Sunday, April 16, 2017

Agape Vespers

     I do not know what it is like at other parishes, but at St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Saratoga after Agape Vespers we all retire to the hall and eat and drink enough to make up for all the lenten fasting.  There was champagne and tri-tip (because we are Californians) and whisky and lamb and beer and ham and cider and sausages and wine and cheeses and vodka in ice blocks (Every year people ask me how to make this.  It's super easy.  Here are instructions.) and meat laden soups from Greece, Russia, and Egypt, and much more besides.
     This year a young woman I had never seen sat down at the table with me and my fiancee and my son , Anselm Samuel.  It took all of 30 seconds to figure out that she was emotionally troubled.  It was her first time at an Orthodox church.  Any one with any life experience could tell she had been used by many men.  She kept going on and on about how she never knew church could be like this.         The whole parish showed her love.  Lisa brought her a plate of food.  Sami gave her a shot of whiskey and a big fatherly hug.  Kathleen was her instant friend.  Anselm poured her a shot of vodka from the ice block.   I made sure she had some paskha and kulich.  Someone else brought her strawberries.  Everyone greeted her with "Christ is risen".  I taught her to say "He is risen indeed".
    She kept referring to her past and I said, "We don't need to know about that but if you need to confess the priest is right there."
    She said with amazement, "He'll here my confession?!  Will he give me Hail Mary's to say or something?"
    I said, "No. But he will do what you need."
    She said, "Really?  I can become orthodox right now? "
    I  said, "You need to talk to Fr. Basil."
   She asked, "What do I say?"
   I showed her how to ask for a priest's blessing and said, "then you just talk".
   She got up and walked across the parish hall to the priest, asked for his blessing, and the next thing you know, they are both walking into the church.
   A little while later she came back to the table where we had moved on to amaretto (thank you Katrina) and I noticed tears on her cheeks.  I asked her, "Did he hear your confession?"
   "Yes, and he didn't make me do anything.  No Hail Marys or anything.  He just put that cloth on me and prayed over me.  I can't belive it.  I'm such a bad girl and he forgave me."
   I said, "Not any more.  You are no longer a bad girl."  And she started crying again.
   So, if anyone criticizes the Orthodox for our exuberant feasting, let them be ashamed.  The feasting at the Lord's table rescues the fallen, finds the lost, ransoms the captive, breaks every fetter, and calls sinners to repentance.  Christ is Risen!  Indeed he is Risen!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Annunciation and other things

     Friday night was the vigil for Annunciation.  I took the boys with me.  (They are both taller than I am now.  Maybe I should stop calling them boys.)  There are 5 parts of that long service I absolutely love.
     The first is the Polyeleos, when we tell God how amazing he is.  The list of what He has done to save his people is truly awesome.
     Second is when the lights are extinguished and a lone reader with one candle chants the Six Psalms, prophecies of Jesus' thoughts when he was on the Cross. (Some say that just before Jesus returns an angel will appear in the sky chanting these Psalms in all the tongues of men, announcing by what judgement we shall be judged.)
     Third is the Gospel reading.  This is when the heart of the feast is revealed.  It is the epitome of the service.
     Fourth is when the priest or bishop stands at the west end of the building and invokes the prayers of dozens of the saints.  "...St Ambrose of Milan, the protomartyr and equal to the apostles St. Thekla, St. Katherine of Alexandria, St. Mary of Egypt, St. Peter the Aleut martyr of San Francisco, St. Vladimir equal to the Apostles, St. Mary of Paris, St. Raphael of Brooklyn, St. Patrick of Armagh the enlightener of Ireland, St. Irenaeus of Lyons, St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ss Gregory, Clement, and Leo Popes of Rome, St. Panteleimon the unmercenary physician, St. John Chrysostom..."  As their names are called out their lives and deeds fill my mind and I am reminded of what kind of man I am supposed to be.
     The fifth is when, near the end of the service, we line up to venerate the icon of the feast (I am not able to prostrate anymore.  If I try it I lose my breath.), receive the blessing of oil on our heads, exchange the festal greeting with the priest, and then get some of that yummy bread dipped it wine.  (I really have no idea what this is about.  It's not communion but what is it?  I'll have to ask the priest sometime.)
     My contract with the school district was not renewed.  I was expecting that.  I am not a credentialed Special Education teacher and the district is under scrutiny  from the state for Special Education irregularities.  They really need someone who knows better than me how to teach these kids.  I'm great for lectures and essays, but when a student has auditory and visual processing problems I don't know how to reach him.  But I am not worried.  The school year is over May 25 but I chose the 12 month pay schedule so I'll still have an income through the end of July.  Also, I'll teach summer school.  After that?  Return to being a substitute until I have completed the requirements for the Social Science teaching credential. (It looks like that will be in December.)

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Ski week and a diagnosis

The boys and I went up to Strawberry last Tuesday morning.  We stayed two nights.  It was amazing good time even though I was very sick.  On the  way to Strawberry we stopped at Sonora (THere was some flooding) for lunch.  We ate at a place called the Diamondback Grill.  The food was very high quality but the portions were enormous.  Their smallest hamburger was 1/2 pound of beef.  After lunch we made it as far as Twain Harte before the CHP required chains.  Anselm Samuel did a great job putting them on.  From then on we made very slow progress.  Roads were covered with ice and snow.  We arrived at the Strawberry Inn about 5 pm.  We had dinner, played several games of pool in the bar, and then went to our room.   The boys discovered the old teevee show, Fresh Prince of Bel Air.  They were laughing out loud though several episodes.

The next morning after breakfast (the view from the dining room over looked the frozen Stanislaus River.  It was gorgeous.) I sent Basil out to scrape the windows on the van.  I was distressed when he came back and told me he broke the key off in the van's door.  Thankfully, it was the wrong key so I could still drive the van.  The problem:  The van only has one key hole in one door and it was jammed with part of a broken key.    So, we played pool in the bar and waited two hours for a locksmith to come open the van for us.  It cost $100.  

