Monday, December 15, 2014

Church and Christmas Trees

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Two Jobs, Las Vegas, and Advent Song

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

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

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

Saturday, August 30, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Where I Am, The State of Orthodoxy in America

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 28, 2014

A new job, law suits, and poverty

I started a new job on May 28.  I work in the member services department of the YMCA.  I like it very much.  It isn't a lot of money but it is more than I was making when I had no job. Also, the boys come to the Y while I am working and go swimming, and when I get off work we play racquet ball.  That is probably the best part of my job.

The clutch on my car burned out going up "The Hill" in late June.  Basil and I were stranded on Hwy 17.  The CHP pushed us to the next exit.  My brother Ken gave me money to have my car carried on a flatbed back to Sunnyvale.  But I haven't had the money to get the car fixed.  It has been parked at the curb in front of my sisters house for a month.  I've been taking the bus back and forth to work from my sister's house.
A couple of days ago I learned that the lawyer (paid for by taxes) who represents my children issued an order that requires me to buy health insurance for my children even though Athanasia makes 3 times what I make and gets health insurance provided to the boys at minimal cost as a benefit of her job.  This leaves me, after child-support and taxes, with a little more than $400 per month.  Obviously, I can't afford my car anymore; not the insurance, nor the payment, nor the taxes due in August,  nor the repairs.  I'm going to call the bank and ask them to come and repossess it.  I'm also going to cancel my own health, dental, and optometric insurance.  Just canceling all the insurance will save me almost $300 per month.

What else can happen to me?  I suppose raiders from the desert might kill my children.  I suppose I could erupt in boils.

Well, long term we all die, but in the short term I don't know what I'm going to do.  What is the point of even having a job if I don't make enough money to live?  Life hardly seems worth living.  I wonder if God has forgotten me.  Its not like I even want a lot.  Is a couple of acres and an apple tree and a grape vine too much to hope for? 

Jesus said consider the lilies.  They don't toil or spin but are arrayed in glory.  I don't know what he was talking about.  Lilies live a few days then die.  But we have to live to be about 70.  I wish he would just kill me now and get it over with.  I do not want to wait another 25 years for my rest. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Paska and Kulich

Today I am making paska and kulich with the boys before we go to Confession and Holy Unction.

I don't put icing on my kulich since the paska is already sweet enough.  I've tried a few Kulich recipes over the years.  This is, in my experience, the best one.  It is from the April 2004 issue of Gourmet magazine.  Thankfully, in U.S. law recipes can not be copyrighted.  

1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sugar plus a pinch
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter
Pinch of saffron threads, crumbled
2 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast (from a 1/4-oz package)
1/4 cup lukewarm water (105–115°F)
6 cups all-purpose flour plus additional for dusting
4 large eggs

Make dough: Heat milk, sugar, butter, saffron, and salt in a 1-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cool to lukewarm.
Meanwhile, stir together yeast, warm water, and pinch of sugar and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If mixture doesn't foam, discard and start over with new yeast.)
Put flour in a large bowl and make a large well in center. Lightly beat 3 eggs and add to well along with milk and yeast mixtures. Carefully stir together with a wooden spoon, gradually incorporating flour, until a soft dough forms. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and knead, dusting with just enough flour to keep dough from sticking, until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Put dough in a lightly oiled large bowl, turning to coat with oil, and let rise, covered with a clean kitchen towel, in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 3 hours.
Punch down dough and let rise again, covered with towel, until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
Form loaves:
Generously butter soufflé dishes. Punch down dough and divide in half. Loosely wrap 1 piece in plastic wrap and set aside. Cut away one third of remaining piece of dough and reserve, then roll remaining two thirds into a large ball and transfer to a soufflé dish.
Roll reserved piece of dough into an 18-inch-long rope on work surface with palms of your hands. Cut rope into 3 equal pieces and lay pieces vertically side by side on work surface, about 1/4 inch apart. Gather 3 ends farthest from you and press them together, then braid strands, pressing together other ends to secure braid. Lay braid over top of dough in soufflé dish (trim braid if using coffee cans). Form another loaf with remaining dough in same manner.
Cover loaves with clean kitchen towel and let rise in draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours (loaves will rise about 1 inch above rims of dishes).
Bake loaves:
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.
Lightly beat remaining egg with a large pinch of salt, then brush egg over top of each loaf. Bake loaves until golden brown and bread sounds hollow when tapped on bottom, about 1 hour. Turn loaves out onto a rack, then turn right side up and cool completely.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

This week so far.

