Wednesday, September 26, 2007

If You Can't Say Something Nice ...

Then don't say anything at all.

I don't have to say anything at all, I guess. This speaks for itself.

When we spoke this past summer for the first time about my recent conversion, an ELCA pastor that I consider to be a good friend said (among other things) about it, "Well, I am sorry for you."

These words have haunted me almost every day since he said them.

And seeing this, how can I not feel sorry for him - and for all of my ELCA brothers and sisters?

Lord, have mercy.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Save Me Whether I Want it or Not

Love this post from the archives of my favorite blogger, Fr. Stephen Freeman. I read it about once a week.

"One of my favorite prayers (from the 'Morning Prayers' which is not one of the services, but one of many variations of private prayers used by Orthodox Christians) is to Our Lord Jesus Christ, and is quite clear on justification - at least in a way that should quieten any critics of Orthodoxy who think we are not clear enough on justification and faith... Some things cannot be read too often:

My most merciful and all-merciful God, O Lord Jesus Christ! In Thy great love, Thou didst come down and become flesh in order to save all. Again, I pray Thee, save me by Grace! If Thou shouldst save me because of my deeds, it would not be a gift, but merely a duty. Truly, Thou aboundest in graciousness and art inexpressibly merciful! Thou hast said, O my Christ: “He who believes in me shall live and never see death.” If faith in Thee saves the desperate, behold: I believe! Save me, for Thou art my God and my Maker. May my faith replace my deeds, O my God, for Thou wilt find no deeds to justify me. May my faith be sufficient for all. May it answer for me; may it justify me; may it make me a partaker of Thine eternal glory; and may Satan not seize me, O Word, and boast that He has torn me from Thy hand and fold. O Christ my Savior: save me whether I want it or not! Come quickly, hurry, for I perish! Thou art my God from my mother’s womb. Grant, O Lord, that I may now love Thee as I once loved sin, and that I may labor for Thee without laziness as once I labored for Satan the deceiver. Even more, I will labor for Thee, my Lord and God Jesus Christ, all the days of my life, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen."

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

No Confidence

... at all.

The whole stinking mess grieves me deeply and I have tried several times to bury my head in the sand and pretend the situation does not exist.

But it does.

Ignoring it doesn't change a thing and is, I suppose, just as unhealthy as the situation itself.

I signed (for all the good that's gonna do).

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Reading Matthew Together

My friend, Dwight, has begun an adult forum series at his parish entitled, "Reading Matthew Together."

I encouraged him to blog his way through the forum series so that those who worship outside the walls of his parish can also benefit from his study (well, OK, so that I can benefit from his study!)

He's made a great start here.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

On the Exaltation of the Cross

For the message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God ... But we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greek foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." (1 Cor 1:18-24)

"The Cross is our pride, by which we accept the death of the Master as the way to Resurrection for deliverance from all sin. The baptism which we undertook was described by Paul as the participation with the Lord in His burial and in the Resurrection: "Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin." (Rom 6:6) This is the center of our faith. This is our vitality.

If we post the Cross on the top of the Iconostasis, we do so in order that the meaning of the New Life shall stand before us and elevate us to Jesus in heaven, that we may forget all earthly care. And if we make the sign of the Cross over the baptismal water, we do it in order that the power of Salvation may descend upon the baptized through the water he is being washed with. In our Church, every symbol has its own meaning. When we Cross ourselves, we ask the Lord to send down upon us the power of Salvation as pictured in this symbol.

Likewise, if we wear a Cross around our neck since baptism, we confirm our Christian faith and that we are attached to Jesus. Some may wear a golden Cross, which at times becomes fashionable. This could have a much deeper meaning if the wearer held fast to chastity. Let us move from visible decorations to internal decoration and have the Cross carved in our hearts too.

When we Cross ourselves over the face, chest and shoulders, let us feel the connection with the Crucified. We do this every time the name of the Trinity is mentioned or glorified in prayers because the Trinity decided to allow the death of the Son in our days from all eternity. The true Glory descends upon us through the death of the Savior and through our faith in Him.

This is our pride and power. This is what the martyrs have delivered to us."
-From the Orthodox Research Institute

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Pascha Project

This is a picture of the little cloth that we've used in our Pascha basket each year. Dear Husband bought it many years before we married - probably right after he became Orthodox - and has used it in his basket every year since then. This cloth is a print of a Ukrainian cross stitch pattern and this past year at Pascha I took a really good look at it and thought how cool it would be to make a real cross stitched basket cover myself. I'd never done cross stitch before - but how hard could it be?

So this year right after Pascha, I went over to the Ukrainian Gift Shop, a local store which mostly sells supplies for Ukrainian egg decorating (we go there for this reason many times each Lent!) I knew they had a few supplies for other Ukrainian crafts, too. They had lots of cloths like the one I was interested in - and they were gorgeous, which was inspiring! So I bought a little book with individual Ukrainian egg patterns. But I have no pattern for whole piece and am sort of winging it with alot of help from this book and some books I got from the library.