After that we drove to where the gate is closed to Sonora Pass and looked out over hundreds of miles of snow covered wilderness.  The boys played in the snow there for a while but I wanted to head over to Pine Crest so we left after about 1/2.  On the road to Pine Crest I saw another road with a sign indicating a USFS station and thought I'd pull in there to get a map of the forest for the boys.  I saw that the snow was a little deeper on this road but I had chains on so I thought it would be no problem.  I was totally wrong.  We got stuck.  The boys were great.  they chopped limbs off of trees to use for traction.  They poured water over the engine so it would melt the snow under the van.  They dug and dug and dug.  And after 40 minutes we were free and on the way to Pine Crest.  But then I saw another road and another sign. The sign said Leland Snow Play.  So we drove over that way (it had some thin ice on it but very little snow) for a couple of miles and found a super fun inner tube slopes.  I bought lift tickets and goggles for the boys and watched them zooming down the slopes the rest of the afternoon.  When the sun was low we left and drove back to the inn.  (I want to mention that there were hardly any cars on the roads; just snow plows or Forest Service pick-up trucks once in a while.  It was very peaceful to drive through the forest with snow falling and no other cars.)  I was too sick to eat supper but the boys ate in the inn's dining room while I had a gin and tonic at the bar.  (I had two drinks the whole trip.  It was uncomfortable but I didn't want my sons to see me drinking a lot.)  After they ate we played some more pool then went to bed.  We were tired.

The next morning we packed up, checked out and drove to Pine Crest.  My dad used to take me fishing there 40 years ago so it is kind of nostalgic for me.  It was almost totally deserted.  I talked to the guy who owns the general store, and he said winter is the off season, that fewer than 400 guests were there, but in the summer 10,000 isn't unusual.  I was surprised by that.  After stoping at the general store we drove to the lake.  It was good to see it full of water and snow.  Last winter it was totally dry.  After 5 years of extreme drought this has been a good wet winter for California.  After Pine Crest we drove home, with a brief stop in Jamestown.

Oh, the diagnosis.  It seems I have stage 2 COPD.  Doctors have been wrong about me before.  Let's hope they are wrong this time, too.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Evening Prayers, Alcoholism, and Ski Week

"Alcohol Kills"
I've had breathing problems for a while now.  I've been to see the doctor about them a few times but they aren't able to cure me.  In fact, every time I see the doctor I am given a different diagnosis.  Most recently (since December) I have been coughing and lose my breath if I have to walk more than 30 yards.  I mention all that for this reason.  Last night my son Anselm Samuel (who used to be known as The Little Boy on this blog) had to say the evening prayers because my voice is gone from coughing so much.  Yes, teaching is difficult in this condition.

I've had to accept the fat that in the three years since my divorce I have become an alcoholic.  It got really bad when I was living in my truck and drinking to unconsciousness every night.  I tried to quit cold turkey a while ago but it was very painful.  Cramps and shaking started on the second day and  I had to have a drink.  What I've been trying to do since then is drink a little less each week.  I am down to 4 hard liquor drinks or a bottle of wine each day.  It is not easy.  I told my doctor about it on my last visit and I wish I hadn't.  I want this cough cured and all she wants to talk about is rehab.

Today is Saturday.  On Tuesday my boys and I are going to Strawberry for two nights.  It is the week called Ski Week, when all the schools in San jose close.  We are planning on sledding, snow shoe
Strawberry Lodge
hiking through the forest, and ice skating.  The reports are 10 feet of snow on the ground and more snow is forecasted to fall the whole time we'll be there.   We've been up there before.  I think two winters ago was the last time, but it was a drought year and snow was scarce.  This year is different.  It has been one of the wettest winters in California history.  Today I am going to teach the boys how to "chain up" for driving in snow.

Monday, January 30, 2017

for my grandchildren

Several times since I have known her, Athanasia has gotten rid of my books or the boys' books.  Thankfully, she called me Friday (today is early Monday morning) and told me that if I wanted to keep any books I should come get them.  Saturday morning I saved all the Christmas books I read to my sons each year.  I kept Aesop's Fables, the children's versions of the Iliad and the Odyssey, the Boxcar Car Children books, and the Sugar Creek Gang books, and many others.  I was especially happy to find the two astronomy books I used when I was homeschooling Anselm for kindergarten. She asked, "Why are you keeping them?"  I said, "For our grandchildren."

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Catching up

It has been a busy and difficult month.   I became very sick right after Christmas.  I was in bed for the last four days before the start of the spring semester and missed three days during the first week of the semester.  I lost me hearing and have been referred to a surgeon but I haven't gone.  I really do not want surgery on my head.  So, I've been waiting, and guess what?  The hearing has come back in my right ear!!!  I'm still stone deaf in the left but one ear is better than no ears.  So, I am thankful.

I got tired of picking up my kids for church on Sunday mornings and them looking like bums.  I pay their mother 1/3 of my income for child support but she doesn't buy them clothes.  So, I took Anselm Samuel to Men's Wearhouse when they were having a sale on suits and got him a slate blue suite, an extra pair of trousers in gray, three dress shirts, and then we went to Macy's where he got his first pair of Florsheim shoes.  He chose blue cap-toed Oxfords.  I want him to take care of these shoes (he is so hard on shoes!) so I made him chip in $50 of his own money (earned from working for Kathleen) to help pay for them.  The funny thing about the suit; when he wears it he combs his hair.

I would have bought Basil Wenceslas a suit, too, but he is only eleven and still growing fast.  Kathleen had an excellent idea, though.  She took him to Savers and found two sports coats for him.  One in brown herringbone, the other in blue gabardine.  I was surprised at how happy he was.

I had my formal evaluation at work.  I got a perfect evaluation, except that my principal said I try to pack too much information into one lesson.  I'm okay with doing less.

