Thursday, September 29, 2005

Pork Loin

I made the pork loin this evening. Considering that it was stuffed with apricots, onions, and prunes, I was sure it would be marvelously sweet and sour. I was wrong. It was very bland. Eating raw wheat flour by the spoonful would have been more exciting. I still have about 6 lbs left. I'll stick it in the fridge and do something with it for breakfast on Saturday morning. Maybe bread it with cornmeal and egg, and fry up little pork loin cutletts.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Papers written for School

Thre is nothing there yet, but I will be posting my papers at this site. I've done a test with two different browsers. The footnotes work if you are using Mozilla or Explorer, but they look a lot better with Mozilla. When viewd with Explorer you see a lot of the underlying code. Its distracting.

There will be a link to the "papers" site on the sidebar of this blog.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

The little boy and I are making chocolate chip cookies for the maintenace staff today. Unfortunately, I have lost my (my wife will say it is hers) Joy of Cooking Christmas Cookies book. So I am cruising around on line finding cookie recipies. I came across this helpful page in my searches. There is also this, for people who believe what they read in chain emails. And this is the recipe we are using, with a couple of modifications.

Monday, September 26, 2005

The Epistle of St. James

I am just about finished with my 1st assignement, the summary of the NT. I'm going to do a test post of one book and see how it looks. This is an easy one because it has no graphics.

The Epistle of St. James the Brother of the Lord

This Epistle was written by St. James, son of St. Joseph the Betrothed, first Bishop of Jerusalem sometime between A.D. 45 and A.D. 50[1]. Many people, especially Protestants pose this letter in opposition to, or as a balance to St. Paul’s teaching on faith. However, as we have seen, St. Paul in every one of his letters teaches that the Christian must behave in a certain way, and that the deeds of men can prevent them from entering the Kingdom of God[2]. According to Fr. Thomas Hopko, St. James’ purpose in writing this letter is to “correct the false opinion that because Christians are freed from the ritual works of the Mosaic law through faith in Christ, they need not do any good works whatsoever and are not subject to any law at all.[3] But St. James was not alone in trying to correct this problem: St Peter warned against misconstruing St. Paul’s teaching[4], and St. Paul himself responded very dramatically[5] to the misinterpretation of his teaching. In a verse that should make people relying on faith alone[6] shudder, St. James writes: “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.” (2:14-24) The two, faith and works must exist together in the Christian. And the first work that faith should cause to come out of a Christian is care for the poor (1:27-2:9)[7]. But this letter is not just a message of works. It is a message of faith and works, as is the whole Bible. We are told to pray. Is that work of prayer worth anything apart from faith? Certainly not. For St. James does not say that unbelieving prayer is effectual, rather he writes “and the prayer of faith shall save the sick” (5:15)[8]. Control of the tongue is also shown to be of tremendous importance. In fact, St. James writes that the religion of someone who cannot control his tongue is a false religion (1:26).

[1] Scofield, C.I. (Editor), The New Scofield Reference Bible (Introduction to The Epistle to James), page 1327, Oxford University Press, New York, U.S.A., 1967

[2] “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.”, St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10

[3] Hopko, Thomas,

[4] “And account [that] the longsuffering of our Lord [is] salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; as also in all [his] epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as [they do] also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.”, St. Peter, 2 Peter 3:15-16

[5] “And not [rather], (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come? whose damnation is just.”, St. Paul, Romans 3:8

[6] This is in contradition to Martin Luther’s famous mistranslation of Romans 3:28 into which he introduced the word ‘alone’ - “You tell me what a great fuss the Papists are making because the word ‘alone’ is not in the text of Paul. If your Papist makes such an unnecessary row about the word ‘alone,’ say right out to him: ‘Dr. Martin Luther will have it so,’ and say: ‘Papists and asses are one and the same thing.’ I will have it so, and I order it to be so, and my will is reason enough. I know very well that the word ‘alone’ is not in the Latin or the Greek text, it was not necessary for the Papists to teach me that." Cited in Stoddard, John, Rebuilding a Lost Faith, pages 136-137, TAN Books, Rockford, Illinois, U.S.A.

