Wednesday, March 28, 2007

More on my life

I've been pulling some long nights getting ready for the "Tour of HTC". What I do is compile a book that contains introductions and explanations to all kinds of stuff in our Church. History, theology, custom... its in there. After the service I'll give each man a copy of the book and then we'll walk up the block to eat some sushi and do Q&A. I'd appreciate your prayers.

Today, while Basil was napping I taught Anselm the basics of chess. He caught on more quickly than I expected.

Cyndi is applying for and interviewing like crazy. There are two very intersting possibilities. One is at the Stanford GSB. They need someone to be in charge of placing their graduates in jobs. Its kind of a reverse recruiter position. The other job is even more exciting. She interviewed for a housing suoervisor job at AAU but very quickly she and the interviewer realized that she was way over-qualified. But two days later they called her back and told her they are creating a new position that manages, recruits, and trains all of the housing supervisors and asked Cyndi to meet with them next week. Needless to say, we have been having fantasies of moving back to SF, selling the car (have I mentioned that I hate having to drive everywhere?), walking to church, riding muni, spending Saturdays in Golden Gate Park....

Oh, Matt. Don't get too excited about someting that is only a maybe.

In other news, I have been told that something I wrote is going to be in Friday's edition of the Mountain View Voice. I can't wait to see how it was edited.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Today, like every Tuesday, was spent with my Mom. She is almost blind and doesn't drive anymore. The boys and I picked her up an drove her around on her various errands. We went to the drug store, the teacher supply store (she does the bulletin board at her church and needed some seasonal stuff for the border), we took her to our fave Indian restaurant, Grand India Buffet in Santa Clara, we went to the grocery store and the post office. She was too tired to get out of the car for these last two errands so she and the boys stayed in the car while I took care of her business. On most Tuesdays we also take her to the doctor. Thankfully, today we didn't have to do that. It was a really fun time with my Mom.

Two observations:
1. Teacher supply stores are really neat. I left there with all kinds of stuff: wall chart of constellations, wall charts detailing the cultural contributions of Greece and Rome, a first grade history of California with lots of cool pictures, 4 starter pencils (you know, the BIG ones from when you were in kindergarten), a book on phonics, and a kaliedescope.
2. If it were not for Indian and Thai restaurants I do not think I could make it through Lent.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

6th Lenten Email

Below is the text of my 6th Lenten Email. I think I explained what these are in a prvious post but I am not sure. Every Lent and Advent I send out a series of emails to my non-Orthodox friends which, I hope, explain what I am doing and why. Most of them just think I am weird for trying to observe such a strict regimen, set down in a calendar that most regard as rank legalism. So, I try to show them what Lent and Advent are really about. I'm not sure I succeed, but I still try. Anyway, below is the email I sent this morning.


I don't know if you read the Washington Times or not, but if you read it last month perhaps you read the series titled "Killing Eve". It was horrific. Here is an excerpt:

"Kavita Srivastava, a local lawyer and general secretary for the human rights organization People's Union for Civil Liberties, said it's no surprise so many doctors in Jaipur are guilty [of aborting female babies].

"The status of women is already low here because of the feudal Rajput culture," she said, referring to the former ruling caste. "There are traditions in Rajasthan of women committing johar which is mass suicide or sati where a widow throws herself onto her husband's funeral pyre. A woman's entire identity was subsumed by her husband. If he died, so must she."
Women who committed sati would have temples built in their honor, she added, and palaces in Rajasthan commonly have a wall displaying the last hand prints women left before they died. . . . In Rajasthan's violent desert culture, baby girls were drowned in boiling milk or abandoned in a sand dune. Whole villages went decades without female children."

But before we begin condemning Oriental societies we should remember that women in the west were treated little better. Demosthenes mentioned the state of women in his own classical European society: "We have whores for our pleasure, concubines for daily physical use, wives to bring up legitimate children and to be faithful stewards in household matters." And archaeologists have uncovered Roman brothels where the drains were full of skeletons of strangled babies. Even childbirth, given for the salvation of women (I Tim. 2:15) had been turned into an opportunity to commit evil and negate the good thing God had planned for women.

Every year, during Lent when we mourn for our sins we also remember when God decided to lift the head of a woman. On Sunday, March 25, exactly nine months before Christmas, is the Feast of the Annunciation. On this day God elevated a woman so high that the Orthodox rightly bless her as "More honorable than the Cherubim, and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim" for she held in her body One greater than the universe. When she said to Archangel Gabriel "Let it be according to thy word" she became the temple and throne of God. She became the mother of God. And in becoming his mother she became the mother of the Church. (Warning! Logic follows. If she is Jesus' mother, and the Church is his body, it follows that she is the mother of the Church.)

