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[The Creation of the Chicken]

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.
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Monday, March 31, 2008

Open up the Gates of Eden

This Kontakion from yesterday:

Now the flaming sword no longer guards the gates of Eden;
it has mysteriously been quenched by the wood of the Cross!
The sting of death and the victory of hell have been vanquished;
for You, O my Savior, have come and cried to those in hell:
"Enter again into paradise."


Brought to mind the old Lost Dogs song "Gates of Eden."

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 2:56 PM [+]
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ouch

I've a long history of back problems beginning with herniated and ruptured discs some 15 years ago I am guessing. Since then I have had episodes from time to time that have set me down for a few days and in one particularly bad case a couple of months including a hospital stay. I've since lost a bunch of weight (though not enough) and this has made my lower back much less of a problem.

However, more rarely it still flares up now and again, I rest it a couple of days, and all seems well. Recently however, the problem altered course on me. Through the day Saturday I noticed some pretty good pain in my right leg from time to time, which itself is not unusual (sciatica) since it was an occasional and short-lived symptom of my problems. However, when I awoke on Sunday morning, the pain in my leg was constant and quite severe. Through the morning it lessened some, but would come and go. By mid-day the pain began to increase and I noticed that my foot was getting numb and tingly...I was more than a little concerned.

I went to Urgent Care and received some comfort in that they didn't think I would lose the function of my legs. The theory is that my disc problem is just directed in an unusual (for me) direction (inward toward the nerves) and this is why it hurts so much. And boy does it hurt...even with the pain meds (Vicodin) it is sometimes agonizing to stand or walk. Sitting seems to be the most comfortable (though I hesitate to use the word comfort), for even sleeping is interrupted with pain in my leg. Getting out of bed and standing (after a few seconds) is an experience of pain like I have never had before. No change this morning.

If it gets worse or does not get better I am going to have an MRI done and see what the problem specifically is. Worse case scenario (I think?) will be surgery, and so presently I'm in a state of trying to rest, being drugged, and waiting for it to go away. Your prayers are sought...and pray also for the ladies in my family who are presently traveling to the monastery.

Perhaps I can let God teach me some much needed things amidst this pain?

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 7:06 AM [+]
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3 comments

Friday, March 28, 2008

The barefoot "liturgy" in our living room

Sue sent me these pics of yesterday's service

Nicholas preparing the "gifts"...note the lego cross, while the choir is led by Joe:


...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 7:38 AM [+]
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5 comments

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Packing Heat in the National Parks

Ken Schram is a commentator on the local news here. His opinions are worth about as much as the average drunk's in a bar or Sean Penn's, but he gets a fair amount of exposure because he typically tows the western Washington liberal line. And this commentary is no exception.

there is not one iotas worth of justification for allowing pistol packing people into our national parks.

How about that troublesome little document we like to call the Constitution, which includes the Bill of rights in which we read that "the right of the PEOPLE to keep and BEAR arms shall not be infringed." We'll known round about June if SCOTUS will back my personal interpretation up on this, but in the meantime:

Are national parks so dangerous that people need to be allowed to carry guns in them? Allowing guns in our national parks is a really stupid, irresponsible idea.

Well, Mr. Schram...you do of course realize that when you go shopping at your local grocery store that people shopping with you are legally allowed to pack heat and do so, right? You also no doubt realize when you walk through the streets of Seattle that people walking along with you are legally allowed to pack heat and do so, right? So what specifically makes National Parks a place where legally armed citizens must leave their weapons behind? If carrying them in Safeway is NOT irresponsible, then why not Mt. Rainier National Park also? That dude chatting with the stock boy in the toilet paper aisle has a Ruger P95 9mm at his waist and the dude cooking brats over a campfire at Ohanapecosh has a Sig Sauer .45 strapped to his side...what is the difference?

As we know, there is NEVER, NEVER, NEVER any good reason to be packing heat in a forest.

Sorry, Mr. Schram, but the burden is on you to show how exactly allowing legally armed citizens to carry in a National Parks is irresponsible. Especially since you have somehow survived shopping with such citizens in your local supermarket.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 9:31 PM [+]
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2 comments

Glorious Hope is Risen! Indeed it is Risen!

You know, it's when I read stuff like this, about churches abandoning all notions of the faith and/or taking the pulse of society and diagnosing the church as the one being sick, I thank GOD for the Orthodox Church.

Yes...I kiss the dirty floors of our little industrial park mission as if it were the Hagia Sophia restored to it's Byzantine glory! I want to hug a priest and lavish thanks and praise upon him for his faithfulness (watch out!) I want to kneel and kiss the hand of a grumpy Babushka whose cane I fear, I want to to dance with a stern old monk who is constantly barking: "IS INNOVATION!" I want to bear hug two orthodox laypersons for arguing about whether priests should have beards or whether we really should serve matins in the evening! I want to sleep tonight with a copy of the Horologion wrapped in my arms like a beloved teddy bear in the embrace of a child. Oh, we Orthodox, we have our problems...legions of them...but brothers and sisters I rejoice in THOSE when I consider how much worse they could be.

Yeah, I may be doing a little of that "Oh Lord I thank you that I am not like the United Church of Christ glorious hope" thing but...oh well...I'm a sinner and I can always blame the lack of meat for making me irritable...too many carbs.

Honestly Ms. Vosper, why are you wasting your time and the time of others? Sleep in on sunday, watch some TV, attend a gay pride parade...but really, you are too old to be playing church. If you build it, they'll still sleep in...why shouldn't they...yawn.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 12:35 PM [+]
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5 comments

Variety is the Spice of Life?

Yesterday I was blessed to receive a visit from Sara, a Ugandan student at the U of Oregon who spent last summer working on a project here in out lab. We had a very nice chat about my last trip to her home (she's not been there for I think two years now - perhaps longer and so she is terribly homesick). Some of you may have met her as she came to a BBQ at our house once.

Anyway, at one point I asked her: "What was the biggest culture shock you got in coming here."

She thought for a few seconds and then said: "The choices. For instance, I cannot believe how many different breakfast cereals you have!"

