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 of 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 withy, 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 power...to 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. 

Friday, March 06, 2015

A log near the fire

I haven't been to church since Christmas.  I work every day.  Also, I haven't been reading or praying as a Christian should.  I didn't think about it much, and certainly didn't think it would be a problem.  But a few days ago I read something in a British newspaper that rattled my faith.  I began to have serious doubts about whether or not God exists, whether or not Jesus really did all the things reported in the Gospels, whether of not there is life after death.  It would be difficult to describe how alarmed I was by these thoughts. 

The last couple of weeks I have been sick.  Yesterday I was even too sick to go to work.  I just remained in bed and listened to Ancient Faith Radio.  My doubts are gone now.   

This experience reminded me of something my Dad said in a sermon many years ago.  He as preaching on "forsake not the assembling of yourselves together" and said that a log pulled away from the other logs in a fire will soon stop burning; the logs need each other to burn hot.

I will be so glad when I can quit one of my jobs and start going to the services again.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

A Christmas Book Recommendation

In the past I used to read to my sons during Advent and Christmas.  Due to my work schedule and not living with my sons I wasn't able to do much of that this year.  But if I had been able to I would haves read this book to them.  It is a beautiful story about a woman and a boy who plant and work on a Christmas tree farm.  Combines two of my favorite things: Christmas and farming.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Church and Christmas Trees

Since I had the day off from working at the YMCA I went to church.  I haven't been to confession in months so I didn't enter the nave or stay for the anaphora or what follows, but it was still good to be there.

After I left church I went and picked up my boys and went into the hills of the Santa Cruz Range to get a Christmas tree. We went again to the Tobacco Ranch Christmas Tree Farm this year.  It is the same place we went last year. But this year we saw that they have planted about an acre of wine grapes.  There is no stopping money.  I fear that wine grapes will displace all other crops in California.

It took a while for the boys to agree on a tree to fell (I mentioned Jacob and Esau to them but they didn't know what I was talking about.  I thought they knew those Biblical brothers but I was wrong.  Oh, my time to teach these boys is running out and I have so much left to do!  How will I find the time??!!) but eventually they did.  We tied it to the roof of the car (Thank you, Air Assault School knot tying skills!) and drove it down the mountain.  On the way back to their house I stopped at a market and I bought potatoes, a chicken, and Brussels sprouts to make the boys for supper.  While the chicken was baking we trimmed the tree. 

Athanasia came home while we were still working, and she finished supper.  We ate together, then I hung a few more ornaments in the windows, hung the chocolate ornaments on the walls (not to be taken down and consumed until all the decorations are taken down on Twelfth Night), hung the mistletoe over the door, and left.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Two Jobs, Las Vegas, and Advent Song

Since the last week of September I've had two jobs.  I still work for the YMCA on Saturdays and Sundays but on the other days of the week I work for a bank as a rep to car dealers.  My goal is not to have two jobs for the rest of my life but right now I need a lot of money. 

My banking job sent me to Las Vegas for a few day for meetings.  I won some money at the roulette and craps tables at night and that's good because it was an expensive trip.  Nothing in Las Vegas is inexpensive.  I ate at Wolfgang Puck's restaurant at the MGM Grand, where the bank put me up in a nice room.  I just got back today (Saturday) from the trip and am very tired.  Thankfully, I arranged to have today and tomorrow off from my YMCA job.

I haven't made any Advent posts in a few years.  That is something I want to rectify now.  I am too tired to and not very spiritual right now, but I still have hope.  It is not strange that my hope looks back and forward at the same time; back to Genesis 3:15 and forward to Revelation 22:20.  Everything past and future is, really, now. And our experience of the past and the future are now because when Jesus entered history he didn't merely take on humanity and our experiences, but brought eternity to us so that we can remember things that haven't happened yet and give thanks for them.  This is how Jesus was slain from the foundation of the world, how he died on Calvary, and how we eat his Body and Blood every Sunday (well, not me, I have to work).  It is one eternal event made present to us by the Incarnation.  So, even though Jesus has come, we still expect him to come.  We still look forward to his birth in Bethlehem.  Thus, we sing this old Advent hymn, based on even older antiphons, and mean every word and feel such desperate yearning for the Lord's appearance.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Objection of the Bulgarians and ROCOR to the ACOB proposal for canonical normalization.