It is about 2 on Thursday morning.

On Sunday I didn't have enough money to get to church but I sold my last shotgun (The boys are not happy about me selling my guns.  They wanted then when I die.) so now I have enough money for my phone payment and some gas.  Of course, this means I won't be getting any spring turkeys.  Maybe some day in the future.  Who knows? 

On Monday I applied for a job as a bartender and was 99% sure I was going to get it.  The guy never called.  I've decided to stop counting the number of jobs I've applied for.  It is a little depressing.  A recruiter (a friend of my sister) looked at my resume and said "it's all over the place" and "it needs some work".  I know, the big companies like specialists.  But isn't that a boring way to live?  Isn't that kind of an insect way to live?  Soldier ants are only soldier ants.  Only one kind of bug gathers nectar from only one kind of orchid.  But I'm not an insect.  I'm a man and men are not specialists, We are generalists. 

I can do anything.  And if I can't do it I can learn how. In my life I've been an aluminum recycler, a sandwich maker, a parking lot striper, a soldier (which means I was a chaplain assistant, rifleman, clerk, and driver), an electrician's helper, a bookkeeper, a road paver, a data entry clerk, an advertising salesman (which means I was an account executive, copywriter, report writer, survey designer, researcher, guy who says to the engineers "Hey, I have an idea. Is it possible to..."), apartment manager, welder, mechanic, hotel front desk clerk, metal fabricator, cinema manager, shoe salesman, and car salesman.   So, I haven't had a lot of job stability.  But I've done more things than most people ever will.  And that doesn't even count the amazing things I've done as a volunteer for the Boy Scouts, political campaigns, and my Church. 

Well, also on Monday, I pulled in to the parking lot at Basil's school and when I got out of the car I heard a "click click click click" coming from the car next to me.  They lady's battery was dead.  So I gave her a jump. (I always carry heavy duty jumper cables, an emergency blanket, a box of road flares, matches, 2 gallons of water, and snow chains in my car).  Turns out she was the nanny of one of the other Orthodox kids at the school.  There are three.  Basil is in the third grade, then there are two girls.  One is in the 2nd grade and one is in the 1st grade.  When I walked up to the car the girl said, "Hi, Basil's dad!"  I thought that was weird until later when Basil told me she was Orthodox and that's how she knows me.  He said none of the Orthodox kids play with each other at school (different grades and sexes) but he likes it that he isn't the only Orthodox Christian at the school.

I ran into the 1st grade girl and her mother at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox in San Jose, which is where my boys go to Church School.  We chatted for a while. Turns out she and her husband used to be protestant.  Before they had children used to go to one of the churches in Silicon Valley I think of as a Rock and Roll churches.  But having children prompted them to figure out what they really believe.  One thing I thought was funny was when she said about her old church, "Matt, they had a fog machine but they never would have dreamed of worshipping God with incense."  I thought that was a very funny thing to say but I knew exactly what she was talking about. 

Tuesday I was feeling pretty low about my job hunt.  I don't want to talk about Tuesday.

Wednesday was good.  I applied for five jobs, took a nap, and went to Church for the praying of the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete.  One this one night of the year the whole Orthodox Church all around the world sings the Great Canon and reads the Life of St. Mary of Egypt.  They let me read it tonight.  It is always a shocking story. I love reading and chanting in church.  Maybe, if I ever get my life together again I can pick up with the training to be a reader.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

A Fun Night

The next couple of nights Athanasia is out of town so I am staying with the boys.