I laughed out loud, "Yes...and how about toilet paper, too!"

Her eyes lit up, "YES! That is most astounding!"

And, Steve K, you will be happy to hear that she said, "I find all these choices MOST distracting and annoying!"

:)

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 11:46 AM [+]
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The ABC's of AIDS in Africa

AIDS and the Churches: Getting the Story Right

Personally, I think the ABC's are an exceptionally reasonable program. But much of the scientific community has little to no faith in the ability of people to change their behavior...at least at some level. They usually draw some arbitrary line and say: "no one can be expected to abstain from this. And that is that.

Yet the article is correct, we have seen habits change and we have seen such changes have a positive effect on HIV transmission rates. And, really, if you think about it: proper usage of a condom requires a change of behavior too often at a most inopportune time and represents a 10-20% chance of getting HIV.

I recall Fr. Peter explaining to me about how he gave a talk to teens once and implored them to practice abstinence, pleading with them: "This is your life! Many of you have watched both your parents die...all of you know people who have died. Do not gamble with your life."

He's right, these kids have seen what is at stake. They also know that funds to pay for their retro-virals could dry up any day and then what if they get HIV? We always hear "safe-sex" first here in America...never "deadly sex." Why don't we tell the truth...condom usage isn't "safe-sex" it is "safer-than nothing sex" or how about "10-20% chance of HIV and or pregnancy sex." Sex is never REALLY safe.

What is so religious in this logic of abstaining and being faithful that the scientific community decries it so with "boos" like blathering drunks at a Pro Wrestling match? I do not believe it is simply that they have evidence to show that it doesn't work...because that simply isn't true. It's like saying no obese person can lose weight and keep it off with a diet. No, there is more at play here than data...there is politics and morality and world-views clashing here.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 11:19 AM [+]
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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Maybe we lost community because we don't NEED (period).

I know I have mentioned before that living in rural regions tends to more easily foster community and I've cited a number of reasons for why I think this may be the case, which I'd like to note again....one of which I will expound upon because of a recent discussion on the LOG.

One might be that since we have a greater degree of privacy that we feel more free to actually get to know our neighbors. That may seem odd, but I theorize that living in suburbia amongst houses stacked one upon the other tends to violate some natural sense of privacy that we need and thus getting to really know the people who sleep 10 feet from you is almost subconsciously seen as overkill. Now I remind you, I'm just theorizing here.

Another reason, that I really want to consider, is need. Now, I recognize that we folks who live more rurally aren't exactly in danger of starvation, but there are more subtle things that tend to give one a slight sense of dependence on neighbors. You may recall I've talked before about how tragedy has a natural tendency to unite and indeed I am willing to bet that many of you have spent the most time with neighbors during times of odd events. A bad car accident out front, a massive storm cuts off power for days, an earthquake, some police activity, the moving in of a level 3 sex offender, or something of this nature. These things that create a sense of need (however subtle or overt) bring people together, leading us out of our fallen inclination toward self. So, while not fighting for our survival by any means, in my 1.5 years here I've met more neighbors because of power outages, trees across the road, collecting firewood, chasing loose or generally caring for animals, and flooding than I have in the rest of my history of home ownership.

So what am I saying: community REALLY evolves from need. But geography and modern housing tracts are not, I think, the real killer of community. Rather I am going to controversially suggest that the real killer of community has been government social programs. Welfare, Social Security, Unemployment, etc etc you name it...any program by the government that seeks to fulfill our needs. By them you replace face to face neighbors helping neighbors with huge anonymous bureaucracies mailing out checks. Literally we don't NEED neighbors or friends anymore...we just have them.

And in a grand vicious cycle we have come to expect not having need. More than that...we think need unnatural, as if it were a right. And also our definition of need begins to change: food and clean water isn't enough; we must also have cable, high speed internet....blah blah blah - you know the routine. It all adds to our lack of really needing one another. As I said at the LOG: "We need not rely on one another when we have absolute anonymity of charity and help from Uncle Sam. We no longer even need to know our neighbors...heck, why should we? If Katrina comes we expect FEMA will save and help us and if they don't we'll raise holy hell over it as if it is our RIGHT not to get injured or killed by massive hurricanes. And when we actually come to believe that the government can save us from natural disasters, I might offer it as further reasoning for atheism. Not only do we no longer need neighbors, we don't need the divine either.

My friend on the LOG, Stan, mentioned another aspect of lost community: FAMILY. Consider how ridiculously mobile we are today...do you know many people who still live where they were born or raised? This is in part because we are less and less tied to our land, but this also spells out why we are so quick to piss on the environment with a new housing development of McMansions stacked one upon another wherein rich white liberals can lament lost rain forests in South America. Oops...I got side tracked...extended family have also been largely rendered unneeded. Stan says:

We can’t write laws that tell people to be generous, except by extracting taxes (and giving tax deductions for charitable contributions). Out multicultural, nonsectarian government is specifically designed to avoid matters of the heart and soul. I think that we are better off as a society by leaving the area of caring for poor and needy out of the arena of tax supported charity (except for tax deductible donations). Our poor people may not get as good an array of services, but I think that the exercise of people seeing and responding to the vacuum left by governmental inaction will have the best effect on society as a whole.

Along the lines of “Nature abhorring a vacuum…” There is a sort of “Social Vacuum” that is being currently filled by our governmental programs from the taxes that are extracted from us at the point of a gun (if you don’t think there is a gun at your head with the tax bill, just try refusing to pay!!!) There are all sorts of things that people used to do for charity that are now being performed via our tax dollars.

Our social services have been taken over by the government, making people less dependent on each other. There was a time, only a couple of generations ago, when it was the norm, not the exception for several generations to live in one roof. Now, it is abnormal for families to live multigenerationally in the same household. If it weren’t for Social Security, how many senior citizens would be living on their own, as opposed to the “Mother in Law” apartment? Is this really a good thing?

