Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Glory to God!

I forgot to mention this, and I didn't want to add it to my Christmas post, but I got my grades already.
First of all, at the eight weeks I had 1 A, 3 B's and a C. Seriously.
I was difficult for me to get used to working a lot more than I have been thus far in my time as a full time student. And, I was trying to commit myself to spending more time with my family during the day to make up for the fact that I was working every weekday evening.
Anyways, I had resigned myself to lower grades than I'm used to. So, now you can understand why I say Glory to God for the straight A's I somehow got.
I'm reminded that when I make the important things important the lower priority things have a tendency to go all right.
Barring any unforeseen circumstances I will graduate in December of 2007. That'll be a great day. Man have I been in college for a long time.

A Blessed Feast!

Christ is born! Glorify him!
This has been an interesting holiday season. First of all, I talked Amy to have her brother (who now lives down the street from us) to drive her and the kids to the farm for Christmas. Her parents' anniversary is Christmas Eve and this year was their 30th. And, her brother and his wife were in town from California. We haven't been out to the farm for almost two years.
This year we could afford to go to the farm for Christmas, but I couldn't get off work.
Oh well. I had a great Feast of the Nativity of Our God and Savior Jesus Christ in the Flesh..
Sunday morning I drove up to our church in Madison. There was normal Sunday morning Liturgy. In the afternoon we had our Christmas Eve Vespers. Then I spent several fun-filled hours visiting other people's family Christmases (should the plural of Christmas be Christmasae?). It was great. I'm never surprised, by the way, when people are extremely welcoming to me when I'm with my wife and kids, but when it's just me, it does seem unlikely.
Anyways, my Christmases were great. It did make me particularly homesick to be apart from my family and with other peoples' families. I certainly homesick for the house. I was homesick for my family. Christmas Eve Alexis woke up crying for me and Amy left me a message on my voice mail of her crying and saying "Daddy, I miss you." It about tore my heart out.
So, Christmas morning we went back to church for the Festal Liturgy. I saw the choir was depleted by holiday travelling, so I went to join in. It was a great experience. They asked me to join the choir whenever I'm able.
This Christmas I'm thinking especially of two people (besides Amy and the kids who occupy lots of my thoughts): my Grandma Randall, who died December 20, 1987. She lived right down the street (a block away) and was a close friend to all of us grandkids. Twenty years next year. Memory Eternal! And I've spent a lot of time thinking about/praying for my little brother Noel, who is in prison. I am ashamed that I've never visited him, even when I make the trip all the way to Michigan. Something tells me Christ meant it when he said that when we visit those in prison, we visit him. Remember Noel in yours prayers.

The Nativity Homily of St. John Chrysostom:
I behold a new and wondrous mystery! My ears resound to the Shepherd's song, piping no soft melody, but chanting full forth a heavenly hymn.
The Angels sing!The Archangels blend their voices in harmony!The Cherubim hymn their joyful praise!The Seraphim exalt His glory!
All join to praise this holy feast, beholding the Godhead here on earth, and man in heaven. He who is above, now for our redemption dwells here below; and he that was lowly is by divine mercy raised.
Bethlehem this day resembles heaven; hearing from the stars the singing of angelic voices; and in place of the sun, enfolds within itself on every side the Sun of Justice.
And ask not how: for where God wills, the order of nature yields. For He willed, he had the power, He descended, He redeemed; all things move in obedience to God.
This day He Who Is, is Born; and He Who Is becomes what He was not. For when He was God, He became man; yet not departing from the Godhead that is His. Nor yet by any loss of divinity became He man, nor through increase became he God from man; but being the Word He became flesh, His nature, because of impassibility, remaining unchanged.
And so the kings have come, and they have seen the heavenly King that has come upon the earth, not bringing with Him Angels, nor Archangels, nor Thrones, nor Dominations, nor Powers, nor Principalities, but, treading a new and solitary path, He has come forth from a spotless womb.
Yet He has not forsaken His angels, nor left them deprived of His care, nor because of His Incarnation has he departed from the Godhead.
And behold,Kings have come, that they might adore the heavenly King of glory;Soldiers, that they might serve the Leader of the Hosts of Heaven;Women, that they might adore Him Who was born of a woman so that He might change the pains of child-birth into joy;Virgins, to the Son of the Virgin, beholding with joy, that He Who is the Giver of milk, Who has decreed that the fountains of the breast pour forth in ready streams, receives from a Virgin Mother the food of infancy;Infants, that they may adore Him Who became a little child, so that out of the mouth of infants and sucklings, He might perfect praise;Children, to the Child Who raised up martyrs through the rage of Herod;Men, to Him Who became man, that He might heal the miseries of His servants;Shepherds, to the Good Shepherd Who has laid down His life for His sheep;Priests, to Him Who has become a High Priest according to the order of Melchisedech;Servants, to Him Who took upon Himself the form of a servant that He might bless our servitude with the reward of freedom;Fishermen, to Him Who from amongst fishermen chose catchers of men;Publicans, to Him Who from amongst them named a chosen Evangelist;Sinful women, to Him Who exposed His feet to the tears of the repentant;
And that I may embrace them all together, all sinners have come, that they may look upon the Lamb of God Who taketh away the sins of the world.
Since therefore all rejoice, I too desire to rejoice. I too wish to share the choral dance, to celebrate the festival. But I take my part, not plucking the harp, not shaking the Thyrsian staff, not with the music of pipes, nor holding a torch, but holding in my arms the cradle of Christ. For this is all my hope, this my life, this my salvation, this my pipe, my harp. And bearing it I come, and having from its power received the gift of speech, I too, with the angels, sing: Glory to God in the Highest;and with the shepherds: and on earth peace to men of good will.
From the journal Road to Emmaus, Fall 2005 (#23).

Friday, December 15, 2006

Eighth Day Books

Some of my devoted readers may be familiar with Eighth Day Books. I recently re-discovered the website, and I can't wait to buy every book in the catalog! I am especially interested in trying to form an integrated worldview, which doesn't separate between theology, science, politics, nature, art, poetry, but that sees them as one complete whole.




They are also the suppliers for this cool Orthodox Christian coffee shop/bookstore in Colorado Springs, CO:



So, check them out and buy books.

Christmas Break, Or Levi Rambles Because He Has Too Much Free Time

My finals are over. Yesterday I turned in my final paper for Mind, Meaning and Value: Studies in Neurophilosophy. The class wasn't bad. As I was leaving the professor asked, "Well, Mr. Hadley, what did you think of the class? Did you learn anything?" "Yes sir, but I'm still not a materialist [or an ontological reductionist]"
Anyways, that's my life.
Now I'm here at the house blogging while Alexis watches Pokemon. Exciting. Today was donut day. I know it's not healthy (and probably not fast-like), but we have a tradition of buying donuts every friday morning. It gives the kids something to be excited about and look forward to every Friday. And they do.

So, what's on the plate for Christmas Break?
Well, I'll be working plenty at UPS, I'll be sitting around at the house and I plan to do some fun/discretionary reading:
Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claborne
Miracles by C.S. Lewis

And I'll probably play a lot of Nintendo. (Gamecube, not Wii! How rich do you think I am?)

Mostly, I'm just sitting here waiting for my grades to be posted. It's going to make me crazy. I'm sure I have 2/5 A's. And I'm pretty sure I have 2 other days. And the last one's an A/B wildcard. It makes me crazy. Argh.

Well, thanks for reading my ramblings, if you lasted this long.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Final Pictures

By this point in the day we were all pretty tired. Especially Alexis. We were almost done.

Amy and I with our sponsors, Nick and Diane Huniak
I have no idea why I am standing all in front of everyone like that. And what is up with my hunchback posture?

Baptism/Chrismation Pictures

Micah being baptized
the Orthodox Church, btw, believes in trine immersion, except for certain circumstances like this parish where the baptismal font is even too small for my kids.

Pictures of Alexis' baptism should be forthcoming. Apparently her uncle Neil was looking in the other direction.



Amy and I receiving our baptismal crosses from Fr. Thomas


Amy being Chrismated (yes our baptismal robes were large white towels)

Micah being Chrismated (again no picture of Alexis)

We're being 'churched'
After our baptisms and chrismations we were able to change into church clothes and come back into the church for our "churching," which usually involves a mother officially bringing her newly baptized infant into the church for the first time.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Baptisms/Chrismations

Well, it's started, now.
Last night Amy, the kids, and I were received into the Holy Orthodox Church through the sacraments of baptism and chrismation.
It was a unique experience.
And this morning we received our first communion. Neither kid spit it out or anything, and I, the sinner, didn't drop dead on the spot.