I've finished one third of my M.Ed. program.  It is difficult because, unlike, other classes I've taken, I'm expected to drink the leftist Kool-Aid.  So far, I've been able to stay under the radar.  But, man it is hard to read and regurgitate the work of Soviet psychiatrists in the papers I write.  I have no hope the the California public schools.

Kathleen had her first Orthodox house blessing last week.  Archpriest Basil is such a good pastor.  All the neighborhood kids followed him from room to room as he splashed holy water on everything and he and I sang the troparion of Theophany.

Sadly, both of my sons decided to drop out of Boy Scouts.  It makes sense for Basil, he has health problems that keep him from camping, but Anselm, well, I just don't know.  It makes me sad.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention the very good thing that happened.  Back in 1970s Time-Life Books published a series of books called The Old West.  I used to see the teevee advertisements for them and just ache because I wanted them so powerfully.  Well, guess what!  I found the whole series for sale for twenty-five dollars and bought it.  I've already finished one volume and have started on the second!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Approaching Christmas

It is strange living in a state of mortal sin while trying to raise two sons to be Christians.  And it is totally strange to do those things while trying to prepare for Christmas, without being able to go to Confession or Communion.  But I still try.   I've been taking my boys to church so they can serve as acolytes, and go to Communion.  Two days ago I took them and Kathleen, the woman I live with to see A.C.T.'s A Christmas Carol and out to dinner at John's Grill near Union Square.  It was such a good night.

Today I have been wrapping presents and shopping for Christmas dinner.  Kathleen and I invited the boys and Athanasia over for Christmas dinner but Athanasia declined.  I wish there was some way yo get us all together.  She is so angry all thee time.  She is still under the care of a psychiatrist.  Taking prozac.  I hope that she gets well soon.

I went shopping for Christmas dinner today and have all the ingredients.  I just wish there were more people doming to the table.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

It must be love: Saturday Soundtrack.

In the mid1980s my Dad's denomination was choosing a new Superintendent for the island and they sent my Dad to chair the part of the convention when the Superintendent was to be elected.  He wound up preaching three nights and two mornings, leading all the other pastors assembled for the meeting in a seminar on 2nd Timothy, and serving as parliamentarian for the convention, too.  The meetings went from 8 a.m. until late into the night for 6 days.

The whole time we were in Jamaica this song was on the radio.  I know now it was a song written and recorded by Don Williams but this is the first version of it I ever heard.

Here is Don Williams performing his song.  I like it better than the version I heard in Jamaica.

Monday, November 07, 2016


Tomorrow is election day. Being a Californian means I have to vote on lots and lots of proposed laws. Here is how I decide how to vote on these things.

When I vote no:
1) Is it going to take money from one group of people who cannot be reasonably defined as "all the people" and give money to another group of people who cannot be reasonably defined as "all the people." If so, I vote no.
2) Is my union in favor of it? If so, I vote no.
3) Are either the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association or the NFIB opposed to it? If so, I vote no.
4) Does it increase the public debt at any level? If so, I vote no.
5) Does it deprive anyone of the right to control their bodies, speak their minds, worship God according their consciences, or enjoy their property as they see fit? If so, I vote no.
When I might vote yes:
1) Are both the VFW and the American Legion in favor of it? If so, I'll think about voting yes.
2) Will it improve roads, bridges, dams, and other public works with a tax that expires before I should, reasonably, be expected to die? If so, I'll think about voting yes.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Special Education, Sin, Confession.

I am sick with the flu right now.   I would love to go one year without getting sick.   I suppose lots of people would love that.
I've been on administrative leave from my my school since Thursday afternoon. One of my students who suffers from depression and oppositional-defiant disorder disrupted my classroom when I tried to get him to put away his cell phone. I thought he was going to attack me so to keep him from doing that and getting into horrible trouble I quickly moved away from him. He'll never know I protected him from having teacher assault on his record. I hope his next teacher can help him learn. Yes, his next teacher. I am not going to be at that school anymore. All my ED students freaked out. One threw a desk. several were crying. They were all extremely upset. A police officer had to come to the classroom and get me out safely. I'm meeting tomorrow with the Associate Superintendent about working at a different school. I am hoping for a history classroom and not another ED classroom. That was too hard.
About 4 A few weeks ago my truck got towed for being in one place for too long. (My car is broken down and needs a new engine, too.) It was broken down and I didn't have the money to get it fixed. Now I am living with a woman who would marry me but for some legal obstacles remaining from her previous marriage. It is not a good situation. Being a Christian and living in the world is not easy. I think this is why we pray for God to keep us from temptation. I have to get my life straightened out somehow. I haven't been able to go to Communion since Pascha 2016. I could go to Confession but I have read the Psalms. I know what what the Prophet King David said. I can not Confess sins and seek forgiveness when I know I am going to commit them again that very day. I need to figure out a way to marry her sacramentally without marrying her according to the laws of California. My bishop won't allow it. I heard Fr. Patrick Reardon in Chicago will but he is in Chicago and I am in San Jose. I have to do something fast. I feel my heart withering.

Monday, September 19, 2016

I am a teacher now.

Since the 16th of August I've been working as a substitute teacher at a high school in San Jose.  Friday after work I signed a contract with the school district.  Today, I was given my own classroom and began teaching biology and chemistry.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

My Youngest Son

Basil is 10 years old.  He is 10 years old, 5'7" tall,  and weighs 200 lbs.  But he is still a little boy.  And he loves being read to.

I wish I still had all the books I bought him and Anselm when they were very little boys but I don't. (Their mother donated them to a hospital.  My plan was to save them and give them to grand children.)  Some of my favorites were Harry the Dirty Dog, Are  You My Mother, and  Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel.

Basil was sent home from summer camp today because of an injury.  I think I need to go to a library, check out some books, and read to him.  Or, maybe, have him read to me.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Saint Iranaeus on some matters being considered by the Great and Holy Council

The calendar and fasting have been issues in the lead up to the Orthodox Church's Great and Holy Council scheduled to start in a few days on Crete.   I don't think many people are happy with the Patriarch of Constantinople's "New Calendar" or the idea of revising the fasting rules, but the response to him from some quarters is equally destructive, resulting in schism.  I think both sides need to look at the writings of St. Iranaeus of Lyons, who's teaching was firmly ground on the teaching of our Lord's Apostles.