It seems to me that the ties that bind people together into social groups are weaker because of the social work performed by our government. One of the best guidelines that I have seen about charity is that it is best done on a personal basis. When a government functionary hands out dole, there is no community established, and certainly no personal challenge to “do better” to work hard and “earn your way”. In many ways, this is easier on everyone concerned. The recipient doesn’t have to look any of his peers in the eye and confess to being broke – and the friends of the mendicant don’t have to worry about his welfare. But is it the best? Does this model actually have the best shot at redeeming the recipient into a productive member of the community?


My answer to Stan's last question would be a question: "What Community?" Truly, government social programs are a very very cheap and shallow replacement for people actually helping people. Wrap up such bureaucracies in the most flowery language you can imagine and feel good about voting for them...but they are still just a check in the mail - an opportunity to be alone and not have need.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 8:43 AM [+]
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12 comments

Monday, March 24, 2008

Why my marriage will last

Secret to successful marriage: Ugly husband; pretty wife.

And isn't it reassuring to know that the Journal of Family Psychology seeks to explain our marital habits by looking at our evolution...in a most uplifting fashion. For you see, being ugly means I have less "short-term mating opportunities" and thus will tend to stick it out with my pretty wife. I'm lucky to have her (anybody for that matter) and she settles on me knowing that I've no real options to be unfaithful. But ummm...if this is all true, who are all the evolutionary misfits giving handsome men more "short-term" mating opportunities, which according to this little evolutionary theory makes no evolutionary sense for the woman to do?

Anyway, so this is the foundation that our current crop of psychologists are using to counsel our family problems? God help us.

Yes, we are the sum total of our genes and their insatiable need to reproduce. Thanks to a bit of lucky random mutations, me and the misses will have a successful marriage. Hey...ugly single guys! I suggest you get a copy fo the study out to all the pretty girls you know. As for your handsome fellow...well, sorry to say you will have to suffer with "more short-term mating opportunities."

Ahhh...this episode of human psychology brought to you by "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom."

What does the future hold for us in such a world as this?

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 3:37 PM [+]
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0 comments

Which it is Miracles!

Science said there was no hope for Zach. More than that, science said Zach was dead. But people were prayingfor Zach.

Zach got better the moment his family were saying their last goodbyes before his organs were to be "harvested." (What an ugly word). THIS article is even more interesting in that the doctor explained Zach's recovery to "faulty equipment on the first test." So he feels more comfortable saying that they almost killed a healthy man, than believe a miracle happened or that their tests are not the absolute arbiters of truth. Curious.

Also note the quote from Zach's uncle that Preserved Killick would affirm.

For my part, as one who works everyday in science: Science doesn't know what life really is, so always hold a very large degree of doubt when it pontificates about the lack of hope. Even when right about life and death, science is wrong.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 12:28 PM [+]
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2 comments

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Social Gospel
The new surge of conservative Christians voting for a particular party under the banner of helping the "widows and the orphans" has got me wondering about a few things:

If I vote against the "widows and orphans" party (no matter the reasoning), do I sin in the eyes of social gospelites? Surely I must! If I vote or encourage my reps to vote against a particular "widows and orphans" ballot measure or bill (no matter my reasoning), do I sin in the eyes of social gospelites? Surely I must! For if they apply the commands of Christ as ordering them to vote FOR such things, do I not logically, in their minds and hearts sin by voting contrarily?

For you see, more and more I find my vote is NOT coming as much from a Christian conscience (or at least surely not from an idea that I am fulfilling my Christian duty) - because what we have before us is FAR from a Christian government or even a Christian majority - but rather my voting is coming from a simple understanding of what I believe to be a faithfulness to the original intent of our government: what is going to work best and what is going to guarantee freedom in most every sense of the word to the individual. Would I ask a government and society, which is largely hostile to my personal beliefs, to actualize my beliefs and perform the duties my personal beliefs dictate with any hope that they will do so faithfully? Not on your life. No more than I would ask and expect a committed hedonist to practice chastity.

Just today I heard a friend tell me the story of how one Sunday he had trouble getting his daughter out of bed for Church. After much-to-do about it all, the child was forced to make the pilgrimage. (I'm familiar with this struggle from time to time). However the following day, ironically, for some reason a topic was raised in class to discuss some of the things that the kids' parents made them do which they did not wish to do and this particular child noted her being forced to go to church. The teacher (an employee of the state) instigated an investigation by CPS (an entity of the state) because this child was forced out of bed and into some involuntary form of religious indoctrination. Now, of course, this case was abandoned by CPS...but friends, given the state of our society how much faith do you have that we will never reach the point when the state will "liberate" our children from their involuntary indoctrination at Church?

Oh yes, we may feed the hungry and clothe the poor, but we'd better think long and hard about the ENTITY we are asking to fulfill these gospel commands on our behalf. This is the same entity that kills our unborn children and feeds on them to sustain the living (embryonic stem cell research) - even seeking to grow them up, Matrix style, and live upon them for ages and ages. This is the entity that sponsors - with your money - art that readily desecrates your religion in ways that ought to bring tears to your eyes. This is the entity that will teach your pre-schoolers about "Tommy's two Dads" but will refuse to let your children reference God publicly in its presence. This is the entity that will ever erode your rights as a parent in favor of its ideal for sociological bliss as defined by the state and its collective ideal of absolute moral relativity. This is the entity that embraces and gives birth to all that we hold to be contrary to the enlightened teachings of the Church. Shall we entrust in it the mandate given unto us? Never. It is absurd. We are in the world, but not of it.

This admonition is NOT just for those leaning liberally with notions of a social gospel. Friends, I truly believe that we all must recognize that the government is not here to force people into believing that homosexuals should not marry any more than it is here to convince us that we should be clothing the poor. More and more, given the overall leaning of our society (in a direction that is decidedly anti-Christian) I believe the best thing we can do is assure our individual rights with as little governmental interference as possible. I truly believe that the more you seek to rely on the government, the more we are ultimately going to regret it.