So, here is an icon of my patron, St. Michael the Archangel


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Have a blessed St. Nicholas Day (December 6)! (Especially you, Nick!)
Here's a link to information on the historic St. Nicholas from the OCA website.
Here's a link to the St. Nicholas of Myra movie which is currently in production.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Patron Saints

Nick,
The shortest and most practical answer to "what does it mean to have a patron saint?" is:
In Orthodox families, and particularly in Orthodox countries a child's middle name is usually that of a Saint (that is, a recognized capital-"S" Saint). This name functions as a sort of "church name" or Christian name.
At certain times in church history, pagans who were being received into the church would have names given after gods, demons or pagan feasts, and they would change their name to reflect the new life they had found. This is analogous to God's giving new names to Abraham, Jacob, Paul, Peter, and perhaps, Levi-Matthew. To Orthodox people their name-day (the day on which their name saint is commemorated) is celebrated like a second birthday (although maybe more spiritual in the types of gifts).
In another way, a person's patron saint would be that member of "so great a cloud of witnesses" who surround us on whom that person would call for prayer. This isn't to say that the Orthodox believe Saints have the power to change our circumstances, but they do have the power to pray (some would say Revelation chapter 4 depicts that very scene), and since they're perfected in love we have every reason to believe that they would desire to.

Someone who converts as an adult might choose a patron saint whose life was particularly inspiring. St. Alexis (Toth) of Wilkes-Barre, PA was a byzantine-rite Roman Catholic priest who, after exploring the background of his people and the history surrounding why there are byzantine-rite Catholics, decided he needed to convert to the Orthodox Church, and he took his people with him. He spent many years ministering to the faithful of this country, especially encouraging those who were converting to Orthodoxy from other Christian traditions.
Of course, we didn't know any of that story at the time that we named Alexis, but he seems an appropriate patron for our whole family (see a more detailed life of St. Alexis, as well as his icon here).

Please understand that I say all of this as a novice, and as a wretched sinner besides that.
If you have any more questions about Orthodoxy, you could check out Our Life in Christ, an internet radio show done by two Protestant converts to Orthodoxy; or, here are links to the About Orthodoxy sections of the three main Orthodox jurisdictions within North America:
Orthodox Church in America
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

Thanks for your question, Nick!
Forgive me.
Here is an icon of my patron St. Michael the Archangel (which was, by the way, already my middle name, just spelled wrong)

Monday, November 20, 2006

We went to St. Louis this weekend for class, to visit, and to go to Liturgy. The kids were probably their best behaved ever for a trip to Nativity.
Fr. Tom decided we're ready to be received into the church, so on Saturday, December 9 we will be received into the Orthodox Church at Nativity of the Virgin Mary Church after Vespers.
We're really excited. We asked our friends Nick and Diane to be our sponsors, so that's cool too.
We chose our patron saints too:
Me- St. Michael, the archangel
Amy- St. Hermione (martyred daughter of St. Philip the Deacon)
Alexis- St. Alexis (Toth) of Wilkes-Barre, PA
Micah- St. Micah the Prophet

Anyways, if anyone is around and wants to show up at Nativity to see our baptisms/chrismations, you're more than welcome!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

My Confession

It seems my sinfulness is an interesting object of discussion, although I'm not sure about which sins anyone would like to refer.
Perhaps someone thought my sinfulness would be a surprise to someone, most likely me. Unfortunately, my own sinfulness is more painfully obvious to me than to anyone else.
My heart and life are oftentimes a conflicting, confusing mess of passions: arrogance, lust and hatred. More often than not I not only succumb to the temptation to sin, but I go looking for it. Is anyone surprised by this apparent lack of perfection? Do I pretend like I have attained holiness?
With all that said, I am deeply concerned about my struggle for holiness. I am not flippant about my sins. I repent daily for the things I have done and the things that I have left undone. And the next day, by God's grace, I try harder.
Now, some people's definition of outright sin seems to include things which for most of church history and for most of christendom have been considered matters of conscience that are largely relative based on the person's culture, social norms, and expectations. How can I argue on the basis of my convictions against someone who thinks I have no right to have my own convictions about matters of conscience?
I am not against or resistant to the confrontation of Christian brothers who are living in sin, but I do ask that they follow the pattern set forth in Scripture, and that they are for the purpose of edification for the building up of the body and not for anyone's self-aggrandizement. Even when criticisms don't meet that criteria, I still strive to see the possible truth within the statement and compare it to my life and my understanding of Scripture, as aided in interpretation by the Church.
I will conclude with some readings/prayers which speak to this need for humility in both the confronter and the confrontee:

O Lord and Master of my life,Take from me the spirit of sloth, despair,
lust of power and idle talk.
But give rather the spirit of chastity, meekness
of mind, patience and love to Thy servant.
Yea O Lord and King, grant me to
see my own transgressions and not to judge my brother, for blessed art thou unto
ages of ages. Amen.
The Prayer of St. Ephraim of Syria

11Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. 12There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor? ... 13Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. 14Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. 16Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
17Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops. 19My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, 20remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins. James 4:11-12, 5:13-20

10"See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.[a]
12"What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.
A Brother Who Sins Against You 15"If your brother sins against you,[b] go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.'[c] 17If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
18"I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be[d]bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[e] loosed in heaven.
19"Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."
The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant 21Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?"
22Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.[f]
23"Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents[g] was brought to him. 25Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
26"The servant fell on his knees before him. 'Be patient with me,' he begged, 'and I will pay back everything.' 27The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
28"But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii.[h] He grabbed him and began to choke him. 'Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded.
29"His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.'
30"But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened.
32"Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' 34In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
35"This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart." Matt. 18:10-35

5If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you, to some extent—not to put it too severely. 6The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for him. 7Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. 9The reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. 10If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, 11in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes. 2 Corinthians 2:5-11

This is not, nor is it intended to be, an exhaustive list of all the Church and the Scriptures have to say which pertains to confronting a brother in sin.

Joel,

I apologize for publishing Ben's comment in my favor, when I knew that his calling you a "jerk" wasn't fair. It's my fault that comment was published, and I apologize.


Friday, September 29, 2006

On a lighter note... Celebrity Lookalikes

I found out today that I resemble some very attractive male celebrities, although you couldn't tell by looking at me!

Make sure that you go get yours. It's too funny. Hehehehe.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Open Letter to the Anonymous Comment-leaver

Dear Anonymous Comment-Leaver,
As you may be aware, I already know who you are.
If you have a problem with me, you know where to contact me. I think it is highly inappropriate to confront my supposed sin in a public forum without any regard for privacy or for your own responsibility for your actions. I fail to see how my sins are worse than your apparent love for rudeness and gossip. Since I know you have no firsthand knowledge of the current moral state of my life, I can only assume you think you have some 'inside information' on my goings-on. I think you have been grossly misinformed. And the fact that you chose to "confront" me publicly on my blog rather than confront me personally, shows that you're not at all concerned with my personal holiness, my witness, the kids to whom I minister, or my family. Your concern is only to share your juicy bit of gossip, apparently with anyone who will listen.
If you were really concerned about my lifestyle, you would take the time to contact me personally, rather than share it in this form, anonymously.

Sin is sin, and gossip is no exception, so I will no longer allow anonymous comments on my blog, constructive or otherwise.

Beyond that, I don't know why you chose to single out the particular sins you singled out: drinking and cussing. For the majority of Christians currently and throughout church history alcohol has been a matter of conscience. It takes a very naive view of church history to think that the current mores of American Fundamentalism constitute what is and isn't sin. As far as cussing, you're right, and I repent here publicly, although I rarely sin in this way publicly.

Thank you for confronting what you considered to be sin. I only wish you had the integrity to confront it appropriately and in a way that wasn't itself sinful.

Forgive me, brother, if I have sinned against you in anyway, and may God forgive us both.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Eis mian hagian, katholiken kai apostoliken ekklesiao

[And I believe] in one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church
I'd imagine that all the Christian denominations/traditions today affirm the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, even if it is with some reservations.
The above statement appears in that ancient creed.
A lot of Christian groups are going around trying to help people "believe in the Bible" and encouraging people that they can "believe every word written there". I came across the "Creation Science Club" on campus at SEMO this week. They're there to help college students know that their belief in a literal six-day creation is consistent with the best science.
Also, this week in a discussion about Scripture and Tradition, a friend accused of replacing the Bible with the Church. I'm pretty sure that the Protestant Reformation replaced the Church with the Bible 500 years ago.

This creed, which was affirmed in council by Christian leaders and lay from all over the known world at the time, affirms belief in the Church. How did that that faith come to rest in the Scriptures, instead of the actual Body of Christ, the fullness of Him who fills all in all?