St. Irenaeus of Lyons (died ca. 202)
"For the controversy is not merely as regards the day, but also as regards the form itself of the fast.For some consider themselves bound to fast one day, others two days, others still more, while others forty: the diurnal and the nocturnal hours they measure out together as their [fasting] day. And this variety among the observers [of the fasts] had not its origin in our time, but long before in that of our predecessors, some of whom probably, being not very accurate in their observance of it, handed down to posterity the custom as it had...    And yet nevertheless all these lived in peace one with another, and we also keep peace together. Thus, in fact, the difference [in observing] the fast establishes the harmony of [our common] faith. And the presbyters preceding Soter in the government of the Church which you now rule— I mean, Anicetus and Pius, Hyginus and Telesphorus, and Sixtus— did neither themselves observe it [after that fashion], nor permit those with them to do so. Notwithstanding this, those who did not keep [the feast in this way] were peacefully disposed towards those who came to them from other dioceses in which it was [so] observed although such observance was [felt] in more decided contrariety [as presented] to those who did not fall in with it; and none were ever cast out [of the Church] for this matter. On the contrary, those presbyters who preceded you, and who did not observe [this custom], sent the Eucharist to those of other dioceses who did observe it.And when the blessed Polycarp was sojourning in Rome [He was in chains awaiting his martyrdom.] in the time of Anicetus, although a slight controversy had arisen among them as to certain other points, they were at once well inclined towards each other [with regard to the matter in hand], not willing that any quarrel should arise between them upon this head. For neither could Anicetus persuade Polycarp to forego the observance [in his own way], inasmuch as these things had been always [so] observed by John the disciple of our Lord, and by other apostles with whom he had been conversant; nor, on the other hand, could Polycarp succeed in persuading Anicetus to keep [the observance in his way], for he maintained that he was bound to adhere to the usage of the presbyters who preceded him. And in this state of affairs they held fellowship with each other; and Anicetus conceded to Polycarp in the Church the celebration of the Eucharist, by way of showing him respect; so that they parted in peace one from the other, maintaining peace with the whole Church, both those who did observe [the fast] and those who did not." - Fragments From Lost Writings 3
"The Apostles ordained, that we should not judge any one in respect to meat or drink, or in regard to a feast day, or the new moons, or the sabbaths. (Col. 2:16) Whence then these contentions? Whence these schisms? We keep the feast, but in the leaven of malice and wickedness, cutting in pieces the Church of God; and we preserve what belongs to its exterior, that we may cast away these better things, faith and love. We have heard from theprophetic words that these feasts and fasts are displeasing to the Lord. (See Isaiah 1:14)"  - Fragments from Lost Writings 38

Saturday, May 14, 2016

So much has happened

I will start with the most difficult things first.

One of my sons has spent a month in mental hospitals.  After the divorce he fell into deep depression. He gained 60 pounds in one year and only laid in bed.   His mother took him to a psychiatrist who put him on Prozac.  But Prozac is dangerous for kids.  It wasn't long before he began hurting himself.  Then he tried to cut off his hand.  THank God his brother was there and was able to wrestle the knife away from him. He spent a week in a mental hospital run by the Seventh Day Adventists. And another couple of weeks in a a facility owned by the Masons (Say what you want about their weird theology, they do try to help children.  I am thankful.) to make sure his medications were working.  He has been home since Great and Holy Wednesday.

Both of my youngest sons are supposed to start working on the Eastern Orthodox Committee on Scouting's Alpha-Omega Award program with out priest tomorrow.  There are two other Boy Scouts in the parish.  They are all going to work on it together.

Pascha and Holy week were very different for me this year.  First of all, I had a son confined.  His brother and I made Paskha at my girlfriend, Kathleen's house. (more about here later, maybe) but because of my work schedule and their school schedules, and my lack of a kitchen (I live in a truck) we were not able to make kulich.  So I bought one from my parish. (Some of the women bake kulich and sell them as a fund raiser for the parish.).

The only services I was able to attend this year were Bridegroom Matins on Monday, Matins and Liturgy for Pascha (Kathleen went to this with us.  I think "Christ is Risen" has become her favorite song.) and Liturgy on Bright Monday. I hope next year that I will be able to attend more services.

About half way through Lent my truck's ignition failed.  It doesn't run.  And two days ago my car's transmission fell apart.  So, I am depending on the bus to get to work each day (I am staying at my sister's house while she and her husband are on vacation all this month.).  Oh  I must tell you about a car related struggle.  I am homeless, technically.  At first I tried to buy insurance on my vehicles, explaining that I live in one of them and park them both on the street.  Not one company would sell me an insurance policy.  Which means I can't register my vehicles with the state. And that means my license plates are expired.  So, I decided to lie and say I live somewhere and have a real physical address.  The hoops I am having to jump through are nuts!!!  the insurance companies all want two picture IDs, copies of utility bills, and copies of bank statements.  Well, I can give them one picture ID, no utility bills, and copies of bank statements that are mailed to a P.O. box.  Gosh, I've already paid the taxes to the state for these vehicles, it seems to me that if the state is going to require me to buy insurance they ought to make it easier to buy insurance.

In other news, I have decided to try and finish my M.A. in history.  I only have until January to finish it.  I began the research on my thesis today.  I also have to take two more courses.  It is a lot of work but I think I can do it.
I have begun taking the tests required to be a history teacher in California public schools.  So far, I have passed two, am waiting on results for one, and still have one more to take.