But she is not the temple, throne, and mother of God for her own benefit. What kind of mother only cares about herself? She wants for us what God wants, which is the best possible thing. She wants us to be temples of God, too. We can follow her as she follows Christ. Just as she said, "Let it be according to thy will" we can say "Thy will be done". In its essence, this is the goal of Lent and all of Christian life; training our weak and misshapen wills to align with Gods will.

One person who achieved that goal was St. Mary of Egypt. Without going into too much detail, the Orthodox have 5 different cycles of readings, hymns, music, commemorations, feasts, and fasts that do not line up the same way twice very often. I've been told we only do the same exact service twice every 400 years. This year, the Feast of the Annunciation and the Sunday of St. Mary of Egypt fall on the same day. But unlike the Mother of God, St. Mary of Egypt was the farthest thing from a virgin. She was a prostitute. But hers was not the kind of cold-hearted money-obsessed behavior one normally associates with prostitutes. Rather, she was a pathetic creature who, if she were on earth today, would be thought of as a sex addict. But one day she appealed to Mary the Mother of God for help, and her prayer was answered. She disappeared into the Jordanian desert where she remained for many years living a life of repentance. When she was next seen she had been transformed. She had become a temple of God. (If you want to read her whole but rather short story you can


Depending on how it is appraised, this has been the worst Lent since I became Orthodox. The only part of the fast I have kept perfectly is the alcohol part. And wouldn't you know, the the foods with which I've broken the fast have been yucky fast food when I was just trying to get the kids to stop whining (Anselm) and crying (Basil)? I think that this might be my least favorite thing about being a parent. The boys just do not have the patience to go shopping, come home and put away the groceries, and then wait for me to fix a nice meal. And I am usually not thoughtful enough to buy snacks. So for those reasons, but essentially, it is just poor planning, I have broken the fast several times at the Burger King drive-through window. And then there are the prayers. My prayer life has totally sucked all through this Lent. I think I've only done "evening prayers" 3 or 4 times in the last month. I've only done Vespers at home one time. I've only done Matins at home once. And I still have a kitchen of dirty dishes, and two boys who need to be taken to the park, and laundry all before vigil tonight. But thank God for Vigil. Just the thought of it makes me happy and even now I am weeping at the thought of being backwhere I belong. I am so homesick for that rite, the God I meet there.

Well, this post was supposed to be about food. Particularly, it was supposed to be about the prospect of eating salmon after Liturgy of the Annunciation tomorrow and somehow I was going to tie it in with this collection of foodie-book reviews in the Wall Street Journal. But it didn't turn out that way.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Anselm's Birthday

Today is Anselm's birthday. At 7:40 a.m. he delivered made from scratch german chocolate cupcakes to our upstairs neighbors. (I'm sure they appreciated it. We have a pretty good relationship with them.) Then he rode the train to the City We Love with Mommy. They got of the train and rode the N-Judah * from the station at 4th and King to Emarcadero Station. Then they played in the fountain at Justin Herman Plaza. Then they rode the historic F-Line to Peir 39. At Peir 39 they boarded a Blue and Gold and took a cruise around the bay, even going under the Golden Gate Bridge. After their cruise they went to Barnes and Noble about 2 blocks away from Peir 39 and waited for me and Basil. (We were held up in traffic. Bad accident on 101.) Then we all went to the Randall Museum. The honey bee exhibit is very cool. Then we had dinner food at our fave (and also very inexpensive) Thai resturaunt, Mali Thai near the corner of Guerrero and 16th Street. Then we drove home. It was a fun. And Anselm is now five years old. It has been a fast five years. I hope they slow down a little.

*About 10 years ago, when I was working in SF but living in Sunnyvale with my friends George and Aaron, I missed the last train south. That meant I was stranded in San Francisco with very little no money and nowhere to stay the night. I took a bus from the train station to Ghirardilli Square, and from there walked to the youth hostel next door the O-Club at Fort Mason. They had no open beds as it was about 1 in the morning. As I was walking away I noticed a skinny black girl with short dredlocks following me. I said, "You need a place to stay tonight, too?"
"Well, you can come with me. I am going to check out two more hostels and then maybe some flop house hotels."
Everything was full. Well, the flop house hotels weren't full, but they they wouldn't rent a room for one night, they wanted a weeks rent. So, I had the idea of sitting on the N-Judah Owl for the rest of the night, since it would be safer, warmer, and more comfortable, than walking the streets all night.
We got on the bus about 2 a.m. And that is when I asked her her name. "I'm an angel", she said.
"Your name is Angel?"
"No. You heard me right. I'm an angel."
"Where are you going when the sun comes up?"
"With you."
"Oh. Well, I'm going to catch the first train to Sunnyvale."
"I am, too."