It is not wise to argue from the absence of any statement about the Holy Scriptures in the Creed. However, it should be noted that the Church is treated as an object of faith (eis) just the same as the Persons of the Holy Trinity.

What does this mean for us in our practice/understanding of the faith?

Saturday, September 09, 2006

reply to an anonymous comment

a) I would prefer not to have anonymous comment potshots taken at me and my admittedly confusing life.
b) I'm not a youth pastor and I don't know what that part of the comment was meant to imply.
c) I am trying to be an example to my children. Not of perfection, but of being perfected. Yes, I make my fair share of mistakes (in fact, I make everyone's fair share of mistakes), but I own up to my mistakes when they are pointed out to me. Particularly when someone has the respect to tell me personally rather than leave an anonymous comment on my blog.


Please forgive me if I've offended you in any way.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Reformed

When I visited my home church over the weekend I was surprised to find out how "Reformed" this church has gotten. The John Piper video was a dead give away.
Anyways, in case people from my home church find their way to my blog, here is a helpful explanation of Orthodoxy written specifically to Anglicans, Lutherans, and Reformed Christians:
http://www.tserkovnost.org/reformation/index.html

Hopefully that will answer some of the questions of my Protestant friends.

Churchlands

This semester I am taking a dreaded class in the Philosophy department at SEMO: Mind, Meaning and Value. It is a course that explores current neuroscience which basically reduces all of our human-ness to brain activity, doing with away with any dualistic concept of some non-physical entity which drives the body and which could, possibly, survive death.
First of all, it should be stated that setting parameters that only observable (i.e. physical) evidence should be used would end in a thoroughly materialist conclusion. What else could they come up with? It is interesting, however, that contemporary physicists and astronomers can postuate the existence of undetectable objects, dark matter, and alternate universes without an apparent contradiction with the tenets of science.
Also, as I hear often that Orthodoxy is less dualist or even not dualist at all, I wonder how the Orthodox Church would view it if science reduced humanity to brain patterns, chemicals, and electric charges.
Any ideas? Please comment.

Monday, August 28, 2006


Eric, Wade and me at the reunion.

We all went to Gull Lake Bible Camp together the summer after our senior year. Sweet!

Almost every time I go to Michigan I have to visit Georgio's in East Lansing, which is the home of the best pizza in the world!

 Posted by Picasa

Michigan in August

This past weekend we made a trip to Michigan for my 10th class reunion. What a trip! First of all, it is just over nine hours of driving to get to my mom's house, so we drove almost a day to spend just a day and a half there. Oh well.
The reunion was lots of fun. One friend in particular was thrilled that my family and I are converting to Orthodoxy.
Another friend offered to put me on the prayer list at her church. Hehehe.
I'll post a few pictures fromt the reunion and trip soon.
Craziest reunion moment: a girl who I was fairly good friends with in high school, but lost touch with within a few years after high school walked up to me and said, "you look so familiar..." I stuck my hand out and said, "I'm Levi Hadley." She said, "Oh, no you're not!" and gave me a big hug. Man, see if I ever gain a 80 pounds in 10 years again. Gosh.
I spent a lot of the time at the reunion either drinking beer with Eric or explaining to my Protestant friends why I no longer consider myself Protestant. The offer to put me on the prayer list resulted from both, I believe. The funny thing is, she still goes to the church we grew up in.
So, if anyone from the reunion is checking in to see why the heck I am turning Eastern Orthodox, read it all. If you need some more info, I recommend checking out Our Life in Christ, which is an internet radio show which is done by two Protestant Evangelical converts to Orthodoxy and gives an apologetic for the things that we do in a non-confrontational kind of way.
I'll probably have to post some more this week as I think more about this weekend's trip.
Blessings.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Weekend

Did I mention that last weekend (7/22) Amy and I went to see one of the final performance of the National Company of Les Miserables? Now, I'm not exactly a big fan of the musicals. I get really distracted by the way they keep breaking into song. Couldn't we do something about that?
Anyways, the show was amazing. And almost as amazing was the Fox Theatre in St. Louis,
where we saw it. Unfortunately, they don't allow any pictures to be taken in the theatre. None at all. So, we didn't even get a picture of us all dressed up for the show. Unfortunate. We were stunning. Especially my wife.

So, this week was a long one of lots of hours spent at the package center.
Today we're taking the kids camping, hopefully at the state park about 25 minutes from here. This will be our first attempt at camping as a family. In fact, even though Amy and I both loved camping growing up, we haven't ever camped as a family. We bought some new camping gear yesterday- hopefully we will camp more now.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Israel-Lebanon Pt. 3

John, your comments have been well-thought out and genuinely challenging, so I thought I would copy and paste yesterday's in a post and respond to you line by line (or paragraph.)

Yes, Israel is attacking Lebanon, who has a military that is unwilling or unable to contain Hezbollah. Hezbollah initiated this recent round with the firing of rockets and kidnapping of Israeli soldiers.
I understand why the war started. I understand that Hezbollah instigated it. However, if Israel is destroying the infrastructure in Lebanon, doesn't that lessen the Lebanese Army's ability to contain or disarm the Hezbollah militia? This makes absolutely no sense.

In war, innocent people suffer. If we used the logic that we have to make sure no innocent people get bombed or killed, Hitler would have won World War II. The nature of war is that innocent people will die.
Yes, in war innocent people die, which is why when war must be waged it must be contained within standards of decency to keep the number of civilian deaths to an absolute minimum.

The problem is Hezbollah blends into the local population - and the local population seems to let them. They are doing everything they can to win and they are using the local population as their shield.
There is no way that Hezbollah's blending into the local population is the local population's fault! How could they be blamed for submitting to Hezbollah for fear of their lives?

Israel has to get to them one way or another. So if you want to blame anyone, blame Hezbollah who has vowed the destruction of Israel.
Hezbollah may have vowed the destruction of Israel, but the damage to Lebanon is disproportionate to the amount of damage to Israel. Also, thanks to US military support, Israel definitely has the power to remove Lebanon from the planet. Hezbollah does not have comparable power.

I am definitely Zionist in my leanings. In essence I am not going to stand in the way of God's covenant with Israel and I take very seriously the word of God which was to Abraham, I will bless those that bless you and curse those that curse you.
Yes, I understand biblical prophecy, and all that. I hope you're not one of those who sees letting Israel attack its neighbors as a way to bring about the end times.
The truth is, from the very first centuries of the Church, the Apostles and Fathers have seen the Church as the rightful children of Abraham. Children by faith and not by circumcision. In Lebanon there are many many Orthodox Christians who are being attacked in this current conflict, in fact an Orthodox Christian monastery was destroyed (perhaps their having a dome was their fault for looking like a mosque). Siding with Israel (God's people) in deliberately targeting innocent Lebanese Christians (God's people) or Muslims is a betrayal of the values which Christ expressed in His life and ministry.

Yes, nations have a right to defend themselves and their people against attacks. What concerns me is the western world's silence in the presence of what is obviously an overly aggressive display of force on Israel's part.
And, you're right, I don't know what Israel can do. They, of course, sustaining more damage from Hezbollah now than before the starting bombing Lebanon. And now they've ensured that Hezbollah will have no shortage of recruits for years to come. How does that acheive the goals of peaceful coexistence in the region?
But then, Israel's (and American Ziongelicals') goal isn't peaceful coexistence, is it? It's the eradication of all the Arab people within the boundaries of the Promised Land. And that's why the world should stand up and prevent the Israeli military from attacking Lebanon.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Statement by the Antiochians

Mind you, I attend an OCA parish, however the Self-Ruled Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America has published a statement on the current Israel-Lebanon war, which I can heartily agree with.

Appeal For Intervention In the Middle East

It is a worthy statement, even if it might overstate the number of Antiochian faithful in North America.

Lord, have mercy on us all.

Israel-Lebanon Pt. 2

In answer to a well-thought, if a bit extremist in his zionist leanings, comment from John Lunt:

Yes, God is the God of Israel. Sure, I'll give you that. However, many of the civilians being killed and maimed in Lebanon are Christians, those who have received the Jewish Messiah.
Any Covenant God has with Israel does not negate their responsibility to behave in the international arena in a way which recognizes standards of war and the Geneva Conventions.

Are we to assume that because God has a covenant with Israel guaranteeing them the whole of the majority of the Middle Eastern world, that we (the U.S. or Western Christians) should support them in military efforts against their neighbors?

Yes, Israel has endured a lot of terrorist attacks against innocent civilians. However, to decry the wrongness of those attacks and avenge through more attacks against innocent civilians is not only irrational, it undermines the moral highground the victim nation could be said to have had in the first place.

Israel's problem is not with the elected government or the civilians of Lebanon. It is with Hezbollah.