When I had that job as a pump and compressor mechanic a couple of years ago I was too tired to go for the nighttime walks the boys loved.  When I was selling cars I was always working at night.  So we didn't get to do the walks.  (Maybe, you remember me writing about them over the years?) Well, tonight, after supper, when Basil and Anselm had cleared the table and washed the dishes, we went on one of our night time walks again.  Much FUN!  Some flowers are blooming.  Snap dragons, cherry trees, tulip trees, but not the jasmine or the honeysuckle.  We walked around several blocks of the Willow Glen neighbor hood.  Came across a giant cork oak.  That was neat.  The boy enjoyed feeling the bark.  They swung on all the rope swings their neighbors have hanging on threes in their front yards.  We looked at stars.  Our old friends Orion, the dogs, and the twins were up in the sky. 

After we got home I thought it would be nice to read some Bible to them.  I thought I'd read that story in II Kings where God gets angry at the Syrians for saying he was a hill god but not a valley god.  I thinks it's one of the funniest stories in the Bible.  It is totally hilarious.  But, I thought, I should do a recap of the OT from creation up to that point so they would know where this story fits in to the history. 

So we started with Creation and Noah and went through the call of Abram, his name change to Abraham, how he had faith that all that land would be his even though he died only owning Sarah's burial plot. We covered Joseph, and Moses, and Jericho and Rahab, and then skipped all the Judges between Joshua and Samuel.  The boys were surprised when Israel said they wanted "a king like the nations around us" instead of wanting God for their King.  And we skimmed over Saul, the witch of Endor, David, Solomon, the Civil War, and eventually made it to the Story of Naaman.

There I stopped and opened the Bible and read to them.  I don't know why, and I wouldn't say it was God prompting me, but I did stop there.  And as I was reading (and I have to say to the guys who edited this part of the Bible, what is up with all the pronouns?  It was hard enough for me to keep straight who was saying what to whom, but poor Basil was totally lost until I broke it down for him.) the boys noticed something: Baptism is the easy thing God asks of us.  Anselm said, "Yeah, God makes it so easy I didn't even have to do it, the priest just did it to me!"

It didn't stop there.  It was like a switch in them had been flipped on and they saw the connection between Melchezadick and Communion and giving thanks. And they saw the connection between Rahab's scarlet cord and the blood on the doors at Passover, and that God didn't just use the Virgin Mary to be his mother but had used Rahab, "the opposite of a virgin" as Anselm explained to Basil what a prostitute is, to be one of his ancestors. And then Basil asked, "are any of these people our ancestors?"  I said, Noah and Adam .  "What about Abraham, is he my ancestor?" I said, "Yes. God makes all Christians children of Abraham.  He is our father in the faith". 

Basil said, " What? That doesn't make sense." and gave me a look like I wasn't being honest with him.  But Anselm said, "It's because of baptism!  'Whosoever has been baptised into Christ has put on Christ' and because Jesus is Abraham's descendant we are all Abraham's descendants!" 

Being a dad is the most fun thing in the world.  I can not describe how wonderful it is to hear my sons talking like this. 

One thing I noticed in our little tour through the OT tonight is how people of God turn down money.  Abraham would not split the spoils of war with the king of Sodom, and Elisha would not accept payment for healing Naaman.  It reminded me of the Didache, wherein the Apostles taught that if a prophet says "give me money", the Church should just send him on his way.  And I told the boys about Benny Hinn, who grew up in the Orthodox Church but became one of those lying prophets who just takes money from people.  I reminded the boys that just because they are growing up Orthodox Christians doesn't mean they can't leave the Church, that every day they must cling to Jesus.  Oh, I hope they do.

I never did make it to the story I had planned on reading to them but that's okay.  It was a good night just the way it was. 

A Lenten Sunday Supper: Farfalle, Spinach, and Garbanzo Beans

3 teaspoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 pint  vegetable broth
1 15 1/2-ounce can garbanzo beans (chick peas), rinsed well and drained
12 ounces farfalle pasta, freshly cooked ( I like Barilla # 65)

Just about to add the farfalle to the boiling water

The Finished Product

Saute onion and garlic in 1 tsp of the oil until tender
Pour in broth and simmer until liquid is reduced by half,  4 or 5 minutes.
Add garbanzo beans and spinach and boil 1 minute. Transfer spinach mixture to large bowl.
Add pasta.
Drizzle pasta with 2 teaspoons olive oil and toss. Season pasta generously with pepper.