The bus driver was very kind and let us ride all night as he went back and forth. We dozed as much as possible until day light. A couple of times I woke up at the far western end of the route, on top of a hill, and could see all of downtown spread out before me and then the darkness of the bay and Oakland on the other side of the darkness. It was beautiful.

At daylight caught a different bus to the train station and boarded the first train to south. The girl/angel had no money so I bought her a ticket. I fell into a deep sleep. At our stop she woke me up and we walked to where I lived.

When we got there I think I remember giving her a bowl of ceral and a peanut butter sandwich. While she was eating I put a blanket and a pillow on the couch for her and went to bed. I woke up hous later, walked into the living room and she was asleep on the couch. I kept trying to figure out if she was an angel or a girl. Eventually, I decided to touch her to find out. But I didn't want to wake her up so I thouched one of her dreadlocks to see if it felt human or angelic. I had never touched a dreadlock before so I was not able to discern whether or not she was an angel or a girl.

A couple of hours later she woke up. We ate some more (pasta with garlic and olive oil, I think.) and then I had to go back to SF to go to work at Williams-Sonoma where I worked closing shift. We rode north on the train together but didn't talk. When we got off the train she thanked me for the train rides, the couch, the food. And then she said, "It was wrong to touch my hair."

A uke worth listening to

I've heard a lot of ukulele in my life but never like this.

Saturday, March 17, 2007


I heard about a thing called the conservapedia while listening to the radio (loudly since I seem to have lost quite a bit of my hearing.) Thursday and have been re-writing the article on Salvation. It still needs a lot of work.

I doubt Conseravapedia will last long, or get many users if the article I deleted is typical. I think that the people behind conservapedia would be more successful in changing society by shutting down conservapedia and getting more conservatives to write wikipedia articles.

Friday, March 16, 2007

5th Lenten Email

In the church where I grew up they had things called testimony services. Essentially, every one took turns standing up and telling how how they were converted. Once, in Jamaica I was in one of these services when a very old woman stood up and began her testimony with thses lines from Amazing Grace

Through many dangers toils and trials
I have already come
'Tis grace that's brought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home.

But she kept going taking a verse from this hymn and a verse from that hymn, giving her testimony in the words of those who went before her. And at a certain point people started quoting the words with her. She would get the first two or three words out and then she would be joined by two thousand other voices.

After this had been going on for a while and every eye was wet with tears she paused, pointed to the sky, raiesed her voice and said...

That Word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God's truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

Then she began to sing a Jamaican hymn, and we all sang with her...

I feel like pressing my way
I feel like pressing my way
I'm on my way to heaven and
I feel like pressing my way.

Of course, what that very old woman did was give not only her testimony, but the testimony of everyone in that room. That is why I love Lent, when more than any other time we are encouraged to read the lives of God's Holy Ones. Throughout the ages the struggle has remained about the same. And if we fight the good fight, our testimony can be the same as theirs. Of those, one of my favorites is celebrated tomorrow. His given name was Patricius but we all know him as Patrick. His testimony, in his own words is on the other side of this link: It makes me feel like pressing my way.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Evolutionary Biology

Would I be a better surgeon if I assumed that the brain arose by random events? Of course not. Doctors are detectives. We look for patterns, and in the human body, patterns look very much like they were designed. (read the rest)

A Bunch of Stuff

We've decided to go back to HTC. We like St. Stephen's a lot, but there are so many people that it is difficult to be comfortable with our children in the way we are accustomed. At HTC we feel free to walk around and let the boys venerate the Holy Icons if they start to get fidgety. But that just isn't possible at St. Stephens. It is wall to wall people. I guess that is a good problem for a parish to have, but it does make it dificult. So, we are going back to HTC, and the very long drives on Sundays.

But what about the problem of missing so much church? Well, we discovered that the distance from San Francisco isn't the problem. It is our schedules that hinder us. Those schedules did not allow us to attend St. Stephen's much more often than we attended HTC. Hopefully, our schedule will lighten up in about another 16 months.

The boys and I went to the beach yesterday. We had a lot of fun. It was cold but the beach and the sea were beautiful. After being there for a while we drove to the little village of Capitola-by-the-Sea where we had a great time.