I am still working at the YMCA, but I am looking for something that pays more money.  These car problems have convinced me that I need to be making at least double the money I am currently making.  I'm just not sure how I am going to do that.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

What Arius Was Right About

When the 318 fathers at the Council of Nicea asked the heretic Arius to explain himself he didn't speak but he sang his satanic doctrine.  The holy fathers should not have been surprised by that, for song is it the medium by which the life destroying teaching spread throughout the Empire.  But it wasn't only error that travelled by song.  Generations of Christians have learned the Truth not from hearing teachers or preachers but from singing songs.

My father was acclaimed as one of the greatest preachers of his denomination but I only remember a handful of his sermons.  What I remember from my youth are the songs.  To this day I remember them all: It Is Well With My Soul taught me to not despair for God reigns over the tumult of this life.  Holy Holy Holy taught me to only worship the Trinity and why.  Joy Unspeakable affirmed to me that the Christian life is the best life.  I'll Fly Away taught me that even though this life is full of joy it is mixed with suffering and there is something better waiting for us.  How Great Though Art told me what is the only right response to God's condescension.   A Mighty Fortress Is Our God proclaimed God's invincibility and the devil's defeat.  In these songs I and millions and millions of other Christians learned ecclesiology, soteriology, Christology, and eschatology.  All of the history of salvation, the most important things a man must know were taught to me by these songs.  And they called me to Holy Orthodoxy, the fullness of the Christian faith.

But in the last 30 years or so, Protestants have to a large degree abandoned these doctrine laden songs.  They have begun singing songs which though true, contain very little dogma.  I do not understand it.  Why are Protestants, who used to care so much about correct theology becoming like this? (Yes, this is true.  The last Protestant church I went to was like this.) Why are they singing songs that merely repeat one line such as this pseudo Christian narcism?!?!   You want to sing about "surrender"?  Then sing about "surrender" in words that contain TRUTH AND LOTS OF IT.  Come on Protestants!  You are better than that!  Sing dogma.  Sing theology.  Sing Bible.  If you don't your children will go to Hell.

Friday, March 25, 2016


In 1978, when I was in the 4th grade at Sunnyvale Christian School (Or maybe I was in the 2nd grade.  I am not sure.  Things get blurry the older I get.) I saw the movie Grease.  It seems to have to set me on a path I wish I had never set foot on.  From that point on having a girlfriend was the most important thing ever.  Because of my youthfulness, I didn't catch all the sexual innuendos, I didn't understand that two of the characters had sex, that there was a pregnancy scare, etc.  But I did understand that Danny and Sandy belonged together at that that was the best thing in the world.  And that idea was reinforced by watching TV shows such as The Love Boat and Fantasy Island.

A Roman priest once told me that pornography isn't sinful because it shows to much but because it shows to little.  It doesn't show two people struggling to make ends meet, taking care of one another through times of sickness, raising children, forgiving each other for the sake of a marriage and children.  It just shows sex, the smallest part of a marriage.  I think, it is the case that movies such as Grease and teevee shows such as The Love Boat and Fantasy Island are bad in a similar way. or at least, they are misleading.  They show only the beginning of a love affair, but not the long hard slog of true love.

I think it was 1998 when Grease had a second cinematical release 20 years after the first release.   That time, instead of a bunch of kids in the audience it was me and 200 women my age who sang along with every song.  Oddly, I knew the songs, too though it had been 20 years since I had last seen the film.  Later, I thought, why were all these women in that room singing songs such as "Beauty School Drop Out" and "There are Worse Things" with such emotion?    And I was sad for them.  What disappointments had the 20 years between '78 and '98 had for them?

About a year ago my son, Anselm Samuel ran the spotlights for his middle school production of Grease.  The script for middle school productions is scrubbed pretty clean.  Its really all about the singing and dancing.  But even in that production there was a sadness buried that, i think, only the adults in the audience were aware of.

Since my divorce a couple of years ago four different women have asked me to marry them.  It was pretty easy to say say no to each of them.  Why was it so easy?  I think it is because I no longer think, as Grease portrayed, that romantic love is the end all be all of human life.  In fact, now I think it is barely tolerable, and is more of a hurdle to overcome on the way to true friendship.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Center of the Universe

I dislike thew NIV for three distinct reasons, but I like this translation of Ephesians 2:10 for it's immediacy and personal application. (It has one severe problem but it is beside the point I am making here.) On Sunday I told my youngest son that he is not the center of the universe, that he needs to get his act together, stop living for himself. Then he asked me, "Then who is my life for?" Saint Paul gives us the answer to my son's question: "For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."  And that is it.  Nothing else we do on earth matters, except that it might distract us from doing the good things God has prepared for us to do. 

So I asked Father Basil later that day for a favor, and he has agreed to sons #3 and #4 serving in the altar. (Because of the turmoil of the divorce and Athanasia's irregular church attendance they had not been serving as acolytes for the past two years. But now I have them all day on Sundays!)   These boys need to DO something that is not focused on themselves.  Even Boy Scouts is too focused on them.  But at Church, serving in the altar there is nothing about them.  The good works they do there are all for God and the people in the Church.  I hope it helps.

In other news, Anselm Samuel (also known as the Little Boy and son #3) turned fourteen on the 21st.  His birthday present from me was a razor (peach fuzz on upper lip has been growing more noticeable the last couple of months) and an antique "Warren Harding for President" campaign button.  

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Sri Srinivasan

It has been reported that American leftists are worried about the possibility of President Obama nominating Sri Srinivasan to sit on the Supreme Court of the United States.  I am glad they are alarmed.  But so too should be conservatives. 

Sri Srinivasan is an admitted Hindu.  Hidus are monists.  This means several things: There is no difference between good and evil, just and unjust, just and unjust, licet and elicit.   It might also mean, depending on the particular brand of monism, that there is no physical reality.  

How can someone who lacks the philosophical foundation to make decisions serve on the Supreme Court?

Monday, February 29, 2016

Cooking for Others

One of the the worst things about living in a truck is not having a kitchen.  Thankfully, there are people who like good cooking but don't have time or talent for the kitchen.  Tonight I am cooking Italian for a beautiful woman who appreciates fine food.    I am in heaven.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Home Schooling

For the fortnight just passed my youngest son has been suffering attacks at school.  At first the physician thought it was asthma, because the main symptom of the attack was shallow and labored breathing.  But now they medical people are convinced it is panic attacks.   His mother and I have decided to home school him. 