Both Anselm and Basil liked it .  I served it with garlic bread (baguette drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with fresh minced garlic), sauted broccoli and red bell peppers, and San Pellegrino water.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


I have one week to find a job or I am in serious trouble.
Why?  I have used up all of my unemployment insurance.
I am not hopeless but I've applied for more than 140 jobs since I was laid off in January and haven't got one yet.  I had an interview yesterday for a delivery driver job but I think they thought I was too old.  I walked into the office with a gray beard and wearing a tie.  Everyone else was 21 and wearing a t-shirt.
I'm just not getting any call-backs.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Anathemas

A couple of days ago was the Sunday of the Triumph of Orthodoxy.  In the service is a list of anathemas but I have never heard them in person since they can only be repeated in a diocesan cathedral with the bishop presiding, but here is the English text of the service for the Triumph of Orthodoxy, including the dreadful, heart-breaking, and terrible Anathemas. 

If you read the whole service you will see a lot of beautiful things, but right now I am concentrating on the Anathemas, which most people never hear. 
(I don't understand Slavonic but the looks like the Anathemas start after the creed, at about 22 minutes)

"As we therefore bless and praise those who have obeyed the divine revelation and have fought for it; so we reject and anathematize those who oppose this truth, if while waiting for their return and repentance, they refuse to turn again to the Lord; and in this we follow the sacred tradition of the ancient Church, holding fast to her traditions.

To those who deny the existence of God, and assert that the world is self-existing, and that all things in it occur by chance, and not by the providence of God, Anathema!
All: Anathema! (...and after each exclamation.)

Deacon: To those who say that God is not spirit, but flesh; or that He is not just, merciful, wise and all-knowing, and utter similar blasphemies, Anathema!

To those who dare to say that the Son of God and also the Holy Spirit are not one in essence and of equal honor with the Father, and confess that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit are not one God, Anathema!

To those who foolishly say that the coming of the Son of God into the world in the flesh, and His voluntary passion, death, and resurrection were not necessary for our salvation and the cleansing of sins, Anathema! To those who reject the grace of redemption preached by the Gospel as the only means of our justification before God, Anathema!

To those who dare to say that the all-pure Virgin Mary was not virgin before giving birth, during birthgiving, and after her child-birth, Anathema!

To those who do not believe that the Holy Spirit inspired the prophets and apostles, and by them taught us the true way to eternal salvation, and confirmed this by miracles, and now dwells in the hearts of all true and faithful Christians, and teaches them in all truth, Anathema!

To those who reject the immortality of the soul, the end of time, the future judgment, and eternal reward for virtue and condemnation for sin, Anathema!

To those who reject all the holy mysteries held by the Church of Christ, Anathema!

To those who reject the Councils of the holy fathers and their traditions, which are agreeable to divine revelation and kept piously by the Orthodox Catholic Church, Anathema!

To those who mock and profane the holy images and relics which the holy Church receives as revelations of God's work and of those pleasing to Him, to inspire their beholders with piety, and to arouse them to follow these examples; and to those who say that they are idols, Anathema!

To those who dare to say and teach that our Lord Jesus Christ did not descend to earth, but only seemed to; or that He did not descend to the earth and become incarnate only once, but many times, and who likewise deny that the true Wisdom of the Father is His only-begotten Son, Anathema!

To the followers of the occult, spiritualists, wizards, and all who do not believe in the one God, but honor the demons; or who do not humbly give their lives over to God, but strive to learn the future through sorcery, Anathema"

Thursday, March 06, 2014

A Fun Thing to do during Great Lent - Visit All Orthodox in the Bay Area!

I've been to several of the Orthodox parishes, missions, monasteries, and cathedrals in the Bay Area but haven't been to all of them.  So, this Lent I'm going to try and visit all of them for, at least, one service.  Here are the ones I know about.  Do you know of any others?

