Saturday, June 28, 2008


This week I have been able to look directly at the Sun without averting my eyes. The sky is grey-brown. The sun is orange. Because of the smoke I can't see the mountains surrounding my valley. We are told repeatedly that the air is unhealthful but what are we supposed to do? Sop breathing?

I just heard that there are 1,200 individual fires burning in California and fewer than 300 of them have firefighters deployed against them. Dry lightning, that is, electrical storms with no rain have been forecast for Sunday afternoon. It looks grim.

The ascetics at St. Herman Monastery and at St. Xenia Skete have been forced to evacuate. Please, pray for them and for my godfather, Gregory, who lives in the forest near Platina, where hot ash is reported to be falling and kindling new fires.

Friday, June 27, 2008

I Love My Church

Thursday night I attended a meeting with about 30 people (lay and clergy) from our diocese during which we discussed the problems (if you don't know, I won't tell you) in the Metropolitan's chancery. I arrived late, and after greeting Bishop Benjamin and receiving his blessing, took a seat. The discussion was frank, and I do not mean angry or hateful. Anger and hate care little for truth. Things said:

"People who say there is no black and white, but only gray, have already sided with black."

"We already have a vision statement:'Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature'."

"It isn't only the Metropolitan's job to be the face of Orthodoxy, we are all supposed to be evangelists."

"We all need to learn how to say 'anaxios'."

"I have this to say to the All-American Council: The Metropolitan should be fired... [crowd noise]... but since the Council can't do that, they should at least cut off his salary."

"When something has to be justified as being 'for the good of the Church' it isn't really for the good of the Church."

"The investigation [of the Metropolitan's chancery] has been like digging in a cat's litter box."

"The problems, the main problem isn't all of this administrative stuff. It's spiritual."

"The Russian state wants to use the Orthodox Church to exert its influence, but I'm not into that. And I don't want to be part of the Greek ethnos. I'm not Russian. I'm not Greek. I'm Scottish. I have a kilt on under this [cassock]. I don't want foreign Patriarchs bossing us around."

"We don't see him, but Fr. Schmemann is here with us now."

"Metropolitan Herman will be gone before the All-American Council. If he isn't it will be horrible."

"We have all sinned in this."

"None of the other Orthodox Churches does what we're doing. What we are doing here in America is unprecedented. Fr. Schmemann used to say 'we change to stay the same'. The Orthodox Church has always changed. If we do not change we do not stay the same."

All of this was being talked about in the presence of Bishop Benjamin, who several times stopped the conversation to teach us the words of The Lord, and tell us what he, Bishop Benjamin thought was important for us to think about. I would pray that he be made Metropolitan, but I don't want to lose him in San Francisco.

I can't say how the meeting started (probably with "O Heavenly King") but it ended with the singing of "It is Meet" and Bishop Benjamin giving us his episcopal blessing.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Talk Show Life

I don't own a television. I like it that way. But One of the things I miss is watching talk shows. I loved Johnny and Dave and Tom and Dick. I even liked those daytime guys, Mike and Merv. And you know what? I'm not ashamed to say that, except for the homo thing, I always kind of wanted to be Merv. You know - the ascot, the Beverly Hills Hotel, Wheel of Fortune, the great hair, the perfectly pressed pants, and the mellifluous voice. Who wouldn't want that? But that is a topic for a different post, mi amigo.

About two weeks ago I had the funniest dream. I was the first guest on the Tonight Show. Which meant I got to sit next to Ed and move down the couch as other guests came on. And this was pre-1980 when the show was still on 90 minutes each night. And who was the second guest? Angie Dickinson! That's right! I got to sit next to Police Woman!!! Can you believe it? Talk about great scheduling. But the rest of the guests were great, too. It was a real A-List. I could have kissed my agent for getting me on the show.

First up after Angie was Buddy Hackett, then Don Rickles, who really is one of the nicest guys I've ever met, came on and he and Johnny got into it over the cigarette box again. It was so funny I thought Angie was going to bust a seam out of that tight silver sequined dress.

Then Don zeroed in on me and said,"What are you laughing at? What religion are you?" And I said "I'm Orthodox." And that was all it took. "You're chosen like me and Buddy? Johnny! What are you doing? Is Sammy Davis Jr. in the wings? Are we doing a remake of the 10 Commandments tonight? Hey. I saw that. Stop looking at her legs. They don't let us have the Aryan women, bris boy. Buddy, give Matty some of the Manischewitz. Sitting next to to the gentile pulchritude there is a too much for him."

The whole audience was laughing hard, gasping for breath, and begging for mercy. I was cackling. I had just been insulted by Don Rickles. It was like I was at the Friar's Club getting roasted. And I was thinking, "How can it get any better than this?" when, about 70 minutes into the show, Dean Martin comes out.