[7] “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did [it] not to one of the least of these, ye did [it] not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.” Matthew 21:41-46

[8] This passage is the first of the seven Epistle readings for the sacrament of Holy Unction: Is any among you suffering? Let him pray. Is any cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is any among you sick? Let him call for the presbyters of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed” James 5:13-16

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Finished the Paulines

I just finished Hebrews, the last of the Pauline Epistles for school. (Yes, I know Origen, Tertullian, Luther, and Harnack say Paul didn't write Hebrews, but they were heretics, weren't they?) I'm going to bed. No church tonight so I could do homework. Also, put the baby's crib together. Tired. Have to get up at 7 (Yikes! Only 6 hours from now!) to make it to Hours at 9:30.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Shocking Idea

Tonight I finished my work (for school) on the Patoral Epistles and the Epistle to Philemon. Here is an exceprt from what I wrote. I don't know what to think of it.

"It is also interesting to see that both St. Mark and St. Luke were in Asia (v.24) with St. Philemon when this letter was written. It is only speculation, but could these have been the friends St. Paul mentioned in 2 Timothy 1:15 and 4:16; the friends who abandoned him at his trial? It is clear that these two letters were written about the same time. Both 2 Timothy and Philemon seem to have been written when St. Paul was old (Phil. v. 9) and approaching his execution date. (2 Timothy 4:6)."

I had never given much thought to Philemon. Now I think it might be one of te saddest things ever written.

Friday, September 23, 2005

3rd Day of Christmas

In my family we have a tradition of hosting a party on December 27 (In the Orthodox Church aka the 3rd Day of Christmas aka Feast of St. Stephen). Today, the little boy and I began talking about what we are going to do at the party. (These kinds of things require much advance planning.) In our looking around for interesting little things we came across this episode of a Public Radio show called Pulse of the Planet.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Tu ne cede malis

Giving versus stealing. Without bragging (because you probably gave more than I), I gave to help the people suffering from the effects of Hurricane Katrina. But now the Congress and the President are taking money from me to give to the people of the Gulf Coast. (I'm not even going to get into "no-bid" contracts.) And that stinks. I feel like they are polutting my good freely-given money with money extracted from me (and probably my children) at bayonet point.
Giving versus stealing. I gave and now I am being plundered. Thieves and bloodsuckers. For the sake of their poll numbers my treasury is raided. For the sake of their compassion we are sold into bonded servitude.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Name Change

For a girl we are still settled on Lucy (of Syracuse) Ignatius (of Antioch). But if a boy it looks like Basil (of Moscow) Wenceslas (of the Christmas Carol). But, of course, we do in reality have 8 days from the birth of the child to decide. So, all of this could change again.

I love the Reagans

I came across this on Serge's Blog:

The 1980s
Nancy Reagan and Raisa Gorbechev walking through that Russian Orthodox cathedral. It was like something from "Dynasty"!

Raisa: These icons are merely an expression of our culture-- they are not religious.

Nancy: Really? Hmm. There's Jesus, and the Virgin Mary... I don't really see how one could argue that they have no religious meaning, but if you say so...

Raisa: I do say so. I was professor of blah blah blah at Karl Marx University and--

Nancy: (giving her the hand) Yeah, yeah, yeah...

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Trying to Get Ahead.

I think my regular readers know I and my wife manage rental housing. We don't own it, we just manage it for absentee landlords. A couple of months ago we had a chance to buy into the building I manage but decided it wasn't wise.

Now we have another opportunity to buy into another building, this is one the many buildings my wife manages. It is very attractive (financially, I mean) and we want to do it. Getting the money together is difficult. Your prayers are appreciated.


We have a new Greek cookbook. Sunday night we made lamb in port wine and fig sauce for my parents. Last night we made mousaka. Today for lunch I made lamb soup (from Sunday's bone) for the little boy's lunch.

A few days ago a friend asked me why I shop at Whole Foods. "What do you get there that you dont get at Safeway?" I explained that I don't think I can in good concience eat industrially-farmed meat and that the animal flesh sold at Whole Foods comes from beasts that were treated with respect. I also told him they have the best cheese department of any grocery store I have patronized.