St. Nicholas Orthodox Church - Saratoga   DONE 
St. Herman Mission - Sunnyvale  DONE
The Other St. Nicholas Orthodox Church- San Jose
St. Basil the Great Orthodox Church - San Jose
Archangel Michael Orthodox Church - Saratoga
Orthodox Church of the Redeemer - Los Altos Hills  DONE
St. James Orthodox Church - Milpitas  DONE
St. Stephen Orthodox Church - Campbell  DONE
Protection of the Holy Virgin Orthodox Church - Palo Alto
St. Christiana Orthodox Church - Fremont
St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church - Berkeley  DONE
Ascension Cathedral - Oakland
Holy Cross Orthodox Monastery - Castro Valley
St. Innocent Orthodox Church - Livermore
Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church - Castro Valley  DONE
Archangel Michael Orthodox Church - Concord
St. Demitrios Orthodox Church - Concord
St. Xenia Orthodox Church - Concord
Orthodox Church of the Holy Cross - Belmont
All Russian Saints Orthodox Church - Burlingame
Nativity of the Virgin Orthodox Church - Menlo Park DONE
Holy Trinity Cathedral - San Francisco
Holy Virgin Cathedral - San Francisco
Annunciation Cathedral - San Francisco
Holy Trinity Orthodox Church - San Francisco
Our Lady of Kazan Orthodox Church - San Francisco
St, Nicholas Orthodox Church - San Francisco
The Other Other St. Nicholas Orthodox Church - San Francisco
Christ the Savior Orthodox Church - San Francisco
The Other Other Other St. Nicholas Orthodox Church - San Anselmo
Nativity of Christ Orthodox Church - Novato
St. Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church - Santa Rosa
Ss. Peter and Paul Orthodox Church - Santa Rosa
Holy Dormition Orthodox Church - Santa Rosa
Holy Assumption Monastery - Calistoga
St. Symeon Orthodox Church - Calistoga
Ss. Peter and Paul Orthodox Church - Ben Lomond  DONE
St. Lawrence Orthodox Church - Felton

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

A Hymn to Mary

We mention Mary and pray, at least, a short prayer to the God-bearer at every service, but last night, during the Great Canon I was struck by how much we Orthodox pray to her during Lent.  I got me to thinking about a hymn we sing all the time during Lent.  It is sung by the Orthodox every day during Lent, The Coptic and the Roman Catholic. I've read, also sing it but I do not know when.   While it probably isn't the oldest hymn to Mary, it is the one for which we have the oldest evidence:  A fragment, which scholars date to about A.D. 250, written in Greek that was found in Egypt.

Ὑπὸ τὴν σὴν εὐσπλαγχνίαν,
καταφεύγομεν, Θεοτόκε.
Τὰς ἡμῶν ἱκεσίας,
μὴ παρίδῃς ἐν περιστάσει,
ἀλλ᾽ ἐκ κινδύνων λύτρωσαι ἡμᾶς,
μόνη Ἁγνή, μόνη εὐλογημένη.

Beneath thy compassion,
We take refuge, O Theotokos:
do not despise our petitions in time of trouble,
but rescue us from dangers,
only pure one, only blessed one.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Camping and Forgiveness Vespers

Saturday night was the Cub Scout Pack camping trip.  Because of the job I had selling cars in 2012-2013, the divorce, and my bouncing around from place to place since last May I haven't been very involved in Scouting lately.  But for the last two months, since I've been unemployed and living in Sunnyvale I've become more active.   I helped Basil's Den earn the whittling chip, helped Basil make his pinewood derby car, judged the deserts at the Blue and Gold Banquet, and yesterday and today lead Basil's den (the regular den leader couldn't be there) during the pack camping trip.

The campground we stayed at had some really neat stuff.  There was a thing called The Mole Hole that was super cool.  It was a plastic pipe about 3 feet in diameter, 200 yards long, and tied to the side of a mountain.  The Scouts put on helmets, knee pads, gloves, and elbow pads and rode plastic sleds down the inside of the pipe.  The came out of the pipe at the bottom and landed on a pile of mattresses.  Of course, there was archery, arts & crafts, sports (Anselm took a vicious slice to the face from a hockey stick.), a campfire where the scouts entertained each other with skits and songs and where I told a ghost story.  Saturday night, after I and Basil and the rest of the Cub Scouts went to bed, Anselm stayed up late with the handful of other Boy Scouts who were there and played poker in the lodge.