Now, Buddy and me and Don had each a little sip of something in the green room, but Buddy was up to something. The whole time he was waiting to go out on stage he kept pouring for Dean. And Deano (he lets me call him that) was drinking like a fish. So when Dean came out he was totally lit. I mean, like Vegas at night. He tried to sit on the desk, tripped over me while trying to shake hands with Ed. That kind of stuff. But, and I know this is hard to believe, he was so cool and smoooth that it wasn't obnoxious. In fact, it was funny.

Now Buddy, who had been sucking on and re-lighting a Robusto all evening, and Don were totally mocking Dean who thought he was having an intelligent and intelligible conversation about how important it is for a singer to take care of his voice. So while that's going on I quietly ask Angie, "Hey, that story about your legs being insured for a million dollars, is that true?" And do you know what she says? "Yes, but it was only for a week. Publicity." Now for some reason, Ed thought this was the funnest thing he'd ever heard. (Ed's weird.) And that set Buddy to guffawing. And Deano got all insulted, thinking that Ed was laughing at him. And then Don says to Dean,"Calm down, Jerry, the mic didn't mean anything by it." Jerry! He called him Jerry! No one was expecting that. And that set Johnny off. I mean he got tickled, and you know how hard it is to get Johnny to stop laughing once he gets going.

Next thing I know, Dean" is trying trying to stand up to prove he is a good singer, totally slurring the words of ""Memories Are Made of This", by the way, and Buddy and Don jump up and start dancing to the song. (Doc had the orchestra ready, so that part of the show must have been scripted.) It was so nuts! Even Angie said, "this is too much" and pulled a hip flask out of I don't know where (you know how she dresses) to take a pull of scotch. I swear! It was the best Tonight Show experience I ever had. And that was before the guy from the zoo even brought out the weasel, or koala or whatever the hell it was. Don't ask me. I was sitting next to Police Woman. But the best part, and I'm not making this up, is when Carol Wayne, Dyan Canon, and Bernadette Peters came on stage dressed up like the Spirit of '76 and did an Andrews Sisters impersonation in honor of Bob Hope's 200th birthday.

It was a great night. I think the only thing that could have made it better is if Orson Wells had been on that night to tell one of his great and amazing (I didn't say tall) stories. But I woke up before that happened.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Blackberries and Cream

The wild blackberry vines are producing good fruit so we picked some of it today. This is what I made the boys. (I am so happy that the Church's wisdom allows small children to be exempt from keeping the fasts. Seven is the age when children in our parish begin to keep the fasts. What is the starting age in your parish? Or is it done on an individual basis?)

In a bowl for each of them I put one cup of fresh sun-warmed berries, and I sprinkled one table spoon of sugar on the berries in each bowl. Then I poured 1/2 cup of fresh Strauss Family whipping cream over the berries.

Anselm said, "This is the best thing ever! Its sweet and sour but not like Chinese food."
Basil said,"Oh! Good,good,good,Daddy! I like it!"

Fires and Smoke

We had 2 day heat wave on Friday and Saturday. It was accompanied by dry electrical storms. That means fire. I saw one of the fires burning in the hills as I drove home from Fresno on Friday. Other than flames as high as the trees, the thing I noticed was the absence of firefighters. Later that night I heard that there were "more than 400" wild fires raging in California. Sunday night I could smell the smoke. Yesterday the number was "more than 700". This morning the number is "more than 800". Oddly, the map doesn't show that many. The fire I saw on Friday isn't on the map. The 7 square mile in the the vineyards of Napa doesn't show. only one of the "more than 40" fires burning in Mendocino County is on the map. Probably, no one has updated the map since Friday. Thankfully, yesterday and today are cooler. And the coastal counties, at least, are getting damp ocean air blowing in from the west.

Just now on the radio I heard instructions to "avoid being outside because the smoke from the fires has made the air in the bay area unhealthful". Well, I have a better idea. Instead of spending all day in a little apartment with two little boys, I am going to take them to the coast where there is no smoke.

Bye bye.

Monday, June 23, 2008


Tonight, Anselm Samuel said he wanted to lead the prayer at the table. He had never done it before. He faced the Icons. He crossed himself. He prayed. He blessed the food . We said, "Amen", then ate our veggies.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Apostle's Fast

The Apostle's Fast is upon us. Christ has risen. He has ascended. The Holy Spirit has come. Now, just as the Apostles before us, we have work to do. But where to start? Which direction to go? That is what this fast is about: Seeking clarity and direction. Toward that end here are some prayers that might help.

A Prayer of St. Philaret of Moscow
My Lord, I know not what I ought to ask of Thee. Thou and Thou alone knowest my needs. Thou lovest me more than I am able to love Thee. O Father, grant unto me, Thy servant, all which I cannot ask. For a cross I dare not ask, nor for consolation; I dare only to stand in Thy presence. My heart is open to Thee. Thou seest my needs of which I myself am unaware. Behold and lift me up! In Thy presence I stand, awed and silenced by Thy will and Thy judgments, into which my mind cannot penetrate. To Thee I offer myself as a sacrifice. No other desire is mine but to fulfill Thy will. Teach me how to pray. Do Thyself pray within me. Amen.