And from an Orthodox perspective...nothing demonstrates this better than the fact that in our wedding service there is never ANY part wherein the Priest (pastor) says: "By the power vested in me by the state of __________, I now pronounce you man and wife." Oh no...the state doesn't marry ANYONE! God, through His Church, does. I, personally, think this speaks volumes.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 9:49 PM [+]
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2 comments

Friday, March 21, 2008

Is it really Good Friday

I just finished a brief conversation with one of my friends in Uganda who reminded me that it was Good Friday. Check this out: Good Friday AND "Easter Monday" are national Holidays in Uganda! Other than the Orthodox, I don't believe any American Christians (that I know of) celebrate "Easter Monday" (or as we would call it Bright Monday)...and of course it is even harder to imagine both Friday and Monday as being official Holy-days (as they pronounce it...properly I might add.)

I will admit that I am a little bummed sometimes about being so much in the minority of when Easter is celebrated here in America. I guess to some degree the "cool" factor of being different has worn off...none-the-less I STILL believe no one celebrates Easter like we celebrate Pascha. Most American celebrations of Easter (where they still exist) are like artificially flavored and sweetened maple soy "veggie-sausages" as compared to REAL hog-fat ridden, genuine Vermont tree-tapped maple sugar sausages. IMHO...of course.

But, more and more it seems Good Friday (and even Easter) is lost on the general public...a blur of bunnies and pastel colored eggs of little to no significance. A little article today about the cultural obliteration of Easter. It really should not surprise us and we are not going to win people back to Easter if we don't win them back to Christ (firstly) and solid historic Christian teaching (as well). I suppose that MIGHT begin by simply making sure WE celebrate the FEAST fully and with all that that entails day in and day out.

A blessed Easter to my western Christian friends and family.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 9:41 AM [+]
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1 comments

Rainbow Fascism in California?

You've heard me blog before about the car at the park and ride that has a bumper sticker reading: "So many Right-Wing Christians, so few Lions." Well, the driver apparently has a new one that I saw this morning and it read: "When Fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in a flag and a cross."

The irony was not lost on me that this person with the stickers was the one apparently advocating for the execution of his political opponents (even if in jest). I've seen a lot of right-wing bumper stickers, but I've never seen one that suggested their political opponents be killed...let alone fed to lions. It gives me pause to wonder if perhaps Fascism is MORE likely to come (if ever) in the form of the smiley face that Jonah Goldberg uses on the cover of his book Liberal Fascism

But bumper stickers and random stupidity doesn't concern nearly as much as things like the recent California Court decision that could ban homeschooling for anyone who is not a state credentialed teacher. I'd heard of the case, but recently Sue showed me Matt's blog post about it which contained the actual court documents. In reading it I am in total agreement with Matt: there is some VERY frightening language therein.

Starting with parents do not have a constitutional right to home school their children and then this ominous line in terms of what the state may do if they catch you denying your children a state education: "Parents who [do not enroll their children in schools with credentialed teachers, or hire credentialed tutors] may be subject to a criminal complaint against them, found guilty of an infraction, and subject to imposition of fines or an order to complete a parent education and counseling program."

Hello...did you see that? COMPLETE A PARENT EDUCATION AND COUNSELING PROGRAM. Yep, you heard right: the state will re-educate you so that you may educate your children! This is the absolute pinnacle of the violation of parental rights! Of course liberal fascists will decorate this decision with the laurels of the absolute worse case scenarios which are child abuse and neglect, but don't doubt for a second that what they consider abuse is going to include what many of us are doing to our children right now.

Raising them within the context of a conservative religious tradition: abusive. True, they cannot come right out and say it yet because of what little freedom remains to us today, but they believe we are raising up children who will not tow the people's rainbow coalition line of moral relativity and they believe it must be stopped. This ruling in California is no doubt the means by which they will do it. Keep a close eye on "hate-speech" laws as well, because they will come shortly into play in further allowing the state to oversee our parenting. What would the state think if they knew how many services we forced our kids to attend last week?! Worse still, at a church that won't allow women to serve as priests and won't marry homosexuals!

If you ever wonder why I will not vote for a democrat, it is because of this nonsense. You go through any democratic candidates "issues list" and time and time again you seem them touting collectivism, the state as mother, and the rights of individuals are always trumped by the need to "fix" society...and specifically: Parental Rights are ALWAYS subject to the state's interest in "solving" sociological woes. But always you have to peel the layers of the onion and thibnk about it because these issues are always dressed up in notions of helping people. It almost sounds like Christian charity, but it ISN'T. I don't doubt the good intentions of these people, but the operate under the assumption that their values are or ought to be universal!

I tell you: the more we rely on the state, the more the state will work to "take care of us" as we have asked...and the time will come when people will wake up and realize what a slippery slope they have started down. Our state is a thoroughly secularized entity...less and less neutral toward religion and more and more default propagators of atheism and moral relativity - because after all when you start advocating certain types of morality it is deemed to be religious in nature and we fall right back into the fears of violating the erroneously called "separation of church and state" clause.

This is one more step toward overseeing every aspect of our lives...and it is coming upon us with smiley faces and promises of goodwill. And many of us will swallow it down without thinking about actually seeing parents dragged off to mandatory state "education and counseling" for the crime of homeschooling their kids. Good night...this is what Castro does to his political opponents! Now California will do it to parents who are opponents of the what they perceive to be indoctrination by the government run schools! Freedom anyone? Hello? Liberal Fascism indeed!

Heck, at least a flag wrapped cross brand of fascism would be obvious! This is subtle and slick and couched in terms that feel good. I'd be livid if I lived in California...but I expect our time in Washington is soon coming and the California decision will have implications nationwide. But it sounds like, for now, that the problem has most to do with how California's law is written...but we shall see. Nothing irks me more, though, than the state stepping in to "help" parents. And I simply cannot get past the state needing to enlighten parents with counseling and education.

The Court's decision can be found HERE. There is some interesting stuff therein about how the Amish can get around the restrictions that I will address later.

One more thing for my Californian friends to consider: If the state is going to FORCE you to send your kids to be educated by "certified" instructors then I would DEMAND they give me vouchers. Give me MY tax money back that presently goes toward public schools (as they should ANYWAY) and let me use it to satisfy the state's restrictive laws by having my kids to attend the private school of my choice. Good luck with that.