How hard can it be? Well, it's not all that hard - it just takes a very long time. Now I have done a bunch of work on this little project - but I have LOTS more to do. I started right after Pascha last year and have worked on it on an off. I go in spurts, it seems - working on it several evenings in a row, then I stop for whatever reason for a couple of weeks, then pick it back up again. Even just the part that I have done is far from perfect, but it's actually turning out alot better than I thought it would.

I'm guessing it won't be done so that we can use it this coming Pascha - which is OK. I told my family that my goal was to have it completed by Pascha 2017 (don't you love a realistic goal?).

This should keep me out of trouble for at least awhile - if my eyes hold out that long!

If I make measurable progress in coming months, I'll post an updated shot.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Blogroll Addition

Found this guy's blog this morning via a link from Fr. Stephen Freeman's blog.

I found it compelling and thought the link worth sharing for those who haven't read him.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Happy 5th Birthday... our deck!

Five years ago on Labor Day weekend we replaced the ancient and falling apart deck on the back of our house. Tightwads that we are, we hired a contractor for consultation, figuring that we could do the actual work ourselves as long as he told us what to do. How hard could it be? We're smart - we aren't afraid of a little hard work.

Well, long story short - it was ALOT of hard work and we screwed up one of the footings (that would be the one footing that we actually had to do new - the others were all usable). So over the course of the last 5 years, one corner has sagged as the footing has settled - and settled, and settled.

Well, today Dear Husband and his employer jacked up the whole northwest end of the deck and fixed it. So now it's just like new - on it's fifth birthday.

Tip of the Day: Construction is no work for a couple of secretaries!

Lonely Cornstalk

Isn't this strange?

From the cement and asphalt wilderness of South Minneapolis (where I work) comes this single stalk of corn, which grows next to a garage door in the alley behind the church where I work.

Even on my crabby days this summer - this made me laugh.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

So Why is a Nice Orthodox Girl Like You Writing About Nikolai Grundtvig?

Because Grundtvig wrote the text for a famous hymn, "Built on a Rock" (as it said in the bio)

Here's the text:

Built on a rock the Church shall stand,
Even when steeples are falling;
Crumbled have spires in every land,
Bells still are chiming and calling,
Calling the young and old to rest,
Calling the souls of those distressed,
Longing for life everlasting.

Not in our temples made with hands,
God, the almighty is dwelling;
High in the heavens His temple stands,
All earthly temples excelling.
Yet He who dwells in heaven above
Deigns to abide with us in love,
Making our bodies His temple.

We are God's house of living stones,
Built for His own habitation;
He fills our hearts, his humble throne
Granting us life and salvation.
Were two or three to seek his face
He in their midst would show his grace,
Blessings upon them bestowing.

Through all the passing years, O Lord,
Grant that, when church bells are ringing,
Many may come to hear God's word
Where he this promise is bringing:
"I know Mine own, Mine own know Me;
You, not the world, My face shall see.
My peace I leave with you." Amen.

I don't remember a time when I didn't know this hymn - and I've known it from memory for most of my life.

One day early last spring on my way to work, I popped a favorite hymn festival recording into my car's CD player for my morning commute (it's the CD pictured at left here). "Built On a Rock"is the first hymn on that recording. That day I heard the hymn with new ears - as if I'd never heard it before. It's text spoke to me in a new way on that Monday morning, and I was compelled to play it again (and again and again and again - a gazillion times that week, I think).

Now granted, the musical setting of this hymn on this recording is moving - it grabs the listener by the ears and virtually commands, "Listen up!" But I'd heard this recording a hundred times before - this time shouldn't have been any different. It wasn't just an emotional response to great hymn improvisation - the hymn was different this time, and it spoke to me in a way it never had before. It sort of scared me.

This hymn text by Nikolai Grundtvig played a part in my journey to Orthodoxy.

I think I'll not say much more about it lest any readers who happen upon this post think I'm some sort of a nutcase. But I will say this: A lady who used to be my neighbor told me once that God talked to her every Saturday while she was cleaning her bathroom. I don't think that's so funny anymore.

God Bless Nikolai Grundtvig

He looks a little like he could be one of the Seven Dwarfs, doesn't he?

Grundtvig is commemorated today in the Lutheran Church. Here's a little background on him ...