Currently, I go to their house every morning when she leaves for work at seven o’clock, to pray and read the Bible with the boys (we finished the Gospel of Mark today), then I take them to school.  With the new plan, I’ll just take Anselm Samuel to school and begin school lessons with Basil Wenceslas when I get back to his house.  Then I’ll take him to the YMCA with me when I go to work at noon.  He can participate in our Home School P.E. class, swim, play racquetball, lift weights, and when he is tired, sit on a couch and read a book until his mother pick him up at six o’clock.  Then she will do any school work with him he didn’t get finished in the morning.

I hope this works for him.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Learning to be an American

I have recently become worried that my two youngest sons are being indoctrinated by their schools to think of themselves a "citizens of the world".  I have come up with an idea to remedy this situation. 

In March of this year their mother has to go out of town for a week and I will be staying at their house.  I've planned a television event that will, I hope, counteract the anti-nationalist propaganda they hear at school.

First, we'll watch Centenial, the story of one family over 200 years of American history.  I saw it when I was 11 years old.  I remember rushing home from church every Sunday night to see the next episode.  Now my boys will get to see it, too.

Second, we'll watch Tora Tora Tora.  I watched this with my Dad when I was 9.

Third, we'll watch The Longest Day, which I also watched with my Dad when I was 9.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

He is never weary and he will not let you fall.

That last post I did was pretty dismal, wasn't it?  But guess what?  Just my little pathetic bit of resistance (more complaining and worry than actual resistance) was honored by God and He healed my truck.  It started, I was able to move it, and didn't get towed!

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Rock and a Hard Place.

My truck won't start.  This is a very serious problem.   I park my truck on the street and have to move it every third day to keep it from being impounded by the city.   I am worried.  If I lose my truck I will lose my home and all my possessions (books, hand tools, and clothes, mainly) and be truly homeless.  Several women have offered me their beds and/or houses but what kind of man would I be if I depended on women?  (Sometimes I think the only thing I am good at it making women, except for wives, happy to be around me.) It is not a sin to be poor but it is a huge inconvenience.

I used to think I wasn't' rich because God was being merciful and He was keeping me from doing evil things with riches.  But now I am beginning to think something else.  I mean, I want to be a good man.  I do not want to sin.  But here I am with no ability to house myself aside from being a prostitute pleasing pagan women.  Two of the women I've been out with in the last year have actually suggested I make money as a paid escort; that unlike the usual man who works in such a situation I am articulate, educated, and polite.

All I want is to get a job as a history teacher, work off my school debt, and then buy a small farm where I can live in simplicity. Yet even that humble dream seems out of reach.    My house-on-wheels is four days away from being towed away by the police, I am about to be truly homeless, and am seriously thinking about doing something shameful.

How did I get here?

Friday, November 20, 2015

Things to do during Advent

Unlike what we do during Lent, the Orthodox Church doesn't prescribe a lot of activities during the Nativity Fast (aka Advent).  So, I was happy to find this list on the website of Holy Trinity Cathedral.

Suggestions for the Nativity Fast

The Nativity Fast is a gift that reminds us to slow down and be purposeful about how we are living these days leading up to the feast of the Nativity of Our Lord.
  • Pray for people: prepare a list of names, and once a week or more frequently pray the Supplicatory Canon to the Theotokos, or a portion of it. Ask the Theotokos to help those people.
  • Each week as you set aside the proportion of your funds to give to the Church in thanksgiving to God and for the operation of the parish, also set aside a portion to give to the poor. Then give it.
  • Celebrate the Feast of St. Nicholas (San Anselmo, Dec. 6) which spiritually ushers us—with joyful exuberance—into the Nativity season. 
  • Celebrate the Feast of St. Herman of Alaska, December 13 (here at the Cathedral).
  • Fast from meat, eggs, cheese, and all dairy. Abstaining from particular foods is really the easiest part of the fast. Much more effort is required when fasting from anger, criticism, resentments, and wandering thoughts, especially those of lust and envy and wasting time in idleness and pointless entertainments. Even more effort is required when we engage in works of mercy to the needy.
  • Attend Vigil on Saturday evening, and by doing so, prepare yourself for Communion on Sunday. Confess at least twice during the Forty Day Fast, one of those times in the week prior to Christmas.
  • Volunteer at one of the many charitable institutions in our city.
  • In the week before Christmas read the Nativity accounts from St. Matthew and St. Luke to your children.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Schedules, A Date, Prayers, and Bible Reading

I had been taking the boys with me to church on Saturday nights and then taking them to Pizza on Monday nights.  Pizza night was a tradition from almost as long as we lived in Willow Glen, and I wanted to keep it alive for the boys.  Saturday's were always hard.  My ex-wife always saw other things as more important than the Saturday night vigil: "It's okay for them to miss tonight. They'll be Orthodox their whole life!"  After she kicked me out we decided that I would take the boys with me on Saturday nights, and she would take them with her on Sunday mornings.   But almost every week she would text me and say the boys had other plans on Saturday night, and I would think to myself, "well, at least they are going on Sunday."  But then I would hear that they did something else on Sunday.  It was very frustrating for me.  About a month ago I said to her, "How would you feel if I cancelled yout plans with the boys?" She didn't say anything to me then but about two weeks ago she sent me a text saying that Saturday nights don't work for her because the boys often have Boy Scout or social activities on those nights.  And she asked me if I would like Sunday instead.  So, the boys have been to the Divine Liturgy with me the last two Sundays, and it has been good.

On Monday night Basil Wenceslas and I went to pizza while Anselm Samuel had his first date.  He walked home from school with a girl, stopping at Starbucks on the way.  I was alarmed when his mother told me about this.  I added the girl to my prayer list.  I told Anselm he should invite her to Church and pizza night.