Maybe the Govinator will bail out California Homeschoolers?

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 7:28 AM [+]
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Thursday, March 20, 2008

What ripples we make in the Pond

I made my wife sit down with me recently and watch Blood Diamond. It is a good movie that tells an engrossing story of a man trying to save his family from the ravages of the civil war in Sierra Leone. But there are numerous worthy subplots or perhaps co-plots (e.g. Danny Archer and his evolution)...but also there is the ever-hanging theme of how our wealthy thirst for shiny rocks (i.e. diamonds) can feasibly contribute to the horrors that take place thousands of miles away from where we watch commercials lying about such rocks lasting forever.

Of course, the movie isn't claiming (I don't think) that without the diamond trade that the civil war would not have happened or that there would be no child soldiers in Africa. Nor is it saying that the ultimate culpability for those who would drug up a child and brainwash them into carrying an AK47 into a village and killing everyone doesn't actually reside with the person who actually did such things. (millstones for them all, if you please!). However, it does point out that what we do - especially these days - can have very far reaching effects.

And while we do ourselves (and others) a profound service in trying to educate ourselves about such effects and worrying about them...I truly suspect it is a task that is impossible to fulfill...fully. Spending time in Seattle and working in a University-like environment, one is often bombarded by innumerable "issues"...indeed there is no end to them, and while many are absurd (e.g. PETA), others have exceptionally valid issues - IMHO. Furthermore, I suspect for every "issue" we are made aware of, there are perhaps 3 or 4 we know nothing about and likely never will. Complicating the matter is that sometimes in trying to change the effects of our habits and shifting them in a different direction, we may in fact be unknowingly causing some new troublesome effects elsewhere. Truly, one could spend a lifetime trying to satisfy a global social conscience.

I hold a number of Mutual Funds through TIAA-CREF. One fund (I do not hold)is purported to have a global conscience, and when I see it listed as an option I cannot help but wonder how it manages to manage the thousands of stocks typically found in a mutual fund with a global conscience in mind? Sure, it has certain criteria...and perhaps that is enough to make it a good thing...but I am sure they are perpetually being lobbied to include new and different criteria as new and different social issues arise or are made known. Sorting through it all can boggle the mind and turn a sympathetic soul into a cynic.

However, there is one possible solution for someone who is overwhelmed by issues more numerous than the stars: sticking close to home as much as you are able. First and foremost: consume less. Know the sources of the products you do consume as much as you are able (such as your local farmer). Produce your own products as much as you are able. Buy locally as much as you are able. Watch your heart.

We will never be able to entirely stop the ripples we make in the pond...and in fact some of the ripples are entirely unseen...spiritual ripples and these are the sort we can more directly work on - though no activist will confront us with these on the streets of Seattle. There are many benefits to trying to support your local economy, one of them is that it can ease a troubled and confused social conscience to some degree. But also, we must be willing to admit that the grand scheme is simply too big for us...we are not going to solve the world's problems. We are not going to end poverty. We are not going to end all wars. Which is why I included "Watch your heart" for it is in that arena that we can truly do the most good in this world. For from it (our heart) we can spill out God's love to those around us and they in turn can pass it on. THIS, is the only "change" we can really believe in. It is the only change that will save the world: one body and soul at a time.

Such a changed soul likely never needs to worry much about where their diamonds come from...because, really, what use are diamonds?

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 7:59 AM [+]
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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Adventures in Reading

During the first Pre-Sanctified Liturgy after the Kathisma, I was told by a fellow choir member that I had misread one of the verses. Unfortunately what he was trying to communicate to me and what I was allowing to be communicated to me were two entirely different things. I was convinced he was telling me that the verse was misprinted in my source and that the word "sleep" was supposed to be "sheep." I looked at the verse again and it did seem initially a little murky as either "sheep" or "sleep", but I didn't investigate further being convinced (wrongly) of what my exact error had been. And so I made a mental note for the next service.

On Friday, after being kindly reminded again of the upcoming verse, I set in my mind to doing it correctly this time. And so I chanted:

It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved [and remembering this verse I set in stone my will to say it correctly this time and in so doing unintentionally pronounced what followed with a special emphasis as if to prevent myself from screwing it up again]SHEEP.

The numerous spontaneous snickers that followed threw me off somewhat, but I managed to finish the Psalms and once I did, my choir comrade leaned over and asked: "Did you do that on purpose?"

"Ummm, yeah I did," I answered, utterly confused.

Only later would I find out that from the very the beginning, I had apparently said "Sheep" and that he had been trying to tell me all along that I had done so and that the word was supposed to be "sleep" as written! And so when I had so confidently declared "sheep" again, the choir nearly lost all composure for it seemed everyone, save me, knew the truth of my first mistake.

What must have my friend thought when I confessed to saying "sheep" deliberately the second time?

I am sure you will all rest easy knowing that on my third attempt today I did manage to squeeze out the word "sleep" which is not itself beloved (as might be sheep), but given to His beloved (to whom, I suppose, he might give some sheep).

Perhaps I could use a bit more of MY own beloved sleep?

Well, Glory to God for all things! No doubt God looks upon our liturgical errors as a loving father does his young children's attempts at fine art. I try to keep this truth in mind as we (as I) strive to serve Him and His Church to the best of our (my) abilities.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 5:10 PM [+]
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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Husbandry of God's Church

I believe it was last Saturday night that Fr. C shared with us a reading from the Synaxarion of the Lenten Triodion which was taken from chapter 23 of St. Vincent of Lerin's Commonitory.

In a time when people are talking a great deal about getting BACK to the 1st century Church, St. Vincent's 5th century advice ought to be taken into consideration. Many people speak of "organic" church and really, St. Vincent's analogy is ALL ABOUT organic ...for indeed the Church is an ORGANISM before an Institution. But look closely...organic organisms are exceptionally complex and highly developed - even the most simple of them.