Nikolai F. S. Grundtvig, known as the "Poet of Whitsuntide," was born September 8, 1783 in Udby, Denmark. His father was one of the few Lutheran pastors who had remained faithful to the evangelical truth which was being threatened by Rationalism. Therefore, Grundtvig was brought up in a household where the spirit of true Christian piety reigned. While attending the University of Copenhagen, he came under the influence of "New Theology", and hence gave up his aspirations to become a minister, lost all interest in religion, and completed his education "without spirit and without faith." Soon Grundtvig began to see the spiritual poverty of the people. There seemed to be no sense of morality in the world and a spirit of indifference was prevalent.

At the age of 20, he graduated from the University of Copenhagen with a degree in theology. At the University, he became absorbed in poetry and Norse mythology, and became convinced that poetry speaks to the spirit of man more richly than prose, and is the medium of choice for conveying and expressing spritual truth. His book, Mythology of the North, published in about 1808, promotes this thesis.

In 1810, while teaching history in a school for boys, Grundtvig's father (who was ill) asked him to come to Udby to be his assistant. Grundtvig agreed and began preparing for the ministry. In his probation sermon, "Why has the Lord's Word disappeared from His House?" and which was preached before censors, he blasted the prevailing spirit of rationalism among the Danish clergy. In it, he announced that the Word of God had departed from its house in the Danish church. He went on to charge that secularism had corrupted the church by making human beings so proud that they felt they could discover the truth with the aid of Holy Scripture. Not surprisingly, the sermon annoyed the ecclesiastical authorities, especially his own bishop who vetoed Grundtvig’s assignment to his home congregation.

Because of this controversy, Grundtvig was not ordained until 1811, but he continued to assist his father until his father's death in in 1813. Though he was ordained, he was not given a congregation and even refused permission to confirm his own children. Because of the outcry from his two sermons, he abandoned the pulpit in 1826. He was reinstated in 1839 and accepted a position as chaplain at a home for aged women, a post which he retained for the next 33 years until his death. He wrote voluminously and authored over 1,000 hymns.

Grundtvig's career was at times stormy and controversial. His theological positions were often challenged, but in spite of this, he was able to infuse new spiritual life into a spiritually depleted Church. Grundtvig's strongest hymns dealt with the Church and the Sacraments. He wrote primarily hymns of the Spirit which contained some of the most profound theological themes, yet possessed the most lovely lyrics. His hymns constantly emphasized the Word of God as the one and only rule and guide for the believer. Grundtvig's heaviest hymn-writing period was 1837 to 1860 as he wrote many hymns; publishing Sang-Værk til den Dansk Kirke. Two of his more well-known hymns are "Built On a Rock, the Church Doth Stand" and "God's Word is Our Great Heritage."

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Happy New Year!

The Church New Year
Commemorated on September 1

The first day of the Church New Year is also called the beginning of the Indiction. The term Indiction comes from a Latin word meaning, "to impose." It was originally applied to the imposition of taxes in Egypt. The first worldwide Indiction was in 312 when the Emperor Constantine (May 21) saw a miraculous vision of the Cross in the sky. Before the introduction of the Julian calendar, Rome began the New Year on September 1.

According to Holy Tradition, Christ entered the synagogue on September 1 to announce His mission to mankind (Luke 4:16-22). Quoting Isaiah 61:1-2), the Savior proclaimed, "The spirit of the Lord is upon me; because He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent me to proclaim release to captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord…" This scene is depicted in a Vatican manuscript (Vatican, Biblioteca. Cod. Gr. 1613, p.1).

Tradition says that the Hebrews entered the Promised Land in September.

What Kind of a Coffee Girl Am I?

Another one of those online quizzie-things.

You Are a Plain Ole Cup of Joe

But don't think plain - instead think, uncomplicated.
You're a low maintenance kind of girl... who can hang with the guys.
Down to earth, easy going, and fun! Yup, that's you: the friend everyone invites.
And you're dependable too. Both for a laugh and a sympathetic ear.

Back to School

A letter to the teachers of each of our sons:

Dear Teachers of ElderSon,

It was nice to attend the school's Open House this week. We're sorry we didn't get to meet some of you, but look forward to later this fall when we will. I thought it might be helpful to share a few comments about ElderSon before classes begin:

ElderSon is very intuitive. Please know that his receptivity to learning is very directly related to your enthusiasm for teaching. This is to say that if teaching your subject is not a joy for you, learning from you won’t be a joy for him. He can tell.

ElderSon is a deep thinker. This may not be evident. But most things that you do or say will stick with him in some form and he will look for deeper meaning in everything...whether there is a deeper meaning or not.

ElderSon is a bit lazy. If he’s asked to write an essay with a pen and paper, he’ll give you the standard three brief paragraphs of three sloppy sentences each. But if you allow him to use a computer, he can write eloquently for a long time (especially on a subject which interests him) and you will get much better results. He thinks a lot faster than he can write, and can type faster than he can write, too. This kid could amaze you with his writing ability - the trick is getting him to write well on topics which he finds less fascinating.