I think I mentioned in a previous post that my entire family was sick a couple of weeks ago. Well, we still are. Not the kids, just Cyndi and I. Cyndi has been left feeling exhausted and still has a cough. I still have a cough and have lost some hearing. It is troublesome.

Speaking of troublesome, a few months ago my wife did a lateral transfer in her department so she could work for a very highly respected and much experienced person in the department. But ever since the transfer happened she has been miserable. Cyndi is used to working with a high degree of independece and managing her team the way she likes. But her new boss has a very different style. The result is that my wife's employees are very unhappy and my wife is very unhappy. Last night, Cyndi came home in tears. Friday (tomorrow) my wife is meeting with her boss's boss to talk about the problem and ask for a different position in the department. If you have a chance, please pray for her. Her patron is the Venerable Athanasia of Egypt.

My friend Jeff, with whom I used to blog is comming over for lunch today. Menu: cioppino, hummus, pita-bread, pickled mixed-beans, dolmas, coffee, and San Peligrino. We are going to talk about a group of men from his Church who are going to visit HTC on the 31st. Jeff is the pastor in charge of finding men who have leadership potential and grooming them. Part of that process is a one year course of study during which they visit lots of different kinds of churches. This is the second year that I am giving a his group a tour of HTC and explaining Holy Orthodoxy to them.

My oldest son has been in Afghanistan for a few days now. I haven't heard anything. So, I am super happy about him getting to fight in Afghanistan instead of Iraq, but I am still anxious. Does anyone hate war as much as a parent. I thank God he is with such a tough outfit. They aren't the kind of men civilized people would want to hang out with, but they are good in a scrap. It seems that the last time the 173rd Airborne Infantry Brigade was in Afghanistan they killed more than than 3,000 enemy fighters in their first week, while suffering very few casualties. Lots of the people in my sons unit are veterans of that first deployment to Afghanistan and know what to expect and how to fight this enemy. That is comforting to me. I told him to kill anyone who even looks like an enemy and come home alive, but I am so afraid for him because of the horrible things he will see and have to do. Sometimes all I can do is cry and pray.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Obama Homiletics

I'm sure you have all read Sen. Obama's (D.-Ill.) speech by now. And I know you have heard people make much of the fatherhood beginning at conception part of it. And you are probably already aware of the historical inaccuracies (the time lines of his parents courtship and the march in Selma do not match up as he infers they do) in the speech. Nevertheless, this speech is a superb piece of political rhetoric, and I'd like to point out a few of the things that make it so great. (I don't vote for pro-aborts or collectivists so I can't vote for him. But I do think his speechwriter is very very good.)

Intro to the Speech
1. He begins by thanking the host and acknowledging the living and dead heroes of the civil rights movement. THis is part of getting the audience on his side. Very very important.

2. He manages expectations by noting his own discomfort at having to follow so many great preachers.

3. He evokes the memory of Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican President in an attempt to draw in people who might oppose him.

4. He delivers greetings from the deservedly famous Rev. Moss and Dr. Wright to the people at Brown Chapel AME Church, thereby showing them that "he's one of us". But he uses this greeting to segue into the main body of his speech and the theme of the Moses and Joshua. It is a beautiful and organic transition.

The Great Theme of the Speech

1. He mentions those who went before having endured many difficulties, some even giving their lives for the cause of civil rights (FYI: the group of rights that in post-WWII America are called civil rights are not only what past ages thought of as civil rights, but also include political and legal rights.) in his phrasing we hear echoes of the famous passage of Hebrewes 11 where St. Paul describes the sufferings of the Old Testament Prophets. This taps directly into the emotions of his church-going audience.

2. Then from "enduring" he moves into marching, building a sense of expectation through successive paragraphs each including the phrase "because they marched"

"And so because of what they endured, because of what they marched; they led a people out of bondage."
"And it's because they marched that the next generation hasn't been bloodied so much. "
"...because they marched that we elected councilmen..."
"It is because they marched that we have..."
"...because they marched that I got the kind of education I got, a law degree, a seat in the Illinois senate and ultimately in the United States senate. "
"It is because they marched that i stand before you here today."

(I didn't hear the speech but son of a peneecostal preacher in me sure hopes he puched the word marched every time he said it.)

3. He reaches out to the Democratic Party martyrs, Sen. Robert Kennedy and Pres. J.F. Kennedy and effectivly enlists them as his supporters by tying them to African liberation and his own opportunity to come to the United States.