Another Prayer of St. Philaret of Moscow
O Lord, grant me to greet the coming day in peace, help me in all things to rely upon your holy will. In every hour of the day reveal your will to me. Bless my dealings with all who surround me. Teach me to treat all that comes to throughout the day with peace of soul and with firm conviction that your will governs all. In all my deeds and words, guide my thoughts and feelings. In unforeseen events, let me not forget that all are sent by you. Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering and embarrassing others. Give me strength to bear the fatigue of the coming day with all that it shall bring. Direct my will, teach me to pray. And you, yourself, pray in me. Amen.

A Prayer of St. Basil the Great
Steer the ship of my life, good Lord, to your quiet harbour, where I can be safe from the storms of sin and conflict. Show me the course I should take. Renew in me the gift of discernment, so that I can always see the right direction in which I should go. And give me the strength and the courage to choose the right course, even when the sea is rough and the waves are high, knowing that through enduring hardship and danger in your name we shall find comfort and peace. Amen.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

How do you comfort a grieving mother?

Today was the memorial service for my friend Zach. I have been to more funerals and memorial services in the last 7 years than all the rest of my years put together. In the last seven years at least eleven friends or family members have died. I am tired of bitter tears. I'd like to see a few more births, weddings, and baptisms before I have to go to another funeral or memorial service.

It has been a long tiring day. Drove to Fresno (by way of SF and Oakland to pick up friends at airport) and back; several hours in the car each way. Going to bed now. Divine liturgy and the Fountain of Immortality in the morning.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Don't Tell Al Gore

OMAHA, Neb. -- Holt County snowplows were out Tuesday night clearing 8 inches of hail that fell during a storm.

Near O'Neill, pea- to marble-sized hail piled up on one stretch of roadway.

In Atkinson, there were reports of baseball-sized hail that broke out windows at the town's airport.

This Global Warming is really starting to scare me. How will I ever pay my air conditioning bill?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Fundamental Failure

Lately, I have been reading more news sites of foreign origin that news sites of US origin. Not only do they cover more of the things in which I am interested, but, oddly, they do a better job reporting on US politics. An example is this story from the Telegraph about Richard Danzig's utterly nuts ideas about national security.

"Richard Danzig, who served as Navy Secretary under President Clinton and is tipped to become National Security Adviser in an Obama White House, told a major foreign policy conference in Washington that the future of US strategy in the war on terrorism should follow a lesson from the pages of Winnie the Pooh, which can be shortened to: if it is causing you too much pain, try something else."

Why is what Richard Danzig said important? Because he advises Senator Obama but fails to understand the nature of war. It hurts. It is hard. It is horrible. But we persevere. Imagine the Army at Valley Forge saying, "Blimey! It's cold. I think I'm going to try going home now to thaw my feet and drink some hot soup.", or the Marines at Guadalcanal saying, "Hey, they have bullets! I think I'm going to try something that causes less pain, like getting back on the boat and going back to Hawaii."

I have a cot

Not exactly the princess and the pea, but I hate sleeping on the ground. Last summer, when we went camping, I was miserable at night. And I have been dreading our planned August camping trip (to Mendocino again) simply because of knowledge that I would, again, be sleeping on the ground. But my wife loves me and bought me one of these for Father's Day. Isn't she wonderful?

Summer Time Memories of The Wind in the Willows

If you are lucky, you might, sometime in your life be moved to tears because of a mole, a toad, a rat, and a badger. And if you are especially lucky your two year old year old will love the story so much that he will laugh aloud and quote dialogue - "No pate de foie gras! no champagne!" - only to be answered by his five year old brother - "Self indulgent beggar you seem to be, Mole. Deny yourself nothing." And if you are not only lucky, but blessed besides, little things in your life - a leaf falling from a tree, a bird singing, a kettle whistling on the stove, a can of sardines - will cause memories of this story to come back to you, and you will be filled with warmth and lonnging for a country you have never seen. And if you are wise this book will teach you how to be a friend.

I have written about The Wind in the Willows before. It seems that every couple of weeks a change in the weather reminds me of something I've read in that book. Lately the weather has been summery and it reminded me of a summer day when Rat and Mole met...

‘Rat!’ he found breath to whisper, shaking. ‘Are you afraid?’
‘Afraid?’ murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love. ‘Afraid! Of Him? O, never, never! And yet—and yet—O, Mole, I am afraid!’
Then the two animals, crouching to the earth, bowed their heads and did worship.

If you haven't read this book, I want you to buy it now. (Yes. In hardcover because you are going to read it and re-read it many times.) This is a very important book. You don't believe me? Here is What A.A. Milne said about it...