ElderSon needs firm deadlines with no loopholes (He’s very good at loopholes!). This is to say that if you tell him that one grade is deducted for every day late an assignment is turned in, he will convince himself that 2 or 3 days late on good work does not equal an F and so submitting work late is –technically, not failing. And not failing is technically, succeeding – you see where I’m going with this, don’t you? (we fear ElderSon would make a great lawyer!)

You will find ElderSon to be a very kind and likeable person. He will never be disrespectful or rude to you. He will likely tell you exactly what you want to hear about everything. If he doesn’t like you or agree with you about something, you’ll probably never know it (we will, though).

ElderSon seems to be fairly satisfied with mediocrity. He’s capable of much, but satisfied with that which meets the minimum requirement. If you raised the overall bar a little, you’ll see better work from him. If you find a way to motivate him, to make him genuinely interested in what you are teaching, he will even excel.

ElderSon is a sensitive guy and relationships run deep with him. This can work to your benefit. Earn his respect and treat him with kindness and respect and he will do his best for you and you will have an admirer for life. He will listen to you and learn from you. Belittle him or be less than kind – especially in a public sort of way – and he will likely blow you off for the duration of his middle school career (not unkindly, mind you – he’ll simply smile and check out when it comes to you and anything you have to say).

ElderSon likes to be like everyone else – this is probably a temporary middle school phase. He wants to look like everyone else, talk like everyone else, and act like everyone else – so as not to stand out in a crowd. In many ways he is not like everyone else, and he knows this and is OK with it. But he doesn't really seem to want anyone else to know it. So we hope your classes are all full of happy and attentive over-achievers!


Dear Teacher of YoungerSon,

It was nice to meet you at the school's Open House last week. I thought it might be helpful to share a few comments about our son, as a way of introduction, before classes begin:

First, I was impressed that you recognized our last name and immediately made the connection that YoungerSon is the brother of ElderSon - good memory! However, you will find out within about the first 5 minutes of class that a last name and a set of parents is just about all our sons have in common.

YoungerSon, while very bright, has the attention span of a large flea. The fact that you have a class of 34 students this year with no door on your classroom will not be at all helpful for YoungerSon. He will likely learn a lot – but it probably won’t be what you are teaching. It will be the contents of every conversation happening in the library just outside your door and in the hallways and classrooms nearby.

Being a cool teacher will impress YoungerSon a lot. Even if your presentation of material is really boring, if you are cool, you’ll be able to hold YoungerSon for at least awhile. But because he thinks he’s cool too, the danger here is that YoungerSon will look at you as a very tall peer. I see that you have long hair and retro eyeglasses – and you are his first male teacher, which in itself, is cool. You are the teacher he hoped he’d get this year. YoungerSon will definitely think you are cool – at least at first. Find a way to use this.
(By the way: I know that you and the other 5th grade teachers are growing your hair out in order to donate it to be used in hairpieces for those living with cancer. We all think this is very cool!)

Don’t laugh at anything YoungerSon says or does...ever...even if it’s really funny. If you give him an audience even once you will have a clown on your hands for the rest of the year. All the world IS a stage, and YoungerSon knows this.

YoungerSon is a tactile learner. If all you do is talk while he sits at his desk, what he will hear is what Charlie Brown heard from his teacher in the old cartoons (but you are too young to remember the old Charlie Brown cartoons, aren’t you?) . Please help him learn by letting him get up off his bum once in awhile and letting him do something with his hands – anything. If you don’t, he will ask to go to the restroom about 20 times each day.

YoungerSon notices everything. I mean e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. This can be helpful - but sometimes it is not.

YoungerSon thinks outside the box – almost all of the time. He is less interested in the way something is than in the way it isn’t, or in the way it could be. That is to say that if you tell him that the earth is round, rather than just accepting that and moving on, he will stop and spend a lot of time imagining what the world would be like if it weren’t round ... What if it were triangular? Or a trapezoid? Two dimensional? What would things look like? How would this affect gravity? What would I look like?, etc.We don’t know where he gets this.

YoungerSon is good at math – we don’t know where he gets this either. None of the rest of us are. He also loves to draw -on everything. You will notice this with the first assignment he turns in. Another tip: if he is drawing what you are talking about, he’s listening and learning.

YoungerSon doesn’t really like the academic part of school much – but he loves seeing his friends every day. And he does like Gym and Art - and recess and lunch. As people who care about his education, it would be good if we could find a way to capitalize on this.

(Oh, and by the way, I saw from your class roster that his pal, B., is also in your class this year. I’m sorry. Before school starts, change the seating arrangement in your classroom so that these guys are on completely opposite sides of the room - preferably out of direct view of each other - and completely surround each of them with girls. It’s your only hope of success with either of them or sanity for yourself.)

Good luck to all of our sons' teachers! You will be in our prayers.