4. He evokes not only the memory of the Holy Prophet Moses when he says of him "he didn't cross over the river to see the Promised Land" but also the memory of Martin Luther King Junior who said, "And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!" (I've Been to the Mountaintop, Apr. 3. 1968)

What He Sees as the work of the "Joshua generation" (This is where I thought the speech almost but not quite broke down.)

1. Remind people (balck Americans, presumably) where they come from: A deeper well than money and materialism - public service.

2. The battle for equality must be continued - afirmative action

3. Economic rights - collectivized medical industry, nationalization of public school funding, more equitible federal disaster relief. (He seems to think the 10% match was waved in FL and NYC because of skin color. It was waved because of party loyalty. FL had a republican governor. NYC a republican mayor. New Orleans is Democratic through and through. Same thing happens when Marin county floods. When Pres. GHW Bush was asked to send them disaster relief money he merely quoted the percenteage of people who voted for him in Marin County. It was less than 30%. They got no money.)

4. What saves this sectin of the speech is his use of the word hope. He uses the word 3 times, linking this section back to an earlier part of the speech and to President William Clinton (Maya Angelou famously but wrongly called him the 'first black president"), who was born in Hope, Arkansas.

5. In talking about school funing he mentions the responsibility of parents and seems to be adopting Bill Cosby's argument. This is probably an attempt to win the votes of the morally-conservative black voter. If so, it is a shrewed move for it is something Hillary Clinton can't do, and it keeps the Republicans from taking these voters away from the Democratic Party.


1. He presumes a conversation with the pastors. Acknowledging that they are better speakers than he. But there is more to it than that. He is preparing the listeners for the conclusion of the speech by bringing them back to where the speech started, recognition of the living civil rights movement leaders and current pastors of the black churches.

2. He acknowledges his own weakness by appealing to Moses and Joshua again.

3. He enlists the support of the listeners to at least pray for him, which being Christians they are obliged to do.

Now, in case you haven't been keeping track, here are the people he has counted as his supporters: The living and dead leaders of the civil rights movement, including Dr.King, the Holy Propets Moses and Joshua, Pres. Abraham Lincoln, Bill Cosby, Pres. Clinton, Pres. Kennedy, Sen. Robert Kennedy, St. Paul, all the marchers in Selma those many years ago, and the audience in Brown Chapel AME on March 4. That, regarless of your political convictions, is a great oratorical feat. My hat is off to Sen. Obama. Great speech, Senator. Thank you for making this an interesting race.

SELMA, ALA.--From the pulpit of the historic Brown Chapel A.M.E. church, White House hopeful Barack Obama talks about the job of the "Joshua generation" and his own claim to a place in the civil rights movement.

Remarks of Senator Barack Obama
As Delivered
Selma Voting Rights March Commemoration, Brown Chapel A.M.E Church
March 4, 2007
Selma, Alabama

Here today, I must begin because at the Unity breakfast this morning I was saving for last and the list was so long I left him out after that introduction. So I’m going to start by saying how much I appreciate the friendship ... (Read the rest of the speech here.)

Religion of Peace

Well, according to the guy who made the Titanic (The movie, not the ship) Jesus didn't come back from the dead. Now for the past few days I've been listening carefully but I haven't heard any fatwahs. I haven't seen any riots. I don't smell smoke from fires in the streets. I haven't even heard of an embassy being bombed. We Christians have a lot to learn from the Muslims about being a religion of peace. Pretty much, we suck at this peace stuff.

Sunday, March 04, 2007


Well, last night I had my first drink of something other that childrens liquid tylenol (I couldn't swallow pills), nyquill, or generic tussin. I had watered down grape juice. It was heaven. I feel much better today. I am still coughing but when I consider the misery I was in from Wednesday night though this morning I can only say Happy Happy Joy Joy. I had coffee and a martini and am feeling great. All the muscles of my thorax are sore from the couging. My lungs are still a little congested, but I am so much better than I was yesterday. On Saturday morning I just cried and cried. I could not stop. But now the buring is gone. I am up and dressed and am about to go for a walk. Much good day.

Thursday, March 01, 2007


I've been so sick today. Couch cough cough. Fever fever fever. Puke puke puke. Basil had a fever today, too. And Anslem was acting funny. He stayed in bed a large part of the day.

Top 5 Songs that Sound Christian but Probably Aren’t

1 . Spirit in the Sky by Norman Greenbaum (this one will be played at the party after my funeral)

2. Jesus is Just Alright with Me by the Doobie Brothers

3. Desperado by the Eagles

4. My Sweet Lord by Billy Preston ( yes. I know George Harrison wrote it but Billy does it better.)

5. I Come to the Garden Alone by C. Austin Miles