Case in point: A few weeks ago I needed to buy some queso blanco for fish tacos. I went to Albertson's, your average enormous supermarket. No one in the store knew what queso even was, except for one old mexican man in the meat department. (Queso is a Mexican cheese.) Yesterday, I needed to buy khefalotiri for the mousaka. I talked to the woman at the cheese counter at the Whole Foods in Cupertino. (I go to the one in Cupertino more than the one in Campbell because an old girlfriend is one of the managers at the Campbell store.) I said, "Do you have khefalotiri"
She said, "Oh, I am so sorry. I stopped carrying it because so few people were buying it."
I said, "That's too bad. Is there another cheese I can use to get the same result?"
"What are you going to do with it?", she asked.
"Mousaka", I replied.
"There is something we can do" she beamed.
She came around to my side of the counter and searched through all of the cheeses and came up with a little white ball of cheese (I for got the name).
She said, "Hold on to this. It is the unaged version of khefalotiri", and I did.
Then she found another cheese, an aged sheep milk pecorino.
She said, "In mousaka you can use these two cheeses as a substitute for khefalotiri - it all melts together. Just use equal amounts of each."
Amazed, I said, "Where did you come by this knowledge? You did not learn this on the job".
She blushed and said proudly, "I went to culinary school".

This is why I love Whole Foods Market and own a tiny little bit of the company.

A Traditionalist Roman Catholic Altar Boy In Singapore

Raphael offered us a link to this blog where the imagined golden age of the Eastern Liturgy was discussed by a Jesuit priest. That is where I found the link to the blog of a ultra-traditionalist RC Altar boy. He had this funny thing to say about the liturgical problems of the Latins:

In illo tempore, the Three Roman Traddies came unto a parish church, and began to offer worship to the Most High. And behold, several instrumentalists brought in drums, electric guitars and stereo speakers of wood, two cubits in length, and a cubit in breadth, and a cubit and half in height.

On a completely different note, seeing all these blogs with their cool design features has inspired blog-envy. I wish I had more free time.

Oh, today was our first rain of the rainy season (officially it goes from Oct 15 to Mar 15). Every thing smells very good. And there is even thunder, a very rare thing in the San Francisco Bay area. It makes me very happy.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Sayings of the Fathers

I think I read somewhere that the venerable Seraphim Rose said we should keep a notebook to record sayings of the Fathers of the Church and other saints. I think that a hundred years from now when someone looks at my notebook and sees this they will wonder if I was a crackhead:

"such command of their bowels, that they can break wind continuously at will, so as to produce the effect of singing." - St. Augustine in De Civitate Dei (14.24)

I'm NOT making this up.

Republicans: The New Socialists

The largest number I have seen for the number of houses destroyed in New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina is 200,000. Let's assume that an additional 100,000 houses were destroyed in areas outside of New Orleans. That's 300,000 houses.

Now let's look at what the President said he wants to spend on hurricane recovery. He said he wants to spend $200 billion. That is $666,000 per house. Someone, anyone, tell me what is he thinking? I sure don't understand what he is talking about. Where is this money going to go? Are we going to build mansions in place of all of these houses?

Who does George Bush think he is? FDR?

I do not know my party anymore.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

School and Recovery from Katrina

Sorry for the dearth of posts. I've been super busy with reading and writing for school. My first assignement (summary of each book in the New Testament) is about 1/3 complete. I just finished Philippians. Johana Manly's "Bible and Holy Fathers for Orthodox" is proving to be indispensible.

About Katrina Recovery. I have heard that the president wants to spend billions of dollars of federal money on rebuilding the gulf region. I think this is a mistake. Landowners still have their land. Let them mortgage it and rebuild. Or let them sell to others. But don't force me, a Californian to rebuild New Orleans. ( I don't hate Louisiana. One of my fave singers is from there. And so is the other one.) And how is the federal government going to decide what gets rebuilt? What gets demolished? Is a bureaucrat with no interest in what happens in Slidell 10 years from now going to be put in charge of rebuilding Slidell? How will a state relief worker know better than a property owner what a piece of property needs? Sure rebuild the port, ports, bridges, canals, levies, roads... public works are pretty much what governments do. But rebuilding private property? No way. Private is private. Public is public. May the two never mix.

And where are these billions of dollars going to come from? Will taxes be raised? Just stick a tube in me and syphon off a little blood. It would hurt less. Will bonds be issued? Please, someone look at that word: Bond. As in Bondage. As in slavery. Chain around the neck and work your fingers to the bone to pay off debt. But not just for us, no that isn't nearly good enough. We can sell 30 year bonds to enslave our children. Yeah. That's what we should do.

If the president is serious about spending federal money on Katrina relief, before one bond is sold or one tax raised, I want to see the Congress reduce pay for all federal employees by 10%.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau the 2004 U.S. government civilian payroll for March 2004 was $12,844,765,857.

Multipied by 12 months that comes to $154,137,190,284.