"One can argue over the merits of most books, and in arguing understand the point of view of one's opponent ... One does not argue about The Wind in the Willows. The young man gives it to the girl with whom he is in love, and if she does not like it, asks her to return his letters. The older man tries it on his nephew, and alters his will accordingly. It is ... a book that is read aloud to every new guest, and regarded as a touchstone of his worth

And he is right.

Switching Sides

One of the funniest things ever said by a United States senator was said by Orin Hatch, or maybe it was Howell Heflin. Either way that in itself is proof that Republicans have the best names. But there was a picture floating around of a very large Ted Kennedy doing you know what with a woman in a boat off the coast of Florida. And Orin, or maybe it was Howell, said, "Ted! I didn't know you'd changed your position on off shore drilling."

What does that have to do with anything? Well, this week several of our country's leaders, notably, Sen. McCain have changed their position on off-shore drilling. Here is why I am opposed to off shore drilling.

1) We live in a global oil market. The oil pumped out of the earth beneath our coastal waters will not make us "energy independent". That oil, like all oil, will be sold to the highest bidder.

2) Pumping more oil will not solve our energy problems. It might delay the day of reckoning. It might give us a few more years of gasoline. But I doubt it. We will still run out of oil.

3) I live in California and like going to the beach.

What do I want to see happen? I want to see us wean ourselves off of oil and cars and the sprawling, farm and range destroying development cars encourage. I want to see a thousend little villages like Flavigny-sur-Ozerain, in Burgundy. Beautiful little villages with narrow streets, two and three story buildings, surrounded by farms. Or enormous densely-built cities such as New York, Boston, and San Francisco - surrounded by farms. We can't keep turning our farms into strip malls and expect our grand children to have food to eat.

As for the people who want to drill of the California coast. Well, I don't like them.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Life is Strange

I've just been invited to do a guest teaching gig at a Messianic Jewish yeshiva in India.

Friday, June 13, 2008

I Lost A Friend

Yesterday, the body of my dear friend, Zachariah was found at the foot of El Capitan. There is speculation concerning how he came to fall from the top of that dread cliff, but no one knows for sure. If you can, would you please pray the Trisagion for the Departed, a prayer we know too well, with me?

Holy God! Holy Mighty! Holy Immortal! Have mercy on us.
Holy God! Holy Mighty! Holy Immortal! Have mercy on us.
Holy God! Holy Mighty! Holy Immortal! Have mercy on us.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

O most-holy Trinity, have mercy on us!
O Lord, cleanse us from our sins!
O Master, pardon our transgressions!
O Holy One, visit and heal our infirmities, for Thy name’s sake!

Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory, of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages.

O God of spirits and of all flesh, Who hast trampled down Death and overthrown the Devil, and given life unto Thy world, give, we beseech Thee, eternal rest to the soul of Thy departed servant, in a place of brightness, in a place of verdure, in a place of repose, from whence all pain, sorrow, and sighing, hast fled away.

Pardon, we beseech Thee, every transgression which may have been committed, whether by word or deed or thought. For there is no man who lives and does not commit a sin. Thou only art without sin, Thy righteousness is everlasting, and Thy word is the Truth.

For Thou art the Resurrection, and the Life, and the repose of Your departed servant, O Christ our God, and unto Thee do we ascribe glory, together with Thine eternal Father, and Thy Most Holy, and Good, and Life-giving Spirit, now and forever, and for ages to come. Amen

May our gracious and merciful Lord, who rose from the dead, Christ, our True God, through the intercessions of His Holy Mother and of all the Saints, establish the soul of His departed servant in the mansions of the righteous; give rest in the bosom of Abraham, and number his soul among the just, and have mercy upon us and save us.

Memory Eternal.
Memory Eternal.
Memory Eternal.


Crescat has some funny (and slightly horrifying) "christian" kitsch on display. Check it out. Most of the stuff really is horrible, but I would love to have this lunch box. Que bien!

Global Warming?

"The cooling trend is so strong that recently the head of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had to acknowledge it. He speculated that nature has temporarily overwhelmed mankind’s warming and it may be ten years or so before the warming returns. Oh, really. We are supposed to be in a panic about man-made global warming and the whole thing takes a ten year break because of the lack of Sun spots. If this weren’t so serious, it would be laughable." (Read the whole thing here.)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

New Martyr Priest-Monk Nestor

I just read the story about St. Nestor and thought you might like to read it, too. You can follow the link to read how, in 1993, this shepherd gave his life for his Lord's sheep.(LINK)

Alternative Media Subverting the Dominant Paradigm

Youtube lets minority views attract a wide audience. An example is the Von Mises Institute Channel. In an age when nearly all economic policy makers are Marxist, Malthusian, or Keynesian, the ideas of the Austrian School are not just alternative, they are truly subversive.

