the backs of slaves and other imperialistic atrocities. We really don't hear enough about the good old fashioned hard work, in which so many of our ancestors (being decidedly slaveless) engaged themselves. He also points out a much forgotten fact that more white slaves found their way into North Africa and the Middle East and did black slaves find their way into the pre-civil war United States. Also, in much of the Middle East, slavery was not made illegal until well into the 20th century and may yet still be found practiced. Apparently the masses of european slaves was unable to vault the region into prominence as it is supposed the slaves of the United States did.
And also, while we may argue over the finer points, slavery ended here in the United States via one of the bloodiest wars in history. A fratricidal war and for our "sins", some six hundred and twenty thousand Americans gave their lives. More than 1/4 of all southern men died in those 4 years, and most of their major cities were laid waste. In 19th century dollars the cost was estimated to be over 6 billion dollars and doesn't include the cost over the years to follow for veteran's benefits and rebuilding the south. Inflation during and after the war was horrific and the value of the American dollar plummeted, at one point the US dollar was equal to 38 cents of gold. The whole affair can be seen as nothing less than a tremendous cost by all possible means of calculation. One can righfully argue that ANY benefit brought to the US by slavery was effectively wiped out and some via the Civil War.
So, I suggest, along with Thomas Sowell, that we can surely still retain the moniker of "Land of the Free"
The Al Gore Approved Environmentally Correct Farm Truck
This here is my farm truck, a 1973 GMC 3/4 ton.
Now I reckon since we are having all this talk of carbon credits and what not, there ought to be a way to offset my horrific carbon footprint. Oh the agonizing nights without sleep...and when the sleep finally does come I dream of melting ice packs and rising sea levels. My solution is simple and has only recently begun to...how shall I say...grow.