Also, as with husbandry, one can see - I think - lineage. I see cannot help but envision genetic tampering and ill-breeding as being analogous to what St. Vincent says here: On the other hand, if what is new begins to be mingled with what is old, foreign with domestic, profane with sacred, the custom will of necessity creep on universally, till at last the Church will have nothing left untampered with, nothing unadulterated, nothing sound, nothing pure; but where formerly there was a sanctuary of chaste and undefiled truth, thenceforward there will be a brothel of impious and base errors.

Given the many many thousands of denominations that have "evolved", is it any wonder that more and more we see offspring that look less and less like historical Christianity?

Anyway...here's a lengthy portion from Chapter 23, which I believe is worthy of reading given our recent celebration of the Triumph of Orthodoxy:

The growth of religion in the soul must be analogous to the growth of the body, which, though in process of years it is developed and attains its full size, yet remains still the same. There is a wide difference between the flower of youth and the maturity of age; yet they who were once young are still the same now that they have become old, insomuch that though the stature and outward form of the individual are changed, yet his nature is one and the same, his person is one and the same. An infant's limbs are small, a young man's large, yet the infant and the young man are the same. Men when full grown have the same number of joints that they had when children; and if there be any to which maturer age has given birth these were already present in embryo, so that nothing new is produced in them when old which was not already latent in them when children. This, then, is undoubtedly the true and legitimate rule of progress, this the established and most beautiful order of growth, that mature age ever develops in the man those parts and forms which the wisdom of the Creator had already framed beforehand in the infant. Whereas, if the human form were changed into some shape belonging to another kind, or at any rate, if the number of its limbs were increased or diminished, the result would be that the whole body would become either a wreck or a monster, or, at the least, would be impaired and enfeebled.

In like manner, it behoves Christian doctrine to follow the same laws of progress, so as to be consolidated by years, enlarged by time, refined by age, and yet, withal, to continue uncorrupt and unadulterate, complete and perfect in all the measurement of its parts, and, so to speak, in all its proper members and senses, admitting no change, no waste of its distinctive property, no variation in its limits.

For example: Our forefathers in the old time sowed wheat in the Church's field. It would be most unmeet and iniquitous if we, their descendants, instead of the genuine truth of corn, should reap the counterfeit error of tares. This rather should be the result,—there should be no discrepancy between the first and the last. From doctrine which was sown as wheat, we should reap, in the increase, doctrine of the same kind—wheat also; so that when in process of time any of the original seed is developed, and now flourishes under cultivation, no change may ensue in the character of the plant. There may supervene shape, form, variation in outward appearance, but the nature of each kind must remain the same. God forbid that those rose-beds of Catholic interpretation should be converted into thorns and thistles. God forbid that in that spiritual paradise from plants of cinnamon and balsam darnel and wolfsbane should of a sudden shoot forth.

Therefore, whatever has been sown by the fidelity of the Fathers in this husbandry of God's Church, the same ought to be cultivated and taken care of by the industry of their children, the same ought to flourish and ripen, the same ought to advance and go forward to perfection. For it is right that those ancient doctrines of heavenly philosophy should, as time goes on, be cared for, smoothed, polished; but not that they should be changed, not that they should be maimed, not that they should be mutilated. They may receive proof, illustration, definiteness; but they must retain withal their completeness, their integrity, their characteristic properties.

For if once this license of impious fraud be admitted, I dread to say in how great danger religion will be of being utterly destroyed and annihilated. For if any one part of Catholic truth be given up, another, and another, and another will thenceforward be given up as a matter of course, and the several individual portions having been rejected, what will follow in the end but the rejection of the whole? On the other hand, if what is new begins to be mingled with what is old, foreign with domestic, profane with sacred, the custom will of necessity creep on universally, till at last the Church will have nothing left untampered with, nothing unadulterated, nothing sound, nothing pure; but where formerly there was a sanctuary of chaste and undefiled truth, thenceforward there will be a brothel of impious and base errors. May God's mercy avert this wickedness from the minds of his servants; be it rather the frenzy of the ungodly.

But the Church of Christ, the careful and watchful guardian of the doctrines deposited in her charge, never changes anything in them, never diminishes, never adds, does not cut off what is necessary, does not add what is superfluous, does not lose her own, does not appropriate what is another's, but while dealing faithfully and judiciously with ancient doctrine, keeps this one object carefully in view,—if there be anything which antiquity has left shapeless and rudimentary, to fashion and polish it, if anything already reduced to shape and developed, to consolidate and strengthen it, if any already ratified and defined to keep and guard it. Finally, what other object have Councils ever aimed at in their decrees, than to provide that what was before believed in simplicity should in future be believed intelligently, that what was before preached coldly should in future be preached earnestly, that what was before practised negligently should thenceforward be practised with double solicitude? This, I say, is what the Catholic Church, roused by the novelties of heretics, has accomplished by the decrees of her Councils,—this, and nothing else,—she has thenceforward consigned to posterity in writing what she had received from those of olden times only by tradition, comprising a great amount of matter in a few words, and often, for the better understanding, designating an old article of the faith by the characteristic of a new name.


...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 7:19 AM [+]
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Friday, March 14, 2008

My Sleeping Soul

Once Monday arrives, it will mark the first day that I will not have been in Church in 9 days. I suppose that might sound like bragging or perhaps trying to display my piety...but those who know me, know better than to suspect that I have any notion of personal piety - rather I am somewhat astonished to have "made it" without an major familial discord. We simply decided that since I was home that we would try and attend every service this first week of Lent...to my surprise, the kids all did pretty well with it all.

But, did I?

The services are busy for a Reader: with the canon on M,T,W, and Th and then 9th hour, Typika, and Pre-Sanctified Liturgy on W and F (plus Moleben for St. Theodore on F)...it made for a very chant-filled week for me. I am eating up the experience that is coming with all of these services...but I find that it does make it a little harder to focus on entering INTO the services while one is busily worry and flipping pages and trying to chant. However, I've always found that something in the various services always centers me properly...a sort of sacred calibration that sets me to rights.