This morning we broke camp, ate breakfast, and were going to go on a hike, but Basil fell into one of the rivers while he and some other Cub Scouts were trying to find physical evidence to corroborate the terrifying story I had told the night before.  I have no idea what they found, but they were all convinced the story was true by what ever they found.  So, since Basil was soaking wet we skipped the hike and just headed home. I got them to their mothers house about noon. and got them both bathed and into clean clothes. Then she got home from work, and I headed back to my sisters house for a nap before Forgiveness Vespers and the start of Great Lent. 

I have a friend who grew up Lutheran but now attends a kind of church I think of as a Rock & Roll church.  She always asks me if I get tired of tradition, and how I can stand being in boring irrelevant and unemotional services.  I always reply with something like "I find it very moving" and then tell her about the Gospel of the day or the life of the saint of the day, one or both of which I always find very emotionally moving and relevant.  Her responses make me think I am not a very good communicator. Tonight, at Forgiveness Vespers I thought of her.  The tradition is we prostrate before each other, one at a time (at my age and weight it isn't easy), ask for forgiveness, and give forgiveness with a kiss and a hug.  Is anything more relevant?  Jesus said if we don't forgive we will not be forgiven.  And with all that forgiveness can emotion not be coursing through our veins?  I don't know how many people were crying tonight, but I was one of them.  So, tonight, I was thinking about her and how, if there was any service that would disabuse her of her notions concerning Orthodox services this would be it.  But, it isn't my job to disabuse anyone of anything.  It's my job to repent.

Friday, February 21, 2014


This week my sons Basil and Anselm had off from school.  So we spent every day together.  We went to we played games, went to the snow, went to museums, and cooked together.  We even did something that I put on my list of things to do in 2014:  Made cinnamon rolls from scratch. I liked the recipe.  It was easy and the cinnamon rolls tasted good.  The only thing I didn't like is that they turned out too fluffy.  I don't know if that was the fault of the baker or the recipe, though.

14 Fun Things to do in 2014

1) attend the SJ Giants home opener on April 10
2) hike the entire Ridge Trail - 1/4 COMPLETE 
4) make cinnamon rolls from scratch (DONE)
5) climb Mission Peak - DONE (and I was sore for days!)
6) drink a bottle from each winery in the county
7) go to the Reno air races
8) read the Gapes of Wrath 
9) attend the Pascha service at the SF cathedral 
10) learn how to make cheese
11) spend a day at Raging Waters
12) take my bag limit of Spring turkeys
13) learn the Mambo
14) get the ring in the clown's mouth at the Santa Cruz boardwalk carousel

Sunday, February 16, 2014

A barrier to understanding

A couple of days ago I put a picture of the relics of the Roman priest-martyr Valentine on my Facebook page.  I was surprised by the reaction.  An argument began between my Orthodox friends and my Protestant friends. They seemed to be talking past one another.  Each completely misunderstanding what the other was saying.  The Protestants accusing the Orthodox of clericalism and idolatry and the Orthodox accusing the Protestants of denying the resurrection. But underlying all of those specific disagreements is, I think, a greater and more fundamental issue: 

The immanence of the eschaton.   Orthodox believe it.  Protestants don't.  Without that basic belief nothing Orthodox do or say makes sense to Protestants.  Veneration of saints, the real presence of Jesus in the chalice, the blessings of water, candles, fruit, etc., all depend on the real (e.g. real) overlapping of the Kingdom of God with our everyday lives.  During the Divine Liturgy when the Orthodox say we remember the second coming of the Lord we can only say it because in God, where we are, time is meaningless.  It is just a temporary state, at the most.  But the things of the Church, because the Church is in God, are timeless.  Jesus dying on Calvary was the appearance in time of something that always happens, because Jesus was slain before there was time.  Likewise, the relics of saints are venerated because they are already resurrected, and Jesus is present in the Chalice because he is always being sacrificed, and water can be Holy because Jesus is baptized.  The eschaton is present and barely hidden, like a table top under a thin layer of dust.  Just wipe away some of that dust and we see much more than a table, we see the fire of God.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Avoiding Depression