This is not just an alternative media (e.g. youtube), but it is an alternative message.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Frome Life to Death to Greater Life

Over at Christ Is In Our Midst! they post the most beautiful and useful things. Today I read these words of St. Anthony the Great. I think I will have them written into my will and carved in my tombstone. St. Anthony is sometimes called the father of monasticism, but I think that title should go to St. John the Baptist. Or perhaps, St. John is the forerunner of monasticism, as he is the Forerunner of Jesus. Anyway... Here are the words I read over at Christ Is In Our Midst!

When we lay aside this perishable body

we receive it back imperishable…

the sufferings of the present time

do not compare to the glory

that is going to be revealed to us…

~St Anthony the Great

He Wants to Prosecute our Soldiers

Perhaps you have seen this. It was produced by the Obama Campaign. Look at Item 4.

"Take immediate steps to confront the humanitarian disaster in Iraq and hold accountable any perpetrators of war crimes."

He wants to prosecute our soldiers? Are the services not already doing that when evidence is warrants prosecution? I know they are. Just a few days ago I hear about a verdict returned by a court-martial. So what is Obama saying? That he wants to start a witch-hunt and terrorize those charged with the physical security of the republic? Is that what he wants? He wants the President to be the enemy of troops he commands? This is just weird.

Monday, June 09, 2008

They will heat that furnace seven times hotter.

"We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek."
- Obama, Super Tuesday

"Does it not feel as if some special hand is guiding Obama on his journey, I mean, as he has said, the utter improbability of it all?"-- Daily Kos

"He communicates God-like energy..."-- Steve Davis (Charleston, SC)

"Not just an ordinary human being but indeed an Advanced Soul" -- Commentator @ Chicago Sun Times

"I'll do whatever he says to do. I'll collect paper cups off the ground to make his pathway clear."-- Halle Berry

"A quantum leap in American consciousness"-- Deepak Chopra

"He is not operating on the same plane as ordinary politicians. . . . the agent of transformation in an age of revolution, as a figure uniquely qualified to open the door to the 21st century." -- Gary Hart

Don't think for a moment, Christian, that they will let you worship the Living God. Idols do not like competition. Be ready for martyrdom.

No Appeasement at Home or Abroad.

Senator McCain has not won my vote. If I could vote for a dead man I would vote for Ronald Reagan.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

The Wicked Man

There was a bill, Born Alive Infants Protection Act (as of 2002 it is U.S. Law) that tightened up the definition of a person so that a baby is a legal person upon "the complete expulsion or extraction from his or her mother..., at any stage of development, who after such expulsion or extraction breathes or has a beating heart, pulsation of the umbilical cord, or definite movement of voluntary muscles, regardless of whether the umbilical cord has been cut, and regardless of whether the expulsion or extraction occurs as a result of natural or induced labor, cesarean section, or induced abortion."

The purpose of the law is to make sure that medical personnel know that they must treat babies born alive after attempted abortions and not just leave them to die, as had been happening.

Because of the way our government works a bill is often passed at the state and at the national level. When the Bill was in the Illinois Senate, when Senator Obama was a member of that body, the bill came up for a vote four times. Seator Obama didn't just vote against it one time. He voted against it four times. It is clear that he thinks babies born alive are not people who's lives deserve the protection of thelaw.

Who else's life does he think is undeserving of legal protection?

The more I learn about him the more I dislike him.

God Loves His People

I just read a story about Aids in the Independent.

According to the article:

- Circumcision reduces the chance of getting AIDS by 60%.

- Drug abusers (in the Bible, pharmakeus/sorcerers) get AIDS more often than non-drug abusers.

- Prostitutes and their customers have a very high AIDS infection rate.

- Homosexual men have a very high AIDS infection rate.

- People who have a lot of concurrent sex partners have very high AIDS rates.

- No one else needs to worry much about getting AIDS.

It reminded me of a verse I read a long long time ago: "If you listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you" (Exod. 15:26).

At a time when we had no understanding of biology, when the Egyptians, the most advanced civilization on the planet, were dressing wounds with animal dung, God had mercy on us and revealed His law to us to protect us. But we tend not to listen. It is very sad.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Saturday Soundtrack: Which Doobie Do You Be?

In 1970 in San Jose, California the Doobie Brothers were formed. They played all over the bay area but were especially popular and had a recuring gig at a Hell's Angels hang out in the Santa Cruz Mountains. (The Hell's Angel's influence can be seen in the band's logo.) It wasn't long before they had a recording contract with Warer. The band has had had a revolving door of membership, the Michael McDonald years being either the apex or the nadir depending on your tastes. For a few years all the did was an annual Chrstmas concert at the Stanford Children's Hospital, but they are back full force and are touring.

They have had many hits over the years, including "Listen to the Musc" and "Jesus is Just Alright With Me", but this is my favorite Doobie Brothers song: "Long Train Running". Notice, it references the Illinois Central, the same line mentioned in the Arlo Guthrie song, "City of New Orleans". Also, this must be the band that was the inspiration for Animal, the drummer on the Muppet show.

My Little Capitalist

I decided last week that for social studies Anselm Samuel would learn about the stock and commodities markets.