The Kontakion of the Canon of St. Andrew always seems to accomplish this for me:

My soul, my soul, Arise!
Why are you sleeping?
The end is drawing near,
and you will be confounded,
awake then and be watchful
that Christ our God may spare you,
Who is everywhere, and fills all things.


I've been reading (somewhat re-reading actually) Fr. Schmemann's journals and while there is much I could say about them, one thing that somewhat haunts me as I read, is knowing the approaching date of his diagnosis, treatments, and ultimate repose. As the season approaches it seems that Fr. Schmemann never fails to note this Kontakion. How powerful it is to read him mentioning it and knowing the future...knowing that with THIS journal entry he has only two years or one year remaining. It almost makes it difficult to read...feeling a little too voyeuristic.

But, the song is for us. It is us singing to our sleeping soul. None of us know what remaining time is given to us...there is much to do...much to change...much to repent of...much to celebrate. Why am I sleeping?!?!?!? I'm already confounded!

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:27 PM [+]
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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Ritual of Life

I've been home now for over a week and I feel that I have fully embraced the blessed routine; the ritual of everyday life...minus work in the city of course. Oh...Lord have mercy on me...I could get used to this full-time homesteading. Although actually only in the last couple of days have I really started to lay into some serious labor, though my war with the barn rats has had me up in the morning and out at night with Susan as she wakes and tucks in the animals and I check on the status of the war.

Since my time in Uganda I've come to find that we are actually the ones awakened each morning (at 6:15...7:15 since we sprung ahead) by the much improved crowing of our two roosters. I must say that these guys, particularly the one the girls call "Gentleman" are impressive birds. Huge and brightly colored...lovely to watch actually, but noisy as can be imagined. Yes, our guests this summer will get the experience of a genuine traditional farm wake up call.

One unanticipated blessing of staying home for a couple weeks upon my return is that I am able to fully capitalize on the whole spectrum of the First Week of Lenten services. It is truly a joy to be back home at St. Elizabeth's and everyday I count myself blessed and lucky to serve our Parish...humble and simple though my efforts are. I find as a Reader I am learning more and more each day and I am forced to wonder if there is any end to the richness and depth of the communal labor we engage in together during the "works of the people." There are few more wonderful things in everyday life than stepping into Christ's Temple and feeling such a strong sense of "home."

The day today began as rain and wind...one might have thought we'd returned to November. However, by early-mid morning the clouds began to break and the wind settled. In no time at all the sun began a game of peek-a-boo from behind the remaining clouds in which we found ourselves either cold or hot. And the lack of rain afforded us the time to work on trying to finish the french drain. We almost got it completed before the clouds beat the sun at their game and began to shower us in celebration. Thankfully, at that point we were close enough to the time of needing to prepare for the canon tonight that I did not feel we'd lost much. Oh it was good to be out in the fresh air working up a sweat with my whole family...even the little boys were shoveling rocks with us. There is something so wonderful about such physical labor; working the land for you family's benefit is immensely satisfying to me, no matter the scale. Though tomorrow I expect I will feel the muscular sting and the weather predictions seem to suggest more outdoor labor.

Susan has been busily working on her reading of the ENTIRE Bible (i.e. those portion lacking in the Protestant Bible) and she shared with me this little gem from the Wisdom of Sirach (7:15):Do not hate hard work, especially farming, which was created by the Most High. I tried to keep this in mind while tramping through and shoveling mud, goat and chicken feces, and urine. But despite times of frustration. overall I feel wonderful working on a sunny day at St. Brigid Farm. I count myself blessed to be where I am. No doubt Uganda has aided me in this sense today. Home.

Ironically, the new flock of chickens began producing eggs just in time for Lent. Sigh. And the rats have only been fooled once by my traps...could they be too smart for them? I want a night vision scope for my pellet rifle.

Our main computer is still down (a very odd problem) and so we are using an antique (at least as dated by modern standards) which does not afford us the ability to download pics...I hope to call a local repair place that was recommended to us tomorrow. Still trying to sell our old diesel Suburban (I've yet to note the drama we endured when a previous owner popped up on the radar claiming it was stolen). I hope to buy a "new" pickup from Rade soon to replace the "only backwards" moving farm truck. The new gas suburban is working wonderfully, but the gas mileage is horrible.

Much to do...too much: drywall the cabin, siding on cabin, flooring and trim work in cabin, porch cover for cabin, bathroom toilet and floor, two or three window replacements, tiding and repairing the now dried areas affected by the skylight leak (thanks to Rade for fixing while I was in Uganda!) paint barn and coops, begin collecting wood for next winter, repair fencing damaged by winter winds, dump runs, and now with the advent of Spring on the horizon we have to begin preparing and expanding our garden. Add to this everyday chores and I think you'll see: I'm busy.

Ummm...if anyone is looking for a little EXTRA ascetic discipline/labor this Lent, email me.

Presanctified Liturgy AND Canon of St. Andrew tomorrow (today now I guess)...so I'd better get busy.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:18 PM [+]
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The Nether Regions of Affluence

While in Uganda I pretty much had ONE choice for toilet paper....ONE. Walking down the aisle of the average American grocery store, one is assaulted with toilet paper choices. ..we could not begin to count the different brands and styles: quilted, single ply, two ply, extra soft, extra absorbent, etc etc etc...all for the task of wiping our...well you get the picture. How amazing that we create a market (need?) for so many varieties of something so...mundane and, let's face it, gross.

In relating this tyranny of American choices to one Ugandan, he initially refused to believe me and thought I must surely be joking. I assured him I wasn't and that we truly do often have an entire supermarket aisle devoted to the cleaning of American heinies. Finally he surrendered and just shook his head laughing and then he asked: "How much time must you waste deciding?!"

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 8:10 AM [+]
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Sunday, March 09, 2008

Create in me a clean heart

Brother and Sisters, as if you don't know it already, I am a sinner of immense proportions. I beg of you to forgive me for the many sins - known and unknown - that I have committed. Without question I have entertained and manifested darkness into this world we share and I'm sorry to have perpetuated such selfishness.