It's interesting that you used the example of "what if Canadians were shooting rockets into US cities? Wouldn't we retaliate?" Under the current administration, that's exactly what we'd do.
However, if we were to use the full force of our military (the world's largest) against the whole of Canada for the acts of a terrorist group, the world would be outraged and rightly so.

Israel, with one of the world's largest and most advanced militaries (thanks to the US) is currently attacking a nation whose military power totals to all of 35,000 infantry.
In the current conflict, 10 times as many Lebanese civilians have died as Israeli.

The fact is, the best definition of terrorism is any deliberate act of violence (state-sponsored or otherwise) against innocent civilian bystanders in or out of a time of war. If the aggressor nation was any but Israel, the western world would be outraged. Apparently, terrorism is acceptable when it is the tool of American foreign policy in the Middle East.

Forgive me. May God forgive us both.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Israel-Lebanon

Okay, so I'll admit. I'm pissed about Israel's attack of Lebanon in retribution for the actions of a terrorist group. Their argument is with Hezbollah, not the government of Lebanon and certainly not the innocent civilians of Lebanon.
Lord, have mercy.
Meanwhile, the American government is refusing to push for a ceasefire. How many civilians do the Israelis need to kill before a ceasefire is necessary? Is state-sponsored terrorism somehow justified in their 'war-on-terror' foreign relations agenda?
Here's a link to a site with pictures of the damage in Lebanon and a petition. Warning: these are real pictures of war. Some images will be disturbing.
God the Father of orphans and Caretaker of widows, protect these innocent ones from the acts of an aggressive nation, and the inattentiveness of an apathetic world.
Lord, have mercy.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

War

I'm concerned with the current situation in Israel. I don't know about the prudence of attacking a nation in retaliation for the acts of a terrorist organization. Of course, I'm not in the position of making such important decisions.
May God protect the innocents in this current conflict. Lord, have mercy.

Friday, July 14, 2006

One month since my last post


Well, I have been a busy guy, and my blog has suffered for it.

What have I been doing? Let's see, I have gone to Young Life camp in Michigan, bought a car, started catechism at Nativity of the Virgin Mary Church and worked a lot at UPS.
Other than that, not a whole lot. I guess I've read some.

Timberwolf Lake was awesome. It was a little sad, as it was most likely my last ever YL camp trip, as this fall I will be too busy in the evenings to be involved in Young Life.

I had a great time. Our cabin of guys were some of the nicest and most open guys with whom I have ever shared a week of camp. Plus, it didn't hurt that the camp was in Michigan (my home state and the most beautiful in the 50).

We finally bought our new car. It's very nice. I'm glad we waited and waited and waited for it. (We borrowed someone's minivan for over a month!) Anyways, it's a fairly low mileage car, so it should be nice and dependable for the next few years.

Saturday we had our first meeting with Fr. Tom. It was great, and to top it off he is hilarious. I never heard more funny stories in all my life. It was especially funny to hear his stories from his days at St. Vlad's- his impersonation of Fr. Alexander Schmemann is really funny. All in all, Amy and I are excited to be moving forward in our journey to the true ancient Christian faith.

Work has been pretty good. It has rained a lot lately, so the mosquitoes are really bad at the center. I hope I don't get West Nile Virus or something worse. That would be bad.

Reading? Lately, I'm re-reading Fr. Alexander Schmemann's For the Life of the World, which is a great introduction to the integrated worldview of Orthodoxy. Very meaty read. Also, I got the new Again issue on Orthodox Unity in North America. It has articles highlighting the situation here in North America where there exist 15 canonical jurisdictions, instead of one united Orthodox Church of North America. The authors were hopeful that restoring Orthodoxy to its united state here in North America (which it was prior to the Bolshevik revolution in the 19-teens) would assist in efforts to evangelize the continent.

Mostly, I have been adjusting to my new job and figuring how to spend time with my family, so blogging has been a ways down on my to-do list. No apologies for that.

I included lots of links, so everyone who reads here can follow them and find out more what's going on in my life. Check out MY myspace.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Doing it for the kids

Well, I got a job at UPS. I'm not actually loading trucks like I thought I would be. I'm in some sort of manager/supervisor role.
The pluses are:
Good pay
Good benefits
Part time hours

So, I'll be able to keep this job in the fall when classes start again. It'll be really nice to have a decent paying job now and the insurance won't hurt either.

I'll be working every evening (Mon-Fri) at the package center supervising and doing paperwork-type tasks. Not too hard.

Along with this change, I have decided I will have to totally step out of Young Life involvement. Obviously, if I'm going to be working every evening Mon-Fri I won't have time to be at Young Life club. So, I will go to camp in a couple of weeks and then that's it for me, as far Young Life goes.

This weekend we rented a car (since we still haven't bought another one) and spent the weekend in St. Louis. Saturday we went to the zoo in Forest Park (it's huge, spectacular, and free!) Then, Sunday we went to Liturgy at Nativity of the Virgin Mary, which I guess has become our church home over the past few months. I talked to Fr. Tom about finally starting catechism. He said, "Good," like he's been waiting a while for us to ask about it again.

Amy and I have been talking and we're ready to start preparing to be received into the Church. It's pretty exciting, but since we'll only be able to go up every other week, our catechumenate may last a really long time.

Well, that's about all that's going on.

Friday, May 19, 2006

A Job

Yesterday morning someone from the church next door called me to let us borrow a car for a while. What a blessing!
The wheel did NOT fall off this one.
Then, in the afternoon I was relaxing at the house watching the Geisha movie with my wife when I got a call for an interview with UPS.
I wasn't offered a position yet, but if I get that job, it would be nice. $9/hr. Part time. Benefits. How many part time jobs do you find with benefits? The part time-ness is key because that means I can keep the job come fall time when it's time to go back to class. And that will be nice. And then when I graduate if we're seriously going to move back to Nebraska I probably can transfer and get a pretty good job with UPs in Kearney. Sounds awesome. Please pray that I would get that job or find a different, better one.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Unbelieveable

Consider this an addendum to this morning's short post.
So, yesterday we started borrowing Young Life's car- a 1987 Mercury Marquis wagon. It's not pretty, but it was a relief to our lack of transportation in a town where public transportation is unheard of and pedestrians are discouraged. We went around a bit so I could look into some jobs and apply at some places. At one point we were driving this behemoth wagon grocery-getter on the interstate at 70 mph. After all that driving we were returning to our house and had slowed down for a light and all of a sudden, boom!, like the back end had busted and the rear end of the wagon bounced off the highway (the busiest four-lane blvd in Jackson). While we're sitting there wondering what the heck happened people are driving by waving, saying, "you should get your kids out of there" and "dude, your car's on fire!" Needless to say, we promptly removed the kids and their carseats down onto the lawn of the business in front of which we were parked.
I looked at the wheel. There was still a bit of axel left on the hub. The axel had apparently been wearing for a while and had broken off. The heat generated also started the fire. A highway crew stopped behind us right away and put the fire out. I paid $50 to get Young Life's car off the road to a towing garage.

We need more prayers now than we did this morning.
Amy said, "I'm sure there's something we need to learn here besides, 'Become Amish'."
I'm sure there is, too.

The Semester Ends With a Bang

Well, my semester is over.
My grades:
Religion & Violence A
Modern Philosophy B
Spanish III A
Symbolic Logic II A

I slacked off a bit, and that's what I get.
Anyways, before I could end my semester I had the foresight to wreck our car (and only means of transportation). Driving home from the University on Wednesday in the rain I was a little bit distracted by the kids in the back seat. I ran into a pick up at a redlight. By the time I noticed the car I didn't have time to stop sliding. I slid right into the pick up, taking off his bumper and pretty much totaling my car. I checked into getting it fixed at a body shop. Just driveable, nothing fancy. It was $1800. The other shop I took it to for a second opionion quoted me the same and said it wasn't worth fixing since its Blue Book value is only ~$2400.

Then... my summer classes got messed up, so here I am taking no classes this summer. I'm registered for 15 hours in the fall, and it'll probably end up being 18.

So... I need to find a car and a summer job.
Pray for me.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

I'm excited about the paper I'm writing for my Religion & Violence class, so I wanted to share a bit on a couple of the resources I'm using:
The first is a fairly short and readable biography of St. Innocent of Alaska. It's very encouraging, as far as a godly example and as an understanding of the Orthodox Church in mission. Even many non-Orthodox view Alaska as one of the most successful evangelism efforts in the history of the church. Along those lines I'm also readin Fr. Michael Oleksa's Orthodox Alaska. Which is exactly what I needed, an established, successful instance of the evangelization of a people in which the local culture and religion is respected, maintained and complemented. This is exactly the kind of evangelism needed in our contemporary postcolonial pluralistic world.