Well, I lost my job back on January 3 (The firm I was working for lost the client. The whole east bay office shut down.) and have been looking for a job since then.  I've had a couple of interviews but nothing has come from them.  It is very discouraging.  I think to myself, "Do I have to live like this for the next 20 years? Am I ever going to get a job?  Am I ever going to get a job that is enough to live on and pay for a place to live?" That last part is the hard part here in Silicon Valley, where the average apartment rent is over $2,000 per month.

Let's say I get a full time job at $10 per hour. (Not that anyone is offering me one of those, but one can hope.)

That's $400 per week. Which is about $1,680 per month.
Take out about 20% for payroll and income tax.
Take out 25% for child support.
Take out car insurance and car payment.
That leaves $604 per month but the least expensive apartment in Silicon Valley right now is a 180sq.ft. studio in Alviso for $750 per month.  That leaves a $146 deficit before I even buy food and gasoline.

Thankfully, my sister and her husband are letting me live with them since the week before Thanksgiving and have made it clear that I can stay as long as I need to but, gosh, I'm 45 years old, a college graduate, and a father of two little boys.  I have to do better than that.  I just don't have any idea how. 

I found out about a school district that needs substitute teachers so I am putting together an application packet for that (waiting on transcripts) but even if they use me every day of the school year that is only $500 per week during the school year.

But the worst thing, from a despair point of view, is applying for a bunch of jobs everyday.  I apply but have no hope.  It can imagine the men who jumped out of trenches and ran across no-mans-land in WWI felt like this.  You do it because you have to do it, not because it is going to achieve anything. I can tell that depression is coming back because I just want to sleep all the time.  So, to combat that I made a list of fun things I want to do this year.  I've already done some of them.

14 Fun Things to do in 2014

1) attend the SJ Giants home opener on April 10
2) hike the entire Ridge Trail - 1/4 COMPLETE 
4) make cinnamon rolls from scratch
5) climb Mission Peak - DONE (and I was sore for days!)

6) drink a bottle from each winery in the county
7) go to the Reno air races
8) read the Gapes of Wrath 
9) attend the Pascha service at the SF cathedral 
10) learn how to make cheese
11) spend a day at Raging Waters
12) take my bag limit of Spring turkeys
13) learn the Mambo
14) get the ring in the clown's mouth at the Santa Cruz boardwalk carousel

And, maybe, while I am doing all of this, someone will offer me a job that pays enough to live on.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

An Evangelism Idea

1/29/14  Update:  Thank you for your encouragement.  I just forwarded this plan to the priest.  I'll let you know as it develops.

Original post on 1/14/14:   I go to St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Saratoga, California.  Part of our mission is to be the Orthodox Church for all the people of Saratoga, even though most of us don't live in Saratoga.  So, I've been thinking about how to do that.  Here is one idea I've come up with.  What do you think?

St. Nicholas Day Fair for 3rd grade and under

Purpose: To expose the people of Saratoga, especially the children to the love of Jesus as it shines through St. Nicholas, to let the Light of Christ shine on the people of Saratoga, and to convert non-Christians to the Orthodox Faith.

Concept: A parish festival where we ask for nothing but give what we have to the people among whom we live and worship.

Price of admission: A can of food for the needy

What each child gets: 2 game tickets, 2 craft tickets, 1 drink ticket, 1 bell ringing ticket, 1 ticket to Panikhida to St. Nicholas, one candle to light before the icon of St. Nicholas, a booklet about the life of St. Nicholas

Crafts:   Garland stringing, leather stamping, ornament painting, paper miter making, Christmas card making

Games: window coin toss  (Need more ideas for St. Nicholas themed games. Maybe something about catching swords or bobbing for pickles.)