Also, I'd like to take a moment and note a few thoughts on causing offense to others. In recent years I've noticed one easy way to cause offense - and let's face it, it has become far too easy a thing to cause offense these days - is to engage in political issues. Personally, I suspect (and admit) that the ease with which we Christians can offend one another with regard to political issues is likely indicative of us all putting too much faith in politics.

Whether left leaning or right leaning, I really get the sense that we look far too much toward politics as a salvific force in our life. Not that we think it will negate our sins or anything as absurd as that...but as something even more absurd: that we will usher the Kingdom of God by way of our votes. No matter if your vision of that Kingdom is one in which the poor are fed and clothed or one in which marriage will remain between a man and a woman - in either case I believe we deceive ourselves.

What in the words of Jesus convinces us that we will see poverty ended? What in the words of Jesus convinces us that we will ever see a mighty movement of our society toward traditional Christian morality? As I read Christ's words, I see nothing but the opposite predicted. So I would not put too much hope or faith in politics...certainly not so much that we would sow seeds of anger between our brothers and sisters.

I'm not suggesting we abandon our political opinions...LOL...because you know I won't abandon mine! But I WILL see about putting less faith in mine. Jesus said the Kingdom is within us...democrat or republican affiliation has VERY little to do with it.

So, if I have offended your political sensibilities, I do ask that you forgive me. Let us hurtle such trivial things - as politics - and carry on to the REAL Kingdom which is fully manifested in the Feast to come when we may proclaim with joy: Christ is Risen!

Nothing that takes place in DC or in Olympia can possibly compare.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 9:08 PM [+]
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Dispatch from the Frontline

The eve of the first day of the war had the enemy pushing back our forces, due primarily to the use of poorly made ammunition which failed to fire. Following the advice of the weapon's manufacturer, our soldiers utilized munitions from the Adam's Arsenal, but they were to find the charges were wet, runny and consistently misfired as the enemy advanced through the night picking off our men at will. Sadly we were forced to retreat as our weapons were useless.

However, on the following night, our men were rearmed with superior grade cartridges from Tillamook Munitions. These, being solid and dry, were found to generally function very well (one misfire was reported) and the enemy found itself faced with a surprising onslaught that resulted in a LARGE casualty.

And so, we march forward to retake our land...preparing for another night's fight against the disease infested rodent tyranny.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 9:05 PM [+]
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Friday, March 07, 2008

WAR!!!

Evidence for the invasion was publicized while I was in Uganda and while the UN was apparently - as usual - worrying over something of lessor importance. Pouring over our borders with impunity, these invaders came to rob us of our humble resources and, adhering to a terrorist ideology, they came also with the intent of destroying our property, creating fires using improvised electrical wires as a means of arson, and spreading horrible diseases. They must be stopped!

Some amongst us claim they come because we first invaded their land...or that because of our world-wide empire building, they are justified in their little rebellion. They claim we must try and understand them and work to reconcile our differences. They worry that in our zeal we may become that which we fight against, that we might round up the "innocent" among them and hide them away from PETA in secret facilities where we will torture them to try and learn where they have hidden their little terrorist cells.

Yes, these enemy-loving bleeding hearts have no knowledge of history and have forgotten the horrors this same fanatical breed (in collusion with their blood sucking comrades) unleashed upon us centuries ago when fully 1/4 of the West was wiped out. These "peace"-lovers have even infiltrated Hollywood and have begun to indoctrinate our children with revisionist lies, even portraying our evil enemies as kind, loving, "people" who also happen to be exquisite cooks...how fitting such films are set in France!

Well, I say fret not...for I have instituted a policy of NO QUARTER....NO PARLEY! Shoot on sight...kill them all and let God sort them out. And I have brought forth the very latest weapon that our glorious military-industrial complex can create, with no heed paid to those who would insist upon "humane" methods or the application of habeas corpus to non-citizens enemy combatants:

See HERE

My friends...I invite you to stay tuned as the battle has already begun and I will bring to you continuing news of our glorious struggle against these, our most ancient of enemies. I believe our fight will dwarf THIS great and tragic struggle...God willing we will prevail!

Grab your pellet guns and join us in this fight to free our barn from the occupation! Let freedom ring!

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 7:03 AM [+]
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Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Eternal Process of going to step 3

Last night I went to hear Metropolitan Kallistos Ware speak and I quite enjoyed it. At one point he was discussing three steps involved in repentance, using the parable of the Prodigal Son as an example.

Repentance begins with a sort of self-realization that one's life is miserable...that sin(s) is/are eating away at one's soul and body - very much like the first of AA's 12 steps. And then, in step 2, the Prodigal Son came to the realization of HOPE, which is that he could return to his father's house (again very similar to the second AA step). And then finally, the Prodigal Son takes ACTION and sets off for home.

The Arch-Bishop then spent a good amount of time warning about failing to complete all three steps and particularly getting hung up in despair after the first step. He very effectively compared and contrasted Peter and Judas' responses to their two betrayals.

I was fascinated by it all...but had a burning question: What does one do when it is not despair that interrupts the 3 steps, but laziness? One sees the hope that the return to our Father offers, but cannot seem to lift themselves out of the muck to actually make the trip? The ACTION to change seems to me to be the part most lacking in my own life...despair has never much been one of my problems.

Change is a popular term these days - especially on the political front...but they are mere shadows...smoke and mirrors. The most needful change, the most powerful change happens in the heart of the individual when it meets with its Creator. All other change is...well...it it's not worth believing in.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:48 AM [+]
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1 comments

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Moses and the burning crack pipe

Hello All...I'm back home and settling in. I thought I'd share this little treasure of a news story in which, once again, denial of supernatural events leads to a need for a scientific explanation (and as we all know, science explains all things - rather religious eh?). In this case Moses didn't receive a a revelation of God, he just had a bad trip.

Read HERE.

My favorite quote from the story:
Moses was probably also on drugs when he saw the "burning bush," suggested Shanon, who said he himself has dabbled with such substances.

Terribly surprising.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:29 AM [+]
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0 comments



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