Anyways, that is what I'm up to. I just finished writing my modern philosophy paper and now I'm going to go back to reading for the R&V paper.
Grace and peace to all of you.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

School

So, I wanted to brag that I wrote an in-class Composition Monday without any notice and got a 99. Woot.
Yeah, I should be working on my paper(s) right now, but I'm blogging.

Yesterday there was a fundamentalist Christian street preacher on campus. It caused quite a stir. I shouldn't call him a fundamentalist, but it seems that would be a good description of the beliefs he was stating. The worse part was how he was yelling at people, apparently telling they were going to hell. In my religion & violence class we talked a lot about how people respond to that.
I said that it seems to me that if we have relativism except for one thing (the fact that everyone has to be a relativist) then we're being internally inconsistent. Another way I said it was, "So, to prove to someone that they're not right in trying to dominate other people we'll dominate him into realizing he's not right. Doesn't sound right to me."

Anyways, by the time I got there there was quite a crowd. The man wasn't really saying much of consequence. Mostly he was being harassed by students who weren't even listening to him. Maybe religious tolerance will one day have to include the religiously intolerant. I don't know. This guy was probably going about it in the wrong way, looking for trouble, but they weren't exactly respectful in return.

Now, I must put my creative energies to work on my paper.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Paschal Homily

CHRIST IS RISEN!!
Oh, and, by the way, among the many things that I loved about Pascha and will reflect upon in the coming weeks, was St. John Chrystostom's Paschal Homily (which, if you didn't know, is read in all Orthodox parishes every Pascha). So, here it is:


If any man be devout and loveth God,Let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast!If any man be a wise servant,Let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord.
If any have laboured long in fasting,Let him how receive his recompense.If any have wrought from the first hour,Let him today receive his just reward.If any have come at the third hour,Let him with thankfulness keep the feast.If any have arrived at the sixth hour,Let him have no misgivings;Because he shall in nowise be deprived therefore.If any have delayed until the ninth hour,Let him draw near, fearing nothing.And if any have tarried even until the eleventh hour,Let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness.
For the Lord, who is jealous of his honour,Will accept the last even as the first.He giveth rest unto him who cometh at the eleventh hour,Even as unto him who hath wrought from the first hour.And He showeth mercy upon the last,And careth for the first;And to the one He giveth,And upon the other He bestoweth gifts.And He both accepteth the deeds,And welcometh the intention,And honoureth the acts and praises the offering.
Wherefore, enter ye all into the joy of your Lord;Receive your reward,Both the first, and likewise the second.You rich and poor together, hold high festival!You sober and you heedless, honour the day!Rejoice today, both you who have fastedAnd you who have disregarded the fast.The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously.The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.Enjoy ye all the feast of faith:Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness.
Let no one bewail his poverty,For the universal Kingdom has been revealed.Let no one weep for his iniquities,For pardon has shown forth from the grave.Let no one fear death,For the Saviour's death has set us free.He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it.
By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive.He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh.And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry:Hell, said he, was embitteredWhen it encountered Thee in the lower regions.
It was embittered, for it was abolished.It was embittered, for it was mocked.It was embittered, for it was slain.It was embittered, for it was overthrown.It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains.It took a body, and met God face to face.It took earth, and encountered Heaven.It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.
O Death, where is thy sting?O Hell, where is thy victory?
Christ is risen, and thou art overthrown!Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!Christ is risen, and life reigns!Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave.For Christ, being risen from the dead,Is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
To Him be glory and dominionUnto ages of ages.
Amen.

Easter/Pascha

Man have I been busy these past twenty days in which I have not posted on here. Shame on me.

This year we did Easter in our protestant church and Pascha in our Orthodox church. (Mind you, we haven't even been received as catechumens at Nativity of the Virgin Mary yet.)
It's funny because our kids have been saying "Happy Easter 2!" a lot since we celebrated them both to varying degrees.

Pascha at Nativity of the Virgin was awesome. How joyous! One of the choir directors asked me what I thought of it during the feast and I said, "It was both more celebratory and more solemn than I'm used to."

On a sidenote, my wife and I commented on the bell-ringing at 12:30 or so during the procession and later during the gospel reading (at 2 AM). Man, if I lived in that neighborhood...

Anyways, we're very busy lately.
I'm racing towards the end of the semester for college. I have two ten-page papers due in the next week or two. The title for my paper for Modern Philosophy: "Leibniz: Infinite Divisibility, Infinite Regress, and the Ultimate Reality of Things".
For my Religion & Violence class I'm working on a paper on non-coercive/violent evangelism, particularly in a cross-cultural context. I'm looking at some good cases- the Anglican conversion of the Moru people in Sudan and the Orthodox evangelization of native Alaska, especially St. Innocent of Alaska.

So, that's what I'm doing, in case someone checks this blog. Blessings on all of you. I'll post more after my classes wrap up.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

God protect Caruthersville

Yesterday I took the afternoon off from classes and drove down to Caruthersville, MO to visit folks. Probably everyone has seen Caruthersville on the news as the site of a really big tornado that destroyed a lot of town. Well, if you have read my blog much you realize that Caruthersville is the town where I was doing Young Life until December. We're now living about an hour and a half north in Jackson, MO.
I parked at a friend's house on the very edge of the damaged zone. The damaged zone itself is blocked by state police and National Guardsmen (who happen to have machine guns on them), so I figured it would be best to walk into the zone to check on people. I walked down to the high school, where I took this picture. This is the high school where I have so many memories of meeting my high school friends.
The whole experience of walking around (I probably walked two miles all together) the damage zone was a bit overwhelming. Even after watching all the videos I could on the Cape News website (www.kfvs12.com) I was blown away by how much of the town is just missing. I got disoriented a couple of times because I was walking along and everything looked the same in every direction: houses, trees and cars busted up and destroyed.

I walked through the east side of town, which is the poorer, mostly black, part of town. It was a ghost town. On the main street of town, Ward Ave. lots of people were out helping people. On the east side barely anyone was doing anything. I guess a lot of the houses on the east side are rentals and landlords haven't gotten to them yet.

Please pray for Caruthersville a lot in the coming months. I don't know how long it's going to get "C-ville" back to normal, if ever.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Links

I wanted to pass on some links to whomever may read this blog:

Our St. Louis Orthodox Young Adults/OCF has a Yahoo! Group: click here

Kh. Frederica Mathewes-Green wrote an interesting article on the interaction and differences between cradle-Orthodox and Orthodox converts as well as a hopeful glimpse at the future of Orthodoxy in America. click here

Some people have set up an Orthodox Wiki which has a whole bunch of information on Orthodoxy. click here

Here is a great Orthodoxy which a little about Orthodoxy in North America, but is especially great for its trans-jurisdictional canonical Orthodox church-finder. click here

Enjoy the links.

Where have I been?

This weekend we went up to St. Louis to "Our Orthodox Family", as we refer to them down here. What a great time. Saturday night was Vespers at Ss. Cyril & Methody in Granite City. After Vespers the ladies (I'm assuming it was the ladies, cause the food was gooooood!) had a great lenten dinner prepared. Towards the end of dinner we young adults settled down at a table to visit with each other and Fr. Andrew of Ss. C & M. And the conversation was great. I was amazed to find out that Fr. Andrew had converted to Orthodoxy (or at least been convinced of it) in East Lansing, MI. That's nearly my hometown! Then, after his chrismation and seminary he was sent back to East Lansing to St. Andrew's, which is an Orthodox Church I drove by a million long before I ever thought of joining the Orthodox Church. Anyways, those were some coincidences.

After dinner we stayed with Shawn and Tara. That was great. Shawn and Tara are converts and very excited about the Orthodox faith. I won't mention the fact that they seriously have a cross of some sort in every room of their house. Oops, I guess I just did.

Sunday liturgy was great. Fr. Oliver gave the homily and it was great. He's a very engaging speaker. As an aside, it is nice going to a not-humongous parish with three priests. Each of them is different from the other two, so together they're a great blend.

Dinner coffee hour I had good conversation with Fr. Oliver about seminary plans and if there could be Orthodox seminary in my future. He offered some valuable insight and discernment. I believe he converted to Orthodoxy while in a protestant seminary, so he knows what I need to know.