Drinks for kids (price 1 ticket): Kinder punch, mulled cider

Drinks for adults (Free) All the kid stuff plus coffee


2:45 P.M.  (or whenever school lets out on Dec. 6) Beginning of procession from Blaney Plaza to St. Nicholas Orthodox Church via Big Basin Way, 4th Street, and Elva. (about a 15 minute walk at a kid friendly pace.)

3:P.M. (or when the procession arrives) games and crafts and drinks begin.

4:30 p.m. bell ringing begins. 

4:45 (or when the last child has rung the bells) panikida begins.

Event is over when the panikida is over.

St. Nicholas prayer cards given to everyone who stays to the end of the panikida.

Sunday, January 19, 2014


Fr. Thaddeus at St. Lawrence Orthodox Church in Felton, California told this story.

When St. Amphilochios was asked how to avoid despair over reoccurring sin, he answered with the following account:

“A certain brother, overcome by the passion of immorality, sinned every day. However, each time, with tears and prayers, he would fall before Christ and receive forgiveness from Him. And as soon as he had repented, the next day, being misled again by shameful habit, he would fall to sin again.

After having sinned, he would go to the Church, prostrate himself before the Icon of our Lord Jesus Christ and tearfully confess: “Lord, have mercy upon me and takeaway from me this fearful temptation, for it troubles me fiercely and wounds me with the bitter taste of pleasure. O my Master, cleanse my person once more, that my heart might be sweetened and thankful. My Lord, on my word, I will no longer commit this sin.”

And though his lips had just whispered these words, no sooner would he leave the Church than he would fall once again to sin. This happened not for one or two or even three years, but for more than ten years.

One day when all that we have described again occurred, the brother, having fallento sin, rushed to the Church, lamenting, groaning, and crying with anguish, to invoke the mercy of God, that He might have compassion on him and take him from the sin of immorality.

No sooner had he called on God, the lover of man, than the Devil, that destroyer of our souls, seeing that he could gain nothing, since whatever he accomplished by sin, the brother undid by his repentance, became infuriated and appeared visibly before the brother. Facing the Icon of Christ, the Devil said to our compassionate Savior: "What will become of the two of us, Jesus Christ? Your sympathy for this sinner defeats me and takes the ground I have gained, since you keep accepting this dissolute man and prodigal who daily mocks you and scorns your authority. Indeed, why is it that you do not burn him up, but, rather, tolerate and put up with him? To this fellow here, even though an immoral man and a prodigal, you calmly show your sympathy, just because he throws himself down in front of your Icon. In what way can you be called a just Judge, then?

The Devil said all of this, poisoned with great bitterness, while there poured forth from his nostrils a black flame.

Having said these things, he fell silent and a voice from the sanctuary answered him,"O, all-cunning and ruinous Dragon, are you yet not satisfied with your evil and destructive desire to gobble up the world? Now you have even the nerve to try to do away with this man here, who has come with contrition to entreat the mercy of my compassion to devour him, too? Can you offer up enough sins that, by them, you can tilt the balance of justice against the precious blood which I shed on the Cross for this man? Behold my murder and death, which I endured for the forgiveness of his sins.

"You, when he turns again to sin, do not turn him away, but receive him with joy, neither chastising him nor preventing him from committing sin, out of the hope that you might
win him over; but should I, who [taught my disciples] to forgive sins seven times seventy (Matthew 18:22), not show him mercy and compassion? Indeed, simply because he flees to me, I will not turn him away until I have won him over. I neither turn away nor reject anyone, even if he should fall many times a day and many times return to me; such a person will not leave my Temple saddened, for I came not to call the righteous, but to call sinners to repent. Look at this man who a few moments ago repented, having returned from sin and having fallen at my feet with a sincere resolution to abandon sin, has there by conquered you.”

While[all of] this was being said, the repentant brother had thrown himself before the Icon of the Savior. With his face to the ground and lamenting, he surrendered his spirit to the Lord. From this incident, my brothers, let us learn of the limitless compassion of God and of His love of man, that we mightnever again be disheartened by our sins, but rather look after our salvation with zeal.”