He learned that agricultural commodities are traded at the Chicago Bord of Trade.
He learned that stocks are traded at the New York Stock Exchange.
He learned that precious metals are traded at the New York Mercantile Exchange.
He learned that that price is whatever the buyer and seller agree it is.

He watched me buy some shares in Marvel Entertainment. I tried to explain what was goin on but he didn't really understand. It was a little abstract since it happened on a computer screen. So I showed him how to look up the New York price of silver. (Today we actually made a spreadsheet with a line chart tracking the price over several days.) And we took a trip to the coin dealer.

We walked in the door and I asked,"Do you sell bullion?".
"Yes, what can we help you with?"
And then Anslem said "I'd like to buy a 1 ounce silver ingot, please."
I was so proud of him.

Anslem thought it was neat that they had the new york price on a chalk board.

When the deal was done the dealer said, "Well, you're a silver speculator now." Anselm said, "What does that mean"? The man said "It means you will either be very happy or very sad." The dealer than gave Basil a Peso, and we went to the duck pond.

More Obamalatry

I have on several occasions written of Sen. Obama's claims of near divinity and/or the Obamalatry of his followers.(You can see all my "Obama" posts here. They are not all critical.)

Two hilarious things today.

This from the San Francisco Chronicle:

"Many spiritually advanced people I know (not coweringly religious, mind you, but deeply spiritual) identify Obama as a Lightworker, that rare kind of attuned being who has the ability to lead us not merely to new foreign policies or health care plans or whatnot, but who can actually help usher in a new way of being on the planet, of relating and connecting and engaging with this bizarre earthly experiment. These kinds of people actually help us evolve. They are philosophers and peacemakers of a very high order, and they speak not just to reason or emotion, but to the soul.

"The unusual thing is, true Lightworkers almost never appear on such a brutal, spiritually demeaning stage as national politics. This is why Obama is so rare. And this why he is so often compared to Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., to those leaders in our culture whose stirring vibrations still resonate throughout our short history."
(With my hand in the air, I am not making this up.)

And then there was this "I am Jesus" moment at the end of his speech on Tuesday, when he clinched the Nomination of his party:

"...this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal..." (Even NPR made fun of him for this.)

But that is just silliness. The scary part of the speech is this:

"This was the moment—this was the time—when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves and our highest ideals."

If he is elected, at most he will get 54% of the electorate to vote for him. There will be many people, myself included, who do not want our country remade to reflect the highest ideals of socialists, God haters, and murderers of children. Some of us just want to be left alone so we can enjoy our families, serve God, and have a cup of tea with toast and sardines on a cold Autumn day.

Photo Credit: Reuters (further proof that the press is in the bag for Obama)

Thursday, June 05, 2008

My Wife is Amazing

She got an email today from a small, very prestigious school (It has a surprisingly high USN&WR ranking) asking her if she is interested in interviewing for Assistant Director of Student Housing. Of course she said she is interested. The interview is on Monday. She isn't excited because she doesn't think she'll get the job. I am simply impressed that they want to talk to her. What did I ever do to get a woman like her? And did I mention that she knits?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

It is Ascension. Say "Hi" to the Angels.

One of the things that always stands out to me in the texts for this feast are the repeated statements that the angels were astonished to see a man of flesh enter heaven. It had never been done before. Yet that is exactly what happened when Jesus returned to his Father who who sent him.

"Having lived on earth as a man, you were taken up in glory today from the Mount of Olives. And having raised our fallen nature by your compassion, you seated it together with the Father. Wherefore, the heavenly orders of the Bodiless were amazed at the wonder and stood in awe and astonishment" (Great Vespers)

Glory to You, O God! Glory to You!

Well, now that that little burst of emotionalism (give me a moment to wipe my tears) is past I do want to mention something that has been on my mind lately. For the last few days I've been looking at the icon of the Ascension and thinking about the Bible, and how we always read a text Christologically. (Reading a text Christologically is, by the way, the primary way Orthodox read all Scripture, both OT and NT. It's the way Jesus taught us to do it.) This might seem a little disjointed but here are some thoughts...

1. Strange sounding passages from the OT that are chanted during the services are interpreted either by other passages of scripture or by the hymns. For example, take this passages that is chanted during the Vigil.

"Go through, go through the gates; prepare ye the way of the people; cast up, cast up the highway; gather out the stones; lift up a standard for the people. Behold, the LORD hath proclaimed unto the end of the world, Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh; behold, his reward [is] with him, and his work before him. And they shall call them, The holy people, The redeemed of the LORD: and thou shalt be called, Sought out, A city not forsaken. Who [is] this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this [that is] glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save. Wherefore [art thou] red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat? I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people [there was] none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment. I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the LORD, [and] the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD hath bestowed on us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which he hath bestowed on them according to his mercies, and according to the multitude of his lovingkindnesses. For he said, Surely they [are] my people, children [that] will not lie: so he was their Saviour. n all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old. (Isaiah 62:10-63:3,7-9)"

What does this have to do with the Ascenscion? That is what I asked the first time I heard it. I bet all Orthodox do. But we learn what it means from other parts of the service.