Sunday was the first time our kids stayed all the way through Liturgy. A lot of Sundays one of us takes them downstairs at about the 1 hr mark when they get a little too fidgety or too fussy. This time there was none of that. They were awesome. I wonder if part of that is our evolving sense of what a child's role is in the community worship. We're letting go of some of our western sit up, sit straight, pay attention mindset and allowing them to meet God in His Liturgy in their way. And when we don't fuss at them for moving around a little bit, they stop fussing. Of course, we're talking about a little bit of fidgeting, not rolling under the pews or running down the aisles. That wouldn't even fly even in an Orthodox Church.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Spring Break ends

As my spring break draws to and end I am a tad bit disappointed that the weather here was never very springy, at least during spring break. Now I have to go back to class today. What did I do with my break?
Well, I knew what I would be doing:
more pizza deliveries, more time with my wife and kids, more time doing contact work for YoungLife and catching up on some reading. And that's exactly what I did. I caught up and read ahead on some of reading for Religion & Violence. Today I am writing a 150-word Spanish composition for class.. Woohoo.
Well, that's me. That's what I've been doing. I'm watching with interest two current news stories: the afghan Christian convert looks like he will be released today. Lately, I have been spending some time thinking how shar'ia law could be seriously implemented in western societies for muslims without contradicting the human rights implied in western liberal ideologies. It seems to me that shar'ia is incompatible with western liberal democracy, especially that pesky law about apostasizing. It seems like either western ideals or shar'ia will have to change to make room for islam in the western world.
Also, for some odd reason I have been obsessively checking on the news channels about the wife who shot her minister husband. Morbid, I know. Maybe I have a sneaking suspicion my wife is planning something similar. ;-)
Besides my school read I am currently reading:
St. John Chrystostom's Homilies on the Epistle to the Romans
Fr. Alexander Schmemann's Great Lent
Kh. Frederica Mathewes-Green's The Illumined Heart

By the way, for my non-Orthodox readers, Kh. Frederica's The Open Door is an awesome introduction to worshipping with ikons. I would highly recommend it to anyone, even if they're not actually considering the Orthodox faith.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Blogging theological controversies

I was listening to a sermon from Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon last night, and I was struck with what he had to say about blogs, especially ones that mostly just post theological controversies and discussions.
So, listen here and post your comments. By the way, you can check out Fr. Patrick's church here.
Have a blessed weekend.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Archangels Books

Here's a shameless plug for a little independent Orthodox Bookstore in the Maplewood district of St. Louis. Shawn and Tara took us there after Vespers yesterday.
Also, I think you can order books, icons and everything else right online, so check them out.
Archangels Books
Also, I forgot to mention that during the very moving Vespers service I described Micah had to go to the bathroom, so I sent him by himself. Ten minutes later I went down with Alexis to look for him. He had completely undressed and was walking around in his underwear in the basement of the church. Ahhhh. Unbelieveable.

Forgiveness Sunday

This weekend was a pretty eventful one. Friday my friend Andrew drove up from Caruthersville to stay the night. I even took him on my last delivery of the night. Then we stayed up medium-late playing video games and visiting. Andrew's one of the deepest, most thoughtful high school kids I know.
Saturday we cleaned out the car, said good-bye to Andrew, loaded up the family and drove to St. Louis. We attended Vespers at All Saints of North America Antiochian Orthodox Church. After Vespers we went to a short get-together of the Orthodox Christian Fellowship for the St. Louis area.
Then, we drove to Madison to stay with the Huniaks. This time, their son, Phil, was there. I have heard of Phil. He's a pretty tough marine who no longer attends an Orthodox Church, but attends an Assembly of God church. He is definitely in love with Jesus, and on fire for the Lord. We talked at length about his own journey out of Orthodoxy and the parallels with my journey into Orthodoxy. It was pretty interesting. One thing is for sure, Phil could teach us all about humility, and submission to Christ. That was refreshing.
Sunday we went to Liturgy at Nativity of the Virgin Mary, which has been our usual parish for about two months now.
After liturgy we all went next door to the parish hall for a Cheesefare Sunday meatless egg and dairy meal. It was yummy.
The Forgiveness Vespers, which directly followed the brunch, were an interesting experience.
For those of you who don't know, Forgiveness Vespers begins Great and Holy Lent in the Orthodox Church. About midway through the service, the altar servers came out and switched the paraments to purple. The melodies to the chants all changed to Lenten ones, then the whole congregation began making prostrations. At this point I was about crying, struck by the reality of our separation from God. In the Orthodox Church, the altar area, behind the iconostasis symbolizes Paradise and the Garden of Eden. During the prostrations the curtain between the congregation and paradise slowly closed, visibly showing our separation from God.
Next, starting with the priests, the whole congregation went around asking forgiveness of every other member, kissing them on both cheeks.

May God forgive us all.

Friday, March 03, 2006

The Problem of Relevance

The problem with relevance, as has been said by better thinkers than I, is that it sets the worshipper over the worshipped.
Two thoughts:
  1. What if what the modern, contemporary person needs is not what they think they need or what they want? "What you win them with is what you win them to." I think a good case can be made from less theological ideas that what the modern person needs is a church that embodies community, sacramental/incarnational life, experience, and mystery. Enter the Orthodox Church, which in its best moments exemplifies all of these.
  2. If God specifically outlined the form of worship for the Jews, which was liturgical, and the early Christians were Jews, what form of worship would they have naturally chosen? So, if God has revealed the way in which the Jews were to worship Him and the way in which the heavenly beings worship Him (and by extension, the way we will worship in eternity), then who are we to invent something else and call it worship?

Pizza, baby

Yesterday I spent a few hours delivering pizza. If you didn't know, that is my illustrious moonlighting job. It's actually quite entertaining. The people I work with are nice [and really funny]. This is my first time being a delivery guy of any variety, so it never gets old. Between delivering pizzas to abandoned gas stations and just general pizza delivery craziness. Yesterday, though, it was just me and the owner. That was a lot of fun. We got to talking about my personal views on religion, theology, and church. Probably not the best idea, but he took it all pretty well.
I work again tonight, then some Caruthersville kids are supposed to come up and stay at our house.
Tomorrow night we're supposed to go to a young adults thing at All Saints of North America in St. Louis, then stay with the Huniaks, so we can attend Liturgy and Nativity of the Virgin this weekend. Yet another opportunity for our kids to be absolutely crazy. Their demons must be resisting that future baptism and excorcism. Just kidding.
Well, I should post even when I don't have much to say, so I did.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

More on Changing One's Mind

Continuing where I left off in my previous incoherent post. I have to bring up another point my wife made in our conversation.
"If the Orthodox Church is the 'true church' and we join, what does that say about our christian upbringing(s), the traditions we come from, and everything we've been doing vocationally and ministry-wise, outside of the 'true church'?
And I thought of someone's comment that, "There room for all of it in Orthodoxy". Which signifies, to me, that the core issues of Orthodoxy are ironed out and written in stone, so to speak, but these other traditions, when placed under the authority of an Orthodox bishop, add to the rich diversity in little 't' tradition within the faith.
In the same way, the Orthodox Church does not denounce everything taught under the banner of the heterodox faiths. Of course, many Christian traditions draw on the historic faith and consider the creeds and councils to be authoritative interpretations of the Holy Scriptures. At least, that is, in theory.
So, these faiths, while not containing the fullness of the faith, are leading to it.
Someone said to me, "but most Christian traditions claim to be the New Testament faith!" I pointed out that while all these competing traditions claim to be the historic New Testament church, only one is verifiably THE New Testament church. All these other groups have to do some gerrymandering with their ecclesiology to assert that they are the true church.
History and the Councils speak for themselves that their is one Church which continues to practice the early faith.

Along some other lines, I was just thinking of the concept of generations. Many times a cultural or religious change takes a few generations to reach maturity within a given society.
In the past few years I have lamented my own upbringing and its lack of connection with the historic church. That is, at least, the AD 100-AD 1500 church. I want my kids to grow up within the richness of this historic faith. We may or may not be 'very good' at being Orthodox, but in some ways our conversion now helps to ensure the our kids' future participation in the faith of the Apostles. And they'll go farther, and be 'better at it' than we will in our lifetimes. So, we could make the decision with the next generations in mind. How do we want our children to experience the Christian faith? What will be important for our children to experience when we are no longer here with them? How do we envision the faith/spiritual life and religion of our grandchildren?
These are some the questions that we should ponder.