10% of $154 billion is $15.4 billion. I bet we could do some pretty good levy building for that much money.

Oh, I can hear someone now: "But we have to rebuild the oil refineries!"

No we don't. The people who buy gasoline can rebuild the oil refineries. That is the way markets work. All the government needs to do is get out of the way and let the market operate.
Oh, I can here somone now: "But we need to rebuild the public housing in a way that spreads the poor people out among the rich so we don't have concentrations of poverty." Don't make me puke. I lived across the street from public housing. I saw what goes on there. I've talked to the cops who dread patroling public housing. Here is an idea: Don't rebuild public housing but abolish zoning laws and let landowners build on their land. That whole supply and demand curve will make sure we have the right amount of housing at the right price.

For other regions around the country I have this advice: Turn all public housing into condominiums and let the residents decide if they want to live there or sell. Even make them exempt from property tax for a couple of years. Make them part of the ownership society. Turn them into capitalists. If they have moxie they will do well.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


The funeral was interesting. On the way to Madera last night I went over the Sad Story with the little boy again. I wanted to make sure he had the concept of being made out of dust. It came in handy today when he saw Grandma Marian's coffin (grey steel) and looked inside her crypt in the masaleum wall. I think it kind of freaked out my wife that he lifted the red velvet curtain and looked inside the crypt. I thought it was interesting, too. I had assumed that we would see lots of coffins, but no. Each crypt is its own little concrete compartment. On the "floor" of the crypt were 4 wooded rods to act like wheels when the coffin was inserted. I have only ever seen burials in the ground so this was very interesting to me.

"What happens to Grandma Marian?"
"She turns back into dust, like Adam."
He looks inside the crypt. Looks at me.
I continued, "But when Jesus comes back he will put the dust back together for the Last Judgement."

A little later...

"Will I turn into dust?"
"Probably, unless Jesus comes back first."

I feel sorry for parents who do not know this and have to make up stuff, or tell their kids something they do not really know is true.

After the funeral at the Masuleum there was a memorial service at the Lutheran church in Kerman, of which Marian had been a member her whole life. On the bullitin board was a report from a meeting the ELCA had in Orlando, I guess the proposition that homosexuals be ordained lost by a razor thin vote but there was some kind of compromise on blessing homosexual unions. Also on the bullitin board was a letter from the local Lutheran bishop trying to comfort both sides of the debate. It made me glad to be Orthodox. What a horrible messy fight the Lutherans seem to be having. All we fight about is inconsequential stuff like autocephaly. I'm glad morals and doctrine settled issues.

I tried to follow the service but it was hard. The little boy is difficult to manage in a pew-constrained setting. The prist seemed like a nice guy but it seemed to me that the service was kind of made up recently and he wasn't comfortable doing it. He was much better at the masoleum earlier in the day. There he just read the Bible. (that passage from Job is one of my faves.) but at the memorial service it was kind of like he was a cross between the solemn man he was at the mausoleum and an MC for a hokey talent show.

Someone read a poem..

high heels
apple pie
hard worker
always happy..."

Someone sang a song, the words to which were unintelligable.

He preached on the 23rd Psalm. I don't like the 23rd Psalm for funerals. I think the Job passage is better. But that's just me.

Monday, September 12, 2005

My Friend: Suffering under the muslim yoke.

My friend, Maria is suffering. Her whole village is suffering. How? Read it for yourself here.

Le Weekend

I'm still trying to recover from my lack of sleep last week. I don't think I can do that to myself again. I'm not 20 anymore. Back then I could go days and days with only a few hours sleep per night. But I'm middle aged now (I hope). So, no more of that.

Saturday night we went to church at Holy Trinity in San Francisco Saturday night. There seemed to be a class of highschool girls visitg with their teacher. That was interesting. I guess being a tourist destination goes with being the first Orthodox parish in the USA. My wife felt a need to go to confession before she gets any closer to the due date. We haven't talked about it but she seems very worried about what might happen.