Beginning yesterday, I began driving to their house to chant the morning prayers with the boys, and then drive them to school. Today I added Bible reading.  We each read Psalm 1 aloud to each other and talked about it.  I think we'll read one of the 5 books of the Psalms, then read a Gospel, until we have read all the Psalms and Gospels. 

Thursday, November 05, 2015

A Reason to be Thankful

I had a heart-warming conversation this morning.  I was talking with a member of the U.S. grand jury for the district and asked if he had ever voted to not indict.  (The prosecutors only take cases to the grand jury if the evidence is overwhelming.)  This juror said, yes, he had disregarded the judges instructions and had twice refused to indict because he thought the law was immoral.  It made me proud of the Anglo-American system of justice.  I am greatly thankful to be be living in this tradition and not in the tyrannies of other lands.

If the jury feels the law is unjust, we recognize the undisputed power of the jury to acquit, even if its verdict is contrary to the law as given by a judge, and contrary to the evidence...If the jury feels that the law under which the defendant is accused is unjust, or that exigent circumstances justified the actions of the accused, or for any reason which appeals to their logic or passion, the jury has the power to acquit, and the courts must abide by that decision.
4th Circuit Court of Appeals, United States v. Moylan, 1969

[The jury has an] unreviewable and irreversible acquit in disregard of the instructions on the law given by the trial judge...The pages of history shine on instances of the jury's exercise of its prerogative to disregard uncontradicted evidence and instructions of the judge; for example, acquittals under the fugitive slave law.
D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, Unites States v. Dougherty, 1972

    'You're not concerned with the law, Members of the Jury,' I told them, 'you are concerned with justice!'
    'That is a quite outrageous thing to say! On the admitted facts of this case, Mr O'Higgins is clearly guilty!' His Honour Judge Graves had decided but the honest twelve would have to return the verdict and I spoke to them. 'A British judge has no power to direct a British jury to find a defendant guilty! I know that much at least.'
    'I shall tell the Jury that he is guilty in law, I warn you.' Graves's warning was in vain. I carried on regardless.
    'His Lordship may tell you that to his heart's content. As a great Lord Chief Justice of England, a judge superior in rank to any in this Court, once said, "It is the duty of the Judge to tell you as a jury what to do, but you have the power to do exactly as you like." And what you do, Members of the Jury, is a matter entirely between God and your own consciences....'

Horace Rumpole [John Mortimer, "Rumpole à la Carte," The Third Rumpole Omnibus, Penguin Books, 1998, p.265]

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Truck, work, dating and stuff

I moved out of my sister's place a few weeks ago and into my truck.  I ran out of money (kids needed stuff, I got another big tax bill from 2013) so I haven't been able to get my truck how I want it.  All I've done is put in a wooden floor and a closet.  I sleep on an army cot, which is fairly comfortable.  My sister gave me some blankets and a pillow.   I need to put a window in it, and before winter comes I want to put in a wood burning stove. 

I quit the banking job about a month ago and went back full-time to the YMCA.   It is convenient to work at the YMCA when one lives in a truck.

I've been dating a lot.  Nice women I've met at the YMCA.  None of them are Orthodox, though.  I've taken two to church with me and they seemed to enjoy it.  We'll see how that goes. 

My child support was reduced by a couple of thousand dollars last month.  That was a huge relief but I still owe arrears for the year i didn't have the money to pay the former amount.  The new amount still takes most of my paycheck but I can live with it.

And life just goes on.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Three Conversations

I had three interesting conversations today.  The first one, at about 11 a.m., was with one of my dealers (I am a bank rep to car dealers.  My bank finances automobile purchases, usually to people with low incomes and very bad credit histories.)   The dealer I was talking with was saying that his customer was balking at the interest rate. Now this customer had a 7 year history with the credit bureaus that showed him not paying back any loan ever, defaulting on a car loan, less than a year at his current job, and only a month at his current address.  The dealer wanted me to do something about the interest rate.  And then words I never expected to come out of my mouth did, in fact, come out of my mouth. "Your customer is the highest risk I have ever seen my bank approve.  He earned this interest rate. If he wants this S-class Mercedes he is going to come up with a $30,000 down payment and pay 23.99% interest on the loan.  You need to tell him we are the only bank willing to finance him so he needs to decide if he wants to pay it or keep riding a bicycle." In reality, I think the customer should buy a Ford Focus but what I have learned is that the people with the worst credit histories want the most expensive cars.  I don't know what the customer decided (I'll find out in a few hours) but my first job is to protect the bank's assets.

About 3 p.m. today I received a phone call from a dealer I have been trying to sign up since November.  It was the General Manager of the dealership group (Toyota, Volvo, McClaren) calling to apologize for how an assistant sales manager at one of the dealerships spoke to me last week.  I was more than a little astonished.  Yes, the assistant manager was rude, but not very rude.  I told the GM that I hadn't given it a second thought and that I was looking forward to serving him.  And then the GM told me to come by next week and pick up the signed agreement.  Why is this a big deal?  Because I've been trying to get this agreement since LAST NOVEMBER!!!

At about half past 3 p.m. today I picked up my two youngest sons from school.  We went to Starbucks.  We drank our drinks and played cards (kings corners, my mother's favorite card game).  Then I drove them back to their mother's house so I could go back to work.  On the way there we saw some Mormon missionaries riding their bicycles. 