Of changing one's mind

With my dogged pursuit after the Holy Orthodox faith and our geographical distance from the everyday life of an Orthodox Church comes a particular struggle for my wife, I'd imagine.
We were talking the other night before bed. That morning we had visited a particularly hip, contemporary [and decidedly un-Orthodox] church where a friend goes. This is the only church I've ever seen with the word 'Contemporary' in the name. It's even on the sign.
Now, understand, this is exactly the kind of church we came from and met in. Our former ideal church was one where without fail someone would make disparaging comments about tradition in every worship service. We prided ourselves in our lack of liturgy. In fact, it became quite a tradition to make fun of tradition.
Well, I asked her, "What are you thinking about this Orthodoxy stuff?"
She said that she agreed that it seemed to be the 'real, historic' church, but what if we change our minds.
You see, we both know that we have waffled and changed our opinions on many non-essential issues throughout even our six-year marriage. Early on in our marriage we changed our view of contemporary music in worship, when we were serving in a church which didn't have much contemporary music to speak of. We changed our view of the end-times we encounter Godly, well-read people who pointed out the short tenure of our particular school of eschatology. We changed and re-changed our views on all sorts of issues.
And now we've found the 'changeless', historic faith of the Apostles. And we're convinced. Today. But can we answer for tomorrow?
So, I answered in the way only a man can, "But it's right, though, isn't it?"
I can understand my wife's struggle with knowing whether or not this would be 'right for us' ten years from now or ten months from now.
So, I started at the beginning: for me, without the confines of historic Christianity there is no basis for theological thought to stay, well, Christian. If the interpretation of Scripture is the only authority we have to go on, then, yes, it is true that the heresies of the modern-day quasi-Christian 'cults' are inherently within the protestant tradition. I know without a doubt that there is no limit to the degree that a person can go interpreting the Scripture within their own frame of reference. The problem being we all have our own interpretive frame of reference. Hermeneutics, you say, is the scientific study of the interpretation of such texts. The principles of hermeneutics do not prevent protestant from a diverse reading of even essential issues.
I want to know that I am in a Church where the bodily resurrection of our Lord will never be questioned. However, one thing I love about the Orthodox Church is the fact that there is no 'official position' where there isn't a consensus in the Church Fathers or a ruling in council. So, in some non-essentials there is tremendous diversity.
I guess what I'm saying is this: to me, Orthodoxy represents a protective fence within which wondering is possible and prudent, but outside of which danger lies. And that's a comfortable feeling.
So, the core of Orthodoxy (or orthodoxy, for that matter) will never cease to be 'true for me', unless I cease to be Christian.
I'd rather be sure that I'm within the historic, continuous Body of Christ, and then figure all those issues out from the inside, rather than stand outside the Church and tell the Church how to be the Church by forming yet another ultra-Protestant church, movement or whatever.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Religion & Violence

To answer someone's question, these are the sources for my class in Religion & Violence:
Books
Charles Selengut. Sacred Fury:Understanding Religious Violence.
Karen Armstrong. The Battle for God.
Karen Armstrong. A History of God.
Richard Fletcher. The Cross and the Crescent.
Mahatma Gandhi Homer A. Jack, (Editor). The Gandhi Reader: A Sourcebook of His Life and Writings.
Rene Girard. Violence and the Sacred.
Sam Harris. The End of Faith: religion, terror, and the future of reason.
Mark Juergensmayer. Terror in the Mind of God: the global rise of religious violence.
Jon Krakauer. Under the Banner of Heaven: a story of violent faith.
Walter Wink. Engaging the Powers: discernment and resistance in a world of domination.

Films
Gandhi
The Passion of the Christ
Dead Man Walking
The Kingdom of Heaven

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Valentine's Day

Yesterday, I went to class in the morning, then drove to Caruthersville. It has probably been a month since I was last in Cville, so I had to take care of some business. Mostly, I had to collect my money for the van I sold back in December. Then, I had to do my best to take care of some paper work I was behind on down there.
At six-thirty our babysitter showed up. (Lauren, you rock, and you're super-Orthodox!) We had decided to go for dinner at a Japanese steakhouse. In my mind, this restaurant couldn't be as busy as all the elegant, romantic, chick-ish restaurants with the flowers and candles. I mean, fire and big knives are surely manly. Anyways, apparently, everyone else thought they were avoiding the crowd, too. There were so many people there! We didn't wait long to be seated. For some reason, they honored our reservations. We got the least experienced and least English-proficient chef in the place. It was a hoot. Our food came all out of order. We were eating our salads while we were supposed to be being entertained by our chef. The food, however, was awesome. We actually ended up getting our appetizer after our food and ate it for dessert. What the lick.
Anyways, I had to drop a class today. I hadn't checked on my online class in a week, and when I checked this time I realized I had missed an exam, two assignments, and a lab. Oops! I guess I need to take that one on campus this summer. The online thingy didn't work. Not for that class, anyway. It just kept being at the very bottom of my list of priorities, since I have four other classes which I'm actually attending which demand my attention, on top of all the other stuff going on in my life.
I've been listening to lots of Our Life in Christ in the car while I deliver pizzas. I downloaded about thirty of their shows to my palm pilot to listen at my convenience. It's a lot more relaxing than listening to the radio. It helps me to have a better night at the pizza place. I'm less flustered, more peaceful.
Tonight, I'm finishing my lesson series on spiritual disciplines at YL Leadership. It has been an interesting time. Tonight we're going to spend some time talking about the Jesus Prayer and Fixed Hour Prayers.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

On Greek Food

Today when I stopped at the Greek place to get some mousaka, gyros, and baklava, I asked the woman, on a hunch, if she could tell where the closest Orthodox Church was. She looks at me and says, "What- are you Greek?"
"Um, no, but my family and I are sorta converting to the Orthodox Church."
"Oh, we go up to St. Louis, to St. Nicholas or Assumption."
"We've been going up to an OCA church in the St. Louis area, too. I have a friend who is trying to start an Orthodox Christian Fellowship on campus at SEMO, and so I wanted to see if there were other Orthodox people around."
"Well, there's a lot around here. There's Greeks, Bulgarians, Albanians... We always wished there was at least some sort of chapel here, but where do you get the priest from?"
"If you get one started, let me know."
"Oh, you start it."

That was my interesting conversation with the Greek Orthodox woman who cooked my lunch. The gyro was good, by the way.
I guess it'll be interesting to see if I can get her to connect with the other Orthodox in town.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Religion & Violence

So, my class on Religion & Violence is pretty tough. The workload isn't that hard. We just have to read a chapter from one of an assortment of religion books, then come to class prepared to discuss it in class. No quizzes. No exams.
But, it is hard to face up to the violence perpetrated by devout religious people, many times in the name of their religion. And this isn't limited to "those crazy islamists". Throughout the history of the three great monotheistic religions violence has existed amongst the faithful of all three groups. Religion violence doesn't stop with the the Theists. Non-theistic religions like buddhism still result in plenty of interreligious violence.
Yesterday we talked for a while about the roots of Christian anti-semitism. Nothing I've never heard, but still, who wants to talk about the failings of their co-religionists? Since it isn't limited to any one religion, the problem is clearly not the fault of a specific religion. But is it related to religion in general? Who knows. And one might attribute it to so-called "fundamentalists" of whatever religion. Of course, such a word in heavy in connotation, but lacking in substance.
Sometimes when the semester gets going it's hard to think about much outside of class. My brain is consumed learning advanced logic, reading and commenting on chapters on religious violence, reviewing my spanish grammar and listening skills.
Pray for me.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Weekend Recap

First, I'll give a brief summary of our weekend, then I'll reflect on some of the things we did.
  1. Friday we went to Barnes and Noble as a family. No, not to support the wholesale homogenization of American culture, but I needed to buy Karen Armstrong's A History of God for my Religion & Violence class.
  2. Saturday I listened to Fr. Anthony's interview on Ancient Faith Radio, which was great.
  3. Then we took the kids to a great Nature Center in Cape Girardeau.
  4. Then in the afternoon we drove up to Madison, IL, to attend Vespers and stay with the Huniaks.
  5. Sunday morning we went to Divine Liturgy at Nativity of the Virgin Mary Orthodox Church (OCA).
  6. Last night I worked four or five hours at my pizza delivery guy gig. I put 40+ miles on my car. Unbelieveable.

  1. My Religion & Violence class is going to be a jarring experience as we look at essentially the worst in all three great monotheistic religions. Armstrong's gives an interesting account of the development of monotheism. She particularly disdains the western conception of Christianity. She does a less-than-average job of objective reporting of facts.
  2. This nature center is big and nice. But, picture a nature appreciation exhibit as sponsored by the NRA. Everything was like, "How you can hunt [insert animal]..." Kind of comical. One nice thing, the place has great hiking trails. When Micah saw one of them he said, "can we go on an adventure? There's no dangerous species [sic] down there..." So we did. We'll have to go back some time and take full advantage of the nature center.
  3. We'd never attended a Vespers service in an Orthodox Church and the Huniaks offered us beds at their house, so we took them up on it. The Huniaks have been so gracious to us, allowing us to stay in their home, feeding us, and letting our kids roam their house. And we've only known them two weeks. They're great. (btw, Huniaks, we got to WalMart and home fine :-) )
  4. Sunday morning was a lot easier for us, since we didn't have to get up and leave our house at 7:30 for Liturgy. We got to relax around the house until 9 AM! Then we went to Liturgy. The kids were more of the same, asking, "Is it over yet?!" a little too loudly. They were very well-behaved for 2/3 of the service, then Amy took them downstairs. No use burning them out. They'll eventually learn to be good through the whole service. Oh, and we met the other attached priest, Fr. Oliver. He's very nice.
  5. My job at the pizza place is very entertaining. I just smile and laugh at some of the off-the-wall conversations. I had the following weird deliveries last night: 1. I deliver a pizza to a big house. The adults (parents, I guess) are upstairs and say ' we didn't deliver a pizza, it must be for downstairs..' So, I walk through their house to the basement and into a room where a bunch of teens/college age people are watching TV in the dark, 'did you guys order a pizza?' Weird. 2. Apparently when someone from outside our delivery area wants a pizza we can meet them at the edge. Well, last night I delivered a pizza to the parking lot of a closed gas station. So, I'm sitting in my running car waiting, feeling conspicuous when up drives a truck, then they roll their window down. Can we say "pizza deal"?