Sunday morning we went to church at St. Stephen's in Campbell. We had been thinking about changing to that parish, but it is so big! And they already have outgrown their new building. They will have to move pretty soon. So, it looks like we are still going to be making the trek up to S.F. every week. Not that there aren't some really great things about St. Stephen's. We both like how it seems that everyone in the parish does stuff together. I think that must be a benefit of everyone in the parish living in the same area. At HTC people drive in from as far away as Moraga, Berkely, Pacifica, San Mateo, San Carlos, Fairfax, and San Jose. Visiting a fellow parishoner's house could easily involve a 90 minute drive! But I was chismated at HTC. My wife was Baptised and Chrismated at HTC. The Little Boy was Baptized and Chrismated at HTC. The first time any of us tasted the Body and Blood of Jesus was at HTC. Add to that the familiar Icons and Relics. Where I stand in HTC is very close to the Relics and Icons of St. Eliabeth the New Martyr and several of the American Saints. At any time I can just lean over and whisper to them, kiss them. We wouldn't have that at St. Stephen's. So, we are going to stay at HTC. But I think we are going to contact Fr. Patrick at St. Stephen's about getting involved in one of their small groups.

Other news: My wife is in the running for a job at Stanford: More money, fewer hours per day, better benefits. They have a very long hiring process so she won't know anything for 3 or four months. (which is excellent for s since the baby could come at any minute.) But from a source inside the University we know she is the top candidate. She is pretty excited.

In sad news, after a long fight with cancer Athanasia's grandmother died at the age of 89. It is sad to see her go. She was a link to part of the California past I knew very little about. I never knew about the SunMaid Raisin Wars until she told me about her brother being burned out, about other farmers poisoning vinyards, etc. (You can read more about the agricultural co-ops here.) She is gone now. And her eyewitness memories of part of California's agricultural history is gone with her. We are going to the funeral in Madera on Wednesday. I'm not sure my wife is able to ride in the car that long. Just going to San Francisco on Saturday night was painful for her.

Sunday afternoon, the Little Boy and I went to my brother's house. It is actually a small mansion in the foothills of the Diablo range. From his house you can see most of San Jose and the small cities to San Jose's north and west spread out on the valley floor. Pretty good for a house painter!!! As we were walking through the house the little boy said: "Daddy, why does this house have so many bathrooms?"

Friday, September 09, 2005

Gun Ban in New Orleans: I bet homeowners feel safer already

The NOPD is seizing the guns of law-abiding citizens. I guess the rationale is that since the police did such a good job protecting property owners from looters and women from rapists the people don't need guns anymore. Part of me hopes some cops get killed trying to take away guns. Too bad it can't be the stupid politico who signed off on this.

Another reason to fear suburbs

In 1970 oil extraction in the U.S.A. peaked and began to decline. Do you remember the crisis it caused in the U.S. economy? It seems that right now Saudi Arabia has peaked. I say this because for months the Saudis have been saying they would increase production to stabilze the price of a barrel of oil, but the price of oil keeps increasing while Saudi production remains about constant. If Saudi production has peaked it is very likely that world production has peaked.

What does this have to do with suburbs? Well, suburbs have been built on the farm land that used to surround our cities. Those farms are gone, never to come back. This means that with less oil cities will have to import food from farther away with more expensive fuel.

An economic Hell is waiting for us and our children.

All Work and No Play

Here is what my days are now.
Daylight hours: work and taking care of the little boy.
Night time hours: (I didn't get to bed until 4:30 this morning.): Schoolwork.

What I am doing is working on my biblical studies assignements while I am doing huge amounts of reading for the Church History courses. I'll start writing the essays for church history once I finish the reading, at this rate it will be sometime around Hallowe'en. When I start writing those essays I'll also I'll start doing the reading for Dogmatic Theology.

So far I've finished the Four Gospels and Acts. I have not yet figured out how I am going to post my work on this blog. It is complicated by the graphics (Icons, mostly) and footnotes.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Up All Night

The courses I am taking from Joensuu are a bit more intense than I was expecting. there are about 70 books on the reading list. And the amount of work is amazing. For instnace, I've been up all night working on the first assignement: 1 paragraph sumaries of each of the books of the New Testament. All I finished tonight was my paragraph on the Gospel of Matthew and my endnotes are almost a page long. I think that once I get the Gospels finished I will email those paragraphs to the instructor and make sure I am doing what he wants. I'd hate to do the whole NT and then find out that all the hours of plowing through the Bible and the Fathers was in vain.

Well to bed now. I have to wake up in 3 hours.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Names Picked

We finally settled on three saints for our baby while we were in the hospital tonight. (I'll explain why we were in the hospital a little later.)

If it is a boy: Basil Ignatius
If a girl: Lucy Ignatius

Why St. Basil? We read his story and fell in love with him. Same for St. Lucy. Why St. Ignatius? Because his seven letters lead us to Orthodoxy.