"Seeing you being taken up from the Mount of Olives, O Christ, the Powers cried one to another: Who is this? And it was said to them: This is He that is strong and mighty. This is He that is mighty in war. This is truly the King of Glory. And why are His garments red? Because he comes from Bozrah, which is the flesh." (Stricheron for Great Vespers)

2. But isn't it reaching to say we are ascended with Jesus? After all, he is in Heaven but we are on Earth. That is what I thought the first time I attended the Ascension services (Sadly, I am missing them all this year.) But consider this: "He who has been baptized into Christ has put on Christ." If we have put on Christ, and Christ is in Heaven, we, too, are in Heaven. We may not see it often, or clearly, we see as it were, "through a glass, darkly", but that does not make it untrue.

3. Saint Paul's presence in the Icon of the feast used to bug me. I mean, Icon's are supposed to be of historical events (Don't get me started on the Prodigal Son Icon!) but here is Saint Paul standing next to Mary (for those who don't know, St. Paul has a bald pate and dark beard). What is up with that?

Then I began thinking about what it means. And how we read the Bible. We do not invent new ways to read the Bible. We do not labour over interpretation. We would never wonder who the mountain in Daniel 2:45 is. We don't hesitate to say that passage from Isaiah is about Jesus Ascension (though it is about other things, too.) Why not? Because we have tradited the same Faith from then till now. That is the meaning of Saint Paul being in the Icon. Like St. Paul, we weren't there with the Church on that day, but in being made part of the Body we become, like Saint Paul, recipients and guardians of Tradition, not just of the facts of the faith but of the meaning of those facts and the interpretation of the Bible.


Deacon Michael has something important to say about achieving goals.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Has an Invitation been offered?

I have one worry about Orthodoxy. Maybe it is unfounded. Maybe things are happening that I am unaware of. But I worry that we are not explicitly asking people who obviously love Jesus to join themselves to his Church. I just read about a bishop in the C of E named Nazir who seems to believe Jesus is who the Gospels say he is. And I just have to ask, does he know about us? Has anyone said,"Bishop Nazir, did you know there is a Church that holds all the truths you hold and wants to see England saved? Come and see." I worry that our ecumenical officers spend to much time in "dialogue" with other churches' buearocrats instead of simply saying to individual people in those churches, "The Creed says..., we are the Church mentioned in the Creed, come and worship Jesus with us". I think we need a many fewer ecumenical dialoguers and many more Orthodox apologists.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Children in Church

Presbytera Elizabeth has these words to say about what Ven. Alexander Schmemman caled "holy noise".

"Some say that they want a quiet space to worship God. That if there is a child making noise, their worship is interrupted. I would say that if quiet is necessary (as I think it is--even to mothers of small children!) then perhaps some quiet contemplation at home or in another private setting is in order. Church is for the purpose of corporate worship--the whole community coming together for one purpose. Not for one individual to have quiet contemplation." You can read the whole thing here.

Let's get back to those questions, shall we?

As I mentioned that I would a couple of days ago, I have answered the questions posed by the Velveteen Rabbi.

Question 1. if the nature of god is omnipotent, benevolent, and anthropomorphic (that god is a person, who sees suffering as wrong, and can change all of it), why does god not act to relieve all suffering, or at least the greatest amount of suffering for the greatest amount of people the greatest amount of time?

Answer: There are a couple of things to consider...

A. Much of our suffering is inflicted by other people, by Satan, or by ourselves. If I build my house in a flood plain is God responsible for me being flooded? If I choose to attack my neighbor should God take away my will? Would it be better for everyone if we were all stepford wives? Should God lobotomize us? I think not. As for Satan, well, we do not know what is going on between Satan and God, but from from what the Book of Job and 1 Kings 22:20-23 says it seems a bit more complicated that most people think. There is not much we can say about it except that Satan enjoys hurting people, God restrains him, but God sometimes uses him to achieve His own ends.

B. God has acted several times in history to relieve suffering. The Flood is one time. The judgments on Sodom and Gomorrah, on Nineveh, and on Egypt are all examples of God intervening in history to mitigate suffering. Of Course, God's #1 all time greatest accomplishment in the relief of suffering department is when the Son became one of us, lived our life, died an unjust death, and defeated death by death. God does better than merely remove suffering. He suffers with us and participates in our lives, and allows us to participate in his life. And this transforms suffering in to joy. In the Orthodox Cristian faith we even call mourning a loved one's death "bright sadness" because of this participation in the life of God.

Question 2. if you were god, and you were omnipotent and benevolent, how would you respond to suffering?

Answer: Not as well as God has.

Question 3. if this is not the nature of god, what is the nature of god, that allows suffering in the world?