That's the bulk of my weekend. Now I should be doing some Spanish homework.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Young Life to Orthodoxy

This week Ancient Faith Radio is airing an interview with Fr. Anthony Karbo, who was a Young Life area director and converted to Eastern Orthodoxy. He's now the priest of Ss. Constantine and Helen in Colorado Springs, CO. The interview will be on at the following times:

Thu Jan 26 3:00pm CT/ 4:00pm ET
Sat Jan 28 11:00am CT/Noon Et
Mon Jan 30 7:15pm CT/8:15pm Et
Wed Feb 1 3:00am CT/4:00am ET
Fri Feb 3 2:00pm CT/3:00pm ET

As any regular readers know, I have been involved and on staff with Young Life for a few years. I'll be interested to hear Fr. Anthony's conversion story.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Whoo!

I went to my Spanish American Culture class, and it was wayyyy over my head. I could understand every few words. Anyways, I got an email from the professor telling me she had to drop me, since I haven't finished SN200 yet. I emailed her back and said that I was more than happy to drop the class. Hehe. So, I dropped that class and added Religion and Violence (Are we fur it or again' it?).
That should be an interesting class. The professor is the local Episcopal rector. I've not met him yet, but I hear he's pretty great.
Last night I had my Advanced Logic class. It's just like Symbolic Logic I ("Baby Logic"), but harder and they change just about the whole system of notation. Plus, this course involves a lot more explanation of the methods and principles of logic, rather than just learning to symbolize and check for validity all the time (but we'll do plenty of that).

This weekend will be my fourth regional Leader Weekend. It's going to be great, I'm sure. I'm going to try hard to not stir things up too much with our spiritual disciplines seminar. I probably won't even take more than one of my ikons.
Traditionally it's very cold for this weekend. Last year I got ice crystals in my beard walking to and from meals. This year it's supposed to be a high of 57. Well- no ice crystals this year. How about that?

This weekend I'll have to work hard on reviewing my Spanish and I'll have a good time teaching the seminar.
Pray for me.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Class

Yesterday was my first day back in class. What a thrill!
This is my lineup for this semester's classes:
Modern Philosophy
Symbolic Logic II
Spanish III
Spanish American Culture
Chem in our World (Intro Chem)

I'm not too worried about the difficulty of my schedule, although I am a little nervous about the Spanish American Culture class. When I picked up the book for that class, I looked at it and saw that it's completely in Spanish. I guess that makes sense, but it just scared me.
I hope the lectures are in English. I have that class today, so I guess we'll see.

This morning I'm watching the kids, then I'll go to the high school for lunch. It's getting to be more fun to visit the school, as I get to know more kids. It's hard work to walk into a school of strangers and visit. But I guess that's what's meant by "earning the right to be heard."
My awkwardness in hanging around in their school is worth it if it results in building real relationships with kids and pointing them to Christ.

Also, please keep my little brother, Noel, in your prayers. Yesterday he was sentenced to 2-10 years in prison for probation violation. Even though that's the just penalty for the crime, I still wouldn't want anything like that to happen to my kid brother. I just pray that he'll get some help for some of his things in there, and not just the usual.

Monday, January 16, 2006

St. Louis

Yesterday we drove up to St. Louis (Madison, IL, specifically), to visit a different Orthodox Church. Since we've moved an hour and a half north the church in Memphis is not the closest anymore, so we decided to try and find a parish in St. Louis to find.
Not long after we walked in one of the priests, Fr. Michael, squatted down in front of our kids in his vestments, told Alexis she looked like a princess and gave them some spiritual advice.
Our kids' eyes were big as saucers. "Who is this man in a big gold robe talking to us?"
Micah asked several times during liturgy, "when's this going to end?", and one time he said, "This song is sooo long..." We were sitting next to Lauren, the girl from SEMO, and she kept laughing at our kids' hijinks. At one point I leaned over and said to Amy, "Relax. Our kids are being at least as good as those Orthodox kids." "But those kids are little!"
After liturgy we were standing around meeting folks when the older of the two priests came and got me. We sat in a pew and visited some over our story and our interest in Orthodoxy.
After all that, we went to the Huniaks for lunch.
I can say with some authority that this was definitely our kids' favorite visit to an Orthodox Church, even though the liturgy was 2 hours long. They especially liked the chance to play afterwards.
That's the latest in our journey in, around, and to Orthodoxy.

St. Louis

Yesterday we drove up to St. Louis (Madison, IL, specifically), to visit a different Orthodox Church. Since we've moved an hour and a half north the church in Memphis is not the closest anymore, so we decided to try and find a parish in St. Louis to find.
Not long after we walked in one of the priests, Fr. Michael, squatted down in front of our kids in his vestments, told Alexis she looked like a princess and gave them some spiritual advice.
Our kids' eyes were big as saucers. "Who is this man in a big gold robe talking to us?"
Micah asked several times during liturgy, "when's this going to end?", and one time he said, "This song is sooo long..." We were sitting next to Lauren, the girl from SEMO, and she kept laughing at our kids' hijinks. At one point I leaned over and said to Amy, "Relax. Our kids are being at least as good as those Orthodox kids." "But those kids are little!"
After liturgy we were standing around meeting folks when the older of the two priests came and got me. We sat in a pew and visited some over our story and our interest in Orthodoxy.
After all that, we went to the Huniaks for lunch.
I can say with some authority that this was definitely our kids' favorite visit to an Orthodox Church, even though the liturgy was 2 hours long. They especially liked the chance to play afterwards.
That's the latest in our journey in, around, and to Orthodoxy.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Incense

When I was in high school incense was a very popular item. I remember visiting stores with their large collections of incense, mostly of the stick-variety.
Today I added a censer and incense to my prayer corner. I ordered it from Conciliar Press. I should have ordered the manual with the incense starter kit. Unfortunately, I didn't. I lit the little piece of charcoal and, after dropping it on the floor, put it in the censer and added two honking hunks of incense. Whoa. Soon fragrant smoke was pouring out, and now our entire house smells like the incense. That's not so bad, but I also apparently bought the same incense that my wife says gave her a headache at a church.
What a day.
If anyone has incense/censer pointers for me, it would be great. I mean for the incense to add to my prayer rule, not distract from it.
Pray for me.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Life

This morning I took the kids to a school screening. (Un)fortunately, they're both very bright, and so there's no preschool program offered for either of them. Micah will start Kindergarten in the fall. Alexis probably has another year or more to hang at home with me. Poor thing.
Then I took them to McDonald's for a little training in American consumerism. We had a little bit of a breakfast and they played in the Playland.
When Amy came I went to Jackson High School by myself for the second time. This time there were also three of the younger volunteer leaders. They're great. It's really weird walking around on a campus where i know barely any kids. Very nervewracking. In that way, I'm probably not very much help to my new leader friends. I'm sure we'll all do well.
This afternoon we're all driving down to campus so I can pick up my books and I've promised to buy the kids some kind of SEMO shirt. We'll see how that goes.
I start at the pizza place on Monday. Awesome. I always wanted to be a pizza guy. Next weekend I'm team teaching a seminar on spiritual formation/disciplines at the MO YL Leadership Weekend. That should be interesting.
This Sunday Amy and the kids and I are all going to church at an Orthodox Church up in the St. Louis area. Since we're closer now to St. Louis than Memphis we decided to try and find a parish up there instead of driving the three hours to Memphis to go to liturgy.
Did I mention that we got a new cat? He's from the Humane Society. He's a gray/white tabby named Ace. He's about 14 weeks old and very cute.
I've been enjoying all this time at home with the kids, but it is taking to some adjusting. I'm sure it will be a great experience for all of us.
Pray for me.