So, as for why we were at the hospital. Because eariler today, about 4 p.m. my wife was at the diabetes clinic (She has gestational diabetes) and they saw something or dididn't see something (I'm still not sure which) and were worried. They sent her to the hospital. They monitored her and the baby for a long time. She is having contractions. The baby seems to be not as active as the doctors would like. Anyway, they sent her home after a few hours. She has to go back in three days for more monitoring. And they are making her count kicks. If there is a one hour period with fewer than four kicks she is to go straight to the hospital.

Having babies is amazing. I remeber something that happened a long time ago, when I was a protestant and going to a very large singles group at PBCC we were working our way through a book of the new testament and we came to the verse that says women are saved by having babies. The teacher couldn't explain it. He said something like "nobody really understands what that means." Isn't that sad? Watching a woman carry and give birth one can see God's grace all over her. But, if you believe that works are nothing, well, you have to say "nobody really understands what that means."

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Medal Candidate

The standards for awarding the Congressional Gold Medal have been falling over the last few decades. I think that there is a young man from New Orleans who did a good thing and deserves the medal. In fact, I thinkby awarding him the medal, Congress could signal that they are going to return to the years of high standards for awarding the medal.

Let's write to Congress and get him decorated. I think he deserves A Congressional Gold Medal. If not that medal, he should be given the Medal of Freedom. At the least he should receive the Presidential Citizens Medal.

So call your congressman today. Phone#: 202-224-3121

And call the President, too. Phone #: 202-456-1414

Let's give honor to whom honor is due.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

An Observation Regarding Sin

Sin is a major reson I became Orthodox. I was tired of it ruling my life. I had been a Christian (protestant) all my life but was ruled by sin. I didn't know that when I first encountered Holy Orthodoxy, though. I thought I was free in Christ. That I couldn't really sin, that sin had been destroyed by Jesus on the cross and that if it seemed like I was sinning I wasn't because, you know, I was free in Christ and the whole category of sin didn't apply to me anymore. Really. That is what I believed. (It is a heresy called Antinomianism. A lot of Calvinists fall into it.)

It was only after I became a catechumen and started talking with the priest at Synaxsis of the Theotokos that I understood that I really could be free of sin, not just forensically justified. (My friend Matt had told me this, too but he was a Catholic, so what did he know?) If it was the Orthodox dogmas of apostolic succession that set the hook in my jaw it was teaching regarding Theosis that reeled me in. It was the craving to be sinless the compelled me to be Orthodox.

I expected that at the moment I was Chrismated I would not have any desire to sin. I thought that from that moment leading a sinless life would be as easy as a cake walk. I persisted in my fantasy of instant relief even though the priest warned me against thinking this, that in fact, the opposite would happen. The priest was right. The walk became much more difficult.

But something interesting has happened. I'm not sure if I can explain it but I will try. Gradually, some of the sins I used to comit, things I had lived with my whole life seemed to have less power over me. The desire to do them seems to be much less that it was. I am still tempted from outside, but internally I do not respond the same way.

Have you ever seen a wire vibrating next to another wire? It is not long before the wire that was not vibrating begins to vibrate with the same frequency as the first wire. There is someting in people (or me at least) like that second wire, it responds to, alligns with, catches the vibe of what is going on around it. It is that respnsive vibration to sin that seems to have gradually changed.

As I look back I see a continuum that I am going through.

Right after my Chrismation, and after the illusion of instant sanctification had been shattered I seemed to be in a fear stage. I earnestly prayed "...lead me not into temptation..." several times a day. I was almost terrified of temptation because I knew I would fall. From there I kind of moved in to an annoyance stage. I resented the the things that tempted me. I began to think of them as enemies, as persons who hated me. And then I wen't into kind of a boredom stage. The old temptations would come by and I would kind of yawn and say, "ho-hum. You again?"

I don't mean that I am at this third stage in regard to all temptation and sin. With some I am still in the fear stage. With others I am in the annoyance stage. In others I am I the ho-hum stage.

And it seems that the Holy Mysteries keep changing me in a way I didn't expect. The more often I go to confession, the more often I commune, the more clearly I see my sins and recognize that they are alien to who I am becoming. I am discovering sins that I didn't even know were sins. It is kind of like getting dressed in the dark. I thought I was putting on black sock to go with my charcoal pants, but was really putting on brown socks. But until I was in a room with enough light I couldn't tell they were the wrong color. Every time I go to confession or communion I have a little more light shined on me and I see things I didn't see before.