I asked my boys, "See those Mormons?  How are they different from Christians?"  They both quickly said "they think there are more than one god".  Then I asked them, "how are they like Christians?"  They didn't know the answer.  So I told them, "Like us, the Mormons believe Jesus came back from the dead."  That surprised both boys.  So I asked, "What did God tell Adam about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?"   Basil answered, "He said we can't eat the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden" (I think it's interesting that he identifies so much with our first parents that he said "we".)   And I asked, "Is that what Eve told the serpent God said?"  Basil said "yes" but Anselm, who knows the long story better than Basil, wasn't so sure.  So I told them that our first mother Eve added to what God said, that she said God said to not even touch the fruit.  And I went on to explain that the reason the Mormons believe the lie about there being many gods is that truth is mixed in with that lie, and that Satan, the very serpent in Eden has always used lies mixed with truth to deceive people.  We are usually smart enough to recognize falsehood when it stands alone, but when it is mingled with truth Satan can more easily deceive us.  But if we pay careful attention to the truth taught by the Church, "the foundation and pillar of truth" we will be less likely to be deceived. 

I think that is something the boys will think about a long time.  I sure hope it impresses them with the importance of listening to the Church. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Chess and Michael Farady

About noon today my former wife called me and asked if I was near Basil's school.  He was sick and waiting in the nurse's office.   As it happened, I was just leaving one of my dealers not 3 miles from Basil's school. When I got him home I medicated him (he has an ear infection, I think.) I made him lunch, played a game of chess with him, and helped him with is chess homework (he's working on mating in 2 moves) before I went back to work.

At 4:30 I picked Anselm up at his school and we drove to Los Gatos where I visited with one of my dealers.  It was kind of a useless visit since my bank specializes in serving dealers who sell to people with bad credit and this dealership is in one of the richest areas of California.  But I still have to visit him.  Anselm sat in the car and read an electronics textbook while I was seeing the dealer.  When my meeting was over we drove to my parish for the Vigil of the Annunciation.

Anselm is a boy of ever changing enthusiasms.  He has moved from painting to wood carving to coin collecting to Rubik's cubes to ceramics to stamp collecting.   Now he is very interested in electronics. The table in his room is covered with diodes, bits of wire, circuit boards, solder, switches, batteries, speaker parts and lights.  While we were driving to church tonight he said, "Dad, will you buy me a Faraday switch?"

"Anselm, I am very poor, and I am saving as much money as possible to buy a van or a truck to live in.  I will buy you one if I am able.  But tell me what you know about Michael Farady."

Anselm said,"I know he invented the Faraday switch and the Farday cage."

"Yes, and he proved the link between light and electricity, and discovered benzene, and made the discoveries that lead to the electric motor, and is called the Father of Electronics, but do you know the most important thing about him?"

Anselm said he didn't.  So I told him.

"He was a Christian.  And it was his his faith in the rational God that lead him to make all his scientific discoveries."

"Was he Orthodox?"

"No.  There were no Orthodox left in his country when he was born.  But he believed in the Trinity and that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and came back to life, and he believed the Bible.  And that is the most important thing about him.  It's why he was able to be a scientist.  There is a reason why science did not develop among the pagans.  Hindus think their god Brahman, if he is aware of the universe at all, is just dreaming it, the Buddhists are not even sure the universe exists, and the animists, such as the Chinese, worship a chaotic bunch of gods and spirits who have no order and make no sense.  You see the Chinese folk religion..."

"You mean like accupuncure?"

"Yes, that's part of it, but also fortune-telling, the black dragon, astrology, and tens of thousands of spirits and gods,   It's a crazy and unpredictable mess.  But the true God is a God of order and....

"Natural law!", Anselm interjected.

"Yes, natural law.  He is reasonable and His creation is knowable.  And it is because of Faraday's faith in God (he was a deacon in his church) that he had the theological and philosophical foundation to do science."

So we talked about God making sense, and our faith being rational until we got to church.  And at church during the vigil, when we sang the Polyeleos we smiled at each other when we sang the line "To Him who by understanding made the heavens, for His mercy endureth forever, hallelujah hallelujah".

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Being with the Boys

My ex-wife, Athanasia had to fly to Orlando for work for a few days.  So Sunday through Tuesday nights I stayed at her house with the boys.  

At lunch time on Sunday I picked the boys up and brought them to the YMCA where I work so they could go swimming while I finished the work day.  Then, after work we went grocery shopping and then back to their home.  When we got there the Icon corner was cluttered with other stuff, dust covered everything.  I set Basil Wenceslas to dusting and removing things that didn't belong, and Anselm Samuel was tasked with cleaning the lampada filling it with oil and replacing the wick. 

Once that was done we made supper together and ate it.  We played two fun games after supper.  The first, Ticket to Ride is one of the best board games I've ever played.  The second game, Bananagrams, was fun, too but it wasn't a fair game for an adult and children to play together. 

After the games we said evening prayers.  Basil was a little upset that we did the Lenten tones.  He didn't know it was Lent.  But when I explained it to him he was alright.  He quickly remembered the Lenten music and by the time we were finished he was chanting the responses with the correct music.  I've been sick since mid February (mostly better now) and have lost a lot of my hearing so I it was difficult for me to sing the prayers.  I was very glad when last night and this morning Anselm was able to lead and Basil was able to respond while I just stood and prayed before the Icons with them.

Each night after prayers we fell asleep listening to a recording of "An Irish Country Courtship".  I like the whole series.

I took Anselm to his swim team meeting.  It was fun watching him.  He's been swimming at the YMCA for years but I didn't know he was good enough to make the team.  He tried out for the team last week and was selected.  He's really good.

This morning, after I dropped Anselm off at his school, Basil asked me what my favorite holiday is.  I said, "Well, that's a difficult question to answer.  I really like St. Patrick's day when Anslem and I made the book about St. Patrick and you and I made soda bread and we all prayed that prayer written by St. Patrick.  And I like Christmas when we read the books all Advent and go to church on Christmas and we cook the sausage we ground and stuffed ourselves.  And I like Thanksgiving when your mom cooks the best turkey and we go to the Cathedral in San Francisco.  And I like Pascha.  We always make the Paskha and Kulich. Do you remember the year we took the train to San Francisco, walked through the tunnel, bought BBQ pork buns in Chinatown on the way to the hotel, and then shared them with everyone after the liturgy?" 

Then Basil leaned over, put his head on my arm and said, "I love you, Dad."

I loved being with my boys the past few days.