Answer: As much as we can say God is something, I think the description of God as an omnipotent personal love is not inaccurate. It is insufficient but not inaccurate.

Question 4. if these are the wrong questions to ask, what are the right ones?

Answer: These are the wrong questions. A better response is not to ask God anything. What did that get Job but a terrifying revelation of the might of God? Rather than ask questions about God it is better to ask questions about ourselves:
-How am I going to forgive this person who is hurting me?
-What can i do to be more patient during this time of affliction?
-Did I do anything to cause this pain? If so,what should I do to avoid it in the future?
-Is anyone else hurting with me? If so, what can I do to help them?
-How can this suffering by sanctified?
-What is this suffering showing me about Jesus? How can it help me be more like him?

I'll tag Presbytera Elizabeth, Jeff, Matt, and Fr. Stephen, and Fr. John. Nowit is up to each of them to answer the question and tag 5 people.

Chain Email Turns Out To Be True, Sort Of.

Today I received a chain email with this text:

It is a matter of history that when Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, General Dwight Eisenhower, found the victims of the death camps, he ordered all possible photographs to be taken, and for the German people from surrounding villages to be ushered through the camps and even made to bury the dead. He did this because he said in words to this effect: 'Get it all on record now - get the films - get the witnesses - because somewhere down the track of history some b*stard will get up and say that this never happened'
'All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing'
Edmund Burke
This week, the UK removed The Holocaust from its school curriculum because it 'offended' the Muslim population who claim it never occurred.
This is a frightening portent of the fear that is gripping the world and how easily each country is giving in to it. is now more than 60 years after the Second World War in Europe ended.
This e-ma il is being sent as a memorial chain, in memory of the
six million Jews, 20 million Russians, 10 million Christians and 1,900 Catholic priests who were murdered, massacred, raped, burned, starved and humiliated with the German and Russian peoples looking the other way!
Now, more than ever, with Iran , among others, claiming the Holocaust to be 'a myth,' it is imperative to make sure the world never forgets.
This e-mail is intended to reach 40 million people worldwide!
Be a link in the memorial chain and help distribute this around the world.
Don't just delete this. It will only take a minute to pass this along .
let's cover the world and remember because we cannot let it ever happen again.

Whenever I get something like this, something that seems so absurd that it can only exist as an internet rumour, I do a quick check to see if anyone has debunked it. It turns out that this rumor has, indeed, been debunked. It isn't true. No such ban exists. But most rumors have a grain of truth in them. This one doesn't have a grain, it has a big ugly chunk of truth at its heart.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Just a few days left

Pascha 2008 is almost over. The leave taking is on Wednesday followed by Ascension on Thursday. (Does anyone else find the period between Ascension and Pentecost to be a sad time of year? Christ is gone, we no longer will be shouting "Christ is Risen!" But the Holy Spirit won't have come yet - Not for 10 more days - so we can't sing "O Heavenly King".)

Well, I totally lifted this video and translation (from Serbian) from Fr. John's blog. I like it a lot. I hope you do, too. Oh, for my non-Orthodox readers, this isn't the kind of song we sing in worship. This is a folk song.

People rejoice, nations hear:
Christ is risen, and brings the joy!
Stars dance, mountains sing:
Christ is risen, and brings the joy!
Forests murmur, winds hum:
Christ is risen, and brings the joy!
Seas bow, animals roar:
Christ is risen, and brings the joy!
Bees swarm, and the birds sing:
Christ is risen, and brings the joy!

Angels stand, triple the song:
Christ is risen, and brings the joy!
Sky, humble yourself, and elevate the earth:
Christ is risen, and brings the joy!
Bells chime, and tell to all:
Christ is risen, and brings the joy!
Glory to You God, everything is possible to You,
Christ is risen, and brings the joy!


A few weeks ago,on Terri Gross's show I heard another one of her interviews of an apostate Christian intellectual. (The other kind of religious person she interviews are fundamentalist protestants who are exhibited as though they are animals in a zoo.) This particular interviewee was an alleged expert on the book of job but his interpretation of the book and his explanation of God and suffering was hideously evil. Once I recognized it for what it was I put it out of my mind, and rather successfully, I must say. I can't even remember the smallest part of his argument.

Yesterday I read 4 questions on the blog of the Velveteen Rabbi (see side bar) that make me want to give the correct answer to the question that was wrongly answer on Terri's show. I'm thinking about the answers now and will post them later this week. At that time I will tag several people and ask those I tag to answer the the questions, too.

1. if the nature of god is omnipotent, benevolent, and anthropomorphic (that god is a person, who sees suffering as wrong, and can change all of it), why does god not act to relieve all suffering, or at least the greatest amount of suffering for the greatest amount of people the greatest amount of time?
2. if you were god, and you were omnipotent and benevolent, how would you respond to suffering?
3. if this is not the nature of god, what is the nature of god, that allows suffering in the world?
4. if these are the wrong questions to ask, what are the right ones?