"Do not be surprised that you fall every day, do not give up, but stand your ground courageously. And assuredly, the angel who guards you will honor your patience. While a wound is still fresh and warm, it is easy to heal; but old, neglected and festering ones are hard to cure, and require for their care much treatment, cutting, plastering and cauterization. Many from long neglect become incurable, but with God all things are possible."
--St. John Climacus

"Thank you but if I have one I'll have a hundred and just won't stop"
--Johnny Cash

And yes, I keep falling. Even, rarely, with some of the sins in stage three. But those seem to be sins that St. John Climacus calls "old, neglected, festering ones". They were part of me for so long that I seem so quick to accept them back. I remember seeing Johnny Cash back in 95 or 96. He was offered a bottle of whisky by someone in the front row. He said, "Thank you but if I have one I'll have a hundred and just won't stop." That's the way it is with these "old neglected, festering ones" it is like that. One sip leads to swimming in the bottle.

But here is someting interesting.... I have seen an angel get between me and a sin. A few days of resisting, praying, struggling and then just as I am about to give in an angel steps in and the stumbling block is gone.

But if I do not struggle, well, Satan is at the door ready to come in, isn't he?

Friday, September 02, 2005

Take a Little Trip

Usually, I listen to KQED-FM all the time. But the last three times I've hopped behind the wheel and turned on the radio the little boy has said "Daddy! No Radio! I like music."

(We have been listening to School House Rock lately and he says rock and roll is now his favorite music. A couple of weeks ago it was "Church music", before that it was jazz. It seems that his musical tastes are still evolving.)

So I changed the station to find music. I don't normally listen to music on the radio so I don't know what any of the station formats are. I just hit "scan" and stop on the first station that is in English and playing music that has melody, rhyme and meter. (thus, no rap.) Each time the first song I found that met that descripton was "Lowrider" by War. I mean this happened to me three times!!!! In less than a week!!!!

But that is not all. It gets weirder. Each time I was going about 20 mph in a 35 zone, it was dark outside, AND I was in an official "No Cruising Zone"!!!!!

Of course, this can only mean one thing: God is using the radio to talk to me and, obvioulsy, He is saying He wants me to get in touch with my inner-vato.

I'm serious. I might not have a stone lowriding '63 Impala, but I can certainly chop the springs in my PT Cruiser, repaint it a candy green that fades to ultra-violet as you go higher, get a Virgin of Guadalupe painted on the back, stencil a "Mi Vida Loca" on the front, airbrush a Mexican flag on the roof, tint the windows, get chrome, a lot of chrome, maybe even some hydraulics! All I'll need then are some cool shades and Tres Flores for my hair. (According to my middle son, it is the hair care product of choice for all the homies in the know.) There'll be one seriously chillin oso in the westside.

Of course, I'll have to practice cooly saying such things as "Hey ese, check out that vato over there looking all cholo." Anyone can drive a car, but you really have to practice inflection and accent. You don't want all the other vatos to laugh when you say stuff like that.


All my friends know the low rider
The low rider is a little higher
Low rider drives a little slower
Low rider is a real goer
Low rider knows every street yeah!
Low rider is the one to meet yeah!
Low rider don't use no gas now
Low rider don't drive to fast
Take a little trip
Take a little trip
Take a little trip and see
Take a little trip
Take a little trip
Take a little trip with me

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Daily Digest

Two new tenants moved in. One tenant is supposed to be out by midnight but still has an apartment full of furniture. Contractors working in three units. Tenants in two apartments hate each other and complain about each other to me. One tenant can't be made happy. One thinks I am wonderful. 4 lease renewals. My wife is soooooo tired. My son was neglected a little bit today.
Alcohol units: 0
Tobacco units: 0
Caffine units: 6

When did we stop shooting looters?

Tragedy begets shame.

New Orleans' homeland security chief, Terry Ebbert, said looters were breaking into stores all over town and stealing guns. He said there are gangs of armed men moving around the city. At one point, officers stranded on the roof of a hotel were fired at by criminals on the street.

Anarchy is absolute evil. It is Satan's favorite political system for it is completely selfish and only produces suffering.

Shoot looters and establish order. Then rescue people. Then rebuild.

The vast majority of Americans can swim and survive on body fat for a few days. But not if bands of armed criminals are roaming the around unchecked.