Remember when the report reached Jerusalem that there were Christians in Antioch?  Of course you do.  The story is in Acts.  What happened?  Peter went there and put them in good order.   It was done speedily; within a few months at the most. 
The Church in America is out of order.  It has been out of order for a century.  But now the bishops in America have been instructed by the foreign patriarchs and other primates who were called together by the Patriarch of Constantinople, to come up with a plan to set our house in order, and to present that plan to a great council of all the Orthodox Churches in the near future.  Everything seemed to be going pretty well until ROCOR and the Bulgarian bishops decided they don't want to set the American Church in order yet.
ROCOR's objection to the plan seems to be:  Our Russian heritage is more important than the Gospel and we would rather stay inside our little ethnic box than assail the gates of Hell in America.   Fr. John Whiteford, a ROCOR priest in Texas has a perspective that is different and more nuanced than mine.  I agree with his points about the danger of a unified American Church being just one more eparchy of Constantinople, as my acquaintance Bishop Savas (Start watching at about 13:00) seems to want. (shudder!!!).  I also agree with Fr. John regarding the failure of the OCA to deal with its own problem of overlapping dioceses. (I am OCA, by the way.)  But, though I hate to admit it, because I love Fr. John and think he is one of the bright lights of the American Church, I do disagree with him about the importance of the other issues, such as differences in liturgical practice and the failure of some American bishops to deal with immorality and heresy.

Yes, the bishops should (Wow!  I am telling bishops what they should do!) deal with those problems of immorality and heresy but the failure of some of the bishops shouldn't stop us from having one American Orthodox Church.  When have all the bishops of the Orthodox Church ever been perfect, or even good?  (St John Chrysostom said something about the streets of Hell being lined with the skulls of Orthodox bishops.) Even Bishop Hosius of Cordova stumbled near the end of his life and embraced heresy (Lord Jesus, have mercy on him!)  Also, the history of the Church is full of liturgical differences. They aren't a big deal.  Is there a Gospel reading, an anaphora, and Communion consisting of bread and wine?  Good enough, I say.  But not only do I say, but the Didache, what has been called the bylaws of the first century Church in Jerusalem says so, too.
I've been working for the YMCA for the last three months.  It is the first job I've truly enjoyed since the mid 1990s but today I told my boss that I have accepted an offer at another firm.  It is for an automobile loan finance company.  It pays a tremendous amount of money, compared to what I make at the YMCA nevertheless, I am going to stay part time at the Y.  I have a plan.  Here it is:

1. Get my car fixed (the transmission broke back in June.)
2. Do my job for Westlake (the finance company) and the Y,
3. Save enough money to buy a van (best case scenario: Volkswagen Westfalia) and live in it on the YMCA parking lot. 
4. Use the Y for showers, etc. (as a part-time employee I get a free membership)
5. Continue to make money working for Westlake.
6. Save enough money to buy a some land for cash.
7. Park my Westphalia on the land, live on it, and never have to worry about rent or a mortgage payment for the rest of my life.

So, I received the job offer from Westlake yesterday.  I accepted it today and informed my boss at the YMCA today.  She cried (I am her best salesman) but was comforted when I told her I will still be working for her on weekends.  On the 14th of September I fly to LA for training with Westlake.

None of this is in the life plan I wrote when I was 15.

In other news, I have tomorrow off.  It is the first Sunday I've had off since I started at the YMCA.  I am going to try and walk and/or bus to St Herman church tomorrow. (The matushka is a member ofmy Y).  I can't go to communion, but it will be good to, at least, be present for the liturgy of the Word.  I miss church almost as much as I miss my wife and children.  I would cut off a limb (I am not joking) if I could be with them again. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Where I Am, The State of Orthodoxy in America

I had to leave where I was staying for a few days.  Since I had no place else to go I moved in with Athanasia and the boys for a few days.  It has been difficult.  Tonight is the last night here.

My job at the YMCA is going great.  It is the first job in many years I've really enjoyed.  And they like me. The only problem is money.  After deductions for child support and taxes my paycheck is near empty.  If I was a socialist I'd just sign up for welfare and not work at all.  Welfare isn't taxed and she can only take 30% of a welfare check.  But I am not a socialist.

I have a couple of options.  I am being considered for a position as a loan officer for a finance company.  I've had three interviews with them.  It looks promising.    Also, I am being considered for a marketing communications job at the YMCA.    I know, I'll never make enough money to satisfy my ex-wife's desire for money but, I think, if I make enough money to get my car fixed I can sell it and buy a van to live in.  That way it won't matter if I have a job that pays a lot of money or not.  What I really want is to keep the job I have and live in peace for a while.

I just learned about the ROCOR and Bulgarian exarchate objections to the draft plan from the ACOB for achieving canonical normalcy in North America.  It is very discouraging.  It is as though they don't care about America at all.  I wish all the bishops who love this land would just leave their foreign jurisdictions and bring their diocese into the OCA.  Honestly, I don't give a shit about Greece, Bulgaria, Syria, or Russia.  I am a Christian and a Californian.